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Three Zero Questions

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

There was a recent question on Twitter that caught our eye...

This is a great question. There's been a ton of discussion (and sometimes discourse) on the topic of session zeroes. Even if you think your group gets along and knows each others' boundaries without using a session zero, there's still a ton of value in doing one. Session zeroes are about more than covering triggers and sensitive topics, and they don't have to be as difficult or formulaic as you might think.

We think there are three core topics you should cover in any session zero:

What You Do and Don't Want "On Screen"

This is kind of the default assumption about what a session zero is about, and it's what most people talk about. As such we aren't going to dive into it too much except to direct you to two great resources that can help with this part.

1. Monte Cook Games has put out a fantastic PDF called Consent in Gaming that covers a wide array of topics and has an easy to use form for quickly getting feedback from your players.

2. One of our favorite non-D&D games, Thirsty Sword Lesbians, has a TON of safety tools and consent dynamics baked into their core rules. Check out that system when you get a chance. Even if you don't play it (which you absolutely should) it has some great examples for how to play with safety and sensitivity in mind.

What is the Story's Genre / Theme?

So let's say you're playing with an established group that are all comfortable with each other's boundaries and needs. Should you skip a session zero?

We'd argue no, because you can still use that session to set the stage for a fantastic campaign. This gives you some dedicated time to hone in on exactly what kind of game your table wants to run!

Maybe you just finished Curse of Strahd and, while your group loves spooky stuff, they'd like to take a break and play some more classical dungeon crawls. Or maybe they are down for any genre so long as you don't go underground or in a boring old dungeon.

Homebrew or Hardcover?

D&D or another system?

Long, Medium, or Short Campaign?

These are all great questions to use a session zero to answer. They let your GM know exactly what they should be prepping and can help inform character creation so the party starts off feeling grounded and well suited to the story you are trying to tell.

What is the Level of Lethality?

This might seem like an odd question, but it's without a doubt our favorite question to ask. If you do nothing else, at least ask this question.

So much of the drama of TTRPGs comes from the challenge - will they or won't they? Will the heroes succeed? Or perhaps success is a given, but we want to find out "at what cost?"

A lot of Player-GM tension can come from expectations of difficulty, and this lethality question is asking about a very specific part of a game's difficulty: how likely is it for a PC to die? Knowing the answer to this question will let your GM strike the right level of challenge in your game. They'll know how precious / careful to be with PCs (which isn't a bad thing!), and when or how often it's appropriate to really crank up the difficulty.

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