This is a special 100th episode of Character Creation Cast where we spend an extended cold open reminiscing on 2019 and looking forward to 2020. After that, we dive into a bonus ReCast episode where we discuss what makes a good session zero and what sorts of things you need to keep in mind as both a player and a GM to help enhance the experience! We even have our own Session Zero worksheet in the show notes for you to follow along with!
This is a special episode of Character Creation ReCast where we spend an extended cold open reminiscing on 2019 and looking forward to 2020. After that, we dive into a bonus ReCast episode where we discuss what makes a good session zero and what sorts of things you need to keep in mind as both a player and a GM to help enhance the experience! We even have our own Session Zero worksheet in the show notes for you to follow along with!
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Ryan Boelter 0:00
Welcome to the final episode of 2019. Everyone. We know we talked about doing an end of the year episode, but instead we're going to do a combination of a recast, and a year and episode
Amelia Antrim 0:13
for the recast portion. This episode is one of our favorites because like the last episode, it resonated a lot with the community. Out of this episode was born our session zero document which you can find at session zero dot Character Creation Cast calm. It has a handy checklist for both players and GM to help create a comprehensive session zero for your own play group has links to the various safety tools that we talked about in a different episode that we're not recasting here. But other supplemental readings and some links to some of our other episodes where we've talked about the concepts that we go over in the document. I will say that this is one that I have used now a bunch of times I've set up a couple campaigns. I done a couple one shots, I have a copy of this document that I've saved on my drive that I've sort of adjusted a little bit to be for one shots. Because some of the questions are, you know, not quite as relevant. But I strongly encourage you to take a look at it. If you enjoyed this episode. You can make a copy of it and save it to your own drive and add or remove questions as you feel appropriate. But it's one that I've gotten a lot of use out of and one that I've heard from other people that they've gotten a lot of use out of two and I'm really proud of this document.
Ryan Boelter 1:29
Yeah, it's it's pretty essential. And every single time that somebody is like, Oh, I need to do a sessions here, I can just link to this document. And they're like, holy cow. Look at all the cool stuff that I can cover now.
Amelia Antrim 1:41
Well, that's how this happened. Because somebody in our discord was like, Hey, is there is there a comprehensive sessions or a document somewhere and I went googling, I went to Google him, and I I didn't really find one. I found a few that had like some stuff, but I was like, You know what, I can do a better job. And so I did.
Ryan Boelter 2:00
No, it was fantastic. And we updated it a few times over the last year. And every single time we come across like new safety tools or things like that we'll add them to the document. or anything else that we figured out along the way. We'll, we'll keep it updated as well. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So for our 2019 wrap up portion, we want to take a little bit of time to talk about our projects and our a year in gaming this year. So I want to start with you, Amelia.
Amelia Antrim 2:33
Yeah. This year, I launched a new podcast called garbage of the five rings. I exploring the old lore of L five are a game that our listeners are aware I really love. Yeah, well and if you listen to the podcast, I really hate. My best friend Jude who joined me as a guest on the fourth episode, evolution cast episode we did about characters and religion. He and I are we Through 20 years of fiction card text and RPG supplements, trying to figure out the full story of both the narrative story of alpha bar and then the story of the game, how the decisions came about the player tournaments, all five are was run in a really unique way that not a lot of games were or are or shouldn't be. But so we're trying to kind of uncover how different decisions were made, how the story came to be the weird story that it is, and to try and make sense of it all. And this week marks a full year of doing that podcast, we've had a lot of fun, we have covered probably, I think we're at about like three and a half years of 20 years of story.
Ryan Boelter 3:42
That's kind of bad piece.
Amelia Antrim 3:43
Um, well, the problem is that the first ones that we covered were the easiest and only gets from here, third of the way through the third arc of like, 20 years of stuff, so it's, we're going to be doing this I think I said in one episode, we're going to be doing this till we die, because this will be the thing that kills us. Yeah. So um, yeah, it's garbage of the five rings. It's a fun podcast. It's it's dumb. You can hear me be frustrated if you enjoyed our heroes unlimited episode and my grumping in that here's a whole podcast for
Ryan Boelter 4:16
you pretty much. That's the whole thing. Yeah. I love how it's like equal parts snark and like exasperation and actual archival level research.
