Do you use a GM screen?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Just like the title says: do you use a GM screen? Why or why not?

tl;dr version:

The GM screen is one of the traditions of RPGs, but it's one I very rarely use.

I had a discussion with my wife about the Mutants & Masterminds GM screen and how useful I find it, but I usually run games with it flat on the table so I can access the information when I need it while not creating a divide between GM and players. When I run Pathfinder, I never use a screen.

GM screens are certainly useful, but in high school I started gaming in places without tables, such as living rooms and bedrooms. While I now game at tables more often than not, I usually keep very loose notes and trust the players not to look at the stuff they're not supposed to. When I do need to make a roll in secret or hide something, I just lift a notebook to function as a temporary shield.

My wife, who started playing with me well after I stopped using a screen, stated that she hates screens because she feels more like it's the GM versus the players when one is up.

So what are you thoughts on using a GM screen?


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Yes, but more for having quick reference tables standing up and not taking up valuable table space than for hiding things behind. The day we can have hologrammatic displays that we can manipulate physically I'm going to be one very happy GM.

Scarab Sages

No. Because I want them to see the dice that kill them. The look in their eyes is ever so much more satisfying then.

Seriously though, I find it makes the party and DM more part of the same game, because those attack and damage and what-have-you dice rolling out there catch all their eyes too.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

Nope. Gets in the way of my view of the battlemat and is a barrier between me and my players. They never pay attention to my dice anyway. And I roll in a dice tray too.


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I use one so my dice don't go flying off the counter when I roll them forward.

I also like having the tables and charts in front of me, the PFRPG official screen is very nice, and sturdy too.


I do, but only to hide the dice.


If there's plenty room on the table I put it up. More for quick reference than for hiding die rolls. I roll dice pretty much open even if I have the screen up. With rolls that need to be secret I can just as well hide the die behind my hand. (Sense motive and the like.)

On some occasions I do like to hide the die from annoyingly meta-gamey players, though. "That wizard is only sixth level because of the number of die he just rolled, don't waste your turn on him." (This coming from a player who's character does not have spellcraft or such abilities/skills.)


I use a laptop and Hero Lab when I run so in a way I do use a screen. I have copies of all the characters loaded into it, and can also load any monsters in the encounter. The tactical console works very well for running combat. I even use the built in dice roller to speed up combat. Being able to look up any ability or condition and apply it to the proper character with a few clicks of the mouse is quite handy.

The laptop allows me to see the battle map and the players without any obstruction in the way. By sitting at the head of the table I can keep up what I need on the screen without the players seeing it. We have even used a second monitor placed where everyone can see it so that the players can be shown things without having to reveal everything.


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FranKc wrote:

If there's plenty room on the table I put it up. More for quick reference than for hiding die rolls. I roll dice pretty much open even if I have the screen up. With rolls that need to be secret I can just as well hide the die behind my hand. (Sense motive and the like.)

On some occasions I do like to hide the die from annoyingly meta-gamey players, though. "That wizard is only sixth level because of the number of die he just rolled, don't waste your turn on him." (This coming from a player who's character does not have spellcraft or such abilities/skills.)

I tend to not use one myself, and my favorite trick with those types of players is as follows: Use two different dice colors in your roll. One is the actual damage, the other is "bluff" damage. They tend to freak a bit when they see you rolling 14+ dice on a fireball or something. XD

Sovereign Court

My laptop serves as a GM screen now. I have my roller, PDFs, and combat tracker all conveiently right there for me. Oh also Pandora.


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I do use a gm screen. Then again, I also stand the whole time I gm.


Matt Thomason wrote:
Yes, but more for having quick reference tables standing up and not taking up valuable table space than for hiding things behind. The day we can have hologrammatic displays that we can manipulate physically I'm going to be one very happy GM.

Same here.


I run two games. All of my DM notes and rulebooks are digital for ease of transport (I never play in my own house). One game is at a table, using a laptop - I am constantly trying to angle that laptop so that the player sitting next to me can't metagame off my game notes on the screen.

The other game is at a player's house. I use his PC in the living room. Everyone is sitting at least three feet from the monitor but otherwise have full view of the screen. Their distance means they can see the maps, but not any of the text.

I agree with the above post about players being able to see the dice that kill them as being more fun...to an extent. I have great luck rolling dice, invariably, my players don't. High PC mortality rates can get very frustrating very quickly and can really derail a long campaign.


I sometimes use one to hide notes behind, but I do all my rolling in the open in a dice tray. I have a standing rule that if it's not rolled in the tray and I don't see the number, it doesn't count. Had to put that in place after I had a player consistently roll the dice, swear, snatch it up, then tell me she rolled an 18. Repeatedly. In the same round. Funny, she doesn't roll chain critical hits any more...

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Almost never - I roll in the open, I keep track of damage and initiative in the open (generally on the map).

I suspect it's a holdover from 4e, where such things are generally more public, but I've done it that way for 2e and 3.xe as well.


Sometimes I use something similar to hide important rolls.

