DM Screen

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Do we know yet what will be on the DM Screen? I'm hoping that it will be better than the 3.5 screen I've currently got. I have looked up things on it once or twice only and my knowledge of the rules is pretty bad. Normally I'm searching through a book (by the way thank you WoTC for the Rules Compendium). Anyway is it going to have the status effect descriptions? That's my biggest hope.
They probably won't have a DM screen as everything is pretty much self contained.
Screen is due for a July release but I haven't seen what is on it. Been looking but can't seem to find any content info on it.
I agree with the OP about wanting a bit more out of the DM screen than we had in 3.x. I own two 3rd edition DM screens, and they both left something to be desired (although one was quite a bit better than the other.)

The first one I got was a 3.0 DM screen. It had the Jeff Easley pic on the front with a dude getting getting eaten by a giant spider. Wasn't too crazy about the art on that one (I'm an artist and the anatomy and composition were kinda blech,) but the main failing of the product was the stuff on the back.

Here's my breakdown of these screens in terms of its overall utility and quality:

- Good idea to include, or particularly well implemented
No thumb - Necessary, or adequately implemented
:thumbsdow - Wasting space and ink, or poorly implemented

3.0 DM Screen:

:thumbsdow Cover panel - I've already expressed that I'm not crazy about this artwork. If this was art school, I would not give a favorable critique to ole' Jeff here. I'll spare you the long version, but the purpose of the art on the front of a DM's screen is to provide an iconic D&D scene to the players at all times in order to not only get them in the mood for playing, but also to remind them of the game's legacy and the sorts of awesome things that happen in your average game. Front and center on this picture is a giant spider eating a dude. I've fought giant spiders in D&D before, but I would hardly say they're the first thing I think of when I think D&D. If I use this screen, however, that's the first thing my characters think of (assuming they're not distracted by Krusk's stumpy, poorly foreshortened arm.) There's Shelob from LOTR as an iconic giant spider from fantasy, but there are definitely monsters which say D&D more than giant spiders. Some of the artist's discomfort with portraying the human form is seen in this picture. Mialee, ironically, is pretty well drawn, but I count five of the so-called iconic player characters sporting flat, boring, orthographic poses (in other words, the artist has chosen to portray them either dead face-on or dead profile in order to avoid the challenge of drawing physical forms in the more convincing three-quarters view. The figures that are well drawn, and are perhaps coincidentally the most iconic, are pushed to the sides of the painting. The orc and the dragon on this DM screen are pretty freaking sweet, and they're both bread-and-butter D&D monsters. What are they doing at the edge of the page, nearly out of the action (the dragon isn't even interacting with one of the player characters, just two hapless generic mooks)? Also, I like M.C. Escher as much as the next nerd, but the impossibility of some of the cavern structures in this scene is kind of awkward in the context of D&D. Lastly, what the heck is going on here? The ideal scene would sort of have some hint as to the story behind the adventure, and also make you wonder about how the characters got to this point, but the scene is so hodge-podge that it has no one narrative, but many separate meaningless narratives. This is either the weirdest dungeon ever, or Easley hasn't made it clear enough that this is simply intended to be a montage of character vignettes (in which case he should have made that visually clear, but even then the vignettes are individually a bit lacking.) There's some good painting going on here, but it's not a good painting. I like Jeff Easley, and he evokes that great 2nd edition feel. There's a certain nostalgia factor that I get when I see his work, because it reminds me of my first ever adventure. He's done some really great work. This just isn't one of them.


First panel -
:thumbsdow Balance Check DCs - This should be written down in the encounter
:thumbsdow Bluff Check DCs - Believe it or not, I can eyeball these figures
:thumbsdow Climb Check DCs - This should be written down in the encounter
Concentration Check DCs - Okay, so this was actually somewhat useful, but only because the 3.0 rules for this were overly complicated
:thumbsdow Disable Device DCs - This should be written down in the encounter
:thumbsdow Escape Artist DCs - This should be written down in the encounter
:thumbsdow Listen Check DCs - Some basic guidelines are not so bad, but mostly, "This should be written down in the encounter"
Open Lock Check DCs - This should be written down in the encounter, but it takes so little room it doesn't really bother me.
:thumbsdow Search Check DCs - This should be written down in the encounter

Second panel -
Fundamental Actions in Combat - Necessary; this crap was relatively complicated until you memorized it
Attack Roll Modifiers - Same as above
Partial Action - Same as above (Geez, 3rd was complicated)
Cover - This should be written down in the encounter, but I can see the use of having it, since it comes up often enough in impromptu encounters
Concealment - see Cover