Amelia Antrim 4:28
Yeah, that's my favorite part is that like, we have become accidental archivists of this game? Uh, huh. Like, people, somebody sent you their entire collection of these Imperial Herald magazines that they used to put out there like there are there's not an online archive of so now he has scanned the man and made to this archive this thing that didn't exist before the history of the game that we are now creating, accidentally because we had a stupid idea to read these terrible stories. So it's been fun. It's been fun. It's exhausting. And sometimes it makes me mad but enjoying it. Yeah, if I weren't to do if I weren't doing it with my best friend, it would be terrible, but I also it's tolerable.
Ryan Boelter 5:11
It's very entertaining, I highly recommend it.
Amelia Antrim 5:14
What about you, Ryan? You've had way more projects this year.
Ryan Boelter 5:16
Yeah. So mostly this year, things have been going very well for Chi mera, which we've talked about a lot previously. I know amber and I have been taken a little bit of design break due to the busy holiday season. But we have been talking on off and on and hope to get back into that in early 2020. Also, I have taken over the editing for the horror Borealis podcast for their latest arc. That's another show on the one shot network that I absolutely recommend listening to. I absolutely fell in love with it after I decided to start editing it and I actually went back and binge the entire series just to catch up. So I don't get all spoilers on myself every single time I edit. But it's fine. It's a monster of the week campaign that takes place in 1996. Well, mostly, they do have a small portion that goes back to the 50s, which is really fun. And it takes place in a small Alaskan town and the character development is really on point and the story that they're telling is really spectacular. So definitely check that out if you have a chance. And let's see, lastly, I created and released my own game recently. So you can check out my dread plus reflections plus Highlander monstrosity called our final gathering the dreaded reflections of the immortal soul on my lord Neptune h.io page. That was a really fun game to run in Academy on this last year and I think people have a lot of fun with it. So definitely check it out.
Amelia Antrim 6:56
I also got a chance to try out a few games this year. And guest on a few podcasts. So some of the games I played were completely new. Some are just new to me. I got to do a play test of heart at Gen Con, which was phenomenal. If you want to hear more about heart You can hear that a series 20 we did with designers that game grant and Chris. That game was so much fun. I was so excited to take it like they think they had like three or four play tests of it at Gen Con. I was so excited to get a ticket to it. I was like over the moon. One of my one of my better games at Gen Con this year. Ryan and I got the chance to play test hard space hustle over on the play test podcast. We'll put a link to that in the show notes if people want to hear it. Chris was a guest on our show. We just recast his inspectors episode. But he wrote hard space hustle and we got a chance to try that out on his show was a lot of fun. I also got to try out two other games that Chris is writing Domini which is his game about French bisexual opera singer slash swords woman, Julie Domini. It is the best of chaos bisexuals, it's amazing. And then I also got we, Ryan, I think he played this game too. We tried pocket monster tails, which is his Pokemon game that he's running. He's writing with armor, which is actually currently running on playtested or doing campaign at that one. Okay, very good. Yeah, so much fun. I also got to try out a little bit of the new edition of fiasco. And when I was at Gen Con, you can hear me talk about with Jason Morningstar about that game on one of our character creation spotlight episodes about the game. You just did a Kickstarter for that earlier this year. As always, I played more descent into midnight, which will be kick starting soon. I'm so excited. I'm so excited for the world to see this game. Yeah. Obviously, I played more alpha bar. I finally got to try out Fantasy Flight, Star Wars. I got to try out a couple games of urban shadows. I didn't say this in the project portion, but I finally started working on my own game based on a book series that I read this year, I started reading in March and now have read through five times since March. Yeah, it's really good. And I got some guests on a couple podcasts too. We mentioned play test. And I also got to be a guest on Taylor brushes game closet podcast this year. So I'm looking forward to hopefully doing some more of that too. Yeah, what about you?
