Author Topic: Session Zero  (Read 275 times)

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Offline EltonJ

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Session Zero
« on: June 12, 2022, 04:54:46 PM »
Do any of you go through session zero in your campaigns?  Keith Baker talks about session zero for Eberron Campaigns (and yes, I scanned through it).

Offline Hurin

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2022, 07:29:11 PM »
Definitely. I find it very useful for Rolemaster, since character creation is one of the most complicated (if not the most complicated) aspects of the game.
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Offline Vladimir

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2022, 07:34:00 PM »
Do any of you go through session zero in your campaigns?  Keith Baker talks about session zero for Eberron Campaigns (and yes, I scanned through it).

  All the time. Assembling a party and determining common goals is something I've gone through with just about every party I've joined. Sometimes, the GM has given the party enough backstory to build on (one party had all members start out as slaves) in order to get the party motivated to work for the same goals. I do that kind of brainstorming with every party, to determine how far they are willing to go.
  In a series of campaigns, with a world map design by the game creator, the party always agreed that the ultimate goal was to change the world map, not merely political lines but physically, such as change a desert into a forest or level a mountain range.
  Lately, I ask the other party members about their short-term and long term goals and figure out how the party could meet those goals.       
  After looking over the article, nothing is groundbreaking but for GMs it offers a lot to think about when starting a campaign with new players. I've played with virtually the same people for almost 50 years so I know most of the people I game with, their gaming styles, what they like to order for lunch, the names of their pets, etc.                 
When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
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Offline jdale

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2022, 10:42:31 PM »
For my most recent game, I gave the players the setting and the objective. I worked with them on character histories. For the ones that actually did it (not all of them), I gave them contacts based on those histories. They created some connections but they were unified by their employment (which in this case is hunting down cultists for the state). This game is relatively sandbox-style in terms of the order they do things and how they approach problems.

For the previous game (which is still running), I gave them the setting but there was no objective yet. They came up with characters and then I fit an objective to them. We had some discussion about character histories and then I took their respective patrons and allies and made those individuals allies of each other, so even though many party members had never met, they were working on behalf of people who did work together on a common goal. This game actually has a much more defined narrative path, in part because the disparate characters needed clearly defined goals to hold them together.

In general we have handled character histories one-on-one rather than as a group. There's definitely value in doing it as a group, and in other games I've run into trouble because of the lack of cohesion that happens when you don't -- in one case we ended a campaign because of it and made a group decision that in the next game, all the characters would be family, so even if there were conflicts they would have that unifying trait to hold them together. But we have tended to allow party members to have their secrets, for good and ill, so mainly working directly with the GM rather than working out all those characters together as a group.
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Offline Cory Magel

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2022, 02:44:57 AM »
I'll work like this...
1. Give the players a rough idea of what the setting is like, what they can roughly expect and if there are any limitations or things that would be good for their character to know/do (email it to them).
2. Players come up with a rough idea of what they want to do and we sit down and go through creating that character (this part is in person).
3. Players create a backstory and email it to the GM (2-3 page story or an outline if they aren't super creative on the writing side).
4. Let the players know if anything needs to change in the backstory.
5. Secretly work some of the backstories into the overall campaign if possible.
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Offline MisterK

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2022, 11:54:39 AM »
What I did for my last campaign (Shadow World, all players having already played in the same world and timeline with me as a GM)
- lay out the ground rules about the general setting (centered in SW Emer but expect travels), the characters (custom RM, level 20 characters, no technical progression during the campaign), the way they'll work together (kind of cell for a secret organisation, I need at least two characters that are *members* of the organisation, including the cell leader, the others can either be members or "associates").
- let them discuss *together* the kind of character they want to play, both the rough demeanor outline and the technical aspects, and if they want to have bragging rights about a particular point (for instance, one of the players says he wants his character to provide the bulk of support magic - transportation, enhancements...). The GM can veto things if needed.
- take them separately to discuss the details of their character (race and origin, technical aspects)
- then, solo play (then duo play, then trio play) to roleplay major events in the characters' past and introduce a number of points of interest: people, places, items, knowledge.
- then, the four characters meet, and the campaign proper begins.

The pre-campaign (everything until the last part) took me almost one year. The campaign itself took five years to complete, at a rate of about 20 sessions per year (every fortnight or so) [each session was 6 to 8 hours long on average].

This is the kind of investment that is not necessarily worth it for shorter campaigns, and I will probably try to make it shorter next time, but I tend to fare better as a GM when I have spent some time with the players roleplaying part of their character's past - it gives me ideas, it anchors them in the setting and I can foreshadow the events that will be the core of the campaign plot.

