The one-shot session success formulaWritten by Expy - Published on October 14, 2009
We don’t always have the opportunity to play in long-winded, epic campaigns. It doesn’t mean we can’t have RPG fun though. Here are some thoughts on running one-shot sessions – games that have a beginning and an end – in 3-5 hours of play.
Nick DiPetrillo and I have a lot of experience with these kind of games thanks to our work on Zombie Murder Mystery. Our customers and playtesters have been loving the 1 game format. I thought I’d share our game prep success formula with you.
Writing a one-shot session can be easy if you know which elements of your story to work on first. Think of a place, a reason for the group to be there, as wells as a conflict, and you’re well on your way.
The one-shot session success formula
This section is adapted from the hard work Nick DiPetrillo put into Zombie Murder Mystery. Thanks Nick!
Your adventure location should be somewhere hard to get into and out of. This helps limit the scope of the game.
2. Build on assumptions
You don’t want to spend 5 hours preparing for a game that’s going to last less than that. Build on assumptions. This is the golden rule we used for Zombie Murder Mystery – you can read it aloud to your players at the beginning of the session:
“We are building a story together. You can make assumptions about the situations and encounters your characters are in and my job is to go along with whatever you’re assuming unless it directly contradicts something that was already established.”
That sets the tone and opens vast possibilities. Don’t restrict. Enable!
3. Time Limit
Something needs to drive your players into action! If they have all the time in the world they will be hesitant to act. They need something looming over them to spur them forward.
Make it as clear as possible that the threat, the time limit, is final and unavoidable. Otherwise players have a tendency to think they can figure out a way to beat the threat.
The characters should have something at stake. Survival is fine, but the best scenarios have something the characters care about more than their life: power, treasure, redemption, saving the world…
Keep those four things in mind and chances are you’ll play an entertaining game from beginning to end. Have fun!
What do you try to do when you run a one-shot session?