Friday, May 20, 2011

The Savage AfterWorld's Customizable "Do-It-Yourself-You-Cheap-Bastard" Gamemaster's Screen

I have wanted a customizable gamemaster's screen for quite some time, but I never could justify the expense of the purchase. (I'm a notoriously cheap bastard.) But with Gen Con looming on the horizon, I needed one GM screen that I could take that would function for the various games I plan to run. A quick scan of the Internet really didn't give me any ideas on how to make one from scratch. So I came up with one of my own. And because it was very cheap to make and is a bit more sturdy than a cobbled-together cardboard one, I thought I'd share the step-by-step construction process with everyone for their own use. And here we go:

The Savage AfterWorld's Customizable "Do-It-Yourself-You-Cheap-Bastard" Gamemaster's Screen Construction Instructions
You will need: two 3-ring binders with clear pocket front covers (try to find those with the 3-ring mechanism attached to the spine rather than attached to the back cover); three page protector sleeves; 8-1/2 x 11 cardstock; colored duct tape that matches the binder color; spray adhesive; utility knife or scissors. Total cost of materials -- under $12.
Step 1: Cut the covers off of the binders. Cut along the seams, taking care not to "break" the seal into the interior cover backing or separating the front pocket from the cover. Try to stay in the center of the seam. You will need three of these covers. (Although you could use the fourth if you want a really large screen.)
Step 2: If the covers have an interior slip pocket, carefully remove them, taking care not to "break" the seal as described in Step 1.
Step 3: Lay the covers end-to-end so the clear cover pockets are face down. (You're looking at the GM's side here.) Tape them together with the duct tape. The tape will act as a flexible "hinge."
Step 4: Here's where it gets a bit difficult. Turn the whole assembly over so the Player's side is up. You need to run a reinforcing line of tape along the "hinge" on the outside, but you want to take care not to tape over where the pockets are open. You'll need to gently lift the pocket open, then slip a short line of tape just under the pocket "lip" and onto the adjoining cover. This will reinforce the "hinge" on both sides of the screen.
Step 5: Inspect your handiwork thus far. You should have three covers joined end-to-end and reinforced both inside and out with a duct tape hinge. The Player's side should have three open and exposed clear cover pockets. OK, time to add some clear pockets to the GM's side.
Step 6: Cut the 3-ring holder tabs from the page protectors. Again, take care not to cut the seam that holds the edge of the protector together. You now have three clear sleeves.
Step 7: Insert the cardstock into the sleeves. This will make it easier to handle for the next steps. Spray one side of the sleeve with the spray adhesive. Glue the sleeve to one section of the GM's side of the screen. Do this with the other two. If you don't want to mess with spray adhesive, you can use a thin double-sided crafter's tape.
Step 8: Let the glue dry. Remove the cardstock from the sleeves.
Step 9: Your customizable "Do-It-Yourself-You-Cheap-Bastard" gamemaster's screen is finished. Print out any charts, tables, or artwork you may need on landscape-oriented 8-1/2 x 11 sheets of paper or cardstock. You have three sleeves for info on each side that you can slip out and in depending on the game you're running.
Step 10: Ta-da. I've found that the screen collapses down best when you fold it like the letter N, if that makes sense. Hope you get some use out of this. Please feel free to improve upon my patented "cheap bastard" design. And let me know how it turns out for you!


  1. Nice job! I've got something up my sleeve this gives me an idea.

  2. I' ve purchased customizable GM screens in the past and they eventually wear out, ripe, or the inserts adhere to the inside of the pocket.

    I had made a custom GM Screen for my Humanspace Empires playtests. For that I used a pair of folding foam-core boards. I'm going to try making one of these as soon as I have the cash. (Yes, I'm that broke right now.)

  3. Nice post, I shall try this too. Thanks.

  4. Much nicer than my own cheap-ass screen. And more functional!

  5. I made one and it's pretty nice. I did make a few adjustments that really made no difference to the design for the most part. Instead of double-sided tape or spray adhesive, I used damage-free hanging poster strips as they were cheaper at the store I bought them from. I also used slide report covers instead of page protector sleeves since i saw them first and they're easier, in my opinion, to slide sheets in and out of. Other than that, the design is simple and quick to make. I like it.

  6. Hey there- just found your blog by randomly searching for "gamma world campaign ideas" on good old Google, which led me to the "Gamma Rites" blog, which then led me here.

    Anyway - GREAT STUFF! I'm really enjoying going through your old posts, and especially all your stuff on "Thundarr." Back in my 9th Grade Art Class, my art teacher actually worked on that series for awhile - he did some of the background layouts.

    If you want to check out any of my gamma-world related posts, you can visit my blog here (the "gamma world" tag).

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