#1 2020-09-06 08:21:42

Registered: 2020-08-02
Posts: 3,977

If the NPC they meet in the coffee shop is important

on  on  on  on  on.
Author /  guyeatsfood.
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So, continuing on from reviews of  and , here’s D&D’s latest setting sourcebook.
Theros, apparently, .

Is a setting from Magic: The Gathering that’s a Mythic Greece style fantasy

I’ve written here before about how good this setting is for fantasy (see my review of Agon ), so it’s interesting to see how Wizards have transplanted this to D&D.
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As befits a game with such a strong following, .

There’s no shortage of game advice for Call of Cthulhu

There’s a wealth of stuff in the , and there’s some excellent advice in , .

A story-to-adventure how-to from Paul Baldowski for his own Cthulhu Hack system
Also has some excellent plot structure tips in its GM advice

As a minimum, stick an  in it.
Explain what it is, and what it does, and be prepared to act on it.
More nuanced (and more complex) tools are available – use those if you’d rather.
You have no idea what the triggers are for your players, especially at a convention, and even if you think you do, having one in place will reassure you and your players that you take their concerns seriously.
If the NPC they meet in the coffee shop is important, make her sound and look important; give her quirks and mannerisms, and have her drop clues pointing to sources of information.
Offer skill checks and even more clear signs: she nervously grasps her handbag, glancing down to the corner of a book kept within.
Justin Alexander explains it better than me when he talks about the  – have multiple ways to move the investigation forward, and be prepared to have some of them come to the players as well if they don’t get them.
Keep the pace.
So there you are – I’m indeed no expert on investigative or horror gaming, although I do know a thing or two about one-shots.

You can also hear me and the Smart Party picking apart  (specifically

the ) on their Youtube channel.
What are your top tips for investigative gaming.
Put them in the comments – or on twitter – and I’ll agree and/or argue with you about them.
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In , I gave 5 things to do while running your one-shot to improve it.
In this post, I’m going to give 5 tips to do before you play – during your prep, whether its for a convention, meetup, or just as a change of pace from your usual game.
I’ve posted about prep, where I tried to split it into three stages – the advice sits around all these stages, and is applicable if you’re taking a different approach.
I wrote more about pregens , if you want more advice on making strong pregenerated characters.
Also, see  for more notes on running crunchy games.
I talked about a structure for notes  which I know some others have found useful, but really it’s as much as this          I posted about this – the “three-skill trick”  in more detail.
With these, you’ve got a good chance at making any one-shot really sing.
If you want tips to do during play, see.
If you want to listen to me talking about some of these techniques, .

I was on the Smart Party podcast talking to Gaz about one-shots

I’m going to be doing some more system-specific posts over the next few weeks – as always, if there’s something you’d like to see more (or less) of, get in touch in comments here or on twitter ().
is a game from , Jerry D.

Grayson’s publishing house that also produces ATLANTIS: Second Age

HELLAS, and soon-to-be-kickstarted Godsend Agenda.
All of his games are good-looking, action-adventure games.

And quite a few of them use the Omni System

a straightforward D20-based resolution.
Mythic D6 does not – it uses a dice pool system (of D6, as you’d expect), and comes as a “Multi-Genre” master book (which includes a sample setting) and an expanding series of campaign supplements.
Apart from street-level supers, it’s spawned two supplementary campaign settings so far – , an afro-centric post-apocalypse sword and sorcery setting, and , an eco-activism steampunky pulp adventure (technically it’s probably either ecopunk or, well, fishpunk, but I’m going to resist taking the -punk nomenclature any further).
The rules have all the usual stuff for skills and combat, and two features that I’m becoming more and more attached to in games.
The first is an Aggravation Pool, a resource the GM has that can be spent (like the Hero Points players have) to boost enemies and increase the challenge.
Like in 2D20 with its , in play I’d have this pile of dice right out in front of me where everyone can see it.
The second is rules for Events – non-combat skill challenges that are tackled in stages, like rescuing civilians from a burning building.
These are excellently explained and presented, and will be great in one-shots for big, cinematic scenes and interesting use of powers.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking – – about these recently, and these rules are a great, flexible subsystem.
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In this post, I’m going to summarize a lot of things that are scattered around the blog.

And share 5 things any GM can do to make their TTRPG one-shots rock

whatever the system.
If you want examples of most of these (1 and 5 in particular) there’s a stream on YouTube of me running 13th Age Glorantha  (you’ll want  for the final scenes).
As described.

Get your players to describe links to other PCs – as simple as “who do you trust

and why?” or even describing in turn their previous quest.
This really works in a one-shot as it sets the action you’re about to play through in a continuing narrative, making it feel like a episode in an ongoing series rather than a one-off activity.
As early as possible in the game, have a skill check or combat for everyone where the stakes – although they are there – are relatively low.
In a lot of fantasy games this can just be a combat, and it can be a pretty straightforward one, but it could also be one of the skill challenges described.
By engaging with the system straight away you can get players new to the game up to speed with the system and demonstrate how it works.
A lot of running one-shot games at conventions with different systems is teaching the system itself, .

