Session 0... Is It Really That Big of a Secret?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


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As folks who spend any amount of time on these forums, or on any other places where we talk about Pathfinder, one of the big things that crops up is DMs looking for help. Something I kept running into, though, was that they never sat down with their players to hash out the campaign. So many DMs just let players make characters in a vacuum, and then they're surprised when people show up with obscure third-party classes, evil alignments, and motivations that have nothing to do with the campaign.

I figured it had to just be a few DMs, so I tried to be helpful by writing The Importance of Session 0 in Your Tabletop Games, and the response was huge. Apparently this is a secret that previous generations of gamers never shared with the younger ones.

Why does Session 0 appear to be so uncommon? Is it because so many players are coming from Society, where you really can make whatever as long as it fits the rules? Is it because there isn't a section in the guide, suggesting how to get everyone on board? This seems like such an integral part of a successful game that I'm confused why so many people just don't do it.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Session 0 has been a critical part of my table's success and longevity. The players and GM collaborate to weave the characters into plot threads. Players collaborate with each other to make sure the characters work well together anx with each other.

We often collaborate on our level ups to try to synergize feat and spell selection.


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I don't think it is a secret so much .. although it could be mentioned more thoroughly in RPG products .. but more that it seems to have fallen out of favor in some corners of the gaming community.

If you look over posts on these boards and others you'll find some strong push back against the idea. Not so much that there should be a Session 0, mind, but that the GM should put constraints on the player's creativity. There are those that like the idea that they should go where their muse takes them and it is the responsibility of the GM and other players to coordinate their efforts to make the whole cohesive.

Likewise you'll find those that are strongly against house rules, restrictions to builds, or both. I've seen all too often "I'd just walk if X is not allowed/is allowed/other."

The game is supposed to be cooperative, and Session 0, in my mind, is a good way to start working on that. The GM showing up and just announcing that you're doing a political thriller may not sit with players who aren't really into that, and the players telling the GM that he's running an intense pirate game could be in for a disappointment when they find that the only thing their GM hates more than cat people is Jack Sparrow.

I am a strong proponent of Session 0, and am reluctant to accept people making characters in a vacuum to the point that I and my players balk when someone wants to join the game late and has created a character without any idea of what is going on. The last time I didn't have some sort of Session 0 along with a players document was sometime in the early '80s.


If a GM decides to use Pregenerated Characters, is Session 0 still important?


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The player guides for APs attempt to cover part of this.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Why is "communicate about expectations/boundaries" tied to having an actual "Session 0"? The last two times I've joined a face-to-face D&D campaign, all the parameters were established via email so that people could make their characters on their own time and show up to the first session ready to play.

Maybe it's different for others, but I find that actual time together at the gaming table is scarce and difficult to schedule; therefore, getting character creation taken care of beforehand saves precious session time. Why spend a valuable game night doing things that could've been done BEFORE game night?

It seems that your REAL message (and one I agree with) is to communicate the parameters of the campaign prior to getting started. Great idea. But unless you all live in caves with no means of communicating except in person, why in the world would you spend a session on it?


Neal Litherland wrote:
So many DMs just let players make characters in a vacuum, and then they're surprised when people show up with obscure third-party classes, evil alignments, and motivations that have nothing to do with the campaign.

I am one of these GMs. In my current campaign I even have a player who appeared shortly before session 1, with no preparation at all. We tinkered his character within an hour, and he still loves him. Despite (or because?) the built-in conflict with another player's character.

If the PCs don't fit to the campaign, there is still the option to adapt the campaign. Yes, it means even more work for the GM. But hey, we have the freedom to design an entire world. Players only have the freedom to design their character. If I would sit down in session 0 and tell them about my ideas, it would push them into directions they might regret. Not every player is capable of defending their own wishes. Maybe due to a lack of self-confidence, maybe because they don't know them explicitly.

