Session 0 Tips -- What are your favorite session 0 questions/activities?

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
I'm going to be running a Session 0 soon, and I want to make it as fun and as informative as possible. What are some good questions to ask the players? The only ones I really have in mind right now are XP vs. Milestone leveling, and the usual questions about tone (silly vs. serious), etc. But I need MORE, so give me your Session 0 tips!

For what it's worth, the Session 0 is for Ghosts of Saltmarsh. We ran Sinister Secret as a one-off and have now decided to run the rest of the book as a campaign.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I think an appreciative inquiry model works best. Rather than directly asking the players what they want out of this campaign, ask broadly about some of their favorite campaigns they’ve played in and what they enjoyed most about them. What are their favorite books/movies/games in the genre and why? Follow up on common elements you notice between different players’ likes, start throwing out ideas about what an ideal campaign for this group would look like, and then refine from those big ideas into some practical, gamable design principles.
 

MonkeezOnFire

Adventurer
Session 0 is a great time to go over house rules. Whether introducing new ones or getting feedback on ones used in previous campaigns. Players should be made aware of any changes before they make characters so that nothing is surprising during actual play. This includes the milestone vs XP you mentioned but should also include things like what options are legal for characters, any tweaks to mechanics, how down time is handled, etc.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Generally I do a Session 0/1 wherein the first half of the session is going over campaign stuff, getting on the same page, and creating characters with ties to the setting and/or plot. Then the back half of the session is actual play that ends on a cliffhanger. That's a good way in my view to give immediate feedback on their Session 0 requests, start strong, ending in a way that leaves everyone wanting more.

If you're working with a regular group of players, there's really not a lot to go over in Session 0. You probably already know their likes and dislikes and what they consent to. So just rehashing that to confirm buy-in is fine, then you can focus on what's different than normal in Ghosts of Saltmarsh. I'm playing in it and it seems fairly standard D&D fare, so there's probably not a lot to cover here either.

As well, "milestone leveling" still uses XP - you just get it for achieving particular goals. You may be referring to story-based advancement where the DM decides when everyone levels based on some notion of the plot's progress. It will be good to make that distinction clear to the players in my view. We use standard XP in our Saltmarsh campaign and the DM has mentioned he felt we were under-leveled from where the game expects us to be, but it hasn't really made much of a difference so far as I can tell.
 

slobster

Hero
To tie into Charlaquin's point somewhat, my favorite way to get the conversation started on "favorite movies/books etc." is to throw out some of my own favorites as a starting point, often trying to narrow down to specifics by offering the table a choice between two sources of inspiration.

"Okay so we want to go with tomb delving and ancient ruins, are we thinking more Indiana Jones or Mountains of Madness?"

"We all seem to like the idea of zany fantasy, but is that more like Dark Crystal or the Fairy Tail anime?"

You don't really need to vote on those or anything formal, but just throwing out alternative takes on a given idea can be a good conversation starter.
 

Stormonu

Hero
Nowadays, I always do the “how does your character already know the others?” I make them know at least one - best is two - of the other characters in the group. This prevents the “you all meet in the bar” cliche and keeps certain troublesome players from avoiding the other PCs and dragging out half a session or more herding cats - I mean, PCs - just to start the adventure. (Really. I had one lone wolf player the rest of the group had to literally track down and the main group had to beat the the lone wolf character to a pulp to join the group. Needless to say, I don’t play with that person anymore, for that reason and several other issues that arose with his antisocial behavior).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Nowadays, I always do the “how does your character already know the others?” I make them know at least one - best is two - of the other characters in the group. This prevents the “you all meet in the bar” cliche and keeps certain troublesome players from avoiding the other PCs and dragging out half a session or more herding cats - I mean, PCs - just to start the adventure. (Really. I had one lone wolf player the rest of the group had to literally track down and the main group had to beat the the lone wolf character to a pulp to join the group. Needless to say, I don’t play with that person anymore, for that reason and several other issues that arose with his antisocial behavior).
Same. This is a standard assumption among my regular table and I require this with pickup groups, too. If someone wants to play out the "gettin' ta know ya" stuff or be all standoffish or need to be convinced to go adventuring they can do that in another DM's game.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Same. This is a standard assumption among my regular table and I require this with pickup groups, too. If someone wants to play out the "gettin' ta know ya" stuff or be all standoffish or need to be convinced to go adventuring they can do that in another DM's game.
I'm ... less likely to insist on this, but I get the impulse. On the other hand, I tell my players point-blank when and where the campaign will be starting, and that they should be playing characters who are at least willing to be heroes; at the start of the first session, I draw a map, have them put themselves on it, and throw [stuff] at the fan. They get to start being heroes before fifteen minutes have passed at the table. Different ways to get to at least a similar place, I figure.
 
