Today I ran One-Shot World! (It's free!)
One-Shot World is a lightweight Dungeon World hack, stripped down for one shots and short campaigns.
Myself and four players sat down to play. Three of them were new to PbtA style games. This was planned to be a 4 hour one-shot game.
I tend to be overly analytical about games, and want to talk about their mechanics and philosophy more than most want to hear. The night before I'd written myself a reminder not to be teach-y or lecture-y, and to just run the game. It was good advice. I just handed out the sheets and told folks to eyeball them and pick one they wanted to play, pointing out the helpful part on the "Who Are You?" side of the playbook sheet. After a minute or two, folks settled on which they wanted to play. We had a Paladin, a Wizard, a Ranger and a Druid.
I asked them to go ahead and make their way through the playbook, since its pretty self-explanatory and an easy to follow process. While they did so, I started to hit them with questions about themselves and the world. I asked each about their income and starting coin, and then talked a little about bonds with their fellow party-members.
This worked really well and fluidly. I was a little worried my non-PbtA players might have some hesitation about this sort of narrative and shared world-building, but everyone jumped right in. I handed a blank piece of paper to the Ranger, who dutifully started working on a map of the region.
We went around the table with the players talking briefly about their background selection, and then bounced around a little, talking about the world-building and bonds bits.
When everyone seemed pretty satisfied with those parts, and there were no questions about playbooks or options, we talked about where we wanted the adventure to start. I kicked the talk off by going back through some of the threats and places that had been established in the world-building. Some of them seemed to tie together, and so with some player feedback we settled on what they were after and then were able to establish were they were -- in a tight spot.
In the party's case, they were moving to investigate orcish incursions from the mountains to the north, through a forest that they knew was home to a hostile and aggressive wolf pack. They found that there were hundreds of orcs camped in the hills, and began to retreat, but an orcish scout party tailed them. They were also being tracked by the hostile wolf pack, and so found themselves backed up against a Niagra-like waterfall (established earlier in the fiction by the Druid). The orc scouts approached from the north, a few wolves from the east, and the waterfall blocked them from the west and south. I offered that they could perilously cross the falls, but after some extensive discussion wanted to put some distance between them and the wolves, and try to flank or ambush the orc scouts.
A dice roll later they ran headlong into the orcish scouts and took a volley of arrow fire, and everyone jumped into the fray. A flanking orc tackled the Ranger as he was about to put an arrow into one of their attackers, and an orcish berzerker charged them. The druid shape-shifted into a bear, but not before the Ranger and an orc rolled into the fast stream that they characters had just waded through. The Paladin advanced, shield out in front, and worked to defend the Wizard from the accurate fire from the archers. For a moment, the battle seemed precarious, and the party's morale wavered, as another flanker took the Wizard and Paladin from behind, but the Wizard dispatched it with a well timed Magic Missile. The Ranger managed to extricate himself from the hand-to-hand fight being waged in the stream. The orcish berzerker was felled by a combination of an arrow from the Ranger and a sword thrust from the Paladin. The Druid - having shifted into a bear, helped catch the fleeing orcs. Only one survived, and once they'd captured that orc, the Paladin was able to question it regarding the orcish forces. It revealed that the full might of the orcish tribes was descending on these lands, coming down from the lands beyond the northern mountains. There was some table discussion about whether the orcs were purely after the pillaging of the human settlements, and whether or not they'd disturb the forest and wildlife in the region. It was soon agreed that if the orcs were over-harvesting all resources like those from Lord of the Rings, that it provided more pull for the Ranger and Druid, who didn't care much for the human civilizations, but would certainly care if they planned to cut down the entire forest. The Paladin released the sole surviving orc, being unwilling to slay a helpless opponent.
We took a short break and then settled back in and discussed their plan. The party wanted to alert the nearby settlement about the impending orcish threat. Being some distance away, the Druid decided to shape-shift and carry a letter to the Paladin's order to alert them, planning to immediately rejoin the party. The Druid found that the Paladin's order had fallen into some trouble with the forces of a distant king claiming ownership over the area, and the king's forces were drawn up around the Paladin's headquarters, ready for a siege. The Druid came into the king's camp and intended to convince them to set aside this conflict and to join forces to face the looming orcish threat. A failed dice roll later, the king's envoy flatly rejected the Druid's testimony and council, and attempted to seize the Druid, but the Druid escaped to the Paladin's order HQ. There, he informed them of the orcish threat, and gave them a number of details about the king's forces, which he felt would enable them to drive sally and drive the king's forces away.
Rejoining the party, the party moved to a regional landmark (established earlier), a powerful wizard's tower that no one had been able to gain entry to. The Ranger knew that a part of the tower had collapsed, but was unwilling for a time to reveal this to the Wizard. The Ranger had heard that there were likely Magic Items within the collapsed section of tower. Hoping to use these items either directly against the orcish hoard, or as collateral for convincing the nobility to summon armies, they decided to go and face the much-feared Clay Golem that was known to guard the fallen section of tower.
The Wizard did some Spouting of Lore, and with a great dice roll, he knew that Golems are powered by a magical sigil or rune, and that if he could counter act the magical sigil, he could deactivate the Golem.
With only about 30 minutes of our allocated time remaining, I told the players that I was going to jump us right into the head-to-head encounter with the Golem, without any of the lead-up. I pushed the encounter really hard, and started it in media res right in the middle of the fight. The Wizard was at half of his hit points, and I had the others take a dice of damage. When we opened the scene, the Wizard was flipping through his spellbook, looking for his Dispell to shut down the Golem, totally oblivious to the Golem standing over him, about to crush the life from him with its huge fists.
The Paladin lept to the Wizards defense, blocking the Golem's crushing blow, but it raised its fists again, determined to crush the Wizard before he could bring his spell to bear. This time the Druid jumped in, but took the full force of the Golem's brutal attack, seriously injuring the Druid.
It was at this point that the Wizard located the spell, and cast it. There was a brief moment after the spell was cast, where everyone watched the Golem's glowing sigil, and then it flickered and went dark, and the Golem went still.
With the guardian defeated, the party searched the fallen tower, finding a number of magical items, which they hoped would both arm them, and enable them to enlist assistance against the upcoming orcish threat.
That was it!
Everyone seemed to have a great time. The players who were new to PbtA stuff seemed to have no trouble jumping into the world-building and narration. I encouraged and received feedback from the players about consequences, action rolls, and so forth. Only once did we have a case of a rules-type question come up and not have a solid answer. Even in that case, we used the closest rule and rolled with it, and it was no big deal (basically used Parlay despite that we didn't have leverage - it was more of a persuasion roll, maybe could've used Defy Danger or Discern Realities)
I've run Dungeon World once before, rather briefly, and because I was new to PbtA at the time, it did not run quite as well then as One-Shot World did now. With that said, my comparison between Dungeon World and One-Shot World is simply that OSW is a very streamlined and rather simplified Dungeon World. As advertised, it is perfect for one shots and I'd bet even better for short campaigns. After running our 4 hour one-shot today, I find myself wondering whether we could get together and finish the story arc.
I am eager to run this for some young adults and grown ups who haven't played any RPGs before, and if I'm feeling froggy, try to run it at my local con.
Thanks to Yochai Gal for making this!