This thread makes me think - probably the best approach would be five steps, inspired by software engineering:

1) They decide what roles (and probably classes) and campaign type they want.
2) Based on this, I decide on campaign type.
3) They flesh out their PCs.
4) I decide on a concrete campaign.
5) They do some final adjustments to their PCs.

Other groups will be better off with other approaches, of course. But I am thankful the topic came up...


I've never had a session zero, then again my table used skype and now uses discord to communicate since we don't live anywhere close to each other. We get all the big information to make characters and stuff easily.

Technology is incredible!


Jiggy wrote:

Why is "communicate about expectations/boundaries" tied to having an actual "Session 0"? The last two times I've joined a face-to-face D&D campaign, all the parameters were established via email so that people could make their characters on their own time and show up to the first session ready to play.

Maybe it's different for others, but I find that actual time together at the gaming table is scarce and difficult to schedule; therefore, getting character creation taken care of beforehand saves precious session time. Why spend a valuable game night doing things that could've been done BEFORE game night?

It seems that your REAL message (and one I agree with) is to communicate the parameters of the campaign prior to getting started. Great idea. But unless you all live in caves with no means of communicating except in person, why in the world would you spend a session on it?

I think that qualifies as session 0 in any sense.

I no longer allow vaccum character creation, though one of my players loves it and makes characters so often that I very often have run one-shots just so people can enjoy one-off niche concepts.


@Jiggy: In can be done via e-mail and such, but it's more efficient to do it in person when you consider the Session 0 is more than just listing "expectations/boundaries." It's also about creating a party where each part compliments the whole. It gives the players the chance to discuss how each character knows each other so there's no wasted "so, you're sitting in this bar" scene where the GM shoe-horns the party into meeting each other. It allows for development of back-story and integration for that specific character into the world as a whole, into the specific campaign, and allows for everyone to go into the first session with an understanding of each member of the party and their interrelations.

This kind of thing could be done via e-mail or text, but would take dozens, if not more, such communications over (probably) multiple days to achieve what an hour or two sitting together at a table would do.

At least, that's been my experience doing it both ways.


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I think a lot of the reason why some groups don't have a Session 0 is down to groups with limited gaming time and the proliferation on online resources. Back in Ye Good Olde Days you pretty much had to have a session 0, since not everyone had a copy of the books, you had to roll stats in front of the GM, etc. Now, you can pretty much do all the character creation on your own.

However, I will note that the lack of a session 0 doesn't mean parties won't be coordinated. I've run a couple games where everyone talked over their ideas on Facebook and basically did all the session 0 stuff online.

As for limited gaming time, it's definitely a factor. Most of the gaming groups I've been in that broke did so because players had work, family, or other issues that made making a weekly game difficult. That makes people really want to make the most of their gaming time, so folks want to get straight to playing. I can certainly understand why players who have to go to a lot of effort to actually make it to a weekly game don't want to spend 15 minutes watching Bob try to decide which feat he should take.


Saldiven wrote:

@Jiggy: In can be done via e-mail and such, but it's more efficient to do it in person when you consider the Session 0 is more than just listing "expectations/boundaries." It's also about creating a party where each part compliments the whole. It gives the players the chance to discuss how each character knows each other so there's no wasted "so, you're sitting in this bar" scene where the GM shoe-horns the party into meeting each other. It allows for development of back-story and integration for that specific character into the world as a whole, into the specific campaign, and allows for everyone to go into the first session with an understanding of each member of the party and their interrelations.

This kind of thing could be done via e-mail or text, but would take dozens, if not more, such communications over (probably) multiple days to achieve what an hour or two sitting together at a table would do.

At least, that's been my experience doing it both ways.

^ so much this.

Amusing timing to me in that I actually have a session zero scheduled for tonight... :)

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Saldiven wrote:
This kind of thing could be done via e-mail or text, but would take dozens, if not more, such communications over (probably) multiple days to achieve what an hour or two sitting together at a table would do.

