One Shot RPG advice please


I’m looking to run/ organise a one shot RPG over zoom for about 4-5 players.

I’m very inexperienced (my only RPG gaming has been on here). I’ve got an experienced D&D player who has DM’d, a couple with similar to me - we’re all happy to dabble in D&D/ fantasy. The final player would rather not D&D - he’s run Fiasco online. We’re all experienced gamers and used to chatting online

Any tips on for a fun system we can play? I’m happy to DM, but I know stuff like Fiasco is DM less. The only theme I’d definitely avoid is Horror.


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If you are “very inexperienced”, I’d choose a system that you know at least fairly well, be that as a player or GM. There are so many themes or lighter rulesets to use these days, but as the GM it helps your confidence and control the more you know the system. Fun is not necessarily dependant on the ruleset, but finding a theme you can all enjoy may be more rewarding.


I think there are two broad groups of RPGs these days - “heavy” and “light”. The “light” ones are often single-pagers or similar, basically designed for just one scenario, minimal setup time, straight into the action. “Heavy” can support longer games but have more complexity. (Note that I’d include FATE and such like as “heavy” games in this division.)

If there’s a light game that suits your group that might be the way to go.

Any particular themes you like? Genres?

I don’t think there’s a genre that would grab us all.

I think not generic fantasy. I really have no idea what is out there

I find that I don‘t do well with the too light systems. I need a bit more structure and so do most of the people I have played with in the past. However, among the heavy systems there are certainly still those with lots and lots of rules and those whose basic ruleset can be grasped by reading through a few chapters once. Just my 2c on the topic of rules. But then I also enjoy then not using those rules and just freeforming most of the time.

I am also a fan of RPGs that bring their own setting to which the system is adapted. If you have an idea of a setting you would like to use that may just decide for you.

What kind of story do you want to tell? What do you want your players doing? Puzzle solving? Involved combat? Magic? Lots of group interaction? Exploration?

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Mothership might be your bag. Super simple.

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I know that as a one off, our group greatly enjoyed ‘Definitely Wizards’, very light but fun for what it was and only a session or two.


In case it’s of any interest as an idea, my regular GM recently devised a played-via-Zoom one-shot after one of our group had needed to bail on a session, and ran it as a real-time puzzle.

It was a sci-fi setting, and we awoke on a space ship which turned out to be approaching too closely to a planet, and destined to reach the point of no return in two hours, dooming everyone. We had exactly that much real time to figure out who we were, what was going on, and how to avoid that fate.

Our GM sent various documents to us which we weren’t allowed to look at unless instructed, but if certain things happened these would provide new information. For example after waking from cryo-sleep, our memories came back after a pre-determined duration, at which point we were told to read a particular document to learn who we were. Finding an information terminal allowed us to see schematics of the ship. Etc, etc…

Time-consuming actions were deemed to take some appropriate N minutes, and the GM would simply attend to other players for that amount of time, while someone was so occupied. 4-5 people might be a lot to manage in real-time, though.

Our session went about as perfectly as possible, as we succeeded in the literal final minute of game time!


The waking form cryo sleep session Opener is always great.


Stone the Crows is a one-page Guy Ritchie movie about a bunch of birds that need to steal the Crown Jewels.


It occurs to me that a game based on some of the themes from Total Recall would be great.


One thing you definitely want for a one-shot is to have characters ready-generated for the players to run. A few more characters than you have players is a good idea; players can be very whimsical in their choices.


Very much agreed - or a system so simple that the players can say “I’ll be the strong one”, “I’ll be the sneaky one”, etc., as part of the setup.


For space/sci-fi games, the d6 Star Wars RPG had great openings for their scenarios, often starting “en media res” straight into a combat or chase scene and taking the story from there. Great and pretty light system too.


Absolutely double agree with this. Spending time on character creation is fine for experienced players and long-running campaigns. For a one-shot definitely find a way around it.

Also from my recent experience: if you want to spend time on it do it as a group. The players should have some kind of group cohesion (which could well be they hate each other but because they are triplets they stick together anyhow). If left to their own devices, they will each come up with their own unique character that will make a great protagonist… but in an RPG there is no single protagonist. The group is the protagonist and players (and GMs) often do not realize that.

My recent attempt at running an episodic—I don‘t remember what system—RPG „campaign“ suffered much from me letting them choose their group concept and they said they wanted to be „a gang“ and then proceeded to each be „loosely associated“ with said gang only because they had each made up their mind on which type of character they wanted to play before the group came together to talk about it. That did not go all that well.

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Star Wars would certainly appeal to me.

I’m aware I’m not being very helpful, I’ve asked for advice without thinking through what I want!

Although I said no horror, Mothership does sound pretty good.

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I find movies make pretty great templates for one shots. First they provide you with world-building, second you can steal the plot or modify it or continue an existing story beyond what is in the movie or one of its subplots and third they give us an idea what kind of system might be suited to that setting.

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Two things.

Mothership doesn’t have to be horror. The example used above about a puzzle room/ Poseidon adventure style ship would work just as well.

Secondly you can use secondary messaging apps (WhatsApp etc) to relay secret information in real time. Much easier online than taking people out of the room to whisper


We always have a „spymaster“ backchannel when we play Codenames online—it really enhances the game.