What Is a DND One Shot? (Ultimate Guide for Beginners)

In Dungeons and Dragons (DND), you can play a one-shot or a full campaign.

What is a DND one shot?

A DND one shot is a complete mini-adventure that starts and finishes in a single session. A one-shot can take one to six hours but is rarely more than six hours long. A one shot can be simple, complex, premade, homebrewed, genre-focused, and designed for new or advanced players.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about, “What is a DND one shot?”

What Is a DND One Shot? (Detailed Answer)

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Treasure chest on a DND map—What Is a DND One Shot
Image by the author via Canva—What Is a DND One Shot?

In the world of Dungeons & Dragons, a one-shot is an adventure that can be completed in a single game session. 

Unlike a longer campaign, which might span multiple sessions (or even years), a one-shot is designed to be self-contained, with a beginning, middle, and end. 

One-shots can be either pre-written by the dungeon master (DM) or created on the fly. 

They can also be played with either pre-generated characters or ones that the players create themselves. 

One-shots can be of any length, but most are around four-six hours long.

One-shots are usually shorter and simpler than full campaigns, as they don’t need to leave room for future developments. However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t be just as exciting and dramatic as longer adventures. 

In fact, because everything happens in one session, one-shots often have a much faster pace than campaigns. 

Players also tend to experiment with character builds and style of gameplay more in one-shots, as they know that they won’t be continuing their adventure with the characters later on. 

Whether you’re new to Dungeons & Dragons or an experienced veteran, one-shots are a great way to experience the game.

Types of DND One Shots

There are several different types of DND one shots. We’ll go over the most important and common types you will likely encounter while playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Types of one-shots include:

  • One-shots for new DMs
  • One-shots for advanced DMs
  • Premade one-shots
  • Homebrew one-shots
  • Simple one-shots
  • Bad one-shots
  • Horror one-shots
  • Puzzle one-shots
  • Mystery one-shots
  • Episodic one-shots
  • New build one-shots

What Is a DND One Shot for New DMs?

A D&D one shot for new DMs is a one shot designed specifically for dungeon masters new to the game of Dungeons and Dragons.

If you’re new to Dungeons and Dragons, the thought of running a campaign can be daunting.

Where do you start? What if your players get bored or confused? How do you keep everyone on track?

One way to ease into the DMing role is to run a one-shot. 

That’s because a one-shot is a self-contained adventure that can be completed in a single session. They’re perfect for new DMs because they’re relatively simple to prepare and run, and they give you a chance to try out the DMing role without having to commit to a longer campaign.

There are lots of great resources out there for finding one-shots, but if you’re stuck, here’s a quick and easy one-shot for new DMs:

The party is hired by a local farmer to clear his field of rats. The farmer will pay them 10 gold pieces for every rat they kill. 

Simple enough, right?

Once the party arrives at the farm, they discover that one of the rats is actually a giant mutated rat. 

The farmers have been using a new type of fertilizer that has caused this rat to grow to a massive size. 

The party must now kill the giant rat and save the farm before the other rats become supersized.

This one shot is perfect because it’s short, straightforward, and easy for both new DMs and players. There is also a clear goal with a deadline.

What Is a DND One Shot for Advanced DMs?

Advanced DND one-shots in Dungeons & Dragons are typically:

  • Longer
  • More complex
  • Made for higher-level characters
  • Involve more difficult encounters

They often have multiple objectives or objectives that are not immediately clear and may require the use of special abilities or items to complete.

In addition, advanced one-shots often have unique antagonists or terrain features.

While you can run them for any level of characters, they are typically geared towards those of higher levels (10-20+).

For example, an advanced one-shot might involve exploring long-forgotten ruins in search of treasure, while avoiding traps and battling fierce monsters.

Advanced one-shots provide an opportunity for DND players to:

  • Max out their character abilities and spells
  • Work together
  • Test their skills
  • Solve complicated puzzles and mysteries
  • Experience a challenging series of combat situations

What Is a Pre-Made DND One-Shot?

A premade one shot is simply a single-session adventure, created and usually published by someone other than the Dungeon Master.

You can purchase pre-made one-shots from Amazon, wizards of the Coast, and D&D beyond.

You can also sometimes find free pre-made one-shots through a simple Google search.