Yes, it will take dozens of emails over the course of multiple days to get everything settled. And in my experience, a few days of everybody checking their email whenever THEY have the time, without having to wait until everybody else can synch up with them, is waaaay easier to make actually happen than to schedule and coordinate six busy people into a single place all at the same time.

If it's seriously no harder for you and your friends to all get to the table for a couple of hours all at the same time than it is for each of you to hit "Reply All" at your leisure, then count your blessings because you're living a truly charmed life.

Dark Archive

If I'm running a game via play by post (like Twilight's Dawning, a homebrew Pathfinder game I'm starting up on RPOL) I like to set up a list of what resources I'm allowing. This usually consists of "what books do I actually own". If there's any specific restrictions due to campaign, I list those too.

For example in Twilight's Dawning the game's set in a future history of our earth. One where thousands of years ago (and forgotten by all but the oldest of elves and dwarves) Earth was forcefully merged with the faerie realm, thus causing technology to no longer work and forcing magic back into the world. As well as reintroducing many magical races humans no longer believed in.

Because of this setting, I ruled that guns are extremely rare. Thus the Gunslinger class isn't allowed. Nor are guns valid options for your character (assuming you can afford one). I also ruled that since the Pathfinder Society doesn't exist in this world, prestige classes centered around the Pathfinder Society aren't legal. Also that wayfinders don't exist in this world.

But I clearly list what sources are legal for the game, and what options aren't allowed in the character creation rules thread. (Oops, didn't mean this post to become a plug for my game)

When setting up for a Face to Face campaign, I again inform everyone of any restrictions or character creation rules. Such as starting funds, if you're rolling stats or point buy (and how many points), and so forth. Personally I favor 3d6 down the line for stats or 4d6 drop the lowest arrange to taste. But anymore people hate rolling for their attributes. And with clear and easy to find rules on the point buy system, I'm willing to use it.

This is often sent via a text doc and Dropbox anymore. Although if dice rolls are being used for char creation I prefer those made in front of me. As for campaign setup, I'll usually talk to the group about my campaign idea. Or for a play-by-post campaign I'll have a background that gives the initial setup and maybe a bit of background data for prospective players.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

We do this via Facebook chat. It hardly requires a whole session to hammer this out when we have other methods of communicating.


voideternal wrote:
If a GM decides to use Pregenerated Characters, is Session 0 still important?

Even moreso, players with pregens are going to have a lot of questions or they won't invest in the character and the campaign will go gonzo.


Jiggy wrote:

Why is "communicate about expectations/boundaries" tied to having an actual "Session 0"? The last two times I've joined a face-to-face D&D campaign, all the parameters were established via email so that people could make their characters on their own time and show up to the first session ready to play.

Maybe it's different for others, but I find that actual time together at the gaming table is scarce and difficult to schedule; therefore, getting character creation taken care of beforehand saves precious session time. Why spend a valuable game night doing things that could've been done BEFORE game night?

It seems that your REAL message (and one I agree with) is to communicate the parameters of the campaign prior to getting started. Great idea. But unless you all live in caves with no means of communicating except in person, why in the world would you spend a session on it?

The name "Session 0" is just for convenience sake. It doesn't have to be an actual session. You could do it over dinner with some friends, or over Skype, or a FB group chat if you want to. For my group, we often have it as a brief 15-minute talk when we're nearing the end of one campaign, or a DM won't be available on the same schedule, and so we're looking for something different to fill the time.


Technology can be quite useful if you have experienced players or those who don't need hands-on help or a close eye. I've had a few players over the years that I'd prefer to keep an eye on when they are working out their characters, especially if we are rolling stats instead of using point buy. Their "miraculous" rolls are a little less miraculous if there are witnesses I've found.


I'm big on the concept of session zero, although I prefer the email ahead of time method anyway, but everything listed in the blog post is not, in my opinion, session zero, but part of the basic proposal for a game.

