How I run one shot campaigns

Miyamoto Musashi, author of the Book of Five
Rings and purveyor of authentic Far Eastern whoop-ass
I recently had the distinct pleasure of running a wonderful Shadowrun solo-session one-shot with my gaming friend of many years, and I think I might have learned something from it!

The PC was playing a Troll Street Samurai by the name of Ron. He had the illustrative moniker "Ghengis Ron", since his presence was easily felt by the various gangs of the Redmond Barrens. He was a brute, yes, but a bit of a philosopher: after his hard and fast education on the street, he decided that "I could either become a thug like all the others, or I could become something more". He chose to read the writings of Miyamoto Musashi (the Book of Five Rings), Lao-Tsi (author of the Tao Te Ching, the most influential text for Taoists) and others, becoming a street samurai in body and mind.

My friend played a troll tank that made time for
tea and philosophy in between killing sprees.
Pic by http://perun-tworek.deviantart.com/

It was a simple, slightly sexist plot I am ashamed to admit: A young daughter of a wealthy Yakuza lieutenant retained Ron to fight in her aging Adept father's stead in a duel with a rival, cyber inclined Yakuza boss. The old Adept, in stereotypical fashion, admonished his daughter for trying to save him and tried to beat Ron in a duel to prove that he still had the edge: he didn't. My clever player had his character showed up late to the duel and slightly disheveled, just like one of his mentors did. Much hong-kong style ass-whooping commenced, and the game was wrapped up only four hours after saying the intro.

In my mind, this game was great mostly because it finished, and it did exactly what we intended. I had only 4 hours to game with my friend, and we mostly likely would be incommunicado for at least a few weeks.

Several reasons why I think this game went well:

1. Great Focus: My and my friend both knew the situation: we had little time to game and a great opportunity to have fun doing it. So we dove right in and kept the eye on the ball
2. Simple Plot: On my end, I used a reliable, if cliche-filled plot: a duel of honor against a black hat villan. On my player's end, he kept his character's goal simple: do the job, make the nuyen.
3. Experience: We had been gaming since I started gaming, so we knew each other's ticks and habits.
4. No dice. Since it was a 4 hour game, we just dropped the dice and acted it out, letting the story purely be our guide.

I would recommend anyone who wants to run a good one-shot: with one person or many, to try build their game with the first two points in mind: if you can communicate how the story is supposed to go without giving it away and make the plot simple and limber, then most likely your players will be able to run through the plot painlessly, and hopefully will have some fun doing it.

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