Tag Archive | Fronts

Experiments with one-shots

I’ve begun fooling around with one-shots over hangouts again. This time around I’ve been asking for feedback on my GM’ing, and boy, people don’t hold punches, do they?

After having my selfesteem destroyed a few times over (yes, I’m overly dramatizing), I have learned a lot of things, about what mistakes I make when GM’ing.

There’s a very fine line, I’ve noticed, about how much improvisation is good improvisation. Yes, that’s right; there actually seems to be an upper limit! For me when I run one-shots at least.

The thing is, when I GM a totally improvised session, I get exhausted near the end. Like really exhausted. Not because we’ve played for around four hours straight with only two or three very short brakes, but because it is hard work to run a session with zero framework before play begins.

I’ve tried a lot of different things out the last few days, and here are some of my intermediary conclusions.

Pitch the game with a strong premise

When you sit down to play, people want to make characters and then find out how these characters fit together and “what they do” to get by. Basically why they are adventuring together.

While that isn’t wrong, it can cause some very unfocused play and characters that don’t really fit well with each other. It doesn’t necessarily force this to happen, but it easily can. You might argue that the GM has great control over this, but the more you rely on the GM to have the skill to resolve these issues, well, the more mistakes that GM will eventually make. It’s simply better to remove the need, especially for a novice GM.

If you start out with a premise, like “adventuring band for hire”, then we have established two things; the party is already a coherent group of adventurers, and they are getting paid to do what they do. It doesn’t take much effort to make the characters have some history together.

The premise can be worked out in the beginning of the session, but you can save a lot of time doing it in advance.

Have a clear objective

In a one-shot, we don’t have a lot of time for mystery. We don’t have time to start from scratch. It’s much easier to start in medias res, with some basic information and a very solid lead on how to get more.

The players literally have to have an immediate goal when play begins, otherwise they’ll just poke around doing next to nothing for around an hour of game time.

These goals can even be a part of your premise! “Band of adventurers hired to delve into the Pyramid of Sorrow to fetch the Hellslayer sword”. Now the players will be aware that it’s going to be a Dungeon Crawl, which means that they can choose options and classes that makes them better at that.

Everybody likes to have cool stuff to do, right?

Finishing thoughts

There’s a lot more to this, but I still need to gather my thoughts on the matter. I’m experimenting a lot at the moment to make these things work, and there’s a lot of do’s and don’ts.

I’m going to focus on the do’s that minimizes the need for skill on the GM part. Dungeon World already helps a lot here with the Principles, but you still need to think a lot when improvising. Mostly the rule book focuses on how to start campaigns, not one-shots, and having a “first session” as a one-shot often mean we spend a lot of time establishing facts that we don’t have time to use.

One-shots needs to be focused, because we don’t have time to deal with all the details of a full campaign, so I’m trying to set up a few guidelines on how to do that.

More to follow!

An introductory adventure

I met some people at the university, and we talked casually about RPGs for about an hour. The topic fell on Dungeon World, which they have never heard of before, so I told them I’d run a session for them, if they were interested.

One of them had only played the Warhammer Fantasy RPG, and the other had never really tried playing anything but computer RPGs. Now I’m about to make an introductory one-shot adventure to throw at them.

I’ll have to make good use of my experience from playing with Eric and Bastien, especially on how to make a focused narrative, one without too many branches. I think I’ll use this as a starting point for my Dragon Menace adventure. While I won’t be drawing DungeonMorphs randomly during play, I think I’ll make a dungeon with them, and fill it with interesting stuff to do. Especially treasure at a price. I mean, a frickin’ dragon lives there.

I’ll get back on this later, when I’ve found a way to scan in a 5 by 5 set of DungeonMorphs, which I’ll them modify slightly with GIMP, mainly to remove some of the exits on the edges of the map. I think that should be a large enough dungeon for a one-shot.

When the map is done, I’ll post it here, along with a front and a map legend.

The Rise of Ri’leth

The session ended yesterday with a bang, and since the story was concluded, I’ll post my fronts here as promised, along with a nifty monster I made that the players luckily avoided.

Adventure Front: The Rise of Ri’leth

A mysterious cult is attempting to free their long forgotten god from his eternal prison.


  • Dunstan, the mayor of Threebridges
  • Madwich, the cult leader
  • Ri’leth, the vulture demon prince


  • Can Ri’leth be permanently banished?
  • What did Olive, the mayors daughter, find out that got her killed?

Danger: The Cult of Ri’leth

Impulse: To free their god
Grim Portents

  • Madwich creates more abominations
  • The cult prepares the ritual
  • Human sacrifices are made

Impending Doom: The prison is opened.

Danger: Ri’leth, the vulture demon prince

Impulse: To escape his prison
Grim Portents

  • An otherworldly portal opens
  • Demons spill through
  • The seal is broken>/li>

Impending Doom: Ri’leth is let loose upon the world once more.

Comments on the front

The trouble with publishing fronts is that they are filled with innuendo. My players would probably understand almost everything I’ve written above, but an “outsider” would probably not understand the meaning of a lot of it.

“The seal is broken” made sense in the fiction (and I’m pretty sure that my players are aware that it happened), but it doesn’t make much sense out of context. I’ll make a session report later. Hopefully it will make the intend behind most of it clear.

Ri’leth, the Demon Prince

This is the stats on Ri’leth. I made them in case he’d escape, which luckily didn’t happen. His moves are evil, one of them horribly detrimental, and he just has a lot of those nasty tags.

Instead of fumbling around with HTML code, I’ll just post a link to the Dungeon World Codex entry: Ri’leth, the Demon Prince of Chaos!

Final finishes to my fronts

I revised my fronts made for the three-shot (it keeps escalating, I know…). It seemed that I had a minor misunderstanding of how it worked.

I thought that the grim portents were tied to all the dangers, not that the dangers had their own grim portents. I don’t know how I got that mixed up, but it certainly explains why the book suggests making so few.

I hope we get done today (No Eric and Bastien, I’m not trying to get rid of you), if only because I’ve learned a lot about GMing for Bastien and Eric, and I really want to run more one-shots over hangouts, where I use this newly acquired wisdom. Actual one-shots, not these drawn-out pseudo-campaigns.

I plan to make a post containing all the things I’ve learned from this “campaign”, as soon as it is done. If they don’t stop the cult tonight, I’m very tempted to make a “rock falls” on them. Seriously, I’ve been a big softie so far. Time to show them some real steel.

Second half of the “two-shot”

So, I’m doing some prep for the second session now. I don’t want to over-prepare since the premise for this game is improvisation. I will make a front though.

I mean, I know what the cultists are currently planning, and to some extend the players do too. To make the story meaningful to the players, I will have to make the Impending Doom horrible, something that must be avoided at all cost. Something that only the players can put a stop to.

I think I’ll start with my Stake Questions, the questions I want answered by the players. I feel this will be a pretty solid start. I’ll post my front here when the adventure is completed.