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My DM screen insert

I’ve gone through a couple of DM screens and usually there is room to paste over something that’s boring and obvious with something more house rule–specific, or campaign-specific.

I currently use the Ghosts of Saltmarsh screen, which has boat stuff on all four panels and I wanna use all of that.

So what I want to do is instead of gluing over one of the panels, I’m gonna carefully tape one page that I can lift. That brings me from adds up to eight custom panels on top of the pre-printed four panels. Custom stuff on top, and then on the inside of the flap more custom stuff, and then the pre-printed boat stuff on the bottom layer. Even more if I do multiple layers of flippable pages.

I definitely don’t wanna go overboard with this. I might as well use a booklet then.

So far, I’ve made two panels.

DM screen insert, P1 side A & side B.

Here is what everything is.


Shopping rules aligned with rules in Limpa.

Pa/Lea | Stu/Hi etc

Some OSR adventures instead of writing a numeric AC, which is easy to convert, they write “Defends as plate”. Which is bogus. Come on, now. So here I can at least count it out. The cells are 11, 12, 13 etc in 5e.


Targets in Areas of Effect! I know these by heart by now but I looooved line for the longest time. Basically when the spell describes a shape like “A 40 feet cone” etc, that goes out the window directly when you’re playing theatre of the mind. Instead the spell now says “Four targets”. For cones, you divide by ten, lines you dived by thirty, and all other shapes you divide by five. You round up, so a 100′ line is 4 targets.

If things are exceptionally cramped (Elevator Action!) or sparse, you add or remove 1d3 targets, respectively.

1 Eye | Arm | Leg etc

Injury table, unfortunately. Hope you never have to roll on this. This version has the same probabilities and outcomes as the version in the DMG, but with two changes. First, everything that goes away on low-level healing spells are 11+. That’s great because sometimes you don’t even have to look things up because you know there’s a heal incoming.

Second, there is two ways to use this table. If you know exactly that it’s an arm that’s in danger, a roll of 1–3 means the arm got destroyed (and 11-14 the bone broke). If you don’t know what part of the hero that is in danger, a roll of specifically 2 means the arm was lost. A 3 instead means it’s the leg that was lost etc.

Old school! etc

Conversion rules from other editions to our heavily 5e-based homebrew. AV means “attack value” since we use player-facing rolls; they roll defense vs monster’s static attack values.

“Bad stat” is something the monster should be bad at. If they’re good at it, like a living statue might have good constitution, add the trained mod.

Monsters always roll 14 on saves and 10 on everything else, such as attacks and checks.

For 3.x family games since the ability mods go up so much over the levels, let the proficiency bonus stay at a static +3. That’s not from me, that’s WotC’s conversion document.

Claech, Nytai etc

This is a name list that I wanna change out from time to time. It’s not the best in the world, always on the hunt for a better source of names.

My prep is weird; I am super careful to make sure that everything in the game world has stats “the bandit’s captain uses this and this stat block” but things like names I don’t prioritize highly when prepping.


Conditions! These are one and a half panels in the original but uh, maybe I went a li’l too low on the font size here. Will playtest.

There are some common sense rules for ending the grappled condition (like if the grappler is incapacitated or if the two peeps are hurled apart), and how petrified halts (but doesn’t cure) poisons and diseases.


Read setback, dangerous, deadly as 0, 1 and 2, and the four tiers as 0, 1, 2, 3, add them together and index the array. That amount of d10s. This isn’t just for improvised on-the-fly DM bull, it’s also some modules that actually put in “this is a dangerous trap” and then you can use the module’s tier. Not the party’s tier. This isn’t Oblivion.

The falling damage is from Veins. I use a lot of rules from them, not sure why. I mean, falling damage is the one thing that has been the same in every edition since 0e so why change it? But Patrick made a good argument. Sometimes you can land w/o a scrape and sometimes you die.


Before you start chopping your swords on each other there are a couple of rounds where you can shoot each other, cast your shillelaghs, etc. Those rounds are called volley rounds and here is the table for finding out how many those are.

Weird diagram

Porting over the climbing rules from Veins to 5e has seen many iterations but I finally managed to get them concise. If they do fall, the DC is 12 and you have to refer to the Veins book. Veins has the “specialist” that can roll twice, that’s not how it is here.

Instead the Second Story Work feature gives expertise on routes 1 through and is the only way to even try routes 5 and 6 outside of spells. To climb, make strength checks vs DC 20 (no studying) or 10 (one turn of studying). “Enc” means being encumbered, an optional rule from the PHB that we use.


