I'm planning on fitting as much roleplay into my university's intersemester break (ISB) as I can. I've got ideas for campaigns in my head, and I'm reasonably comfortable jotting down a few stats and running with it. What I'm not so sure about is if the games will suit the one or two session style I'm going to have to employ over ISB. Nor am I sure about how to best 'advertise' this to my friends, who might be interested, or busy during the ISB.

What I don't need is suggestions for pre-made campaigns, but advice based on experiences with them would be great.

Adventure suggestions are good but I have my own ideas, they just need tweaking to fit my time constraints.

How do I plan a game to fit everyone's needs, time wise? How can I sell this?

What systems don't this suit? Would it be foolish to use this as an opener to a longer campaign, even if this opener doesn't get finished?

  • \$\begingroup\$ You will be doing two sessions on this campaign or did i misinterpret something? \$\endgroup\$ – Khaal Jan 11 '12 at 20:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ One or two, maybe three, I'm not sure. \$\endgroup\$ – AncientSwordRage Jan 11 '12 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another question, are your friends familiar with any systems? \$\endgroup\$ – Khaal Jan 11 '12 at 21:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes and no, some are familiar with 4E D&D, and a lot of other games. But the games I most want to run I don't think people are familiar with. Some have never played. I'm looking for people to say "I tried this sort of thing with [insert system] and it failed uttery/succeeded" with reasons why and tips. \$\endgroup\$ – AncientSwordRage Jan 11 '12 at 21:04

My tip is to avoid running an introductory session. Tell the players the premise of the game and that they should make characters who have already bitten into the starting hook and are interested in exploring that premise.

This avoids the cat herding problem you can run into at the beginning of a game where all the PCs want to roam in different directions or be that one quiet and brooding guy who sits alone at the bar.

This also helps communicate the subject of the game to the players. I've played good characters in good games but had a poor experience because the character wasn't right for the campaign. If you tell the players what to expect, they're in a better position to choose the right character.


I've run short (2 or 3 session) campaigns by setting up everything in advance, and thrusting the players right into the action. I think one of the best things about a short campaign of this sort is that you can afford to take risks and be novel. If it works, great, extend it. If not, nobody has invested too much time in the game or the characters.

Generic game systems are great for this, as they characters tend to be easy to convert to another game system if you need to later. I'm a big fan of Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying for this reason. I also like the system because it is easy for any even relatively experienced gamer to jump right into. The less time you have to spend on mechanics, the better.

Another technique I use is creating several characters and letting the players choose which ones they want to run. Leave a few parts of the character unfinished, so the player can quickly customize the character they chose. Have an introduction already written, and fire it off to potentially interested parties in an email. The intro should outline the premise of the campaign, how your characters know each other (wasting time on the scene at the Green Dragon Inn is, well, a waste of time), and what they're doing.

You may even want to write them into a tense situation, so the players know that the game session will open with a bang. Those who are interested in playing can show up, select their characters (first come, first served) and you can get right to the meat of the first session very quickly.

Best of luck!


The tips i can give you for a short campaign are these, may be dissapointing judging by the form of answers you are waiting for, but give it a read.

Step 1 The first thing to do is to make up your mind, if you want to use these sessions as a campaign opener or not. Ask your friends if they could play during the semester, or if they are willing to continue in the next break, or whatever seems appropriate.

Step 2 If you choose to continue it, you should probably choose a light and friendly, yet full system (i would suggest the essentials of DnD 4ed, but i have never played with these books, just read some of them). There is always the possibility to choose a more "heavyweight" system, since you will play again. Ask your friends what they want to play, or present them with some systems (if you want recomendations i have some in mind, not all tested though, ask with a comment)

If you choose not to use these sessions as a campaign opener, i would advise taking a look at Everway. It is a light system, with four base atributes, simple character creation, and the best about it, powers and magic are not defined, they are made by the players (DM discretion advised). Personally, i find the concept great, but the setting could use work. Also look it up on wikipedia, for a more "wide" viewpoint.

Step 3 (but maybe it should be step 1) Gather your friends for coffee/beers/margaritas/whatever you like, and discuss with them, what they want to play (as a character), if they want to continue playing, and all the aspects mentioned above (and of course the ones you think about). Make a decision together and have fun playing

ATTENTION:While Everway is not hard to "sell" with "Dude, you can play WHATEVER you like, WHATEVER!", it does not have a level or advancement method, if i recall correctly, thus it is presented as short-campaign option. Give it a look before you put it on the table, it could mix things up.

Also, for the time wise thingy, you can use a solid reason for your players to cooperate if they dont know each other (throw them in an arena, i know i loved it when i used that:)), or, if they like, make a party of adventurers that have been travelling together for long. Also, keep things "fast" through the beauty of simplicity. There is no need to describe every inch of the paladin's armor if it is not crucial for the plot/storyline. Lastly don't try to stick every good idead you had in the campaign, simple but intriguing plots are best, no need for incorporating that Abominable Psionic Techdracolich with three templates from Manual to the Monsters of the High-Low Left-Right Tyranical Psychosocial Kingdom of Gherstheinerbag. ( I am exaggerating i know, i will stop now.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, Everway is good for one-shot campaigns because your players start at the pinacle of their power, so you can put them straight to a powerfull and interesting quest of epic stuff-doing, no need for killing dire rats and wolves for 10 levels. \$\endgroup\$ – Khaal Jan 11 '12 at 21:35

First, as suggested above, you can skip 'meet and greets' or introductory parts of a campaign. You don't need to all meet up in a bar, or a merc lounge, or what have you. Have them start with a predefined story about why they're together, or guide them in creating one before the session day ever arrives.

I'm a fan, in these situations, of designing a 1-2 or however many day session that is standalone, but has broad potential for sequels. Think of book series or movies that do this. Ender's Game is a good thought. Perhaps the LOTR or Star Wars trilogies even to some respect. They work on their own, but yet additional books or movies can very easily be hooked in and written. Write your game as though it'll never be played again, but with the Easter egg type of ending that allows for further exploits if you have the opportunity.

As far as actual systems, I've done this with a short SIFRP adventure, with D&D 3.5e several times (My D&D group was a holdover from High School, and now that we're all out of college and/or back there or grad or whatnot, and have families and the like, we have rarer occasions to meet back up and game, thus many 'this might be a two game deal' situations). I'm also about to do a similar thing with another group and a GURPS4 campaign that I'm setting in a new world I'm building. It'll be a 2-3 session adventure in a fantasy world, should be great fun - but if we need to quit after, we can. If we don't, it SHOULD open plenty of doors for further campaigning.

Hope this helps.


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