Is Session 0 wasted playtime?

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Chargen takes about 5 minutes or less with my system of choice, so we make characters and then get to playing

That is the other option, and it's a good one :smile: When we're doing one shots, we also crack through char gen in 10 minutes or less, and get to playing.

But, for a campaign, they'll usually be playing their characters for 1-2 years in our games, sometimes longer, usually 30-80 sessions - some of the individual characters might not make it that long, but usually most do. To me, taking a session to sort out characters is such a small proportion of the time we're playing that it doesn't seem like an unreasonable investment in making sure everyone gets a character we want.

It doesn't help that we usually use a different system each time we start a new campaign, and so we also need to get everyone up to speed with the new rules each time.
 
But, for a campaign, they'll usually be playing their characters for 1-2 years in our games, sometimes longer, usually 30-80 sessions - some of the individual characters might not make it that long, but usually most do. To me, taking a session to sort out characters is such a small proportion of the time we're playing that it doesn't seem like an unreasonable investment in making sure everyone gets a character we want.

It doesn't help that we usually use a different system each time we start a new campaign, and so we also need to get everyone up to speed with the new rules each time.

My approach is a bit more...spread out, perhaps. I'll start with the game pitch to potential players. This is like high-concept explanation of the campaign and setting. This is done in casual conversation, over coffees, text chats, or at the end of another game session when shooting the breeze for a bit, etc. Once enough players express interest (3 usually is my minimum), then we work out schedules, and if that aligns then I send them the expanded pitch, go over what they need to know about the setting and genre of the game. What sort of characters fit the campaign concept.

Come first session, explaining the system for new players takes about 3-5 minutes . As long as they know the basic concept of what a role-playing game is, regardless of what systems they have experience with, explaining how characters are defined in game terms, the rating system, and the task resolution & combat system, is swift and easy. Rules exceptions for specific circumstances can easily be picked up during play. And then character creation, which consists of the player describing the character they want to play, and me transliterating that into game terms. There is sometimes a bit of Q&A, sometimes some negotiation, but most of the time it only takes as long as the player needs to convey their concept plus how quickly I can write out a character profile. In most cases, I can get a group of 3 or 4 players into a game by 10-15 minutes into the session.

Granted, in my personal example, my system of choice (Phaserip, a pseudo-clone of FASERIP) was chosen in large part precisely because of these attributes - quick to learn, character modelling for chargen, ability to stat up any NPC/opponent in seconds. But it was precisely because I value jumping into the game as soon as possible.

But I'm also, as a GM, very open and pretty laid-back about characters changing & growing to fit the player's evolving conception of them.

For me, getting into play as quickly as possible that first session is an imperative concern. I often like to do In Medias Res openings to really jumpstart the engine. If I can inspire that passion and involvement in stakes as quickly as possible I know I can sustain a long running campaign (my current longest is 23 this year), and it helps get players immediately adopting an ic pov to the game. For me the rules are secondary to sustaining this.
 
In person communication is not clean and free of communication errors.
Yeah, that's not what he said. He very correctly stated that in person communication is less liable to communication errors. Much as with your replies about people calling dibs via email you seem to be very focused on pointing to edge cases and possibilities as some sort of refutation of some else's opinion. That isn't really how conversation works.

Back to the topic at hand. Most of the games I prefer don't have prolonged or detailed character generation, so I tend to focus more on the group side of things and don't worry about having people do it before hand. The in-person group approach is the one I enjoy the most as both a player and as GM. Various online formats can capture this to some extent as well.
 
Yeah, that's not what he said. He very correctly stated that in person communication is less liable to communication errors.

No, it's not. It's just prone to different errors. People mythologize about "in person communication." It's preferred by people who excel at in person communication, or think they do.
 
No, it's not. It's just prone to different errors. People mythologize about "in person communication." It's preferred by people who excel at in person communication, or think they do.
Yeah it is. The lack or presence of body language (edit: and tone) is the difference maker, not anything to do with interpersonal skills. It's not some kind of conspiracy fronted by extroverts.
 
