Beyond the GM’s screen lies secrets and treasures the average PC would kill to possess. A GM screen is a vital part of any GM’s kit.
With a myriad of uses, a screen makes a GM’s job infinitely easier. I’ve used one throughout my Borderland of Adventure campaign and found it immensely useful. In the old days, I used to use the actual box of whatever game I was playing, or sometimes even a box file. Currently, I’m using a more traditional GM’s screen. In whatever format, a GM’s screen’s primary function is to create a small area of table space which the players cannot observe. It acts as a focal point and serves as a non-verbal cue for players to focus on that area of the table.
A GM’s screen is also useful for:
- Rolling in Secret: Some dice rolls just need to be rolled in secret. My rule of thumb is that if knowledge of a roll’s results would affect a player’s subsequent actions, I roll it behind the screen. For example, in Pathfinder, such rolls include all Knowledge, Perception and Stealth checks. Of course, these days a GM could roll on an iPad or similar device, but I’m a bit of a Luddite at the gaming table. While tablets and so on are incredibly handy for carrying loads of rulebooks and so on they can be distracting. As a GM, I want to focus on the game and the players and not my shiny device.
- Hiding Stuff: Generally, it’s a very good idea to make certain the players cannot see the dungeon map, monster statistics, the pile of pre-sorted miniatures and so on. Having a screen enables a GM to keep all that kind of stuff easily to hand (and hidden). Sure, you could hide them elsewhere (in a bag or wherever) but it’s not as convenient.
- Displaying Art & Maps: A GM can affix relevant art and maps to the players’ side of a screen. Doing so saves table space, keeps them always available and enables the PCs to see them at a glance. In the past, I’ve also added NPC lists, a summary of the current adventure’s objectives and more to the screen to help the players.
- Notes: For me, post-it notes are one of the unsung heroes of my GM kit. The inside of my screen is often festooned with them. I use them for aide memoires, to note who got infected by a disease, little-known rules, page references and more. Even better, they are movable so if the post-it note obscures the table I need, I simply move it. It’s also very hard to not spot a bright yellow post-it note stuck to my screen
Help Fellow GMs!
Do you use your GM’s screen for something else? Do you have hints or tips about how you use yours? Leave a comment below and help your fellow GMs get more out of their screens.