Offline Spectre771

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2022, 04:07:45 PM »
Absolutely yes.  It helps build a nice foundation for the campaign.  At PC creation, I get interesting background tidbits about the PCs, mini-adventures and (not quite) fluff to add to the history.  It gives me a chance to work out a reason why the different PCs are coming together in the first place.  I abhor the "...ok, all of you are in a tavern and you meet up..." trope.  Even the "You all show up for the posting for mercenaries looking to earn gold..." is no good for me.   I was able to have the patrician of the town contact each PC, either in person or via lackeys, to "invite" each PC into a quest.  Now each player had a specific reason to be there.  One was a spy for the patrician to make sure the party stayed on track, one was blackmailed into doing the quest, one was offered a very nice opportunity to open a casino, another was given the the means to overthrow the head of the thieves guild.  By having the session-0, I was able to formulate the 'why is this person being blackmailed? why does this person hate the thieves guild? etc.' portion.
If discretion is the better valor and
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Offline Majyk

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2022, 04:26:41 PM »
Yup-yup, as said above.

Best question to also ask way ahead of time is what motivates your players, nm their characters, so you can come up with their personalized game balance re: how much of a split between HACK ‘N SLASH vs RP they like.

Offline Spectre771

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2022, 05:01:54 AM »
Yup-yup, as said above.

Best question to also ask way ahead of time is what motivates your players, nm their characters, so you can come up with their personalized game balance re: how much of a split between HACK ‘N SLASH vs RP they like.

... add to that, intrigue.  Most of my RM players are D&D players and it's all "run in, fight, get loot."  I have sessions with very little combat and more using other skills on the character sheet (Surveillance, Acting, Public Speaking, Lie Detection, Hide Item, even Architecture!).  It keeps them on their toes.  The best response I ever had from a players was "Oh God.  Why do I get the feeling we just did something very, very bad?"

If discretion is the better valor and
cowardice the better part of judgment,
let's all be heroes and run away!

Offline EltonJ

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2022, 10:24:03 AM »
Boy, that's awesome.

Offline intothatdarkness

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2022, 09:57:05 AM »
I always do a session zero, sometimes with the players together and other times as one-on-one. My groups often had at least one player who'd never played an RPG before, so taking the time to help them understand how things worked was always crucial. Plus, the individual sessions let me work in some character-specific stuff if it was needed (like reviewing cultures with some players - in my setting I have players roll for origin before they generate a character - or helping work in a personal motivation for a character joining the party). Sometimes I'd even do a session zero plus one if you will...one with the entire party together before things kicked off just to help set the tone for the campaign and suss out any general party ambitions/goals.

It takes time, sure, but I always found it worthwhile. Still do.
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Offline Spectre771

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2022, 04:05:30 PM »
I always do a session zero, sometimes with the players together and other times as one-on-one. My groups often had at least one player who'd never played an RPG before, so taking the time to help them understand how things worked was always crucial. Plus, the individual sessions let me work in some character-specific stuff if it was needed (like reviewing cultures with some players - in my setting I have players roll for origin before they generate a character - or helping work in a personal motivation for a character joining the party). Sometimes I'd even do a session zero plus one if you will...one with the entire party together before things kicked off just to help set the tone for the campaign and suss out any general party ambitions/goals.

It takes time, sure, but I always found it worthwhile. Still do.

I've done this as well, especially when preparing for the weekend-long annual event.  I get together with the different players to get them rolling for the campaign when they are able to, that way they can hit the ground running and already have their reason to be in the campaign already in motion.  It saves so much time when it comes time for the meat of the event.
If discretion is the better valor and
cowardice the better part of judgment,
let's all be heroes and run away!

Offline foilfodder

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Re: Session Zero
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2022, 09:42:05 PM »
Session 0 is a chance for both players and the Gamemaster to discuss what they want and don't want in the game, flesh out character concepts and hopefully start the game off on the right foot.

The first GM that introduced me to Rolemaster was very detail minded. He worked with each player for a backstory for each of our characters. The sessions were driven by events he threw at us, it we got to decide how to react but the GM was definately steering us. The party worked well together both character personality and with game mechanics.

My second RM group was the opposite. The GM completely changed the character I had submitted two weeks before the first session. The players were very monty-hauls/munchin, but characters were min/maxed well and while the players did a good job with the rare roleplay it was a series of dungeon crawls to build loot and XP connected by very thin threads of plot.

I think Session 0 is like ordering a sushi platter as a group, not everyone is guaranteed a favorite but you at least know what is coming.