d4 Reader Tips => Solo 5RDs, Sci-Fi Generator, Get Colourful, Hazard Risks

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0883

Here are some cool tips to pass along from your fellow game masters.

Hazard A Little Pain Or Risk A Lot?

RPT GM Eric Scheid passed along this tip about hazards vs. traps:

Hi Johnn,

Love your tips.

Youtuber EvilSqueegee talked on this topic too, except he had the terms “hazards” and “risks”, with the differentiation being that hazards always hurt (eg. a pool of acid), while a risk was on a probability/trigger.

Traps (in his definition framework) would be one kind of risk, but so also would be most avalanches (and not a hazard, as you have it). An area where there’s a constant pelting of small rocks (for reasons) would be a hazard.

This sets up interesting choices and decisions for the players. Do they take the longer route of running a gauntlet of falling rocks (1d4 damage per round while in the area) or do they chance the avalanche via the shortcut (10% chance of 8d6 damage, subject to saves etc.)?

It’s that “100% small effect vs n% big effect” which is an interesting extra angle for players.

Your traps vs. hazards distinction addressing NPCs vs world is nonetheless an additional interesting insight. Thanks for that. Learning more every day.

Add Coloring To Your Game

Roleplaying Tips GM Mark of the Pixie has a couple of colourful tips for us, one using words, one pictures.

I have another reward idea: game quotes.

We keep a record of the funny, strange or cool quotes we make in the games. They are a great way to remember sessions long past, and there is a definite pride that goes along with someone else using one of your quotes.

Another unrelated and unusual tip I discovered recently: coloring in NPCs.

I am running a kid’s game for my daughter and her friends. The group ranges from six up to mid-teens. It is an anime style game where they are freeing all the hypnotized animal spirits from the control of the demon queen.

I decided to print an anime coloring-in sheet for each NPC and spirit animal (just downloaded from the net, I am not that artistic). It has worked astonishingly well.

The players have been able to use the coloring to help them stay focused, which is great.

But the unexpected benefit is that, even after a three-week break, not one player has forgotten a single NPC. They remember them all!

They even begged me for the sheets for the NPCs they have not met yet, and are excited to meet them.

I haven’t tried it with adults yet, but given the Mindful Coloring craze, I expect it to work pretty well. I also want to try it with maps and similar. Handing players a map is cool, but not interactive. Getting them to color it in may sound childish, but it makes the map an active part of the game.

It’s not that hard to convert photos to line drawings, and then to black and white to make almost anything into a coloring-in page.

Solo Five Room Dungeons

RPT Reader Eric Bright experiments with using the 5RD format for solo play.

This is a proof of concept that you can take a 5-Room Dungeon type story and randomize the different pieces. Imagine each part being in a random generator as you play through it so that each new part isn’t revealed until you get there.

Modular 5-Room Dungeons

Eric has also built another solo 5RD called The Dark Castle:

Modular 5-Room Dungeon: The Dark Castle

I like this format. If you are a Campaign Logger user, it would work awesome with the new and enhanced custom random generator features we’ve added.

Random Sci-Fi Histories

Roleplaying Tips GM Marc Tabyanan took a history generator from a previous newsletter and modified it for sci-fi games. Grab a deck of standard playing cards and try it out.

Hola, Johnn!

I wanted to thank you for your article on using cards for generating ideas for histories in

RPGs. I used that system for my fantasy campaign, but I needed something else for my science fiction one.

As I was working on converting your tables to a sci-fi flavor, I made a few other changes as well:

  • For each period of time, I draw 3 cards: 1 for the event itself, 1 for the scope of the event and 1 for a tag that adds flavor or direction the event can take.
  • I simplified things down to 3 tables only.
  • I changed the fantasy themes to my particular sci-fi ones.

I use the combination of 3 draws to come up with an idea for the event period — year, quarter, whatever. I use the information to spark my creativity in defining the actual historical event.

Again, thanks for the tip that got me using this system, it works out great!

Here is my write-up that I use:

For each period, draw three cards:

  • Draw card for event.
  • Draw card for scope.
  • Draw card for tag.

Suit determines the general type of event. Black cards: good; Red cards: bad.

Event is the actual thing that happens.

Scope is the breadth of the event. This can be from a small regional event to a multipolicorps event.

Tag is an extra item that adds flavor. The tag spins the event in a different direction, and the result on the Tag Change Table gives more depth to the tag.

To determine benefit or loss in the Tag table, draw an event card: Black means benefit, Red means loss.

To check if an event is still occurring, draw a tag card: Black means it has ended, Red means it is ongoing.

DIPLOMACY: This can mean improved relations, increased tensions or failure with another group.

ECONOMY: This can mean an economic improvement or loss.

