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Gnomecast #55 – Session Zero

Gnome Stew's Gnomecast

Join Ang, J.T., and Matt for a discussion about the nature and use of session zero! Will this pre-game preparation be enough to keep these gnomes out of the stew?

https://gnomestew.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Gnomecast-055.mp3 [1]

Download: Gnomecast #55 – Session Zero [1]

Keep up with all the gnomes by visiting gnomestew.com [2], following @gnomestew [3] on Twitter, or visiting the Gnome Stew Facebook Page [4]. Check out Gnome Stew Merch [5], and support Gnome Stew on Patreon [6]!

Follow J.T. at @jtevans [7] on Twitter, J.T. Evans on Facebook [8] and at his website jtevans.net [9].

Follow Matt through the hills of West Virginia. Maybe. If you can.

Follow Ang at @orikes13 [10] on Twitter and find her in the Misdirected Mark Google+ Community [11].

4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "Gnomecast #55 – Session Zero"

#1 Comment By Solomon Foster On January 17, 2019 @ 5:53 am

I’m still listening to this podcast (last month has been very busy!) but I wanted to comment on it.

On the one hand, there are obvious huge benefits to creating characters before the first play session of the game AND working together as a group to create them.

On the other hand, it sounds like some of you have run into some serious issues with Session Zero. And putting on my player hat for a moment, as a concept, it actually scares me a bit.

Why? Because I’m not always the best at thinking on my feet for character creation type things. Names, for instance. It’s not usual for me to spend hours (or days) trying to come up with a good name. It’s not really a big deal for a one-shot game, but if you’re having a Session Zero, that probably means you expect to be playing these characters for a while, and I’d rather be doing it with a name that resonates with me. More broadly speaking, I like big idea characters. And they’re easier to make if you have a few days to ponder over things.

However… I don’t know how other cons do it, but at Ambercon, time is at a premium. A lot of games will handle character creation ahead of time via e-mail. This is less than ideal in terms of player interaction (though it can and does happen) but it’s great in terms of having time to think! We have some simple concepts to support this; for instance, making a list of the possible roles the PCs need to fit (first time I saw this was a Firefly universe game, with Captain, First Mate, Pilot, Mechanic, etc) and asking everyone to rank their top three choices in order of preference.

It seems to me like this is actually very fertile ground for improved techniques and/or possibly a good supporting web app…

#2 Comment By Solomon Foster On January 17, 2019 @ 7:33 am

I finished listening to the podcast, and doing things via e-mail or Discord gets mentioned. Seems like it may be a good topic to expand on?

#3 Comment By J.T. Evans On January 17, 2019 @ 4:54 pm

I’ll throw the idea to Ang for using communication channels mid-week to keep the game going. I like it!

#4 Comment By J.T. Evans On January 17, 2019 @ 4:51 pm

I love the fact that you’re one of those deep thinkers about your character concept, name, background, and so on. That’s awesome. The main reasons we want characters made together instead of generated ahead of time are:

* We usually don’t want a party of 3 thieves and a paladin. Session zero helps achieve a somewhat balanced party.
* We like having the players all there talking about their characters and how they interacted with (or know) each other prior to the campaign launch.
* Keeps everyone on the same page and allows the GM to adjust her concepts of the game’s world/theme/setting/feel as she listens to and watches the characters get created.

If I were your GM, and I knew about your desire to have a deeper thinking process than 3-6 hours for your character, I’d give everyone the same opportunity to email the whole group with a 1-page character background write up prior to meeting for session zero. This will allow adjustments to be made prior to session zero via email-based conversations.

The main reason I shy away from TONS of emails about the game before or during the campaign is that most of my recent players only consider the game to exist for the 3-6 hours a week we get together. They won’t level up between sessions. They won’t read my additional information. They don’t want to handle downtime via email or something else…. They just don’t wanna, which has trained me to try and keep everything “at the table” and avoid the “extra emails” that I would love to send mid-week.

Obviously, this is with my group and players. Your mileage may vary for your group. I kind of hope it does. 🙂

#5 Pingback By Session Zero: Confessions of an Uber Nerd | Gnome Stew On March 18, 2019 @ 6:27 am

[…] characters are created. If you would like to learn more about this idea, check out the delightful GnomeCast on the subject. Generally speaking, session zero is used by most groups as an opportunity to get […]

#6 Pingback By The Indie Game Shelf: Prism | Gnome Stew On July 31, 2019 @ 4:04 pm

[…] the table is of great import. The game begins with the “Tea Party,” a kind of pre-game session zero that includes not only character creation, but also group worldbuilding and game topic discussion. […]