Telling someone who rolls a 2 on their spot check (when they don't have a high spot score) that "they don't think they see anything" loses some of its weight when the player knows they rolled that 2 and therefore knows they probably failed and therefore someone else helpfully decides to roll their spot check too.

That's admittedly not the best example, but generally the idea is that leaving things like that ambiguous is a lot harder when an extreme roll gives them a fairly strong idea of knowing how well they did.

Liberty's Edge

I don't want to spend the money to get one. If I do need to roll a die in secret, I hide it behind my cupped hand. But usually I roll dice in the open.


I'm with TOZ. Access to the battlemat is too important and my players never really care what I roll, just what I tell them (the two are synonymous, by the way).

A popular sentiment I've seen is the "ease of access" to common rules. Fair enough. For PFS players, you (probably) have a Player Character Folio. Ever open it and see all the rules?


I use the pathfinder screen, though i had to cut it in half to see my tv that i use as the battle map, and to move the mini/pawns around, I keep the dice bowl hidden behind one of the half screens.


I used to when I ran AD&D, there were just so many essential tables and charts that I needed to have on hand. I don't for 3 or PF though, no need anymore.


Scythia wrote:
I used to when I ran AD&D, there were just so many essential tables and charts that I needed to have on hand. I don't for 3 or PF though, no need anymore.

I still remember the old hit-matrices fondly. Fondly, but I wouldn't ever go back to them unless I wanted to prove to myself that the D&D of today is significantly better (according to ME! Grognard-purists, I don't want to hear it! You are on the PFRPG messageboards!).


I have a GM screen, but funnily enough it's pretty much only ever used as a mousepad.


I use the savage worlds (I think) screen. It's landscape, which I prefer and has plastic pockets for whatever tables/campaign information I need, rather than preprinted tables. I can also put house rules on the front side for easy player access.


No screen here. I too roll in the open.

I honestly don't like the psychological divide screens present. I will hide minis that I'm about to drop on the mat, and I'll roll the few truly "secret" rolls behind my hand, but I try to keep as little stuff in between may players and myself.


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Lamontius wrote:
I do use a gm screen. Then again, I also stand the whole time I gm.

Music Stand.

I prefer to stand as well and I can say without a doubt that a good (ie not a gig stand) music stand is freaking awesome.


BigDTBone wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
I do use a gm screen. Then again, I also stand the whole time I gm.

Music Stand.

I prefer to stand as well and I can say without a doubt that a good (ie not a gig stand) music stand is freaking awesome.

That's a good idea.


Steve Geddes wrote:
BigDTBone wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
I do use a gm screen. Then again, I also stand the whole time I gm.

Music Stand.

I prefer to stand as well and I can say without a doubt that a good (ie not a gig stand) music stand is freaking awesome.

That's a good idea.

It never occurred to me, but the music-stand solution is useful for other applications, as well. Thanks, Lamontius and other supporters.


I use a screen but I lay it down flat like a mat so it doesn't block my view.


Yup... Although I usuaçy push it a little to my side so it doesn't blick my view. I usually roll in the open, though. The shield is mostly to hide NPC sheets, my annotations and the few secret rolls I have to make.

It's more of a secondary tool for me, but an useful one anyway. I'd love a GM shield that can have it's top half folded a bit, so it doesn't block the GM's view as much (or at all) and still gives him the ability to have his little vault of secrets! lol.


I use one, but I normally have so many notes it not very helpful for hiding all that much. I do roll dice behind, for when I occasionally flub a roll. Mostly it's just so that I can quickly reference skill check DCs.


I tend to fudge rolls often enough that I don't want my pcs to see my rolls, but still find myself putting the screen down most of the time. I usually use it only during combat. I tend to not like a fluke run of crits to kill off party members, and that sort of thing. Then again, I usually only do this when a campaign is starting off at low levels, where that sort of thing can be truly devastating.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

I use a GM screen both for hiding GM info and looking up chart data. I also use tags on the top edge of the GM screen to track initiatives.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I use a screen for checks (I'm still working on my rules mastery, and I'm rough with checks) and for hiding things I've prepped. In particular, I use the actual pawns from the Bestiary boxes. Also, I tend to heavily annotate my maps, so I like to have an area to keep them away from wandering eyes.

I roll in the open and keep the screen off to the side so that I can easily see the rest of the table.


Honestly, in 30+ years, I've never used a GM screen. I've played with several groups where the GM did use a GM screen, but even in games I've run with those groups I didn't opt to use the existing screen.

I have no needs to hide dice rolls, and if I really did, the stack of books next to me can work for that in a pinch.

Also, because I'm kind of short anyway, hiding behind a GM screen, hides me and prevents me from seeing the battlemap easily. On the few occassions I've tried to use a GM screen, I constantly have to lift it up to see what's going on, on the table, or to see player dice rolls.

For whatever benefit that a GM screen can provide a few rules on the back, the benefit far under weighs the impracticality of screens. So, no I never even consider them as a need for the game.

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