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Write One-Shot RPG Campaigns! (GM Tips w/ Matt Mercer)

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One-shots can be fun and handy for trying out new characters, tactics, and more. Critical Role's Matthew Mercer outlines a basic structure to designing your own one-shot, and gives some tips to make them better. Subscribe to Geek and Sundry: http://goo.gl/B62jl Join our community at: http://geekandsundry.com/community Twitter: http://twitter.com/geekandsundry Facebook: http://facebook.com/geekandsundry Instagram: http://instagram.com/geekandsundry Google+: http://plus.google.com/+GeekandSundry
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Text Comments (562)
Stickgeneral 42 (1 day ago)
my absolute favorite introduction for the players is to have them meet in a bar...fight. a bar fight. you have never, and i mean never, played dnd to its fullest until you see a soon-to-be party busting each other over the heads with tables and using random npcs as weapons
Bricu (1 day ago)
0:33 please show me a D&D series where someone else DM's and we get to see Matt play a character!! I realy want to see that!!!
Moore Mess (4 days ago)
Really guys? Really? 😂😂😂
Michelle M. (9 days ago)
I'm going to be running a session 0/oneshot next Friday as a first-time DM for first-time players; this is exactly what I needed.
Byucknah The Red (10 days ago)
For my sandbox game I am running I shipwrecked my players on an uncharted island after the ship they were aboard, none of them having any real relation to each other, was destroyed in a horrible storm. They wash up ashore as the only known survivors from this incident, teaming up out of necessity for survival and building a bond as they went about exploring and trying to find a way off the island. It was a unique experience for me to run because one of the major things I tested out was having them start with literally no equipment aside from the clothing on their backs. No gold, no weapons, nothing. Just their wits and drive to survive! Needless to say, its been an interesting experience as a whole.
Chaos Tool (18 days ago)
Have you ever done a 1 player campaign? So one gm and one player I imagine it would be something like a single player role playing video game but i have no idea if that would be a good idea
Starcraftgamer97 (21 days ago)
I am going to do a Call of Cthulhu one-shot for Halloween and have very little G.M-ing experience aside from my first D&D campaign I managed to get put together. I'm thinking a sort of Clue meets House on Haunted Hill meets Scooby-Doo meets Cthulhu. Unfortunately I have no idea what I'm doing in terms of a story. I can't pull any knowledge of a story from our D&D session because there hasn't even been a "story" there yet either. I can tell I'm going to have fun with this and be oh so terrified because I don't know how to get this done in 4 hours. Maybe making a sacrifice to dread Cthulhu might help Matt?
ShePlaysIt (25 days ago)
Man I love Matt! XD
Mime0Tron (27 days ago)
Matt: *moves hands* Players: *goes batshit crazy*
John Harrison (29 days ago)
One of my favourite starts is the adventurers are all guests at a wedding. Some know the bride, some the groom but they are at the same table coz they don't really belong.... And my favourite Big Bad is the gnome illusionist who has scared monsters into submission but is actually in over her head...
Crimson Vulpes (1 month ago)
Here's one. You gain a bounty on your head, but you have a chance to pay it off in a short time before it gets ratified. players seek out odd jobs, maybe high pay merc work,
IronTauru (1 month ago)
Thank you, this will help me so much!!
IronTauru (1 month ago)
Im running three one-shots for public and have very little experience with oneshots.
Floyd Wurst (1 month ago)
0:44 1. Assemble the Player Characters 1:06 2. Define the Style 1:37 3. Create a Plot Hook 2:37 4. Develope a Climax 3:17 5. Flesh out Key NPCs 3:48 6. Prepare Social Encounters 4:05 7. Player tailored Challenges 4:32 8. Loot Rewards 4:41 9. Outline Key Locations 5:01 10. Avoid a Wandering Intro 5:28 11. Keep the Pace Moving 6:00 12. Character Epilogues
Bibble (1 month ago)
He's so hot https://gyazo.com/8a34f7ff58725e99b4b7a7403d9da896
shane pierce (1 month ago)
okay matt your the best dm ive seen on youtube i gotta ask can a dm play with the group as long as he/she is capable of being unbiased? i have been doing this and we have all been able to have fun and ypur much better than i am and im sure you can play unbiased with a group meaning you dont and wont favor your charecter and are just as willing to die with the group. i would really appretiate your input i am new to d&d but its been a lot of fun
DAEsaster (1 month ago)
I like how Strong Woman is now a universal thing. Lady Kima, Yasha, and one of my soon to be players (who's a dude) are al going for the brutish woman and I'm loving the trope.
herban123 (1 month ago)
first time dming soon no experience besides reading the books. oh god this will be fun lol
Schnaufeltier (1 month ago)
omfg this is so helpful!
