[RPG] How to fit Shadowrun into a one-shot


I want to run a shadowrun game, but alas, I don't think my players or I have the time or the commitment to have an on-going campaign.

So, a one-shot it is. Or a series of one-shots interspersed throughout the year. But Shadowrun isn't a good system for one-shots. So much of the established flow of the game is getting jobs, dickering over price, investigating both the target and the client, and working above the mission. There's an expected style of play. One-shots plant you in a predefined role squarely in the box that Shadowrun expects you to shoot your way out of.

So, for any generic one-shot:

  • Starting level and skills to match the session, rather than a session to match the player's level.

  • Pre-made characters help a lot. Most people aren't going to spend hours making a character that will live less than hours. And then there's that one guy who looks up a build or can powergame in his sleep and comes in with a death-god.

  • Goals need to be stated. Since they're really not going to be in it for character growth, you have to explicitly tell them why they're here and what constitutes a "win".
  • There has to be a very definitive END. There is no wrapping up next week, no cliffhangers, nothing. The universe effectively ends when people go home. So plan for conflict resolution and some post-action wrap-up eplilog at the end of the night to let the players know how well they did.
  • And it has to be brutally short. No epics. No twisting plot curveballs (which I'm probably too fond of in Shadowrun). Indeed the plot can be all of "someone pulls a gun on you while you're picking up pizza".

All that's basic one-shot requirements. I'm having some trouble with how to stuff the Shadowrun experience into one night.

Best Answer

I run one-shot Shadowrun missions at conventions. A couple of things I can offer:

  • Use pre-generated characters. If certain characters are critical for mission success, make sure they get played, or NPC'd. Some missions are more flexible than others.
  • Keep the mission simple. It can have a big plot twist, or a dark, oppressive tone, but it shouldn't involve a lengthy, multi-stage investigation or setup. Figure out ahead of time how the players will (most likely) try to beat the adventure, using the clues you give them. Use the "Five-room dungeon" model as a guideline.
  • Impose an in-game time limit on the characters, and put pressure on them periodically to get the job done. This is a big one. Remind them every so often that time is moving forward, as they go about planning and doing legwork.
  • Keep the game moving. Players will spend the first three hours of a four hour session preparing for the meet with Mr. Johnson, if you let them. Railroad them over the boring parts, and say, "You're there." instead of asking where they want to be. Let them have more freedom when they get to the interesting parts.
  • Make sure everybody at the table gets a turn, not just the loud ones. Shifting the spotlight from player to player also helps to keep the game moving.
  • Watch your time. Gloss over things, and make the run a little easier, if you're running behind.
  • Make sure combat runs smoothly. I find that using index cards for initiative is a big help. When there's combat involving only some of the party members, keep them short, and try to give non-combatants the spotlight, too, between rounds.
  • If you need to save time, gloss over complicated procedures (particularly hacking) with a single skill roll, or teamwork test.
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