So the optional rules in DMG p 272 are either obvious and easy to remember (cleave, disarm, shove), or I don’t wanna use them (mark, overrun, tumble). The one exception is climbing on to a bigger creature. It’s unlike grappling or climbing where you would roll strength, but here you can roll “strexterity”, and it’s weird that the defender has to switch from dex to strength. Both of those things do make sense and I don’t want to change them or house rule them, I just want some help remembering them. And they belong by the other climbing rules.

Jumping and suffocating are rules that while they make sense, I also often find myself wanting to double check them. The concentration check DC I used to refer to all the time on the DM screen so I kept it in even though by now I hope we’ve got it. And part of the problem is that I mix it up with the zombie’s “Undead Fortitude” ability that also rolls a damage-based DC. But while making this screen, I decided to flip the zombie ability. We use player facing rolls for everything else and I found a good solution that has the same probabilities. “Z@1HP” means “Zombie arises with one HP”.


Light is one of the best parts on the original DM screen that I use the most often buuuut it’s weird that it didn’t have the light spell on there. It’s easy to forget if the light spell is more like a torch (20/20) or like a hooded lantern (30/30). I added in the weirdo lamps from Veins of the Earth for good measure.

The “Class Hatred” section is from our house rules. The idea is that before monsters see what you are doing, they wanna attack the fighter first, that looks like the biggest threat to them. But once you’ve gone hay with fireballs and sneak attacks and such, they switch their focus to you.

Introducing late night fighting

3/20, 1/12 etc

I’m so into making all the rolls player-facing, even wandering monster checks, which I’ve renamed “encounter checks”. But, sometimes they wait for hours in one spot, or take a long trek through one region, and you have to make many rolls in a row which is fine if the DM is rolling them but not so hot if it’s player-facing. I didn’t mind, but the players didn’t wanna roll them at once (“we fight differently if we know there’s no upcoming fights”).

So I mathed out a solution. Let’s say there’s a 3/20 chance of an encounter and they have to make four checks. I look at the table under 4 and it says 14a. That means on a 1–14 on advantage, there is an encounter. So they need to roll 15 or higher to have some peace and quiet. If there is no encounter, you stop rolling. If there was an encounter, and you survive the fight, you roll again, this time it’s a 1–5 that triggers the encounter. If there was no encounter that time, you stop rolling. This is so great♥︎

It makes it so that there’s at most one “nothing happens” roll. Awesome♥︎

Dinars, Magic etc

We don’t use 1GP = 1XP rules. Instead, the amount of XP they get from coins and such, even if they only find a couple of copper bits, are derived from the monsters they had to get past to get that XP (divided among the players). In addition, however, if they find individual items (gems and such) that have a high value, or are of a high magic item class in Blackball’s Treasure, they get additional XP (“copied out” to all the players, not divided).

The leftmost column is the level that the highest party member has. Yes, unlike everything else this is intended to level scale! Shock and horror! (Basically the highest leveled party member gets ⅒ of a level and the other dorks get a bit more than that. And if you go beyond your tier you get even more.)

This table also has a secret double duty for anytime you need “pillar XP” (i.e. ⅒ of a level), such as when using my know each other house rules: just read the level at the lowest applicable tier.

Old school saves!

As you can see I love converting old school stuff♥︎

I used to use a table that was based on which saves the classes were good at in the original game, like if clerics were good at a save in RC then that save would be under wisdom here etc, but the current table is based on a lot of playtesting with 5e and the “intent” of the save. It does map reasonably well with the old school classes.


“DS” means Dungeon Speed, when you are going through unexplored regions of the underdark. Once you are familiar with a route, or if you are above ground, use the other lines. Especially boats!


The CR→XP conversion is by the 5e RAW. It drives me crazy to see references to a CR 4 creature and then I don’t remember that it’s 1,100. Up to CR3 is easy enough but then my memory dies. I need it on the screen.

The HD to CR conversion is veeeery shaky but good enough for converting OSR stuff! And definitely better than my old “multiply HP by 23” rule.

Ideas for future panels…?

I kinda wanna put abbreviated monster stats from most of the SRD on there. Started work on that today but it’s gonna take time. IDK why I still use 5e style monster stat blocks though. Switching to simpler, OSR-style monsters would be so much better for me and for the entire play experience.

Also maybe availability and pricing of spellcasting and hirelings? IDK. That’s a more rare thing to check up than “how many light components are in town today”.