I don't know how we even got onto this topic. Besides, just because a method isn't perfect doesn't mean that method isn't worth pursuing. Saying otherwise is like proclaiming that it's useless to wear a seatbelt because people still get killed while wearing them.
 
Yeah, I've been surprised by just how... strong... some opinions are on the whole session 0 issue and its sub-parts. I tend to think of it as a practical matter that will work well for some groups, games, or rules, but may not for others.

I mean, it's not an existential question, like 'can Mythras really do that?':smile:
 
Yeah it is. The lack or presence of body language (edit: and tone) is the difference maker, not anything to do with interpersonal skills. It's not some kind of conspiracy fronted by extroverts.

That is wonderful for team building and increasing empathy. But it's still not necessarily better for productivity. The "writer's room" doesn't always produce better stories.
I'm not out here to bash extroverts, or any other approach or personal orientation. I'm just telling you, putting a bunch of people together in a room doesn't always produce magic. How many times have any of us come out of a meeting, and found ourselves asking, what exactly did we agree to?
I've led group therapy sessions and vocational meetings, interview coaching, abuse investigations. One takeaway I have is that body language is present; it isn't always better. People lie with their body language. People in interviews sometimes tell the truth, in ways they don't want. I've done sales, too. When you throw body language and tone into a situation, some people will get their way more often. Are those people right? Are they respecting other group voices? Who knows? They could be anyone. Because using tone and body language to influence a group is a skill, and having that skill doesn't say much about your personal goodness, or even your effectiveness at decision making or leadership.
It feels really great to get a in a group. But if you want to plan something, the actual planning should occur before, during, and after the face to interactions. Just getting together and having good feelings and respecting each other, that's great, but it's not the same thing as accomplishing a specific goal.
Session Zero is pretty much the most formal way of building a new game group. It's a meeting. If you want a successful outcome, you need to figure out your goals and methods, and implement them. Whether or not people agree on absolutely everything, if you allot three hours to Session Zero, at the end of those three hours, you want to be as ready as you are going to be.
 
Yeah, I've been surprised by just how... strong... some opinions are on the whole session 0 issue and its sub-parts. I tend to think of it as a practical matter that will work well for some groups, games, or rules, but may not for others.

I mean, it's not an existential question, like 'can Mythras really do that?':smile:
I think everything is a hot button issue for some people.
 
That is wonderful for team building and increasing empathy. But it's still not necessarily better for productivity. The "writer's room" doesn't always produce better stories.
I'm not out here to bash extroverts, or any other approach or personal orientation. I'm just telling you, putting a bunch of people together in a room doesn't always produce magic. How many times have any of us come out of a meeting, and found ourselves asking, what exactly did we agree to?
I've led group therapy sessions and vocational meetings, interview coaching, abuse investigations. One takeaway I have is that body language is present; it isn't always better. People lie with their body language. People in interviews sometimes tell the truth, in ways they don't want. I've done sales, too. When you throw body language and tone into a situation, some people will get their way more often. Are those people right? Are they respecting other group voices? Who knows? They could be anyone. Because using tone and body language to influence a group is a skill, and having that skill doesn't say much about your personal goodness, or even your effectiveness at decision making or leadership.
It feels really great to get a in a group. But if you want to plan something, the actual planning should occur before, during, and after the face to interactions. Just getting together and having good feelings and respecting each other, that's great, but it's not the same thing as accomplishing a specific goal.
Session Zero is pretty much the most formal way of building a new game group. It's a meeting. If you want a successful outcome, you need to figure out your goals and methods, and implement them. Whether or not people agree on absolutely everything, if you allot three hours to Session Zero, at the end of those three hours, you want to be as ready as you are going to be.
This doesn't have anything to do with magic. I see you found some negative things to say about body language too but again, that doesn't have anything to do with what I'm talking about. In person just makes discussion and general back and forth quicker, it doesn't necessarily make it better (although it might). There can be a lot of discussion involved in getting a group set up and this can, especially for a system that has inter-PC elements baked in, take forever done asynchronously. I run play-by-post games quite regularly, so I have lots of experience of online versus in person party creation. My experience obviously isn't the last word but since what I'm suggesting is pretty obviously true I think it'll do.

