Session 0’s are an important tool in any RPG group’s arsenal. That’s right, this isn’t just Game Master advice. Today we’re talking to all of the players out there, including the Game Master.
Everyone can benefit from a Session 0 before the beginning of a campaign. It helps to establish player agency, to stop the session from becoming railroaded in a way that the group does not enjoy. It lets everyone have a swing at world-building, bringing up everyone’s investment in the game.
This is the first and biggest hurdle in a session 0, determining what game everyone wants to play. And I don’t just mean the system (although that can be part of it), but finding out what kind of story does everyone want to tell.
How powerful should the characters be? How lighthearted will the campaign be? Is there a specific feel or theme you want present in your campaign? This is the time to ask these questions and determine which one feels right for everyone.
For example: Your group decides on playing a Batman-esque superhero campaign. Everyone gets understandably excited, highly anticipating the first session! However, after the GM runs the first session everyone is left feeling like the session was lacking.
Why? Each person envisioned a different Batman franchise. Well, the first player was really hoping for a dark-and-gritty Dark Knight trilogy inspired game, while the second player was always more a fan of the fast-and-fun Tim Burton franchise. Yet another player had only ever experienced Adam West’s Batman and was entirely confused. Meanwhile, the GM based the session off of the show Gotham where the superhero had not yet risen to power.
Same Page Tool
Clearly, everyone is on a different wavelength, which is where a Same-Page tool comes in. Same page tools are used so that everyone can make sure they’re going in to the session with the same ideas. I’ve used these in my campaigns to a smashing success on a few occasions! There are a few Same Page tools out there, but as always we like to recommend our own version.
To use the Same Page tool, each person (Including the GM) should fill out what they think the game should look like. The GM then takes the pages and consults them. Everything in the Left-Hand column is shared with the group, so everyone can discuss what kind of game would best fit everyone’s concept. The right-hand side, is a little bit different.
Consent in Gaming
A Session 0 is the best time to define the level of comfort different players feel at the gaming table. There are many groups whose players have been around for years that feel like they can skip this section, because they already know where those boundaries are. If that’s you go for it!
However, if there is someone new in the group, or even if you’re the new person in the group, then this side should be filled out by everyone again. Also, players may feel uncomfortable with different levels of these categories based on the campaign itself. For example, there may be a difference in how people feel about classic D&D adventurers campaign vs students at a magical school campaign.
Although our sheet has enough in the way of Consent for my group, that may not be the case for your group. In this case, I would recommend a sheet that’s a full-fledged Consent form along with the Same Page tool. We would recommend the one from Monte Cook Games.
One great thing about a session 0 is the ability to create characters as a group. Having a group creation session comes with some pretty big bonuses. Firstly, it allows everyone to make sure that their character is unique. If someone decides to make a Barbarian, for example, then other players can switch classes to make sure that no one is stepping on each other’s toes. In many campaigns this may not matter, but it will for some people. Secondly, it allows the party to determine their weak spots so that the party itself can prepare for them.
But the most important factor is backstory. Just having one previous interaction with each other player helps bind the party together before the adventure has even begun! This can bring a lot to the table in terms of character development and investment, before the first die is rolled.
In our opinion, world-building in tabletop RPG’s should always be considered a group effort. Each player has experiences which will help in the diversity of your world as well. As a lazy Game Master, I very much encourage my players to create places or people of importance. Having them create this for me gives me more time to focus on other aspects of the game later on!
Not only does this give players options to create new and unique locations, items, or lore, but they can also integrate it with their backstory. Create your hometown. Where did you learn to do what you do? It could have been on the road, or in a prestigious academy, or even self taught in your free time. These are all things that can be determined ahead of time!
Sessions 0.1, 0.2, and onwards!
Although I would never be opposed to a full Session 0, my group does this a bit differently. When a campaign starts winding down, we start discussing all of the options above after the session, or on breaks. This lets us get an idea of the feel of the campaign before we start thinking of characters or the world. In my experience, this helps everyone involved spend some time determining everything above, so it doesn’t feel like a rushed decision over one night. This also helps in the determination of characters, so if two feel too similar they have time to discuss ideas and maybe reconsider some aspects of their character.
How do you handle your Session 0’s? Is there any advice above that you’re excited to try? Let us know in the Comments!