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

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.
I appreciate you fighting the good fight, but after five years, it may be time for folks like you and me to accept that at this point we’re just That Guy who corrects people for using “literally” for emphasis rather than its (heh) literal meaning.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.)
...I love this. The rolled-food potluck element especially.
 

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!
Are you sure? I think most DMs needs LESS.

Session 0 can be wildly different whether your players are total beginners to RPGs, generally experienced RPGers but new to the ruleset and the fantasy setting you're using, already familiar with the ruleset but not with the fantasy setting (or viceversa), or familiar with both...

In my case I pretty much always have at least some beginner in the group, so I purposefully avoid talking about rules until they come up in play. It might seem counter-intuitive since beginners likely do not know the rules so you think you need to teach them before starting the game... but if you do that, the less rules the players know the more time you're spending talking instead of playing, which is what most beginners do not want. Hardcore gamers are more likely to be interested in rules chatting.

A big difference in Session 0 is whether the players have to create PCs from scratch at the table, or are coming to the game with their PCs already designed. If everyone knows the ruleset already, consider going with the latter, ask them to be ready! Have them possibly communicate with each other so that no two of them will create too similar PCs. Otherwise, creating PCs during Session 0 is still OK and can be a lot of fun to do it together, but ONLY with players who already know the stuff available... if you have more than a single beginner (one is still manageable) consider handing out pre-generated characters of the iconic classes and maybe a couple more.

House rules are a tricky subject. If you have only beginners, they are probably not able to tell a house rule from an official rule. The worst thing you can do is to explain them both, and why the official rule "required" your fix. Just don't explain any rule until it comes up in play. But obviously if your players know the official rules, they need to be informed about house rules and actually before they design their PCs, which suggests to send them a group written message in advance rather than waiting for Session 0.

As you can see, I am not exactly a fan of Sessions 0, in fact I'd rather just go straight to Session 1 :)

But I can see the appeal of a Session 0 i.e. where the first adventure either barely starts (or doesn't even have time to start at all) when everyone is a hardcore gamer, because then your players are probably also just as interested as you in game design and campaign setup, and want to know both what to expect and what is your purpose.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A big difference in Session 0 is whether the players have to create PCs from scratch at the table, or are coming to the game with their PCs already designed.
All such rolling is done where others, preferably including the DM, can see it.

Not negotiable. End of story.

Show up with a pre-made character if you like. You'll not be playing it and will be rolling new just like everyone else.

As you can see, I am not exactly a fan of Sessions 0, in fact I'd rather just go straight to Session 1 :)

But I can see the appeal of a Session 0 i.e. where the first adventure either barely starts (or doesn't even have time to start at all) when everyone is a hardcore gamer, because then your players are probably also just as interested as you in game design and campaign setup, and want to know both what to expect and what is your purpose.
IME people enjoy rolling up their characters together, even if (as is commonly the case) they don't always tell each other what they'll be playing.

It also helps if the system one is using has reasonably quick and efficient char-gen.
 

Coroc

Hero
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.
Well, the players should question you, not vice versa?

Normally I prepare a roster of classes/subclasses and races and combos plus an equipment list and currencies suitable for the campaign. This includes the pantheon of the campaign.
Usually I distribute this per e-mail upfront. I also tell them what tech level is predominant, and what exceptions there are e.g. clockworks=yes, gunpowder=no.
I also tell them which skills might be used often and which only rarely. E.g. you need a lot of social skills, but there will be few traps and locks, so maybe one character taking criminal background is sufficient for the party trapper or even no rogue-alike is needed at all.
Also starting level, char - creation, rest mode, XP true or milestone.
Then I roughly sketch the current situation e.g. environment, politics, wars, invasions, pestilence, inquisition, superstition or the like, also if there is one sort of enemy which might be encountered often e.g. orcs, undead, demons, dragons.
I might have overlooked something but all that info is normally sufficient for the players to organize themselves and pick choices for a well balanced party.
I normally do not need a full session 0 because we do these things online with a forum.
If some player wants something different, I will alter things if possible, or convince the player to chose the best equivalent.
 

All such rolling is done where others, preferably including the DM, can see it.

Not negotiable. End of story.

Show up with a pre-made character if you like. You'll not be playing it and will be rolling new just like everyone else.

IME people enjoy rolling up their characters together, even if (as is commonly the case) they don't always tell each other what they'll be playing.

It also helps if the system one is using has reasonably quick and efficient char-gen.
Oh... that obviously requires to be there, I should have mentioned I have not used dice rolls in PC generation for years.
 

Quartz

Adventurer
For a group of new players, I would generate the characters beforehand with a little backstory so we can be ready to go very quickly. I'd have more characters than players so as to give players a choice and to have ready replacements for early deaths or simple dislike.
 

