I had two hours to run a one-shot full of people who’ve never held dice outside of a Monopoly game. It started with the possibility of 7 players, but two had conflicts and one decided to just skip out.
For some ungodly reason—when I thought I had 7 players—I picked Tri-Stat dX as the roleplaying system. I started a campaign in it a few years ago, and the flexibility of the system appealed for a high-powered fantasy game, like I was trying to do here.
I wanted to play upon their interests in fashion, fame, and shiny things (and all the players were women), so I crafted a ladies-only party at the innocently-named Bright Eaves Home for Children. There were seven major players on the bad guys’ sides (including the owner of the orphanage) who were helping children disappear, likely through some people-eating or vampiric methods.
The players were hired by Sir Dante Hendrix to investigate the goings-on with the children over the course of the party.
The session starts with the players right inside the door, invitations accepted.
I gave the players a presentation a few days before the one-shot, and worked with some of them on the concepts of the game and what it means to role-play and imagine yourself in a game. The one I couldn’t catch up with didn’t even bother to read the presentation or pick a character before the game, which was disappointing. I lost 30 minutes in explaining things to her.
I deliberately (thanks, Greg!) put them already in the house at the start of the game to prevent all the lengthy research/scoping they might have been inclined to do.
The players took a social approach, which I encouraged given the time constraints and one of the players needing to be pushed in terms of pace. An hour and a half was pretty tight for the one-shot; they completed the mission, but didn’t experience combat and the ending was crazy-rushed.
I think the campaign is solid enough to run anywhere from 2 to 4 hours (the GM can scale difficulty easily), so I’ve put up all details on Obsidian Portal. Everything there is geared towards a GM picking it up and running with it (private stuff like the layout and NPCs are public).