I'm going to be running a Session 0 soon, and I want to make it as fun and as informative as possible. What are some good questions to ask the players? The only ones I really have in mind right now are XP vs. Milestone leveling, and the usual questions about tone (silly vs. serious), etc. But I need MORE, so give me your Session 0 tips!

For what it's worth, the Session 0 is for Ghosts of Saltmarsh. We ran Sinister Secret as a one-off and have now decided to run the rest of the book as a campaign.
There's the usual questions – leveling, play styles, maturity rating / "no-go" topics / the X button, death & dying, handling player absences, allowed content/sources, house rules, and so forth – but the real fun for me is in creating the party, connecting the PCs to each other, and hooking the PCs to the adventure.

I recall one ad libbed session with 3 players where I had them do 5-minute character sketches (while I drew up the setting map), then everyone passed their sheet to the person on their left, and that person got to draw in or write down one thing, and so on around the table, until everyone's sheet returned to them. It was a fun little "exercise" that made for two memorable gaming sessions.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Questions about who their characters are, what are they doing at the location where the adventure starts, and what do they want?

What expectations do the players have on the campaign (length and level of loot etc)
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
We call them "Rolling Parties," because everybody rolls up new characters using the 4d6 method. We have a lot of fun activities built around that theme, but my favorite is the "Roll Up Dinner" potluck. Everyone is asked to bring a rolled food of some sort for everyone to share: cinnamon rolls, egg rolls, Fruit Roll-Ups, burritos, Tootsie Rolls, salad rolls, whatever. Whoever's rolls are voted the best gets a prize (last time, it was a random magic item that was rolled from Table B.)
 
We generally use a group chat to discuss upcoming campaign ideas. A DM proposes an idea, offering houserules, variants, and restrictions for character creation. An overall concept, theme, genre, and style is proposed. In general players offer suggestions, and if the overall consensus is positive, that becomes our next campaign. If no consensus is found, that campaign is discarded.

Players often then discuss the type of character each wants to play, trying to ensure most niches are at least somewhat covered (especially healer). Since all of us have 2 or more ideas floating around (and not enough games to play them), this is seldom an issue. Usually if we have a missing niche it's the trapfinder/lockpicker, since you can usually get around without it (even if it may hurt more).
 

atanakar

Adventurer
We call them "Rolling Parties," because everybody rolls up new characters using the 4d6 method. We have a lot of fun activities built around that theme, but my favorite is the "Roll Up Dinner" potluck. Everyone is asked to bring a rolled food of some sort for everyone to share: cinnamon rolls, egg rolls, Fruit Roll-Ups, burritos, Tootsie Rolls, salad rolls, whatever. Whoever's rolls are voted the best gets a prize (last time, it was a random magic item that was rolled from Table B.)
Sounds really fun!
 

Larnievc

Explorer
I'm going to be running a Session 0 soon, and I want to make it as fun and as informative as possible. What are some good questions to ask the players? The only ones I really have in mind right now are XP vs. Milestone leveling, and the usual questions about tone (silly vs. serious), etc. But I need MORE, so give me your Session 0 tips!

For what it's worth, the Session 0 is for Ghosts of Saltmarsh. We ran Sinister Secret as a one-off and have now decided to run the rest of the book as a campaign.
I ask about how deadly they want it, whether rez spells work, whether they want to track arrowsand food, I explain the how’s and why’s of house rules.

Having some campaign specific backgrounds on show can let the pcs tailor their abilities to the nature of the campaign.