The Real TK-Dragon! (1 month ago)
I'm attempting to write a one shot that might turn into a two shot if the players mess around too much.
USS_Boom (1 month ago)
a Worn and Tattered man wanderers over and say he needs a hand to save his Friends who went in a Dungeon to kill a Beast and retrieve his Massive Treasure, he gives you the location, (but actually he is a Mage and has controlled the leader of this Dungeon, they have no treasure but like red meat), his Scheme is send in parties of adventurers and let his Killer Mind Controlled Monsters rip them apart & he can just retrieve al the belongings and sell them.
Acer Ng (2 months ago)
Here's a real question. Is it okay to rail road a one shot? Not to the full extent, but it's easy for players to wander off and one shots have limited time.
Jeremy Arcanist (2 months ago)
when he said about what adventure the players would like, I just thought of my own group and they all like sandbox games..... tangents excursions are the real fun..... not real story.... just side quests
Mutsu Hanma (2 months ago)
Hey Matt Quick Question...having about 4-6 players have you ever tried getting 4-6 headphones with loud music and telling 2 stories to the 2 groups of 2 or 3 players and make the story so that the 2/3 people meet up and team up and the other 2 meet up and team up but not all four them have met up yet and the headphones are so that 2 of the players don't listen to what's going on with the other 2 and when they finally meet up they can both RP their characters and have a nice long chat about their adventure and what clues they have found that leads them to this place?!?!?! Just wondering if you're ready to step up your GM skills... *walks away*
McB12329 (2 months ago)
I have a wayward seafaring adventure I'm running soon and have all the players starting imprisoned in the brig on board a pirates ship that took over their merchant ship and that's where it's starting my hardest part is going to be figuring out how to have the game only last 4hrs. Thanks so much for this, you're the best DM alive!
Pryzm (2 months ago)
Matt, Charisma of 25
Julian Martin (2 months ago)
Letting someone else GM so the GM can actually play. That is me 😭. I run a system that nobody uses so finding a player that enjoys the system enough to play enough to feel comfortable GMing is difficult.
Mr Knarf (2 months ago)
*Why did they do their dastardly deeds?*
Tarnax The Villain (2 months ago)
Ummm... I dunno if this is okay, but we regularly take turns.
TheSwamper (2 months ago)
All great tips, but difficult to cram them all into a one-shot. My players can spend an hour just talking in a tavern.
ljaquos (2 months ago)
1:29 Yup. Yup, that's about right.
Kindlesmith80 (2 months ago)
"Hell, letting someone else GM for once so the usual GM can actually play" Aint that the truth XD "Do they each prefer a different style" Oh, I know that feeling. But then the DM needs to have fun too, and campaigns based on pure combat and dungeon delving just isn't my scene (I can play video games for that). basically anything mindless I can turn to video games or board games for with less effort on my part.
The Kirby T (2 months ago)
I made a one-shot to introduce my parents to D&D where they had to find some missing children. Preyed on their parental instincts for their plot hook.
Dexis (2 months ago)
“Or maybe, you know, so that the usual gm can play for once.” That’s why I insert myself as an npc in the party. However I have to always be an imbecile to explain why I never interact with puzzles or figure anything out regarding the plot
Wawcke (2 months ago)
I made a one shot campaign once. Except I was one of the playe. gun powder barrel don't like pyromancer I think...
FantaseWolf (2 months ago)
4:00 Clarooottttaaa
Neox1986 (3 months ago)
Matt. You are such a boss. I just started DM`ing my first d&d 5e with heavy influence from you. Got great feedback!
League Arceus (3 months ago)
God, the meet in a bar thing is so true... We did that once and never again. Ended up starting a bar fight and one of the PCs lost a hand in an ensuing sword fight between PCs... before dying trying to explain the situation to guards.. It was awkward.
