View Full Version : Single session campaign. I need ideas.

Jan Mattys
2011-04-13, 11:20 AM
Important things first: Garaygos, get the hell out of here. Like, NOW.

I have been asked to DM a one-shot. The game system is pretty irrelevant, I am looking for neat ideas and plot suggestions. Really, give me something cool and I'll find a way to use it. I need your imagination, playgrounders!

What I have now:

- Setting: generic fantasy setting. It's not really important. It's a one shot, the world will start and die with it.

- The Main idea: I have always played (and DMed) good or mostly-good groups. I want to do something different. I want my villains to be the good guys. Sort of fascist group of Paladins. I took the idea from the slaughter of Redcloak's tribe by the Sapphire Guard.

- The PCs: I don't want my PCs to be evil. I really feel uncomfortable with PC-to-PC backstabbing and the likes. I want my players to be rejects who find the strenght to fight the bad (good) guys, though.

- The (VERY BROAD) prelude of my campaign: there's an Order of Paladins and Clerics who have taken over. They have managed to build a solid government, where the streets are clean and secure. But they did so at the expense of chaos, which means they ruthlessly chased, imprisoned or killed all the dangerous magic users, all the freethinkers, all the bards, all the charming rogues that made life in the previous years a lovable mess. The Order of Paladins advertises the city state as heaven on earth, because they quite efficiently purged the land of plagues, famine, and crime. The Order also created a new religion of state and suppressed the myriad cults in favour of a single cult, the one of the Order. The main change is that the Church of the Order doesn't ask you to believe. It asks you to Obey.

- The (VERY BROAD) main plot: the PCs are either quite powerful remnants of the last vestiges of freedom left in the land (think a once-famous wizard in disguise, or the Head of the Thieves Guild gone into hiding) who find themselves backs to the wall, or even actualy the Avatars of Gods, who got pissed off at such a deprecable act of arrogant Lawfulgoodness that shows no sign of compassion. Anyway, the session starts with the PCs arrested and brought in. They need to work together to escape, but where to go? They will not back down

- The (VERY BROAD) conclusion: Turns out that the Head of the Order is actually a VERY misguided good guy, while his close advisors are not. They are planning on syphoning every bit of Magic, life, creativeness, belief and imagination in order to create a sort of "Null Religion Zone" where no Belief exists. They will then perform a ritual that will separate forever the prime material from the Gods, killing them instantly.

- My (VERY BROAD) idea of the last battle: in case I opt for the "they are Avatars" version, I will slowly reveal the powers of each character every time they do something associated with their portfolio. Of course, the players will remember nothing of their past at first, but they nonetheless register as EXTREMELY dangerous for the Order, even if they don't understand why. Their almost complete "null religion zone" will be royally altered the very moment six avatars of real Gods pop up, that's for sure. In the end, it will be a battle between the Best of the Order and the Avatars finally awaken, with the potential of every single Avatar (now fully aware of who they are) to advance their personal agenda at the expense of the other buddies (crushing the Order still a priority, though).

So, questions time:
- How can I make a prison break memorable? (I want them in prison at first to enhance the feeling of a fascist kingdom with knights in shining armor who are also totally lacking compassion, and a cell is a very good place to put a party of PCs together)
- How can I turn 6 prisoners escaping into a team of six people trying to fight back?
- How can I make my players care while still not revealing who they are at first?
- What could be a source of power for the Order that will be both interested in their plan and powerful enough to give them full BBEG status in the final battle? A seventh God gone rogue from the pantheon? An eldritch abomination ready to take over this world from Gods who were not there, because "I was here first, time to get back what is MINE"?

Throw ideas! Scenes, plots, subplots, mechanics... everything!

Oh, and: "your idea sucks" comments will also be appreciated... especially so if you care to elaborate a bit on the whys :smallwink:

2011-04-13, 05:50 PM
It's going to be really hard to have any signifigant sub-plots whatsoever if you're going to try and get through a significant adventure in a single session. Also, frankly, other things that I would not like to see in a longer campaign (such as dependable information, NPCs who are actually helpful, rails) are somewhat necessary if you want to tell any significant story in a single session.

on the plus side this means that if you want to have a story that largely depends on someone who seems helpful leading the party into a trap, a one long session game is ideal because if rails are actually helpful, than you might as well use one of the more interesting on rails plot structures. Also this gives you the helpful practical point of having a large fight planned for mid-session, which you can take a decent break after which. also if you do this it sets up the chance for just a little sandboxing (which can happen during this break) as the players figure out how to get their attackers back. so yeah, couple ideas in there, sorry it's a vague ramble.

2011-04-13, 06:05 PM
Ever seen Cube (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0123755/)?

2011-04-13, 06:22 PM
How long of a session?

I ran a short (Six hours of actual play spread over 4 nights) 1930s pulp scifi/theosophy/nazi robots serial campaign. Serial like the old Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon serials. 8 reels, 2 per very short session. At break time and at the end of the session I killed every one of the players in a giant explosion or surrounded them with a swarm of robots or whatever. When we started up again there was a new camera angle showing how everyone lived.

I used Over the Edge rules, but any rules light system works, especially one that actively rewards coolness and penalizes boring, repetetive actions from the players.

Eventually (last two reels) they got a rocket and ran into some Thule cultists poking around an Atlantean temple on the moon, got into a rolling tank battle, and managed to kick the Nazis out of the moon base where they were building a death ray. The game had art deco robots and everything.

It's silly enough for a short term game, but still has a lot of possibilities and roller captions of that style are fun to write. I have a sequel I need to run that has more Hollow Earth, more Lemurians, and even more Nazis to punch in the face.

It's a genre that uses very broad, black and white morality and plots. Subtlety is wasted on it. The bad guys are cackling, monologueing crazyheads. The good guys are plucky and give lollipops to kids and have plot armor a mile thick until the end of the reel. The players have to get into the spirit of things and just throw caution to the wind and do something. Careful planning only wastes time. Outrageous, needlessly complicated off-the-cuff ideas are always better than caution. Do, don't think.