Monday, August 5, 2013

One-Shots vs. Campaign

A few weeks ago, a few of us here at Black Hat Writing ran some one-shots, which got us thinking about whether there is a particular art and difference to designing a one-shot from designing a campaign.

Kick down the door and kill the bad guys style one-shots are fairly easy to make and run but more story-driven ones are tricky. There simply isn't enough time for a complex story with foreshadowing and character development. A plot important betrayal that happens an hour after the players meet a character doesn't have the same impact as a betrayal that happens three sessions later.

I personally prefer face-paced one-shots with high NPC body counts, but what kind of one-shots do you like? Do you like clean endings, or endings with unanswered questions? Or do you prefer one-shots where everyone is unplayable by the end? (by virtue of being dead, insane, etc.) For the GMs, how do you like to end one-shots?

On the other hand, campaigns are just as tricky, particularly ones that focus on character relations and various in-game group interactions. Over-arching plots become hard to plan because PCs (as is their nature) do unexpected actions that change the flow of the campaign. On the plus side, long campaigns have the potential to become just as cool as your favorite piece of media, complete with character development and complex subplots. However, that same campaign has the potential to become repetitive. If you're a player in a monotonous campaign, talk to your GM. If you're the GM, talk to your players.

I know one-shots are often played in groups who can't realistically do a campaign, often drop-in, but if you could choose between a series of one-shots and a campaign what would you choose? Do you think it is harder to GM or be a player in a one-shot or a campaign? Feel free to discuss in the comments!

If this discussion has inspired you, consider signing up to become a playtest GM for Theatre Noir.

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