Plan a One-Shot for a Couple

Friends! I'm polling you for clever ideas and suggestions.

I've been asked to run a one-shot for a couple of gamers who've never had a chance to play in a game together.

They are "trad" gamers, as far as I know (I think they only play D&D5E), and fairly hardcore about it. They have a regular ongoing D&D campaign. I think they're pretty willing to try something different in this case, however.

We are going to be able to spend a long evening together, so we potentially have up to 5-6 hours. I *may* be able to get some setup/info from them beforehand, but not very much.

What would be really fun, in your opinion? What game would you run?

Do you have a fictional scenario in mind?

How do you set things up?

Any and all ideas are welcome. Feel free to brainstorm here!


  • Something like Theatrix might work for letting them dip their toes into story gaming.

    Honestly, though, I'd recommend going whole hog. I've never had trouble introducing traditional gamers to story games--and in my experience so far they usually really enjoy them too. For games with baked-in themes, the game might depend on their taste. Perhaps Dungeon World for offering a familiar dungeon crawl but with new-but-still-crunchy rules? What about Wushu for some crazy action movie flavour? Or pick Muse, Musette, Universalis or Archipelago and let them choose the story spontaneously.
  • Indeed! I think I can safely pick any of my favourite games. What I'm really hoping for out of this thread is:

    a) Some good thoughts on a particular setup or scenario. Many "story games" either need a specific seed concept or a scenario/premise.

    A lot of my favourite games really shine after 2-4 sessions; they would need some special premise or modification to run well as a one-shot.

    For instance, if I want to run Dungeon World, I'd need some scenario/concept.

    b) Something that works well with just GM+2 players. Again, a lot of great games need more than 3 to really work. If you consider the games we played recently - A Taste for Murder, and Dog Eat Dog - and they would probably be great, but I think 3 players is not enough. Same goes for The King is Dead - all these games shine at 4-5 players (and sometimes more).
  • I'd go with something simple yet robust, that delivers a good payoff quickly.

    Personally, a game that I would pick could well be Fables of Camelot. The subject matter is both juicy and widely accessible, as most people can get into Arthurian romance. It's also sufficiently GM-led to support all sorts of players, and it's mechanically sharp, making for interesting play. Suits well for one-shots, and shines with all player counts. All sorts of little details that make it well-suited for this sort of thing.

    There are other games with similarly favourable accessibility/punch ratios for one-shots with two players, so that's what I would look at. Depends on what you're adept with - I might recommend Space Rat, for instance, but if it isn't in your oeuvre yet, you might not care to check it out just for this. Go with something you already know.

    One more: Trollbabe. That one's probably quite familiar.
  • Good suggestions, Eero!

    Fables of Camelot keeps coming up when it's time for this kind of request, but I'm embarassed to say I cannot figure out how to run it from the rules I've read.
  • I can see that, the English text from my blog's not really a complete game text as much as a quick reference outline. The Finnish-language published piece by Sami is more complete, but it's in Finnish, so there we are.

    If you're interested - and can find 1-10 other players - I'd be happy to run an online session of the game at some point. That segues into something I've been thinking about doing anyway: it might be interesting to set up bit of a "Finnish rpg jukebox" selection and see if foreigners would like to try them out online, with a native GM/facilitator to translate. There are a few - let's say half a dozen - Finnish rpgs that are of internationally relevant quality; some are better than the best competitor in their niche. Perhaps I'll see about doing something active along these lines at some point.
  • I would love to participate in that, and I know a few other folks.

    How would this be done, and when/in what time frame?

    In the meantime, I welcome your suggestions, Story Games people!

    One of my ideas is taking the "Boomtown" Fiasco playset, generating a starting map, and then reimagining it in a post-apocalyptic light and playing it with Apocalypse World's rules. (Lots of the stuff in Boomtown is an easy an wonderful port into a post-apocalypse - there's a Sheriff and a doctor's bag with a bottle of nitroglycerine, plus someone is sleeping with the town's Mayor.)
  • edited December 2017
    Well, I am sure I'd ask them first : is there a setting, a mood, a plot, or a pair of characters they would love, fear, think impossible (...) to play. So you don't have to guess where they're at.

