Session Zero

Today I want to talk a little about session zero. What it is and why we need it. And while a session zero is probably needed for a campaign, it is not a requirement although if you’ve never tried a session zero, I would suggest that you give one a try and see if it makes a difference. 

I’m breaking up this idea into several topics that you could cover in your own session zero. As always, take what resonates with you. 


Campaign outline

The campaign outline is your time to pitch the campaign and its contents to your players. Think of it as your way of advertising it to your players. What is your setting, what is the environment like, what is the story or plot leading up to the campaign’s start, what can the player characters expect to see or experience within the campaign. What genre does the campaign sit in? If you were to promote your campaign using as few words as possible, which ones would you choose? Think of it like the blurb on the back of a novel, or perhaps a trailer for a movie. What do you think is exciting and would motivate someone to join you in an adventure. 


You’ve probably seen discourse online about a safety checklist. Or sometimes known as a consent form.  Alongside various opinions over whether a form is required. I feel alot of discussion centres around the word ‘consent’ which leans into allowances almost in the terms of laws and regulations.  I know many people kick back against authority and that’s great. We’re talking safety in regards to content. An amazing website is Does The Dog that lists the content within movies that people may find disturbing. And we’re doing the same thing here, we’re listing the content that players and Game Runners may not want to experience within games. Phobias, traumas, real life events can all bring up emotions and memories that we may not be ready to go through while sitting around a table with people.  

Ideally you want to have people fill in the form before the session zero, but there’s no harm in having copies filled in during the session. It depends on how much time you have.  

So, where do you get the forms? I did a quick search using the terms ttrpg safety checklist and the results showed many various forms, all as good as the next, I personally use either the Montecooke games consent in gaming, the publisher behind No Thank You Evil,  or the  TTRPG safety kit collated by  Kienna Shaw and Lauren Bryant-Monk. There’s usually three categories in the form.  The hard no, which means the person does not want these topics discussed in game. A veil, which if you imagine a curtain or veil being placed upon the topic or idea being discussed. If I use an example of spiders, they’re okay to use in game but let’s keep the descriptions light, it’s a huge spider, taller than the barbarian pc and bristling angrily.  And then there’s the not my pc, which means the player has consented to the topics being brought to the table but would not like their character to be involved. 

As a campaign progresses, consent may be withdrawn on topics at any point. Life happens between sessions and some topics may have to be added onto the hard no list. 

I’ll go into safety forms in more detail in another episode, however, I find that campaigns run alot smoother when everyone knows what can or cannot be talked about. 


What can players expect during the campaign? This can be where you draw up a social contract between everyone at the table.  For example, you may ask for people to mute their mics when they’re not in the scene. Or you may ask players to mute their phones while sitting around the table. 

How long will a session run for? 

What is the scheduling like? How often do you expect to run sessions? 

Are you including comfort breaks into the session, or people can get up and stretch whenever they need. 

Which leads into accessibility, as this is the part to bring in what concessions people need in order to be fully present for the sessions.  Old injuries make it hard for a person to sit still for an extended period and may need to stand and walk around. Players with ADHD may ask for information to be repeated. Our aim is to create a safe and even experience for everyone at the table. Which includes you game runners. Don’t forget to eat and stay hydrated throughout the session.  


Are you bringing any homebrew rules to your table? This is the space to talk through the rules and to ensure everyone understands them. 

What happens on a critical hit? Do you double the damage on the dice? Or do you take the max damage on one die and roll damage on the other? 

Specifically for 5e, are you using any of the alternative rules listed in the dungeon masters guide? 

Can inspiration be given to other players? 

Is drinking a potion a bonus or free action? 

People’s playstyles

This is the space to discuss what you and your players are looking forward to in the campaign.  

A place to outline what kind of game runner you are. Are you one who sticks to the games rules or are you happy to bend them should the situation call for it? 

What about the players, what is their playstyle? 

While researching, I found many different sites with many wildly varying numbers of types of players. In the end they all boil down to a handful of types. 

You’ve got your gamers, the ones who look at the stats and want to roll the big numbers. They’ll be the ones who multiclass their paladin with a warlock so they can roll more dice. From my experience they’re also the ‘forever dm’ they can be helpful when asking for a rules clarification however they can become a slight annoyance as they answer every query that is put to you as the game runner. They like to overshare their knowledge  and can become a problem if they start to overstep and continue to offer unwanted advice. 

Sometimes opposed to the gamer is the actor. The ones who are always in character, they are the ones who are always asking for the npcs name. They’re asking what the lore is to the town, who’s in charge of the area, what the socio-economic situation is like.  They’re the ones who will attempt to talk to an enemy while the gamer is rolling those dice. I usually include the explorer types in with the actors. They’re interested in the environment and not necessarily interested in being the face, or the talkative type.  The explorer is usually playing a ranger or druid and they’re happy to be quiet in the town setting but really come into their own once the party moves out into the wilds. 

Finally, there’s the chaos player. And, if you’re listening and wondering if you are the chaos player, you probably aren’t.  The chaos player likes to do things on a whim. They’re usually the ones antagonising the npcs, or going in the opposite direction of the party.  They’re the loner type. You’ll probably have heard the horror stories about chaos players. And while they definitely don’t fit with the actor types, a party of gamers and chaos players can be a marvellous time. Especially when the gamers can step in and rescue the situation. 

To discover the types of your players, ask them what games they like to play. Or genres. If they don’t play games, ask them about their favourite films, or books. 


So, that’s session zero, you’ve laid out the campaign, you’ve gathered data on your players and what they want from the campaign. You’ve outlined how a session will run and how often. You’ve all discovered what topics to avoid during the campaign. 

And session zeros can be as unique as your campaign is. Adapt your session zero to suit your individuality.  This is advice on what works for me and how I run my session zeros. 

Thank you for reading and take an affirmation with you into your day. You are enough.