Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pathfinder Society

Pathfinder Beginner Box

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Comics

Pathfinder Legends

GM Screens: They're toxic. Yes or No?


Gamer Talk

51 to 100 of 264 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | next > last >>

1 person marked this as a favorite.

GM screens may well be toxic if eaten. :)


TriOmegaZero wrote:
I'd like to see that happen more.

You and me both, but some players aren't that fond of sandbox-style games. A lot of the time, they expect the GM to set the boundaries of the story and show them the important bits. The defacto belief tends to be that the GM creates the content and the players only get to act/react based on what the GM's decided. Player-generated content is a rarity.

I'm a huge fan of letting player actions and desires drive the story. It's a cooperative game and each person has an equal stake in the time being invested. If my players show an interest in an NPC or detail, I expand on that and make it more important to the story. If they avoid or dislike something, it fades into the background. Sometimes, it takes a little scrambling when they take an abrupt turn, but I like to think it makes the overall experience better.


Pathfinder Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
bugleyman wrote:
GM screens may well be toxic if eaten. :)

DM Screens are useful for other things as well. They hide your bong if the wrong person walks into the room.

If you're worried about the screen being in between you and the players, simply move the screen over to one side, and use that hand to roll behind it. You no longer have cover, and everyone can get line of sight to throw dice at you.

Andoran

Arnwyn wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
But the players are going to figure that stuff out anyway.
Eventually, not immediately. There is a difference.

There is a difference, but again, I'm not advocating that I slap down a statblock in size 32 font and let them all leer at it before combat. I still sit at the head of the table, I still conceal monster and adventure information as appropriate (mostly keeping it facedown, as with the deck of cards example). I just think the players should see the dice falling where they may.

I guess I should have named the topic: Concealing Dice Rolls Behind The GM Screen: It's Not Necessary and Can Be Harmful... as that would have more clearly articulated what I was curious about.

Shadowborn wrote:
I don't find GM screens to be "toxic," whatever that means. I've been using them since 1st ed. AD&D. They're full of handy reference tables at a glance, block player sight of my notes, maps, and anything else I don't want my players to see (including my dice rolls). They also give me a good bounce surface for my dice, so they don't go rolling across the table.

I've explained what I meant by "toxic" a few times, now. What I mean is "potentially condusive to ill-will between players and DM". That takes too long to say, though.

Andoran

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Arnwyn wrote:
Eventually, not immediately. There is a difference.

And I guess how much that difference matters to you is at the heart of this issue.

Of course, numbers change. Enemies shift stances, use feats and magic items to adjust their stats. While not as easy to change, you can keep them guessing by simply using Combat Expertise and the like.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jeremiziah wrote:


Shadowborn wrote:
I don't find GM screens to be "toxic," whatever that means. I've been using them since 1st ed. AD&D. They're full of handy reference tables at a glance, block player sight of my notes, maps, and anything else I don't want my players to see (including my dice rolls). They also give me a good bounce surface for my dice, so they don't go rolling across the table.
I've explained what I meant by "toxic" a few times, now. What I mean is "potentially condusive to ill-will between players and DM". That takes too long to say, though.

Screens and hiding rolls have been a part of the game forever, and are not news. If you bring your own conspiracy theories to the gaming table, that is on you. He didn't generate that mistrust, you did.

Andoran

Brian James wrote:
Jeremiziah wrote:


Shadowborn wrote:
I don't find GM screens to be "toxic," whatever that means. I've been using them since 1st ed. AD&D. They're full of handy reference tables at a glance, block player sight of my notes, maps, and anything else I don't want my players to see (including my dice rolls). They also give me a good bounce surface for my dice, so they don't go rolling across the table.
I've explained what I meant by "toxic" a few times, now. What I mean is "potentially condusive to ill-will between players and DM". That takes too long to say, though.

Screens and hiding rolls have been a part of the game forever, and are not news. If you bring your own conspiracy theories to the gaming table, that is on you. He didn't generate that mistrust, you did.

Your tone is incredibly abrasive, and I'm not sure what you're trying to say. There is no mistrust at my table. I don't mistrust my players, and they don't mistrust me. Are you smelling what I'm stepping in?


bugleyman wrote:
GM screens may well be toxic if eaten. :)

lets ask TOZ, he gnaws on his...

TriOmegaZero wrote:
But...I gnaw on my screen in rage when players don't die!

[edit] I'm pretty sure that my kids gnawed on mine... They are still alive, but it would explain other things...

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Brian James wrote:

Screens and hiding rolls have been a part of the game forever, and are not news. If you bring your own conspiracy theories to the gaming table, that is on you. He didn't generate that mistrust, you did.

Simmer down Beavis.


Laurefindel wrote:
bugleyman wrote:
GM screens may well be toxic if eaten. :)

lets ask TOZ, he gnaws on his...

TriOmegaZero wrote:
But...I gnaw on my screen in rage when players don't die!
[edit] I'm pretty sure that my kids gnawed on mine... They are still alive, but i could explain other things...

