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D&D 3E
fishing for suggestions for quick one shot games 
31st-Jan-2006 06:40 pm

i'm running some one shot games in a local game shop. does anyone have some pointers for running a complete game within a time frame and making sure the game comes full circle within the given time? i'm thinking maybe 4-6 hours. i'm planning in prerolling an assortment of characters to save time on pc creation, and i wonder if you think that may be to constrictive. one of the ideas i had was to run an all sorcerer party through a hogwarts inspired game. i think the first game i run may be a night of the living dead inspired zombie apocalypse type game. if that works well i may continue in that vein. that's a good accessible idea, something the pc's should understand immediately, which i think is a good thing for a one shot game. but its also a bit cliched, so if you like that idea i'd like to hear suggestions on how to make it LESS cliched, a way to make the idea new and different. and finally, i'd like to hear ideas for one shot games. thanks in advance for the input.
1st-Feb-2006 12:35 am (UTC)
Cliches are your friend in the one shot. Cliches allow everyone to get on board at the same point without an introduction. They'll speed everything along to start. Once the boat has landed you're welcome to put a new spin on something, but start with a cliche. Zombie apocalypse is good for one-shots since it's all do-or-die. One I had fun running was an idea I got from some bulleted list in the DMG. Floating castle is attacking nearby city/countryside. Just engineer a way for the PCs tog et up there in short order and it's a blast. Even when they take care of whatever's running the show, have bonus fun with the cliche boss-is-dead-castle-destruction scene.
1st-Feb-2006 11:50 am (UTC)
I'd second the cliche thing - simple to use and run for everyone and thats what you want in a one-off. Use an instant plot hook and subsequent course of action to follow. DOnt worry about railroading to some extent. Investigations can work well as you are in control of what they find and when

ALso, I'd second the night of living dead idea; Cthulhu-esque scenario's work well for one off sessions - alive or dead, the players can feel like they got to a suitable end. Build up a gradual dawning realisation, then a race to the finish and final showdown.

E.g. (based off "I want you to kill the Ice Cream Man" Cthulhu adventure) - The PCs are all friends out for a drink; one of the PC's relatives rushes into a bar, blood stained, gibbering that he has killed a Cleric of (insert benevolent god here) who was abducting children but got the wrong one, and begs the PCs to kill the right cleric. He has some evidence that he leaves with the party as the authorities drag him away. Party then investigate, is the relative insane? - slowly find out that one of the clerics is a Bog Hag (OA - hag that wears a skin of others and uses that as a lure), then rush to final confrontation. You can control the pace of investigation based on your hints as DM, so fitting into the timescale of a one off shouldnt be tooo tricky. DND - have the party one level below CR of hag; Cthulhu - have them 5 levels below >:)
1st-Feb-2006 12:56 pm (UTC)
Don't worry about being somewhat confining. People don't have the same investment in the game, their characters, etc. if they know it is one-shot. They just want to have fun and play a game. Pre-rolling characters does help. You only need a few extras. If you're planning on 5 players, roll up 6 or 7. People will take what is available. If someone has a major problem with it, tell them to roll one up and come back later. If you do let people roll their own, use a point buy system for stats. Assign HP yourself.

I've run quite a few sessions at GenCon which are typically about 4 hours. A 4-6 hour game is pretty short when you look at an outline of the plot. Figure one major location/encounter/plot point per hour. Encounters don't have to be all combat, obviously. Keep a few optional encounters on-hand in case the pace is faster than expected or they go in an unexpected direction. Keep the plot pretty narrow to minimize players from following unexpected paths. Plus, you don't have time for subtle villains, reoccurring themes, etc. As others have said, cliches are not bad. Just throw in something fun or different to mix it up.

For hooks and/or getting started, keep it simple. You don't need to explain how the party got together, or keep it to about 5 minutes of pure narrative. A good way to get going is to give a brief background, let players ask questions about characters, and then ask for a dice roll. That can be an initiative check, skill check, or even a Will save. "You're walking back to the barracks after an evening at the pub. You take a usual shortcut through a small, low-traffic park. Make a Reflex save."
1st-Feb-2006 02:34 pm (UTC)
Someone posted this a while beack, and it might fit the bill:

We're All Going To Die: a single-page RPG

Genre: cinematic modern horror. Playing time: 2-4 hours tops.

1. GM supplies general setting of the game, e.g. Teenage Slasher or Suburban Zombie Apocalypse. Everyone creates a character accordingly.

2. List FOUR things that the character is especially GOOD at, such as running, driving, climbing, picking locks, survival in the outdoors, fast talking or decapitating zombies using only a vintage 1940s tea set. The GM must ratify these.

3. List TWO things that the character is especially BAD at, such as swimming, finding their way in the wild, avoiding alcohol, keeping their cool in a fight, or not flipping out in confined spaces. GM ratifies as before.

4. Everyone writes their name on a piece of paper and gives it to the GM.

5. The GM picks out one name at random. This person is the Survivor. No matter WHAT happens (except see below), this person will survive, so long as he is trying to. Everyone else will die. Without exception. Everyone. The players are not told who the Survivor is.

6. The game proceeds. There are no die rolls. The GM decides the outcome of any situation based on that ONE initial intervention of fate - the selection of the Survivor - and on the Players' selection of things that they are good at and bad at. If the GM wishes, however, he can roll dice in private to see which way a situation goes.

7. Even if a player is fated to die, they can keep that fate from occurring for as long as possible by simply being practical and efficient, as in any other game. If you run away from zombies, you may escape for the moment. Not being the Survivor does not mean that you get randomly hit by a bus within five minutes of starting the game. However, there is no way to tell whether, on any given occasion, you survived because you were the Survivor or because the GM decided that your actions were sufficient to let you escape. The only sure thing is that even the Survivor has to make an effort to survive. The difference is that the Survivor *will always* survive.

8. Because of this, the GM is at liberty (and is positively ENCOURAGED) to fuck with the players' heads as much as possible. Every narrow escape is a hint that the person MIGHT be the Survivor, OR is the GM screwing with you to make you THINK that the person might be the Survivor.

9. The Survivor's immunity to death covers NPC actions ONLY. It does not apply to Players, including the Survivor himself. Thus, any attempt to 'test' who the Survivor is, such as by having a character jump into a pool of lava to see whether he dies or not, or any action that the GM interprets as deliberately suicidal, revokes the Survivor's status for the duration of the test. That is, if you shoot yourself in the head to see whether you will die, you will die, whether you were the Survivor or not. In that event, everyone else will still die. The mantle of Survivor does not pass.

10. The mantle of Survivor *may* be passed to a new character if the Survivor deliberately sacrifices himself so that others can live. 'You go on! I'll hold the zombies back!' 'But you'll DIE!' 'I know. RUN!' etc etc etc.

Feel free to circulate, link back, print out and hand to random strangers etc.

Also, If you have access to Dungeon magazine, I ran an adventure from there, Muirder in Oakbridge in a single session one night. It's up to you, though.
1st-Feb-2006 06:15 pm (UTC)
I loved that post. :)
1st-Feb-2006 10:59 pm (UTC)
I'm gonna try to run a game this weekend.
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