Session Zero

D&D Session 0 – Make D&D Awesome for Your Group| GM Tips

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In our latest video we dive into DM and Player Tips for running a Session Zero for D&D. Below you can find the full transcription from the video.

D&D Session 0 – Make D&D Awesome for Your Group| GM Tips Video

D&D Session 0 – Make D&D Awesome for Your Group| GM Tips Video Transcription

Dave: “As we jump into the idea of a session zero in what exactly your session zero is we are going to be breaking this down into three main points, for the DM, for the player and for both. But before that, let’s kind of like give a synopsis of what a session zero is for people that don’t know.”


Ted: “ All right, I’ll session zero is an easy thing that a lot of players, a lot of groups out there might not know about or just don’t do. And here’s where you get to talk about what it is that everybody wants out of the game. You know, in our little, you know, mock intro, you know, I talk about, hey, here’s this idea, Dave didn’t want to play that game. You know, so what on earth, you know, is the, is the point in pitching a game if no one has gone, is going to want to enjoy that as a group. Everyone should want to play the game that the GM is interested in running. Otherwise, you know, it’s not going to be as much fun. So sessions here was the time to sit down and discuss all the different things that you want to get out of the game. You know, both a player and possibly a character, you know, rules, limitations, house rules, any of that kind of stuff can all be talked in session Zero.”


Dave: “ You know, you bring up the point of the DM wanting to, to run that game. But also the players have to want to play that game as well. You mentioned the idea of a pitch. Well, one of the biggest problems is a lot of times there isn’t a pitch you just start playing. Now I know some players, both GMs and players are like just don’t like doing sessions zero even though they’re aware of them because they don’t want to spend the time to do it because time is precious. It’s limited. We only have so much, especially as we get older and have busier lives, but the problem is you could end up not doing a session zero and having your campaign crumble because you guys didn’t work out these details ahead of time.”


Ted: “It was kind of funny that you know, we actually, you know, while we’re discussing, hey, we’re going to have a session zero, one of the players actually chimed in and said, what do you mean we’re going to not play D&D. We’re going to just sit and talk about the day. Now as a veteran player, he was Kinda like shocked because it wasn’t part of a session zero before. And honestly like this was the first time I was ever running one.”


Dave: “We’ve done several on the channel. You’ve been a part of a few.”


Ted: “Right, right. But I mean as me as the GM, this was my first time.”


Dave: ” There’s a lot of benefits to running a session zero. So I guess let’s start with from the GMs point of view, what should you be considering when running a session Zero.”


Ted: “Well, first and foremost is you’ve got to, you got to know what kind of game you’re, you’re gonna run a, you know, you brought up the idea or if, you know, we talked about the idea of a pitch, you know, have a couple ideas that you know, you’d be willing to throw out there because ultimately you as a GM, like you’re going to be the major focus for what, what happens in a game and you have to enjoy what you’re going to do. So I ran a session zero, you know, last week and I put three ideas on the table that I was interested in running and there might be some overlap, there might be some, some similarities. But from the main focus of the story, I presented three ideas and let the players choose what they wanted to do.”


Dave: “You know, when talking about the pitch, what I would recommend doing is come up with like kind of a a flashy title for the, for the, for each pitch and like a one or two sentence description of what exactly that’s going to be.”


Ted: “ So I ran a session zero, you know, last week and I put three ideas on the table that I was interested in running and there might be some overlap, there might be some, some similarities. But from the main focus of the story, I presented three ideas and let the players choose what they wanted to do.”

Dave: “You know, when talking about the pitch, what I would recommend doing is come up with like kind of a a flashy title for the, for the, for each pitch and like a one or two sentence description of what exactly that’s going to be.”


Ted: “You know. So for, for mine, you know, I had war, discovery, and newcomers and the way this boiled down wasn’t in our world. You know, we’ve got a whole bunch of, you know, crazy things that kind of happened. We got, you know, portals that open up in the realms of belonged to dragon emperors, fun, fun stuff. So first one war, you know, the, the ORCS and a dragonborn have banded together to city of Grawnor has decided to siege the rest of the world to try and take it over. And, you know, take out more territory, what have you. So I pitched the idea to the players they could be, you know, fighting against fighting for, but either way, the big backdrop of this, of this game was going to be that, that war, you know, this fighting and it was going to happen and players could or could not, you know, be a, be a part of it. Second one was discovery. You know, new magic has come to the world and the players have to make a determination as to what they’re going to do with it. And you know, the, the concept was bandied about bandied about, about, you know, their being issues between, you know, sorceress magic versus wizard magic and organizations that might not like one or the other. Um, you know, so that was, that was what they actually settled on. But newcomers was all about a new race that was going to surface. You know, came from somewhere unknown from somewhere beyond and they were gonna make an appearance in the world. And I was going to be a very, very highly social game as we tried to figure out like, you know, is this, you know, uh, race going to mix well with though then habit in some of this world where they going to be pulled and you know, he’d be like, no, this is, you know, totally, you know, can’t be a thing. So interesting ideas.”


