Does a game as straightforward as ICONS really need a GM screen? “Need” might be too strong a word, but ICONS GMs will certainly find much to like about this low-priced collection of tables and reminders. Also, a printable GM screen might seem inconvenient, but it’s great for those running the game from an iPad or similar tablet, or for GMs who, like me, use customizable GM screens that allow you to swap out insert pages. The PDFs (the screen and printer versions contain the same charts) provide eight pages of tables. Here’s a quick rundown, by page:
- The standard scale from ICONS, test formulas, outcomes, the “Benchmarks” table from Great Power, and a table of dice probabilities. All but the last are close to indispensable. Fans have been asking for benchmarks for years, and I’m always forgetting where the cutoffs are for major and massive successes and failures. It should be noted that the outcomes table incorporates the “0 = marginal success” concept from the still-unreleased ICONS Team-Up product from Adamant Entertainment. This would definitely make the cut for my three-panel customizable GM screen, even though I really have no use for the dice probabilities table. I would much rather have had the “Uses for Determination” panel from p. 5 here instead.
2–4. Character creation tables. Page 2 includes origin, level determination, number of powers and specialties, and power type tables. Pages 3–4 include power tables for each of the power types, and p. 4 has a list of specialties. The power tables assume the use of Great Power rather than the original ICONS rulebook. (This is a good thing, but you should be aware of it going in.) I wouldn’t really want or need these in-game.
A collection of sample vehicles, definitions of the distance categories, and a bullet list of ways to use Determination. I’m inclined to cut out the “Uses of Determination” list and paste it on an index card to hand to players for their quick reference. I would definitely include this page in my customizable screen.
Random plot elements, villain origin, and a strong reminder to keep Determination flowing freely. I might include this as the third panel in my customizable screen if I expected to play pick-up games of ICONS. Otherwise, I’d just refer to it on-screen during my game prep.
A collection of sample animals, reproduced from the ICONS core rulebook. I think I’d keep this nearby, but probably wouldn’t insert it into my screen (if I had four panels, I’d include it, but I only have three).
- A collection of stock characters and a collection of dinosaurs. I’d probably use this as my third panel, for the stock characters. There’s also a big ICONS logo here, which I don’t really need, but I’m not sure what else they might have put down there. Probably a table of weapons and other common devices would have been more useful than dinosaurs.
I’m very happy with this product except for one thing: the PDF presents the pages in portrait orientation, although the material is arranged on the pages in landscape orientation. In other words, when you open this on your computer or tablet screen, the pages will be sideways. You can quickly rotate the pages in Adobe Reader, but you shouldn’t have to. This, however, is really the product’s only significant drawback, and something that Ad Infinitum could easily fix with an update.
The “PF” (for “printer-friendly”) PDF omits the “heroes vs. villains” artwork that Dan Houser contributed for the outward-facing side of the screen, so look for it in the other PDF. The package also includes a panoramic JPG, but you’ll probably find it more convenient to print out the version from the PDF. While the artwork is beautifully executed in Dan’s signature style, the layout is disappointing because the three panels overlap. The repetition of elements from the center panel on the side panels creates an unattractive and distracting visual “stuttering.” Personally, I would probably use the outer panels only, replacing the center panel with page 1, with a copy of the “Uses of Determination” table pasted over the dice probabilities table.
So the product isn’t perfect, but it’s incredibly useful and only a dollar. The cost-to-benefit ratio is really, as we say in ICONS, “off the scale.”