Bad Luck in Luckyland – A Punkapocalyptic One-Shot

As a follow-up to my previous post about running Shadow of the Demon Lord one-shots, I thought I’d give you an example for SOTDL’s sister game of gonzo post-apoc mayhem that uses the same system. I ran this at Furnace 2020 online, and it was a lot of fun.

It’s presented here pretty raw, and isn’t in as much detail as some of my other ready-to-run one-shots; I found the system and setting was light enough to let players roll with ideas on the fly. I ran it for 2-Mission pregens, but I’ve given stats for Starting or 1-Mission characters too – I think starting at 2-Missions is a good move for one-shot survivability. Let me know if you run it – or if you get anything from it!


Landslide, elder of Scrapbridge. Looks about 112 years old but acts like a little kid. Hidebound, cowardly, quick to anger. Hates gangers, hates mutants, hates anything that might be dangerous for Scrapbridge

Owl Man, gifted cook. Depressed, filled with ennui, brilliant, dangerous. Left after he realised his mutation meant they would kill him.

Four-eyes, a mutant with six eyes. He got the name when he had four. Angry, stupid, sees everything

Gary, leader of the White Reavers. Thick glasses, white lab coat, cowardly and chews. Surprisingly chill that his gang is currently without a base of operations – hoping to find some mercs who can help him get Luckyland back.

Weeper, leader of the Blue Vegans. Mostly naked, skinny but powerful. Has some mental powers, but is currently too embarrassed by their disastrous Luckyland venture to use them effectively. Frightened, covered up by aggression.

The Horn-People, a mutant band with no fixed leader. Most of them have horns – goat, rhino, bull – as a mutation, and those that don’t wear clumsily-attached headpieces to show their loyalty. Speak about themselves as a collective in the third person “The Horn-People desire you to leave us alone,” in an attempt to show unity.

Scene 1 – The Beanz-Off

We begin in The Great American Beanz-Off, a cookery competition held every year in Scrapbridge, a dry-river-bed of a town most famous for its fighting pits.

The PCs have all competed –each player should describe their beans-based dish, make an appropriate test (Brains for an inventive dish, or Hands for one requiring dexterity – add an Asset for an appropriate speciality) – to see who has created the best dish. The winner is crowned by Landslide, but as they settled down for the beans-based feast, , something is troubling the assembled diners.

Owl Man, the best bean chef in Scrapbridge, is missing. Four-eyes, a mutant with six eyes, will volunteer that he was scouting out some new pantry staples in Luckyland last week – Luckyland is usually good hunting grounds, but come to think of it nobody has come back from there for the last few weeks.

Landslide quickly seizes control of the situation and offers the PCs free beans for life if they can find and return Owl Man to Scrapbridge.

To find out, or recall, facts around Luckyland, PCs can make an attribute roll with an attribute appropriate to their approach (Brains to remember something, or Mouth to ask around)

1 – it’s an old amusement park, long since ruined. There’s always one gang or another trying to get control over it – last thing it was the Blue Vegans, then the White Reapers. Who knows who controls it now?

2 – The White Reapers used to be in control around there, and there’s been lots of gang activity around the roads to it recently – maybe they are expanding their turf, or maybe someone kicked them out.

3 – The prizest prizes in Luckytown are hidden in the Runaway Mine Cart trail – if you can get a cart into the caves below there you are sure to find riches

4 – Luckytown’s main dangers are the animatronic guardians – some of their programming has degraded over time

5 – Owl Man did seem a bit distant recently, complaining that Landslide didn’t let him express himself as much as he could – and that he wished he had more spices

6 – The roads around Luckyland are usually crawling with mutants – these are best avoided by sneaking past

Scene 2 – Road to Luckyland

“Sorry about ambushing you again, man, we’ve just had bad vibes since those vegans came along. Can I get you a sandwich?” Gary, White Reavers leader

The road to Luckyland is rough and ready, and crosses detritus of civilisation – a huge caved-in elephant head, the ruins of a long-raided supermarket, a crumbling motel sign with no motel beneath it.

The roar of motorcycles comes up from in front, and a bike and a sidecar approaches – and several figures dressed in white roar up on a motorcycle with a sidecar. This White Reaver patrol attacks immediately, hoping to gather whatever salvage they can from the PCs here.