I don't think anyone is valorizing session 0 here but rather discussing what it might be good for since the in the experience of some gamers the answer is "not useful at all".
 
That is wonderful for team building and increasing empathy. But it's still not necessarily better for productivity. The "writer's room" doesn't always produce better stories.
I'm not out here to bash extroverts, or any other approach or personal orientation. I'm just telling you, putting a bunch of people together in a room doesn't always produce magic. How many times have any of us come out of a meeting, and found ourselves asking, what exactly did we agree to?
I've led group therapy sessions and vocational meetings, interview coaching, abuse investigations. One takeaway I have is that body language is present; it isn't always better. People lie with their body language. People in interviews sometimes tell the truth, in ways they don't want. I've done sales, too. When you throw body language and tone into a situation, some people will get their way more often. Are those people right? Are they respecting other group voices? Who knows? They could be anyone. Because using tone and body language to influence a group is a skill, and having that skill doesn't say much about your personal goodness, or even your effectiveness at decision making or leadership.
It feels really great to get a in a group. But if you want to plan something, the actual planning should occur before, during, and after the face to interactions. Just getting together and having good feelings and respecting each other, that's great, but it's not the same thing as accomplishing a specific goal.
Session Zero is pretty much the most formal way of building a new game group. It's a meeting. If you want a successful outcome, you need to figure out your goals and methods, and implement them. Whether or not people agree on absolutely everything, if you allot three hours to Session Zero, at the end of those three hours, you want to be as ready as you are going to be.
A lot of what you’re saying here applies to any group endeavor. Including the RPG play itself….
 
That is wonderful for team building and increasing empathy. But it's still not necessarily better for productivity. The "writer's room" doesn't always produce better stories.
I'm not out here to bash extroverts, or any other approach or personal orientation. I'm just telling you, putting a bunch of people together in a room doesn't always produce magic. How many times have any of us come out of a meeting, and found ourselves asking, what exactly did we agree to?
I've led group therapy sessions and vocational meetings, interview coaching, abuse investigations. One takeaway I have is that body language is present; it isn't always better. People lie with their body language. People in interviews sometimes tell the truth, in ways they don't want. I've done sales, too. When you throw body language and tone into a situation, some people will get their way more often. Are those people right? Are they respecting other group voices? Who knows? They could be anyone. Because using tone and body language to influence a group is a skill, and having that skill doesn't say much about your personal goodness, or even your effectiveness at decision making or leadership.
It feels really great to get a in a group. But if you want to plan something, the actual planning should occur before, during, and after the face to interactions. Just getting together and having good feelings and respecting each other, that's great, but it's not the same thing as accomplishing a specific goal.
Session Zero is pretty much the most formal way of building a new game group. It's a meeting. If you want a successful outcome, you need to figure out your goals and methods, and implement them. Whether or not people agree on absolutely everything, if you allot three hours to Session Zero, at the end of those three hours, you want to be as ready as you are going to be.
By your arguments, this isn't just about session zero. It suggests that playing tabletop RPGs in the same room with other people is a mistake. Planning as a group is something that happens all the time in an RPG. If you can't handle a session zero because of things like groupthink and peer pressure, how are you going to deal with the game itself?
 
I would say it's entirely situational. If you're playing a new game everyone isn't familiar with, if it has a complex character creation system, if you haven't all decided on the type and theme of the campaign, then a session 0 can be invaluable or even necessary.

If you are playing a game everyone knows, where people can just make their own characters easily without assistance, then you likely don't need one. "Hey guys, we're starting a new "X" campaign this Friday where you're all going to be the retainers of a noble house investigating strange magical events happening in the realm so make a character," is likely enough in that case.
 
By your arguments, this isn't just about session zero. It suggests that playing tabletop RPGs in the same room with other people is a mistake. Planning as a group is something that happens all the time in an RPG. If you can't handle a session zero because of things like groupthink and peer pressure, how are you going to deal with the game itself?

I didn't say anything like that. I'm not sure what you mean by being able to handle peer pressure. My question is, why can't people handle emails? If peer pressure is not an issue, if people can just advocate for themselves, why can't they respond to emails about things they don't prefer, with other emails?