Coroc

Hero
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.)
In the end everybody is so stuffed and round that he rolls when toppled :p ?
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I do exclusively homebrew and that's a portion of my Session 0 which you don't need. Let me separate out the parts that will be useful with a homebrew section at the end that may not be useful for you. I'll put some of my own points in parenthesis as examples.

If a new group
Social rules (respect the host's location; DM authority in game, everyone equal voice out of game; no PvP)

If first time DMing for the group
Quick overview of DMing playstyle (RP heavy, tough encounters but I'm your cheerleader. Give it a try/improvise. Failing forward. Heroic or at least good adjacent party. )
Any house rules (plot & RP based advancement, different ability/skill variant from PHB)
Materials available (published WotC books, occasionally some UA, may have restrictions/expansions based on setting)
Expectations I have for players.
What expectations players have for me
What expectations from players of other players.
Settling rules disputes (spend reasonable amount of time in-session (reasonable depending on severity, then will make a ruling to move forward we can continue talking about outside of the session)
When we play (every other X night. Will play down one, cancel down two unless it's at the last moment and people are on the way.)

Always
Overview of setting.
Character brainstorming and creation. (Don't need to build every character, but everyone should have an idea of the party and where they fit into it.)

Homebrew only
When I'm running a homebrew world, I've only got broad strokes done at session 0, and make the overview very interactive, get ideas of what the players are interested in, where they want their characters to be from and such, so I know where to detail out. I also encourage players to come up with details related to their characters - the knightly order they are part of, who is the begger-king they trained under, what is the culture of the western dwarves like, etc. Grant some narrative authority with my veto power. Anything they build is something I don't have to, and has automatic buy-in when it comes up in play for the creating player.
 

houser2112

Explorer
I'm not a fan of Session 0. It's hard enough getting the calendars for a handful of adults to align and be in one place at the same time, I don't want to waste time watching people create characters when that time can be better spent actually playing. Infodumps and feedback to those infodumps should be handled through email or other asynchronous electronic means, and people should make their characters on their own time.
 


manduck

Explorer
I like to ask some questions to help get the players more attached to the world and their characters. I like the “how do you know each other” question so we don’t have to play out meeting. The I ask for some friends and family, both local and distant. That has the added benefit of giving me NPCs they automatically care about. I also like to ask if they have a personality quirk, like absentmindedly whistling or tapping on the table when bored. Sometimes I’ll ask for an object of sentimental value.

Oh, and if two people want to be the same class, I toss a broken pool cue into the middle of the table and let them fight it out.
 

jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
One thing I plan to ask at my next session is "Do you want me to do the accent?"

To explain: last year, I ran the Ravenloft season of AL modules for my group. I didn't do the Barovian accent because I figured everyone in the story was speaking the same language.

However, my players have a long history with Ravenloft, and whenever they quote past games, they always do the accent. We're about to start Curse of Strahd, so if they feel like the accent would improve the experience for them, I'll do it. Even if it means pretty much all of us end up sounding like a tableful of Bela Lugosis.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
One thing I plan to ask at my next session is "Do you want me to do the accent?"

To explain: last year, I ran the Ravenloft season of AL modules for my group. I didn't do the Barovian accent because I figured everyone in the story was speaking the same language.

However, my players have a long history with Ravenloft, and whenever they quote past games, they always do the accent. We're about to start Curse of Strahd, so if they feel like the accent would improve the experience for them, I'll do it. Even if it means pretty much all of us end up sounding like a tableful of Bela Lugosis.
I gotta say ... half the reason I play D&D is so I can do funny accents. :D
 

Zaukrie

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.

.........................................

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

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
My biggest concern in session zero is the pitch for the campaign and securing player buy in. I want to make sure they know what the plan is, what kind of game it's going to be, and any idiosyncrasies about my DM style. I always do that before character gen too. If I'm going to run urban intrigue I want the players to know that, or if the campaign is going to take place mostly in the jungles of Chult with only the occasional glimpse of civilization, I want them to know that too. If a player makes an urban focused character for a wilderness game I want want them to have done that on purpose for the fish-out-of-water thing not because they had no idea what the campaign was and now their character doesn't get to do what he does best.

One of the other important things I take care of in session zero is working with the players to see what parts of their backgrounds and story they actually want, or might want incorporated into the game, if there's an opportunity. I don't want to reference three pages of cramped hand written life story, I just want some bullet points I can crayon onto the back of my napkin next to the campaign map and some smears of yesterday's egg breakfast.

The last thing I really like to spend some time on in session zero is to talk to the players about how they see their characters, and what sorts of things they really want an opportunity to do with those characters. Sometimes that's the obvious stuff, but sometimes you get some solid gold stuff you never would have thought of otherwise.

Items two and three above are mostly about ensuring that I understand the characters my players have drawn up beyond simply looking at their stats. I find I plan and execute better that way, and least form a player enjoyment standpoint.
 

I kinda want to run a session zero at one point that is basically just the group playing Microscope, because that could be fun and might add some extra player buy-in to the world.
 

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