Ryan Boelter 9:34
Um, for myself, I actually didn't get a chance to branch out into many games this year. Aside from heart space hustle and pocket monster tales, I'm addicted to play a couple descent into Midnight's which were fantastic, of course, and I got to try out a brand new game that I had not heard of before. called beyond the walls. With some local friends and their daughters Actually, we were actually starting a campaign. And our second session is going to be this coming weekend actually. And if you haven't played it, it feels very much like a pared down fantasy version of d&d on D 20. based. It seems very easy to grok for kids that are eight plus so and it's also entertaining for adults too. So I definitely recommend checking them out. Um, what's really cool is you get to actually create the town as part of character creation. So you're not only creating characters, you're creating NPCs and depending on who you choose adds features to your town, which is really interesting. And yeah, that I think that's really about it for for my game exploration this year. There's just been a lot of play testing for came here, which has been super fun, but it's been very time consuming. Yeah. Speaking of stuff happening next year, what are you looking forward to in 2020? Amelia?
Amelia Antrim 11:08
I honestly don't have a lot of like specific stuff, just kind of broad goals. And I want to keep working on my game. We stalled out a little bit in fall and winter just because of life scheduling. And you know, I think partly that's, that's one of the big issues of the collaborative project is just like making things match up. And especially when it's something that you're doing just for fun, yeah, it kind of tends to fall on the back burner compared to the other things that are on more of a deadline. So I'm hoping to get back into that and potentially starting on a new idea that we've had. I'd love to be a guest on more podcasts. I enjoyed it a lot this year, and I really, I like seeing the other side of making shows. So I'm kind of hoping to do that again. So call me if I have interesting things to say that you would like to talk to me about And then honestly, like bit of a serious moment, I'm looking forward to like having my life together. This year was a rough one for me. I talked a little bit about my mental health struggle. Back in April when I kind of took that hiatus. From the show, I spent two weeks doing a partial hospitalization program, which is essentially being in a mental health hospital, except that they let you go home at night. You're there like from eight to 430 every day. So it's getting treatment for my anxiety, depression, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. So you're doing basically like group therapy sessions and art therapy and all that kind of stuff all day. So I did that for two weeks. And then I followed that with a 12 week therapy program. I'm still going to see my therapist every two weeks, and I've been doing that for about nine months. I'm still meeting with a psychiatrist every month or two trying to get my medications, right, because we're still sorting that out. So I'm kind of hoping To keep more moving forward with that, winter is always really, really tough for me. It's when my bipolar disorder tends to fall into the depressive episodes, whereas it kind of goes more manic and spring and summer. I get like excited about things. And I have like new projects, and I feel like I could punch the sun. Winter is not like that winter is when I'm really down. And it's really, really hard for me to kind of like, get moving. So it means a lot of my creative projects slow down, and I just don't have the students to deal with anything, really. So I'm looking forward honestly, to being able to pick things back up a bit when I'm feeling better. I'm hoping I don't have to repeat the same struggle as last year, I ended up with PTSD, because last year was so bad. So really, right now I'm like, looking forward to like making it to tomorrow. That's kind of where I'm at, which I know isn't exciting, but I think it's a thing that I really want to be honest with people about that like it's okay if the thing you're looking forward to is like Making it through today. Yeah. And honestly, that's kind of where I'm at right now. Creative burnout is a real thing. And mental health issues are a real thing. And I think it's okay, to be honest about the fact that like, we don't all have tons of cool projects and ideas and like, sometimes your big win is just making it through the next day, week, month, whatever. And that's really where I'm at right now is that like, I want to make it through this. And I'm hoping that when I start to feel better, I'll come out on the other side and be really excited about some new projects and stuff, but for right now, you know, getting through to the New Year, kind of where I'm at. I'm okay with that.
Ryan Boelter 14:40
Yep, absolutely. And we'll do whatever we can to to make it as easy as possible for you.