That explains so much! ;-)


I roll in the open and if my players want to guess at the possible total than that's fine. I also do as TriOmegaZero does and just lay the entire map out for all to see, with the expectation that no one will metagame. If they do, oh well...

Is it so hard to imagine that a mid-level character, a combat character especially, would have a fair understanding of how skilled their enemies are?

If you're a fighter that's decked to the nines in armor and magic and the monster is slapping you around like you forgot to get dressed in the morning or if the enemey fighter almost stumbles (rolls a 2) and still tags you I would think that you'd have a good idea of how outclassed you are.

Same thing if the enemy can barely mount a defense against your attack and your not breaking a sweat to hit them. You'd know that you can be more careless with your attacks.

For magic I think a wizard could see how easily an enemy avoided taking damage from their magic, or how easily they overcame a mind/body influencing effect. Same for magic affects against them, an experienced character could likely judge how powerful a magic user was based on how effective their spells were. I would think there is a noticable diffence between the spells of a low level wizard and an Arch-Magi.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Kolokotroni wrote:

For instance, if a player notices that the enemy has a relatively low to hit, he might drop his sheild and 2 hand his weapon, or if he has a to hit so high it wont matter, a wizard might not bother to cast a defensive buff spell like shield. Or if a monster rolls a 5 and saves on a fort save, the player might not cast/use a fortitude based ability again.

The idea is the players should only know as much as their characters know, and certainly they dont know attack and save bonuses of the enemy, just how often they are or arent saving/hitting over the course of combat.

But the players are going to figure that stuff out anyway.

Unless all you are doing is saying 'okay, he misses you' or 'made his save', the players are going to pick up that that enemy is not very good at hitting, and that other one is really tough.

While i try to be more descriptive then that, yes, thats what I do. Players only know the results that they would percieve. "The spell didnt seem to have an effect', or 'The wolf was scorched by the fireball but seemed to avoid the worst of it'. I dont read out numbers to them. There is a vast difference between a description of 'he failed to come close to landing a blow' and he rolled a 16 but missed an 18AC.

Quote:


What's the difference between the player switching to two-handed from sword and board when they learn the enemies attack bonus, from switching when you describe the wild, misaimed swings the enemy makes? Functionally none. You just don't like the first one.

Nothing is wrong if its based on character knowledge. If after the first couple attacks go widely off course the player gleans some information, thats fine. But this should come over time, not be immediate.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Laurefindel wrote:


DM screen isn't toxic in itself, but certain practices that have noting to do with the DM screen are.

I can certainly agree with that, and I have no problem using a screen or not, as long as it is what my players want.

Let me up the ante on this discussion.

I've run games where the entire dungeon was visible to the players. And I trusted them not to metagame their exploration of it.

*waits for heads to explode*

I've both dmed something like this, and played in a game like this. And in many ways it helped alot. It saved time on drawing maps or describing what things look like (raise your hand if you've had to describe which way the hallways branch off 3 times before your players understood on occassion). It has some major positives, I wont dispute that.

But the issue for me at least it became harder not to metagame. I didnt want to, neither did the other players at the table, but it becomes more tempting the more out of character information you have. I'd rather as a dm try to limit that temptation. The screen or hidden maps are a tool like everything else. You have to use it correctly, or else it will hurt you instead of help you.


TriOmegaZero wrote:

I'll raise you again, Sebastian.

Players should have more input in the game.

When they roll a fumble, the DM doesn't say what happens. The player describes how he fumbles.

I completely agree with this and have incorporated it into the PBP I'm running.

Whenever players take damage or fail a save against an effect they are aware of, instead of describing what happens, I just post the mechanical results in the OOC thread and then leave it up to them to post a description of exactly how they were hit and what it felt like in the IC thread.

Wouldn't work in a tabletop, but in a PBP it works really well. It also keeps people involved and posting even when it's not their character's actions. Combat reads like a fast-paced action movie, cutting around the battlefield.


No.

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

I roll in the open 99% of the time but sometimes it's just better to roll in secret. Asking a player "What's your fort save?" then rolling a die behind a screen and writing something down builds a lot more tension than having the player roll and saying blandly "You're infected with filth fever". In fact in general secret rolls can be a good way to build a little tension.

In combat nearly everything is open though (other than the occasional secret save). In general, if its something the player characters would see the effect of it gets rolled in the open. If it's something they wouldn't notice and it helps build tension and a little sense of mystery I'll hide the roll.

If you don't trust your GM to make the occasional secret roll, you are probably playing at the wrong table. If you use GM secret rolls to justify cheating, you are playing the wrong game.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

TriOmegaZero wrote:

I'll raise you again, Sebastian.

Players should have more input in the game.

When they roll a fumble, the DM doesn't say what happens. The player describes how he fumbles.

