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41

The way I've always seen this done is to simply let everyone look over all the characters, and then let them decide among themselves who plays what. I guess this could lead to problems if there were two players who absolutely insisted on having the same character, but I've never witnessed that being an issue. More likely, one of them will just say "I ...


37

All of these games play excellently as one-shot games. I've run many of these at cons, sometimes as part of my "RPG speed dating" event (Indie by Storm) where I'll run 4-6 games in 4 hours. If I can give you a feel for a game in 40 minutes, then you can have a blast with it in 5 hours! I have updated this answer with other folks' excellent answers, but ...


22

For a one-off, treat it as a short story, rather than a chapter of a trilogy or an episode of a TV series. Here are a few things to keep in mind: Self-contained story. Its plot must resolve to everyone's satisfaction. It's ok if a thread or two are left dangling, but the main story must end. Pick a central theme of your adventure, which can be summed up ...


19

Roll for Shoes It's got technically no character creation (although you might want to name your PC). You collect stats/abilities as you go. The rules, in their entirety, consist of seven lines (eight sentences). The phrasal nature of character abilities can lead to very amusing characters if your group plays that way, though it doesn't have to. Turns are ...


17

Risus: The Anything RPG would fit the bill perfectly: Character creation lasts about 20 seconds if you know what you're doing. Simply divide 10 d6s into three or more clichés and you're done. It's probably 5 minutes or less if you need to explain the rules. The rules are very simple: generally there are just TNs or opposed checks where you pit one cliché ...


16

The first thing you need to do is figure out: Why Are The Players Doing That? Answer A: Because They Like That Archetype I've known players who always want to play something that hits things with a sword, and that's it. I've known players who always want to play healers. I've known players who always want to have some kind of pet. etc. Those people are ...


13

Your one shot game has to complete itself. It needs a distinct beginning, middle, and end that will all take place in the same ~4-8 hour session. While obvious, this is actually a pretty big deal since a lot of what happens in the game can be considered filler from a storyline perspective. What I mean is that when you're running a campaign, you might ...


13

I have been running my Fate based prototype game in a monthly RPG meetup for well over a year now. By the nature of the event, every game is a one shot, mostly with players of very different levels of RPG experience, who have not played together before. The hardest part turns out to be the world and character creation phases. It is time consuming, ...


11

(Classic) Paranoia is tremendous fun with the right group and only requires minimal preparation. You've done it well if characters have died a few times before the mission begins - this is one reason not to bother with a complex mission. 'Deliver a package' is all you need; often the more innocuous the mission seems the more paranoid the characters become. ...


11

For this, I usually look for inspiration at series episodes. You'll notice how many good series intersperse "breather" episodes between their "arc story" episodes. Still, those breather episodes always carry small hooks to the main plot, or maybe they introduce new characters, new situations... add into the session things that, looked up front don't seem ...


11

A one-shot session of Dungeon World is pretty trivial, actually. So far, all games of DW I've played have been one-shots. All you need to prepare as DM is a short adventure, typically a dungeon. You don't need to deal with Fronts at all, and setup is the normal quick character-creation process of throwing the playbooks at the players and asking them to fill ...


11

Create "Roles". Group your characters in a few different roles. Each player select a different Role, and from that role select his character. I will give you an example, using generic terminology, for a D&D-like fantasy game: Role A - The Warrior Character A1 - Sword and Shield warrior Character A2 - Spear-oriented duelist Character AB3 - A Paladin ...


10

These are all games I've run or played as instant, one-evening games, and had fun with. We greatly enjoyed Fiasco, which is designed for playing in a single evening from beginning to end. The book is somewhat set up to teach the rules as you read, although we found that having one or two players who had already read the rules made things much smoother. ...


10

I own but have never run Floating Vagabond, but I've done a lot of Paranoia and I've never seen it take past the first kill for people to "get it" and jump in with both feet. Including a lot of convention games with first-timers that have gone great. I remember fondly one Owlcon where we had a big Paranoia game and one player who was a bit of a... twerp, ...


10

When I've done this before, I look at the example of a television series. During the first season, they have a 'pilot' or a short season. With that in mind, I usually hit these points: Plan for an arc that will be resolved during the scenario, so that even if the game doesn't continue, you have closure. To this point, make the final conflict the final ...