I have never said 'I'm going to run a campaign' are you interested? Instead I will say, I'm interested in running a Pathfinder campaign based in an alternate earth centered around the Mediterranean after a quasi-Roman empire has fallen apart with the resulting antagonistic kingdoms getting a lot of flavor from the Eberron setting. While a their will be a variety of activities, it will be a Pirate focused campaign using the Fire as She Bear rules. We will also be using spheres of power and path of war. etc. etc."

This isn't part of session zero. This is way before that. You first have to make sure that the campaign you are going to run is something people are interested in playing and that any optional systems, houserules, or anything else won't change that. If you have enough buy in, then you go ahead a develop the campaign and figure out when it will start etc.

Session zero (or as I prefer to call it, character generation) is building a cohesive party, covering the various combat and non-combat roles, figuring out how the PCs are connected (if at all) how they got to where they are starting and why they are each individually and collectively interested in the basic premise of the campaign. Of course the GM clarifies things during this process if needed, and should review all of the characters before the game starts, but mostly this process is under the player control. Whether it happens in a sit-down room or over email doesn't really matter, but it is as much part of character creation as picking a class and a race.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Neal Litherland wrote:
Jiggy wrote:

Why is "communicate about expectations/boundaries" tied to having an actual "Session 0"? The last two times I've joined a face-to-face D&D campaign, all the parameters were established via email so that people could make their characters on their own time and show up to the first session ready to play.

Maybe it's different for others, but I find that actual time together at the gaming table is scarce and difficult to schedule; therefore, getting character creation taken care of beforehand saves precious session time. Why spend a valuable game night doing things that could've been done BEFORE game night?

It seems that your REAL message (and one I agree with) is to communicate the parameters of the campaign prior to getting started. Great idea. But unless you all live in caves with no means of communicating except in person, why in the world would you spend a session on it?

The name "Session 0" is just for convenience sake. It doesn't have to be an actual session. You could do it over dinner with some friends, or over Skype, or a FB group chat if you want to. For my group, we often have it as a brief 15-minute talk when we're nearing the end of one campaign, or a DM won't be available on the same schedule, and so we're looking for something different to fill the time.

That's what I would have guessed had I not read the blog and seen you talk about sitting down with your group and how it's important that the GM is present and so forth.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

knightnday wrote:
Technology can be quite useful if you have experienced players or those who don't need hands-on help or a close eye. I've had a few players over the years that I'd prefer to keep an eye on when they are working out their characters, especially if we are rolling stats instead of using point buy. Their "miraculous" rolls are a little less miraculous if there are witnesses I've found.

Why are those people even in your game?


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Jiggy wrote:
knightnday wrote:
Technology can be quite useful if you have experienced players or those who don't need hands-on help or a close eye. I've had a few players over the years that I'd prefer to keep an eye on when they are working out their characters, especially if we are rolling stats instead of using point buy. Their "miraculous" rolls are a little less miraculous if there are witnesses I've found.
Why are those people even in your game?

The majority aren't anymore. Others are friends/spouses/children of other players and drop kicking them would cause more drama than necessary; me watching and correcting them along the way is a small price to pay not to have problems.

Shadow Lodge

Saldiven wrote:
This kind of thing could be done via e-mail or text, but would take dozens, if not more, such communications over (probably) multiple days to achieve what an hour or two sitting together at a table would do.

For me, that's a feature, not a bug. It means that if there's a tricky issue we can go off and sleep on it instead of expecting everything to be resolved in one sitting.

It's also pretty common for a player to have an short in-depth individual conversation with the GM to quickly flesh out a character backstory without having to bring all the other players into it.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
knightnday wrote:
There are those that like the idea that they should go where their muse takes them and it is the responsibility of the GM and other players to coordinate their efforts to make the whole cohesive.

I'm one of those myself (and I'm the GM most of the time), but as you said, that doesn't speak against a Session 0 at all. So I'm doing some kind of Session 0, but mainly to learn about what players want to play and to and then to adapt the campaign to their wishes.

