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So You Wanna Run A One Shot Game?
Idea One: Midnight Madness
One of the greatest one-shot gaming sessions I’ve ever Gamemastered was based on a movie called Midnight Madness (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081159/). It was a huge scavenger hunt planned for a group of college students, wherein clues were given to certain locations where they would find more clues to other locations, and so on. It was considered a bad film, but it took on a life of its own with colleges and other groups actually having live “Great All-Nighters,” as the scavenger hunt was called in the movie.
First, I decided that the locations would be city-wide. If I were running it in another genre, I might have made the area much larger (can you imagine a Midnight Madness in something like Star Wars or Star Trek?). I wanted normal human characters, which Cyberpunk 2020 provided. I selected ten locations, designated one to be the finish line, and began composing the riddles and clues.
After that, all bets were off.
The players raced each other to each location. Clues were actually destroyed, property damage was extensive, fierce battles took place – in short, epic stuff happened. Everyone had a great time, especially me. The eight-plus hours flew right by.
Idea Two: Pizza Delivery
In the spirit of Midnight Madness, I created another one-shot Cyberpunk 2020 game I called “Pizza Delivery.” Rival pizza delivery companies fought each other to deliver pizzas throughout the Manhattan of 2020. It was a bloody, crazy, hilarious game not dissimilar to Midnight Madness. An ongoing joke began about Kerry Eurodyne, a stoned rockerboy who (unfortunately for him) ordered a pizza. I gave him the voice of Bobcat Goldthwait, just to make him particularly annoying. Player characters rode motorcycles through the subways. The rival pizza company hired ninja to deliver their pizzas and to intercept any other deliveries. Characters stole pizzas from other deliverers and made the cash themselves. Street gangs tried to rob them. The police tried to catch them. “One hour or less – guaranteed.”
The greatest thing was nothing was ever planned. There was a goal, and all I had to do was toss in the conflicts and react to what the player characters did. While Midnight Madness became sort of my crowning moment as a GM, Pizza Delivery became a group favorite.
So, if you want a one-shot run-off game here are two ideas that worked for me. They can be adapted for any genre (I can imagine a great Pathfinder version of Midnight Madness, and a super-heroic version of Pizza Delivery!) and take little setup. Try them and let me know what happens!