What is a “Session 0?”, Part 1

First off we need to give a definition for those who do not know what a session 0 is. Session 0 is the session in which you build characters and figure out how the group will fit together before you actually play.

These sessions help set everything up so everyone will want to play in the campaign for a long time to come. Even more importantly, those same players will want to be in the next campaign as well. A little forethought goes a long way.

Not only that, but I promise you if you have a session 0 and discuss these items before you play you will save yourself many issues down the line.

gaming_dice-300x300Planning the first meeting?

The GM should talk with the players beforehand and ask them to show up at a place they are all comfortable with, such as a Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS for short), a coffee shop, or someone’s house if everyone knows each other.

What are the benefits of this pre-game session?

The benefits are many for this initial session. The GM can find out how players, as well as their characters will or at least could interact. If this is a new group, everyone can get a feel for what kind of people they are probably going to become friends with and how they will mesh. If it is an existing group with a new person or two being added in, then this session helps to confirm how the new people will fit in.

If things go quickly and extremely well then you might just get in a quick game. This way you have the group together at the very least before you technically start playing.

How do you organize and pull this off? What topics do you discuss?

checklistThis is the perfect time to share information between the GM and the players. You need to speak up to get the campaign you want and to have something that will work for everyone involved!

The DM/GM should inform the players what world they will be playing in, the location where the party is initially, a bit about the area, rumours, and a bit about the world that the PCs would have knowledge of. This is where the GM can give ideas of direction and set story hooks for the campaign without giving away all the intended plans for the campaign.

This is also the time when the rules of the game are discussed. If you are using rules as written or optional rules, it is a good idea to have those rules documented clearly. Not only the main rules should be discussed, but any rules deviations (sometimes known as “House Rules”) and have a chance to discuss and add any that make sense for the group.

Now is also the time to find out what ratio between combat and non-combat encounters the players like. Ask if people want murder mysteries, political intrigue, exploration, simple dungeon crawls, a combination of all of the above, or some other kind of plots.

The players hopefully have brought up at least one, preferably three, character and class combination that they want to play. They should decide what they are going to play based upon those choices and how the group fits together. Most of the time players will have a class from each caste, but sometimes they may all be from the same caste. That is part of the fun with group dynamics – especially in the creation phase.

Campaign Charter – a what?

scroll_colorThis initial session is also when you set out the campaign charter. You might not realize that you have done it but you have. These are the rules of the group and they could be short and simple or quite elaborate.

Simple example:

  • Be polite, respectful, and welcoming to all.
  • Don’t intentionally offend each other.
  • What happens outside the game stays outside the game.
  • If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.
  • No swearing, drinking, or drugs.
  • Players bring snacks.
  • The GM does not have to bring snacks.

More elaborate example:

  • Be polite, respectful, considerate, sportsmanlike, un-argumentative, and behave in a manner that WILL NOT be be seen as harassment, bullying, or any other threatening act. We want everyone to feel safe!
  • Be sensitive to others feelings.
  • Everyone has the responsibility to others to let others express your feelings.
  • Make sure you and the others feel safe.
  • Each player has the right to the same amount of time speaking and action in general.
  • If you feel you don’t have the GM or group’s attention, then please speak up without cutting someone off.
  • Everyone must act in a respectful manner and waits for their turn.
  • If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.
  • No profanity, drinking, or drugs.
  • Players bring snacks.
  • The GM does not have to bring snacks.

Next Time!

An example of Session 0 in action!

Clear skies fellow GM’s and players – until next time!

Keith R. Byers, A.Sc.T., Esq.

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