The Eclipse Phase GM's screen is a fairly conventional RPG product with an unconventional twist. The 15$ version comes with a hack kit that allows users, apparently, to hack versions of the game material and produce their own not for profit products while giving them an “official” look. Or at least that's the impression I got from reading the blurb about the 15$ version. I got the 10$ version as any material I do isn't concerned with pretty graphics, elaborate fonts, etc.
So, to continue my review of the 10$ version, it comes complete with a GM screen (NOT printed on sturdy, or any, card despite what the ad for it claims on drivethrurpg.) divided into two parts, a cover and an inside, for easier printing.
The screen is a large one, covering 4 sheets and, once printed, should stand up nicely. The cover art is nice if not exceptional. It features a small battle on what I presume is the martian landscape, with two suited humans(?) and a skinny robot fighting what I assume to be a fractal based...monster of some sort that seems to be a spherical fractal (Think large, black, killer tumbleweed if you must) that fires off impressive but inaccurate lightning bolts. There seems to be a cloud of what looks like blood near the creature, it might have been nice to have added a mangled corpse, perhaps a flayed skeleton, still dripping wet, having not yet fully collapsed in the light martian gravity, nearby to suggest the fractalbot had literally flayed and shredded some poor fool a few seconds earlier to account for the red mist that seems to trail from it, or perhaps it's just a martian dust devil and I have a gruesome imagination. (Who would have ever suspected me of such a thing?)
As to the useful bits of the screen, it's quite nicely done. The inner face is done up in the typical EP graphic style and features the usual: Combat checklist, skill use run thru, healing rates and other useful data. Each bit has a little tag that directs the GM needing more than a cursory reminder of the rules to the page it's on in the EP corebook. Nice touch. All in all, once printed on stiff card this will make a very useful accessory to any EP game group.
(A word of caution, kiddies: Be careful about printing this directly on card as doing so can seriously hurt some small, cheap, home printers. I did that once. I'd recommend breaking down and having this printed for you somewhere that can do stiff card easily. If you must print it yourself, I recommend using “photo quality” paper, which is stiffer than normal paper but still runs safely through most printers. It also usually yields much better quality results and isn't expensive...)
Then EP's GMP serves up the red meat of itself: A good sized adventure that demands a good, in depth review.
First off, many “intro adventures” or “Bundled with the GM screen” adventures tend to be a little on the wimpy, anemic side. Not so with “Glory”, the adventure that comes with the EP GMS. Weighing in at an impressive 24 pages and over 3 megs of solidly written PDF material, Glory is a full fledged adventures fully equal to those “adventure modules” we used to get in the good old days when we bought adventure modules for D&D, star frontiers, etc. for about 8$ (Sigh).
So have no fear, you're not getting a weedy, sketchy excuse for an adventure thrown together as an afterthought or as filler when you buy your copy of the EP GMP, you're getting the proverbial “real McCoy”.
Now that the quantity has been established, let's tackle the quality.
The adventure covers itself with a nice cover pic. Well done if not exceptional. The overall presentation and graphics are up to the rulebooks' standards.
While I'll try not to spoil anything, I will say that the adventure does pit the players against a TITAN artifact and is a fairly tough introduction to the EP universe. But then again, as I pondered the likelihood of the players becoming acquainted with term “TPK” some other thoughts came along as well.
One must remember that in EP just because your character dies doesn't mean you need to start over, as a fundamental premise of the game is that players can “respawn”, albeit often with some penalties. So the fact it's quite possible some players might buy it in this game isn't as bad as it would be in most other games.
Also, it's possible for the players to die, and even fail to accomplish the mission, yet still survive and even succeed if they alert the right people to the dire menace in the process . This is a nice touch and reminds players that they usually can't and often shouldn't even try to do it all on their own, especially when facing “existential threats”, which as firewall operatives they often will. (Yes, this is written as a firewall adventure.)
So the players may well die and fail, yet lose nothing really and even get an “Attaboy!” from the boss. Nice, considering how tough the enemy in this mission can be. Also, the adventure may get players used to the fact they can “die” and yet still succeed and continue running their characters, which is a real staple of the EP universe and maybe needs a little driving home at first. (The original EP introfic, “Lack” tried to do this.)
All in all, the adventure is well written, well thought out and nothing like impossible, though it would be a real Coulter for a novice group of gamers. I'd recommend the adventure for newbies to EP but who had at least some RPG experience, it'd be tough for total RPG virgins. The adventure does give the GM some fair advice on helping players in need, as well as making it even tougher if the players are a well seasoned group. (Or if the GM is just a total bastard...)
While not giving the plot away, I will say some elements of the adventure reminded me in some ways of the legendary computer horror RPG “System shock 2” without being derivative of same. This is A Good Thing as system shock 2 was and still is one of the bast computer horror RPGs ever made.
A nice map and some useful graphics rounds out the ensemble, making Glory an excellent, if challenging, starting adventure for EP that should get the players pretty squared away on surviving and succeeding in the EP universe when/if they get thru it. While some of it seems almost contrived at times, what adventure doesn't have at least some concessions to playability? I have no complaints with it, it's a better adventure than anything I ever saw for the last new RPG I got into (and out of), Cthulhutech, and is an infinitely better adventure than the utterly abysmal “Orbital decay”, written for the competing transhuman RPG, “Transhuman space”. (Ugh, even remembering that supersized stenchburger hurts...)
Oops, I just said something critical of SJG. I guess I can expect flames from Jackson's minions and toadies now. Bring it on, fhanboys.
Make no mistake, Glory is a completely EP adventure, more or less hard-welded into the EP setting and would likely not port over to most other RPG's very well and not without a lot of work. It could be ported over to THS with the least effort, and would be far superior to the one adventure I saw (to my regret) for it. It might port over to Traveller with some effort, depending on the setting. It would fit best into the post VIRUS universe, I believe, or could be an intro to the VIRUS setting in the OTU.
But at heart Glory is an adventure written specifically for the EP universe, and this is a great strength for it. It's not just some hack and port job of an old, well worn plot that's been done in every other SFRPG setting, it's fairly original and written for it's setting from the get go. This is a strength for it in terms of being an EP adventure and a detriment to it's ability to be used in other SFRPG settings.
Given how much poorly written adventures hurt two of it's potential competitors, Cthulhutech and transhuman space, I'd say that such an excellent introductory adventure bodes quite well for Eclipse Phase.
The bottom line is that for 10$ you get a great GM screen, even if you do have to spend more to print it out, and one hell of a great adventure for EP, so if you like EP you should get this without doubt and without delay.