Budget GM Screen

Alternate title 1: Redneck Referee Screen.

Note for the uninitiated: A GM (game master) screen, also known as a referee’s screen, is a folded screen you place on the table between the person running a role playing game and those playing it. This is done to hide important notes, maps, die rolls, and the like from the players. These can run up to $20 or more for one specific to a game and are usually just thin cardstock with pre-printed charts and tables of which one or two will ever be something you actually ever use.

So anyway. I was in the dollar store buying 20 gallons of bleach (never mind why) and I noticed a big bin of small whiteboards.


This started my brain a’ thinkin, so I bought four of them.


Since I already had some duct tape (is anyone surprised?) this brings the total budget of this project to $4 and change. If you were starting from absolutely nothing you would have to grab a knife and some tape so the total could top $6.

After unwrapping we can see what we have. Basically a piece of cardboard with a glossy side, a few magnets, a crappy pen, and some rubber and staples.

Front Back

I don’t want or need most of this so almost carefully, I started tearing them apart.


Some were stapled, some were glued, but the rubber game away easily enough, and the hot glue holding the magnets on was quickly defeated with minimal cardboard scarring.

This left me with my four panels and a pile of junk.

Pile of junk

I separated out the potentially useful bits and threw the rest away.


The pens, though crappy, have some ink in them and so will last a little while. And each one has a little felt eraser to clean up the whiteboard with. I’m keeping them until they wear out. The little clips that held them on to the whiteboards might be useful, and while I am not using them for this project… Everyone loves magnets!

these all got set aside and I laid out the panels.


You could also lay them out the long way for a wider shorter screen. I may do this in the future if I make another one since I am rapidly becoming a fan of shorter screens for reasons I may one day discuss.

between two screens I laid down a very carefully measured and positioned strip of tape (it was about long enough and placed just about thereabouts). It is good to remember at this point that the tape will form a hinge and so there should be a little space between boards.



Yes, I am doing this on a pile of wooden pallets… A lot of things in my life happen on a pile of Woden pallets now.

But I digress… I then carefully folded the ends up and worked the tape down into the hinge.




I wanted to make sure the tape formed a little valley so it wouldn’t be too taught for the hinge to work well.

I added a strip to each in the cardboard side, working it into the valley as I went.


And repeated for each hinge.


At this point I could easily just call it done and start using the thing… But I wanted to get just a touch fancier.

I started laying down slightly overlapping strips of tape to cover the bare cardboard side. Note: do not do this to the whiteboard side or you might as well have just cut up a cardboard box and saved yourself the $4.


Leaving a little border of cardboard showing I covered the entire back of the screen.


I left eft this border because I wanted to pit a strip along the edge. This would make it look a little neater (really, do we actually care about that at this point?) and will make the edges more durable.

i laid a strip along the sides from the whiteboard side (so I could make the border as narrow as possible on the side I actually want to use).


And folded it it over onto the back.


Next i I laid two long pieces along the top and bottom.


And folded them as well, being careful to keep the hinges nice and tight.


I really could have have been more careful about the corners, making them nice and rounded or tight right angles… But I absolutely could not be bothered to.

Again, this could be a great place to finish. It’s done, it works! I can stand it up and write lots of gamey stuff on it and the players will have no idea what horrors I have planned for them!


And it folds up smaller than an average game book!


But I have all these pens… And the clips… So let’s throw those in for the fun of it.


The he clip fits neatly over the edge, and a little bit of tape holds it steady.

But I have more pens!


So with a little trial and error I added a couple more so they wouldn’t collide when I folded up the screen.


And -now- I will call it done! $4 and a few minutes of work and I can toss it in my game bag and be out the door ready to play. The tape will make the whole thing durable enough to withstand weeks and weeks of abuse and when the terrible pens go bad I can easily replace them at the dollar store with a set of colored ones for another dollar.

A cool addition I just thought of would be to use the magnets along the top edge of the back to hold sheets of paper meant for the players to see… And saving a couple pieces to make a magnetic clasp to hold the whole thing shut.

have fun, and go get ’em!


  1. Mom says:

    Well written Pintrist.

  2. Alpha Monkey says:

    Well done sir. Consider the idea stolen!

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