My home group has a tendency to miss weeks. Honestly, we try and get together once a week, but work and family and vacations and family and probably work again make it difficult. Besides defaulting to a board game or just calling it for the night, we’ve found running a one-shot is a good alternative.
Traditionally one of the regular GMs will host and run their campaign for about four weeks, then we rotate to the next GM and their campaign. But when we can’t do that, a one-shot can fill in the gaps. One of our GMs has put together (or perhaps purchased and adapted) a linked set of one or two encounter adventures that should “normally” take us an evening to get through. We play a few every few months. They’re structured so that the lineup can change as needed for the next foray into the woods or sewers or sometimes the local bakers basement.
This weeks game was a one-shot. We had been off for a couple weeks (see work, family, etc above), so it was great to have a short adventure while we spent time catching up. When I’m trying to do something like this (and I was a player this time, not the GM), I struggle with how much content to put into the adventure. For the weekly group, we schedule gaming from 6-10PM. Of course this means that if you set aside time for eating, setup, jokes, bathroom breaks, side treks, and finding dice, there’s really only 2 1/2 hours left for gaming.
We “mostly” play 5e and the PCs are low level, that “should” mean two fights (one major, one minor), some exploration, and a bit of character development per one-shot. It is a good guideline that normally dies in the face of player involvement.
One thing that I would like to do is try out some new player options or groups of characters. Perhaps add in some of the Unearthed Arcana class options that have been recently released. This could mean more work prepping both new characters and a short adventure, but is more reliable than waiting for a new character in a new long running campaign.
As an added benefit, working on characters and adventures can help “scratch the gaming itch” between sessions. I use gaming as a creative outlet. For me that means creating adventures and characters for others to play.