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I am about to leave my home country and since I haven't been playing any RPG recently, I would like to play for the last time with my friends. I don't really have much time to prepare a game of my own, so I am looking for some ready product, that I could use. I have following requirements:

  • short (2 - 3 game sessions of 4 - 6 hours),
  • well defined characters, that are placed in a story, have good motivation and play well with the plot.
  • not D&D (I am not a fan), preferably something grim&gritty or dark fantasy.

Could you recommend me something?

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As this is a game-recommendation question, please adhere to the FAQ, the rules for subjective questions as outlined in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and our rules for game recommendations. All responses must cite actual experience or reference others' experiences!

You, sir, want Lady Blackbird, which almost precisely fits your description. By default it's not grim and gritty, but you could easily add some darker flavour to it. It comes with pre-generated characters, a starting situation, and a simple yet elegant ruleset, all taking place in a setting that's a mash-up for Skies of Arcadia, Firefly, and World of Warcraft. You could easily extend the story over a few game sessions.

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I have been preparing my group for a game of Dread, and I thought it merited a mention here. It is by default a horror game. The gist of the game is that each task requires you to pull a block from a Jenga tower and place it on top. If you cause the tower to topple you die.

Each character is defined by a questionnaire that the GM creates (the at least one of the published adventures has the questionnaire already written). This should lead to pretty well rounded and deep characters. The whole point of the game is for the player to care enough about the character that they have a tough choice between major consequences for not pulling a block or a possibility of death if they do pull a block.

It looks like it takes some time (it keeps mentioning about 4 hours), and a small amount of preparation on the game master's part, but there are 4 free adventures published and a quick start rules guide.

It seems pretty nice for a one off session, or a short series of sessions.

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I'd say it takes between two and three hours. I'd be surprised if it took four hours... – C. Ross Jul 17 '11 at 1:47
@C. Ross - good to know. – wax eagle Jul 17 '11 at 1:49
I asked the guy who normally runs them, and he said: Long as you want really. Out of the several that I've played/run, I'd say 3-4 hours is optimal. Biggest factor is how open-ended the plot is. – C. Ross Jul 17 '11 at 11:26

For Savage Worlds (the core rulebook, Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition, is $9.99), Triple Ace Games has published a lot of "Daring Tales" adventures set in chivalric, space, cyberpunk, and pulp genres. They have some at my FLGS (sold as compilations of 4 adventures each) and I've looked through them - they are a series of four or so short adventures and use pregen characters downloadable from their Web site.

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