The premise for this ONE-SHOT SCENARIO (henceforth to be referenced as THE GREATEST ONE-SHOT RPG SESSION OF ALL TIME) is that you guys are from another campaign that went on for a couple of years. You were in this epic adventure to find THE MOST KICKASS ARTIFACT IN THE HISTORY OF D&D and were just on the cusp of winning it when your arch nemesis cast THE SPELL OF FORLORN ENCYSTMENT on you and you all kicked over the table in despair, quit D&D forever, and started chasing girls instead.
Many years have passed and you have reunited to smoke cigars, drink expensive whiskey, and regale each other with tales of your exploits. You are all experts on weightlifting, pickup artistry, and outdoor adventure. But on a lark, you have decided to play just one last session of AD&D for old times sake! Eons have passed in the campaign world. THE GREATEST ONE-SHOT RPG SESSION OF ALL TIME will begin with you all having THE SPELL OF FORLORN ENCYSTMENT dispelled. You will be on the doorstep of an ancient crypt that contains THE MOST KICKASS ARTIFACT IN THE HISTORY OF D&D. (Each of you will have a key that can unlock this temple, but you all have to do it simultaneously like when people need to launch nuclear missiles. Man, I hope you guys decide to go inside!!!)
A note about method III character generation. Please note that this one is not ARRANGE TO SUIT. You will determine each attribute in order and not be able to swap them around.
Since you are starting at 60,000 XP I have made a list of magic items for you all. Here they are:
TJ: Wand of Wonder, Potion of Fire Resistance, Talisman of Zagy, Splint Mail +4, Shield +3
Rollo: Wand of Lightning, Philter of Love, Scroll of Protection vs. Possession, Sword +2 Nine Lives Stealer, Robe of Blending
Drew: Sword + 1 (+2 vs magic using & enchanted creatures), Philter of Love, Plate Mail +3, Wand of Wonder
Robert: Wand of Magic Detection, Sword +4, Pipes of the Sewers, Shield +1, Shield +1
Amos: Beaker of Plentiful Potions (Giant Strength, Extra Healing, ESP, Longevity), Scroll of Protection vs Possession, Potion of Human Control, Sword +1 (+3 vs lycanthropes & shapechangers), Sword +1
Vincent: Scroll w/ Knock Spell, Rod of Cancellation, Spear + 1, Scroll w/ Otto’s Irresistible Dance, Medallion of ESP
These magic items may in some cases be so awesome they influence your class choice. In some cases you may want to opt for, say, fighter/magic-user. In that case you would split the 60,000 XP between each class. In that one example, this would put you at level 5 in both.
IF YOU CAN PERSUADE ANOTHER PLAYER TO EXCHANGE MAGIC ITEMS WITH YOU, FEEL FREE TO DO SO.
Anyone that opts for a magic-user or illusionist character will have to figure out what is in your spell book. This will be a bit of a chore, but don’t worry– we’ll get through it! Note the details for starting spells at level one on page DMG 39. After that you may select one spell for each level you have beyond that, however you will have to roll your % Chance to Know to put it in your spell book. If you miss the roll, try another spell… BUT MAKE A NOTE OF THE FACT THAT YOU CANNOT LEARN THAT SPELL. Once you have those selected, I will provide you with three random spell scrolls. Any of those spells that you can cast may be copied to your spell book if you succeed at the Chance to Know % and do not exceed your Max Known rating for your intelligence. If you fail this roll, that particular spell is lost. (Note it will be possible to cast the higher-level spells from the scrolls with a chance for failure.)
Note that unlike the classic tournament modules, you will not be competing with other groups that are running through the exact same adventure module. Be forewarned that things may transpire such that one or more players may outplay the rest somehow and therefore become the winner of this scenario by virtue of their superior mastery of the AD&D game system. These cunning players will of course be well within their rights to gloat about their achievements.
Finally, this scenario will be taking place in my justifiably infamous Trollopulous campaign. I have contacted seven patron players from that game to help me create a realistic backdrop consisting of many notorious characters working at cross purposes with each other. This may not be a significant factor in the gameplay of THE GREATEST ONE-SHOT RPG SESSION OF ALL TIME, but the events of your game will of course have a tremendous impact on events in the broader world of the Trollopulous campaign going forward. Even if you are no longer involved in the game, you will hopefully get a few laughs when you read on Twitter in the months ahead about how your exploits have ruined various characters’ plans for world domination.