ENEMY: This can mean an enemy gained, or an impact from an existing enemy.

EXPLORATION: This can mean actual exploration, research & development, survival or some other form of effort improve.


CLUBS (Conflict). This is some form of conflict that works to the drawing side’s benefit.

  • Ace — Resource contested. +EXPLORATION.
  • 2 — Production excess. +ECONOMY.
  • 3 — Resource discovered. +ECONOMY.
  • 4 — Tech breakthrough. +ENEMY.
  • 5 — Tech breakthrough. +ECONOMY.
  • 6 — Xeno-agriculture improvement. +EXPLORATION.
  • 7 — Peace agreement reached. +ECONOMY.
  • 8 — Beneficial laws. +ECONOMY.
  • 9 — Armed forces improved. +ENEMY.
  • 10 — Faction conflict. +ENEMY.
  • Jack — Hostile takeover. +ENEMY.
  • Queen — Subculture conflict. +ENEMY.
  • King — Trade route conflict. +ENEMY.

DIAMONDS (Hardship). This is some form of problem that works against the drawing side.

  • Ace — Colonist protest. +DIPLOMACY.
  • 2 — Increased crime. +ENEMY.
  • 3 — Trade war. +ENEMY.
  • 4 — Corporate takeover. +DIPLOMACY.
  • 5 — Cult uprising. +DIPLOMACY.
  • 6 — Tech failure. +ENEMY.
  • 7 — Environmental failure. +EXPLORATION.
  • 8 — Bioweapon escapes. +EXPLORATION.
  • 9 — Livestock disease. +EXPLORATION.
  • 10 — Natural disaster. +EXPLORATION.
  • Jack — Tax increase. +DIPLOMACY.
  • Queen — Starship loss. +EXPLORATION.
  • King — Colony failure. +EXPLORATION.

HEARTS (Diplomacy). This is some form of diplomatic or economic failure that works against the drawing side.

  • Ace — Diplomatic failure. +DIPLOMACY.
  • 2 — Bioweapon escapes. +DIPLOMACY.
  • 3 — Expansion conflict. +ENEMY.
  • 4 — Subculture conflict. +DIPLOMACY.
  • 5 — Economic panic. +ECONOMY.
  • 6 — Government corruption. +DIPLOMACY.
  • 7 — Strained relations. +ECONOMY.
  • 8 — Restrictive laws. +DIPLOMACY.
  • 9 — Rogue AI. +ENEMY.
  • 10 — Cultural misunderstanding. +DIPLOMACY.
  • Jack — Diplomatic breakdown. +ENEMY.
  • Queen — Diplomatic assassination. +ENEMY.
  • King — Trade war. +DIPLOMACY.

SPADES (Exploration). This is some form of exploration or improvement that works to the drawing side’s benefit.

  • Ace — Trade agreement. +ECONOMY.
  • 2 — New technology. +EXPLORATION.
  • 3 — Increased R&D. +ECONOMY.
  • 4 — Trade route opened. +ECONOMY.
  • 5 — Tech cost decrease. +ECONOMY.
  • 6 — Political alliance. +ECONOMY.
  • 7 — Biotech breakthrough. +ECONOMY.
  • 8 — Religious expansion. +DIPLOMACY.
  • 9 — Planetary discovery. +EXPLORATION.
  • 10 — Exploration loss. +EXPLORATION.
  • Jack — Resource discovered. +EXPLORATION.
  • Queen — Star system discovery. +EXPLORATION.
  • King — Political alliance. +DIPLOMACY.

Scope Table


  • Ace — Regional.
  • 2 — Regional.
  • 3 — Planetary.
  • 4 — Planetary.
  • 5 — System.
  • 6 — System.
  • 7 — Multi-system.
  • 8 — Multi-system.
  • 9 — Policorp.
  • 10 — Policorp.
  • Jack — Policorp.
  • Queen — Multi-policorp.
  • King — Multi-policorp.

Tag Change Table


  • Ace — Benefit greater that normal. Loss minimized.
  • 2 — Any costs or loss recovered. Losses not recovered.
  • 3 — Extended to future period. Extended to future period.
  • 4 — Increased cost for benefit. Increased cost due to loss.
  • 5 — Increase reputation. Reputation increase minimized.
  • 6 — Change benefit lessened. Change loss increased.
  • 7 — Change benefit increased. Change loss minimized.
  • 8 — Decrease reputation. Larger reputation decrease.
  • 9 — Lower materiel loss. Higher material loss.
  • 10 — Change in leadership. Change in leadership.
  • Jack — Stay with previous beneficial trend. Stay with previous losing trend.
  • Queen — Change direction based on benefit. Change direction based on loss.
  • King — Benefit lesser than normal. Loss more than expected.