One Shot or Campaign

When I first got interested in Savage Worlds and started looking online for resources and communities, I noticed that there seemed to be two camps when it came to playing the game. The first was the traditional home campaign, where the GM and players run through a series of adventures creating a larger story arc. The second, seemingly larger camp is the one shot groups. This group runs single adventures, often (but not always) with pre-generated characters, typically at conventions or online.

I come from a gaming background where most groups I have been in did campaigns. Sometimes they were short, say five gaming sessions or less, sometimes they were epic, lasting for several years. Usually they landed somewhere in between. What surprised me with the Savage Worlds community was that much of what I was listening to in podcasts and finding online were a lot of people running one shots or very short campaigns. This isn’t always the case, a few people over at Nerds-International and on The Wild Die podcast do seem to be running some long term campaigns. But it seems, from what I have seen, is that one shots are more popular, or at least more prevalent.

Why does Savage Worlds seem to appeal to the one shot? I think that maybe it is an acknowledgement of the Fast, Furious, Fun element of the game. It is easy to learn and teach. It is very GM friendly. And a pick up game can be cobbled together with little effort.

I mean think about it, in older D20 games (D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, D20 Modern), there is quite a bit of set up and character creation can be time consuming, especially if the characters start out higher than level one. The same is true for the Storyteller system, character creation can be time consuming. Also, many other games require more work by the GM prior to running a game. Encounter creation and balanced rewards can take some time to put together. Now there are published adventures, Paizo has released over a hundred in the years Pathfinder has been around. But even those require a few hours to read up and become familiar with the encounters.

Savage Worlds has gotten this reputation of very low down time and fast prep. Publishers like Just Insert Imagination has taken advantage of this by releasing “plug and play” adventures that can be run within an hour after the GM starts reading it.

Now, are there other systems out there that can be just as GM & player friendly for quick one shots? Yes, there are. Fate comes to mind immediately for me. It can be very easy for a GM to create encounters on the fly and the “plug & play” model could work very well for it. But to some, it is a little too rules lite.

There are others out there, I know, but I have not had the opportunity to play them, though if someone is willing to do a one shot at my local game store, I’d bite!

So, what do you think? Does Savage Worlds lend itself to one shot games? What other games out there are good for one shots?

Let me know in the comments below!


4 thoughts on “One Shot or Campaign

Add yours

  1. Nice article!

    IMO, the thing that is awesome about SW is it does *both* one-shots and campaigns extremely well.

    One-shots – you can so easily mash up ideas and just have them run in core SW. Recently on FB a guy could not decide between Deadlands and Fantasy. So why not both? Orc Gunslingers.

    We have a mini-con every year and SW is the predominate system. This past year I played in a Deadlands game and then ran ETU and Rippers. People did not have to learn a bunch of new rules just to change the genre. You might clarify an Edge or two and you are off and running.

    Campaigns – I am firmly in the camp that SW is awesome for campaigns. My group is an old D&D group. Like many groups, we always enjoyed the Level 5-12 range the most. SW seems to run in that natural range (by feel anyway). Even when you hit Legendary, your PC is really just branching out. While you get more options, the PC does not feel like its suddenly too powerful for all that you faced before. Our campaigns just seem to run so much smoother under SW.

    From the players perspective, there is always something else to take during a campaign. I can map a PC out to 400xp and still go “boy, I wish I could pick up x earlier or I really need y next” (note: we have not run a campaign to that level because we have 3 GMs and rotate every 100xp or so – but I like to have a path in mind).

    Mass Combat, Chases, Dramatic Tasks, Quick Combats and Social Conflicts all create new ways to tell the story. If you want, you can do something on a Mass Combat Scale, zoom into a large tabletop (say Company sized) battle, then zoom into individual fights, and even result a side item with Quick Combat – all in the same session.

    Anyway – I vote BOTH 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, Savage Worlds does both, one-shots and campaigns.

    But when I use it, I prefer to create campaigns. I still prefer quicker systems (very very light) I do myself for one-shots. Savage Worlds have quite too many rules for a 4 hours game.

    It’s main advantage is that even after several games, the characters are not too much powerful, which keep the game interesting.


    1. I use it both ways. I have a campaign for my kids that is very fantasy oriented. I also am running Savage Rifts for my home group of friends. But I’ve also run several one shots at my library as a way to introduce kids to RPGs. The system does not feel too rules heavy to me, but I also try to craft encounters that showcase a few rules and limit combats to faster skirmishes in my one-shots.



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