So from what Neil describes in his blog entry, in my opinion it's not the players and their PCs that pose the problem. It's the GM who created a campaign to his own liking without thinking one second about the players' likes and wishes beforehand.

Problem being that Neil's blog entry comes across more like session 0 should be used to tell the players what's allowed and what not. I have to admit that I have no interest in such a session 0, neither as a player nor as the GM.


I find a group character creation session in-person to be much more productive than doing it over email. People procrastinate about sending email. People forget to reply all. People misunderstand things and it takes multiple replies to sort things out. It just always seems to work out better to do it in person - 3-way conversations are easier, things actually get decided, etc.


Ian Bell wrote:
I find a group character creation session in-person to be much more productive than doing it over email. People procrastinate about sending email. People forget to reply all. People misunderstand things and it takes multiple replies to sort things out. It just always seems to work out better to do it in person - 3-way conversations are easier, things actually get decided, etc.

Get discord, skype, or some other instant message thing. Much faster and easier than email.


I hear-tell you're lookin' for somethin' with the power to make your games... shine. Let me tell ya: I've got exactly what you need. It's ain't easy ta get, no, but I know a guy. I c'n tell you my secret, 'cause I c'n guarantee you ain't findin' it elsewhere: it's called Session Zero.

(Sign up now, for only $9.99 per month.)


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

We set up a Google drive with player background material. The GM will e-mail out a link to the drive and some introductory information.

We then talk about communicate what sort of characters different people are playing and sometimes link backgrounds. Everyone is to come up with a background that gives them a reason to be wherever the game is starting and preferably a reason to join the group.

The Google drive is nice because it allows people to add shared information to it and a place to put game logs.

It depends on the group if we have a sit down session to build the characters or not.

Something that can be just as important for setting expectations is the first adventure. The first adventure should help introduce the campaign world. Don't do anything that would break expectations of that game world -- you haven't established what is common yet.


I'm a big proponent of session 0. I'm also a fan of coming into session 0 with a plan. For example we're currently scheduling a session 0 for our Hell's Rebels game. I have my character planned, with ideas of what to change depending on the other character choices. Most of the other player's have a general idea of what they want to do. We're meeting to pull it all together.

Shadow Lodge

WormysQueue wrote:
knightnday wrote:
There are those that like the idea that they should go where their muse takes them and it is the responsibility of the GM and other players to coordinate their efforts to make the whole cohesive.

I'm one of those myself (and I'm the GM most of the time), but as you said, that doesn't speak against a Session 0 at all. So I'm doing some kind of Session 0, but mainly to learn about what players want to play and to and then to adapt the campaign to their wishes.

So from what Neil describes in his blog entry, in my opinion it's not the players and their PCs that pose the problem. It's the GM who created a campaign to his own liking without thinking one second about the players' likes and wishes beforehand.

Problem being that Neil's blog entry comes across more like session 0 should be used to tell the players what's allowed and what not. I have to admit that I have no interest in such a session 0, neither as a player nor as the GM.

Agreed the blog post does come across that way.

However, the concept of making sure everyone is on the same page before you start the campaign works whether you expect the GM to dictate to the players or players to present their concepts so the GM can plan for it, or some in-between level of mutual accommodation.

I personally have never seen a situation where we can't reach a happy compromise re: character concept, given some time in advance to work it out.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I almost always do some form of "session 0," whether it be in group, one-on-one, over email, etc. I want to be able to give the players campaign-centric advice about their characters and answer any questions they might have. I don't want them to show up for session 1after having designed characters in a vacuum, only to find out the characters don't match the theme of the game.

-Skeld


I tried something new with a session 0 to bring a party together, and it worked really well. Inspired by Fiasco's character generation, we used it to generate background elements.

There are two colored d6s used in the character generation: black and white. You roll a dice pool of 1 more die of each color than the number of players. Black die represent "catagories" and white die represent "elements".

