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5e Dungeon Master’s Screen Reincarnated – Comparative Review

I picked up the new 5e Dungeon Master’s Screen Reincarnated when I picked up Tomb of Annihilation earlier this week. I almost didn’t buy it because I hadn’t found the original 5e DM Screen to be of much use – I have been using the World’s Greatest Screen (landscape version) by Hammerdog Games and it works fine for my game, but it is bulky. I picked up the new 5e one because it has a slimmer profile. I am not disappointed!

Old Screen on the top, New screen on the bottom

Here are the two 5e D&D DM Screens, showing the player facing panoramic art. The old screen is shown on the top and the Reincarnated screen is on the bottom.

Charts & Tables Included:
Let’s start by comparing the charts & tables from the two screens. First, I will mention the tables that appear on both screens:

  1. Conditions (same exact art and layout, which is from the PHB)
  2. Cover Rules
  3. Obscured Areas
  4. Setting a DC
  5. Light Sources
  6. Skills and Associated Abilities
  7. Travel Pace
  8. Encounter Distance
  9. Damage by Level & Severity

Here are the tables that are different on each screen:

Tables on the Old Screen:

  1. NPC Characteristics d20 random table
  2. NPC Ideals d20 random table
  3. NPC Bonds d10 random table
  4. NPC Flaws d12 random table
  5. Name Generator d20 random table
  6. Something Happens! d20 random table
  7. Quick Finds d12 random table

Tables on the New Screen:

  1. Spell Shape & Point of Origin reference box
  2. Actions in Combat
  3. Things you Can Do on Your Turn
  4. Long Jump rules
  5. High Jump rules
  6. Suffocating rules (i.e. holding your breath rules)
  7. Concentration rules
  8. Tracking DCs
  9. Object Hit Points
  10. Object Armor Class
  11. Services (cost of coach, cab, hirelings, messengers, etc.)
  12. Food, Drink, & Lodging
  13. Creature Size Comparison Drawing

Table to Table Comparison:

As you can see, the tables that were on the old screen, but not on the new one were random tables. These could be used for a variety of reasons… when the DM needs a quick NPC, when a quick name is needed, when the DM draws a blank and just needs a quick idea, or when the DM is prepping. While I appreciate that the WotC team tried to focus on NPCs and interesting things happening, I didn’t use the table when prepping because I had all of my prepping books and materials with me and didn’t reference the screen while prepping. I also didn’t use them at the table because I have other tables, specifically created for my game and setting, including an extra list of names, already handy. I make those things as part of my prepping for a session, so having them on the screen that was intended to be used during the game was a waste of screen space for me (though I can understand that others really liked the tables).

The tables and boxes added to the new screen are rules-based items (e.g. tracking DCs, concentration rules, object armor class), teaching tools (e.g. actions in combat, what can you do on your turn), and some useful items the DM might need in game as a quick reference (e.g. creature size comparison, spell shapes). I find the rules additions – especially concentration, suffocation, jumping, and object AC & HP – particularly useful at the table, and I think this screen will see much more use in my game session because of these additions. The number of times I will have to open my books during the game will be reduced, and isn’t that what a good screen is for?

What is missing or could be improved? The creature size comparison bar doesn’t have numbers on it – it at least should have the top marker and bottom markers labeled (or maybe every 10 ft.) – that would be an improvement. As for additions, I would have liked to see healing, resting, and hit dice rules – brief versions and a page reference if they couldn’t all fit. A schools of magic sidebar would have been nice near the spell effect shape box – again, nothing extensive, just a quick note about each school. A list of the options for using inspiration would be nice as well, if only to serve as a reminder for DMs to give those dang inspiration points out!

Art: The art is fine on both. I actually prefer the dragon on the new one, especially with the fact that it is carrying off a humanoid, and I like that it is flying away from a burning city. But I also really liked that the old screen had adventurers on it, and some kobolds, along with the dragon. The new one only has the dragon. Also, the case-wrap packaging of the original told the story of the art scene depicted on the screen…

“… the red dragon Thraxata the Flamefiend and her kobold minions confronting a party of intrepid adventurers. The group’s ranger tries to finish the fight with a legendary arrow of dragon slaying meant specifically for this wyrm.”

The new screen says this…

“…a panoramic vision of a poor soul borne aloft by an ancient red dragon.”
The description doesn’t sound as fantastical, for sure. But honestly I like them both just fine, so the exterior art is a tie.

The interior art is good as well, though more sparse on the new one. There is a grey devil face in the upper left corner, a grey trap in the lower right corner, the sketches of creatures on the size chart, the dice sketches, and the sketches of humanoids affected by conditions. The old screen had much more colorful interior art – a deck of many things, a tarrasque assaulting a city on the right side panel, the sketches with the humanoids with conditions, colorful art behind the two middle panels, and an adventuring party on the lower left.

The old screen was definitely more colorful and the art had much more contrast – the new screen is a mishmash of grey-tone images and a swath of bluish-grey mountains in the middle. It looks understated and muted, but not bad. If they were going for non-distracting art, they accomplished their mission.

Quality: They are both of comparable quality. I see no errors or issues with either of them. They are both sturdy and of a durable thickness. I see no real differences here.

Usefulness: I find the new DM screen much more useful, hands down! This is because of the addition of rules information to the screen – that is useful to me at the table.

So there you have it – my assessment of the new DM Screen Reincarnated by Wizards of the Coast. I will note that the packaging indicates that, “The inside of this revised screen features rules references requested by D&D fans.” So WotC is still making an effort to ask their fans what they want to see, and then act on the feedback they receive in return. That trend started with the open playtest for 5e, and it has continued with relatively frequent polls, questionnaires, and surveys. If anyone wondered if WotC would keep up the practice of listening to the D&D players, I think we have an answer, and it comes in the form of a very useful DM Screen 2.0

Until next time, I wish you good gaming!

~DMSamuel

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About

DM Samuel is the Editor-in-Chief here at RPG Musings as well as the podcast editor for The Tome Show. He is also a host of the gaming podcast Play on Target. He plays all manner of role-playing games and boardgames and continues to learn new games all the time (and new things about old games, too). Sam lives in Upstate New York with his wife and their game collection. You can follow him on twitter @DMSamuel.

2 Responses to “5e Dungeon Master’s Screen Reincarnated – Comparative Review”

  • Thanks for the review! I almost picked this up because I was disappointed in the first one but held off. I might grab it now. The original is mostly useless except for the conditions.

  • Yep – I hemmed and hawed for a while before deciding to spend the $$. It is worth it for me – the changes make it usable at my game, so I’m very happy with it.