Let's Draft a One Shot
So one of the things I pride myself on is my ability to guess a plot or outcome of a show or movie. It’s a weird flex but I’m usually right about who the killer is in detective procedurals and I’ve seen many a so called plot twist coming from a mile away. A lot of it has to do with seeing the same tropes over and over again, and eventually you learn how to apply the tropes in other situations. Once you see how all the bricks that make the building connect, there’s nothing stopping you from making your own building in the exact same way.
Let me show you what I mean. You can start with a random idea or set of them and then use common tropes like legos to help craft a decent narrative. Once you’ve got that narrative, you can use it to write a story or put together a one shot adventure. For funsies, we’re gonna put a one shot together and you are more than welcome to use it the next time you’re in a jam as DM.
So before anything else we need to figure out who or what the villain is. This is the equivalent of showing the audience the murder first thing. (I’m still learning how to format images on this blog properly, so for the time being you’ll have to keep referring to the images in the gallery, sorry!)
That first die looks ominous enough to be the bad guy. So the villain is either a shadow demon, a ghost of some sort, or to make things a bit more interesting (and because the image looks young to me) it’s a demon possessed child. Let’s go with the last one. It’s got the recipe for a moral quandry later down the road. The host is innocent, the demon is not. Will they be willing to kill the child to destroy the demon?! I ono, I just work here. But if they do kill the child, make sure the kid has some dying words so they know exactly what the cost of victory was. Moving on!
Alright now what does the villain want? Easy.
To tip the scales. Doesn’t matter what that means just yet, but we can assume it means he needs to acquire power because that’s what all villains are after. Now because this is a fantasy plot and the die landed on it so it was dropped in our lap so we might as well use it, Big Bad Evil Guy (BBEG for short) will have an opportunity to tip the scales once a particular comet shows up. Until then he’s got to prep for it.
Now the next one is obviously meant to be the world, but it also looks like microbes on a slide to me, so let’s mash those two together and say he needs to infect as many people as possible with a demonic contagion. No, we’re not sure how the contagion works or how it affects people yet, stop trying to make things difficult. That said we can safely assume the comet amplifies the effects of the contagion and or actually triggers it. We can also incorporate the random body part and say that the contagion affects the chest. Lots of ways to do that. (chest burster, tony stark palladium posioning, coughing up black ectoplasm, etc) Groovy.
Now what do we got left?
Oof. That’s still alot of dice. Okay, someone sleeping and a keyhole… The party wakes up to the sound of a snoring guard. They’re in a prison cell, the guy snoring has a ring of keys hanging loosely off his belt, and because this is a fantasy setting and we can get away with such contrivances our heroes have no recollection of how they got here.
There’s no right way to break out, dont stress about DC checks or passive perception, let the players figure that shit out on their own. Okay, there’s a sheep. Or rather, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In an adjacent cell is our BBEG, little Timmy, or Tammy if you really wanna play up the poor child thing. Why is she in a cell? Why cant she get out? Plot! That’s why. Maybe the bars are made of cold iron so she can’t touch them, or maybe there are hidden runes preventing them leaving, doesn’t matter. The people keeping the BBEG locked up know what he is, and don’t want him escaping. Our heroes only see a small child so they’re going to help the kid escape.
Who has the kind of resources to lock up a demon as well as a bunch of rowdy adventurers? The local regent. Could be the baron, the lord, the constable, whatever. The person in charge of the area, who also happens to have a dungeon underneath their home. The players have to navigate a short dungeon crawl and try to stealth their way out of the regent’s home. Timmy can be especially whiny or surprisingly helpful along the way. I’d opt for making him likeable so the betrayal hurts that much more later on.
What’s next? Looks like a document or ID card of some sort. Let’s transform that into paperwork aka journal entries. We can have the heroes come across a fancy looking journal or logbook that they can sell for a good amount while they’re trying to escape. The journal will have some information on the identity of prisoners held in the dungeon. There will be an entire entry on Timmy, including an excellent sketch of the little monster inside this journal. I’ll leave it to you to decide when and if the party finds that entry. Because this is fantasy you can always say that a single page falls out at any given point and it just so happens to be said entry. Once the info is revealed though, you’ve got a boss fight on your hands.
Finally, we’ve got water under the bridge. Aka a water supply. Perfect, Timmy wants to contaminate the area’s water supply. So, before escaping or just after escaping, Timmy will mention being thirsty or perhaps even mentioning a place where wishes come true. Either way, he’s heading for the local well. At this point, it’s up to you whether or not he makes it there. You can end the one shot with a boss fight, where the heroes discover Timmy’s treachery or make their escape complete and leave thins open for small campaign. One where Timmy tags along and quietly spreading his contagion everywhere the party goes. Just to bring some things full circle, once Timmy does go into boss mode, let’s tie the chest back into it. Say he chest bursts from the kid form, or he’s got a giant mouth where his chest should be, The Thing style. Timmy could escape if you want a recurring villain, or he could die if you want to wrap things up. You could also tie this into an amnesia style game, one where the players slowly learn their stats and characteristics as the game goes on and they gradually fill in their character sheets.
The subtle twist at the end could be that they all got arrested for a bar fight and Timmy is the one who erased their memories so that they would help him escape. Voi-fucking-la. You have a first draft of a one shot. If you’re quick enough on your feet, that’s all you really need. If you’re not, you’ll want to go in and add all the little details. the shape of the dungeon, stats, etc.
Let me know what you think.