Whether you’re looking for a quick fix or want to try out a new adventure before committing to a longer campaign, pre-made one-shots are a great option.

What Is a Homebrew One-Shot?

Homebrew one-shot adventures are original adventures designed by Dungeon Masters not associated with Wizards of the Coast (the official DND company).

This includes completely made up:

  • Settings
  • Creatures
  • Non-player Characters (NPCs)
  • Traps
  • Magic spells
  • Character classes

In some cases, a homebrew one-shot might even use entirely different game mechanics than what is typically seen in Dungeons and Dragons.

Homebrew one-shots can also borrow official settings, monsters, and items from official DND.

The possibilities are really endless.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to run a successful one-shot.

First, make sure that all of your players are on the same page regarding the rules and mechanics of the game.

It can be confusing and frustrating for players if they are constantly having to stop and look up rules during the game.

Second, try to keep the scope of the adventure manageable.

It’s easy to get carried away when creating your own content, but it’s important to remember that you only have a limited amount of time to play.

Finally, take advantage of available help, resources, and tools.

For example, check out the free one-shot template later in this article. It can really help save you time and struggle.

Also, watch this good video about how to plan and run a D&D one-shot:

YouTube video by Dungeon Dudes—What Is a DND One Shot?

What Is a Simple DND One-Shot?

A simple one-shot is very similar to a one-shot for a new Dungeon Master.

Essentially, a simple one-shot is:

  • Shorter
  • Less complex
  • Played in a single D&D location (town, forest, cave, etc)
  • Straightforward (easy to understand plotline)
  • Small (includes a handful of non-player characters)
  • Usually made for first through third level characters

What Is a Bad DND One-Shot?

If you’ve ever played a bad or poorly designed D&D one-shot, you know how frustrating it can be.

The adventure is usually overly complex, full of confusing mechanics and rules that are impossible to keep straight.

The encounters are often too powerful for the players to handle and may include random monsters that have no bearing on the overall plot.

And don’t even get me started on the NPCs.

They’re often annoying and one-dimensional, and their only purpose is to further the plot or provide exposition.

Think of a Jar Jar Binks type character in D&D.

In short, a bad D&D one-shot is a waste of time and energy, and it’s best to avoid them if at all possible.

What Is a Horror One-Shot in DND?

A horror D&D one-shot can be a fun and suspenseful way to change up your usual game night.

However, it’s important to make sure that the game is actually scary, and not just filled with cheap jump scares and clichés.

One of the best ways to create a truly spine-tingling horror game is to focus on the atmosphere.

A forbidding mood and setting are key, as is a sense of unease and foreboding.

Make sure your players know that they’re in for a scare, and then let them loose in a dark, dangerous world full of undead creatures and other terrors.

With a little preparation, you can create an unforgettable night of gaming that your friends will be talking about for years to come.

What Is a Puzzle One-Shot in DND?

A Puzzle one-shot is an adventure where the players must solve a puzzle to progress.

The puzzle can be anything from a riddle to an escape room, and the difficulty will vary depending on the party’s level.

However, puzzle one-shots are not just about solving the puzzle.

They are also about role-playing and teamwork. The players will need to use their intelligence and wisdom to figure out the clues, and they will need to work together to overcome any obstacles in their way.

Combat encounters may also be included, but they will be secondary to the puzzle-solving elements of the adventure.

In my experience, a puzzle one-shot is a great way to test your party’s problem-solving skills and see how well they work together under pressure.

What Is a Mystery One-Shot in DND?

A mystery one-shot is an adventure where the players must solve a mystery.

The mystery can be anything from a murder to a theft, and it is up to the players to use their wit and intelligence to figure out who did it.

A puzzle one-shot is similar but focuses more on solving a manufactured riddle than a “whodunnit.”

Here are some tips for running a successful mystery one-shot:

  1. Choose a good mystery. It should be something that is solvable within the time frame of the adventure, and it should be intriguing enough to keep the players engaged. For example, Who killed the king? What is causing these strange disappearances? How are the assassins getting into the city?
  2. Mix up your clues. It is important to have enough clues for the players to solve the mystery, but you don’t want to make it too easy. Include red herrings and false leads to keep them guessing.
  3. Be prepared to improvise. Things can and sometimes do go awry. Be prepared to think on your feet and come up with new clues if necessary.
  4. Have fun. Ultimately, the most important thing is that everyone involved is enjoying themselves. If that means an easier mystery, so be it. Enjoyment and satisfaction trump a great mystery.

