Double Barrel Shots

We have “one-shots” in the shared gaming lexicon. A “one-shot” is an adventure completed in a single sitting. Gaming conventions often feature one-shots as the group you’re playing with will never see each other again. Some groups use one-shots to try out new systems or as a filler game when not everyone can make it to the regular game. You could even have a one-shot that is tied to a regular campaign, but takes place elsewhere in the world.

One-shots are tight, fire-and-forget, single-sitting adventure sessions.

If a campaign is a TV show, than a one-shot is a movie. And I like movies.

I get apprehensive about watching a new TV show. Especially if it has five or six full seasons. Do I have to watch the WHOLE show to get the idea? Does it only get good around the third or fourth season? Do I have to convince myself that the heroes MAY be in danger, even though I know that there’s a lot of show left to watch?

But with a movie (see also, “one-shot”), a simple question is answered and then the movie is over: “can our heroes _____?” Yes? Comedy. No? Tragedy. Done and done. People can die and the stakes can be close and personal. You can imply the world’s setting and characters and drama and walk away from it all in an instant. Low expectations.

It’s hard, for both players and GMs to commit to full-fledged campaigns. Couple that with the fact that there are SO many good games to try, ready to be used. I for one quite like the taste of those mean and lean games that take one or a couple of sessions. They’re just enough to feel complete, but maybe with a few strings hanging just to keep everyone curious about details of what happens beyond the scope of the game.

One-shots are great!

BUT

HOWEVER

There’s a problem… For the GM side…

It takes too much prep time.

As per usual.

The ratio of prep to play time for a one-shot sucks. For the GM, it’s not worth it to have X hours of content ready if it takes you 3x or 4x the time in preparation (if you’re lucky). Then, when the actual session comes around, you have to rush everyone through explaining the rules or making characters (I understand you can use pre-gens, but they always seem so impersonal to me, I mean, come on) AND then run the session.

So, that leads us to “double barrel shot.” A double barrel attack rather than a single shot.

Take the one-shot and turn it into two. The first session is collaborating and making characters. The second session is explaining the rules and playing the game.

(If you’re familiar with a session zero, it’s that, PLUS another session for the actual game)

As you can see, it does NOT work for a convention game. Unless you can meet beforehand (on a forum, group chat, video chat, whatever), you’re going to have to meet twice.

So what’s the purpose of the first session? It’s the one where you conspire with everyone at the table. You ask questions. So many questions. You answer questions about the scenario in unclear terms. You ask more questions. Players will really tell you a lot, if you really listen, about what kind of game they want to play. Notice I didn’t say “story they want to tell.” They give you the tools and elements they would like to see in the game. You’re not bound to use it all. It’s not an obligation for you, more like a free carrot you can use (or bone if you’re so inclined).

So that’s it.

It’ll make getting through a stack of RPGs I have yet to play a bit more manageable…

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