Toasted Bagel (3 months ago)
tells us to not have players randomly meet in a bar starts his campaign with all his players meeting in a bar *yes I know it's not the same it's a joke*
Stefan Babij (3 months ago)
'Prepare possible combat scenarios in case these situations go south... which... they always generally do' - Matt Mercer2017. Truer words have never been spoken sir
Morganna WolfCry (3 months ago)
Okay I would just like to say I watched this video for the first time the DAY it came out. IT is now a full year later. I have a world of my own, 4 plot archs all going on at the same time in different sections of the world and 2 groups of players exploring from two different sides of the Polyhedral. I would just like to say... "by all means, Go" started it all.
Pen Tagram (3 months ago)
Such a cute Prinz Charming! :D
Francesco Spuntarelli (3 months ago)
When you said the oneshot I trembled..... yep you know I wanted the thrill
Krabman (3 months ago)
Wow, he writes books in real time hahaha Awesome tips!
Gayshipper 333 (3 months ago)
Umm, Matt. You probably won't see this, but I need some help. I'm the DM in this homebrewed campaign I'm working on. The last session wasn't good. No one was really... Into it, so I ended early with one of the party members turned into stone. I was thinking about going back to the end of the previous session, but I'm not sure. Could you tell me what to do? Should I start over, go back, or roll with something none of the party members would really like since it's my ONLY option. Maybe throw in a side quest? Please tell me, I'm nervous and embarissed to try again.
Green Djinn (3 months ago)
I'd say throw in some pretty fun gonzo treasure in there, that you'd probably not even consider in a campaign. Since it is all done in that one session, go ahead and really give them some crazy stuff to mess around with and enjoy.
CautiousAphid (3 months ago)
Holy Moly this guy’s good!!
Thec00ldude 2.0 (3 months ago)
good idea, lots of rogues, lots of knifes and a lot of NPC deaths very dramatic and pretty straight forwards
Johnwestens Norris (3 months ago)
When I start dming I will have my campaign like this. Start with a major moment, say they awake in a cart confined by shackles heading towards a looming tower. Then give them some regular missions when they escape and when the get to a high level then they get into who the grave evil who seeks to destroy the world is. Personally a false prophecy sounds like a good setup, as they usually always come true, but it was forged and they unlesh the great evil they fought they were containing, such as below. Jokeyja the Goliath Barbarian.: At last we found all the gems required to save the world from pulling apart! Pertinta the Halfling Sorcerer: This does bode weirdly for me, shouldn't the gods have saved the world and not us party of Four? Maybe they are just getting lazy. Marzo the Half-Elf Cleric: Don't speak I'll against Dieties. They have heroes in their legends that have saved the world, we are mearly their new champions. Sarafe the Human Rouge: Becoming a savior of the world will attract more people to Me! Jokeyja: Challenge accepted! Sarafe: Oh, I wasn't trying to offer up a challenge. Marzo: Stop, let us save the world. As the gems form together, wind picks up the dust and scraps of whatever else there may be on the floor, getting sucked in the gem, the party hears an evil laugh. Pertinta: I knew something was wrong in these gems! ???: WeLl doNE You HaVe reUnITed aLL Of thE gEms. The voice becomes more clearer as it continues talking. Defoks: You have awakened the god of death and oblivion, Defoks.
Mathew Mercer (3 months ago)
I love him Mathew mercy’s because is great actor from Re6 and this game is the best he now I so talk about game how did he make it from all the story wow
darkbunny 999 (3 months ago)
Hey Matt... do you need a character sheet and a hug?
Ya Boi Guzma (3 months ago)
Im stealing those hooks
Orelux Tenebrae (3 months ago)
What about a tower defense session... as goblins?
Transatlantic Stardust (3 months ago)
Wow. He is very...attractive
Tyler Hutson (3 months ago)
Thank you for the tips! My best friend and I play a mashup, definitely breaking a few rules but fun, game where she’s the DM for our PC’s. Whenever she needs longer to continue writing the story I’ll make up some one shots for us to play through. Sometimes her siblings join in and we have a blast. The last one we did I had her and her siblings save a town from an onslaught of undead and defeat a necromancer trying to amass more power. (Her brother loves Call of Duty: Zombies so I thought the whole undead thing was a good idea.) I’ll definitely use these tips to further flesh out any more one shots I get to DM!
