This past Saturday, my one-shot went off and was, when it comes down to brass tacks, successful. The group had a good time. I introduced some players to one of my favorite systems. Dice were rolled. Mooks were mashed. All-in-all, yes. I'd call that a success. As I often do after a game session, I've spent plenty of time fretting and analyzing what went down and what worked in order to make the next one just that much better. There's a couple of points that kind of stick out in my mind, if anyone is interested.
Storytelling Through Action
I like action movies. I love fight scenes. I also like deep and compelling narratives. Sometimes I like to have chocolate and peanut butter. If you can, as a GM, do good storytelling through action, then you have my attention undivided. Pitched battles make for basic combat scenes and there is nothing wrong with those. However, if you can tell some of your story during the fight, you can make the fight more interesting and save time on exposition and story.
The scenario I ran this past weekend had two decent scenes of this. The first scene started out with the PCs in a tavern like all good adventures do. Then things hit the fan and the first combat drops right in their lap. The basic premise becomes save the tavern and it's people from undead horrors that came out of the mists. Not only do the players have the problem of the combat on their hands, but also saving civilians from the attackers and the buildings from fire. My players did an excellent job of performing heroically, by the way. The sudden on-rush of the attackers and the manner in which they appeared set up the threat for the story and got the PCs to start asking questions.
The second combat gave us more of the undead things and a slightly larger beast. The twist came when the lesser undead stood by and watched the battle from the fringes. This took what the PCs had guessed earlier (that these were mindless zombies) and spun it on it's head, in turn making them ask yet more questions. All of this was done after initiative was rolled. I love when the action can still fuel the story!
Fuel the Crazy
I like to be cinematic with my action as well. In order to encourage this, I tried to give out gratuitous bonuses and bennies for doing cool things. In return, the players tried to do what they could to further that. Sometimes trying to out-do what happened the last time. While I don't think I was as successful as I could have been, the experiment by itself was successful. Bennies were given out for the aforementioned heroics in the first scene, and I think that really helped to enforce that play-style.
Straight Up, No Ice
One-shots make for good experiments. For this one in particular, I settled on trying to run something pre-written. While I don't think I'll be doing that again for a long time, I am glad for the experience. I decided I was gonna run it as close to the book as I could, and I prefaced the session with that very point. By the end of it all I had to adjust somethings for time, which I also made sure my group was clear on. Even then, there will always be that one person who will still go out of his way to write himself out of the experience and try to circumnavigate the scenario. No one likes to be railroaded. I get that. What I don't get is why someone would join a game and then attempt to not-do what is presented. For instance, at a convention I took part in a pick-up game with some friends of a friend. The scenario was a simple excuse to "go into a base and kill all of their dudes." Nothing more and nothing less. We're here to roll dice and watch things drop. The one player had the question of 'why not just nuke it from orbit?' Many laughs were had. After repeated occurrences, I had to agree with the GM when he asked 'did you want to play or not?' Again, to be clear, no one wants to be railroaded, but if you are going to take part in a one-shot, is it so much to ask to just go with it?
One of my next experiments that I would like to do is the 'sandbox' style campaign. With what I've learned from this one, I am tempted to try to insert some scenarios on occasion that are merely excuses to do things and see how that compares to the main meta-plot(s). I also want to explore the differences between dropping the action right in the PCs lap and letting them go to the action. I'm certain that if they have the chance to be more proactive, they will try to set up some plan to turn things to their advantage, but I'm also curious to see if they will try to avoid the conflict entirely. Time will tell, I guess.
Live long and Stay Classy!