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.
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.
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.
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.