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ParsimonyJones
2015-08-28, 02:45 PM
Hi folks!

In order to keep my own and my friends' gaming itches scratched despite constantly shifting schedules, I have been trying to run loosely connected one-shots. My intention is for it to be easy to drop in for a session without needing to commit to the next one, but I have had a very tough time designing adventures that can be played through in a single session of 3 - 3.5 hours. Usually, they end up sprawling into two or three sittings - better than an indefinite campaign, but still not ideal. I wanted to see if you all had any suggestions for how to create tight, self-contained episodes. Thanks! :smallbiggrin:

- PJ

noob
2015-08-28, 02:52 PM
Simple solution: do make their characters yourself then make a scenario where after some time it necessarily ends(like for example the end of the world happens and no matter what the players do they can not change this or for example they are in a mission in another country and there is a law about frontiers which is going to pass and they must do their mission before that law happens because else they can not get back to their country)

Flickerdart
2015-08-28, 03:06 PM
Think short story, not novel. Characterization is not essential; rely on recognizable NPCs like Snobby Aristocrat, Baby-stealing Werewolf, or Dragony Dragon.
You're probably not going to get away with more than two combats in any sort of rules-heavy game. Consider doing one with some minions that are themed after the final boss, giving the party an idea of what's to come so they can prepare.
Railroading is fine when it's only a shuttle bus. If you must let them wander, lay out two or three paths clearly. Time spent guessing where to go is time wasted.
Travel is not really an option. Neither is in-character time - you're looking at no more than a day or two in terms of events. Make sure the PCs don't have any kind of per-day abilities they'll need to recharge.
The lower-level and less-complex characters, the better. The fewer PCs and NPCs, the better. Build simple pregens so that the players don't even need to think about building stuff.

noob
2015-08-28, 03:25 PM
Think short story, not novel. Characterization is not essential; rely on recognizable NPCs like Snobby Aristocrat, Baby-stealing Werewolf, or Dragony Dragon.
You're probably not going to get away with more than two combats in any sort of rules-heavy game. Consider doing one with some minions that are themed after the final boss, giving the party an idea of what's to come so they can prepare.
Railroading is fine when it's only a shuttle bus. If you must let them wander, lay out two or three paths clearly. Time spent guessing where to go is time wasted.
Travel is not really an option. Neither is in-character time - you're looking at no more than a day or two in terms of events. Make sure the PCs don't have any kind of per-day abilities they'll need to recharge.
The lower-level and less-complex characters, the better. The fewer PCs and NPCs, the better. Build simple pregens so that the players don't even need to think about building stuff.
I made a short game that lasted two hours and contradicted a great part of those statements:
there was no battle.
there was no final boss.
The npcs were weird like a chicken poly-morphed into a beholder magician who wanted to speak into chicken until he was convinced to do otherwise, a god of defense who suddenly came to the players because he preferred to see them directly instead of speaking through communions(and who then used some commodity spells like divine wind on the players) because he was curious and wanted to see this plane, a not really great wizard who came to this plane to do one particular experiment about varied time zones and their influence on spells and who after some time of discussion(heavily deviated by the players) said that he did not liked to throw a bowl of hot food through a slowed time zone for the conservation of the food because it generally spilled everywhere after.
I did let them do whatever they wanted I only said that the wizard wanted to explore a dimension to know more about it and they built themselves experiments to understand but they could have done different experiments and in a different order or yet just came somewhere at a library to learn more and so on and they could have gone in any direction.
They also traveled a lot by teleporting and in character it lasted some days because the wizard refiled his slots.
The players had level 20 and 21 characters and there was two players and 7 npcs (excluding the people they heard off but that they did not have seen) this might be called few but I do not know

Flickerdart
2015-08-28, 03:45 PM
I made a short game that lasted two hours and contradicted a great part of those statements:
there was no battle.
there was no final boss.
The npcs were weird like a chicken poly-morphed into a beholder magician who wanted to speak into chicken until he was convinced to do otherwise, a god of defense who suddenly came to the players because he preferred to see them directly instead of speaking through communions(and who then used some commodity spells like divine wind on the players) because he was curious and wanted to see this plane, a not really great wizard who came to this plane to do one particular experiment about varied time zones and their influence on spells and who after some time of discussion(heavily deviated by the players) said that he did not liked to throw a bowl of hot food through a slowed time zone for the conservation of the food because it generally spilled everywhere after.
I did let them do whatever they wanted I only said that the wizard wanted to explore a dimension to know more about it and they built themselves experiments to understand but they could have done different experiments and in a different order or yet just came somewhere at a library to learn more and so on and they could have gone in any direction.
They also traveled a lot by teleporting and in character it lasted some days because the wizard refiled his slots.
The players had level 20 and 21 characters and there was two players and 7 npcs (excluding the people they heard off but that they did not have seen) this might be called few but I do not know
0 battles is fewer than 2 battles, 0 combat NPCs are very few NPCs indeed, 7 NPCs overall is pretty little. The NPCs may be weird externally but nothing you say suggests they have any deep characterization.

Without using combat abilities, the PCs' level doesn't really matter at all, and the fact that there were only two of them only compounds that.

So no, you didn't really contradict anything I said.

Composer99
2015-08-28, 08:12 PM
The Pathfinder Society (the PF organised play agency) publishes modules for play at conventions, etc., that usually take about 3-4 hours to play.

In general they have the following:
- simple plot - the PCs have one main thing to do, and one extra thing to do depending on their faction (the extra thing is usually easily accomplished while doing the main thing);
- linear plotline - the PCs go from one step to the next;
- few other characters to interact with - usually the quest-giver at the start, and a handful of NPCs at each step (maybe none);
- few combats (3 combats, usually, one near the beginning, one in the middle, and a climactic one at the end);
- a roleplaying/social/other encounter in between each combat, and a short wrap-up at the end after the climactic fight;
- no looting which has to be divided up somehow - instead a standardised parcel of rewards at the end of the adventure for each character (possibly constructed to match the character's specific needs); the PCs have to rely on their starting equipment, character resources, and treasure from past adventures.

I'm working from memory here, so there may be some inaccuracies.

Combine a similar adventure structure with the players either bringing characters prepared beforehand, or picking up pregens you've prepared beforehand, and you should have no problem keeping things short (and episodic).

You can even make the short episodes build on previous ones like an adventure path.

You could mix things up a bit by replacing a combat encounter with some sort of skill challenge that wears down character resources.

TheThan
2015-08-29, 12:35 AM
I know it seems silly to have to say it but I strongly recommend playing a system thatís designed for running one shot adventures. The FATE system excels at this. Iíve done it; it works out very well.

That being said, plan out as many contingences as you can figure. So when the players go left when you expected them go right youíre ready for it and donít have to spend time coming up with something on the spot.

Try to figure out how long it takes the party to run through a typical combat. This will let you know about how many combats you can have per session. If it takes you an hour to run through one combat, then you know you can fit about 1 in your play time window. The rest of the 3.5 hours is divided up amongst RP, exploration, and the like. You know, things that take very little time and effort to do. (i'm assuming about 1/3 of the adventure is combat, adjust to suit your tastes).

Keep adventures simple. A BBEG has stolen the maguffin/plot centric NPC and the PCs have to steal it back; that sort of thing. No huge world spanning campaign arcs or plots. Think 2 hour adventure movie, not 3 part 9 hour epics.