Team Cyborg (4 months ago)
I personally prefer the "holy crap we're all imprisoned, hey who's this guy in our cell" way of introducing a new player character
just me (4 months ago)
Lol I did a you are strangers in a tavern before, they started a bar fight and our bard seduced the other player character it was the start of something beautiful
sloesty (4 months ago)
Put my players together in my campaign by having them be lone survivors of a sunk boat (or a least as far as they know since they dont kow what happened to the others) Then got them hooked on killing a necromancer because he made a fool of them.
Shane Hamilton (4 months ago)
Thumbnail kinda looks phallic from afar (and especially if you squint your eyes). Not sure if this is intentional, but what I am sure of is that I didn't click it because of this looks-like-a-phallus reason or anything...
Aaron-michael Thomas (4 months ago)
what about splitting the party in to rooms which tackles their strength/ weaknesses so a not so smart barbarian needs to read a simple code to move on. etc etc
Blue Blood (4 months ago)
this video is[NOT]pretty salty...
David M (4 months ago)
Keep it simple and make the adventure take place entirely in the tavern where they meet.
Monty Baconeater (4 months ago)
I don't like playing nearly as much as I like DMing...
VinceValentine (4 months ago)
What kind of idiot noble would give an assassin something that could trace back to him? Unless the evidence was planted, but that looks really clumsy...
God-Emperor Trump (4 months ago)
Matt Mercer: "Avoid the, You are all strangers and meet in a bar intro." Fast forward to the beginning of Critical Role Season Two where they're all groups of strangers who meet in a bar.
Bibbedibabbedibu (1 month ago)
Well. to be fair, that's not a oneshot and wasn't designed as one
Silkwesir (4 months ago)
the video title says "Write One-Shot RPG Campaigns!" isn't that a contradiction in terms? i suggest replacing the word "Campaigns" with "Adventures" or "Scenarios"
C.B. Smith (4 months ago)
“Think of an interesting or dangerous monster...” MANBEARPIG. I made a manbearpig campaign by tweaking the wereboar and werebear stats. Group loved it.....my style is apparently adapting bad jokes into campaigns. Next challenge, Patton Oswalt’s Orutis Blamfort joke.
Propane Daddy (4 months ago)
I am a kinky sex wizzowd.
Keith Becker (5 months ago)
Has these tips been written out. For future reference
Caleb Sargent (5 months ago)
See I like to start everyone in some sort of prison. It forces you to get along fast to plot a way out, or introduce them within the same city's with some sort of well known lore of legand and they start a band together to investigate.
Bluedragon 1212 (5 months ago)
Matt you truely a hero
Tiago Junges (5 months ago)
Cmon! Except for the first tip (pre-built characters), this is not a list of tips for a "one-shot". You can do better then that...
Rowan Mayer (5 months ago)
Matt Mercer is perfection
Elspsyhonaut (5 months ago)
DAMN YOU LEON KENNEDY DAMN YOU! <3\
the original 1z (5 months ago)
I have a barony of necromantic origin with a lich Baron named K'ah'zekiel
ThyDungeonman2 (5 months ago)
Yanno... I'm looking at Matthew Mercer... and am I the only one that thinks he could play a good Rumplestiltsken? Disney! Pay attention...
If i am doing one shots i tend to incorporate the characters in another story. I put the players up against each other and a few npc and the winner can be used as a player character or npc in another story
SummbuddiesFriend (5 months ago)
Wait.... Chrom?
Michelle M. (5 months ago)
One of my friends tried GMing for a Shadowrun One-Shot, for another friend's birthday. He told us to minmax to hell and back and gave us mechs to screw with before sending us on a mission to steal some data. This was one of his first times GMing.... Suffice to say, he didn't realize how hard we could minmax, and we were laughing (with the GM) the entire time at just how hard he was failing to kill us, despite sending what felt like 30 or so enemies at once. Now *that* felt like a fun One-Shot. Sometimes, letting the players just be overpowered and stomping quite literally everything in their path can make for a fun One-Shot.
Bouncy Creeper (5 months ago)
I mean before watching this series I really wanted to be a payer over a dm but dang now I'm gonna dm almost solo for my group.
Micolino9878 (6 months ago)
"Charismatic face man" Yeeaahh. . .