The door swings both ways. In person char gen sessions aren't bad. But they aren't good, either. They're a format. The idea that getting together, in person, for a lengthy, group character generation is better is flawed. It might be better in some ways. It might be worse. As I have stated repeatedly in this discussion thread, I agree that if you have an in-person campaign, you'll want to hammer out the campaign and the group dynamics in person. I'm just saying, intentionally waiting for that session to do basically everything is not my preference. And I reject the idea that doing it all one particular way, in a lengthy group jam, is more fair. It's not. It could seem really fair to some people, it could seem a lot less fair to other people. It's not going to produce fairness, automatically, because group in-person meetings aren't inherently more fair than an email discussion.

I am all for gelling a group concept. I am also all for regular emails, both before the game gets underway, and while it's running. I like the idea of building a group or team, rather than just individual character. But I also reject the idea that you shouldn't bring your own preferences and have some ideas ahead of time. I think characters should fit a campaign. But I also think characters are better if people have time to hammer out some kind of backstory, and deal with the mechanical and accounting aspects of char gen, somewhat asynchronously.

There is a distinct possibility, if you do the whole thing, all-in, in a group jam session, that people are going to get talked into things that aren't their preference. That's not good, that's not bad, it just is. Everyone has already committed to the session. So they are all-in, and they are going make the characters, and come up with all the hooks and the campaign stuff and so on. They are trying to work with the group. But then, before the first actual play session, oh, someone sends an email or a discord. You know, they just aren't feeling that excited about the campaign. Can they do something different? Or maybe, hey, you guys have fun without me. And then all those connections and group concepts and stuff are just hanging there, either way. The group is now missing one of the characters who was a key part of the discussion. Or you talk them into staying the course, and its just not as fun as they hoped it would be. For them, and eventually, probably for everyone else.

Contrast to my preferred process.
1. Discussion of campaign starts.
2. The nominated GM lays down some basic ground rules.
3. Character concepts are discussed. Campaign arc is discussed.
4. Players prep.
5. First face to face session. Players jam, rehearse their interactions. Names are changed, elements edited. One or more players replace their original concepts after talking it out. At this point, the session could just be Session Zero stuff if needed. But ideally, the jam wraps in under an hour, snacks are deployed, and the game actually starts.

This is all I've been saying. There is no place in which I am saying, face to face interactions suck, don't do them. My goals are just:

Maximize player satisfaction.
Maximize campaign cohesion.
Maximize play time.
Maximize positive psychological outcomes of play.

Just, good GM stuff.

I think maximizing player satisfaction works best by drawing a group consensus.
I think campaign cohesion is best when people agree ahead of time on the scope of possibilities, and land somewhere within those parameters.
I think play time is maximized when people do stuff they can do individually ahead of time, and focus on stuff that works best in group during group time.
I think positive outcomes are maximized when everyone feels they have a good deal of freedom to play what they want, everyone is on the same page, and some thought is put into interesting characters and situations.

I think maximum player satisfaction is not achieved if the group doesn't land on something that works for everyone in a single three hour session.
I think campaign cohesion is less likely to maximized if every character and much of the campaign themes have to be hammered out in one three hour session.
I don't think it's efficient, maybe not even respectful, to ask everyone to set aside a session purely not to play, especially if it involves a plot of players sitting around waiting for others players to catch up.
I don't think you are going to have maximum positive experiences from play if people feel unduly influenced to play what the group wants, if they don't have their best ideas in the moment, and in general, feel the lack of discussion and preparation.

To me, it's like hiring an actor. Yes, they need to do what the director asks. No, it's not going to all come together until the whole troupe has a chance to try some things out, rehearse, and let things gel. But a good actor, before they meet with anyone else, has already thought about their performance. They've practiced a few different takes on a character, and are ready to deploy whatever works. They already know what other people expect them to bring to the table, and they are ready to bring it. They know the character. They can change the character. But they are going to give a better performance than if they show up to a jam session, the group picks a play or script, and they are expected to devise and perform a character in one go, while the director is revising the script on the fly.

It's like throwing together a soccer team, and you don't even know until the first practice who is being considered for goalie.

