Fast 5 Room Dungeons, Clue Tip, Instant Idea Generator, Different Combats – Mail Bag Edition

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1162

Ahn-nyong-ha-se-yo Johnn,

It’s a Mail Bag issue and today I’ve got four helpful GMing tips for you.

First is about alternative combat outcomes.

Second is how to instantly generate ideas.

Third is about adding clues.

Fourth is a fantastic 5 question formula for fast 5 Room Dungeon ideation.

Before we dive in, you might be interested in February’s Roleplaying Tips round-up. It’s a huge summary of recent tips posted, bookmarks, and other updates.

Ok, let’s see what we’ve got in the mail bag…

Different Combats

Platinum Patron Rudy asked about how my recent tips on faster combats could apply to RPGs that aren’t about The Resource Depletion Game:

I’m excited to give lightning combats a whirl! Just curious, would this work for games like Shadowrun? If so, how would I go about implementing it?

I’m currently running a Shadowrun 6e campaign and it’s not really a resource management game, at least not to the degree that D&D is.

In Shadowrun, the only real resources players have are their condition monitor (basically their hp), ammo, weapons/gear, money, and Edge (a luck mechanic).

Heck, spell-slingers can toss as many nuke spells as they want, so long as they can handle the drain they take from spellcasting (which can be resisted/soaked).

While I could see designing encounters specifically meant to chip away at their hp/ammo/edge etc, it just doesn’t seem like I’m getting as much “bang for my buck” as I would in D&D.

Shadowrun is more about a group of specialists coming together to tackle challenges related to their area of focus while the GM looks for flaws/holes in their carefully laid plans and strategically throws out wrenches in order to generate excitement & tension.

Curious to hear your opinion on this, thanks again for the great content!

Good question Rudy, thanks.

I received some great comments from RPT GM Alex Greene on this topic that I’ll use for my answer (thanks Alex!).

In Shadowrun, I would indeed take a different approach. I neglected to call this out in the article for non-D&D type games. My apologies.

Instead, I’d play a different game called the Villain 3 Step Plan. I’m always playing this game. 🙂

But in SR, I’d look at the GM’s purpose for each combat and how that helps tell your Story and execute on your villain’s plan.

Combats can serve multiple purposes, for enemy and story.


  • Draw blood
  • Combat to aggravate
  • Deplete player resources
  • Combat to deliver a bloody nose
  • Counting coup
  • Combat to pin down the players
  • Drive the players in a given direction
  • Combat to intimidate them into running away

So I’d create both a Villain Plan and GM Plan for your adventure or campaign, and then be strategic with why you’re running each combat.

I have a specific lesson about this in the Adventure Building Master Game Plan. (Wizards of Adventure, see Lesson 03.04 3 Step Plans.)

Sometimes the characters start it, though.

So be it. You’d then apply a greater purpose on the fly. That’s your Secret Mission.

The thing with those purposes bulleted above is the party should eventually learn combat comes with a cost greater than mere wounds. So they’ll become less likely to start random fights and be more strategic.

In my experience (SR3) combats can be deadly but can also take a long time.

So adding this new cost layer should give everyone pause, which makes for even better cat-and-mouse gameplay via your GM Plan and Villain Plan.

Idea Request For Fae Campaign

RPT GM Colin S. asked me for some game ideas:


I want to bring fae into my current plot but I’m reaching a bit of  a block.

In my world, they’re linked to the environment they live in.

Standard fae stuff, except they also have a bit of DnD devil lore baked in where they love magically binding contracts.

They’ll usually be willing to provide services if you permanently trade away body parts and stuff.

My players are about to enter this big dangerous jungle. And like any wild area, they’ll be expecting some new flavor of fae to interact with.

Here’s the problem. I can’t think of anything unique or fun to give them other than like a sort of wild/tribal theme.

Things I’ve used so far:

  • In the desert there was a giant palace made of bones where the tooth fairy queen resides with her crew of purple worms.
  • In an untouched forest it was standard fairies and lady of the lake stuff.
  • In the industrial areas, the fae seek out people in need and prey on them for not-so-great deals so they can get some fresh arms/blood/toes/eyes/whatever.

My reply:

Hey Colin!

You have very cool ideas.

May I share your lore about the fae trading for body parts in my newsletter?

As for fae in a new region, I’d play a game of X meets Y.

Fae meets Y, where Y is something not related at all.

Look around your room right now and pick three things.

Let’s see. In my room right now…..

  • Fae meets gas fireplace.
  • Fae meets golden chair.
  • Fae meets headphones.

Then pick any idea that resonates a little.

Headphones are weird. Sound fae? Special hearing? They are blind and see like bats?

Keep going until the right combo idea hits.

Then comes the tough part.

Ask Why? five times.

Why do they see with sonar? Maybe because long ago they traded their eyes to a devil.

Why did they trade with a devil?….

And so on.

Try that and please let me know how it goes.

Quick Clue Tip

RPT Patron Dara asks:

My challenge is trying to find ways to give clues when players get stuck.

I did use an NPC Researcher that does background research for them.

I also have a feature in Chill called tokens. Players can turn in a token for a clue (insight) and they have used this.

But I am caught between giving just enough information to give them directions to investigate and not giving too much away.


Hey Dara!

These tips on clues might be of help.

In general, if you provide a lot of information with a clue, that’s better.

Small and vague breadcrumbs can stall your game and frustrate players.

So what I do is give them lots of information – as much as they want, but I keep one important detail a secret.

That could be the Who, When, or Where.

For example, maybe the party is working their way up a Faction Pyramid.

To find the ringleader of the next tier you decide they need three pieces of information:

  1. The NPC’s name => Sigmund Floyd aka The Mind Reader
  2. The NPC’s homebase name => The Necrographium
  3. The homebase location => Under City Hall

You could give up two of those tid bits at any time.

Doing so would not lead PCs directly to Sigmund. The party still needs the other piece to complete their mission.

But now you’ve given them a breadcrumb trail. They can ask around about a Sigmund or Mind Reader character. They could research The Necrographium. Or they could investigate what’s under City Hall.

Another tip is to add an onion layer.

You could simply tell the PCs that another NPC, Karl Young, knows this information. But Karl disappeared a little while ago.

Now the PCs have a strong lead and need to quest to find Karl.

You can see where I’m going with this. 🙂

If player characters get stuck on the Karl lead, you introduce two clues and keep the third essential ingredient secret.

Alternatively, you introduce another onion layer. And now the party must swallow a bird to catch the spider to catch the fly.

This all helps players feel like they’re making progress while still keeping your adventure going as they try to find that one missing critical piece for each onion layer.

Hope this helps.

Ask 5 Questions For Fast 5RDs

RPT Patron Jonathan shared this quick tip on the Roleplaying Tips Discord:

When I use the five room dungeon, I ask the questions:

  • What protects the goal?
  • What opposes the players?
  • What hampers their efforts?
  • What surprises them (boons)?
  • What intrigues the adventure?

Guardians, Villians, Setbacks, Rewards, and Puzzles.

Thanks for the great questions and tips, everyone. Your wisdom is helping GM around the world have more fun at every game!