D&D 5E "When Starting Up a New Campaign I Always Have a Session #0" (a poll)

True or False: "When Starting Up a New Campaign I Always Have a Session #0"

  • True.

    Votes: 78 66.7%
  • False.

    Votes: 39 33.3%

When you say “make a character” are you referring only to the mechanical decisions (race and subrace; background and characteristics; class and potentially subclass; spell choices if applicable; ability score assignment; starting equipment)? Or are you also including stuff like description, backstory, etc.
A mix of mechanical decisions AND character concept, personality traits, etc. I always have plenty of ideas, but deciding which one of the many ideas is the "right" one for the campaign is like a series of pauses while my emotions sort themselves out.

Session Zero always helps, of course, since it narrows down the list based on what the party would strongly benefit from. But even narrowed down, it's still analysis paralysis.

None of this applies to one-shots and mini-campaigns mind you. Just normal campaigns where your choices stick with you for months/years.

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Unserious gamer
Absolutely, although sometimes it will be conducted over email or Discord rather than in-person.

But each of my games differ in starting rules allowed, tone, level, stat generation method, etc., so I like to get people on board. Plus I like to do some kind of activity that fosters connections between PCs and maybe even changes how the character is made.

Hopefully next game I can finally do my RL fantasy stat draft!
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I've never found I've needed more than ten minutes or so for the equivalent of a session zero (I expect players to bring characters or use pregens). I find expectations can be worked out on the fly, generally. As can party cohesion and other details. This probably comes from the fact that I either play with my long-standing group (where it's probably not necessary), or in 2-hour demo slots in-store (where there would be no time for anything like a session zero) or online here, where session zero is worked out in recruitment threads.

Also because I find that very few plans ever survive contact with the players, so IMO there's not much reason to plan. Better to always be open to negotiation and Rule Alpha: Play Nice with Others.


Heretic of The Seventh Circle
First the premise:

True or False: "When Starting Up a New Campaign I Always Have a Session #0"

Now there are a couple of things I want to establish before you vote. . .

By "always" I don't mean literally "always" or else I'd be asking if you've ever not had a session #0 for a campaign, and my guess is most of us some time in the past have not had (or even heard of) a Session 0, but I mean since adopting the notion of the session 0.

Though of course, if you have never adopted it at all, the answer is false.

I also don't mean only with new groups or new players - the question is if you begin each new campaign (or AP or whatever) with a Session #0
So I voted “true”, but I will say that it is more informal the more established the specific group is, and often spans multiple weeks of discussions via group chat and the like.

Absobloominglutely we do.

Full session of chat, setting, parameters, expectation etc.

Is PC death a thing.
How much individual goals we doing?
How Lone Wolf can a person be?
What " certificate" we playing?
What campaign length we thinking?
Is everyone in the same " zone".
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CR 1/8
Yes, I've done a session zero pretty much every time (though it might really just be a partial session).

A brief amount of time is usually spent on table rules, social contract, house rules. A fair bit more time is typically spent on PC relationships and fleshing out PC ideas if they're not already decided. For a really short campaign (eg, a one-shot adventure, rules test-drive, etc), we might leave it at that and jump right into the game, so session zero merges with session one.

But IME, the most useful goal of session zero is to establish genre expectations so everyone is on the same page. For that, it's been helpful to do something like watch an inspirational movie, or play a related boardgame, or a world-building exercise, or run some pregens through a one-shot adventure using a micro-lite system. Basically just something quick and self-contained to get players thinking in the right mode for the game.


Victoria Rules
True, but it's split into two parts:

For each potential player there's a session -1, where I pitch the game, explain the rules etc., and if there's interest, invite them in.

Then there's what amounts to session 0, which is roll-up night and is also usually the first time that group is together* at the same time. By now the players are in theory already committed, or else they wouldn't be there. If roll-up goes smoothly, session 0 can morph right into session 1.

* - as a gaming group; odds are they already know each other from elsewhere as I only run for people I know.


No, but that's because my group plays on Roll20 using Discord and Google Docs. There's no specific Session 0, but everything that would normally take place during it occurs over the course of several weeks leading up to the start of the campaign, keeping us from losing any precious game time. The DM will create a folder for the campaign and put in the necessary handout stuff, and a channel will be created for the campaign. People will text on the channel ideas and discussions, and often upload final character sheets.


Both/neither. I tend to have a "session 0.5": Half making characters, setting the stage for the setting, and the other half beginning the campaign.

