So are GM Screens helpful?
The original DM’s Screen of the mid to late 70s was a 3 ring binder which you used to hide your maps and monster stats.
Generally these could be in your lap or propped up on the table.
Later, D&D modules often included a cardboard map which you could pull out and use with one side as a player facing art, and the internal side being the dungeon map.
GM Screen Uses
The primary uses for a GM screen are:
- Hiding GM maps
- Hiding miniatures of upcoming monsters
- Hiding upcoming props and handouts
- Hiding GM dice rolls
- Providing a GM quick reference
I’ve done some online polling in the past, and generally what I find is that 2/3s of GMs of D&D style games prefer using a GM screen (which makes sense since they have maps and miniatures to hide), whereas about 2/3s of GMs running non-D&D style games prefer NOT to use a GM screen.
It’s all a matter of personal preference of course, but here’s my preferences:
For D&D Style Games
I like to use a thinner version of what amounts to a 3 Ring binder. It’s a two-panel restaurant menu with inserts — art for the players side and a portfolio of clear sleeves (cut out from an art display binder) on the inside. I use it just like a 3 ring binder (in my lap or propped up on the table) but its a lot lighter.
- Hiding GM maps — I have them as an insert in the restaurant binder
- Hiding miniatures of upcoming monsters — I have a wood chest next to the GMs chair I use for that
- Hiding upcoming props and handouts — I hide these in a folder next to the GMs chair
- Hiding GM dice rolls — I usually roll in the open, or if needed, hide the roll with my hand
- Providing a GM quick reference — I have GM cheat sheets, stat blocks, and adventure notes in the two-panel restaurant menu
Another technique I’ve used is to use a traditional GM screen which GM reference notes but to lay it down on the table — essentially a placemat with a rules cheat sheet.
For Non-D&D Style Games
Usually I do the above, but with a digest sized 3 ring binder, such as my Traveller binder.
Why the smaller footprint? I like the smaller footprint (easier to see over), but whereas D&D has so many maps from modules that look best at 8.5×11″, in story games or Traveller, I don’t have to worry about large maps so I go with my preferred smaller digest size.
It’s all personal preferences, but those are mine! I especially don’t like having to reach over a GM screen to draw maps, and I don’t like hiding dice.