I had a player in my first Shackled City game state 'I'm going to go see my underground contact Rourke'. Right out of the blue, first time mention ever. I had to roll with the punch and come up swinging.

Rourke went on to become a minor villain of the game, as the guildmaster of the Alleybashers.

The game was thoroughly enriched by the player stepping up and contributing to the game world. I'd like to see that happen more.

I dunno...that comes dangerously close to treating the players like equals, when they are obviously inferior to the DM.

But, generally, I agree with you again. Looks like we split the pot!


Jeremiziah wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
But the players are going to figure that stuff out anyway.
Eventually, not immediately. There is a difference.
There is a difference, but again, I'm not advocating that I slap down a statblock in size 32 font and let them all leer at it before combat. I still sit at the head of the table, I still conceal monster and adventure information as appropriate (mostly keeping it facedown, as with the deck of cards example). I just think the players should see the dice falling where they may.

I didn't say you were advocating that (I don't even know what you mean, actually). Yes, you did mention that you think the players should see the dice falling where they may. I've articulated why our group isn't interested. There's nothing much more to say.

Jeremiziah wrote:
I guess I should have named the topic: Concealing Dice Rolls Behind The GM Screen: It's Not Necessary and Can Be Harmful... as that would have more clearly articulated what I was curious about.

Sure. And it's not harmful for us.

TriOmegaZero wrote:
And I guess how much that difference matters to you is at the heart of this issue.

Exactly so - and it'll be different for everyone.


I guess I don't see the use of a DM screen as being at odds with player empowerment. While I agree that players having more information is generally better, knowing everything can kill the conflict and suspense. Fact of being entertained is suspension of disbelief, which in some sense is allowing oneself to be fooled, is it not?

Qadira RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

TriOmegaZero wrote:
I had a player in my first Shackled City game state 'I'm going to go see my underground contact Rourke'. Right out of the blue, first time mention ever. I had to roll with the punch and come up swinging.

While I've never had a player invent something out of whole cloth I have had them express an interest in a throw away NPC which turned into a major plot character.

In general the more control your players have over the universe they are in, the more invested they are in it. The more your players are invest in the game the more fun everyone has.

Taldor

3 people marked this as a favorite.

It all boils down to trust. I have things my players have no business seeing, because i know that they can't not metagame. They are like that. Thus they don't see any of my rolls, and i keep them in the dark to all things not privy to their characters.

If they don't trust me to make rolls behind a screen, i will not GM for them.


Jeremiziah wrote:

I would like to hear more about why Hama feels the players have no business seeing the rolls - I agree that they have no business seeing the statblocks, but I use Combat Manager for those, so that's not a real concern for me. I don't think "they have no business" is really a reason, and would be curious to hear what the reason is.

I am curious to hear other's opinions on the matter as well. Engage. Please?

IMO, they have no business if their knowledge gained from die rolls would affect their game - i.e. meta play. That is the data their PCs are trying to figure out through trial and error (or experience – I’ll give them a roll to asses an enemy).

If for example a die roll would reveal an assumed number for a targets AC - no big deal, if it is a tough/special/boss foe, then yeah - I don't want my players doing the quick math to figure out the exact number they need to hit, they'll figure it out quickly enough.
When they are getting attacked there is no reason for them to know what the incoming attack value is, none besides there being a trust issue with the DM. If that is the case you have bigger issues in your game than "hidden rolls".

When it comes to save DCs they get to roll their own die, even if I keep the number hidden (same effect as the hidden "to hit"). Through trial and error, and comparing rolls they will figure it out - it's just usually not given to them up front.
They don't get to see the opponent's rolls because it isn't in their sphere of control. Again, this is for new foes, new creatures, etc. I don't make the effort if they have a few levels and it's their 3rd encounter with a squad of orcs. They don't get to see the stat blocks but all the die rolls are out in the open unless there is a hidden foe (sneaking enemy assassin), unknown/third threat, etc - aspect to the fight…that stays hidden.

Same applies for perception checks - I usually have that plus a bunch of other relevant information PC information on a cheat sheet (when I am organized) so I can make secret perception and applicable skill checks (passive).

As their knowledge of the situation changes so does the hiding of die rolls. The first opening salvos against the BBEG are hidden, after a few rounds the enemy die rolls (and calculated info by the players) come out in the open. It could be a couple of rounds of hit & miss, or several rounds if fighting a very detailed and flexible foe.

As far as player entitlement goes - my players are smart guys, they don't get handouts and anything they do find out they have to gain - nothing is handed over to them. They would actually be disappointed if they knew the AC of an enemy after a single roll, or if it was blurted out. They like the challenge of figuring out their foes - keep in mind this is for special NPCs, new creatures they have never fought, etc. I don't make the effort for foes they have fought on more than one occasion (say trolls) if they are all 7th level unless there a unconventional aspect to the troll. It comes down to what would be open knowledge for their chracters at their level.
I am more flexible with newer players, or those with less game insight/mastery, but as far as I'm concerned - experienced players: tough s$%$, figure it out.