All of the times I've DMed over the last 10+ years have been bi-weekly, with semi-frequent cancellations due to busy lives, so a session zero isn't practical. I try to do some of the session zero work via email: Send a setting and character primer, ask people to think about what they want to play, etc. Then roughly half of the first session has been making characters and verbally summarizing stuff from the primer, and half the beginnings of an adventure - set-up, a bit of role-play, and one combat.


Almost never, until now -

I have a core set of players and we usually have a good understanding of the play style and so, I have them come to the table with characters in hand and we roll for initiative.

I'm kicking off a new campaign and decided it would be a little lower in power and we would use a draft system for attributes - modeled on the one provided by our very own OP.

However, I got some push back and quickly realized I needed a little bit of buy in before making these changes. Something that had never been a concern. I realized my players really deserved input on any core assumptions about the campaign style. It needs to be a framework everyone will enjoy. And so, this Sunday I am having my first session zero in many, many years.


I can’t say I’ve done a session zero; if so, it turned into a session #1 by the end.

Usually I throw a pitch for the players (“I’d like to start a campaign running Ghosts of Saltmarsh was the last one, mentioned over a lunch break) and then they players do their characters on their own time or get with me sometime during the week to throw one together.

Haven’t had discussions about rule options ahead of times, I just use my houserules as needed and the players have to adapt on the fly. No X cards, no discussion about character death or the like.

So I like to start my players out individually and then have them meet up as a roleplaying opportunity. To do this I try to run a mini solo adventure for each player that gets them to 2nd level before they meet the group. As a result my last 3 campaigns I've had multiple sessions 0's in the following loose order:
  1. A group session where we go through the base groundwork of the campaign, what is and isn't allowed, and what my style is like for any newbies. I also discuss rules options with the players and see if there's something the group wants to change and then the group as a whole talks about what types of character they're looking to play.
  2. An individual session with each player to help build their character. This often happens on the same night as 1 above.
  3. Another individual session with each player as I run them through a mini adventure for that character alone.
  4. Once all characters have done their individual adventure and have leveled up to 2nd I run a group session 0 designed to intriduce them to each other and get them decide to adventure with each other.


I had never heard of the concept until I got back into playing after the COVID lockdown ended.

But I held one for the campaign i started, as it sounded like a good idea to me. So I ran one and really liked it. Two of the more veteran players also seemed to expect it. So at least with a new group I would want to do it every time.

I’m not sure if I’d do it with a followup campaign using the same group and characters, but maybe. I think it would be a little different in nature, though.


Mod Squad
Staff member
I also don't mean only with new groups or new players - the question is if you begin each new campaign (or AP or whatever) with a Session #0

Yep. Some of the most basic points get very short coverage when I'm working with the same group from one game to the next. But broadly speaking, when I end one campaign and begin another, I'm not using the same game system from one to the next. So expectations have to be discussed.

This is an automatic prerequisite in my games.
This is where players are introduced to the group (if any new comer gets by).
This is where we discuss the orientation of the campaign and the optional or house rules we're going to use and
This is where we vote on the above as I usually give a few choices. But players are welcome with their suggestions. One of my players asked to play an old style dungeon crawl as she never did a super dungeon. Everyone voted yes on her suggestion so I decided to update my old super dungeon for 5ed. (If I had known how much work it was...).


Magic Wordsmith
Yes, every campaign of mine has a Session Zero, even with my regular johns. Years ago on the WotC forums, some of us used to take a beating for even suggesting such a thing, so I'm glad to see it's gotten some traction. Setting expectations and getting on the same page with each other is never not a good idea in my view. It helps avoid a lot of downstream issues.

Li Shenron


I want to start the actual game as soon as possible, especially because I almost invariably have beginners at the table, typically friends who just want to try the game out. I avoid a whole session zero without playing at all because I don't want to deliver them a feeling of "this is MY game and you MUST play the way I tell you", or otherwise make them feel they need to learn and memorize hundreds of rules. In fact, I explain nothing about the rules until we reach the point in the story when we need some rules to resolve something, and I have no rules changes / house rules to warn experienced players about. Non-rules wise, it only takes me a minute or so to inform anyone that unconsented PvP is not allowed, and the PG tone to follow.

I also keep any fantasy setting / campaign presentation (if necessary at all) concise. I don't need to showcase the whole world matters in advance, maybe just the broad strokes to capture the feel and general situation. If the setting is vanilla, I don't even that.

I try to make character creation fast and smooth, provide pre-gens or templates, and encourage players to define/refine their characters as we play rather than planning everything beforehand.

Ideally I would like to have all these ready in half an hour, more practically within one hour max. The idea is always, today's session is the only one you're guaranteed to have, next session may never happen, so we'd better play than just prepare to play.

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