So don’t neglect this responsibility as GM

In , I talked about skill challenges, .

And incorporating them into RPGs of all systems

In this post, I’m going to describe 4 more types of challenge, and give examples of how I’ve used them in my games recently.
This is basically stolen from Blades in the Dark, where the planning and preparation for a job is folded into a single roll that shows how successful it has been.
Each player makes a skill check in turn, and the number of successes or failures indicates how successful their engagement has been.
Make the rolls in any logical order and with broad brush strokes, and you can get an idea of how well a plan has come off.
I used this when running 13th Age Glorantha for a final assault on a Broo camp (the game was streamed; you can watch the skill challenge , from the start of Part 3)  So, four more kinds of skill challenges.
I’ve been finding they really add to the game, particularly when we are playing online, where turn-taking needs to be strict and everyone should be hyper-focussed on plot.
Are there any more I should add.
What experiences have you had with them.
(And make sure you follow JamesCORP on  and  for more streamed games – I’m playing Delta Green this Saturday and there are more one-shots lined up).
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Before getting too far into research, remember you really do only need broad brush strokes.
Also, research doesn’t just mean boring old books.
There are history podcasts you can listen to while doing other things, and TV series are often better for a feel of historical fiction than actual history.
If you’re going to run , watching a few episodes of Sharpe will help you much more than reading accounts of the Peninsula War.
If you want to run , you’d do as well to play some Assassin’s Creed: Origins to get a feel for the city and its opportunities for adventure.
There are lots of historical RPGs out there – make sure you pick a game where the system supports the kind of play you want.
If you want to run a one-shot in the Dark Ages, then , , and  will all give very different play experiences, even with the same basic scenario.
There’s nothing to stop you, of course, using a generic system with a play style you enjoy, and adapting it – and there are some excellent historical setting books, the pick of which are the GURPS sourcebooks and Design Mechanism’s Mythic Earth series.
Dark Ages Savage Worlds, anyone.
, from John Harper and Sean Nittner, has recently been delivered in its second edition from a successful Kickstarter.
Its first edition was an excellent blend of storygaming sensibilities and hard-core gamism – it was explicitly competitive, and when I ran it at cons it was deliberately about who could amass the most Glory by the end of the session.
If you want to hear the game in action, there’s a series of Actual Plays  in which me and my fellow players tackle a series of its islands, ably provided with Strife by Gaz from.
By having everyone roll and compete, you introduce an interesting spotlight-sharing technique – it’s not just about how well you do, but whom is most impressive.
It’s a technique I’d like to try in other games (see my post on  for examples of others) – the competitive roll where you don’t just want to succeed, but also be the best.
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Continuing a series which began with , and continued with  (with a short interlude adapting ), here’s another 1st level one-shot for D&D5e.
This one is a bit grimmer and darker than the others, as befits the subject matter, and isn’t recommended for younger players like the previous two.
There’s zombies, blood-sucking, and egg-laying flying beasts with proboscis in this one.
Oh, and the plural of stirge is “stirge,” I’ve just decided.
Apologies to any adventurers who assume this means the tower only contains one of the beasties.
In terms of structure, this was heavily modelled on Johnn Four’s  model, which is a really good way to structure linear encounters for play (there’s probably a follow-up post on that.
If you want a map for the tower, Dyson Logos’  is ideal.
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If there’s one thing that is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it’s decent one-shots for D&D 5th edition.
There are hundreds of them out there on DMs Guild, but picking through them to find those with good quality and the style of play that I like is a challenge.
After I spent last summer , I’ve kept D&D as a regular source of one-shot fun, particularly for newcomers to the hobby (read the posts linked above for my reasoning why I think D&D is right for this).
So, there’s (this review is of Volume 1 – there are now three more volumes).
From it’s own product description, it’s a set of folklore-themed adventures that “subvert tropes around female mythological creatures.” If that sounds a bit complex, in layman’s terms each adventure is focused around a female creature of myth, and does interesting stuff with them.
Because of this, though, it helps when you run it to try and embed the PCs into the adventure and setting a bit deeper – I’ve used  when I’ve run them to make sure the PCs feel like they have a shared past.
It’s also a good opportunity to share out some of the fleshing out of the stuff that isn’t always in the adventures – in case they encounter some town guards, the PC who used to be in them can describe how the guards work in this city.
There’s also quite a few bits where skills are tested and investigations take place.
This is an opportunity, if you’re inclined, to try out one of the skill challenge systems  – how they are presented in each adventure varies.
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