Here were some resources I used to prep my first Dungeon World one-shot, which I ran last Sunday night:

  • Dragonslaying on a Timetable – Subtitle: “Running Tight 4-Hour Dungeon World One-Shots With Zero Preparation”, by John Aegard. This was my primary resource, and I went through it throughout the evening, including leveling up as directed in the middle of the session (the players loved this!).
  • Things to do in the first session of your Dungeon World game – Subtitle: “a guide to making player choices matter,” by Tim Franzke. I used this to ask additional probing questions of each player during world creation and identifying bonds.
  • Spouting Lore: My recipe for starting adventures – Great advice from Jeremy Strandberg, geared towards launching new campaigns, but helped me with the one shot. (And such great advice that I’m going to incorporate some of it into one of my campaigns, which just had two PCs die and so is rebooting a bit.)
  • One Shot World – By Yochai Gal. This was what I initially planned to use, and I would use it at the table, but because we were using Roll 20 and because the players were interested in learning Dungeon World, I just went with Dungeon World character sheets instead. Assuming I ever get to demo games at my FLGS again, I’ll go with this!
  • Safety Tools – More important than ever to emphasize. Personal to me since I once freaked out a player who had arachnophobia; I never want to do something like that again. I also shared this graphic from Monte Cook Games’ Consent in Gaming.
  • 20 Dungeon Starters – I wanted this for creative prompts, depending on where the party might go.
  • Dungeon World Tools – Helpful to select monsters based on terrain.
  • Terrain Features for Better Combat – To maximize “theater of the mind,” I wanted battles to have objects and obstacles that might affect combat.
  • Dungeon World Instant NPC Generator – For those random folks they might encounter.

These resources all proved very helpful.

Now, because we only had a 3-hour window, I encouraged people to pick a class (first come, first serve) by text message in the week up to the game, and to create their character in Roll 20. I then created a copy of the “Dragonslaying on a Timetable” Google Doc and hacked out questions for classes that weren’t going to be in my game, and changed some of the questions for clerics to questions for the paladin instead, since I had a paladin and no cleric.

In retrospect, during world creation, with three players, I should have pushed for more locations, having each describe two separate locales instead of one. Drawing on Roll 20 they put all their places next to each other, where in person the places would have gone on index cards that could have been moved around.

Fiction first did lead to one problem: They posited an ancient imperial city on a mountain that was a source of contamination that had brought megafauna back into the world (sabertooth tigers, cave bears, giant sloths). The druid wanted to stop the contamination that had been damaging the area for dozens of years; that seemed like a great campaign arc but way too much to achieve in one night (at least for my improv skills, in that moment). Meanwhile, the wizard wanted to find three of his students who had vanished exploring the ruins, and the paladin just wanted to fight all the megafauna – so I improvised clues and motivation for the students, and it worked out well. I ended up cannibalizing the Eldritch Island starter from 20 Dungeon Starters for details on the mountain and its bizarre contamination.

I got the players to lean into co-creation early, which I think really distinguished the game from 5e. I look forward to running another one shot with a different group soon.

(Image credit: RPG Dice Clock)