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D&D 5E What's really useful on a DM screen?

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I got one of the "customize your own" ones for my birthday a few months ago. I printed some templates off but still need to make my own custom sheets.
-Skills and what ability they are for, including what knowledge checks for what monster types
-Travel times converted from ft/rd to ft/min and miles/hr
-Death saving throw rules


Moderator Emeritus
What info do you put in your homemade screens?

Well it was different at different times and for different editions of course - for example we used to use critical hit and fumble tables, so those were on there. My current one has conditions, exhaustion levels, scroll mishaps, base DCs for skill checks based on difficulty, my homemade random encounter rules, a space to clip the PCs' passive perception scores, what different kinds of healing potions gets you back - and a big spot where I can clip a map or other info specific to an adventure I am running. The player facing side has a list of all the possible actions, speed & movement rules, and our hero point house rules.

I also cut a wedge out of the center to allow me to roll dice in front of everyone using a dice tower I keep in front of the screen (see this thread).


Jewel of the North
I prefer to have some place to write the characters AC, Passive skills, abilities/save and max HP/HD. This remove the need to ask again and again ''Does X hits you?''

  • A list of condition + exhaustion + cover is a good idea.
  • Same for weather and high altitude.
  • Instead of slideable thingy for iniative, I'd prefer a Light/Darkness slide were everyone can see the current light level of the place they stand. This allow to remember to apply the good penalty for perception and Darkvision.
  • maybe a list of price for common items and services.

I prefer cheat sheets to screens, but either way, I want them to include anything rules-wise I might need to reference during a game, because I don't want to open up the rulebook. Procedures of play are also really helpful, for games that have them (i.e. where you repeat a series of steps, like in a dungeon crawl). Finally, tools for improvisation, like a list of names, are very helpful.

Some screens/cheat sheets that I like:

OSE screen (the reference booklet is similarly very helpful)
The Black Hack
The beautiful Ultraviolet Grasslands screen (specific to that game/supplement)
The reference sheets for Blades in the Dark

Conditions are by far the most important things to be listed on a DM screen at our table.

A distant second are jumping and cover rules.

Ability check DCs are unnecessary, IMO. 10 = easy, 15 = medium, 20 = hard. The game goes fine with a DM remembering that rubric, IME.

When you buy a DM screen, what info do you find really useful?
Something that hides papers from the players. I don't like to have it in front of me, because then it blocks my view, so I have it off to the side where it can hide things I need out, but not in plain sight. However, that location means that I can't actually look at it very easily.

If I had to pick, I would say less is more, because then it could use bigger fonts and be easily noticeable at a glance.

For a Level Up screen here's a list of things I'd want:

1) Conditions
2) Strife and Fatigue values
3) Page Number Chart for Journey Activities, Region Types, and Weather
4) A rollable table for Journey Hazards and Rewards
5) Travel Rates
6) Rules for Bulk Items
7) Renown Information for ease of tracking the party's fame
8) Expertise Dice Size Increase Reference
9) Initiative tracker (Just a set of numbers from 24 down to -2 where I can slide a paperclip down the side of the Screen or put paperclips to mark different people's initiatives)
10) A Banner across the inside top of the screen that says, in bright pink or red letters, "Remember to give out Inspiration liberally"
I really like the idea of a page number chart. A mini-index of frequently needed references would be nice.


Great Old One
I wish a DM screen would be landscape rather than portrait. As to actual content I don't really have any good ideas.
There are landscape screens, the one I'm Using for Baldur's Gate is landscape, enough for me to have my notes hidden (plus I'm using a macbook on the side anyway to search and display maps, etc., but low enough to be more convivial when I'm seated.

Jeff Carlsen

A GM screen has two purposes:
  1. To provide information that I need at the table so that I don't have to open a book.
  2. To add to the atmosphere of the table.
For #1, what I need changes over time. When I'm first learning the system, I'll need rule references for combat, chases, DCs, etc. Once I've memorized those, I need useful charts and references to common things that I just can't quite remember: Conditions, a list of skills, price lists for common purchases (food, inns, transport, goods and services). Eventually, I'll be looking for a toolkit that aids in improvisation, like generic monster stats and NPC traits. I also end up needing a place to put information about the PCs.

For these reasons, I end up using custom GMs screens, or at least clipping custom pages to my screen. But it would be interesting to explore designing multiple screens for different levels of experience, or professionally made clip on (or magnetic) panels for "upgrading" sections.

As for #2, nice art, or at least good layout and graphic design go a long way.

A few other points that make for a great GM screen:
  1. Design matters. Information that can't be found quickly and intuitively may as well not exist.
  2. Have some white-space and art to break up the wall of data, but keep information density high. It's a dashboard, not a novel or a gallery. This will be a difficult balance.
  3. Panels are your first and best organizational unit, followed by columns. Use them to gather related information, and don't let them bleed into each other.
  4. Use different layouts and presentation-types on different panels. For example, one may mostly be tables, while another may be an infographic, and a third a list of callout boxes. This variation helps make each part distinct, and thus more quickly differentiated at the table.


I like having, conditions, travel rules and services like renting horses, coaches, wagons, food, mercenaries, rooms, healing services etc

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