What Is an Episodic One-Shot in DND?

An episodic one-shot in DND usually involves a series of loosely related episodes or encounters. 

Episodic one-shots are a great way to change up the pace of your campaign, and they can be a lot of fun for both players and DMs. 

An episodic one-shot is typically composed of a series of shorter episodes or encounters, rather than a single continuous storyline. This can be a great way to keep players engaged, as they never quite know what’s going to happen next. 

It also gives DMs more flexibility in terms of creating content, as they can easily add or remove “episodes” (encounters) as needed. 

Of course, running an episodic one-shot does require a bit more preparation than a traditional campaign. 

In particular, you’ll need to make sure that each encounter is self-contained.

Otherwise, you’re episodic one-shot will turn into a simple one-shot.

But if you plan carefully, an episodic one shot can be a great way to shake things up and keep your players on their toes.

What Is a New Build One-Shot in DND?

A new build one-shot is when all of the players build a new character specially designed for a specific one-shot adventure.

This can be an awesome opportunity for players to try out a new character class or race.

It’s also a perfect context to experiment with builds outside of the usual rules.

Some things to keep in mind when creating a new build one-shot are:

  • How does the goal of the adventure relate directly to the new builds?
  • What kind of opponents will allow the new builds to use their unique strengths and abilities?
  • What is the ideal environment for the new builds?

In other words, everything about your new build adventure should connect directly back to the type of new builds.

With these factors in mind, it’s time for the players to start designing their new characters.

Will they be a melee fighter, ranged attacker, or spellcaster? What abilities will they have? What equipment will they need?

Keep in mind that balance is important.

You don’t want one player to be significantly more powerful than the others. For example, if one player wants to play a DND steel dragon, they should all be dragons.

Once everyone has created their characters, it’s time to start the adventure.

Pros and Cons D&D One-Shots

Here is a simple chart that compares the pros and cons of DND one-shots:

DND One-Shot ProsDND One-Shot Cons
ShortLower emotional investment
SimpleLess satisfaction for meeting game goals
Requires less preparationLess creativity is needed
Less work to createA lot of work for a fast adventure
Chart: DND One-Shot Pros and Cons—What is a DND One Shot?

5 Benefits of D&D One-Shots

Here are just a few of the benefits of running a D&D one-shot:

  1. They’re fast and easy to set up. Unlike long campaigns, which can take weeks or even months to prepare, one-shots can be put together in a matter of hours. All you need is a basic understanding of the game mechanics and a few ideas for encounters.
  2. They’re great for introducing new players to D&D. One-shots provide a low-pressure introduction to the game, allowing new players and new DMs to get a feel for the mechanics and test their comfort level with roleplaying without committing to a long-term campaign.
  3. They’re perfect for when you’re short on time. If you only have one evening free, or if your regular gaming group is taking a week off, running a one-shot is a great way to scratch that D&D itch.
  4. They offer a chance to try new things. Maybe you’ve been playing the same character for several campaigns and you’re looking to change things up. Or maybe you’ve been wanting to try a different class or race but haven’t had the chance. A one-shot is a perfect opportunity to experiment without having to commit to anything long-term.
  5. They are satisfying. Even though one-shots are short by definition, players still achieve a sense of satisfaction because they complete the goal of the adventure in a single session.

3 Downsides of D&D One-Shots

There are also downsides to playing a one-shot adventure.

Depending on what kind of one-shot you run with your D&D group, the downsides might be different.

Here are three main downsides:

  • They can restrictive. Pre-made one-shots can feel restrictive and confining to both the DM and the player group. The DM is limited by what’s written in the adventure, and the players may feel like they’re just following a script. One-shot adventures can be fun, but they don’t always give everyone the freedom to truly explore the game and create their own stories.
  • They can be too short. One-shots are one-and-done adventures with no continuity into the future. Players may want to roleplay their characters longer or extend their time in the new setting.
  • They can generate less investment. Players might feel less invested in the characters, plot, and world of the one-shot. After all, they may never play the characters or visit the fantasy world ever again.

Mixing one-shots with longer-term campaigns can be a great way to keep gameplay balanced.