Mars Strider (6 months ago)
One way to start off is a prison break. The PC's are recruited by a prisoner who knows where the Rebel base is, but he needs help escaping. Players can overpower the guards, or they can break via the sewers. If you want the plot to be really twisted, the prisoner who asked for help is regularly thrown in jail as a means of recruiting for the Rebellion, or the prisoner and the rebellion is how the evil emperor keeps everyone under control.
FIRE STAR (6 months ago)
Describing their victorious sunset, (voice turns sinister) or vicious death.
FIRE STAR (6 months ago)
Make an alliance....... Or an enemy
alaskankare (6 months ago)
thanks for the great tips!
Jesse Harding (6 months ago)
I learned one thing in one of my one shots: Don’t do the FFXV Ring stuff. Or at least, hint to it’s lethality a bit more. Probably just gonna avoid using FFXV for inspiration, except for maybe nation/world building
Mikael Näverberg (6 months ago)
Great ideas! /M
Iury Menezes Goncalves (6 months ago)
One-shot? Its High NOON!!!!
Timothy Creighton (7 months ago)
Planning a heist one shot that may turn into a running thing. They're going to meet "the usual suspects" style in a police lineup
Adam Thomson (7 months ago)
Dude reminds me of Bo Burnham 😁
Zanoth Verin (7 months ago)
One of the best GM tips videos I've come across. Great inspiration!
Jordan Hoke (7 months ago)
how about a bank heist one shot
Surprises Daedra (7 months ago)
I'm doing a oneshot based on Kua-Toa summoning one of their wacky gods somewhere in a port town. It's gonna be a duet and my player's a pretty wacky dude so I thought this might fit his personality.
J.A. Mallard (7 months ago)
I wish I knew about this a few months ago. I watched this but forgot, lol. I tried making a campaign to give my GM a break and...it ended TERRIBLY. Any specific advice regarding a mystery type rpg?
Clicky Buttons (7 months ago)
I know this video is older so I won't get an answer most likely but does anyone know that outro song?
Chanse kingston (7 months ago)
Has anyone ever done a one shot with like a big scale war going on and let's the party pick what side to start on and whatever they pick they will be apart of the war on that side? I'm gonna try to make a one shot for my bestfriends birthday
BROgasm69 (7 months ago)
Man, this short video helped out so much! I’m a new DM and finally convinced my friends to play. I was struggling to complete my one shot campaign. But now I know exactly how to get things to unfold!
Eric Ward (8 months ago)
Haha, i was actually thinking that Matt is such an amazing Gm but can a gm have a character? Me and my friends want to get into DD and i am sure i'll have to gm most of the time so hearing matt he'd want to play some times is actually hilarious
Wolfe Cubing (8 months ago)
*Matt:* "Avoid the 'You are all strangers and you meet in a bar...' intro. It's awkward." *Critical Role Campaign 2:* _MOST OF THEM ARE STRANGERS AND MEET IN A BAR._
chaosxenkon (1 month ago)
always my favorite way to end a shorter campaign or one shot. especially if they get stronger during the game.
whade62000 (2 months ago)
It’s honestly better to go with the cliché on most occassions. Trying to be clever and original can leave the players confused and hesitant - they almost never reward your originality as you expect them to. It’s actually a lot better to leave the original tweaks to the players, and just make sure that they feel comfortable and in control enough to start experimenting and, well, roleplaying.
lil crispy (3 months ago)
I did a d&d game wanting to do the one shot but it turned into multiple sessions that got better and better by the end because it was an amnesia story the characters master made them fight to the death as the final fight
VinceValentine (4 months ago)
Yeah, a one-shot should be finished in one session, so 4-8 hours. Given that players will ALWAYS waste time with unnecessary crap like a long shopping session in town or following the wrong clues after a failed investigation roll, keep anything that is not part of the plot to a minimum.
Diego Valencia (6 months ago)
Avoid it in a one-shot, as the player will barely have time to establish their relationship. In a long campaign is OK, because you can take the first session slowly. They dont need to force themselves to work together, they can just end up doing it naturally
Sofie Haga (8 months ago)
Man, I just wanted to write a silly one-shot about cannibals and a charismatic but stupid ogre named Bobby
jinofthethunder (8 months ago)
"Avoid being strangers who meet in a bar" thats literally how the second campaign of CR starts lol

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