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Important preparation tips for playing in One-Shots

When one thinks about preparing for games, they generally think of this in the context of the DM needs to prepare the encounters, maps, narrative, etc. But, it’s important to prepare as a player also.

I learned something the other day as I was playing in a one-shot game. This article talks about preparing for playing in One-Shots, and before this specific game, I went over my spell list, and I thought I had everything set when we started.

That did not seem to be the case, when halfway through the game, I wanted to cast “Healing Word,” which is a bonus action, ranged spell, and I moved to get within range, only to find out that I did NOT have the spell prepared. It wasn’t even on my list of first level spells. My turn wasn’t a total waste, as I was able to cure wounds on a closer party member, but the person that really needed my healing most was left unhealed.

The advice I’m about to give relates to D&D5e, but in theory much of what I say can be applied to any ruleset, only may be in different terms in some cases.

What to go over on your character sheet prior to the start of your game

While looking over your brand new character, it’s important to see if there is a specific backstory, also you should check out your personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws, if these have been added to the character. This will give you a feel for who your character is, and where they came from, as well as how they view certain things. Sometimes, these are not filled in by the DM that makes the pre-gen available. Feel free to add any personal backstory, if you would like to roleplay your character a certain way. Anything that you add will be removed the next time the DM runs the same module, as long as he/she doesn’t re-export the module after your game play. Examples:

  1. If you notice your character has a rather low intelligence score, you may want to make choices in the game to reflect that.

  2. Make any character flaws your own. If you have an extremely high intelligence score, perhaps you want to portray yourself as a know-it-all.

  3. Maybe your character is a super strong barbarian? Play up that attribute.

Any of the above will depend on how much time you have to make any changes to your character before the start of the game. Being on time is very important when playing in any game, but especially when playing in one-shots.

The characters that are available to you are going to be totally foreign to you, and you’ll need some time to try them out. Be sure if you decide a character is not your choice, to right click on the portrait in the upper left side of the screen and choose the eraser symbol to release the character so that someone else that may enter the game after you may choose it.

I do know that playing a character in a One-shot game is a one time experience, so you may not feel like filling in any of this on your character, but knowing a bit about your character will always make gameplay more enjoyable for yourself, your party members and the DM. So, if time is an issue, maybe just make one notation, so you have a little flavor for your character.

After you have looked over some of your characters description, if you are playing a spellcaster, make sure to head over to your actions page and check out the spells that have been added to your spell list.

Since most likely, you did not have a hand in creating this character, you will want to see what the creator chose for spells. Perhaps that person has a different vision for the spellcaster, and you want to use different spells than those that were chosen. Now is the time to do this. Don’t wait until you are in game and you go to cast “Mage Armor” only to see that it’s not on your spell list. That could be disaster for your Wizard.

When I mention spellcasting characters, I am not only referring to arcane casters, like wizards, sorcerers and warlocks. Divine casters will need to check their spell lists as well. Even though Clerics and Druids have access to all their spells, it is important to go over which of these spells are prepared. It doesn’t help to have cure wounds on your list if you haven’t prepared it for use in the game.

My Recommended spells by class

Below, I have included a list of recommended spells that you should make sure that your character has access to before starting your game. I am basing this list on the premise that your one-shot will start with level 3 pre-gens. If your game starts with level 1 or 2 pre-gens, some of these classes would not receive spells at these levels, and thus you wouldn’t have to worry about this with your character. These are my personal opinions, and if anyone has any other suggestions, please feel free to use the comments to post your own ideas. I tend to like to make sure that the character has a bonus action available to use on their turns, when possible. (Spells that use a Bonus Action to cast are listed with a (B) in their name.)