SUPER STOKED ABOUT THIS! CAN’T WAIT TO PLAY!!!!
Note: Not shown is the powers selected for the artifacts. For The Hand of Vecna it is noted, “Greed and covetousness reaction 25% to check; save vs. spell to resist.” This ended up not coming into play, but fortunately the players did not disappoint.
Note: the secret door to the artifact room was forgotten about until the players got to the treasure room. Had to add that in on the fly!
People ask, “why would you insist on incorporating a one-shot into an ongoing campaign.” Well, the 1st reason is BECAUSE I CAN. Nobody in a real campaign is locked into any kind of adventure or story. We add new parties to the game all the time. It’s easy! The other thing is, have you ever rolled up an NPC party in the dungeon and didn’t really know what to do with it? Well… if you have a group of friends that MAKES AN NPC PARTY FOR YOU, well… WHY WOULD YOU EVER THROW THAT AWAY?!
Have you ever been at a loss for how to stock a hex map with countless unique situations and scenarios? Well, take the party that just played your game and figure out where they go and what they do. They can then be in that area until someone encounters them! Oh, but if you put them in a hex, what if no one ever goes there? Well in a REAL CAMPAIGN, there is so much going on, TRUST ME, someone will go there eventually. Real campaigns solve pretty much ALL of the problems of conventional campaigns.
Conventional play throws away creative effort by encouraging people to run short-lived campaigns with little to no ongoing development. A REAL campaign will happily absorb everything you put into it. And gets better every time you play. Even if it’s a one-shot. People that make up characters that are serious about them and which you also get to see them actually play them– this is just so much better than anything you are going to make up yourself. These characters will not just be stats on a page, but REAL CHARACTERS. Anyone interacting with them later– even as NPC’s– will get so much more than what a random table could give you. So quit throwing all this great gaming material away! With 1:1 time it’s EASY to put your toys away after a session and then bring them out again even months later.
SO DO IT!
“Lots of great twists and turns.” — This was exactly my comment after the dust had finally settled. Notice we get all that just by (a) following the rules and (b) creating an unfair scenario. If you impose a plot on your game, you’re shortchanging yourself and your players.
The game outcome followed the rising and falling action of an intense adventure story even though everything was completely random and unscripted:
1) Half the party neutralized by Beholder. 2) Assassin and Fighter leverage ESP to spoil a surprise overbear attack by an Umber Hulk 3) Elf successfully uses nine-lives stealer on Beholder 4) Dragon burns Ranger and Elf, killing the Elf. 5) Elf resurrected with wish. 6) Loc-nar discovered by Assassin. 7) Assassin makes saving throw! 8) Artifacts discovered; party now working at cross-purposes! 9) Party in a no-win situation with no more wishes left. Elfs bail out! 10) Remaining party members just narrowly fail to pull off the decisive win.
There were at least two ways the party could have won at the end, but it would have required all of the players to pool their creativity to work it out and execute. Lack of cohesion on the part of the party is really one of the best challenges you can run. No game can match it!
I think you can see a big difference between the play of the newer players and the older ones. The gritty enlightened self-interest of the old guard is tempered just enough that the shift from cooperation to competition is liable to be a shocker. I think if you came up on video games and more recent board games, you will also be unprepared for the COMPLETELY UNFAIR challenges that are the bread-and-butter of 70s style D&D. The big win didn’t require hit points. It needed the ineffable. Which video games are terrible for.
This show also demonstrates how a high-level patron can be incorporated into a scenario. The guy playing him helped me come up with the final “gotcha” here. But I had to improvise the details during the game. That patron actually missed out on a Chainmail battle!
We had no way of knowing what was going to be happening when this scenario was set up. It turned out that there were two gigantic battles that just happened to land on this day. I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up running a wilderness travel sequence or not today. There is so much on the map that is not written down anywhere, I was maybe going to have to call the other DM to get the details on hexes with stuff in them I don’t know about.
If you ever wondered how Gary Gygax could be shocked that Judges Guild could turn a dollar selling supplements, this is it. One, we don’t need them. Two, our campaign is richer and more complex than any boxed setting. BUT YOU CAN’T REALLY WRITE IT ALL DOWN. Trollopulous mostly exists in our heads and no one person knows all the secrets. If you ever wondered why you never got a playable copy of Gygax’s mega-dungeon, THIS IS WHY.