Amelia Antrim 14:45
Yeah. Um, you know, I mean, that's, that's the thing that like, I want people to know too is that like, it's okay to tell the people that you're working with on stuff that like you just can't right now, um, I feel bad about it a lot. Like, the only be honest the number of times that I had to tell Ryan like Just cannot right now is really a bummer because it feels it feels bad. But, um, it's important to just say, you know, because like I said, burnout is real. So it's important to just say like, you know what, here's what I need for myself.
Ryan Boelter 15:12
Exactly. Yeah. And if you're on the other end of that, if if you're working with somebody that is telling you that be understanding, you know, yeah, let them let them have what they need. Because that's, that's going to help so much more in the long run than just say, no, it's my way.
Amelia Antrim 15:30
Right? Well, I think that like you, if you're not passionate about something, it's not going to turn out well, either. Like you can tell people can tell when you're phoning it in, you know, and so when you're not doing while you're phoning it in, so yeah, just be honest with yourself, be honest with people around you. But on the other hand, it's totally okay if you are not like me and not totally bombed and have like really big exciting things that you're looking forward to. What about you, Ryan? I know you've got some got some less sad things.
Ryan Boelter 16:00
Well, let's see, this next year, I am probably most looking forward to getting kymaro into a mostly complete state with amor, I know it's such a really, really good game, everybody that's played it has had such great feedback. And I can't wait until people can make it part of their own collections. But we we want to wait to release it till it's absolutely ready, which I'm guessing it won't be until 2021 At this rate, and that's mainly due to all the testing that we have to do. I mean, we're, we've got you
Amelia Antrim 16:30
guys have a lot of playbooks. There's a lot of moving parts there. And it's not your full time job,
Ryan Boelter 16:35
you know, exactly. I mean, there's 30 playbooks in the base of G's. And not only is the 30 playbooks, there's a you pick two playbooks each time you create a character. So all the combinations are, you know, almost limitless. So testing, all sorts of things like that is it's just wild, but we're working through it. I think one We get our superheroes revamped, we'll be able to get some really good testing in. So hopefully soon. We'll see what else Oh, I am also really excited to see what sorts of games that we're going to be covering on this podcast. Actually, I'm,
Amelia Antrim 17:17
I'm really excited to see like, what kind of cool stuff comes across our desk this year yesterday, like as if we're like, very official newspaper comes across my desk. But like, we've been covering some new stuff, and I'm excited to see where I go.
Ryan Boelter 17:29
Yeah, some of the new stuff that we're covering is pretty cool.
Amelia Antrim 17:32
I'm excited for our next series, everyone. I'm very, very stoked about it.
Ryan Boelter 17:35
Yeah, we're going to be recording that next week. If everything goes according to plan, and then we'll have it released for the beginning of January. Yeah, so I'm looking forward to that. And things are finally actually settling down for me too. So the beginning of the year into spring will be pretty good for me scheduling wise too. So I'm hoping to crossing my fingers here that we can get a backlog going.
Amelia Antrim 18:06
I know we always keep saying, If life would just like, let me breathe,
Ryan Boelter 18:12
come on life, let us breathe. Geez, seriously. But yeah, I'm looking forward to that. And I kind of want to see if we can delve into pulling in more AP podcasts for some of the games that we cover. Because it's really cool. Diving into games with fans of the games and, and giving exposure to those types of shows and stuff to definitely, um, let's see. Oh, in addition to that, for conventions this year, I'm really looking forward to any of them that I'll be attending. I'm still torn between gamehole con and Academy con. I think gamehole con would be great because it's right nearby. It's like 100 minutes away from me. Plus, I have family in the area that I could stay with for free Oh, nice. Um, and I guess
Amelia Antrim 19:02
I might to actually like, now that I think about it. My cousin lives in Madison. Yeah,
Ryan Boelter 19:06
I've got cousins that live in Madison. So I'm like, Well, you know, maybe, maybe I mean,
Amelia Antrim 19:11
also, like an hour and a half. isn't that bad of a drive? No, honestly, like, you know,
Ryan Boelter 19:15
yeah. I mean, if you had
Amelia Antrim 19:16
drive an hour to work every day, like, Yeah,
Ryan Boelter 19:19
and it's all highway, right? It's like, whatever, as long as the weather's okay?