    Among the 200 words games you can find some quick things, so if one game doesn't suit them, they'll have a complete menu and time to debrief each game.
    Thinkover : Make the call, Imagine.
    Tongue in cheek : Cut and paste, Defective robot philosophers.
    Space thriller : Escape pod One.
  • An interesting suggestion, DeReel!

    I don't think it's well suited to these particular people - I think they're looking forward to, rather, a long and in-depth game. However, that could be ideal for another occasion, or with different players. Thanks for the "curated list"!
  • Paul, it sounds like you're looking for game convention-ready adventures!

    I wrote one a while back called the Lair of the Skull Monkey, which uses my TOFU (Theatrix Over the FUdge) house rules and is set in a Wild Cards alternate universe.

    I also wrote some characters for a humerous undead one-shot. But I never did write down the plotline (although I have a vague idea of what happened). This one was also written for TOFU.

    Do either of those sound interesting?
  • So what you're looking for is recommendations for the best one-shot, 3-player RPGs, isn't it?

    Incidentally, 3 players is a setup I'm very familiar with... for longer (multi-session) games. For one-shot events I usually have more people attending. That said, I'm sure there's a lot you can do...

    Follow and The Quiet Year are two great one-shot games which are recommended for 2-4 players, making 3 the happy middle. Microscope will probably shine with 3 players, too.

    Three is also a good number for Kingdom (though I slightly prefer four) and, while not strictly one-shot technically, I think you have enough time to get a good session out of it.

    It's a sufficient number of players for Society of Dreamers, which is a great game, and again you seem to have enough time.

    Three is a perfectly OK number for playing Ribbon Drive, if you can get people on-board with preparing playlists. That's a game I love.

    It's a legit number of players for Montsegur 1244.

    Three is also my favorite number for playing Shock: Social Science Fiction - as more players usually makes it hard for me to actually wrap it up as the one-shot it's supposed to be.

    Three is also enough for playing Spione, though familiarity with the subject matter (a read of the essay part, say) is probably preferable, and keeping it to a one-shot requires selecting specific characters (higher card number, fewer connected NPCs, preferably spying for CIA or KGB).

    You can play Contenders, though I don't warrant one-shot.

    I've played Swords Without Master with a group of three: in terms of fidelity to its core reference literature, that's the sweet spot - even though some rules seem to run more smoothly with a group of four.

    Lovecraftesque has both the advantage and the disadvantage of a very familiar subject matter for RPG geeks.

    Downfall is a one-shot game for exactly three - unfortunately, I haven't played it yet. The Temple, ditto (except not so strictly one-shot).
  • Oh, and people from a strictly "trad" RPG background sometimes react really well to On Mighty Thews, which also works well for three (same reason as SWM).

    And isn't While the World Ends by @Wilhelm a 3-player game?

    Which reminds me: 3 is also good for Okult, and Okult is one notch above great! I'm not 100% sure you can wrap it up in a single evening though. You can try.
  • And there's Kagematsu, if you have a woman amongst you. And there's Psi*Run (though perhaps best with 4).
  • I would love to participate in that, and I know a few other folks.

    How would this be done, and when/in what time frame?
    Off topic to the main topic of this thread, but I wanted to chime in that I would also be interested in this. I've been looking at Fables of Camelot and thinking about trying to run it.
  • I would love to participate in that, and I know a few other folks.

    How would this be done, and when/in what time frame?
    Either IRC chat or Gtalk videophoning (with the understanding that my written English is much better than my patter), or some other platform somebody suggests.

    Scheduling-wise Fables of Camelot means one or more 2-3 hour sessions. This week I'd be available at 6-10 and 18-24 GMT, roughly. Odds are that after Christmas I'd be pretty negotiable for the rest of the month, so we'd have to figure out a timing that works for most. As usual, cross-Atlantic real-time play can be difficult to schedule.
  • Sounds doable! Most likely, after Christmas will be more a good bet.
  • Yes, While the World Ends can be played on three or four.
    Three is a great number for OKULT, but even a smallish game would need 10 hours.
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