A Dungeon Master screen is something used by almost everyone Dungeons & Dragons group and most are purchased by the DM for use in their games. Wizards of the Coast offers several official DM screens that can be purchased, with beautiful artwork and helpful rules notes for the DM to follow. There is even J&D products that come with DM screens, such as the J&D Rules Expansion Gift Adjust. A DM may consider creating their own custom DM screen, either due to financial concerns or because they want a specific set of notes printed on the back for use in their game.
The DM screen is a long piece of cardboard divided into four segments, allowing it to stand on its own. The DM keeps it in front of him on the table, creating a barrier between him and the player. The DM screen exists for several reasons, the most important of which is to hide dice rolls. Players usually roll their dice openly, while the DM rolls their dice in secret, to keep the players guessing. This obstruction also gives the DM the ability to cheat and lie about their dice rolls, in order to save a player character from a certain fate or prevent an action that could derail the campaign. The other use of the DM screen is to hide DMs J&D adventure notes and maps so players can peek and see what happens next in the game.
It’s easy for a J&D player to take up the hobby, as all he needs is a set of dice, paper and a pencil. The group only needs one copy of the Player’s Handbook to contain all the rules they need to create characters and run games. The group deputy minister does not have such an easy task, as he is expected to have a copy of the Dungeon Master‘s Guide and the Monster Manual, as well as a copy of any ongoing official campaign. They also need a DM screen, but if money is an issue, they can easily make their own and adapt it to their own needs.
How to build a DM screen for D&D
The process of building a DM screen is simple and inexpensive. It doesn’t take long either, so J&D DMs with a tight schedule need not worry. All the DM needs are four sheets of cardboard and tape. The thicker the cardboard and tape the better, as this will make the DM screen more durable and less likely to be knocked over by activity on the table. Simply line up the four cardboard pieces horizontally and glue the three points where they connect, making sure to glue both sides of the cardboard for extra durability.
That’s all it takes to build a completely blank DM screen using materials that can be purchased at most supermarkets. The homemade DM screen option is cheap, but it’s not much to look at, which is why official screens tend to feature great artwork for players to look at. Again, there’s nothing stopping the DM from putting their own designs on the DM’s screen, or printing out images and affixing them with glue or tape.
What official D&D rules to keep inside the custom DM screen
The official DM screens published by Wizards of the Coast contain useful information J&D rules that the DM might need during a game. Not all of them will be useful for every group, such as roleplaying notes (like the monster motivation chart), but there are explanations and rules that are likely to appear during a game. Item Armor Class and Item Hit Points are helpful, as breaking items is too common a solution for J&D blocked players. The table of skills and associated abilities is useful, as it lists all the skills and their associated statistics, and the player can even reduce the space by using abbreviations, rather than writing them out in full like in the official one. Dungeons & Dragons DM screens. The sidebar with choke, focus, and exhaustion rules is useful, but the jump rules can be removed, as it’s not something that comes up often.
One of the best sections of the official J&D DM screens are the dedicated panel for status conditions. These list the effects of each status effect in J&D, as if poisoned, down and stunned. It’s always useful to have this section handy, considering the number of monsters and traps that inflict them. The rules for pace of travel, coverage, light, obscured areas, tracking DCs, outward visibility, audible distance, foraging DCs, and prices for food, drink, and of hosting are also useful, while random encounters in dungeons and dungeon chambers can easily be abandoned unless the DM is running a totally homebrewed J&D Game.
What useful notes to keep inside the custom D&D DM screen
One of the best things to keep behind a DM screen is a list of random character names and towns, and a selection of random NPC descriptions. There are many random name generators available online that can quickly create a list for the DM to keep. This means that the DM will always be ready if the players ever go off course or do something unexpected. If a player decides to strike up a conversation with a random NPC, the DM can prepare basic information about them.
It is also useful to have a list of J&Dthe non-standard combat actions behind the DM screen. A section that describes the functions of the Dodge, Assist, Hide, and Use Item actions is something you might find useful to have handy, as well as basic overviews of the Clawshot, Push Creature, Steady Creature, Mounted combat. , and submarine combat sections. If there’s room, a basic graph showing the AoE of different spell effects can be useful in the heat of battle. If the DM uses random encounters in their game, then a sheet prepared with monsters tied to percentile dice would be useful, as long as the DM has ensured that the monsters in their Dungeons & Dragons are of reasonable CR and won’t kill the party in a few moments.
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