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How Do You One-Shot?

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Our record currently stands at 18 months to complete a "one shot" adventure. We're terrible at them. If I need to run a one shot these days then I generally find an available convention scenario that's been run several times, which at least gives a good idea that it can be run in a single session…
So I take it to mean by "One Shot" you mean "Not part of a larger ongoing campaign". Got it.

Is that what @DMMike meant?
 

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pemerton

Legend
One-shot games:
What types of plot do you use?
Are there character requirements?
How do you keep the game on track?
I've never run a convention game. When I've played in Convention one-shots, good ones have well-drawn PCs (pregen) and a scenario that will provoke those PCs into action and possibly conflict. This is similar to what @S'mon and @hawkeyefan have said upthread.

I run one-shots for my group: over the past few years we've done Cthulhu Dark, Wuthering Heights and Dying Earth one-shots.

For these I just turn up and tell the players what we're playing. They make their PCs and then we hit "play" and see what happens. In the case of The Dying Earth I used bits of the starter adventure in the book, which turned out to be a mistake because we didn't quite get it finished.

For Cthulhu Dark and Wuthering Heights we've made it up as we go along, and I've managed the pacing and framing as GM to produce some sort of climax at about the right point in time.

I've also done some AD&D one-shots over the past few years but I wouldn't recommend it. AD&D tends to be about long-term play and its pacing is not very solid for one-shot RPGing.
 

So I take it to mean by "One Shot" you mean "Not part of a larger ongoing campaign". Got it.

Is that what @DMMike meant?
I don't know about them, but my definition of a one-shot is a single session, like with the AL adventures or other short scenarios that you complete in a single sitting. Also generally never a part of a larger campaign.

But I just came here for the booze jokes, since I did not think a drinker could stop at just one shot. lol
 


DMMike

Guide of Modos
Yeah, one-shot = one-session. @Enevhar Aldarion's choice of what goes in the glass. On either side of the glass are the opening scene and ending scene. Which seems to imply a certain amount of railroading.

I might use a mercenary band as a PC organization. I tend to balk at the idea, but I've known lots of PCs to be money-motivated. I can see non-financial considerations coming from within and without (the priestess of Kynareth begs you, though she has no money to give...)

One interesting thing about one-shots is that they're not continuous, almost by definition. So if you have returning players, you can drop their characters into the game somewhere other than where they left off. Somewhere that fits your choice of scenario. Somewhere that obviates the need to go back to the one-shot "job-board," or the tavern that's packed with patrons who want to hire "adventurers."
 

pemerton

Legend
Yeah, one-shot = one-session. @Enevhar Aldarion's choice of what goes in the glass. On either side of the glass are the opening scene and ending scene. Which seems to imply a certain amount of railroading.
I don't think this is right at all.

Upthread I mentioned Cthulhu Dark and Wuthering Heights one-shots.

In both cases, first the players generated characters. Then I framed an opening scene. Then we started playing. There was no railroading.

In the first Cthulhu Dark game, the PCs were an investigative journalist, a legal secretary and a longshoreman. The climactic scene was the PCs commandeering a tugboat to ram a cargo ship onto some rocks. The denouement involved the PCs reading a news report of some shipwrecked sailors being rescued off the coast of Newfoundland. This was not anticipated at the start of the session.

In the Wuthering Heights game, the PCs were a right-wing republican clergyman and a socialist bookseller with an interest in the occult. The cliimax of the session was the bookseller, influenced by the ghost of the clergyman, burning himself alive in the bookshop where he worked. This also was not anticipated at the start of the session.

A one-shot is (in my view) about focus and pacing. Not pre-written plot.
 

DMMike

Guide of Modos
I don't think this is right at all.

In both cases, first the players generated characters. Then I framed an opening scene. Then we started playing. There was no railroading.

A one-shot is (in my view) about focus and pacing. Not pre-written plot.
Fair. Allow me to fill in the blanks a bit here. "One-shot" is short for "one-shot adventure," if that's not too much of a stretch. The games you've described are certainly episodic game sessions, but you couldn't present one to another GM and say "try this one-shot," because all you'd have is an intro.

By the way, I'm right. So are you. Because the thread title is a subjective question.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
One-shot to me is single adventure, 1-3 sessions, no investment in leveling. (Some of my sessions have run 8 hours.)
I've written several adventures that were intended for convention play. Most worked out to 3.5 hours. None of them published.
 


DMMike

Guide of Modos
I don't. Long-term campaign or nothing.
You could be missing out. A friend of mine still had questions about a one-shot I ran, about ten years later.

One-shot to me is single adventure, 1-3 sessions, no investment in leveling. (Some of my sessions have run 8 hours.)
I've written several adventures that were intended for convention play. Most worked out to 3.5 hours. None of them published.
3-4 hours is the sweet spot for me. Just make sure your players are fed prior to that. Hungry players are distracted players. Or take a food break in the middle of a longer session.

I did one where they all woke up and they were being attacked by fire elementals. There was a bunch of unconcious/dead NPCs lying everywhere. They, essentially, did the dungeon backwards to figure out what the hell happened, slowly regaining their memories.

-I make sure I have lots of rooms/encounters that I can drop if time gets short.
I think that's the worst possible way to wake up, besides being out of coffee. Very motivational!

I definitely support asking players why their characters are there, but there are two types of players for whom that doesn't work:
1) players who just want to roll dice and kill stuff, and
2) under-imaginative players, who need more telling than asking.
If you know your audience, you can accommodate. If not, a mix of ask and tell motivations might come in handy.
 


Bawylie

A very OK person
I see @iserith has already weighed in here. As far as my opinion is concerned, he’s the Picasso of one-shots and short-form adventuring. And I’m faintly afraid that’s insufficient praise.

The vast majority of my games are long-term campaigns. When I have run one-shots, I use pre-generated characters that are designed to address one of the challenges within the adventure. There’s no guarantee they’ll encounter that specific challenge and that specific pre-gen is a nice-to-have, not a must-have.

Most of the one-shots I’ve done are breakaways at parties. Usually on theme for that party. One or two a year. Sometimes there’s light gambling, like everyone antes to play and the MVP gets the pot. Or the last to die. (Never me).
 

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