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GM’s Journal – Behind the Screen

In the GM’s Journal we will discuss all things role playing. From tips for running a successful table to reviews of various systems, you’ll find it here.

Almost every role-playing system currently in production makes use of some sort of game master screen. You wouldn’t think that this – a foldaway piece of cardboard – could elicit sheer terror. Yet, I have heard many players tell me that they ‘fear the responsibility’ that comes from sitting behind the screen.

In order to encourage more players to take up the mantle of Game Master, I have decided to let you in on some of the secrets that go on behind the screen.

Players often only get to see the front of the screen, typically adorned with art designed for the role-playing game. The game master’s side of the screen is usually more pragmatic, and contains tables, charts, combat conditions, and other valuable information. This handy information is designed to help prevent game masters from constantly flipping through their rulebooks so that they can be more efficient.

The screen also offers game masters a degree of secrecy. I keep a note book behind my screen so that I can jot notes, monitor the health of adversaries, and keep track of important developments in the plot. I also keep a copy of the relevant rulebooks in front of me so that I can reference the rules if need be and check the stats on enemies they might encounter.

Most importantly, and perhaps most controversially, the screen allows the game master to roll their dice behind the screen. This grants the ability to fudge a roll if necessary, in service of the story of course.

Becoming a game master is one of the best choices I have made. Being able to sit at a table with friends and weave intricate stories for their enjoyment is extremely fulfilling. Hopefully this small insight into what happens behind the screen may demystify the process, and make becoming  a game master a bit less daunting.

My suggestion: find a role playing system that you feel comfortable running, and start telling a story!  And the next time you are at the Malted Meeple ask a member of our staff how you can become a game master!

Meeple Karington Hess - Small

Karington Hess is a lifelong gamer whose passions for hospitality and all things game-related led him to Ravenwood Castle, where he served as an Innkeeper before joining The Malted Meeple. When not pouring beers, crafting milkshakes, or teaching boardgames, Karington can be found behind the DM’s screen, weaving intricate stories for his fellow gamers.