By - August 26, 2008 - 15 Comments

D&D4e Review: Dungeon Master Screen

This is a guest post by Johnn Four – THE authority in the world of GMing. Johnn has been running the very popular and successful RoleplayingTips.com since 1999 and his weekly newsletter contains the best advice and ideas for DMs.

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  • You will like this product if:
  • » You want a sturdy screen
  • » You’re always looking for the conditions summary in the PHB
  • » You want a low and wide screen
  • » You like red dragons
  • You will not like this product if:
  • » You don’t like to play with a screen
  • » Your players can’t stand drows, black dragons, mind flayers, and humber hulks

Review: The Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Dungeon Master Screen

When I opened the package, the new DM screen surprised me. At the game store, my perception check revealed a somewhat weighty and rigid product in plastic wrap. Unable to peer inside, I assumed the screen was padded with cardboard inserts and a small booklet to give it substance.

However, at home I discovered to my delight the screen was the only thing inside, and the panels were thick! Finally, a screen solid enough to repel player-thrown dice, insults, and, dare I say, red dragons. Ok, maybe just one red dragon. Ok, one young red dragon.

4 panels

The DM screen has four joined panels, which is fantastic. The screen is solid and stable thanks to the panel count. I’m not sure of the technical join type, but it seems like the screen will take a lot of abuse and the panels will not come apart easily. In addition, it seems like a lot of bending won’t cause frayed seams, like previous screens were prone to.

Landscape Orientation

The feature I like best about the screen is that all four panels sit in landscape orientation. The 10 ¾” sides rest on the table. This gives the screen a wonderful, low profile. Tall screens that I own are sometimes a pain because I can’t see over them when sitting in a low chair and using a high table. A low screen also makes passing notes and reaching for minis and snacks much easier.

The Tables

Here’s a listing of the information contained on the screen:

  • Experience Point Rewards
  • Food, Drink, and Lodging
  • Light Sources
  • Damage By Level
  • Character Advancement
  • Actions In Combat
  • Attack Modifiers
  • DCs To Break Or Burst Common Items
  • Target DCs
  • Fall Severity By Character Level
  • DCs For Commonly Used Skills
  • Rolling Attacks and Checks
  • Cover
  • Concealment
  • Conditions
  • Healing a Dying Character
  • Death and Dying


Thumbs Up!

I’m giving the D&D 4E DM’s screen a thumbs up. A nice touch is page numbers sprinkled throughout the tables so you can reference the rules quickly for a certain table type or statistic. Oh, and I just tested and the screen is very Post-It friendly. Stationery fetishists around the globe will weep in joy.

This was a guest article by Johnn Four of RoleplayingTips.com. I know it was mentioned at the top of the article but it’s worth writing again: Johnn rocks – subscribe to his Roleplaying Tips newsletter!

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Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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D&D4e Review: Dungeon Master Screen, 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

Leave a comment (15 comments so far) »

  1. Sal M says:

    I’d rate it at a 4, but only because it doesn’t include a cheat sheet style calculation for quickly levelling monsters up and down. As you said, it’s easily fixable with a post-it, however.

  2. Asmor says:

    It’s worth noting that, AFAIK, the skill DC tables are wrong, having been printed before the errata was issued. This is a fairly major change.

  3. barasawa says:

    The incorrect Target DC table. I’m not going to dis them over this since I believe they were already at the printer when Wizards finally decided to change that.

    However, I do have two complaints.
    FIrst, the Experience Point Rewards table. Let’s face it, if you’ve already got the adventure worked out, or the stat block for whatever you’re throwing at your players, then you already have the relevant values. (If you don’t, you’re making stuff up as you go without reference, so why would you even check that chart anyhow?) So basically, that’s a waste of space to me.

    Second, the Character Advancement chart. Another waste of space. Come on, Players have the xp needed for the next level bloody memorized, and they drool over every xp closer to leveling they get. Besides, they have their own PHBs, and nobody gives xp in the midst of action, much less allows level ups at those times.

    Of course those two are a kind of sacred cow for them, and there is a reason I have a pad of post-its. >^_^<

    All in all, it’s a wonderful screen. (Far better than the jury rigged stuff I make on my own.)

    And a helpful note for everyone. The new index for “4E Players’s Handbook 1″ made by Propagandroid is also a fantastic reference for DMs and Players. (Since it might not be appropriate to post the link to another site, just google it.)

  4. Sal M says:

    Yax – As Far As I Know
    barasawa – agreed, it’s what the PHB index _should_ have been

  5. DnDCorner says:

    I like the landscape a lot. I’m a short person and it is fairly annoying to have a blocked line of sight to my players. I often end up having to sit to the side of my DM screen. I agree that having advancement chart is wasted space. The single most common thing I need as a DM are prices when the players start trying to sell stuff nobody ever intended be sold.

