How To: Make Your Own DM Screen

Welcome to the first DIY post from Sassy Damsels!  Hopefully this won’t be the last.

I have been tabletop gaming (D&D, White Wolf, etc.) for over a year (or two) now and have recently come across the opportunity to become a DM (Dungeon Master)!  Wow!  It is a big deal to me since it’s my first time, so being the overly-prepared person I am, I have been working hard to make sure my first real session isn’t a failure!

Several DM friends said that a DM screen is a must.  Between spending the money for it and simply having little selection, I decided to save a few bucks and make my own.  It isn’t pretty but it’s certainly functional and should prove useful for what I need!

List of Supplies

  •  Box that manila folders come in – lid & bottom
  •  Scissors
  •  Scotch tape
  •  Black Sharpie marker
  •  Ruler (I have one printed from the internet, not a real one, at work)
  •  Pen (I used a cheap Bic, black ink)
  •  Printer (for decorations)

So.  I have NO idea what the normal measurements for a DM screen were.  I did some research and found that they can be too tall (I’m already short-torso’ed) but obviously you don’t want them too short either.  I like to talk as-is, so I figure seeing people must happen during my game.  I found that a common DIY GM screen uses 2 CD cases and figured I’d use that as a measurement/structure base.

Measured out my manila folder cardboard box (top) for about ~7″ tall (and am hoping for the best).  I cut off the excess and had a nice front with two flaps on the side!  The main part is about 12″ across; the flaps are a little past 2 1/2″ each side.  As you can see, I was thinking about coloring the front with black Sharpie (note the corners), but uh… gave up on that.  You have to let each bit dry before you can go back over it, and I don’t know how many Sharpies it would take — I just knew that it would be plural.

While I could have certainly made do with just this, I’m a creative (and picky) person, so I decided to extend the flaps to give me that real DM screen feel (um, when I DM I’m sure I’ll know what this ‘feel’ is…which I haven’t yet, but shush).  I took the bottom of the box and cut out flaps that went from 7″ in height (to match the mini-flaps on the main piece) and dipped down to 5″ at the end (I like the slanted look).  They are about 5 1/2″ wide, which gives me quite a lofty area for whatever I need to do.  I also have a laptop so I sort of accounted for any extra space I may or may not need for it.

I Scotch taped the new cardboard flaps to the mini-flaps on the main part and have a really cool looking screen now.

But wait!  There’s more!  I can’t just LEAVE it looking all plain like this.  No, no, no.  My first game I am DMing is White Wolf’s Geist: The Sin-Eaters, so I wanted to make it a little more themed.

Found some cool pics, put some filters on ’em in Microsoft Word, and edited the top margin for 2″ before printing.  Taped it on the front, used some Sharpie to decorate the sides a bit, and voila!

Great! But… what if we AREN’T in this area?  I need to put a different picture up, right?  Well well well… I took the bottom of the manila folder box and cut a 1″ square.  Cut it diagonally and colored the triangles black with a Sharpie, then taped them slightly outside the picture that was already affixed to the front.  So now, there’s a great little place to put the corners of a picture in!

Hmm… Still not doing it for me.  I have a lot of cardboard boxy-ness still showing, so I found some trash folders and measured the mini-flaps.  Drew that rectangle on the trash folders, cut them out, then glued them on.  Put my heavy bag on top and let them dry for awhile.  Don’t ask me how long… probably an hour.  I forgot about it.  If you have super glue, use that instead.  Or, um, pretty much ANYTHING aside from stick glue.  Which is the worst stuff ever for stick factor.  Sigh.

But now… You have your own fully-functional DM screen – made on the cheap!  I’ll be adding more to this as I find necessary, but at least I have a good base to work with.  Hope you enjoyed this DIY!
Geist: The Sin-Eaters

Click for larger picture!


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  1. #1 by Bubo's Girl on March 16, 2012 - 1:29 pm

    I’ve been a tabletopper for years, but didn’t realize how much I grow in the game until i began DMing. I love the screen.

  2. #2 by micahblackburn on March 25, 2012 - 2:00 pm

    That is epic. I’d never considered making my own (in part because games rarely provide all the tables in one easy to print format). However, this is still a thing of beauty. Thanks!

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