Amelia Antrim 19:24
Yeah, like 94 West, just dash
Ryan Boelter 19:26
straight there. Exactly. So gamehole it's definitely a consideration, but a catechins kind of where my heart has always been.
Amelia Antrim 19:33
Ryan Boelter 19:34
I'd be sad to miss it. It was my first gaming con and all that sort of stuff. But I know that the the broad swords aren't going to be there because they're going to be skipping some all the US cons this year. Yeah. You know, political Obama.
Amelia Antrim 19:52
Ryan Boelter 19:55
Yeah. So things are going to be up in the air for which convention I will be attending but I'm pretty sure I won't be going to Gen Con this year, mainly due to all the hassle that I had to go through to get my games on the schedule. plus the cost was a lot higher than anticipated. Yeah, there's just so many I'm
Amelia Antrim 20:16
still planning on going because it's my it's my big my big vacation. Yeah, you know, it's sort of my big thing. Um, but yeah, I don't I, you know, I'm, yep, I get it. I get it. Somebody
Ryan Boelter 20:29
factors? Maybe 2021. If I can get promoted at work anytime soon. Yeah, maybe maybe I can go this year. Well, we'll see. So it's a it's a very low probability chance maybe that?
Amelia Antrim 20:44
Yeah. Well, and I, you know, like I think I said the last year to like, it's, you know, it's definitely not for everybody. Like it's a fun thing to do and try out and be a part of, but it's definitely not an all the time thing for everybody.
Ryan Boelter 20:54
And that's totally fair. I really enjoyed it. It's just a lot.
Unknown Speaker 20:58
Yeah, a totally
Ryan Boelter 21:01
Um, and and also I would love to get some more podcasts this year. I always have fun chatting with others on their shows or playing games with other people so I guess come at me let me don't i don't think that's what that's I don't think that's come every podcast. Yeah
Amelia Antrim 21:27
come at us come
Ryan Boelter 21:28
ask yeah both of us were awesome are we make good guests and
Unknown Speaker 21:34
we're really good at
Ryan Boelter 21:39
we can promise a mostly decent audio quality at the very least Yeah,
Amelia Antrim 21:44
yeah, hopefully not even dogs barking.
Ryan Boelter 21:46
Uh huh. Hopefully not.
Amelia Antrim 21:50
Well, thanks for taking this journey with us everyone. We are super excited to have you along for the ride with us in 2020 and beyond. If you want to let us know how we're Doing you can hit us up on Twitter at Creation Cast or leave us a review in any number of places. Obviously the best is Apple podcasts. But we understand that it's a pain in the butt to constantly update iTunes and all that kind of stuff. If you leave us a review somewhere, though, we'll read it during our cold opens that we do together, like this one from warbird from Germany on iTunes, which is titled great show. Character Creation Cast is one of my favorite podcasts from the one shot network. The hosts are very likeable and make it easy to listen even if you're not interested in the games they're presenting. Oh, thank you
Ryan Boelter 22:37
are reading this view made me feel so good. Because there are so many good shows on the one shot network and having us be one of the favorites of somebody
Amelia Antrim 22:45
I know. I know. Like that's some stiff competition. And honestly, I like that that note about like, even if you're not interested in the games they're presenting that was one of the things about our show that I liked is that he would kind of drop it in and out. I know there are a lot of people who are like no, no Listen to the from the beginning. I understand your completionist mentality. I do, I promise. But I know that like sometimes the games that we're talking about aren't your jam. I'll be honest with y'all sometimes they're not my jam. It's okay. But I do hope that like we have something in there even if it's not, you know, your favorite game.
Ryan Boelter 23:19
Yeah, I don't think there's been an episode where we haven't really had fun making the episode.
Amelia Antrim 23:25
Yeah, yeah, I mean, there's definitely been games that are like more my style or more your style or something like that. But I think I don't think that there's a single episode that I've been like, there's nothing in this game for me. Exactly.