Everyone is different, it works for my group.

Osirion

thenobledrake wrote:
Jeremiziah wrote:
It's not that secrecy is toxic, it's that lack of trust in the other players to not metagame is toxic.

I trust my players not to use knowledge inappropriately (side note: hate the term "metagame," but that is for another discussion), and they all have very good track records of it... so long as "all," excludes any player that I have had in the past but no longer allow at my table.

That trust gets a bit battered and broken sometimes, however - just the other night actually, one of my players (a guy that prides himself on how role-play oriented he is, and how much he focuses on the story elements and not the mechanics) had his character bitten by a Ghoul.

+1

I like to think of myself as impartial and have not had the GM vs player syndrome since I was gaming as a teenager. However, even I script out the actions for my main fights in advance, and try to stick to them, unless something obvious presents itself. Included in the script will be some precautionary measures them NPCs will take, if appropriate. I do this because I have noticed a few times that I had a tendency to compensate some after listening to 45 mins of battle planning discussion among the players, and its more fair to the players this way.

The same definitely goes for players. You can't help yourself sometimes using metagame knowledge or taking into consideration things like knowing the monster only has +2 to hit means I can cut loose on them without worrying about my ac so much. Even the best, most fair players fall prey to this from time to time, for which the only remedy seems to be not giving them this knowledge.

I made my players call kobolds "dragon-gnomes" because none of them had ever seen one or a drawing when they were 1st level, just to emphasize the point about not meta-gaming monster lore.

This is also a reason why new or homebrew monsters can be a lot of fun for veteran players, because they are new to the player as well as the character and there is no meta-game knowledge to "forget".

Osirion

Dennis Baker wrote:
If you don't trust your GM to make the occasional secret roll, you are probably playing at the wrong table. If you use GM secret rolls to justify cheating, you are playing the wrong game.

+1


I've DMed with and without the screen, and IME most players don't care. Or at least, they don't care enough to say anything on the issue one way or another.

The one memorable exception was the player who stood a book up in front of me when I didn't use a screen. It was a bit presumptuous of him, but I don't have strong feelings one way or the other -- unless the fudging becomes so obvious that players know it's happening even with a screen. The same guy, as a DM, set us up against homebrew dire rats that really should have killed us. Halfway thru the encounter it was clear to everyone that he didn't know how to balance 0-level characters, but he didn't want us to die. So for twenty minutes all we heard him say was variations of "Oh gee, the rat misses you."

I'm fine with occasional 'invisible' fudging, but I prefer a TPK over the boredom of knowing I can't die.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I very rarely use a GM screen. Scratch that. I rarely use a GM screen to screen my side of the table. I often have the screen laid down on the table in front of me because I want easy access to material on it. Sometimes I have to move my dice or game book to see the material, but it is easier than looking it up every time.

I don't usually use it as a screen for two reasons. The first reason is because I am a very "as the dice lie" type of GM. So if your 1st level character gets critted by an orc and it kills you, them's the breaks kid. Be glad you only have to create another 1st level character. So I want my players to know that their characters lived or died not because of my whim ("Why didn't you kill your wife's character, but you killed mine!") but because of their own tactics and the roll of the dice. Besides, if I want to fudge things, there is enough leeway with the motivations of the NPCs to do so without lying about the actual rolls.

The second reason is because I have trouble seeing the entire board with the screen up and I am sitting down. So with the screen up I usually end up standing for the entire session. I dislike doing that, so for practical purposes I lay the screen down. I still have to stand often to move things around, but it isn't a constant thing.

EDIT: As to the concern with the players seeing the GM's stats for the opponents, I have to wonder, how big of a table are you playing at? Maybe the two nearest players, if they really cared could lean over and see the stats, but for the other players they are so far away that they couldn't make them out anyway. And as others have pointed out, so they figure out that the first level orc warrior has a +3 to hit. Well I guess I won't be able to keep using that warrior at 18th level, huh? I find players have enough to worry about dealing with all the bonuses and options for their own characters, they rarely are too worried about what my NPC are all about.


It sounds to me that a lot of players are projecting their inherent distrust of their GM's onto the DM screen.

I like to use a screen when I can. It has lots of helpful stats on the back of it to help keep the game moving. Also, to keep my GM notes secure from prying eyes. And, to hide my die rolls.

Bottom line, the players are going to look, and when the see what you rolled, the gears in their heads starts turning and they start metagaming. This makes things horrendously complicated and starts fights because of something a LOT of players don't think about and DM's don't use...

Conditional/Situational Modifiers.

Yes, I rolled a 4 and the monster made his save. 4 rounds later, I rolled a 4 and the monster failed it's save. Why? Somewhere during the past 4 rounds something about the battlefield changed; A buff spell the monster was under wore off, maybe it used a Supernatural Ability, maybe one other player did something that distracted it, etc etc.

