A New Year’s Eve Tradition – The One Shot

In a lifetime long long ago my gaming group used to do a New Years Eve gaming marathon. I’d typically make a batch of pregen characters, order up a 6 foot sub and then run a 12 hour session starting around 6pm.

This year instead of a New Year’s Eve session, it’ll be a New Year’s day session. We’ll likely only play for 5 or 6 hours. I don’t know what we’ll do food wise.

Of course, there is also the scenario to consider. In previous years I’ve completely winged it. I’d think of the situation –Escort the high priest to a neighboring kingdom — and run with it.

Throw some kenku assassin’s in the beginning; an abandoned decaying fortress occupied by orcish scouts enroute; an arrival marred by an assassination attempt via a stain glass golem; and we had a memorable evening that ended with a red dragon permanently polymorphed into a bunny (with all of its memories) and a player (not character but high school studented) wished into the campaign world.

Completely winging it worked really well at the time but I’m finding that I need to, and more importantly want to, spend more time prepping for the session.  So I’m sitting down and planning things out a bit.

In my experience with one-shots, I have found the most memorable sessions to have the following components:

  • A cast of characters with dubious moral compasses
  • A heist scenario with plenty of decision points

In essence, set the game in motion and watch the players run the show.

The initial concept was fairly straightforward.  Get the MacGuffin and return it.  Nice and generic.

Taking a lesson from the Bloodstone campaign and my propensity for starting characters at a great distance from their goal, I was going to make sure that the MacGuffin was nearby.

I decided that their patron was hiring them to retrieve a statue from a notable historian who likely didn’t want to part with the statue.  The patron and target are in the same town.

Then I began the process of breathing life into the scenario.  I did some brainstorming, and decided a church was interested in a statue that was being held by the historian.  Sounds reasonable

First I wanted some information about the historian.  Using Zak S’ Vornheim: The Complete City Kit, I rolled up the historian’s library collection.  He fancies maps, cookbooks, and economics.

Next, I wanted to know more about his house.  So I grabbed 2d6 and rolled to determine the number of rooms.  I proceeded to give a little flavor to each room.

I also created a handful of random encounter charts for traveling the city.

I wanted information about the city, and turned to Matt Finch‘s Tomb of Adventure Design.  With a couple of throws of the dice there were a handful of concepts brought into play:

  • Tree of the Crippled Congregation – a local god tree that was the city’s primary focus
  • Woodcarving – the city was known for it’s craft and I rolled up woodcarving
  • Traak the Wolf of Bitterness – the god of the clerics that want the tree
  • The Church is in a disagreement with a local merchant
  • The historian lived in the Guild district, and was part of a gated community

With those five points (all randomly rolled), I had enough to give shape to the city at large.  Given some more time I would like to roll some of the above information into the random encounter charts.

Attached are some scans of my session preparation.

New Years 2011 One Shot, Page 1

New Years 2011 One Shot, Page 2

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