I don't get it. I think the Session Zero mystique is built mainly around the experience of people who have enjoyed it in the past, the process itself. Also, people who have found it helpful for cat-herding purposes, and just consider the first session a sunk cost you have to accept for a good campaign. On the contrary, people who are not keen on the idea have probably had good experiences with just jumping into games, and have had good gelling experiences just making it up as they go along. There isn't a huge level of difference in the degree of improvisation. It's just a matter of, all talking, no playing for the first session, versus minimal talking all playing for the first session.

I don't place myself at either end. I've played lots of thrown together sessions, and I am comfortable improving a lot. But I also generally prefer a well-planned campaign. I'm not going to quite a group over Session Zero just being a character and campaign design meeting. But I would prefer if it was structured such that, time permitting, we could have at least a half session of actual play. I think it's better, when feasible, for people to walk out of the first session having had some fun. Some of the experience of actually being in character and seeing the opening scenes of the campaign. All the moreso if it's not the kind of game that really depends on deep backend design.

I'm not a big fan of long, written backstories, and I'm not a big fan of spending a whole session of talking about what WILL happen. The most interesting thing that happens in an RPG, is what happens. That's what should be the focus, getting all the ducks in a row, and saying go. I get that can be a challenge for a lot of people, but I think if people had more experience with a more engaged approach, a lot of people would see the value of what I'm talking about.

Like, don't save yourself for marriage. What if, when you get there, it's... not great?

Talk ahead of time. Build ahead of time. Shoot down people's unworkable ideas ahead of time. And then, when you get face to face, what you do is productive and fun and everyone is at ease and well-prepared. Improvisation takes planning.
 
I didn't say anything like that. I'm not sure what you mean by being able to handle peer pressure. My question is, why can't people handle emails? If peer pressure is not an issue, if people can just advocate for themselves, why can't they respond to emails about things they don't prefer, with other emails?
The issue I have raised with asynchronous communication (e-mail or chat) is that not everyone can respond in real time. This lag (which for some can be several days) can mean that folks able to respond in real time have had significant back and forth discussion. If they are making plans, those plans will gain momentum that may be hard for the slower responder to feel it's OK to object to.

Now in many cases everything will be fine, those with less time to respond in real time are often happy that someone else has made plans and they are happy to go along with it.

Also, in a synchronous session (chat or in person), momentum can still happen, but it's a lot less likely, and if it DOES happen in a negative way (i.e. someone can't get a word in edgewise to object), there's a social dynamic problem with the group because one or more participants are being shut out. Session 0 won't help that of course... And conversely, a conscientious group will make sure that e-mail exchanges don't outrun those who aren't able to respond as quickly.

Also note that there are games designed to have a session 0 to brainstorm and setup the campaign. They usually have pretty quick character generation so the campaign is completely setup with characters in that single session. These games are not for everyone. I've also never tried any of them, but I get the idea.

I personally do appreciate efforts to do chargen and other campaign setup offline if at all complex now that I don't have as much free time for sessions, but I can still appreciate that for some, doing some aspects of that setup in person enhances the experience. I can also sympathize with those who would consider such a horrible waste of their time.
 
None of my players own any of the books of the games we play, they're not full time gamers. They want to get together have a drink, smoke and a laugh every couple of weeks all while they pretend to be a ninja. They're also not that bothered about emailing backwards and forwards discussing things before we start. They need hand holding through character creation and a rundown of the rules. Without a "session zero" we'd be screwed.

Having said that we also don't reaqlly have a session 0...we have a first session where once the premise has been discussed, the characters have been created and any safety issues have been discussed we start playing.

What works for one group does not work for another.
 
None of my players own any of the books of the games we play, they're not full time gamers. They want to get together have a drink, smoke and a laugh every couple of weeks all while they pretend to be a ninja. They're also not that bothered about emailing backwards and forwards discussing things before we start. They need hand holding through character creation and a rundown of the rules. Without a "session zero" we'd be screwed.

Having said that we also don't reaqlly have a session 0...we have a first session where once the premise has been discussed, the characters have been created and any safety issues have been discussed we start playing.