I, as a DM, really don't want to sit and explain the complete math of every single roll I make just so the players have transparent knowledge of all my monster's inner workings. If a player distrusts me as a DM this much, they are welcome to leave at any time.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Feh, we all use the GM's screen when we run.

I'll go you one better, I use the GM's screen for 'open rolls' (combat, damage, saves, etc.) and a digital dice roller for 'hidden rolls' (monster's perception, rogue's trapfinding, etc).

In part, yeah, it's self defense. If I screw up it's easier to fix by altering things if they don't see the die. (for an example in the other direction, look at the bleed damage on my caltrop golem entry. I wrote it with the mistaken belief that bleed damage stacked.) I might make some mistake like SR is too high, or attack bonus is too great. Then I can fudge it down and the players never know. (I'm the most lethal DM in my old group, so it's not like the 'we know we can't die' example above.)

Also my dice can run hot or cold. I don't want to wipe out the party with 5 confirmed crits in a row (I have done that) so I can wail and gnash my teeth about my 'crappy dice' and damage by cursing that the critical hitting power attacking falchion using orc 'only rolled twos and ones' instead of the four fours staring me in the face. usually the adrenaline of 'He hits with the Falchion, oh *sucks air through teeth* he critted.' is enough to get people engrossed without "Oh he hit you for 22 points of damage, oh his cleave hit you for 20, what you're both dead? Ok, well that's the end of the party."

It's when they go to fight the BBED and I stop rolling behind the screen that everyone panics.

The screen keeps it fun for everyone. They don't know what they're fighting or how well it's doing. I don't track everyone's hit points as readily so that critting orc still might kill them with ones and twos on the dice, but it's a 'fair death'. It allows me to fix my mistakes and keep everyone entertained.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I haven't used a screen in years, in fact whenever I'm running 3.x I use the players roll all the dice method from Unearthed Arcana (fixed for probabilty). My players are all grown-ups and they understand that dice are part of the game.

I keep my notes and the adventure out of direct view for the most part, but then again, none of my players are trying to look at that stuff so I don't have to actively hide it.

I initially dropped the screen out of convenience because I didn't like the separation from the table. Also, drawing the battle maps required getting up to walk around it, whereas I'm generally tall enough to reach a good potion of the table when there's no screen. It stayed down when I had a DM that was blatantly fudging rolls. I realized there's a lot more fun when there's trust.

I know there's a risk my character could die in any combat, so if I engage in combat I'm willingly putting my character's life at risk. I don't need the DM to put on kid gloves for me, and I respect my players enough not to do it to them. And on the other side of that if they walk through an encounter, so be it. I've never had a player complain about handily defeating an enemy.

When a lucky crit killed a huge red dragon on the first hit via the massive damage rules, nobody thought it was anti-climatic. I described the PC as stepping up and neatly severing the dragon's head. They describe the moment as epic. And it pretty much ensures there will be no complaints the next time somebody rolls a 1 on his save vs. massive damage.


Laurefindel wrote:
Hiding the rolls will at least eliminate the "guys, he got through my AC 26 with a 4!" or "its OK guys, he's only throwing 6 dice for his fireball" etc.

I don't have a problem with that. To me, that's the equivalent of "He's hardly breaking a sweat, and still effortlessly getting through your defenses to tag you." Similarly with the sorcerer trying to charm the barmaid and seeing her save on a 10 - he got a reasonably strong spell off, and yet she shrugged it off, so there must be something more to her than meets the eye.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Staffan Johansson wrote:
Laurefindel wrote:
Hiding the rolls will at least eliminate the "guys, he got through my AC 26 with a 4!" or "its OK guys, he's only throwing 6 dice for his fireball" etc.
I don't have a problem with that. To me, that's the equivalent of "He's hardly breaking a sweat, and still effortlessly getting through your defenses to tag you."

True, but its an equivalent that some (including me) don't like. As I said immediately after the quoted part, I'd rather hint (as a DM) whether the enemy is breaking a sweat or not, or whether its fireball was impressive or feeble. For me, nothing breaks immersion like mentions of AC or of the number of dice used by the enemy around the table. The DM screen is for me one of the ways to avoid that.

There's information I want my players to have, and as a DM I'm entitled to choose how I convey (or withhold) this information. The screen gives control over that.

That doesn't necessarily make me a control freak or a skimpy DM (if anything I'm too easy going). The screen allows me to play up to my personal style. Nowadays, I try go give each of my game a particular ambiance, varying my approach to storytelling to a certain extent. I could see a game without a screen where I let the dice lay where they fall, in full view of everyone, and not resort to other subterfuge to prevent the other players to read the numbers (because that's what the DM screen is; a subterfuge among many others). But for the present game, I like my screen and the function it serves.

The DM screen is a great tool, albeit one that isn't necessary for every DM, not for all situations and one that can even hinder some style of play.

So to answer the updated subject of the thread:

Jeremiziah wrote:
Concealing Dice Rolls Behind The GM Screen: It's Not Necessary and Can Be Harmful...