Ryan Boelter 23:36
You know, you can hear some limited
Amelia Antrim 23:41
Yeah, you know, what came out of that one is are amazing at Comic Con panel. That was so much fun. I still I was looking. I still have the posters over here. I was like, I have the poster board. I was gonna like put it up my closet but I'm like, I should find a way to like framing those are some things were great. Oh, they're so good. Yeah. Well with that room really long cold open out of the way. Please enjoy our session zero episode. It's absolutely one of my favorites. And I hope that you had a great 2019 and that you all have a fantastic 2020
Ryan Boelter 24:11
Yeah, have a great new year everyone stay safe out there and enjoy the show.
Amelia Antrim 24:52
Welcome to character evolution cast, the show where we discuss what to do with all those characters we just made. I'm one of your hosts Amelia, and to Hey, my co host Ryan and I are sitting down by ourselves. I don't understand. Yeah.
Ryan Boelter 25:06
Well, we've chosen to do this episode without guests because it is simply something that we are both really passionate about, and very excited to discuss. So we will skip some of the initial getting to know you stuff this episode. And dive right in. Because we have a lot to talk about today.
Amelia Antrim 25:25
Are you sure you don't want to like get to know each other a little bit? Wow. Should like let people get to know us. Hey, Ryan, what's your favorite part of a session?
Ryan Boelter 25:34
00 My favorite part of session zero is figuring out what everybody likes to do in the game.
Amelia Antrim 25:41
Are you gonna say character creation? I'm really disappointed.
Ryan Boelter 25:47
Amelia Antrim 25:49
You blew it. You blew it. Okay,
Ryan Boelter 25:52
good job. I have literally Okay, aside from every episode that we've done so far on this podcast, not had an official session. Zero for a role playing game before. Wow. Yeah. Dude, it's all been about, okay, there's one shots, but that's like the whole session. But also for any campaigns, it's always been make your characters come to the table with your characters and a little bit of a background. And we will make sure to fit you into the adventure somehow.
Amelia Antrim 26:26
Well, today we're going to talk about why that's not the best way to do
Unknown Speaker 26:29
Amelia Antrim 26:31
or why it's, in my opinion, not the best way to do stuff. I want to tell anybody that they're doing anything wrong.
Ryan Boelter 26:37
If you are having fun not having a session zero, feel free to keep doing that. But please listen, and we hope that you take away something really awesome that you can bring to your group and hopefully even enhance your game and have even more fun.
Amelia Antrim 26:54
I agree. Now you have asked me what my favorite part is.
Ryan Boelter 26:57
What is your favorite part Amelia?
Amelia Antrim 26:59
Are you You can ask me a different question. Okay.
Ryan Boelter 27:03
But it's very clear. We haven't heard the answer yet. Amelia. Okay. What is your favorite part for session zero?
Amelia Antrim 27:09
Actually, it's setting up expectations for the game. I shouldn't say character creation after I just gave you
Ryan Boelter 27:15
that you didn't say character creation, Amelia
Amelia Antrim 27:17
garbage. All right, but well, that answer was already taken. So I'll say something. No, I actually really liked the discussion of kind of setting expectations with players and with GMOs and getting a feel for what everybody wants to do so that you can have the best possible campaign.
Ryan Boelter 27:38
That sounds a lot like my first answer before he made me change it, huh?
Amelia Antrim 27:43
Because I want to have a better answer. I guess that's true. Okay. So now, shall we get into this? Yes, please. Okay, so I think we need to start by explaining to people what is a session zero.
Ryan Boelter 27:56
Basically, a session zero is something that you do With your group, as a group, where you will set expectations for what you will be doing while you're playing your game, your character creation can happen in session zero and probably should, at the very least getting a feel for what characters everybody's going to be playing. And you should be discussing things with your GM in order to make everything kind of fit together.
