Advice on running a one-shot of The Veil

Hoping to run a one-shot of The Veil for a couple of friends soon, and I’m wondering if anyone has some advice to get the most out of the game (or any PbtA game) in a 2-3 hour one-shot. Normally, I’d let the player’s choices guide a lot of the creation of the setting, but for a one-shot, I’m not sure that’s a good idea, probably going to create something a bit simpler, a straightforward plot-driven story.

Additional difficulty: This is my first time running any PbtA game, and my first time running a game of any kind in… about 10 years? Getting back into gaming after a bit of a hiatus.

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Cut down the # of playbooks to a manageable number. Offering six options is probably best. Alternately, find one of the Veil quickstarts and run from those pre-gen characters.

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Welcome the the Forums, @Matthew
A 2-3 hour one-shot is very short. Most Con games allow 4 hrs, so you are not making thing easy for yourself, particularly at the 2h end of that range.

  1. As Lowell says limit the playbooks available … 6 for 4 players seems about right.
  2. Consider what you want your climactic scene to look like … Heist, Shootout, Chase, or if you have a ‘Boss’ in mind for that final confrontation, to help you make the playbook selection …
  3. You will almost certainly want to start a short session with some sort of initing incident so less time is ‘wasted’ with the players wandering about in the hope of bumping in to a story, so you’ll be inferring the spider at the centre of the web from the start, probably.
  4. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to end as you might have set it up, but with 30-40 mins to play it gives you a hard cut to use to give the players some kind of satisfying end point.
  5. Use hard cuts throughout to move the narrative along, and to avoid loose ends multiplying.
  6. Use the quickstart set-up which Lowell suggests … 1-5, above, are basically asking you to structure a quickstart of your own, after all.
  7. Give very straightforward answers to investigative questions … don’t leave them wondering which path to take. It needn’t matter which way they go, but don’t encourage them to believe there’s time to investigate this trail and then come back and do the other one
  8. If the clock is going to beat you , admit it and give yourself 15 mins for ‘Epilogues’. Even if you can’t tie up the loose ends, have each player describe what we see of their character as the end credits roll tying up loose ends without the use if dice.
  9. Think hard about whether a 2 X 2 hr (one-shot) isn’t possible just to give yourself a bit more space.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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You have set yourself something of a challenge. It isn’t impossible, but as a first time you’ll need to build your confidence ahead of time, do as much prep as practical to inform the players so you’re not doing that in your tight slot of game time, and be prepared to have a little more fixed in place than you might otherwise to consider.

I ran Sunset Kills for a convention last year, having never run it before and it being my fourth attempt at a PbtA game. I’ve never really been comfortable with the way PbtA runs, but I’m always up for a challenge.

I knew what I wanted the finale to be, broadly - in that I knew what the evil in the town was trying to achieve - and I knew I wanted to start it - Kingston Falls thirty-five years after a night of destruction, revelry and murder than defied explanation.

The rest I left to the players, guiding the narrative, driving the soft moves, facing the hard ones when dice ran against them. I’m not convinced it was my best game ever, but we all enjoyed the creative process, I managed to keep the improvisational elements flowing, and we managed to create a memorable denouement in the town’s condemned communal swimming pool.

I wish you the best of luck. Keep up the pace, run with the players’ creative, and the best of luck to you.

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Thanks for all the advice! Definitely going to do a lot of the character creaction/background work by chat in advance, and then start the story in media res, probably limit the playbooks, will try to keep things moving. Planning on setting it on a small island with a ticking clock, and a simple get-the-weird-cyberpunk-maguffin plot. (Probably Granville Island in Vancouver, in honour of Gibson’s story The Winter Market.)

Thanks again for the replies, I will go over this thread again while I work on the outline and before I talk to my players about character creation.

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All the advice you got here is awesome, you should follow it I Just want to put out a contrarian idea:. If you end up mostly spending time on character and world creation, no need to think of it as a failure if everybosy has fun.

I once played in a con game of Urban Shadows where we did all the private chargen stuff before hand. We still spent 2.5 of the 4 hour slot on debt questions and world building. It was awesome, everybody had a great time even though we only got to play out a few scenes. We spent the debrief period talking about how awesome would a game be that was just the character relationship building and world creation bits. So don’t stress too much if you don’t “accomplish much.”. The game is what you make it.

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I would take the narrow time box and borrow the idea of epilogues to create the meta for the setting. This short session must not follow the complete three act structure played out. I would set it as follows:

  1. Character and Worldbuilding happens offscreen
  2. You prepare an incident which gets the game going and create some questions for yourself
  3. You tell the players beforehand that the goal of the session is only taking a glimpse through a window at the PC’s life.

This leaves every pressure out of the game: it’s not about the solution within the session, it’s about the way towards the solution.

  1. Take a decent amount of time for the epilogues. Ask the players how the think the story will progress and how they would answer your initial questions about the setting. Were the PC’s values challenged at some point? How did they deal with it?

So you should have a decent session and give the PCs room for a satisfying end.

Another way of ending the one shot - if there is the idea evolving during play that they want a second session - is letting the players ask leading questions about what is going to happen in the next session a la »Coming up next episode: Is Tala getting away with her cover story to undermine the organization of EvilCorp? What about the relationship of Alex and Fae now that she noticed her being on the board of leaders at EvilCorp?.." or something like that.

This way you and your players could focus on what is possible during the session without rushing through some prefabricated plot.

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