I was thinking of running a ICRPG game but nothing came out to give out for RPG Day. So I was asked if I could run a Kids on Bikes adventure. I know I know I do not like to talk about other game systems on a forums for a different game systems. But what I am asking could be universal question. I typically do a open ended sandbox style of game. I let it end when it feels comfortable or a new itch has hit the group. And admittedly it has been a few years sense I GM. How much is the right amount of preparation content should I do for a One-Shot vs campaign? is there a difference between a one-shot vs what I should do for a RPG Day, where I am trying to sell the idea of both playing RPG & this RPG? Because I am doing both selling the RPG system & wanting them to enjoy this world we all love & enjoy. Any advice would be nice.
For a one-shot, I would railroad, all the way. For example, if the hook is that there have been strange happenings around the abandoned government facility at the edge of town, a campaign might start with speaking with townspeople and learning rumors about howling at night and people disappearing. But for a one-shot, you give them all that info and say, “The four of your have decided to check it out. Our story begins with the four of you finding a hole in the chain link fence, and now you’re on the grounds of the facility. You look back mournfully at your bikes, parked just at the edge of the tree line, knowing you’re leaving for only means of escape behind.” BOOM. Now players are in the thick of it.
Next, I would plan three or four tight scenes:
- On the grounds, where the kids discover tons of barrels of chemicals being trucked in and the mauled body of their chemistry teacher, stashed in a shed.
- Inside the main room of the complex, where they find more mauled people and what looks like a containment failure. Maybe it can only be stopped down at the source, they learn. Finally, an elevator going down.
- The subterranean research lab, where the diabolical experiments are revealed, and the creatures burst forth. Lots of missing people are here as victims or maybe they are the creatures. Maybe one of their classmates is a prisoner.
Plan timers, threats, and treats for each room.
Finally, put players in peril and get them rolling dice as soon as possible. You want players having things to do, checks to make, computers to access, threats to avoid or take out.
Obviously, you don’t have to run this adventure, but the format is my recommendation for an awesome afternoon of gaming. If you do the three things above, you’re going to run a super fun adventure for folks.
I largely agree with Alex, only I would probably prep one starting scene (1), an end scene (3) and either two or three alternative scenes or a more open location in the middle (2/a,b,c).
This means some additional work, but the players get to experience the wonder of meaningful choice. “What if we had gone to the generator instead?! Fritz might’ve still been alive!”
Also, you get a buffer for very fast or very slow groups. If there are three middle scenes the default might be that there’s time for two, but if you’re lagging behind it’s just one, or if quick it’s all three.
Either way, the absolutely best advice from Alex is to start past the point of no return: you’ve cut the fence, the alarm goes off - now you have to see it through. Otherwise, you might struggle to get enough (or quick enough) buy-in.
Another approach would be to set a turn timer:
"You only have X turns to…
…get the heck outta there before the zombie horde becomes too numerous!
…gather support and supplies before El Gordo and his posse ride into town for a showdown!
…bust into the cliffside fortress and get to your comrade before he’s executed
…get all three Macguffins so the bad thing doesn’t happen (it’s so bad)
This way, you give them autonomy at a price. They can dork around all they like, but the world moves on without them.