Okay. I don’t know why I bought this either.
In my defence, it was very cheap over at The Book Depository, and I thought that it might present a slightly more intelligable version of the 4e character sheet. Sadly it didn’t, and I’m left with little more than a cardboard folder and some pretty art.
So what do you get for your £6.99 (RRP)? The cover is detachable and completely superfluous – it’s just there to protect the product within. It serves the same purpose as the covers of the old Planescape modules. Within the cover is a folder that sports a larger version of the cover art, although the image is inverted. And within the folder…
The character sheet is exactly the same as the one in the back of the PHB1, and the one you can download from the Wizards website. There are two copies of this sheet in portrait format, and two copies of it in landscape. The sheets are indentical, the tables on the landscape version have been juggled about a bit to fit the new orientation. Quite why they thought the world was crying out for a landscape version of a generally crappy character sheet is anyone’s guess.
Why is the sheet crappy? Well, I suppose that this review is as good a place as any to vent my opinion. There are parts of the sheet where the maths become hidden for the sake of expediency. For example, when recording your AC you note down all the modifiers that apply to your armour class to the left of the final figure. The bonus from your armour and the bonus from your ability score have the same box. It’s only a small thing but it annoys me. I’m playing a ranger wearing leather armour. I apply both my dex bonus and my armour bonus to my final armour class total. I want to be able to see that on the sheet. It’s the same with skills. Why is “Ability Modifier” and “Half Your Level” the same box? Why are you expected to add them together? It can only make it harder to work out if you have applied the correct bonus for your level to the skill. Isn’t the whole point of exploding out the modifiers so you can see at a glance where everything comes from?
Over on the right of the sheet, the Attack Workspace, Damage Workspace and Basic Attacks sections are utterly baffling. Six people sit down to character generation. Between us we have about ten higher degrees including a doctorate, and none of us could work out what we were supposed to put in those boxes. Nuff said there, I think.
Let’s look at the reverse of the sheet now. Exactly how much space is taken up to record magic items? Are you ever going to need that much space, really? There’s no attempt to give you enough space to record what the item does, so all that space is just to list the things. Twenty-five magic items? Each? Really? I know I’m pretty reluctant to hand out magic items, but is anyone that generous?
Then you have six lines for your personality, five lines for mannerisms and appearance, four lines for your character background(!), and a mighty twelve lines for session and campaign notes. It’s a woefully inadequate space for any of those topics, so why waste the space on the character sheet at all?
In addition to the character sheets, we have a set of eight perforated cards that you can divide into sixty-four power cards. Ever since the earliest known stages of official play testing it has been mooted that fourth edition D&D plays quite well with cards. You have one card for each power you have. The card has a description of what the power does written on it (so no more flipping through the PHB to find a ruling), and you can just turn the card face down on the table when you have used the power, so you don’t forget you’ve used the power.
I’m not going to poo-poo this idea out of hand. I can see how this would be an advantage in some games. What we have here are eight at-will power cards, twelve encounter power cards, twelve daily power cards, sixteen utility power cards and sixteen magic item cards. There are spaces for you to fill in the details of your own powers. I know that I will never use these, and for those of you that might, be warned that Wizards are bringing out official printed decks of all the powers for all the classes starting in April next year.
All things considered this a bit of a rum purchase for me. 100% useless on every front. Still, the art is quite pretty.