In D&D and other tabletop games, running a Session Zero can greatly benefit the game as a whole, allowing for a more streamlined campaign. Here’s how.
One of the best tools a DM and players have at their disposal when starting a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign is running a special introductory session – informally known as Session Zero. This is essentially a conversation that lays the foundation for a campaign to ensure it will run as smooth as possible. Session Zeros are helpful for any Game Master and tabletop RPG, but this article will discuss it in regard to D&D specifically.
Many times it is during this meeting when players roll their characters and agree on basic story elements with each other and the DM. This is very helpful for those new to D&D. However, even experienced players and DMs can benefit from Session Zeros to make sure everyone’s on the same page. This is typically a laidback, organic conversation to assure everyone’s in alignment – both in and out of character.
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Reddit user HazeZero has compiled an extensive and impressive checklist of topics to be addressed during Session Zero. They range from non-roleplaying behavior expectations and ethics to in-game rules and characters’ backstories. Despite its moniker, Sessions Zeros can be implemented at any time, especially if things are getting too chaotic and some rules need to be revisited. Here are some of the main takeaways and topics that should be discussed and established during Session Zero.
D&D Session Zero Benefits: General Game Rules & Expectations
Session Zeros set the groundwork for game regulations and expectations such as whether or not Homebrew content, specific rules, or certain D&D sourcebooks are allowed. Should players stick to one of the original nine races or can someone play as a Bugbear or Yuan-ti Pureblood? Will players be allowed to multiclass? Can they tweak spells or feats?
Additionally, the DM can discuss how characters level up, how Inspiration is earned and used, how strict roleplay should be, etc. For example, will players be penalized for not acting in accordance with their character’s personality and alignment? Will the DM allow discussing battle strategies out of character? Are there penalties for breaking immersion? These are all good points to address during Session Zero.
D&D Session Zero Benefits: Cohesive Character & Story Building
This is also a good time to ensure smooth tabletop roleplaying by determining how each character fits into the campaign story. It can also confirm players are rolling character stats in the same manner. Although it’s not necessary to build characters together, it can help establish each players’ roles, backgrounds, goals, ideals, bonds, and flaws so the DM can weave each character’s storyline into the larger campaign. Are there any guilds or associations a player is affiliated with? If a character was raised by Orcs, this will be important for the DM to know as it could affect future Orc encounters. If a character’s life-long dream is to become a Harper, the DM will eventually need to tie in that organization.
Session Zero also guarantees everyone’s motives make sense. If one D&D character is of an Evil alignment, and the rest are Good, what reasons does the Evil character have for joining the party? Why would the rest of the party allow that? This is also an ideal place to determine how the party met and if any members have a shared history. It also allows DMs to make sure the party is balanced and no one is overpowered.
D&D Session Zero Benefits: Player Respectfulness & Etiquette
Session Zeros allow for forming basic player responsibilities and etiquette. For example, should cellphones be allowed at the table? Should alcohol? Are there consequences if a player is constantly distracted or distracts others? Are there any off-limit topics that should be tailored or avoided during gameplay like drug use or sexual assault? If gender, sexuality, and race issues come up within a D&D campaign, will it be handled in a way so no one is offended? It can be helpful to discuss any sensitive topics or pet peeves beforehand to avoid running into issues later.
As campaigns can sometimes take months or years to complete, using a Session Zero will be good for players to understand what they’re committing to. Figuring out all of these details during Session Zero allows for a more streamlined Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
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