Dave: “That’s a good jumping off point for a session zero for the DM. Also as the DM, you’re going to want to figure out what you’re allowing in the world. Is there anything that is in the raw of the game you’re playing that you aren’t allowing? Is there anything that you’re allowing from third party published stuff Is there a homebrew stuff Is Their house rules anything where you’re changing or deviating from what players would expect You Ha you don’t have to, but you should let them know what they’re in for. If you’re making major changes to, to play or races or character classes, let them know ahead of time. So all of a sudden they’re not playing a particular class or race and it doesn’t work the way it was expected to. Something’s changed.”


Ted: “And then there’s some GMs out there who don’t like, you know, evil characters. Don’t let warlocks, you know, don’t like teifling or dragonborn. I’ve heard all of these ideas, all these excuses and as dms, they just don’t allow it. And I’ll, for the most part, I’m pretty easy going as a, as a GM, I’ll let you play, you know, just about anything that seems balanced to me. Uh, you know, so honestly, you know, nothing, nothing from, you know, unapproved third parties. But you know, if, if I liked the company or if I’ve had a chance to look over it, you know, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll allow it.”


Dave: “So these are good things to bring up in session a zero for the, for the DM. Now let’s jump into the players.”


Ted: “ Well before we get into the players, Dave, uh, how about we, you know, jump in and give a thanks to the sponsor for this particular video.”


Dave: “Well, yes, you know, along with creating session zero, maybe you want to create a world map, city map, town map, that village map, any kind of map, the perfect place to do that is over on dungeonfog.”


Ted: “Dungeonfog is a great tool and map maker that you can use to be able to create maps for your game. Uh, I’ve enjoyed playing around with it. One of the easy things that I’ve found, there are already maps made that you can dump right into your own editor and you know, populate and change to make it completely matched what you want to use for your dungeon.”


Dave: “There are three different tiers that you can sign up for. The first one being free. Uh, the second one is just for you to use any third one. It actually involves a commercial license. So you can make those maps and maybe you’re creating stuff on the dms guild or someplace else you can legally use them in whatever you’re doing. Now if you decide to go with one of those paid tiers, there is a promo code Nerdarchy for a, 10% off. We’ll have the details in the description below, so go check out dungeonfog. You can check out their online map making tools as well as though they’re online author tools as well. It’s going to make running your game smoother. You’re going to be able to add another level of detail by using those maps. Go check it out and description.”


Ted: “All right, so let’s get into what, what is it that a player needs to know or was a player going to get out of a session Zero.”


Dave:  “So this is where you want to start to start figuring out how the game is kind of evolve and roll out. You’re going to ask questions like how many sessions is this game going to be Is it indefinitely just going to go on until you guys are done Is it 12 sessions, three sessions You know, what are the characters going to be for each of the players How does everyone know each other You can build your ties to each other in your session zero. And I recommend you do that instead of waiting until you get to the table and you’re playing where you know you have players sitting around waiting for their character to be introduced.”


Ted: “You can also discuss, you know, where and when you’re going to meet. You know, uh, back in the day we met every Saturday night. That was just the thing. You know, the game I’m running, we’re going to play once a month and we’re going to play on the second Saturday unless something crazy happens. But you know, these, these are all things that can easily be, be discussed and settled upon. So that in this crazy world where as adults, we all have jobs that we need to worry about families that we need to worry about. You know, we can all figure out like, okay, well I can bolt set aside this block of time that’s dedicated to this game.”


Dave: “Now you, maybe you’re not actually playing D&D, but you will have the opportunity, especially if you have a DM, that in to it of doing some collaborative storytelling where you as as players get to kind of decide how you met each other, especially if you’re higher than first level. What were you doing before beforehand? These are all factors.”


Ted: “In the session zero. We ran last week, uh, we decided we just settled on the characters. We’re going to start off at fourth level and we were going to have a, a 12 sessions story arc. Uh, we already picked that it was going to be on discovery of new magic. And you know, as the player started discussing, you know, what, what they came with, who they, one of the play character wise, eventually one of the players decided, you know what, I really have to make a total change and instead of playing, you know, this, he’s going to pull out something else instead. Uh, as the players decided on, you know, how they knew each other and who was connected to who, they start formulating this story of a, of a adventure that they already had run together. And as the DM, I’m sitting here and taking notes as they’re like, oh, well there’s this family, you know, that that’s in, that’s in this city and Oh, there’s a, uh, a wizard college. Okay, well I’m going to write that stuff down. You know, as the players begin discussing and creating things, you know, during a session zero, it is formulating notes and storylines within my head that I have the ability to use. So as typically what happens with, you know, veteran gamers who really have the ability to create their own stories because you know, most of them have been GMs themselves. You know, you was the GM can take that and take those ideas and have them tie in to all the different things that you might be planning within your own game.”