No they aren't necessary, yes they even can be harmful in certain games. But here's no sense generalizing IMO.

They're like ninjas in pseudo-european settings; not everyone will like them for personal reasons, and there's nothing wrong with that...

'findel

Andoran

Laurefindel wrote:


No they aren't necessary, yes they even can be harmful in certain games. But here's no sense generalizing IMO.

Well, life's a neverending stream of "to each his own", but that doesn't make for good messageboard topics. :-\


Jeremiziah wrote:
Laurefindel wrote:


No they aren't necessary, yes they even can be harmful in certain games. But here's no sense generalizing IMO.
Well, life's a neverending stream of "to each his own", but that doesn't make for good messageboard topics. :-\

Right.

I was simply attempting to answer your OP's call to defend my position as to why I though my DM's screen isn't toxic nor harmful to my game (but I agree that it isn't an absolute necessity).

I try not to be obtuse in my position, and I acknowledge that for other games/players/preferred styles of DM the screen is more an obstacle than a tool. In risk of repeating myself, I don't think there's anything wrong with the screen, but there are bad practices that become possible (or that are easier to pull) with a DM screen.

I didn't mean that statement in a "*shrug* to each its own" kind of way. Yet ultimately as long as you re aware of why you use (or don't) the DM screen, it boils down to personal preference.

'findel


I wonder how many people would feel comfortable if every person at the table had their own screen.

Andoran

Right, because it shouldn't matter to the GM what the rogue's Stealth check was until after he makes his perception rolls, right?
After all, the GM's not going to just cheat on those rolls...is he?

In a perfect world, you find a GM that either plays as precisely as humanly possible to whatever agreed-upon set of rules there are, or at the very least fudges things very rarely in a way that's acceptable and fun for everyone (not just himself). This is not a perfect world, though, and there are a limited number of GMs.

Look, if I got the chance to play with Owen from upthread, and he wanted to use a screen, I'd have absolutely nothing to say about it - wouldn't worry about it at all, because I know Owen (at least peripherally) and I know that he's a good guy who will make the game fun before all other concerns. However, if I'm playing with a GM whose NPCs and Monsters always, ALWAYS seem to save against my favorite SoD/SoS ability, I'm going to get a little annoyed if I can't see the roll. "Get a new GM" is not always an option, y'know?

But I think you all get where I'm coming from, and I certainly see the arguments to the contrary, all of which make sense to one degree or another. Much respect, peeps! :-)


pres man wrote:
I wonder how many people would feel comfortable if every person at the table had their own screen.

Poker is a game like that.

There are games where players (DM included) reveal their result simultaneously, so that the previous player's result doesn't influence the choice of action of the next.

D&D/pathfinder can be played differently, but part of its design as a roleplaying game is that one person is in charge of arbitrating the rules and the plot of the game (which doesn't stop players from contributing to the storytelling element of the game). IMO, this does set that person aside in respect of approach and implementation.

That person must choose which information to give to the player and how it is revealed to them. Giving or withholding the knowledge of opponent's dice result is part of a DM's choice of how the information is conveyed to the players. You can choose to spoil the plot of a game to the players (or have them play a story/adventure that they all know), thrusting that they will not use this knowledge for they character. Or you can choose to reveal the story as they go along. Both are legitimate styles, but I don't think one is bad while the other is wrong.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

pres man wrote:
I wonder how many people would feel comfortable if every person at the table had their own screen.

Heh. 2e had a line of player screens near the end of its lifespan. I was out of gaming at the time (and I'm not sure I would've purchased them even if I had been into gaming at the time) and I don't know anyone who ever purchased/used one. It'd be interesting if someone had experience with them that could be shared.

Cheliax

Ultimately it's a social issue and nothing more. Arguments involving rules mechanics (on both sides) are red herrings.

It comes down to what responsibilities you place on the DM. Is the DM responsible for rules adjudication? Is the DM responsible for weaving coherent plots? Is the DM responsible for maintaining the pace of the game, in play? Is the DM responsible for a large degree the party's fun?

And naturally, there are a bunch of other questions that could be asked regarding DM responsibility.

And they in turn answer where the player responsibilities are, although I'd say that all players have the fundamental responsibility of voicing if they are or are not having fun to the DM and why or why not. Beyond that, I think there's a responsibility scale - the more you give the DM, the less responsible the players are and vice versa.

And note, I don't think any combination of any of the responsibilities is the "right" or the "wrong" way to do - the best circumstance is where the entire group, players and DM, finds the balance that works for them.

Screens, hidden rolls, fudged rolls, etc. are nothing more than secondary considerations - the primary focus should be spent on deciding the responsibilities before bothering with specifics...which I think become unimportant once those responsibilities are decided.

As a player, I'm happy to play under any type of DM, save the following: The Novelist (if I lose my voice from yelling CHOOO CHOOO, I consider the DM a Novelist), the unjust one (if I see a neon sign over their heads that proclaims "Arbitrary", I consider them unjust), and the indecisive one (I support new DMs - but "experienced" ones who are terrified at making a ruling bother me, just as in real life).

