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5e One Shot: Playtest

I trotted out my new quick character generation system, 5e One-Shot, for a game at the local library. And it was a blast!

I printed out the rules and made an accordion-fold screen out of them.

Crafts Time

This screen didn't prove terribly useful—the arrangement of the narrow conference room and outsize table were such that no one could really crowd around a see it. But I think it lent my homebrew system an ersatz professionalism that made it easier for people to get on board.

All in all, it worked really well. Everyone ended up with a reasonably realized character with distinct strengths.

Some points of improvement:

  1. Several players lined their 5d6 up in numerical order, which meant they ended up with very similar characters. I'll need to clarify the desire for a randomized spread.
  2. The character sheets are class-based, so that they could have lots of the class information pre-printed on them. But class is the last thing you decide on, so the character sheets were useless. I need to make a universal character sheet, perhaps with class summaries presented as checkable options.
  3. I think the name list needs more one-syllable names. Or, at least, I need to establish one or two syllable diminutives for characters with long names. I had eight players, most of whom gravitated towards knotted syllable-string Fantasy names. It was hard to keep track of, and made note taking more laborious.
  4. I need some information about hitting second level, since that is easily achievable in one session of 5e. When the players advanced to second level, I awarded extra hit points, which worked well enough at the time. I don't want to bog things down by explaining complicated new abilities. But it's worth looking at to see if there's a pared-down approach to handing out a little extra juice.
  5. A bit of errata here and there. Wizards definitely shouldn't roll 1d20+10+INT to hit with Ray of Frost.

Players made excellent creative use of their backgrounds in lieu of skills. We had two cobblers in the crowd. One used her her familiarity with shoe construction to examine footprints left at a murder scene. Another claimed a bonus climbing up a pyramid of boulders because of her well-constructed footgear (you're going to have to stretch to make cobbling relevant to adventuring).

Click for DM's Guild
It's hardly news that you don't need a lot of rules or complicated character builds to have a good time with an rpg, but it was gratifying to confirm that the results were still completely compatible with full-bore 5e.

We ran Treasure of the Broken Hoard, by Shawn Merwin.

I'm pretty happy with this as a module for first-timers. It's well thought out, and didn't need much prep beyond a single read-through.

It involves 5 connected mini-scenarios along a mountain range. This provides a nice variety of locations and situations, and is modular enough that there are convenient and satisfying stopping places for a one-time pickup game. It also lets the players set their pace, and provides ample opportunities to rest and heal for delicate first-level characters.

The scenarios are a little formulaic: the party arrives at a location, are ambushed by bad guy fodder, there's a puzzle to solve, but most of the treasure has already been snatched. But the elements are all solid. There are imaginative adversaries scaled to first-level play. The puzzles are varied and pitched at the right level of challenging for quick-but-not-too-quick solving. And there's some fun rewards—who doesn't want a miniature pet bear?

We made it through two scenarios in three hours. A more focused party could have made it a lot further in the same amount of time, but cares about focus if everyone is having fun?

The only conversion needed to run this adventure using 5e One-Shot was ignoring the parenthetic skill listed whenever it called for a skill check. Easy!


  1. I'm glad this went well. The two cobbler examples are great! It sounds like the players really got into it.

    The issue with the character sheets is interesting, and something that didn't occur to me reading through it. Would it be possible to make "choose your character class" an earlier decision? I know that Wizards want INT, Fighters want STR, etc, but if everyone's playing a random, slightly sub-optimal character, there's not necessarily a problem, right?

    I'm also interested in your point about ersatz professionalism and player buy-in. I can sort of understand not wanting to play in a random stranger's possibly-garbage homebrew on a mess of scribbled notebook pages. Maybe a bit of design polish is the key to overcoming people's reticence to trying something a little new?

    1. Regarding the sheets: Bringing class forward in the creation process is totally possible. I'll chew on it. My first impulse is to keep it where it is, because there's a barely-there lifepath to chargen at present. You learn (1) who raised you; (2) what kind of person you are; and finally (3) you get to decide what kind of adventurer you want to be.

      Since the character sheet is so simple, and the class information is so sparse, I think I can make a full-page character sheet with all three class options presented in a fairly minimal style.

      And, yeah, a little design polish can cover an astonishing number of sins.

    2. Well, you clearly have an eye for design, and there's no particular harm in showing all the possible starting-character abilities on the same sheet. Players who graduate to 2nd level could get a new class-specific sheet that shows their expanded abilities, maybe?

      The lifepath is a nice touch, and I understand the inclination to keep it. On the one hand, you could imagine it a little non-linearly. Here's who you are today. Flashback - here's who raised you. Flashback - here's what kind of person you became. On the other hand, if it works well and makes sense the way it is, maybe changing the character sheet is the best solution.


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