This gives DMs and players the “best of both worlds.”

Create a DND Character With Jasper ...
Create a DND Character With Jasper Art
What Is a DND One Shot Book?

A D&D one-shot book is a published pre-made one-shot usually sold online and at game stores.

Popular one-shot books include:

What Is a DND One Shot Setting? (3 Settings)

One of the things that make Dungeons and Dragons so special is the vast array of different worlds and settings that are available to players.

A DND one-shot setting is the location in which the single-session adventure takes place.

Let’s look at three popular DND one-shot locations.

Forgotten Realms

The Forgotten Realms is a well-known and fan-favorite D&D setting, and it’s easy to see why.

The world is full of fascinating cultures, intriguing history, and deadly monsters. Players can explore the Great Rift, ride on the back of dragons, or battle evil wizards in dungeons deep beneath the earth.

The best way to learn how to create a one-shot in this setting is with the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide.

Greyhawk

Greyhawk is one of the original Dungeons and Dragons settings.

It’s a classic sword-and-sorcery setting, full of heroic knights and treacherous villains. Players can explore the verdant countryside, venture into dark castles, or confront deadly beasts in dark forests.

There’s something for everyone in Greyhawk.

Here is the original box set and book for the World of Greyhawk.

Eberron

Finally, we come to Eberron, a setting that combines magic and technology in a fresh way.

Players can ride airships between floating cities, battle warforged soldiers, or use magical artifacts to venture into Mournland.

Here is an official Ebberon book to create one-shots and campaigns in this fantasy setting.

What Is a DND One Shot Generator?

If you’re looking for a way to jazz up your D&D games, then you should definitely check out a D&D one-shot generator.

These handy tools can automatically come up with all sorts of different one-shot ideas.

That makes it easy to find something new and exciting to play. Plus, they’re great for DMs and groups who are short on time or inspiration.

All you need is a few minutes and you can have a whole new adventure ready to go.

How do D&D one-shot generators work?

Basically, you just type in a few parameters (such as the number of players, the setting, and the character levels) and the generator will come up with a list of suitable one-shots.

You can then pick the one that looks the most interesting and get started.

There’s no need to worry about coming up with an original plot or dealing with complex mechanics— the generator will take care of all of that for you.

All you need to do is have fun and enjoy your game.

One of my favorite D&D one-shot generators is an AI tool called Jasper.

While Jasper has many other uses, like generating blog posts and marketing copy, it also works great for creating completely original one-shot ideas, bad guys, titles, character backgrounds, and more.

For example, here’s a high-level one-shot idea developed entirely by Jasper:

The heroes awake to find themselves in a strange land, with no memory of how they got there. They quickly discover that they are not alone. They are being hunted by a ferocious dragon. The heroes must work together to find a way to escape the dragon’s clutches and return home. Along the way, they will face challenges and tests, uncovering dark secrets about this place and the people who live here. In the end, they will have to confront the dragon head-on in order to escape.

Here are a few other one-shot generators:

  • Chaosgen
  • Kassoon
  • Myraah.io (one-shot name generator)

What Is a DND One Shot Template?

One of my favorite hacks for writing DND one-shots is to use a template.

What is a DND one shot template?

A D&D one-shot template is an organizing document with blank spaces and categories to help you create your own D&D one-shot or keep track of a pre-made one-shot.

There are usually categories for:

  • The title of the one-shot
  • The main conflict
  • The main NPCs
  • The major turning points (at the beginning, in the middle, and end)

This can be an extremely helpful tool if you want to run your own D&D game but don’t necessarily have the time to prepare an entire campaign.

It can also help you keep track of all the different elements of a pre-made one-shot for easy reference later. 

Think of it like a Mad Libs for D&D one-shots.

You can fill in all the different blanks with whatever information you need and then have a complete template to work off of.

This can be a great way to get your creative juices flowing and also help you stay organized. 

If you’re interested in running your own D&D one-shots or just want a helpful tool to keep track of them, definitely consider using a D&D one-shot template.

Here is a free DND one shot template you can download and use:

Final Thoughts

DND one-shots are the short stories of the roleplaying world.

They offer just enough tasty adventure wrapped in a single session. I highly recommend that you mix them into your DM repertoire.

Related posts:

Sources

Wizards of the Coast