Starting – 3 scumbags (p163)
1-Mission – 4 scumbags (p163)
2-Missions – 3 scumbags and 1 ganger (p164)

They can tell, if questioned, their shame – they’ve been kicked out of Luckyland by the Horn-People, a band of mutants. They tried to convince the Blue Vegans to help them by joining forces, but then Gary – their leader – started eating a bacon sandwich and the BVs attacked. The Horn-People are strong and powerful, and have barricaded themselves in the D&D ride – good luck getting in there!

It’s possible that the PCs see the opportunity to enlist the White Reaver’s aid in recapturing Lucklyand, in which case they are taken to meet Gary, who quickly agrees to help.

Scene 3 – Exploring Luckyland

“Luckyland – gateway to the worlds of adventure. Come for the fun, stay for the food!” – Luckyland Animatronic Duck

Exploring Luckyland – the PCs arrive at a ruined, rough-shod amusement park. There’s a Critical Role/D&D section, an Indiana Jones section, a Samurai section, a twisted Disney section – plus whatever the players decide to make up.

They sneak around, trying to gain access and avoid the attentions of the animatronics – to cover this, they should complete a 13th-Age style Montage; have each player describe challenges and approaches in turn. For full details on using Montages, see this article from Pelgrane Press.

After such an exploration, they begin to be afflicted by Luckyland’s radiation. They gain 1 mutagen – remember to roll 1d6, and if it is equal or less than their new score they gain a new mutation (p87)

Scene 4 – The Blue Vegans

“You should leave, NOW – any minute now our plans will coalesce into action and I don’t even know what’s going to happen” Weeper, leader of the Blue Vegans

As they sneak up (or perhaps as a result of their activities in the montage) they come across a group of bearded, half-naked gangers reading and smoking around the staff area – the remains of the Blue Vegans.

There are a total of 8 Scumbags (p163), although they can call for help if needed. They are scouting out to try and regain Luckyland, but are on the point of giving up. The Horn-People come at night and patrol, and the smells they can smell of their cooking seem to be delicious. They will need to be convinced to help reconquer their territory – and they won’t be happy about any alliance with their old enemies the White Reavers.

They tell the players that the Horn-People have stripped Luckyland of most of its best assets and are hiding out in the D&D section below the old mine cart trail – and they certainly seem to be cooking beans a lot now!

Scene 5 – Showdown

“I just wanted to cook my beans, man. It was good at first – then they started getting me to feed the big guy.” – Owl-Man

Although the D&D section is well fortified, they could burst in using the old rollercoaster – a decent Brains roll could jury-rig it to build up enough speed to smash into the Horn-People camp, especially if they have the Blue Vegans or the White Reavers with them.

When they burst in, they will get the drop on a group of Mutants.

Starting: 4 Mutants (p168)
1-Mission: 6 Mutants (p168)
2-Missions: 8 Mutants (p168)

After a couple of rounds, however the combat is going, Owl Man appears and tells them his story. He can’t go back – he reveals his long, sinuous, taste-sensitive tongue. He’s a mutant! Will they take him back and try to persuade Landslide to let him be, or should they just take his secret recipe?

Either way, he tells them they’ve got him working on a secret recipe – they keep feeding his beans to just one mutant, a huge bearlike creature they named after him and are breeding for war they call the Owl-Man-Bear. He’s now a huge, semi-feral creature; whatever negotiations they are able to do with the rest of the Horn-People, the Owl-Man-Bear will not take kindly to his source of food being “rescued.”

Starting: The Owl-Man-Bear (stats as Mongrelmorph, p170) – in this scenario, I’d suggest they only need to survive 3 rounds against it before they escape, maybe with a break-neck race back across Luckyland laden with beans.
1-Mission: The Owl-Man-Bear (stats as Mongrelmorph, p170), 3 Mutants (p168)
2-Missions: The Owl-Man-Bear (stats as Mongrelmorph, p170), 3 Mutants (p168), 3 Addlers (p168)


With Owl-Man rescued, or left with his fellow mutants, the PCs can return to Scrapbridge and tell their tales to Landslide. If Owl-Man’s mutation is revealed, Landslide is initially disgusted, but can be persuaded with the aroma of one of Owl-Man’s delicious bean-pots.

Have each PC narrate a scene of them celebrating their victory (or otherwise) in scrapbridge to bring the one-shot to a satisfying close.

