What is your favorite one shot? Why?


What is your favorite one shot? Why?

I have reasons, but they’re inconsequential to the question.


Star Crossed, the two-player game about really, really wanting to, when you really, really can’t. This game is amazing. You play two people who have strong emotions for each other and cannot act on them, and you use a block tower to determine how their relationship grows and the ultimate fate of that relationship. The tower mechanic is both elegant, tense, and a perfect metaphor for the feelings of the characters.

Trophy (from Codex: Dark 2), a dark fantasy game about psychological horror where players are treasure-seekers pushing deeper and deeper into a forest that does not want them there. Trophy is a perfect structure for telling a dark and gripping story in one sitting. Though the original framing is in a forest, I can’t wait to try it out with other settings (desert, tower, underwater temple, etc).

Bluebeard’s Bride, an investigatory horror tabletop roleplaying game based on the Bluebeard fairy tale. This setup has players controlling aspects of a single character’s psyche, and the interplay of that mechanic is so, so, so good. The gothic horror feeling of the game really gives me chills every time I think about it! The new Book of Mirrors expansion gives you the ability to play with genre and time period as well.

Hot Guys Making Out, a short and sexy game about the very gay relationship between a Spanish noble and his ward. In addition to telling sexy gay stories of mounting sexual tension, this game uses playing card resolution mechanic that really changes the tone and pacing of the game every time you play it. There’s also a hack of this game themed around Sherlock which can be found in Codex: Lies.

For The Queen, a card-based story-building game where players use prompt cards to collaboratively tell a story of love, betrayal, doubt, and devotion. This one is not technically out yet (pre-orders start Mar 5), but it will be so popular when it does come out! It’s a game that changes every time you play it and even the change of one person makes it so different.

The Final Girl, a horror movie roleplaying game meant to emulate slashers or any other horror movie where the characters are picked off one by one until only one survivor remains to confront the killer. This one is so great because it’s fast, funny, and allows you to control and subvert some of the most annoying tropes about these movies. Definitely needs four or more players though.


I haven’t played it much, but I’ll second The Final Girl, had a great experience one-shotting it at GauntletCon.

I am a huge, huge fan of Swords Without Master as a game that builds with zero prep, draws creativity out of players, and results in a really, really cool story every time I play or run it. Two hours or less for a one-shot that delivers a wonderful adventure yarn, at minimum.

I played a one-shot of Honey Heist at a meetup in NYC, and it was a great time, highly recommended, you’re all talking bears stealing honey, you have a “plan”, and you are bears.


I played one session of To Serve her Wintry Hunger and it was quite evocative.

For the low-low price of free, it’s really hard to beat Lasers and Feelings and its derivates like Rockerboys and Vending Machines


I love Qivittoq: Fell Walker, a Nordic scenario about a group of four characters (two Greenlandic Inuit, two Danish) who go on a polar bear hunt in Greenland in 1985. I’ve played it twice, each time as a different character. Would love to play again.

Trying to put my finger on what I like about it, as it’s hard to tell whether it’s been great because of the group or because of the scenario itself or both. The first time I played it was my first time playing a Nordic-style game and the first time playing in a serious, emotionally heavy game. I can say I liked that I learned about another culture from it, liked that it went very differently each time I played, that it’s incredibly mechanically simple, and doesn’t shy away from heavy topics.

(CW for violence towards animals, sexual violence)


Dread is a horror game that pioneered the use of a tumbling block tower (think Jenga) as a resolution mechanic. Character creation is done through loaded questions the GM asks players, and gameplay involves pulling from the ever-more-rickety tower. When you knock down the tower, you are doomed!


It’s maybe on my mind because of The Farrier’s Bellows (but let’s be real, it’s on my mind a lot anyway :slightly_smiling_face:) but I’ll throw in Psi*Run. Minimal chargen needed, simple but exciting narrative-driving mechanics, an action-packed mystery, and you play until the story comes to a close as dictated by the mechanics. Love it!


Star Crossed started as a Dread hack! The mechanic is truly the most pure metaphor for tension in pretty much any game that I’ve ever seen. No roll of dice or draw of a card ever felt as consequential or precarious as a pull on a block tower! :heart_eyes:


Lady Blackbird is my one-shot of choice. It’s easy to jump into, easy to teach, and always makes for a fun, high-action, summer-blockbuster-movie-feeling story.


The Skeletons! Map-building, emergent play, inevitable melancholy. It’s great!


Lovecraftesque takes so much to get setup properly, but god I love running it. I’ve always gotten a great story from every group I’ve played it with.


Does Lovecraftesque handle 5 players by any chance?


Indeed it does! It’s a 2-5 player game


monster of the week, brilliant game!

its easy to run and play, you can play hard/run hard to make it short term, or use it as a teaser and then run more based on what you started with


Also didn’t think of it initially, but Golden Sky Stories is pretty magical as a one-shot. Humans having emotional problems, meet magical animals with powers who try to solve those problems!


Fantastic choices

Some more of my favorites:
Ten Candles Fantastic game about the end of the world with great atmosphere.

Microscope by Ben Robbins.

Maid RPG Crazy Japanese RPG where you play a group of maids serving the Master.

It wasn’t me You collavorratively build a narration about a murder, very funny.


So many good games here! I definitely second Dread and Lady Blackbird. Two very different experiences. I always recommend Lady Blackbird as a game for first-time RPG’ers. I think it teaches good role-play habits.


Kagematsu is a fantastic one shot game. Light on mechanics, heavy on drama. The suggested inversion of gender roles is, in my opinion, more than just a nice-to-have feature, it’s essential to the game.

Psi*Run is perfect, as mentioned above. If you don’t have much time, give your characters only 4 questions instead of 6 and it will run much faster.

I grew very fond lately of “My Daughter the Queen of France”. It enables so much emotional play, is easy to learn, and generally produces a fascinating story.


I forgot to mention why I like Lasers & Feelings, and its children so much. It strips down RP to the most essential Bakerian principal, “the game is a conversation.” The game starts with almost no established fiction, and you spin the scenario from there. Nobody is prepared, and I like how that puts the GM and players on (much more) equal footing.

The resolution mechanic is purely there to to make risky things interesting. It’s all about seeing how messy things get before you can wrap them up.

And that leads me to my favorite part. These give you great practice at improvisation because they aim you at melodrama. It taught me just how lightly I could hold the reigns as a facilitator and still run a satisfying game session.


I really should try and play L&F (or a hack) at some point… TBH it’s the complete lack of real structure that kind of intimidates me…