In my experience, the decision whether or not to use a GM’s screen seems to be based on 5 factors (listed here in order of importance):
- The specific game being played
- Play style
- Gaming area
How about you: Do you use a screen? Why or why not? And what are your screen quirks?
Personally, I love GM’s screens. I own at least 6 of them (more may be lurking on my shelves somewhere), and I almost aways use one when I run games. My preference is for wide, short, 4-panel screens, and I don’t mind if my screen isn’t designed for the game I’m playing as long as it has those properties.
For most games, I use my long out of print Call of Cthulhu screen (which I think came out around the same time as the 5th edition of the game). Where traditional screens have tall panels, this one has wide panels — which means it’s longer and lower-profile than normal, thereby hiding more stuff and letting me get a better view of the table.
If I’m running D&D, my most recent favorite is the Eberron DM’s screen. It’s a bit flimsier than my CoC screen, and the two outer panels are a bit too short for my tastes — but it makes up for it by having the best selection of interior data I’ve ever found on a D&D screen. (Can you tell I’m picky about my screens?)
When I was running my Selgaunt campaign, our gaming table was packed — the game started out with 7 players — which meant that a low-profile screen wouldn’t hide my notes very well. For that game, I paperclipped together two D&D screens (my Forgotten Realms screen and the free screen that came with Dragon #310) to make one 5-panel uber-screen.
For me, paperclips are an important component of any screen. This is one reason I don’t mind if my screen doesn’t match the game — I wind up clipping so many things to it that I can hardly see any of the stuff that’s actually printed on the screen. I’ve contemplated getting a MasterScreen (which appears to be out of print) for exactly this reason, since it’s designed to accomodate custom sheets of data — but somehow, I always come back to the paperclips.
That’s my screen usage in a nutshell — how about you?