The table is set up like this

1 - Catagory
>>>1 - Element
>>>2 - Element
>>>3 - Element
>>>4 - Element
>>>5 - Element
>>>6 - Element
2 - Catagory
>>>1 - Element
...
6 - Catagory
>>>1 - Element
...
>>>6 - Element

Each category and element is unique.

Arbitrarily choose a player to start, and go around the table. Each player chooses 1 black die and chooses a category, and one white die and chooses an element in that category. That element cannot be chosen again. This repeats until everyone chooses an element. Then I repeated the process.

The key to this working is the categories. It is important to pick categories like "Relationship with another PC" with elements like "Rivals in love" or "Fast friends (implying they met recently)" or "owes a life debt"; and categories that tie to the campaign like relationships to an NPC or a reason to be in the campaign.

It worked really well where everyone went from having separate backstories to weaving encounters with everyone in their backgrounds. We had one with a life debt to another, a pair of PCs that were dating, one PC that was working in the area for a while before the adventure and is established there, etc. The whole thing added a ton of built in roleplay and flavor into the game.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There are systems where a dedicated Session 0 are important, but Pathfinder really isn't one of them. Compare with Numenera, which requires you to coordinate hooks with each others' characters that have mechanical impact and also requires that no two people have the same specialty (not just a gentle nudge, it's actually not legal), and you'll find that the requirements of a Pathfinder group are significantly less stringent.

I did find it funny that the blog post mentions "What system are we playing?" as a Session 0 question. I would have thought that question would be answered when the prospective GM says "Hey, I think I'm going to run a Pathfinder game..."

I would totally love to see the combination GURPS/Ponyfinder/Cthulu/Conan/Palladium/Cyberpunk table, though, where this question wasn't addressed in advance.

Liberty's Edge

I use this concept extensively. Not necessarily as a formal session, but I play with my friends and we often discuss what characters we're gonna play for weeks to months on and off before a new game starts.

For example, I'm currently running CotCT and when the subject of what was gonna get run next came up, one of my players volunteered to run Mummy's Mask. That was months ago and 4 out of 5 of the characters who're gonna be in that are entirely complete conceptually (the fifth guy isn't in the CotCT game and didn't participate in the 'waiting for the last person to arrive at game' conversations on this subject...but he's thinking about it, knows the other four, and we're still weeks from my game being done). This is not atypical.

In another example, when a friend of mine was going around recruiting people for the Firefly RPG he asked them what they'd want to play as soon as they expressed interest and mentioned other people's ideas so we didn't wind up with two ship's captains or anything like that.

And so on and so forth.

I feel like, in any game, you really benefit from coming in knowing roughly what the other characters are so you can avoid overshadowing or being overshadowed by anyone else, and avoid really disruptive character interactions (Paladins and Antipaladins don't play well together, for example). It's just good sense and manners, IMO.

Shadow Lodge

Serisan wrote:
I would totally love to see the combination GURPS/Ponyfinder/Cthulu/Conan/Palladium/Cyberpunk table, though, where this question wasn't addressed in advance.

Combined at the same time?


Weirdo wrote:
Serisan wrote:
I would totally love to see the combination GURPS/Ponyfinder/Cthulu/Conan/Palladium/Cyberpunk table, though, where this question wasn't addressed in advance.
Combined at the same time?

That would be weird. Probably easier to just concert it all to GURPS it already has Cyberpunk, Conan and Cthulhupunk sourcebooks. GURPS Bunnies and Burrows is close enough to Ponyfinder to give the right feel and Palladium rule sets are lame anyway, my old group gave up on Rifts after about 3 sessions and converted it all to GURPS and it worked better than the original.


Weirdo wrote:
Serisan wrote:
I would totally love to see the combination GURPS/Ponyfinder/Cthulu/Conan/Palladium/Cyberpunk table, though, where this question wasn't addressed in advance.
Combined at the same time?