What works for one group does not work for another.
Yes, even when I call a Session Zero, there's still a good chance actual play will happen. It's just a way of saying we will be doing some prep together beforehand.

Like you, one of the main appeals of gaming for me is just getting together with friends. Recently, we were missing a vital player for the next session, but we got together in video chat just to hang out and talk.

Some people have a much more no-nonsense approach to gaming than I do. A few years ago, I met a guy who has a weekly board gaming group. At first I was interested in joining. Then he told me about their strict, no table-talk rule. If you weren't saying something necessary for the game, you needed to stay silent so play could proceed efficiently. That's fine and all, but it's not a group for me.
 
Some people have a much more no-nonsense approach to gaming than I do. A few years ago, I met a guy who has a weekly board gaming group. At first I was interested in joining. Then he told me about their strict, no table-talk rule. If you weren't saying something necessary for the game, you needed to stay silent so play could proceed efficiently. That's fine and all, but it's not a group for me.
Jesus that sounds miserable.

Like if it is someone's turn and they are taking forever cause they are talking about something else, I might go "hey, can you quickly take your turn and then finish that story", but the idea of never talking about anything not game related is crazy.
 
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Yes, even when I call a Session Zero, there's still a good chance actual play will happen. It's just a way of saying we will be doing some prep together beforehand.

Like you, one of the main appeals of gaming for me is just getting together with friends. Recently, we were missing a vital player for the next session, but we got together in video chat just to hang out and talk.

Some people have a much more no-nonsense approach to gaming than I do. A few years ago, I met a guy who has a weekly board gaming group. At first I was interested in joining. Then he told me about their strict, no table-talk rule. If you weren't saying something necessary for the game, you needed to stay silent so play could proceed efficiently. That's fine and all, but it's not a group for me.
In the old days, when we had a key player or enough players missing for whatever reason, those were the times I as a GM would get to play. We'd pull out Star Fleet Battles, BattleTech and later on Talisman for example. And once in a while I'd actually get a player up for running a one shot. heh.
 
In the old days, when we had a key player or enough players missing for whatever reason, those were the times I as a GM would get to play. We'd pull out Star Fleet Battles, BattleTech and later on Talisman for example. And once in a while I'd actually get a player up for running a one shot. heh.
I play RPGs online now, but RPG session where we didn't have a quorum used to be board game nights when I was gaming in person.
 
In the old days, when we had a key player or enough players missing for whatever reason, those were the times I as a GM would get to play. We'd pull out Star Fleet Battles, BattleTech and later on Talisman for example. And once in a while I'd actually get a player up for running a one shot. heh.
I know the pain...:grin:

But luckily, I've also managed to teach a few people to run. Not as many as I'd like, but definitely contributed to the creation of more groups:angel:.
And as a bonus, none of the GMs I've taught runs games I totally abhor. They don't all run Mythras - in fact, I suspect none of them do:goosecry: - but I am playing in a Fate of Chthulhu game run by someone I talked into ever trying to GM...

As she put it when announcing she's decided to try, "...and probably due to the expert guilt tripping by Asen...":tongue:!
What can I say, it worked:gooseshades:!

A rogue, a rogue, and a rogue walk into a bar.
That would mean they sucked:thumbsup:!

"A law student, a small business owner and an NGO activist walk into a bar...then a bar fight ensues, and all of them flying kick their opponents, and then look at each other in disbelief. 'You, too?!?'"

Now that's more like it::honkhonk:!
 
Everything these days has to be cataloged and labeled. It gets a bit old, along with the point that people often act like they're the first to do something, that its new. If you try to point out that it was already done before and might have been common your told off frequently, all because you didn't use the exact name/label that they're using... now.

Like Gen Zs talking about "quiet quitting" as if we Gen Xs haven't been worshipping Wally from Dilbert for decades...

But yes, I don't remember having ever played in a campaign without some form of "can I play this character?" and the GM occasionally saying "no, because in this world...". We didn't call it session zero then.

And we didn't need to lay the ground rules about acceptable behaviour either, probably because we were recruiting from people we already knew - if you were a known AH you just didn't get invited.
 