Dave: “Yeah. And anytime a GM can incorporate things that the players are put out there, it is more likely that you’re going to get hooks that the players are going to bite on and wanting to do something with.”


Ted: “ So I made mention that one of the players decided to change the character of that, uh, you know, that he was going to play. And that’s, that’s something he, he came to the table with multiple character ideas. You know, when, when you have the ability to run a session zero and talk about the different designs of a, of a campaign, you know, there are three pillars of, of the game, social, combat, exploration, and some characters are designed to be focused on, you know, one or two of them. And if the game winds up having a focus on a completely different pillar, then that character might not be ideal. So if you come to a session zero with multiple characters that you are interested in playing and you present and the GM presents what the game is going to be or what the ideas are, you can allow what the game is to dictate what character you’re going to play and it’s going to allow for a much easier stream of gaming because you’ve got a character that’s designed for the story that you’re going to play.”


Dave: “ Yeah. Just like the GM should come to the table, multiple pitches. The player should do the same thing with characters. So hopefully one of your concepts will fit into with what the game is actually going to be or you know, might grow or change from there. But at least you have something to work with. You have some ideas to draw upon.”


Ted: “ This all boils down to that. As as out everything begins to ebb and flow and you figure out what things are. The players have the ability to let each, each other player at the table know what they’re kind of expecting from the game. Uh, I reached out and let them know like, Hey, you know, is there something that you want to get out of the game that you might not have had in, in your, you know, rich gaming experience Is there a monster that you want to fight. Is there a particular subject that you want to breach Along the same lines, is there something that’s taboo, you know, do, do you want to not allow certain language, certain, you know, graphic descriptions, you know, the different things that could happen at the gaming table. If you talk about what, what is allowed and what is not allowed, it’s an easy place to get that, figure it out and not have it disrupt the game. Once you guys start rolling dice.”


Dave: “ Right I mean you went, you want it to be a space where everyone’s having, having fun and enjoying the game and no one’s feeling uncomfortable. Letting the other players kind of know what you’re looking to get out of the game is super important. And when I say other players, that includes the DM as well, they’re another one of the players. And you know, the DM by giving you multiple pitches, that’s the kind of like their way of letting you know what they’re looking to do with the game. So now we can move on to, you know, things that both are going to benefit the DM and players as well.”


Ted: “ And I briefly touched on this before, but you know, the big thing is take notes. If you know what’s going on and you’ve got the ability to, you know, walk away from your session zero having all of the information needed to be able to make your character, if it hasn’t already been made, to be able to make informed choices during that process as well as, hey, when do we meet, uh, who are you again, you know, we had a lot of, a lot of players, you know, copying down who the player was, who their character was. You know, people were writing down how their connections, how they were connected to other characters. Conversations have, have spurred on, you know, beyond that. Uh, I as the DM, as I said, I took notes and I’ve got things that were never discussed because they were leading to things that are going to happen in the future. And obviously I can’t share that here or tell it during this session zero. But as they were relating information I was, I was already formulating, you know, then the next steps for the characters to walk down.


Dave: “ So take them notes, it’s going to help everyone in the game. We kind of jumbled up some of the things that are for both as well, uh, on player tips as well as in the DM section. But it’s worth reiterating because a really important, and that is setting the expectations of the game. Make sure that all the players, GM included it, just know what they want to get out of the game. This is a place where you might want to talk about themes, tones, specifics. Like Ted had mentioned, like I’ve never fought this type of monster before. I’ve never had this kind of gaming experience before. So kind of just to reiterate, those things are really important in a sessions zero. And also, you know, when you’re taking notes, these are some of the things you wanted to own a jot down as one of the players.”


Ted: “So let us know your thoughts about, you know, running a session zero. Have you ever had one If you had, you got any cool stories that you, you want to share, you can do that down in the comments below.”

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My name is Dave Friant I've been gaming off and on for over 27 years. But here is the thing it's always been a part of my life I've kept secret and hidden away. I've always been ashamed of the stigma that gaming and my other nerdy and geeky pursuits summon forth. Recently I decided screw it! This is who I am the world be damned. From now on I'm gonna be a geek, nerd, or however folks want to judge me and just enjoy life. Currently one of my greatest joys is introducing my 13 yr old son to table top RPG's.

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