What’s the Crock Pot? Just a simmering bowl of lentils and herbs, with a dash of DMing observations. Don’t be afraid to dip in your ladle and stir, or throw in something from your own spice rack.

Screen scene

I finally picked up the Fourth Edition DM’s screen. (I was waiting for that perfect confluence of events: store coupon, item in stock and cash on hand). You know the screen I’m talking about, the one that supposed to be durable enough to repel dice attacks from dissatisfied players.

Well, I can’t yet attest to the “duck’n’cover” quality of the screen — though it certainly seems durable enough. (One never knows for certain about these things until you’ve actually told a player he’s failed a saving throw, and dodged the requisite response).

Before this, I’ve had to rely on my heavy cardstock AC2 D&D Combat Shield and Mini-Adventure (please note, the word “shield” is actually used in its descriptor — just to prove that dice throwing is not a new sport). It’s brown and has an Easley cover of a troll, an owlbear and a plant monster on the front.

The cover on the new screen is pleasing enough. My 5-year-old son was very excited to see his favorite monster — umber hulk — depicted. (Why does my 5-year-old even know what an umber hulk is, you ask? The short answer: D&D Miniatures.) For myself, I’m just happy it’s of an underground scene. (It’s both Dungeons and Dragons, you know.)

Charts upon charts

The reason for a DM screen is the display of charts.  Here’s where DM screens and I have parted company in the past. Either the needed charts weren’t included — or there was little logic in how the charts are arranged. A good screen has what you need at your fingertips. If you’re back to thumbing through DM’s Guide too often, it’s a sure bet the screen is deficient.

I was pleased to see that the target DCs chart was prominent in the center screen. Good placement. Very useable.

Whaddya mean it’s wrong?

So, of course, as soon as I had spent my hard-earned money, it was pointed out that the target DCs in the DMG were wrong. Wrong? How could they be wrong, I ask. They’ve been updated in the errata, I was told.

Errata … for target DCs? Let me guess, I said, they made things easier for low level characters. Why yes they did, I was told. How’d you guess?

Grrrrrrr.

Does anyone else just ignore this stuff?

Look, I’ll be honest, for the most part, I ignore errata.* If the game is that broken, the designers should’ve gotten it right from the start. Otherwise, just play through the hiccups. Besides, 4E was a game years in development, it underwent a thorough playtesting (well, Wizards said it did) and there is errata right off the bat?

Moreover, I’ve never felt like pasting updated material into my books (and I’m certainly not gluing something onto my brand-spanking new DM screen). Honestly, my sense of order requires they not be cluttered by stray sheets of paper, even if I have plenty of Aileen’s Tacky Glue and liquid paper handy. Knowing whether a monster’s strength should be read as a 14 instead of a 15 never struck me as all that important.

If a book like Rules Compendium makes the polymorph rules clarified, and I happen to have such a book in hand, that’s one thing. But I’m not going to make myself crazy trying to keep up with all the updates.

So, gentle readers of Gnome Stew: Do you bother with errata? Do you make a meticulous downloading of these updates, then provide them to your players so that everyone is on the same sticky note. Or do you hand-wave it?

Or is your approach somewhere in between? Is some errata judged to be more important than other? Where do you draw the line? Should players be expected to stay up on this themselves? Are there some situtations you know will come up often in your game, so you’ve paid attention to that errata, leaving the rest to fend for itself.

Just thinking about this, makes me want to throw some dice at a DM screen.

* A notable exception to this was my having to learn the updated rules for magic item pricing, and only because it was required for articles that I turned in. (Though strictly speaking, if you are basing your writing on Open Gaming Material, errata shouldn’t be a consideration …. more grrrrrrr).