Day Eight of #RPGaDay2019: Obscure


The eighth word prompt of RPGaDay for 2019 is OBSCURE.

Obscure has two meanings. There is the adjective — not discovered or known about; uncertain — and there’s the verb — keep from being seen; conceal.

Both are important parts of the tabletop roleplaying experience.

One of the most important tools in a Dungeon Master’s arsenal is the Dungeon Master’s Screen, a wall separating the players from the DM. It is there, behind that obstruction, where all the secrets lay bare, designed specifically to obscure the DM’s maps and notes from the players at the table.

I always wanted the Trampier DM Screen, but never happened across one in the wild. I was forced to make do with record albums with gatefolds or the covers to modules.

The David Trampier Dungeon Master Screen

My first Dm Screen was this beauty. I really enjoyed the evocative cover, culled from the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. I used this one for 36 years and it held up pretty well.


In college, I added this DM Screen to my arsenal, paper clipping it to my original AD&D screen. It served me for 25 years or so.


In 2015, I won a contest through Wizards of the Coast and the prize was a copy of the 5th edition DM Screen. I have used it, in conjunction with a homebrew screen made from a repurposed restaurant menu, ever since, retiring the old screens that served me well for decades.


While we mostly play online these days, when we do gather at the table, we tend to use Pathfinder Flip-Maps and miniatures. But still, the screen is there, to obscure scribbled notes and dice rolls, because the screen is both a shield and a security blanket…

Dungeons & Dragons, at its best, relies on a DM’s ability to obscure his machinations from the players, to preserve the sense of wonder, danger, and excitement.


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