10

I would suggest you back into the level based on the amount of time you're willing to commit to character creation. In my experience, there tends to be a non-linear relationship between character level and time required to create the character from scratch. Let's create a simple model of how long it takes to make a character (assuming players are familiar ...


10

I've run and written con games. I just ran a six hour one-shot of the Feng Shui starter scenario for my group. The biggest thing is making sure there's a fulfilling experience in the time allotted. Here's things to do and to watch out for to run successful one-shots, the "Five P's." Prep You want to either provide pregens or have people do chargen ahead of ...


10

I think maybe you are overthinking it a little. In the past, when I did this, I have assigned each player the character that I thinks he's going to play better, or I think will be more interesting to him. That's because I have very mutual trust with my players. But that way you can assign the simplest characters to the more novice players (e.g: leaving ...


9

I've One-upped all of the answers that are already here. You have two issues, how to create an adventure quickly, and how to keep the workload down. Pregenerated characters are a good idea.. BUT you may want to get the PCs to build them just to save your own workload. To compromise- give the PCs some guidelines: "you are all playing dwarves" or "Arcane ...


9

Fiasco is a one-shot a game in which you create and play out a Coen Brothers-esque scenario. It's for three-to-five players, GM-less, has no character sheets, and games last about 2-3 hours. Given your constraints, it will probably be more black comedy than lighthearted, but if the players all agree to keep it lighthearted, it could work out that way. I'd ...


8

I have to chime in with a game that nobody has mentioned yet: Og, Unearthed Edition. It is summed up best by these words from the back of the book: You are a caveman. You know those cavemen who invented fire, the wheel and civilization? You're not that kind of caveman. The level of hilarity achieved in games of Og is vastly out of proportion to the ...


8

A few suggestions, all of wich are free: Lady Blackbird, sort of a cross between steampunk and Firefly, a game and scenario in one with pregenerated characters (and the possibility of making your own) Archipelago II - a rules-light game inspired by the Earthsea chronicles. Risus - bills itself as the "anything rpg". These three are all easy to learn and ...


8

I'm not sure there's a system that particularly supports this, but the scenario setup that immediately leaps to mind is providing backstory to the players individually before the game. Tell the group that time is a concern, so in the day or so before the game you're going to individually contact each one to explain the backstory that leads up to the game; ...


8

I run one-shot Shadowrun missions at conventions. A couple of things I can offer: Use pre-generated characters. If certain characters are critical for mission success, make sure they get played, or NPC'd. Some missions are more flexible than others. Keep the mission simple. It can have a big plot twist, or a dark, oppressive tone, but it shouldn't involve ...


8

Many of the systems I like, GURPS, Harnmaster, Champions don't a lot of players familiar with them in the rural area I live. So I rely on the following to get them up to speed. I ask them what kind of character they want to play in general terms and then go back and forth until we define it in the system that we are playing. I run a single combat encounter ...


7

(Editing in Adam's excellent rating system.) The one-page GHOST/ECHO RPG+++ 1Shot+++ GM+++ Play+++ from the same designer of Lady Blackbird is great fun -- I played it with my parents and it worked well. It's based on the Otherkind Dice system by Vincent Baker which is a precursor of Apocalypse World which one of your other respondants mentioned, but it ...


7

Og Unearthed Edition: Pro simple Humor enforced by players being prohibited from using words other than those the character ca use during session almost everyone grasps the "caveman and dinosaurs" setting, despite its surreality Con Some players frustrated by limited vocabulary System is too simple for some players no support publications Either d6 ...


7

For the first time running any system, especially for a one shot I would recommend pre-gens. If it were an extended campaign, the first session of the game should be everyone sitting together and making a cohesive party, however you don't want to make them get invested in characters that won't matter (and waste the night you could be making the one-shot ...


7

I was involved in essentially the same kind of situation a couple weeks ago. The two things I went in intending to run were: An old-school D&D dungeon crawl with a simple B/X-style ruleset and pre-gen characters. Let the players sit down, hand them a character sheet, their character teleports in to join any others, and you're good to go without ...


6

Here is my short list of games that make a good one-shot: InSpectres Zombie Cinema My Life with Master PTA (Prime Time Adventures) (this works pretty good for a one shot) Toon 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars (space marine game a la Starship Troopers) I have played all these successfully.



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