Hmmm... My Little Ponies with bionic MDC weapons and Cyberpsychosis who just failed their last SAN check... headshots for Crom!

... I may need more caffeine and to spend less time proselytizing for Team Evil.


I've always tried to have a Session 0 with my players, but with most of them going back nearly 30 years in some cases it's hardly a necessity. Only on the rarest of occasions when someone new joins the group do I have hold a "get to know the setting" session with them.

The last Session 0 I had was with my three most consistent players when planning out the current campaign. For over 20 years we'd used the same city and nations to adventure in, so we decided to explore another part of the setting world with a new base city and environs. And like some folks have said in above posts I use email with new players to send them documents with house rules and general campaign information to get them started. We've never used FB chat because one of my players doesn't even own a computer (he gets emails at work) and the other doesn't use FB at all. So for us it's face to face or group email sessions.

Sovereign Court

I can go either way if my GM wanted to hash out expectations over email im cool with that. I do love a session 0 though. I find it constructive and fun. /shrug

I agree with email expectations and boundaries are all that is needed folks. However, I still like session 0's. I think its fun to build characters together. In fact, often most players in my games show up to the table with the mechanics all laid out but leave fleshing the characters to session 0. We also do crazy things like play other RPG systems like Traveller, which is super fun to do chargen together, as opposed to on your own.

I realize some folks might see a session 0 as a waste of time, but I figure if i'm running a game its going to be meeting regularly anyway. I'm in no hurry to get things done. I like the game to move at its own pace for my enjoyment. I know some folks expect to knock out an AP in like 3-6 months, but it takes my home groups about 2 years. Different folks, different strokes I guess.


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DungeonmasterCal wrote:
I've always tried to have a Session 0 with my players, but with most of them going back nearly 30 years in some cases it's hardly a necessity. Only on the rarest of occasions when someone new joins the group do I have hold a "get to know the setting" session with them.

This is a good point. With my regular group of players, our "session zero" is actually usually just the first hour or two of one of our 6-8 hour Sunday sessions.

However, last fall I started running RotRL with a group of brand new role players who had zero Pathfinder experience. That "session zero" was a solid four hours long, and went a couple of hours into the next session.

The amount of time commitment required will vary depending upon the experience level of the players and the mutual familiarity of the play group.


Saldiven wrote:
DungeonmasterCal wrote:
I've always tried to have a Session 0 with my players, but with most of them going back nearly 30 years in some cases it's hardly a necessity. Only on the rarest of occasions when someone new joins the group do I have hold a "get to know the setting" session with them.

This is a good point. With my regular group of players, our "session zero" is actually usually just the first hour or two of one of our 6-8 hour Sunday sessions.

However, last fall I started running RotRL with a group of brand new role players who had zero Pathfinder experience. That "session zero" was a solid four hours long, and went a couple of hours into the next session.

The amount of time commitment required will vary depending upon the experience level of the players and the mutual familiarity of the play group.

This is very true. Session Zero is a must when you play with a relatively new group, while if it's a bunch of old gaming buddies starting up their seventh Pathfinder campaign together you can probably get away with just telling everyone the general campaign premise and to have their characters ready to play when they show up.


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In my experience session zero happens more frequently than it does not. It's a fun day. It can also be preceeded by a string of e-mails where players bounce ideas off one another. Or over a meal, coffee, etc. In my mind, the biggest motivation for session zero is to avoid making characters during the first session. For a long-term campaign, that never turns out well.


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Weirdo wrote:
Serisan wrote:
I would totally love to see the combination GURPS/Ponyfinder/Cthulu/Conan/Palladium/Cyberpunk table, though, where this question wasn't addressed in advance.
Combined at the same time?

Well, in terms of the "we didn't specify a system, so everybody came with characters from different systems" scenario.


