GMing Oneshots a’la MustaJumala

On our guild’s forum, there was a request for less MtG-content. Well, not necessarily less, but more like balancing it with other content. So, here goes.

I like oneshots. Campaigns are always difficult. Back in the day, when we were able to do it, we’d mess it up by going too long. Now that we have very limited time as most members of the group have competing commitments, which are often understandably important. Therefore, one good oneshot is great.

Think about it this way: YOLO.

Yes, I hate that too. Its just a catchphrase often used to rationalize acts of random stupidity. But think about the context. I wouldn’t drive around drunk tweeting out ‘YOLO!’ as I get closer to death, but I would play a oneshot thinking ‘YOLO!’ as my character won’t survive the game either way. He or she either dies or gets “archived” in some stack of papers somewhere. Dying in a spectacular fashion is much more interesting than surviving (although, lately I’ve been surviving a lot).

So, how do I prepare, as the GM, for a oneshot.

1. Pick the starting point.

2. Pick a system.

3. Make a list of names, so you don’t have to improvise them.

That’s it. You don’t need anything else. Often you need to switch the first and the second point, depending on whether you want to use a system or you want to play a certain scenario.

Of course, I can delve into these a little further. I might be running a game today, so this work I’m doing here can act as my preparation for that possible session. We’ll see if I can give you a report on this tomorrow.

First, let’s pick a theme. With the Zimmerman case in the news right now, I’d like to run a game with jurors. Say, like 12 Angry Men. Ok, that’s enough.

Second, we’re picking a system. We played a demoscenario of Burning Wheel last week. That had a great system for arguments, called Duel of Wits. That would be great for this. Sadly, I don’t have that particular game and can’t get them right now, with only a few hours during a work day. Therefore, I’m falling back on my default: HeroQuest. Characters can be easily improvised and the system is very easy.

The third point could differ based on games (as for example, when I ran Agon, I had a clear limit on my resources, so I had to do some planning beforehand), but generally the list of names works for me. In this case I just need a the rest of the jury. Therefore, I should have list of about 10 distinctive names, so if I need to put emphasis on them, they are not confusing. Good rule of thumb is to make a list of names with no two names starting with the same letter. First names only, because they have no reason to tell each other their last names.

Again, that’s it. no more work needed. So, I’m guessing many of you are thinking, “Aki”, if you happen to know my name, “what was the crime? Did he do it? Was all the needed evidence presented?” To which I say: At this point, I don’t care. I’ll ask the players about the crime. They’ll come up with evidence. I can have them come up with things you didn’t even think to ask like is this modern day, real world, and so forth.

There’s a good chance at least one of my players is reading this (if I get to GM), so I may have ruined the whole thing, but that remains to seen.

2 thoughts on “GMing Oneshots a’la MustaJumala

  1. Nobody read this and we played through it in an hour. And as players usually do we kind of messed it up.

    The crime, the wolrd and the attributes of our characters and the accused we created easily on the fly. Maybe Unfortunattely this meant that nobody had a clear idea what we were doing and players of the group were sort of pushed aside as they did not say much.

    From the easy point of “did this bastard son of a king commit this heinous crime in a medieval world wth a twist” we managed the brew a horrible tale of mistrust and agony. In the end all jury members were killed but a werewolf (that could not be burned), a baker who had made a deal with the Devil and my character a mason who was the actual culprit.

    It was a fun story but the game elements were there for no usable reason. As players wejust decided what we would be discussing and as it became clear that the conversation was going nowhere we just ended up killing jury members one by one “to prove they were innocent”.

  2. Pingback: Playing a Cybernetic Space Gorilla Scientist | Guild Blog

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