Rather than leave my screens as-is, and use the charts they come with, I cover the top edges of mine with paper clips.
These quickly accumulate notes (like my GMing goals for that session or campaign), PC-related lists (search totals, HP, etc.), counters I don’t want to lose track of — all sorts of things, in other words.
For me, that stuff is generally more useful than at least 50% of what comes printed on the screen. I leave the best 50% exposed, and get the best of both worlds. If you’ve never tried this, give it a whirl — you might like it!
I usually don’t use a GM’s screen anymore. I love my laptop for GMing. I like to make excel spreadsheets with the information I need, and then I just go from page to page with all the info at my fingertips. I also use a printout booklet of any system rules, or tables, etc. and then I just flip from there.
I am tempted to get all fancy with my new scrollsaw and do a wooden screen, just for old times sake. I think someone, maybe Troy, said they used an old Castle Greyskull toy. That would be grand, and I may have to go shopping soon.
I’m with John — my laptop is my GM screen. My standard practice has been to set up a spreadsheet with my PCs’ spot/search/listen checks, which I roll to keep them from inferring things they oughtn’t. (“Did I really not hear anything, or did I fail my roll?”) Spreadsheets can also be used to recreate the charts and tables commonly found on DM screens. Mood music is at my fingertips, and I keep a playlist of songs just for that purpose. (There’s a thought for a future column: a list of songs by game genre and purpose.) I can also digitally bookmark PDFs for specific monster stats instead of having a stack of books at the table to tip off my players. (I keep the core books on hand in hard copy for quick rule reference; paging through a PDF isn’t nearly as easy, or satisfying, as thumbing through a book…especially when you know intuitively where the rule you’re referencing is.)
I’ve even in the past used my laptop to coordinate with a co-GM, and to conduct private conversations with players via instant message instead of passing notes. (Yes, I allow my players laptops if I am using one. I’m many things, but a hypocrite is not one of them.)
It’s possible that a laptop can be more distracting than a regular old DM screen. That only happens, though, if you let it. When I run a game, I don’t look at any chat windows or surf the net. My focus is on the game and on my players. I don’t reference the LCD screen any more than I would reference a DM screen or handwritten notes. If my players’ laptop use gets out of hand, then that means *I* am not keeping their attention properly and I need to do something about that. Either way, it boils down to being another tool in the toolbox: as useful as you make it.
(Useful or not, it sadly doesn’t have the atmosphere that Castle Freaking Greyskull imparts. That sounds awesome.)
I use a three ring binder to hold most of my GM stuff. It has pockets on the cover. So I decorated it with pix from the RPG.net “motivational posters” thread. Including “smart aleck comments” with the MST3K guys and “rocks fall, everybody dies.”
I’ve also started keeping my character sheets (when I’m a player) in a three ring binder. Haven’t lost one since.
I run Cyberspace, which no one has ever made a screen for. Thus I let loose on a old carboard box to make my current screen.
It’s rediculously large compared to other screens, in a jumbo deluxx sort of way. I photocopied the charts I wanted from the books, and arranged them in a way that was most approptiate for me. For the outside of the screen, I made copies of the most choice art from the book.
This way, I get thing exactly how I like them, and my players definately know their playing my game.
I don’t use paperclips, I use sticky notes with my own charts and info.
Laptop all the way. 🙂
While I don’t usually modify the GM screen, I do compile 3×5 cards with rules reminders, punch a hole in the corner, and cycle through them as required. That’s often enough to eliminate the need for a screen at all.
Thanks a LOT John and Zephos. You realize now I have to go find an old Castle Greyskull set and do a case-mod to put a PC in it.
…. Damn freaking good ideas.
I have a huge nerd crush on GMing screens (they’ve always been one of my favorite RPG doodads), and I love hearing about everyone’s pimped out, customized screen options — or non-screens, in the case of the laptops. Good stuff!
Along the lines of Castle Greyskull, some of the older Lego castles seem like they could be easily adapted for use as GMing screens. The newer ones seem more fiddly, but if you had a big enough Lego collection they might work as well. Now I want to go out and buy some Lego. 😉