How to make a DND Oneshot cooler than a campaign

I was dreading running a one-shot for my playgroup while we figured out what to do next. I thought there was no way it would be as fun as my campaign. By the end of the experience, I realized just how wrong I was and how Dnd one-shots or any other system can be great to mix things up and have a whole lot of fun in different ways than a campaign.

DND Oneshot

How One-Shots can be Different than Campaigns

Extravagant Characters

Do you feel like everyone in your group has a character that is themselves? Are the characters pretty mundane? It could be the opposite, some players could roleplay but their tropes and mannerisms get old quickly. I have realized through the one-shots I have run and the ones that I have played that in one shot you can play a character who is more out there. More exaggerated roleplay does not get old because it’s only one session. 

I used to think that players wouldn’t roleplay in a one-shot. I thought that time would be needed to flesh out a character’s personality traits and find the characters. This wasn’t the case at all. In a campaign, players have ideas for their characters but as the stakes get higher they revert to their normal personalities.


From the above logic and personal experience, I would claim that you will get better roleplay out of a one-shot than a campaign. With this in mind, we can be more liberal during the character-creation process. We can try concepts without fear that they will be suboptimal or contrived, LEAN INTO TROPES!!!


Unique Shops

Shops are pretty standard in dungeons and dragons. Once they get to a city there are all kinds of things available to them. It’s reasonable. In a oneshot, you can give the players limited things to work with and even create unique economies. In my Oneshot, I had a game in which the prisoner’s dilemma dictated the economy. Players can ally to both get a silver piece or betray and get a gold piece and have the other fight a monster. I could have never gotten away wuth this in a normal town. For tips on how to make interesting shops check out my post here on the dungeon mail!

Interparty Intrigue

In a campaign, it is unwise to have players have a conflict of interest, they will be a party united through multiple sessions. I also thought this advice was beneficial due to player problems but my players took it well. What gave me the idea to run a game where the players are against each other was Dungeon Craft’s video.

The Main point that hooked me was that each player would be the main character in their head. In a campaign that is a very dangerous mentality but in a one-shot where the players aren’t cooperating it is beneficial for roleplay that everyone prioritizes themselves first. This may depend on the maturity of your table but it worked for my group. What I did was make a competition where only the first two to complete their objective were allowed to escape. They still had to cooperate in the face of imminent danger but couldn’t trust each other completely. The Subterfuge was super fun to watch as a dungeon master.



You may think your campaigns are dangerous and deadly, they probably are if you are anything like me but unless you are running a meat grinder in which there isn’t a point in integrating a character, you eventually get tired of killing characters and players won’t invest. In a campaign, it is entirely deflating to hear that someone doesn’t care that their character lives or dies.

In a one-shot however it is completely different. The characters are on a limited timer and while being more reckless because of this is metagaming it is not necessarily bad. Characters can feel free to take certain actions they wouldn’t in a campaign. This makes exploration less tedious and more fun. 


Players come with pre-established expectations, it’s human nature. They are well within their right to expect some narrative structure. If they got to the BBEG last session they probably want to fight it the next session. Things are more or less cohesive.

Hopefully explaining what I did with my one shot will demonstrate my point better, I started them off with an escape room sequence, on a timer. Puzzles in my dungeons and dragons games have always been a side thing distracting them from the main objective. In this Oneshot, I have never had a more amazing experience with a puzzle. Being able to describe to them how they woke up in a room filled with water was so fresh compared to meeting in a tavern.

Obviously, there are other ways to start but a one-shot gives you a fresh start with out feeling like you have to dedicate yourself to that direction

So why wasn't I excited about a oneshot

So why didn’t I know why Oneshots could be so amazing? I was dreading running a one-shot because we were trying out Pathfinder’s second edition, and none of the one-shots they had stood out to me. I was in the frame of mind that one-shots were less cool campaigns and not something that could be unique because that’s what the adventures were to me. Fortunately, a quality oneshot can be made with minimal preparation.  

Where to get a good Oneshot

Right here at the Dungeon Mail of course. By subscribing to our newsletter we will provide occasional Oneshots along with our normal blog posts.  If you don’t want to wait, I refer to Dungeon Craft’s video on Oneshots that I linked above. He does a good job of telling you how to create your own. Hopefully, the advice here helps as well! Thank you for reading.

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