Why One-Page Scenarios?

Noah

For the benefit of our readers, for our own sanity, and because this month’s RPG Blog Carnival happens to be on this very issue, we thought that we would write up the rationale behind this site–what makes our blog different from others? In other words, why focus on the one-page scenario?

Matt

There are two ways to look at one-page scenarios, from the players’ points-of-view and from the creators’–ours. For keepers and investigators, one-page scenarios are easy, quick to run adventures that don’t take a lot of prep work and are designed for pick-up play. You don’t need a campaign, you don’t need to spend a session making characters, you can download them, make a few notes, and hit the table with minimal prep.

From a creative standpoint, a one-page scenario is an exercise in concise writing. We’ve only got 93.5 square inches on an 8½” x 11” inch page to provide the basic situation, the antagonists, the protagonists’ motivation, and the likely sequence of events. With no room for slop, limiting our writing to a single page demands that we get right to the point, right to the meat of the adventure and leave the gristle and fatty trimmings on the editing floor. Thankfully we’ve allowed ourselves a second page for the character sheets, but even then we’ve boiled it down to essential skills and crammed four sheets to a page.

That’s the one-page scenario itself, but why an entire website devoted to one-page scenarios?

Noah

This gets back to our beginnings at NecronomiCon this year, but beyond being a good idea, one-page scenarios–at least the way I think about them–go back to Mike Shea’s Lazy Dungeon Master. In that amazing little reference for DMs, he describes a method of prepping for games that involves a single 3” x 5” card of notes. I adapted this to my own needs by using a single page–and if you can use a single page to prep for a D & D game, then why not write a whole scenario? Similarly, I’ve admired the entries in the One Page Dungeon contest for years, and this seemed like a marvellous way both for us to test and expand our writing skills, and to get content out into the world. Writing within the constraints of a single page forces us to be far more creative than the freedom a hundred pages could provide.

As to dedicating a site to them, the highest honor will be receiving reports as people start playing them. I really do think of these as keeper or GM resources, to pick up for on the fly games, or even to fold into ongoing campaigns.

Matt

Beyond being a benefit for others and a practice for us, the main reason we write them is because it’s a lot of damn fun. I really enjoy the brainstorming process of bouncing ideas off each other as we come up with several premises at a time. Then each piece is written by one of us and turned over to the other for edits. And that’s it. No back and forth, no endless revisits and rewrites. It’s a simple, straightforward process that produces pieces in a timely manner.

We don’t think all of these are epic wins, but we do treasure each piece for the creative experience it was to produce. There is an aspect of the process being more valuable than the product, but we don’t want to denigrate the finished pieces as just parts of a greater practice. We really like the one-page scenarios we’ve come up with so far, and we’d love to hear about people using them and reporting their experiences back to us. The website is called Reckoning of the Dead, so ultimately we want to hear about the dire fates of the investigators in our horrific little tales. Remember, we don’t write the endings; we leave that to you.

4 thoughts on “Why One-Page Scenarios?”

    1. Thanks Johnn! We’ve really been enjoying the process. I’ve personally found it illuminating that the ideas don’t seem to stop once you start writing–that feeling of needing to be precious with ideas, to “hold” onto them for the right time, doesn’t seem necessary anymore, and it’s incredibly freeing.

      I’ve always enjoyed the advice on your site!
      Noah

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  1. I’m very excited to give some of these one shots a shot. I’m a new keeper (though I’ve been DMing/GMing/Judging other games for over 35 years now), and I’ve already run a short one-shot that a friend wrote a ways back. I’m all hot and bothered about Delta Green, so I want to run Drug Wars for my local group to let them dip their toes into the DG universe. This might lead to a full on campaign (I hope)!

    Anyway, thanks for doing this!

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    1. Hi Forrest, thanks for taking a look, and we’re glad you like what you see! Drug Wars was one of our first ideas, and I’m glad to hear it’ll get some play. Please do let us know how it goes! As a teaser, we’ll have another military-intelligence scenario here in a couple of weeks, that you might fold into this new campaign of yours with a little adaptation.
      Cheers,
      Noah

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