Shadow of the Demon Lord One-Shots

Rob Schwalb’s Shadow the Demon Lord (SOTDL) is an excellent system, and a great one for con games and one-shots. A grimdark fantasy world of demons and apocalypse a shade or two more gonzo than Warhammer and the like, it’s also the system for a post-apocalypse game, Punkapocalyptic. I’ve run several games of both of them as one-shots, and a full campaign of SODTL, and there’s a lot to recommend it.

It’s d20-adjacent with a Boon/Bane dice system that reduces the spread of numbers and keeps everything quick and easy, and has some really neat system tweaks that come into play. On a read through, you might think it’s a drifted d20 system game, but in play it feels very different – in a good way – and it’s built for pace. There’s plenty of examples of Rob running it on his podcast, and they are a great example of a fast-paced game. Here are five recommendations I’d made if you want to bring it to a con.

Start at the right level

Shadow has a great advancement system, where you start out at 0-level, then add a core class at 1st level, an expert class at 3rd, and a master class at 7th – making your character get gradually more defined and niched as you advance. For a one-shot, I’d start somewhere between 2nd and 4th level – 3rd level gives the Expert class, which creates some nice wedge issues between PCs, and will give players a few options in combat without being overwhelming.

In campaign play, PCs have a lot of options past 7th level, which would be a bit overwhelming in a one-shot, including options that break initiative order and allow them to make their allies make immediate attacks – I’d steer away from those as this will slow down a system that works best played at pace.

Watch balance

It would be easy to read the guidance on building encounters as gospel, and follow it rigorously for your players. But in truth, this isn’t a tightly-balanced game like D&D or Pathfinder – not all the classes are necessarily equally good in combat, for instance, and some of the monsters at a certain Threat Level can vary a lot in lethality. Use the guidance as a starting point (and, for one-shots, in all systems, you should have no medium-difficulty fights – it’s easy to let the players show off, or hard to make them sweat) and then have a careful read of the opponents powers. You might need to adjust up or down. I found running published adventures I quite often had to adjust, and often adjust up, the opposition, but that may have been informed by my group’s “play hard” approach to character building.

Reskin, reskin, reskin

The bestiary in SOTDL is generous – you have lots of easily adaptable monsters and NPCs that, as in any game, are easy to reskin to whatever you want. I made my Punkapocalyptic players fight an animatronic Owlbear that was just another stat block, and in SOTDL “Large Monster” stood in for an awful lot of opponents in my campaign. The system is sufficiently fast and loose that your players won’t know.

Fast Turns and Slow Turns

SODTL’s initiative system is weird, and took me a while to get used to. PCs take a Fast Turn or a Slow Turn; on a Slow Turn you can do two (different) actions, but Fast turns (from both the PCs and the opponents) go first. It took me a while to get this right, but in play, just shout “Fast Turns” – whichever player shouts first, they go first; then all the other player fast turns, then the opponents, then player Slow Turns, then opponent Slow Turns. If somebody takes too long to respond and doesn’t shout up for the Fast Turn, they must be taking a Slow Turn. Giving it this degree of pace really helps combat to flow fast.

I added a ‘house rule’ that I think is an actual rule in Punkapocalyptic that you could use an action to assist an ally, granting them a Boon on their next role. This worked really well and made Slow Turns worth taking, and the players narrated what they did to give their ally a bonus in the next round which was all good action scene stuff.

Steady with the dick jokes

The gonzo-ness of SOTDL, and especially Punkapocalyptic, does contain some references that you might want to shade over in convention play or in a one-shot with people that you don’t know. A PC starting the game with a gym bag full of sex toys, or a wizard losing his genitals due to Corruption, is all good clean fun if everyone at the table is up for that, but – even with safety tools in play – I’d suggest isn’t necessarily as fun for strangers.

As with every safety discussion, it’s not just how you react to it – it’s how all the players react to it that might make it an awkward situation. So in a one-shot, I’d reign in some of the more scatological aspects of the settings – it’s not as if there isn’t enough flavour there already – just to avoid any risk of this.

To conclude, SOTDL is a great one-shot, and deserves to be run more at conventions, either online or face to face. The Roll20 character sheet is a good implementation as well, and fairly straightforward for the players to use, although the system is such you could easily just use an A/V setup and have all the players roll their own dice. There’s an absolute pile of published material for it, as well, from adventures to entire campaigns and short supplements on parts of the setting – you’ll never run out of stuff for it. What have your experiences been with SOTDL / Punkapocalyptic? Let me know in the comments, or on twitter @milnermaths