I agree with the concept of "Session 0" but not the naming. A whole session? No way. 1 hour, 2 hours tops if people want to talk and coordinate, joke, refill the dip, etc.

An hour is even stretching it and would be for someone completely new to the game and wanting to deep think everything to avoid a "mistake" or character build "trap" Luckily what I use really ahs no traps or locks you in from the beginning and I'll freely let a new player change things once they get an experience of play.

So I prefer "character construction hour" :smile:
 
I agree with the concept of "Session 0" but not the naming. A whole session? No way. 1 hour, 2 hours tops if people want to talk and coordinate, joke, refill the dip, etc.

An hour is even stretching it and would be for someone completely new to the game and wanting to deep think everything to avoid a "mistake" or character build "trap" Luckily what I use really ahs no traps or locks you in from the beginning and I'll freely let a new player change things once they get an experience of play.

So I prefer "character construction hour" :smile:

I think it depends on a lot of factors. Mostly how involved the players are in the creation of the setting.

I mean, you say an hour or two is likely too much... but perhaps you spend plenty of hours prepping for a game. Which is something I'd likely say is too much.
 
I think, for most game concepts, you should walk into Session Zero with a playable character. What you can do is spend time talking about connections, fixing rules or worldbuilding problems, and so forth. There shouldn't be too many surprises for the first session. If you haven't even agreed on what you're playing, and who you are playing, "Session Zero" isn't, because you spend the time debating and never actually finish making characters.

I really question if an hour isn't an enough time to turn some sketched out characters into a group with a cohesive concept. I wonder if four hours is enough time is enough time to map out a campaign with arcs and hooks for every character.
From reading backwards it does seem to be game dependent.

I don't tend to play games where character creation is so integrated or intertwined, nor one where we all create the setting, arcs or what have you in a pre-play session; fine if they are part of the play/in-game aspect.

As a referee I've got a setting for the genre that can handle genre stuff, which is pretty much covered with do you want to play in this (here I describe in a few sentences) game. I've also avoid laying out adventures that require certain party compositions and can readily adapt / pull out an adventure that suits the player choices. After all, will not hold out to them an adventure they are clearly unfit for.
 
I think it depends on a lot of factors. Mostly how involved the players are in the creation of the setting.
Depends on the scope of the term setting, but basically not at all. The setting is the setting. Describe what it is and if you want to play in it fine, if not someone else can run a game. It's really not a heavy lift.

Then again it the setting and what can do in it is very broad, also will happily throw out half a dozen starting non-binding adventure ideas if people so choose.
I leave plenty of room for the players to find a place and make their mark in the setting. They can certainly choose their place in it or create something that fits, basically anything that does not give them extra power or resources (starting or in the future). Heck, I'd even contemplate something outside the setting (like a new species) as can readily fit them in under the rules...back again to the no extra power or resources thing.

I've only encountered a "problem" when get players who are not friends or friends of friends who really want a "chosen one" character, and that always seems to come with other social interaction issues.

I mean, you say an hour or two is likely too much... but perhaps you spend plenty of hours prepping for a game. Which is something I'd likely say is too much.
Oh I spend hours preparing for a game, none at all, or spent 40 years depending on how you slice it :smile:

At this point I have so much stuff on the settings I like to run (sci-fi, fantasy and post apocalyptic) I literally don't need to prep much, could just pull out an adventure/map/run something off the cuff. So zero prep time?

That stuff though was 40 years in the making (I still have the very first real "dungeon" drew up in 1978, with key). Now even though that first dungeon was stated for OD&D I can still use it as know how to convert to my own stuff and it was the factions, concepts and layout that make it interesting, not the rule set. So 40 years prep time?


Alas though, I love RPGs so will likely spend hours getting ready even if didn't have to.
 
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From reading backwards it does seem to be game dependent.

For my groups, it absolutely does vary by game. Note that since we've been playing together for a decade (or in some cases, over three decades), we don't need to spend time on social contract stuff. These are all people that I know very well, like, and trust and we also socialize outside of game.

