Saturday, March 31, 2018

Svelte Magnetic Referee Screen

Years of tinkering and I hit upon this design "by mistake". 

Gaming has changed. The way I play has also changed. Less is more. I have great minis and a whole modular resin dungeon terrain system. They look fantastic. However, they are hard to set up, transport and limit participants imaginations. These days my goal is to strip away the stuff that doesn't work. This thinking has led me to look at "DM*" screens and question what they are really for.

Here is where I have been. When I started in the 70's a record album was fine (1). I took some plywood and duct tape and made my own (2). It served as a barrier and I could stick charts and stuff on the back side. A few years back I bought this thing (3), four leaves and clear pockets for all sorts of gamy minutia. This is a good solution and compact. However, I was noticing that it would sometimes actually block my view of the players. If I am roasting their character over a spit I want to see the the expression on their face, not a random foot-gear matrix. This led to the last design (4). It's shorter, and has other useful features. I have used this one for a couple of years and my biggest frustration is that it is not as portable as I would like.

This led me to conduct experiments using foam core. These days all my adventure designs are done on quarter sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper. Each card is about one idea and because they are loose you can rearrange and pull stuff out at will. (I will talk about this in a later post). The designs above are testing the concept of having several mini-screens on the table instead of one big one. Big screens are like fortresses, they get in the way and act as a barrier to intercourse. I should not have to tell you that an RPG's essential characteristic is this interaction.

So, for this mock-up the idea is that the whole mini-screen fits in an 8.5 x 11 foot print and held together using clever folds and tabs. This led to:

Folds and joints are always tricky. I found some scrap painted sheet metal (old siding, I think), cut it and finished the edges with a file. Scrap wood (from an old dresser drawer) was cut into the triangular supports.

Here's the magic: magnets. Pretty straight forward, drill hole slightly smaller and press them in. I was like "hmmm, OK".

Easy to assemble and svelte.

Like so.

The bar thingies swaddle the stack of cards so I can leaf through them. These wood strips are magnetic, so they can be infinitely adjusted relative to any size stack of cards.

I cut two more matching triangular supports and two more sheets of metal. This is the players view. The height of the larger panel is about 7 inches. Now I had a bunch of supports with magnets and metal sheet.

Everything is completely modular and reconfigurable. Let that sink in.

Using smaller magnets, any information needed could simple be added or subtracted at will.

Here the triangular supports have been turned up to make the screen steeper.

So there you have it. I'm pretty excited about this.

The older post:

I'll add this to the Nuggets & Forbidden Knowledge Tab. Tell your friends. "DK", your off the hook for a few weeks, but going to post one of your dungeons...

* "DM" is Dungeon Master. I still like this term, I was going to use "Crypt Lord" instead, but no one knows whatdahail that is except me. Someday Crypt Lord and Nimbality will be part of the common lexicon. I have not typed Crypt Lord into Google...


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