Third panel -
:thumbsdow Miscellaneous Actions - Geez. 3rd was complicated. Thank Pelor I have this table, so that I know that the sunbeam spell does not provoke attacks of opportunity. But seriously, I'm glad opportunity attacks are much more streamlined and exceptions based in 4th, because this table makes my eyes bleed.
:thumbsdow Creature Size and Scale - Wasn't this part of the monsters' stat blocks? I guess I can see some limited use to this, but if you've prepared the encounter at all, you have a token or a miniature that represents the monster's size anyways.
:thumbsdow Turning Undead - Thankfully, you don't have to worry about this in 4th, but I'd like to pause to reflect on how this table leaves out vital information, namely the formula to determine how many hit dice of undead you can effect (2d6 + level + Cha modifier, which I've penciled in below the table.) This table needed to be here given both the complexity and the impromptu nature of using this ability, but if I'm going to have to reference the dang page anyways, this table is a waste of space (that could be remedied by adding a single line.)
:thumbsdow Access to Spells (By Class Level) - Um, this doesn't come up in the midst of an encounter. You need to have your PHB open anyways in order to level up characters and choose spells. I have a feeling that they had a little space left over after that enormous Miscellaneous Actions table limited the formatting opportunities on this panel.

Fourth panel -
Size and AC of Objects- Hm. Okay, I can sort of see where they're going with this. Sometimes an object you just put in the encounter as dressing but didn't think to stat gets interacted with by an imaginative PC.
Substance Hardness and Hitpoints - ...alright, this goes kinda with the previous table. I guess this is a "make-your-own-object-on-the-fly-based-on-substance" table
Common Weapon and Shield Hardness and Hit Points - What? Oh. Right. Sunder. Yeah, I guess this has a place here, but this fixation on attacking objects is getting a little much.
:thumbsdow DCs to Break or Burst Items - Ugh. Enough already. I already know that a wooden door has a hardness of 5 and (assuming 3 inches of thickness) 45 hit points. If there's a door that my characters want to break down and I haven't written the DC to break it off its hinges in the encounter, I can just tell them they have to hack it down. Seriously, it would save space for better stuff on this DM screen and it would get me out of the mindset that I, as a DM, am essentially an underpowered computer game physics processor who's only here to track object collision. How hard is it to bend iron bars? It's hard. Off the top of my head, it's DC 25 hard. Wait, lemme check my chart. Oh I was wrong, it's 24. There's some hairsplitting difference, apparently, between bending bars and breaking down barred doors, and it needed to be recorded on the back of this screen instead of something more broadly useful.
Example Opposed Checks- I think these are common sense, but I guess new DMs might need this.
:thumbsdow Example Door DCs - Seriously.... didn't we already cover this? Just stop.
Skills that Can Be Used Untrained- This was necessary, actually, in 3rd. I'm glad it isn't in 4th.
Light Sources- Hey, what do you know, it's something that gets used in every single encounter, that might deviate significantly from prepared encounter text due to an impromptu PC decision. Sweet.

Quality - This screen came with a crease in its corner (right over the cool but utterly upstaged red dragon.) I take pretty good care of my DM stuff and books, so besides that one flaw, this screen has held up pretty well over the years. No smudging, and only superficial damage at the edges. I would have preferred the packaging job to have prevented that crease, though obviously. I guess I should have returned it, but I was in high school and I was lazy then.

My second screen, a 3.5 accessory, is generally a lot better:

Cover - So much better. Unified color scheme, well drawn, interesting characterizations (I like the little touch where Gimble is sticking his tongue out at the vanquished iron golem and Regdar, in an odd but entirely appropriate artistic decision, is facing away from us to check if there's anyone behind the party. All the figures are well drawn. Okay, Mialee is pretty facially hideous, but she's Mialee after all.) What's front and center? Red Dragon. BAM! Aside from the noodly chin, this is a really well done dragon, next to its treasure hoard, with little kobold minions lying in wait. Thank you, Adam Rex, for understanding the basic assignment here to draw a badass, iconic D&D scene. These people are in a dungeon, and they're about to fight a dragon. Success. Hats off to Adam Rex.

Back- One improvement that's notable is the PHB or DMG page reference on all these charts. Also, having that one diagram back here is pretty neat.

First panel -
Common Armor, Weapon, Shield Hardness and Hit Points - Again, Sunder made these values really important I guess.
:thumbsdow Substance Hardness and Hit Points - Oy.
:thumbsdow DCs to Break or Burst Items - Sigh.
Items Affected by Magical Attacks - Hey wait, this is actually useful.
:thumbsdow Size and Armor class of Objects - More game physics stuff that could be included in the encounter description.
:thumbsdow Object Hardness and Hit Points - Ditto
:thumbsdow Walls - Ditto
:thumbsdow Doors - Seeing a pattern here? I know that all this stuff was needlessly complicated in 3rd edition, and that that is more a failing of the edition than of the screen, but even back then it was possible to write object hardnesses and stuff down in the encounter that has those specific objects in it. In fact, a lot of published encounters did this back then. Promisingly, in Keep on the Shadowfell, this space and effort -saving tradition is continued, and I hear tell that the books are well organized enough that these values should be fairly easy (hopefully) to find and write into the encounter during prep time. The DM screen should be saved for all the emergent rules that crop up in the middle of the game that can't just be eyeballed.

