Goals for Creating a One Shot RPG Adventure

The goals for the first One Shot RPG adventure focus on accessibility, keeping the session fun, making repeat playthroughs interesting, and providing a sense of danger to the story.

Creating the First One Shot Adventure

Now that the setting has been ironed out and the characters have been created, it’s time to start planning the first one shot adventure. The first step is to define goals and requirements. These requirements range from play time and player count, to providing opportunities for the whole party, regardless of which characters were chosen.

The Goals for an RPG One Shot

  • 2 hours play time
  • 3-5 players, including GM
  • Be completed no matter the characters chosen
  • Sci-fi horror feel
  • Take place on Earth
  • Kept to a confined area
  • Be different with each playthrough
  • Divided up into encounters with clear goals
  • Start off sandbox-style, lead to cinematic set pieces
  • Be able to be failed, but failure should be fun
  • Take down a scummed
  • Compelling reasons to kill, cure, or let the scummed be
  • Take advantage of the party’s mechanical and role playing strengths

Playtime Restrictions

I’ve talked before about how one of the main goals of One Shot RPG is to provide players with something that’s quick and accessible to better cater towards their always-busy lifestyles. In the context of game setting design, this meant that the setting should be easy to understand and not require lots of lore memorization to get started. The focus on accessibility in the narrative would be for nothing if the adventure didn’t also share that goal. Because it’s already hard enough to keep a group together the RPG one shot must respect participant’s time. This means that the adventure needs to be short—shorter than an average game session. The One Shot RPG should last 2 hours.

Group Size Goals

Including the game master, the One Shot RPG should be written for 3-5 players. Because the adventure provides 5 premade characters to select from, that means that there’ll be at least one character that’s not chosen per playthrough. Depending on the game system, a group with three people can play as multiple characters, or the GM could tone down the numbers to make the encounter more suited for less players. With the expectation that there’ll be leftover characters, the adventure must be able to be completed with any combination of the characters chosen.

Imagine that there’s a scummmed that’s only susceptible to damage from cyborgs. That sounds weird, but scum doesn’t have to make sense. What if there was a group that wasn’t playing as the heavy? Imagine they get through the entire scenario only to discover that none of their characters are effective against the monster. How would that make them feel? They would lose because of decisions they made at character select, not because of how they played the game. A more reasonable example is if there was a major story beat that was only accessible to the R&D. If the party wasn’t running as him, would they get the same enjoyment from the story? Would the story even make sense?

What this means is that the adventure must be written in a way that assumes not all of the characters are going to be present. The story must always be able to advance, even if there’s characters missing. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be aspects of the story that’s character-dependent—which would make each playthrough more unique. There could be clues about the scummed’s abilities that only certain characters find, but over the course of the adventure that information is found out anyways. There could be situations where a different character would excel, but with enough effort the party can make it through. These types of situations don’t punish the players for selecting certain characters, they instead make the game more interesting.

Thematic Requirement

One Shot RPG is a sci-fi horror game about scum fighters. It’s important that the first adventure falls within that description. The first adventure should also take place on Earth, which means that there’s less work on my end—I don’t have to flesh out the other planets. Finally, it should be kept to a confined area, which will prevent players from getting lost or trying to explore something that’s irrelevant to the story.

Encounter Based

The first One Shot RPG adventure should be divided up into a series of encounters. Thinking in terms of encounters allows the story to have a tighter pace and will allow for each playthrough to feel different.

The first few minutes of each encounter can be about role playing, a sandbox-style moment where players can get a feel for their surroundings and the game master can foreshadow the upcoming story. If players are presented with clear goals for the encounter, then there’s not any worry that they’ll wander or get lost during this step. The GMs can avoid railroading because players know the clear path forward. After the sandbox step, the encounter should lead into cinematic set pieces that focus on a mechanical challenge, such as a battle.

If encounters are designed to be sequential, then the adventure can implement a branching storyline. Likewise if encounters are self-contained, yet still provide a cohesive narrative, then they can be swapped for each other—at random or at the GM’s discretion. By using both of these techniques, each playthrough of the one shot can be unique. By designing the adventure to be unique, it’s easier to get new customers to the game. Players and game masters will feel more excited to run the same adventure and teach new players about the game.

Failure is Fun

The state of the story resets after each playthrough. This means that the adventure can be more daring, and that there can be real chance of failure. The horror narrative can be gripping and dangerous, and the characters may not make it out unscathed—or at all. Such is the nature of a scum fighter. Failure should come with a reason, however. An encounter shouldn’t be hard because the goals were unclear, or the party shouldn’t instantly lose because they missed an impossible-to-find clue. Failure should be a clear result of player’s decisions and actions, not because something was too hard to understand.

Monster of the Week

Players play as a group of characters taking down scummed. The first adventure, then, should follow that formula. While later installments of the series can explore tinkering with the monster-of-the-week style of storytelling, the first one shouldn’t. There should be a compelling reason to kill, cure, or let the scummed walk free. It’s up to the players to decide how they want to handle the situation.

Play Into Strengths

The starting cast of premade RPG characters has already been designed around balance–both through mechanics and role play opportunity. It’d be a mistake to not have the RPG one shot play into character’s strengths. There should be opportunities for each party member to shine in battle, and there should be opportunities to shine during role playing.