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Our last Session Zero was a brief 15 minute talk about our next long running campaign with a primer for the setting to take home and a list of houserules emailed to us by the GM when we were nearing the end of a previous campaign. Our character ideas were then emailed to the GM over the next few weeks so he could suggest places where a concept we came up with could fit in the campaign setting.

As others have noted, it doesn't need to be an actual session face to face. As long as you make sure everyone is on the same page it should work fine.


I started gaming back in 1987 but didn't start using the Internet until 1993 so our group got into the habit of having a session 0 by necessity. Back then the game systems and scenarios we played tended to be a lot simpler so it would take about 1 hour to explain the gist of the campaign and for everyone to make characters, which meant session zero would often be a part of session one. Times sure have changed, the Internet makes it so much easier to communicate, our games have become more complex with lots of house rules and campaign specific information. But even with the ubiquity of the Internet and ease of file sharing we still find it useful to have about an hour of face to face time before the start of each campaign.


I find session 0 to be essential for a campaign where you want the players to be interested in the game world more than their level and treasure scores. Although I provide a 20+page gazette style document describing the history, Gods, nearby nations and items of local interest points, it is easy for players to miss things. There is also detail that may be of interest to particular players that is not in the document but can be discussed with players who want to follow a particular theme.

The mechanical elements of creating characters and any follow-up can be done offline afterwards but offline communication is really no substitute for a face-to-face dialogue with the rest of the group.


I would suggest that in the online SRD era, session zero is not such a great idea unless everyone has their own laptop or tablet. Working from the books is terrible in comparison so if there are fewer computers than players they become a bottleneck.

If someone needs help making a character session zero may be a necessary evil, but if everyone knows what they're doing having them all in one place to make characters isn't much of a help.

The Exchange

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Serisan wrote:
I did find it funny that the blog post mentions "What system are we playing?" as a Session 0 question. I would have thought that question would be answered when the prospective GM says "Hey, I think I'm going to run a Pathfinder game..."

Well, in my old group, we played through a lot of systems with different players taking the GM's seat. So part of the session 0 questions in fact was: who wants to run a game next and which system do we wanna use. Admittedly, that was a question asked before the actual session 0 took place, but, depending on who would run the game, there were different options which system to use.

Quote:
but if everyone knows what they're doing having them all in one place to make characters isn't much of a help.

Session 0 mustn't be all about character creation though. For example, when starting a new game, we also talk about which kind of game to run (offical AP vs. self-developed, sandbox vs. epic tale and so on), which setting to use (I've run official Paizo APs in Greyhawk, the Realms, Eberron and naturally Golarion and probably will use them in my homebrew as well), how much influence character backgrounds should have on the campaign (sometimes the players are happy to play through a particular stoyline, sometimes they are more interested in character based games) and so on.

I've also done this for PBP games, so it isn't as if you need to meeet personally. But in my experience, it's much faster to reach a compromise if you have all players at the table in the same room.


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I like a session 0. I'm also in favor of having a face-to-face meeting when possible. Emails are great and very useful, but sometimes unexpected things happen at session 0 with everyone in the room.

We're currently playing a short game of In the Shadow of the Demon Lord. The party consists of 1 dwarf, 1 shapeshifter and 4 clockworks. We were batting around group ideas when someone brought up how fun a previous campaign was when we were all dwarves. I said that I enjoyed it, but we'd kind of done that before and I'd like to do it differently. So we decided on being the dwarf's collection/creations of clockworks. We also carved out a spot for someone to be the "special snowflake", which is where the shapeshifter comes from.

I doubt that would have happened had we done this over email.

On the flip side, I think email works great if the DM has a strong vision and the players are all interested in it. There's less to negotiate and compromise on and the emails become more about disseminating the information effectively and efficiently. I did a game that unfortunately floundered due to scheduling issues (Jiggy was in it), where I basically wrote an AP guide in less than 24 hours and sent it to the players. We only played twice, though I'd like to go back and try again, but I felt like it had at least a decent starting direction and most of the players understood the premise of the campaign.

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