Dungeons And Dragons: How To Create The Perfect One Shot

Condensing a full adventure into a single night is no picnic. Follow these tips & save the day!

Dungeon Master
Wizards Of The Coast

Dungeons and Dragons can often be an intimidating game to crack into. The three base books alone offer nearly 1,000 pages of information to sift through in order to fully understand the base mechanics without digging into any of the tactics and improvisation needed to play the game in real-time.

That being said, it's the most popular tabletop RPG in the world for a reason. A streamlined character creation suite and action economy have removed much of the stigma from the game for players. Once someone's settled in, the game fits like a glove.

But what do you do if complacency sits in? If a Dungeon Master just wants a break from the world they've established and have been running for months? Or perhaps a player wants to experiment with becoming a DM for the first time and is feeling some trepidation about making the leap? Then a one-shot is just what everyone needs.

One-shots are just that: an adventure that's contained within a single evening's session, ideally. These games can offer up the chance for new versatility, themes, or campaigns to be explored without being committed to the ideas.

That being said, it doesn't hurt to have a plan before delving into a fast-paced adventure. Here are 7 tips to help get the most out of a One-Shot.

7. Working On The Railroad

Dungeon Master
Wizards of the Coast

One of the first pieces of advice pretty much any Dungeon Master will receive is to avoid what's called railroading. This is the process of forcing your players into a narrow story, limiting their options to tell the story you want to tell. But there's a slight secret to D&D: a little bit of railroading never hurt anyone. A totally open sandbox can work sometimes, but players often thrive when the narrative has a clear-cut goal the players can approach.

When it comes to a 1-shot, you've got a single night to pull off a beginning, middle, and end to the story. Having the players reject the call to action in favor of other activities may work in an open-ended campaign where entire sessions can be devoted to shopping, but that's not what's happening here.

Don't be afraid to give players a nudge in the right direction to get the game underway. It might feel a bit more restrictive than your traditional style, but with a single night to complete a narrative, dungeon masters need to be mindful of the time allotted. And frankly, anyone who is given a one-shot that's presented a clear path on which way to go and soundly refuse to do so aren't creating a good narrative contract with their dungeon master. If players expect you to build a game, it's reasonable for the DM to expect players to play it.


A former Army vet who kept his sanity running D&D games for his Soldiers. I'll have a bit of D&D, pro wrestling, narrative-driven video games, and 80's horror movies, please and thank you.