So as a player, if a DM wants to make all rolls straight, fudge rolls, use a screen, don't use a screen, etc., I don't care as long as I'm having fun.

I repeat, I only care that I'm having fun. (Note: I'm only speaking in terms of me as a player in relation to the DM - I'm not advocating asshatery to fellow players just as I'm not advocating the same to the DM. If the other players or DM are not having fun, then not being a sociopath, I can't have fun either.)

If I'm not having fun then maybe I'll look at the reasons why not, but I guarantee you, at no time will I scold the DM screen and give it a good thrashing. And you know, I expect the same of the other players.

As the DM, I place myself as being mostly responsible for the entertainment (notice I didn't say completely) - it's up to me to keep things exciting, engaging, and downright fun. I see no problem with fudging dice if I think it'll make things more entertaining, I see no problems with showing the nat 20 that'll kill a PC if I think it'll make things entertaining, and so on.

And yet, my DM style is very much PC driven - I recently abandoned running the Kingmaker AP as written because I found it was too stifling, too constricting. I prepare virtually nothing before hand and place a lot of emphasis on the PCs driving things - it's their show.
I prefer to think on my feet and I'm pretty good at it and in return, I let the players think on their feet.

In short, I am a dictator.

My players and I seem happy with the arrangement. I suspect that if my DMing style were different and everyone was still having fun, we'd all be happy too.

Because D&D is a social activity first and foremost, the most important single quality of a successful gaming group is trust.

My players trust me. I trust my players. If I'm playing under a DM, I trust the DM.

Otherwise, I wouldn't be playing under that DM.

I expect the same of my players.

Once you have mutual trust, then you see that the specific issues in this thread (and indeed the OP) are meaningless diversions.

Btw Jeremiziah, great thread idea - I've certainly gained a lot of insight from reading my esteemed colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Thanks for making it.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
Sebastian wrote:
2e had a line of player screens near the end of its lifespan.

I bought these. They are little more than "table tents" (like those used at fancy restaurants to indicate a table is "reserved") that contain the various charts and tables for each of the four basic character classes (there was one each for Magic User, Cleric, Fighter, Thief respectively). They also came with various loose card-stock pages that had more charts and table on them for easy reference...

Hardly a true "screen" at all...


thenobledrake wrote:
You are now leaving the Anecdote Zone, drive safe!

Never mind the GM screen. The real question is this: Why has the entire English-speaking world, within the last few months, abandoned the adverb as a part of speech? Up until roughly May of this year, we would all have said "drive safely."


Stuffy Grammarian wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:
You are now leaving the Anecdote Zone, drive safe!
Never mind the GM screen. The real question is this: Why has the entire English-speaking world, within the last few months, abandoned the adverb as a part of speech? Up until roughly May of this year, we would all have said "drive safely."

oh my... it seems someone stole away into my post and removed letters I placed within it! I really did think that I had said "drive safely," and am shocked at myself for that failure...

Jeremiziah wrote:
"Get a new GM" is not always an option, y'know?

Sorry, but... yes it is. Always. 100% of the time this is absolutely an option... it's just an option that a large number of people make a weak excuse not to use, such as "well, I don't want to be a DM."

Just because you don't want to doesn't it is impossible for you to be... you could be a DM long enough to recruit some players, train them to be DM and then pass the reigns - Mission accomplished, new DM found.

...and before anyone says "well, you can't always find new players." Yes you can... unless you live in the middle of nowhere, no one visits, you never see another living person pass by your house, and you also do not have the internet.

Sorry to jump on your post Jeremiziah, but this is one of three gaming related topics upon which I suffer a compulsive need to argue - mostly because I see so many people (not necessarily yourself) say "I can't get a new DM/find a new group," when what they actually mean to say is "I don't want to actually put effort into finding a new DM/players."


My favorite DM does his rolls in the open and I appreciate it without really ever noticing the results. It doesn't matter to me and doesn't affect my game in any way. When I'm running for a separate group, however, I've noticed that if I roll in public the players are often using the results to make assumptions out of character that actually have a detrimental effect on the game. I actually was forced to start using a screen to keep them from ruining things.

So I think it depends entirely on the group.

thenobledrake wrote:

Sorry, but... yes it is. Always. 100% of the time this is absolutely an option... it's just an option that a large number of people make a weak excuse not to use, such as "well, I don't want to be a DM."

And that kind of broad statement pushes my buttons in a big way. I've had to fight to get groups together at all, much less find another player willing to DM and at times when I do succeed I end up regretting it because they do such a deplorable job.

I move around a lot which means I have to start over again a lot as well and it generally takes me a year at a minimum to find a group to play with, and even longer to find a good one IF I ever do. So no, finding a new DM or a new set of players is NOT an option 100% of the time, and your statement is an insult to those of us who have struggled for years to have even the slightest success in forming a group, much less another DM.


