Dungeon master’s screen

At the big conventions like GEN CON, I always like to walk the Dungeons & Dragons play area to see how some of the other dungeon masters run their tables. I see very few DM screens. I understand the appeal of dropping the screen; I don’t like peering over that little wall either.

Nonetheless, I continue to use a screen for D&D for a few reasons:

  • I track initiative using folded cards draped across the top of the screen. Though I could stand the cards on the table, hanging them makes them a bit more visible.
  • As a player, I prefer not to see the DM’s notes. But when the DM spreads his pages on the table, my eyes tend to settle on them. I would rather not worry about averting my gaze from Medusa.
  • Some players want to look, but I want to maintain an element of surprise and uncertainty.
  • I reference some rules and tables often enough for them need a place on a screen. This includes rules for monster knowledge checks, some uncommon actions, and the “Difficulty Classes for Level” table, which is essential for organized play.
  • Tradition.

Despite my preference for a screen, standard-sized screens stand too tall for my taste. I prefer the 6” tall mini version of the World’s Greatest Screen from Hammerdog games.Mini dungeon master's screen on table

This screen is constructed like a loose-leaf binder, with clear-plastic pockets on both sides. I filled the DM-side pockets with the tables and rules I needed most at the table. For the player sides, I inserted artwork cribbed from the first edition, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons screen.  In my opinion, David Trampier stands as the finest of the early D&D artists, and his collage on this screen may be his best work. It still calls me to adventure.  Not shown in the picture, the players’ side also includes a tribute to Gary with the image of a signed cover of the first Greyhawk supplement.

Signed Greyhawk Cover

You can download a PDF copy of my fourth-edition rules inserts here and my fifth-edition inserts here. I created the inserts using Adobe FrameMaker, so I’m afraid the source files will be unusable to tinkerers.

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8 Responses to Dungeon master’s screen

  1. erisraven says:

    Any chance you’ve mocked up a 6″ set of inserts for the D&D Next rules?

    • DM David says:

      Hi erisraven,

      Not yet. Your question spurred me to page through the D&D Next playtest rules looking for items that I might reference during play. I’m not sure we have enough rules yet to fill a screen. Sometime, I will do inserts for the new game and to make them available.

  2. Great idea. I’m getting these myself. Let me know if you have any rules for the Pathfinder game you like.

  3. Pingback: DM Screen | Bespoke Life

  4. Jack says:

    Oh no! Where did the 5th edition ones go!? 😮

  5. Bryce Bachman says:

    Hi! Where did you get the folders with pockets on both sides? Would that be available in a 11″?

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