D&D One Shots for Remote Gaming
Times are strange, there’s no doubt about it. But one thing in my life remains constant, in spite of all the chaos and disruption we’re seeing throughout the world, I still want to play Dungeons & Dragons. A lot.
In fact, since the UK went into lockdown (seven weeks ago at time of writing), I’ve been playing more D&D than ever, sometimes up to three or four times a week.
WotC recently released some exceptional material to help people to continue playing during quarantine, but there is already a huge amount of content available, as well as many different ways to play online.
How Do We Play?
We play remotely via, Skype, Zoom, Fantasy Grounds, or Roll20, all of which have varying levels of accessibility, versatility, and ease of use. For a pure theater of the mind approach, Skype or Zoom has worked best for us. But if you like to move tokens around a map, with sound effects and built-in functionality, such as initiative and HP trackers, then there’s very little to choose from besides Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds. I would say that Fantasy Grounds has a slightly easier learning curve and requires less preparation time, and Roll20 has more functionality and some fun add-on features, but the difference is marginal and likely down to your own preference. I would happily use both if that’s what our D&D group wanted.
However, my optimum choice would be to use a platform like Skype or Zoom, with a map and minis for the DM, and track your characters and HP via DnD Beyond. But whatever your preference, there are options out there for everyone.
3 Groups is Probably Enough
Not only have I been playing my regular Waterdeep Dragon Heist game, but my monthly long-running campaign that we used to play in person has now migrated to an online bi-weekly session, and I’ve also started a weekly D&D one shots series with another group, where we play a different one-shot each week, taking it in turns to DM.
Out of the three groups, it’s the D&D one shots series that has been the biggest revelation, it turns out it’s super fun and liberating to create new characters that you know will only be for a short-term game – the weirder the better. And there’s a whole gamut of widely available and inexpensive D&D one shots that you can play remotely for you to choose from.
So here are my top 5 D&D one shots to play during lockdown and where to find them.
My Top 5 D&D One Shots
- Unwelcome Spirits (level 1-3) from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
- Blue Alley (level 1-4) available on the DMsGuild by Alan Patrick and M.T. Black
- Children of the Red Rose (level 5) from Sly Flourish’s Ruins of the Grendleroot
- The Drowning Caverns of the Fish God (level 10), Goodman Games Fifth Edition Fantasy #15
- Court of the Lunar Knight (level 15) from 12 Peculiar Towers from Kobold Press
This is one of the four brand new starter adventures you’ll find in Matt Mercer’s Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, each of which make for perfect D&D one shots. The beginning of the adventure is great as it starts in a epic goblin settlement on the back of a giant horizonback tortoise. The adventure will take between 4-6 hours and includes encounters in the Brokenveil Marshes, fights against lizardfolk and bullywugs, and a final confrontation versus a shadow demon-possessed warlock.
It’s a fun adventure that’s relatively easy to run and sees players interact with monstrous races that aren’t always the enemy—perfect for anyone who always wanted to play a goblin character. We had a party of five goblins and a bugbear and it was a hoot. I really enjoyed playing this adventure; it was ideal as a first taste of playing a Wildemount-based campaign. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy this one shot, there are three more fully detailed adventures in Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, making it a truly worthwhile purchase—that’s not to mention to masses of additional content in the book covering the campaign setting, unique monsters, magic items, and world lore.
If you are familiar with Waterdeep—either through playing the Dragon Heist campaign like me, or by other means—then this one shot will be perfect for you. The infamous, eponymous Blue Alley is set in the heart of Waterdeep and is a magic maze full of tricks, traps, strange monsters, and rich treasure.
As I’m currently running Dragon Heist, it was a nice change to explore a part of Waterdeep from the other side of the DM screen, and our party of mostly evil characters—I played a gold-obsessed Tabaxi Cleric who refused to heal anyone—only just made it out alive. When you purchase Blue Alley on the DMs Guild you get the Fantasy Grounds .mod as well and we played this via method for the first time. Including a few minutes to get used to the platform, it took just over the suggested four hours, and we all really enjoyed the experience. Now I’m thinking of slotting Blue Alley into my Dragon Heist campaign proper; I just have to find the right incentive for my players. Gold and glory normally works.
Children of the Red Rose
Ruins of the Grendleroot is a fabulous compendium of D&D one shots, which can also be used as full campaign if you choose. Each one is set in the caverns, chambers, tunnels, and ruins of Blackclaw Mountain, where players discover the Grendleroot—a strange and otherworldy sentience—that lurks deep within.
We played Children of the Red Rose, and each created new level 5 characters for the three sessions it took to play via Zoom. This one shot adventure sees the heroes first embark on a short dungeon crawl to find and protect a retired adventurer, and then perform a Home Alone-esque setup to use the hazards and creatures of the dungeon against a group of assassins. It was really fun and worked perfectly well over Skype using the theater of the mind approach.
The Drowning Caverns of the Fish God
Goodman Games has released a number of excellent fifth edition adventures for all levels of character from first level right up to higher tiers of play. We played this using Skype, with a camera set up to show a map with some minis for the final fight. It was good to play a one shot with mid-level characters where the monsters here are not your usual goblins or orcs.
I DM’d this adventure over the course of four one-and-a-half-hour online sessions, and, while the Drowning Caverns of The Fish-God is a fairly linear adventure, it was super simple to prepare and includes some really cool opportunities for roleplay and an epic final boss fight with high stakes.
Court of the Lunar Knight
Once again I let someone else take control and DM this game, and it was fun to create a higher level character for a change. We played over the course two 3-hour-long sessions and by all accounts it required little preparation and was straightforward and satisfying to run.
My level 15 Kenku Warlock of the Fey led the group was we investigated a strange blight that was affecting the countryside. We came upon a court of the Shadow Fey in the Ivory Tower that dominated the landscape and, after navigating a magical maze, climbing the tower and defeating some guards, we fought the terrifying Lunar Knight. It was a fierce battle and, while I won’t spoil the ending, it was an exciting climax to the adventure. 12 Peculiar Towers is a great collection of D&D one shots, ranging from first right up to fifteen level, there’s sure to be a tower-based one shot adventure here to suit every remote gaming group.
D&D One Shots
Whatever your platform of choice, there are plenty of options for playing D&D one shots while keeping up with lockdown or quarantine rules and socially distancing yourself. You might even find that, like me, you are playing more Dungeons & Dragons than ever before. If you are playing D&D remotely for the first time, we’d love to hear from you. Why not drop a note in the comments below or tweet us a photo of your online set up.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received a copy of Ruins of the Grendleroot, Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, and 12 Peculiar Towers for review purposes.
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