  1. Bard:- Receives 2 Cantrips and 6 known spells – For Cantrips, I suggest Bardic Inspiration (B) and Mage Hand. (Although this depends on how you like to play. Instead of Mage Hand, you might prefer Minor Illusion, Vicious Mockery or Prestidigitation instead.) For Level 1, I suggest Charm Person, Dissonant Whispers, Faerie Fire, Thunderwave. For Level 2, I suggest Crown of Madness and Shatter. (You may want to change one of these to Invisibility, if you’d rather have something more defensive)

  2. Cleric – Receives 3 Cantrips and knows all spells. Can prepare 4 Level 1 and 2 Level 2 spells. – For Cantrips, it’s a must to have Sacred Flame, as that gives you an offensive spell to use that doesn’t take a spell slot. Plus, Spare the Dying and either Thaumaturgy or Guidance. For Level 1, prepare Healing Word, Bless, Cure Wounds and Guiding Bolt. (You may want to substitute Guiding Bolt for Inflict Wounds or Command.) For Level 2, prepare Spiritual Weapon and Lesser Restoration. (Instead of Lesser Restoration, you may want to prepare Hold Person or Silence.)

  3. Druid – Receives 2 Cantrips and knows all spells. Can prepare 4 Level 1 and 2 Level 2 spells. – For Cantrips, I suggest Shillaelagh (B) and Frostbite. For Level 1, I suggest Animal Friendship, Entangle, Healing Word (B) and Ice Knife. (You may want to swap out Ice Knife for Pass Without a Trace or Faerie Fire.) For Level 2, I suggest Healing Spirit (B) and Spike Growth. (You may want to swap out Spike Growth for Flaming Blade.)

  4. Paladin – Receives 3 Level 1 spells. For Level 1 spells, I suggest Command, Divine Favor (B) and Protection from Good and Evil. (You may want to swap out Protection from Good and Evil for Cure Wounds or Bless.)

  5. Ranger – Receives 3 Level 1 spells. For Level 1 spells, I suggest Animal Friendship, Ensnaring Strike and Hunter’s Mark.

  6. Sorcerer – Receives 4 Cantrips and a total of 4 spells known. Has 4 Level 1 spell slots and 2 Level 2 spell slots. (I’m using a Wild Mage build for this info.) For Cantrips, I suggest Fire Bolt, Lightning Lure, Ray of Frost and True Strike. For Level 1, I suggest Magic Missile and Mage Armor. For Level 2, I suggest Misty Step (B) and Invisibility.

  7. Warlock – Receives 2 Cantrips and a total of 4 spells known, with 2 spell slots. Spells are cast at Level 2. For Cantrips, I recommend Eldritch Blast and your choice of Chill Touch, Minor Illusion or Mage Hand. For spells, I recommend Hex (B), Misty Step (B), Witch Bolt and Darkness. All spells will be cast at Level 2.

  8. Wizard – Receives 3 Cantrips and has 4 Level 1 and 2 Level 2 spell slots. For Cantrips, I recommend Ray of Frost, Mage Hand, Fire Bolt and Acid Splash. For Level 1 spells, I suggest Magic Missile, Mage Armor, Sleep and Burning Hands. For Level 2 spells, I suggest Misty Step (B) and Scorching Ray.

  9. Fighter/Eldritch Knight – Receives 2 Cantrips and a total of 3 spells known, with 2 spell slots. For Cantrips, I recommend Ray of Frost and Fire Bolt. For Level 1 spells, I suggest Magic Missile, Thunder Wave and Witch Bolt.

  10. Rogue/Arcane Trickster – Receives 3 Cantrips and a total of 3 spells known, with 2 spell slots. For Cantrips, I recommend Fire Bolt, Ray of Frost and Shocking Grasp. (You may wish to replace Shocking Grasp with Mage Hand, as the Arcane Trickster has additional things they can do with “Mage Hand Legerdemain.” See Players Handbook under your archetype for more information.) For Level 1 spells, I suggest Magic Missile, Thunder Wave and Witch Bolt.

That ends my suggestions for beginning spells you may want to make sure your pre-gen has before playing your game. I hope you found my suggestions helpful. Happy gaming!

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