The Importance of a Session Zero
What is Session Zero, and Why is it Important?
With the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop RPGs in general at an all-time high, more gamers are branching out. Trying new games and new gaming groups, folks are braving the unknown and roleplaying in game shops, pubs, cafes, and online. This places more games “out in the wilds” and out of the living rooms and basements of old. And it also puts more gamers in the uncomfortable position of playing with strangers.
This trend is fantastic. It’s opening up new games for people across the globe and opportunities to branch out and game with different types of people in a variety of settings. But it also drives home the importance of session zero.
Often times there are extremely captivating story elements that result from a group session zero, such as two characters with interlaced backstories. Additionally, it relieves the pressure on the GM to limit single class issues. While a Dungeons & Dragons game with all Barbarians could be interesting, ultimately the story and the game benefits from class diversity.~Mark, @marcho5ia5, VP of Marketing, Gehenna Gaming
What is Session Zero?
For those unfamiliar, session zero is the first session of a new campaign or chronicle where the players and game master sit down together to discuss the game (system and setting), themes for the campaign, consent, comfort zones, and often, character creation. It can take place immediately before the first full session of the game, or on a separate date leading up to it. Often this is done as a group (and we recommend it that way, especially when introducing new players to each other) but can be done one-on-one if necessary.
The session zero sets the standard for not only the campaign – what it’s about and how sensitive topics will be handled through it – but also for the player group and relationship between GM and players. It’s also the ideal opportunity for players to ask questions about the game. Whether its rules clarifications for new players or simply a discussion on homebrewed elements or what tropes and themes the GM wants to explore, session zero is the place to get your questions answered.
For the GM as well, they can discuss what the players are looking to get out of the game. Are the players looking for a dungeon crawl with optimized characters or a more social, sandbox-style game? Will they be comfortable with the tone you’re aiming for? Do you need to use an X Card, safeword, or red light system for this campaign? You can get all of these discussions out of the way early so everyone is on the same page and ready to go for session one.
Why Separate Session Zero from Session One?
While you don’t have to, many GMs run session zero as a separate event from session one. This allows for plenty of time for discussion, and often integrates character creation into the process, without feeling rushed for time to get to the action. With so many folks getting into TTRPGs these days, we often don’t have entire days to dedicate to gaming, and keeping sessions brief (but poignant!) will help with scheduling and pacing. We all have busy lives, let’s fit our gaming in when we can.
Plus, hold character creation and discussion during your session zero as a group gives the players time to collaborate. Two players might realize they have similar concepts or ideas that play well off each other. They could collaborate on backstories, create siblings/lovers/friends to play, or rivals who are forced to work together. New opportunities for coordination or backstabbing among the players (if those themes fit the game) can dramatically expand the roleplay for the campaign.
But separating session zero from the first true gaming session also ensures that the game, and players, are all a good fit before you dive into the action. If you hold a session zero and a player suddenly realizes this game isn’t for them, you’re suddenly down a player as you move into session one. Or worse yet, they stay for session one but don’t have a good time or impede other players’ enjoyment! Holding session zero as a separate event can minimize these risks and ensure everyone’s on the same page ahead of time and well before the dice start rolling.
Do you hold session zeros for your games, or is the concept new to you? Have questions about how to optimize your session zero experience? Curious on how to effectively communicate concerns or issues during session zero? Join the Gehenna Gaming Discord. We’ll be happy to assist with your session zero and overall gaming needs!