Some of the DMs out there may have the problem of having too many campaign ideas to pick one. With the metric ton on adventure books that are in 5e it can cause a bit of choice paralysis from time to time. So instead of wracking my brain trying to determine what I think will be the next best campaign to run, I had a session zero and gave much of the control to my players. Here is what I did.
Convey House Rules and Setting Info
This isn’t my first rodeo and I love having things from the last campaign carry on to the next. So before I give them anything to decide on I make sure that any new players at the table are aware of any homebrew rules we are using and the unique features to the setting.
Question 1: Which 2 regions are you most interested in?
I gave my players the following list:
(Arctic, Coastal, Desert, Forest, Grassland, Jungle, Mountain, Swamp, Underdark, and Urban)
My players chose Costal and Jungle. I immediately knew I would be using stuff from Tomb of Annihilation and Ghosts of Saltmarsh.
Question 2: What is something interesting about the area?
This is an open ended question for the players to add things to the world they find interesting.
My players said dinosaurs, music festivals, spices, and ships. This solidified ToA and GoS as reference books, but I saw the player’s interest in the trade of exotic goods.
Question 3: What two D&D races are local to the region?
Regional races are a homebrew thing I use at my table. If a player chooses to play a character of a regional race they can forgo their +2 Ability Score Increase to either gain +2 in an ability score the race doesn’t usually provide or gain a feat.
Defining regional races serves two purposes. It helps me determine the make up of the general populace, and it encourages my players to play something that would fit in the area. I personally always found the idea of a lizardfolk or goblin just wandering around some cities a bit jarring. This helps prevent that by allowing players to make their eclectic racial choices more common.
Question 4: Who is your patron, and what role do you have?
This is pretty much taken from the Eberron sourcebook. I presented my players with the following options:
(Crime, Guild, Government, Monster, University, Bounty Hunter, other)
My players chose to work for the local government as a boat transport crew. Then each player chose their specialization to aid in boat transport. They took on the following roles; boson, navigator, captain, and deckhand.
Question 5: Roll or Not?
At this point the players should have a good idea what they want to play. So its time to have them roll or characters in whatever way you deem appropriate.
For my game I made it a rule that they must roll ability scores and hit points when they level. The last campaign my players ONLY took the average and I was annoyed by it. The characters they rolled up actually feel more organic and tangible, but that is a conversation for a different day.
Question 6: What is your personal quest?
While they are rolling, picking abilities, and stuff I ask the players what is their reason for adventuring? There is something that is currently a problem that they are trying to fix.
The player of the druid said that there is a kraken cult that is threatening the ecosystem. The rogue said she wanted to possess her own ship and become a smuggler under the government’s radar. The player of the fighter wanted his character to be skittish of magic and seek out unnatural forces to destroy. The paladin wanted to aid the local government in bringing civility to the islands.
Question 7: Who do you know?
This is an opportunity for the players to begin populating the world. It also gives them points of contact for you to drop quests and plot threads.
My players created several interesting NPCs. The paladin made Governess Nala, a green dragonborn of iron will. She runs the settlement and owns the ship the heroes are using. The fighter made Mel Sunbellow, a gnomish shipwright and wealthy craftsman. He made Mel to be his adopted father. The rogue made William Finn, the white dragonborn owner of the Cold Brew that also serves as a fence for the rogue’s ill-gotten gains. The druid made Carnith, a fish-like entity that showed taught him his druidic craft. It is an alien creature with its own motives.
Finally: Roll for Initiative
Once you have all of this information the players should be very invested in the world the group made and their characters, and will probably be itching to play. So give them a brief conflict that makes sense in the role they’ve chosen.
For my quick n easy conflict I said that the grain stores they were transporting were filled with rats which have escaped the crate and begun attacking you.
Now its time to prep!
Now that my players have given me a setting, several plot points, cool NPCs, and heroic heroes to mess with, I get to spend my time plotting what kraken cult is doing and having governess Nala sweet over how she is going to maintain stability in the savage coast.
I hope you found my session 0 notes helpful. If you know of something that should also be covered in session 0 let me know!