Is it going to be a bit grounded, gonzo or something in between?

I think that about covered my last session zero.
 

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
In Session 0, I take the "hook" to the adventure/campaign and have the players roleplay the story backwards of how they got to the adventure, linking themselves together to explain why they're invested in the setting and one another. If it's a campaign, I'll provide a 2-3 page guide for the setting and any changes in the rules.

For example, in a one-shot I recently ran with new players, the "hook" was that the 1st level party arrived at a graveyard to pay their annual respects to a fallen comrade, but this year the graveyard was locked up (Boneyard, DMsGuild). I printed a picture of their comrade with an epitaph rhyme in which the party filled in the blanks (of who his friends were, where he was and what killed him). They made the story up as they went of how they failed to save him and actually caused his death. Full of grief, they gave up the adventuring life for a bit, only donning gear for their annual.

In the Curse of Strahd campaign, I started with the idea we arrived in a foreign land through mists, then used the dinner invite "hook" to roleplay how each player fit in the story. By the time we were done, one player was the baronet's daughter, another the bastard son she loyally defended, another their aged mentor who viewed them as his own kids, and the last a woodsman who would be damned if he let any harm come to his old pal the mentor or the "youngins" he helped raise. In other campaigns, I'll provide "campaign backgrounds," 1 or 2 paragraph unique links to help spur the story on and link to NPCs, future hooks, and so on (such as owning a piece of a treasure map, or having saved the career of a particular NPC).

I find having players invent the story and investing in NPCs is a fantastic way to launch any adventure.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Same. This is a standard assumption among my regular table and I require this with pickup groups, too. If someone wants to play out the "gettin' ta know ya" stuff or be all standoffish or need to be convinced to go adventuring they can do that in another DM's game.
I can see the last two points but what's wrong with actually playing out the PCs' first meeting each other?

If nothing else it gives the players an in-fiction reason to introduce their PCs to each other (and thus to the table) and give a quick summation of what they can and can't do.

That, and there's loads of ways to get a party of strangers together that don't involve meeting in a tavern.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I can see the last two points but what's wrong with actually playing out the PCs' first meeting each other?

If nothing else it gives the players an in-fiction reason to introduce their PCs to each other (and thus to the table) and give a quick summation of what they can and can't do.

That, and there's loads of ways to get a party of strangers together that don't involve meeting in a tavern.
Ain't got time for that.

Two sentences at the outset as to how everyone knows each other and perhaps setting character Bond to refer to another character in an evocative way is sufficient.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
We call them "Rolling Parties," because everybody rolls up new characters using the 4d6 method.
Yeah, this about sums us up too - our first group gathering isn't so much "session 0" the way most seem to define it; it's more just "roll-up night" and counts as session 1.

Usually I've gone over the houserules-expectations session-0 stuff individually with each player much earlier, if only so said player can make an informed decision as to whether or not s/he wants to join the game.

If things go half-smoothly on roll-up night I can get 'em introduced to each other and into the field by the end of the evening. Last time I even managed to kill off a PC during session 1. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Ain't got time for that.
Which would, were I a player there, be a huge red flag saying you ain't got time for a bunch of other things either; that you're going to rush the pace; that you're not going to allow time for character development or romances or arguments or even extended in-character conversations as the campaign goes along, and that we'll be lucky to see any uncoordinated downtime where we can do our own thing.

I sure hope this isn't the case.

Unless you (or any of your players) are geriatric enough that time remaining is a serious concern, you've got all the time in the world. No need to rush anything.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Which would, were I a player there, be a huge red flag saying you ain't got time for a bunch of other things either; that you're going to rush the pace; that you're not going to allow time for character development or romances or arguments or even extended in-character conversations as the campaign goes along, and that we'll be lucky to see any uncoordinated downtime where we can do our own thing.

I sure hope this isn't the case.
Imagine having all of those things you value, but short and punchy, and more or less continuously through the session, adventure, and campaign and you'll have an idea of what we're going for.

Unless you (or any of your players) are geriatric enough that time remaining is a serious concern, you've got all the time in the world. No need to rush anything
You'd have to define what rushing would mean to you. But that's another thread.
 

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