Tomorrow is going to be the second session of the game that my friends and I have begun to refer to as "Cal & D." It all started back at Christmas time when our friend asked if we'd be interested in playing a "one-shot." That's always an interesting question because over the past few years, we've come to learn that "one-shot" really means one of two things:
1) An all-day game during which we drink beer, followed by wine, eat some really tasty food, chat about our lives, families, and work, and then get down to the business of playing through a published adventure, but never come close to finishing because we spent so much time drinking, talking, and eating. In this scenario, we never revisit the adventure. I like to call this a "half-shot" although really it would more properly be called a "one-twelfth shot" or so, that's that's usually how far we get.
2) An all-day game during which we drink beer, followed by wine, eat some really tasty food, chat about our lives, families, and work, and then get down to business of playing through a published adventure, but never come close to finishing because we spent so much time drinking, talking, and eating. Then we promise to get together "one more time" to "finish" the adventure, but that stretches into a third, fourth, and even fifth session as we try to focus on playing versus just hanging out. My friend Cal has dubbed this the "72-shot."
Both are, obviously, a lot of fun. I really like the idea of the one-shot (or whatever you want to call it) because it's very freeing, as both a DM and as a player. As a DM, you don't have to worry as much about big huge campaign arcs or being prepared to develop large sections of a campaign world, because the entire gaming experience is based on just that one adventure. As a player, it's often a chance to play a character type that you'd like to try for just a few sessions but not one that you'd like to commit to in a long term campaign. And for both, it's just a chance to have some fun and do things differently than you might in a more "serious" campaign.
That's one of the things that I like about Cal & D. Cal is doing a sort of mash-up of systems, combining elements of Pathfinder (with Trailblazer), D&D 4th Edition, and Savage Worlds. As a DM, I pretty much stick to Pathfinder (although I am also running a 1st Edition AD&D one-shot), so it's fun to get exposed to some of the rules of these other systems, particularly Savage Worlds with which I am completely unfamiliar.
Another thing that's fun is that Cal is kind of modifying the rules as we go along to find out what works best. After the last session, he sent an email out to the players asking us what worked and what didn't and for our suggestions. What followed was a three week long email GeekFest discussing what we loved and hated about all of the systems we've played over the years. We even got into discussing some really dark stuff like Rolemaster, and (shudder) the hand-to-hand combat system from Top Secret. It was a ton of fun.
I highly recommend playing some one-shots now and then. They're great for getting that "gaming spark" back, and you might just discover a new system or at least a few new rules that you want to adopt for your main game.
What kinds of experiences have you had playing one-shots over the years?