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Session Zero

A checklist to help groups prepare for new campaigns.
Session Zero is planning session that takes place between the group before beginning a new campaign. It's used discuss and establish important aspects of the upcoming game, such as the game's genre, setting, tone, house rules, character creation guidelines, and the expectations and boundaries of the group. It's a valuable opportunity to ensure that everyone is on the same page, fostering a shared understanding of the game's direction and themes.

The Story

  • Game Genre and Setting: Clarify whether you're going for fantasy, sci-fi, horror, historical, or other genres. Discuss the specifics of the setting, including its time period, technology level, and any unique features.
  • Tone and Themes: Determine the desired tone of the game, whether it's serious, lighthearted, gritty, or epic. Discuss themes you want to explore, such as heroism, survival, or personal growth.
  • Introduction to the World: Provide an overview of the game world's history, major factions, cultures, and important locations.
  • Roleplaying vs. Mechanics: Decide the balance between roleplaying interactions and gameplay mechanics. Will the game emphasize character interactions and decisions, or will it include strategic combat and skill challenges?
  • Campaign Goals: Share the overarching goals of the campaign, whether it's to thwart a villain's plans, explore uncharted lands, or achieve personal milestones. Ensure characters' motivations align with these goals.

Game Rules

  • Character Creation Guidelines: Provide details on character creation rules, such as allowed or restricted backgrounds, skills, special powers or any other game element. This ensures that characters fit well within the world.
  • Character Backgrounds: Encourage players to create detailed character backstories. Discuss whether characters might know each other, have shared history, or have specific motivations tied to the campaign.
  • Table Dynamics: Discuss communication norms, turn-taking, and ways to make sure everyone has a chance to contribute. Address any preferences or concerns regarding spotlight time.
  • Character Death: Discuss how character death will be handled. Is it permanent, or are there ways to bring characters back to life? Clarify how new characters will be introduced.
  • House Rules: If you're using any house rules or modifications to the core mechanics, explain them clearly so everyone is on the same page.

Code of Conduct

  • Expectations and Boundaries: Discuss the role and responsibilities of the director and the players. Discuss any rules related to the general code of conduct and set expectations and boundaries with regard to behavior between the director and players. Discuss any specific tools that will be used for mitigating behavior that crossing established boundaries such as warnings, timeouts or table expulsion.
  • Safety Tools: Discuss the use of safety tools like Lines and Veils, the X-Card system, and other tools to ensure that the group knows how to navigate sensitive topics and uncomfortable moments during game play. Ensure everyone feels comfortable with the game's content themes and any potentially controversial or sensitive topics.
  • Intra-Party Conflict: Discuss boundaries for conflict between characters in the group. The director should ensure that everyone understands that any conflicts, mild or otherwise, between characters in the game should not be interpreted as a conflict between players. Some amount of friction between characters is expected, and occasional conflicts should be viewed as a fun role-playing opportunity that players are encouraged to enjoy.
  • Conflict Resolution: Talk about how disputes or rules interpretations should be resolved, both during game sessions and between sessions. During game session that could be a vote among players, a final ruling by the director, or other alternative methods.

Scheduling

  • Session Length and Frequency: Determine the typical duration of your sessions and how often you'll play, whether it's weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

Commitment

  • Session Zero Agreement: Summarize the decisions made during Session Zero and create a document or record of these agreements that everyone can refer back to during the campaign.