Star Trek Adventures was at the low end of the spectrum. I pitched the game in writing before we started play, really just a paragraph of "what will this game be about and what will the characters do." We didn't have a true Session 0. I quickly explained the basics of the rules, and then let the players divide up the crew roles. The rest of that session was spent playing a different game altogether. Actual character creation was done independently out of game using a web-based character generator. There was no need to hash out how these characters got together or knew each other - they were all being assigned to a brand new ship - and no need for any oversight on my part. Everyone emailed me the PDFs created by the character generator and I filled in the Roll20 character sheets before our first actual session.

Copperhead County was at the opposite end of the spectrum, with an entire session devoted to spinning up the campaign. Again, I pitched the game before play began, this time in roughly one sentence: "Modern-day crime in Tennessee, think Breaking Bad meets Justified". It's a hack of Blades in the Dark, a game which all of the players had already played, so I didn't really need to go over the rules. The players picked a Crew type (Blood) and picked out their playbooks (Mover, Wheeler, and Hazard). Like most systems with playbooks, character creation in Copperhead County is quite fast - you're filling out a few background details, assigning a handful of Ability dots, picking one special ability, and choosing one friend and one rival or enemy from a list of four possibilities. All very fast.

What occupied the rest of the session though was the players riffing on who these people were, how they related to each other, and their ties to the existing setting material. In the process, they spun out a ton of new setting details that formed the spine of the campaign that I ended up running. My role was mostly limited to describing parts of the existing setting in response to their questions, asking them questions about their playbook choices, creating a couple of NPCs (the crew's gang leader and an expert), and fleshing out the friends and enemies they chose.

The One Ring fell somewhere in the middle. Only two players were familiar with that game, so I had to spend a bit of time explaining rules and how the Roll20 character sheets worked, but character creation is reasonably quick and doesn't really require oversight. There was no pre-existing relationship between the PCs that needed to be hashed out and none of them started with more than minimal backstory, so we were able to start playing in that first session.
 
It all depends on if I know the group.

If it’s the regulars, Session Zero might be “I’m running Rifts next week.”

If there’s newbies, then there will definitely be a Session Zero, especially if they’re new to the game. Find out if we really want to play this game together. This is usually a solo conversation, no Collective Bargaining. :devil:

After Session Zero comes Chargen Session.
 
...If there’s newbies, then there will definitely be a Session Zero, especially if they’re new to the game. Find out if we really want to play this game together. This is usually a solo conversation, no Collective Bargaining. :devil:
Maybe i should add a Session Session :smile:; if not friends of friends and only know say from some meetup or forum, definitively a get together for a beer to see if we are on the same wavelength, and if they can be assimilated into the collective :smile:
 
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My 4-years-and-counting Savage Worlds campaign began with what I had intended to be a character-creation-only session, but we got done with character creation pretty quickly and folks were itching to play, so I made up an introductory adventure off the top of my head. There had been a little bit of a campaign pitch via group chat prior to this session.

My Black Hack games at the library are all one-shots, but in a persistent world, and I almost always have at least one player who is brand new to RPGs, so the first 10 to 20 minutes are spent on character creation and explaining the rules, and, very briefly, the setting. The rest of the ~3.5 hours is spent playing, except for a 15-minute break at the approximate halfway point.

The D&D campaign in which I play had already been going for ~a year when I joined, so I couldn't speak to whether or not it had a session zero. Prior to joining, I got together with just the DM & the DM's boyfriend to make my character, separate from any play sessions.
 
I wonder if people realize how much of an obstacle it is to recruit people into games, that you have to have a long, work-oriented meeting first, and you can't show up and, shazow, join a game.
It's not my preferred format, but I played Adventurers League for a while, not the least because I could just show up at my FLGS and join a game. It wasn't always great, but sometimes it was, and it wasn't a fartin' pre-planning meaning.
 
My Black Hack games at the library are all one-shots, but in a persistent world, and I almost always have at least one player who is brand new to RPGs, so the first 10 to 20 minutes are spent on character creation and explaining the rules, and, very briefly, the setting. The rest of the ~3.5 hours is spent playing, except for a 15-minute break at the approximate halfway point.
Just wanted to say how cool this concept is; I wish the public libraries near me had something like it.
 
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