Second panel -
:thumbsdow Turning Undead - They still haven't included that formula. I had to pencil it in again.
Increasing Weapon Damage by Size - Okay, this is marginally useful, I guess. If someone casts Enlarge Person.
Decreasing Weapon Damage by Size - Again.
Attack Roll Modifiers - Necessary.
Armor Class modifiers - Necessary.
Influencing NPC attitudes - This is actually a pretty cool thing to include for those NPCs that you don't expect the PCs to fixate on but they do anyways. I like the thought process behind adding this.
:thumbsdow Climb Check DCs - Again, this should be written down in the encounter. If someone climbs, or swims, or does anything in an area where you weren't expecting them to, there should just be a one size fits all chart that says "This is the DC for something that's easy, this is the DC for something that's challenging, and this is the DC for something that's difficult." Decide what category you want the check to be in and roll. That's more of a 3.5 system criticism than a DM screen criticism, but especially on a quick reference sheet like the DM screen, you want to conserve space for the useful stuff by putting down general rules of thumb when you can.
:thumbsdow Listen Check DCs - Same principle as above.

Third panel -
Actions - I suppose this table is necessary, and it's better consolidated and contains no stupid actions like the Miscellaneous Actions chart on the other screen. Lord I hope I wouldn't need to use a chart like this on a regular basis, though.
Concentration Check DCs - Thanks to no real improvement in this area between 3.0 and 3.5, this was still necessary.
Skills - This chart tells all the skills, whether they can be used untrained or not, whether they have armor check penalties, and whether they provoke AoOs. While fairly intuitive for a seasoned 3rd edition DM, this is, I bet, actually really useful for a new DM.
Ability Modifiers - You can do this in your head, but I actually like having this little chart as a quick reference.
Movement and Distance - Solidly useful for trailblazing PCs.
Maximum Distance for Spot checks - This is for really painstaking simulationists, I guess, but I can see this being useful on occasion.
Hampered Movement - Useful, although fairly intuitive.
:thumbsdow Armored/Encumbered Speeds - This chart lists speeds while wearing armor or being encumbered for base speeds up to 90. 90! It's kind of overkill, and this is the sort of thing that should be written on character sheets and in NPC stat blocks.
Detect Magic - This was kind of an annoying spell to remember, since it came up fairly often. I can understand this table's inclusion.
Detect Evil - Same as above.
Light sources and Illumination - I like this table because it's the sort of thing I will completely handwave if it's not directly in front of me, and it can change significantly from the encounter description based on character actions.

Quality - This DM Screen came in almost perfect condition, and it has stayed that way.

What's missing from both of these screens?
-Grapple rules
-Trip rules
-Bull rush rules
-Disarm rules
-Pretty much all those corner case rules that nonetheless emerge during combat regardless of prep because the PCs suddenly decide they want to use them.

While many of the above concerns have been alleviated by the system design of 4th, I'd urge the designers to please consider the following when putting stuff on the DM screen:

-The cover should be an iconic piece of artwork. I hate to be a doomsayer, but the fire giant with the hell hounds on a leash, while cool, isn't quite as cool as the Adam Rex "red dragon lair" screen or the Wayne Reynolds "adventurers fighting a Pit Fiend in hell" screen (that I couldn't get my hands on.) This is something that my characters are going to be looking at every time they play D&D. It should scream D&D to them and include a well painted action-packed scene that gets their imaginations revved up.
-The rules you present on the back should be the ones that don't appear in encounter descriptions or that do appear but might change. I'll already have the encounter open. You can assume I know how large the troll is, how many hp the barrels have, and that they provide cover to characters in their space. I can't remember how to grapple the troll without opening by PHB, and I might need to know how shadowy (or in 4th's case, Dim) illumination works should my Eladrin Warlock decide to put out torches in the hallway to capitalize on Low-Light vision. I don't need to know how to craft NPCs from scratch; that's in the DMG and MM and hopefully happens between sessions.
-Make it out of nice stuff and package it correctly. Creases make collectors cry.

If you've read this far, thanks for listening. I hope this criticism was constructive. Basically, I'm interested in buying a DM screen, and I want it to be nice.
The only verified knowledge I have of the new DM screen concerns the material it is made out of. Game Board stock, like a monopoly board. That alone is an awesome improvement to me.
Great post, thank you for that.

I usually photocopy and cover up parts of the screen I don't use with rules for things like Grapple and flying combat, both of which come up fairly often. It would be nice to get a screen where I did not have to do that. I agree with your recommendations.

Thanks. That's what I wanted to know!

I'll add it to my Amazon shopping list.

I'd say the screen is already in print - but I'll make a few wishes anyway

+ Keep the landscape rotation... it meant not having to stand every time a combat started to see what was going on!

+ Put the character advancement table in: every time my chracters get xp they look for this; it would be good to have it on hand.

+ Devote a whole panel to conditions!

+ Devote another panel to combat actions
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