How to Write an RPG One-Shot

Are you a fan of tabletop role-playing games (RPGs) and want to write your own one-shot adventure? A one-shot is a self-contained RPG session that is designed to be played in a single sitting, usually lasting a few hours. Writing a one-shot can be a challenging but rewarding experience that allows you to flex your creativity and storytelling skills. In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to write an RPG one-shot, from brainstorming ideas to creating memorable characters and encounters.

Brainstorming Ideas

The first step in writing an RPG one-shot is developing a compelling idea to capture your players’ interest. You can draw inspiration from your favourite books, movies, or TV shows or create something entirely original. Here are some tips to help you brainstorm ideas:

Consider the Setting

Think about the type of world or setting you want your one-shot to take place in. Do you want it to be a medieval fantasy, a sci-fi space opera, or something else entirely? The setting will influence the type of characters, encounters, and plot you create.

Choose a Theme

What message or theme do you want your one-shot to convey? Is it about redemption, revenge, or survival? Having a clear theme can help you stay focused and create a cohesive story.

Create a Hook

A hook is something that captures your players’ attention and draws them into the story. It can be a mysterious artifact, a dangerous foe, or an urgent quest. The hook should motivate your players to engage with the story and take action.

Creating Characters

The next step is to create memorable characters that your players will care about and want to interact with. Here are some tips to help you create compelling characters:

Make Them Unique

Your characters should have distinct personalities, motivations, and quirks that set them apart from each other. Avoid creating stereotypes or one-dimensional characters.

Give Them a Backstory

A character’s backstory can provide context for their actions and motivations. It can also create opportunities for plot twists and character development.

Consider Their Role in the Story

Each character should have a clear role in the story, whether it’s the hero, the mentor, or the antagonist. Make sure their actions and motivations align with their role.

Creating Encounters

Encounters are the events and challenges your players will face throughout the one-shot. They should be engaging, varied, and balanced. Here are some tips to help you create memorable encounters:

Vary the Challenges

Encounters should vary in difficulty and style to keep your players engaged. You can include combat encounters, social encounters, puzzles, or a combination of all three.

Create Interesting Locations

The location of an encounter can add depth and atmosphere to the story. Consider creating unique and interesting locations that reflect the setting and theme of your one-shot.

Consider Consequences

Each encounter should have consequences that impact the story and the characters. This can include gaining or losing items, allies, or information.

Creating the Plot

The plot is the backbone of your one-shot. It should be engaging, well-paced, and have a clear resolution. Here are some tips to help you create a compelling plot:

Have a Clear Goal

The plot should have a clear goal or objective that the players are working towards. This can be finding a lost artifact, stopping a villain, or surviving a dangerous situation.

Include Plot Twists

Plot twists can add excitement and unpredictability to the story. They can also challenge the players’ assumptions and force them to think creatively.

Provide Choices

The players should have meaningful choices throughout the one-shot that impact the story and the outcome. This can include deciding whether to take a certain path, ally with a certain character or make a crucial decision.

Creating the Game Mechanics

Game mechanics are the rules and systems that govern the gameplay of your one-shot. They should be easy to understand, balanced, and immersive. Here are some tips to help you create effective game mechanics:

Choose a Game System

There are many RPG game systems to choose from, including Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Savage Worlds. Choose a game system that fits the setting and style of your one-shot.

Balance the Mechanics

Make sure the game mechanics are balanced and fair for all players. Avoid creating overpowered characters or encounters that are too difficult to overcome.

Include Mechanics that Match the Theme

Consider including game mechanics that match the theme and style of your one-shot. For example, if you’re creating a horror-themed one-shot, include mechanics that create tension and fear.

Writing the Adventure

Now that you have all the elements in place, it’s time to write the adventure itself. Here are some tips to help you create a well-written adventure:

Create an Outline

Create an outline of the adventure that includes all the major plot points, encounters, and game mechanics. This will help you stay organized and ensure that the adventure flows smoothly.

Write Descriptive Text

Use descriptive text to set the scene and create an atmosphere. Describe the characters, locations, and encounters in detail to immerse your players in the story.

Include Dialogue

Dialogue can bring your characters to life and create memorable moments. Write a dialogue that matches the personality and motivations of each character.

Edit and Revise

Once you’ve written the adventure, edit and revise it to ensure it’s clear, concise, and well-written. Ask a friend or fellow RPG player to read it and provide feedback.


Writing an RPG one-shot can be a challenging but rewarding experience that allows you to flex your creativity and storytelling skills. Following these tips can create a memorable and engaging adventure that your players will love.


  1. What is an RPG one-shot? An RPG one-shot is a self-contained RPG session designed to be played in a single sitting, usually lasting a few hours.
  2. How long should an RPG one-shot be? An RPG one-shot should last between 3-5 hours, depending on the complexity of the adventure.
  3. Can I use pre-made characters in an RPG one-shot? Yes, you can use pre-made characters or allow players to create their own.
  4. Do I need to have a game system to write an RPG one-shot? It’s recommended to choose a game system that fits the setting and style of your one-shot, but it’s not strictly necessary.
  5. How many players should I have for an RPG one-shot? An RPG one-shot can be played with as few as two players and as many as six or more, depending on the game system and adventure.

About Donny Rokk

Gamer. Writer. Lover. Fighter. Defying stereotypes, one nerdgasm at a time.

Posted on April 3, 2023, in Blog and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on How to Write an RPG One-Shot.

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