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Tabletop Takeaways: Session Zero to Hero

With the conclusion of our Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder First Edition campaign, our gaming group wrestled with the idea on what to do next. After all, spending over three years on a single campaign puts you in a little bit of a rhythm, and we knew we’d be a little lost without it.

At the same time, we all have our Wednesday evenings free and didn’t want to lose the regularity of meeting and playing some tabletop games. What we eventually decided on, was to skip a long-form campaign for the time being. They’re a huge commitment!

Instead, we thought it would be great for other players to step into the Gamemaster’s chair and see how they like it. To top it all off, we’re going to be playing a blend of other tabletop games to see if there’s another game that we’d rather do a long campaign with.

Most of our group has a relatively narrow tabletop rpg experience, mostly Pathfinder, D&D, and some brief experiences with others. With so many wonderful games out there, we want to try some others!

Here’s our tentative schedule of what we’ll be tackling:

  • Delta Green
  • Starfinder
  • 5th Edition
  • Blades in the Dark
  • 7th Sea
  • Deadlands

Each of these one-shots will be feature a brand-new GM, ready to cut their teeth by teaching us a new game and running us through a mini adventure.

The Takeaway

As you can see, these games run the gamut in terms of setting and tone. Some of the one-shots, especially in games like Delta Green, can contain a multitude of touchy or sensitive subjects.

So, what are we doing for each of these games? We are having Session 0s.

What’s a Session 0?

A Session 0 is a gaming session that everyone should have before starting a one-shot or longer campaign. In a Session 0, players usually build their characters, but the primary reason why a Session 0 is so important is the dialogue about what each player wants to get out of the game, and what subject matter should be off-limits.

This is a discourse. Usually at this point, the GM might have a one-shot picked out. At this time, they should communicate any potential problematic themes that might be present in the one-shot. Are there certain things that players are uncomfortable with or subject-matter that should be avoided? Players need to be respectful of the boundaries of the other players and allow the table to be comfortable at all times.

This is also the session where you established which safety tools will be used at the table. There is something called the Safety Toolkit, co-curated by @KiennaS and @jl_nicegirl on Twitter, that contains an assortment of safety tools that you can use at your table. Here are some examples:

  • Lines and Veils – Lines establish hard limits on content that should not be in the game. If a player sets a line, that’s final. Veils are things that are borderline okay, so long as they fade to black or don’t go into a lot of detail. Both are important boundaries to set.
  • X, N, and O Cards – These three cards are used within the game, and help steer the GM away from content if the story is getting close to a boundary. If a player taps an X Card, that means the player isn’t comfortable with the situation. N Cards are used to signify that a player feels that the table is headed towards a potential X Card situation. Finally, O Cards signal that the player is okay with where things are, and the table can continue with the content.
  • Script Change Ratings – During a Session 0, players can establish what ‘film rating’ the table can have, such as PG, PG-13, etc. During the game, players can utilize Rewinding, Fast Forwarding, Pausing, and Resuming the content, much like you would when playing back a video. This allows players to revert back to an earlier point in the story when things take a negative turn, or fast-forward to skip content that they don’t want to focus on.

Session 0 is incredibly important at your table, and I recommend having one even when playing with a group that you’ve played with for years. Even in the middle of a long campaign, if there is potential content coming up that might be questionable or uncomfortable, you can have mini Session 0’s to get a feel for the party’s comfort before presenting it to them.

We had a really great Session 0 for our Delta Green one-shot, and all of us shared things that we were comfortable with. These tools aren’t meant to shame anybody or get into great detail; if someone says a topic isn’t comfortable for them, we do not question why that is. Take it at face value and respect the players.

You can find the complete TTRPG Safety Toolkit here.

Thanks for joining me at the table for Tabletop Takeaways! You can always read more campaign journal entries at Origami Goblin, or check out all of the other great GM tips on Nerds on Earth!

You can find all of the Tabletop Takeaways right here: Tabletop Takeaways

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