Personally, if I were to ever run a live game, I would probably use a screen just for the charts. There would be other minor benefits to me, but the big one would be the charts, and if the players aren't able to trust my judgment, than the group would have larger problems than the presence of a DM screen.

Taldor

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber
Sebastian wrote:
Include me in the public rolling camp, for exactly the reasons already explained above. I usually bring a DM screen, but that's mostly to hide maps and such. Most of the time, I take it down halfway through the game because I get tired of standing up to see the battlemat.

This. Also, there's a lot of save or dies flying around my table. I want my players to know the monsters are actually making saves, not winning by DM fiat.


Wander Weir wrote:

And that kind of broad statement pushes my buttons in a big way. I've had to fight to get groups together at all, much less find another player willing to DM and at times when I do succeed I end up regretting it because they do such a deplorable job.

I move around a lot which means I have to start over again a lot as well and it generally takes me a year at a minimum to find a group to play with, and even longer to find a good one IF I ever do. So no, finding a new DM or a new set of players is NOT an option 100% of the time, and your statement is an insult to those of us who have struggled for years to have even the slightest success in forming a group, much less another DM.

I don't mean to be insulting, just share my views.

I previously moved around a lot too - in the 15 years I've been playing RPGs I have lived in 17 different cities, and had a gaming group (and more rarely two or three separate groups) in every one of them.

It helps that I am, and have always been, a willing DM - even at the absolute first game I ever participated in.

As for finding a group, I find that making a group is easier. You move, you get work (or go to school), and you are surrounded with people - you get them to come over for a game, and some of them even end up enjoying it and coming back for more.

I'm not meaning to say that it is never difficult to find enough people of the right sort to have a "full group," and all of that - or to get your preferred mix (such as getting to be a player instead of a DM).

What I'm saying is that the phrases "I cannot get another group of players," and "I cannot find a DM," are usually synonymous with "I haven't tried everything I can to get new players," and "I refuse to be a DM, even if just in the capacity of training my new DM."

Getting a new DM or group can be difficult, tricky, easy, frustrating, and even improbable - barring complete isolation from other people and also the internet, it is never impossible.


As a GM, I find screens to be invaluable for a few reasons:

1. I don't remember the contents of every chart and table off-hand in whatever game I'm running. Therefore, a GM screen is mandatory for me.

2. Balancing encounters is always a challenge in any system. With a GM screen I can cheat the rolls to avoid a TPK if I've overestimated the PCs, or even cheat rolls higher to give them a better fight if I've badly underestimated them. My primary goal isn't transparency, it's making the game fun for the players.

3. I tend to have alot of game notes and NPC statblocks spread out in front of me when I run, and a GM screen is handy to hide these documents behind.

4. As several other posters have mentioned, players can quickly extrapolate an enemy's stats from seeing the GM's die rolls.

Personally, I don't believe players have a God-given right to see everything the GM does and every die he rolls. It's my responsibility to make sure my players have fun, and to accomplish that I have to be able to hide certain things from them. If they see everything I'm up to, then all the mystery (and fun) leaves the game very quickly.


DM Screen = WIN.

Lets me fudge the rolls that would have totally crushed a PC and taken him straight to death.

However, my players LOVE the '1-roll-per-PC-per-game-in-the-open' rule.

Some epic tales there.


For me it comes down to this.

Several instances have been cited where it is problematic to allow the players to see the DM roles. The only real response to that I've seen is this thread is "trust your players not to metagame".

The irony is that the no screen argument is basically "I'm of the no fudging ever style of playing and don't trust the DM".

Groups will vary, DMs will vary.

But all players metagame if to varying degrees. Its almost impossible not too.

Not all DM's "cheat" (even assuming that no fudging is the style everyone agrees to).

The screen is never going to be the problem by itself. If you make your fudgy DM roll in the open he's just as likely to fudge his stat blocks and other things you can't see. Just failed that will save? Well suddenly he got iron will. Rolled a 1. Well he had improved iron will.

See where I'm going? Its the relationship between DM and players thats the issue not a piece of cardboard.


DM Dan E wrote:
The screen is never going to be the problem by itself.

That sentence sums it up all perfectly. The screen may be used as a focus for certain people who have certain dispositions for or against it, but by itself, it is simply another piece of cardboard on a table already full of books, papers, and dice.


bugleyman wrote:
GM screens may well be toxic if eaten. :)

The title of the thread reminded me of *this* film.

(Hope the link works - dug around and found some original artwork on the web.)

51 to 100 of 264 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | next > last >>
Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Community / Gamer Life / Gamer Talk / GM Screens: They're toxic. Yes or No? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.

©2002–2014 Paizo Inc.®. Need help? Email customer.service@paizo.com or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours: Monday–Friday, 10 AM–5 PM Pacific Time. View our privacy policy. Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc., and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Online, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.