Saturday, 5 May 2018

#1H1S Fail

I’ve been inspired by Guy Milner’s One Hour One Shot (#1H1S) posts on his Burn After Running blog, and I thought I’d give it a try.

Tl;dr: I failed

Inspired by Bite of the Crocodile God, Guy’s three-scene adventure for D101 Games (and available for free), I thought I’d create a short, three-scene adventure for Other London, my Fate Accelerated occasional Urban Fantasy game. So I created The Fallen, where the players first identify a suspect, then follow him back to his home (where they find further clues), and then deal with the nest.

Easy, right?

Well, I ran it for my regular gaming group and it took us a little over four hours. It really didn’t matter that it took four hours - everyone had a great time. But as far as #1H1S goes, it was a dismal failure.

Here’s where I think I went wrong.

Campaign group

So my first mistake was to have the players use characters from a previous game. That was great in that the players knew their characters and what was going on, but was bad in that they already had a pile of existing background baggage that they brought with them.

So I think a #1H1S needs to be completely standalone to get it done in an hour.

Fiddly pre-gens

I created pre-gens with a standard 4 hour convention slot in mind, so there are choices to be made. I think for #1H1S the pre-gens need to have fewer choices so we can simply start playing.

(While two of the players were reusing old characters, we had a new player who needed a character.)

Modern day

I love games set in the modern day. I don’t have to think about background detail, I don’t have to worry about explaining what technology is or what people wear. I can just concentrate on the game.

But it has its downsides, particularly if you are pushed for time.

The granularity of a modern day setting means that the detail is never-ending. Players can go into something simple (such as a surveillance job) in ridiculous detail - much more than the scene really needed.

Online distractions

I would much rather play face-to-face, but I usually play online (with players that I first started gaming with thirty years ago!). Online is fine - we use Googledocs and Hangouts, but the main problem is that it’s too easy to get distracted.

So the scenario opened with a surveillance job at the Burger King at Victoria Station - and we were able to find a recent photo of the exact location online. That was nice, but meant that everyone wanted to study the photo to figure out how where their characters were going to be, and that took time.

And later, I had originally set the third scene under a multistory car park in Lambourne End (because I thought that the name sounded appropriately sinister). However, when we checked Google Maps we found that Lambourne End was in the country, so we spent fifteen minutes or so relocating the car park to somewhere more suitable.

Scene 2b

I messed up when I prepared the scenario and I didn’t think about how the PCs could get into the bunker itself for the finale. We worked out how to do that during the game, but it resulted in a small scene between scenes 2 and 3 where they made contact with the 24 hour caretakers.

It didn’t matter in the context of what we were doing, but it obviously wouldn’t have helped me keep to a strict timetable. (But that’s one of the benefits of playtesting.)


Player characters in Fate Accelerated are tough, so I made the Fallen themselves a bit tougher than I normally would to give the PCs a bit of a challenge. I think I over did that - with the result the fights ran on a bit long.

Despite increasing their toughness, the PCs were never in any real danger - although one of them did end the scenario in a very bad way.

Too much fighting

I probably had too many combats - there were two combat scenes, and I suspect that’s one too many.

Thinking about it, my perfect #1H1S probably involves:

  • one scene with an investigation
  • one scene roleplaying with an NPC
  • one scene with a fight (a climactic battle).

(And if I could avoid the battle I would. But a battle is an easy way to round off a scenario in an exciting way.)

And then I added the SAS

We normally play in two hour sessions, and at the end of the second session (our fourth hour) we were in the middle of the climactic fight when we had to stop.

So that meant starting a new session knowing that we only had another few minutes of gaming time. So what do to?

So I did what everyone does - I added the SAS. So our version of the scenario ended up with the SAS storming the bunker and taking possession of it for the military. That ended on a slightly ominous cliffhanger (which is just ideal for the setting), but it made the made the scenario even longer.


I guess the biggest obstacle to completing the adventure in one hour was me. I wasn’t in a rush, so I didn’t push the pacing at all. I could have pushed harder, but I didn’t. I was happy to let the players pontificate and play with the detail.

So it’s my own fault.

Be Slicker #1H1S

So none of this actually matters. We had fun with the adventure, and it didn’t matter that I magnificently failed to run a one hour one shot.

But I like the #1H1S concept, so at some point I’ll give it another go. But maybe not with The Fallen.

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