  6. Alberand says:

    I love the new screen and find it more useful than any previous screen I have had. The landscape setup is great, although it makes the screen a bit unwieldy due to its overall length when unfolded. I cannot fit it on the small side table I used to keep my screen and dice on, but because of the landscape orientation I no longer mind having it on the main table. That keeps me looking at my players and focused on the action anyway, which is always a plus.

    For those who do not know, Wizards has published an updated skill DC by level table that you can paste over the one on the screen. It’s not elegant, but it works. You can find it on WotC’s site under “Official D&D Updates”. I used some putty I got from a friend to stick my updated table to the screen, and it looks much nicer than having tape stuck all over it.

    Interestingly, and I have not had a chance to confirm this yet, but the DCs in the table of skills and what you can do with them seem appropriate to the new skill DC table. I am wondering if they changed those and simply overlooked or missed the DC by level table. Any opinions on this?

    I find it annoying that they wasted space on the character advancement table. As someone else already pointed out, players are acutely aware of how many XP they need to level, and it is something that comes up very rarely (every several sessions); not something you need handy all the time.

    They could have also skipped “Rolling Attacks and Checks.” It might be useful to a complete neophyte, but anyone that has played or run a single game will have that rule down pat. If you don’t, you are probably not ready to be running 4e just yet.

    I don’t mind the XP reward table because it is useful for scaling encounters on the fly if I have fewer/more players than expected or if people come and go in the middle of a game. This happens quite often at a monthly game I run that is open to the public, but I do think they could have skipped it for something more useful to the majority of DMs.

    The tables I find truly indispensable are “Food, Drink, and Lodging” (never could remember prices for that stuff), “Light Sources”, “DC/Damage by Level”, “Actions in Combat”, “Attack Modifiers”, and “Cover/Concealment”. Those alone are worth the very reasonable price of admission to pick up a screen, and it’s nice to have a quick reference for conditions without having to keep another sheet of paper on the table.

  7. symatt says:

    The 4e screen is the best ive ever come across the old flimsy screens from the 80′s never quite hit the spot so now its great to get a product that works for the game and not just a hinderance.
    way to go WOTC

  8. symatt says:

    Me again
    i get to use the screen in anger for the first time on Friday evening ( BST) so i cant wait to throw dice at it

  9. Johnn says:

    How’d it go, symatt?

    I used my screen for the first time Thursday, and it was great. It repelled numerous peanut M&Ms and one translucent salmon d20.

  10. symatt says:

    The screen worked the best, although when i was looking for info during game i couldnt see for looking lol, one ive got used to where things are on the boared then it will be ok, but the most important thing is that dice and magic missile failed tp penatrate its sturdyness

  11. Johnn says:

    > dice and magic missile failed tp penatrate its sturdyness

    Nice! It’s great being able to DM outside of the pope booth eh?

  12. Jeff Goldbloom says:

    I’m sorry I dont get it. Silly, outlandish artwork, books based on min-maxing your character into a super-being and more rules than you can shake a set of d10′s at. This is not D&D, this crap is basically a paper & pen based version of one of those silly MMORPG games that have ruined the D&D genre.

    How did it ‘ruin’ it? By setting the scene of the modern fantasy realm. Most of the people that play MMORPG’s have no clue to any of the history behind the fantasy realm of D&D and therefore have driven the market to now be all inclusive of their ‘insta-uber-powerguy’ world.

    No thanks, my quest now begins to assemble a group of people that have at least read all the LOTR series, knows who Gygax&Arneson were and understand the VERY MOST IMPORTANT RULE of D&D: Any rule, set in the books, can be changed or altered by the GM. The GM is the final arbiter of the rules.

    Give me an understanding of how armor is made, how swords are crafted and an actual understanding of combat techniques of the middle ages soldier and I will apply this to craft a fantastic, yet set in the bounds of realism, campaing.

    Nuff said fanboys, sayonara 4th Edition…You have finally put the nail in the coffin of D&D. Now, on to E-bay to build up my collection of 1st/2nd ed goodies!

  13. Vel Ociraptor says:

    Wow, Jeff, I didn’t know you were still reeling from Geena Davis. Don’t put out your aggressions on 4E, it wasn’t doing anything to you. Have you even given mind to trying it out personally? I know you wish to say, “Aw, but what about the good ol’ days?”

    Sure, the artwork does take up too much space for the cost of the materials they’re pushing, but at the same time, the amount of new players being brought in and enjoying the experience without having to look at the 400,000th possibility for advancing their level 11 character. Options are nice, but when it comes down to it, sometimes you just want coffee-flavored coffee, am I right? In my opinion, despite some of its setbacks, the makers are simply trying to return to the KISS philosophy, and I’m not talking about selling out like the rock band.

    Also, basing your group on what books they have read sounds rather elitist. I’m a fan of Tolkien, but I didn’t know you had prerequisites to enjoy a GAME. That’s all it is, friend. So, just put down the hate stick and quit whacking at everything that’s not a piñata.

  1. [... This is a guest post by Johnn Four - THE authority in the world of GMing. Johnn has been running the very popular and successful RoleplayingTips.com since 1999 and ...]

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