I will run it for you!!
Ooh I’d want to play it too!
In addition to many of the games above:
Gather: Children of the Evertree (which isn’t out yet, but I played it at Metatopia)
I’ll second Ten Candles and Dread as super-effective one-shots. For me, the reason is that they’re both so… visceral. The haptics of pulling out a block in Dread and everyone holding their breath as the tower settles (or doesn’t), the awful finality of blowing out a candle in Ten Candles. Both are in the bones, and not in the head.
I can’t help but also second Lasers and Feelings and its many hacks. There is so much range there for those that are willing to jump in not knowing how cold the water is. I ran four different L&F hacks in one month, and my prep was entirely reading the document a couple of times and then rolling some dice 15 minutes before the game.
I’m kinda suprised nobody’s mentioned Fiasco? If I’ve got some friends and we want to play a short rpg together it’s my go-to system. There’s enough versions that you can play any setting/genre, and you’re almost guaranteed to have a fun time.
For D&D-esque or OSR games, I like Knave since it’s very light and you can make a character in less than five minutes.
Reflections is also great, but it’s a two person game (about the relationship between two people leading up to their duel to the death) and you really need a partner who’ll give you something to work with.
Is it shitty to talk about my own game? Because I really love running Quietus. It’s the one game that I never get pre session jitters about. For a quick pick up and play with non RPG people especially, you can’t go wrong with The Final Girl.
Happy to see so much love for The Final Girl.
Apart from The Final Girl I’ve run a ton of one-shots of Capes. I had a prepped scenario where supervillains have taken over the world and have to defend it from Galactus. It’s a game where if you’re facilitating you really need to come in with a prepped scenario or plan though. If you just let anybody do whatever they want it’s chaos.
My fav is The Witch is DEAD by Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor. I’ve found that it’s great for introducing people to RPGs who’ve never played before. The rules are simple, the premise is just the right amount of silly, and it doesn’t require too much from the players as far as being in character.
I ran L&F my first time for a group of improv comics that do an RPG stage show, and I was entirely along for the ride. It was amazing, and maybe a little trial-by-fire as a GM? Totally worth doing.
One shots for me are mainly one-offs in standard TTRPGs but one game I really enjoyed which is a one-and-done thing is POLICE COPS. You get extra dice for being cool and you play Cop stereotypes. One Shot did a great 2-parter of it on their podcast, but sadly I don’t think it’s hosted anywhere really anymore beyond my google drive. The Wayback machine is solid though!
I’ve been running one-shots at my FLGS lately, so this has been on my mind a lot (this thread’s also providing a lot of fodder for future sessions, so thanks!).
There have been some good suggestions so far, but a couple I’ve yet to see are:
Cthulhu Dark - Graham Walmsley’s micro-system is great and his book contains four adventures ready for you to use.
What Ho, World - If you want a farce which is a little gentler than Fiasco and has just a dash more crunch, then card-based game works brilliantly.
The group I help run, Corridor Games on Demand mostly runs one-shots at alternating gaming stores so I have lots of fond memories. The one that stands out in my mind was from a few years ago when we had enough people to play two different games of The Quiet Year. Both groups had fun listening to the other one. We compared our maps at the end and it was wonderful.
Cthulhu Dark is great. I use it to run the scenarios from Caleb Stoke’s No Security, and it worked out great. Really lets you focus on story and mystery rather than any mechanics (though if you listen to some Actual Plays, there’s a very different way to play Cthulhu Dark - where players inflict failure contests on each other every turn and you run through characters like water)
A game I forgot to mention earlier is Hearts Blazing. It’s a card-based game where you play a season of a science fiction TV show. It plays off the tropes of the characters, starts with a pilot episode and ramps up to a big finale.
Wow, so many good suggestions, above. As someone who almost exclusively runs one shots (scheduling, conventions, meetups) I will echo the above love for Star Crossed, Trophy, Hot Guys Making Out, Hearts Blazing, The Quiet Year and The Deep Forest, Microscope, Psi*Run, The Final Girl, Ten Candles, Dread, Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne, Good Society (although gotta run it just right for a one-shot), Lady Blackbird, Golden Sky Stories, The Skeletons, Swords Without Master, Bluebeard’s Bride (for the right mood and players), and of course one of my favorites: For The Queen.
Let’s see, what else can we add to this menagerie:
The Final Girl: A Game of Love (by Lauren McManamon, and appearing in Codex: Love 2), where instead of playing a horror / serial killer scenario, it’s more of a queer version of The Batchelor/Batchelorette type thing.
Hot Guys Making Out: Sherlock (also by Lauren McManamon, and appearing in Codex: Lies), which gives us steaming romance and awkwardness between our favorite detective and sidekick.
Forest Mother (by Kurt Potts), started as a 200-word RPG - which is the version I’ve linked - but is a work in progress as a meatier story game that I got to play at Strategicon Orccon 2019, and makes a great little one-shot about forest spirits defending their land from intruders.
A Companions’ Tale by Laura Simpson of Sweet Potato Press, a game about the companions of a great hero, telling their various perspectives on this narrative.
Spindlewheel by Sasha Reneau, which is a fantastic, generic, GMless, Tarot-style and story prompt-based story game that has always felt evocatively like a game of Fall of Magic in play, but with any genre or style.
There’s a lot more, but let’s start here and build more later…
The core of The Witch is Dead is excellent — Grant and Chris used it for the Sunless Skies RPG Skyfarer
Had a lot of fun with Lasers and Feelings as a one shot. Easy to pick up, get started, and play. Uncannily simple one page design is in and of itself a marvel. Great for Sci-Fi emulation like Trek or Galactica but not necessary. Easy to scale for time allotment.
I had no idea there were that many hacks of it!