I’ve run a couple of one-shots at cons, and found that while it’s easy to showcase a heist from start to finish, the downtime cycle and the faction game do kind of suffer as a result, since these are things that really shine in a longer campaign. To that end, last February I ran a 3 session game at TotalCon in Boston, and it was a blast. I encouraged everyone to sign up for all three sessions, but it wasn’t required, as the events of each session were set two years apart. I drew up a one-page description for 9 of the districts, each one including a slice of the map, notable locations and factions in the area, and a starting situation for the crew to get involved in.
Session 1 saw a newly minted street gang of some stripe or another (I narrowed the Crew choices to Assassins, Bravos, and Shadows) trying to get a foothold. All character playbooks were available, but I had gone ahead and created “semi-pregens”, filling in some recommended action dot ratings and special abilities in advance, which the players were free to change if they wanted (turns out none of them did, so I guess I made good choices). Starting district choices were Charhollow, Coalridge, or the Docks. Factions on offer were smaller groups like the Lost, the Billhooks, Ulf Ironborn, the Gray Cloaks. I also made it clear that with many of these, someone else was pulling their strings.
Session 2 fast forwarded two years, so now the gang’s established, they’ve moved up in Tier, gained some claims and some territory, and are moving in larger circles, having expanded their operations to either Barrowcleft, Nightmarket, or Silkshore. New friends and foes have also come along, the likes of the Dimmer Sisters, the Path of Echoes, the Brigade, the Grinders, and the Hive.
Session 3 fast forwarded again, and once again the crew has moved up in the world. Now they’ve moved on to either Charterhall, Six Towers, or Brightstone, and they’re starting to deal with some of the real movers and shakers in the city, like the Ministry of Preservation, the Leviathan Hunters, the Foundation, Lord Scurlock, the Circle of Flame, the Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh.
I placed specific factions in specific districts to give their actions context and position the conflicts they were embroiled in thematically. I left out Dunslough, Whitecrown, and Crow’s Foot, mainly because they were out of the scope of the game I wanted to run (in the case of the first two), or the starting situation had already been done to death (in the latter case, though I did use it as a template for the other starting situations).
Mechanically, I still greatly abbreviated the downtime stuff, limiting it mainly to the payout and entanglements, so the crew can see the fallout of their actions and how the rest of the city is affected. I also didn’t track XP, but just allowed them to level up a couple of times if they showed up for the next session, which most of them did. Out of 5 player slots at the table, 4 of the players were in for all 3 sessions. One guy only signed up for session 1, but his character made a cameo as an NPC in session 3 (in Ironhook, no less).
I’m working on writing up my notes for the whole thing, but for now the district sheets are available at http://www.ad1066.com/download/Sheets/blades/misc/Districts.pdf. I’m also working on simplified character sheets, without sections for XP and downtime stuff, suitable for one-shots and the like.