Monday, July 18, 2011

He's Crafty!

So, I'm supposed to be preparing to launch the third act of my campaign this week, which meand I of course found it necessary to procrastinate and do nothing of the sort this weekend. Rather than prepping for my upcoming session, I launched into a crafting project that I have been itching to undertake for quite some time: I built my own custom GM screen.

During the two and a half years I have been running this game, I have never used a screen. This is partly because I used to run my game from a laptop, which served as a sort of screen in itself, and partly because I run an out-of-print version of the game, making appropriate screens difficult to come across. Well, recently I started looking at custom built screens and finally decided to take the plunge.

Here's what I used:


  • 3 pieces of foam core scrounged from work (approx 10" x 16" each)
  • duct tape
  • 12 mylar photo corners
  • Elmer's Glue
  • 3 binder clips
  • Scrap-booking paper with Japanese dragons printed on it


  • Metal straight edge
  • Matte knife
  • Cutting mat
  • Popsicle stick <-- Perfect for spreading glue
  • Junk mail <-- Perfect as a drop cloth when spreading glue

Making the Screen:

  1. I laid the foam core down end to end and joined it along the GM- facing side with duct tape.
  2. I trimmed the two outside sheets of foam core to 10" x 12" to allow for a better fit on my table
  3. I trimmed my scrap-book paper to fit the foam core.
  4. I glued the sheets of paper to the foam core backing and used the metal straight edge to burnish it smooth. (I had to do this because the foam core had previously used museum signage on one side.)
  5. I measured and marked the desired position for each stat sheet on the GM side of the screen and mounted each sheet with mylar photo corners. This will allow me to easily swap out stat sheets if I play a different system or have need of a special reference at some point.
  6. I clipped the three binder clips to the top of the screen, which will allow me to display maps, visual aids or other references for the players.

I am quite pleased with the results of my afternoon's effort. While it may not be as professional looking as a store bought screen, the foam core makes for a much cleaner looking structure than cardboard, and the photo-corner system adds some excellent versatility not available in an off-the-shelf screen.

I am also once again toying with some modifications to my game management technique. There have been quite a few articles floating around lately that discuss ways to run games from index cards, and I just got run over by the bandwagon. During the last adventure I ran, I found myself being forced to choose between flipping back and forth in my notebook if an NPC or monster appeared in more than one encounter, or transcribing the same stat block multiple times. Well, in an effort to solve this particular inefficiency, I created an NPC card template that can be printed on a 4x6 index card and easily moved between encounters when running a game.

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