Amelia Antrim 28:26
I think that's a pretty solid rundown. Yeah, a lot of games do. I shouldn't say a lot of games. A lot of newer games I'm noticing, do character creation as its own session. They basically have a built in session zero. So especially I think the common example is like a powered by the apocalypse game. Oh, yeah. Where you have all of those group questions like all of the relationship questions, and characters are very intertwined. You can't do those by yourself. And so those are usually part of the actual game. is building all of your characters and developing those relationships. Some of them have some world building as part of that. That is true to some extent of power by the apocalypse games. I know when I played descent into midnight at Gen Con, we did that with that game that's a big part of that game is defining the world and actually kind of making up the situation to. So that is all done together as a group. Now, I'm interested because you said your experiences not making characters like as a group, correct. So how does that feel different? When you go to play a game? Have you played a game where you've created characters as a group, you must know because you played some pvta stuff?
Ryan Boelter 29:40
Yeah, we've I've played a few pvta games at last year's Academy con. And so we definitely create a characters at the table. And that experience is definitely a lot different than bringing your own characters to the game. Because when you're creating a character ahead of time, it almost feels like you're banking on your GM having a planned session out a plan story ahead of time. So you'll make your character you'll get your single characters details to the GM, and they'll be fitting your character story into their story somehow ahead of the first session of the game.
Amelia Antrim 30:19
Yeah. And you know, this is my Hill to die on. This is my soapbox Yeah. That I don't like when when we do that to gems, I don't love that expectation that you can just bring whatever you want and the GM will figure it out. Like that's just really kind of, that's kind of
Ryan Boelter 30:37
mean. Honestly. Yeah, it's just kind of mean to do to your GM. It's definitely an old school mentality, very 90s and earlier sort of gameplay style because in a lot of those games, the the GM is effectively God and controls absolutely everything. And the players just care about who they are. Maybe mix up some of the NPCs that are in light in their lives. But then once the game plays, they have no control over, basically anything else.
Amelia Antrim 31:10
Yeah. So it's building characters together isn't necessarily something I had done a lot of in my previous non podcasting RPG days. I want to say that there was one game where we built them together, or I think we kind of roughly outlined what we wanted. And then we got together and kind of flush everything out so that we could make sure everybody had relevant skills and all that kind of stuff. And now that is, we always build them together. Yeah, whether it's like in a chat conversation online or whether we sit down and actually record a real session zero. We do our character creation together. Yeah. In my experience that has led to a much more rich game. I think it's a more full experience. I think because I have these Really strong connections with the other players at the table. My connection is not solely between me and the GM. It's, you know, because I think of it, like in the old school games where it's me and the GM, and it's Bob and the GM, and it's Susie and the GM, you know, but like none of those people intertwine. Yes. And so I think when you get the chance to sit down and do character creation together, it really lends itself to a richer narrative experience.
Ryan Boelter 32:27
Yeah, 100% the most recent time I tried to pull a group together. It was a few years ago, I tried to do a Dungeons and Dragons, fifth edition, with my wife and a few of our friends. And we did start trying to do a session zero, and everybody had kind of ideas of what they wanted to do. But once we got to the table to do the session zero, nobody really had a background in mind. For the types of characters they were like, I want to be this race and I want to be this class. Whatever. And so when we started talking about things we ended up with two of them were sisters, and they had some sort of relationship with this other person. And they're like all these other interconnections were happening. That would not have happened if everybody submitted their own characters blindly to the GM.
Amelia Antrim 33:21
Yeah, and that's something that grant said in our last episode when he talked about building characters as his preferred style it was like I love to be somebody's uncle or cousin or half brother or whatever, because suddenly it matters when that person is kidnapped or whatever. It's not just like oh, wow, sorry for that guy. That's it. No, I have now there's a vested interest in your outcome. So you're not some random guy that I met on the street,
Ryan Boelter 33:47
instantly ups the stakes of every group dynamic as soon as you introduce to the player characters or family members or, or even like in a romantic relationship or something like that. Absolutely, if you have that sort of strong dynamic, right off the bat, these characters care about each other, and you're not going to be wanting to think, Oh, well, my character would probably not want to join up with this random group of people and risk their lives for this thing that they don't care about. Right?
Amelia Antrim 34:17
Yeah, that's always been such a weird trope. To me. It's like, why would I just go run off with these strangers? Like, maybe that's me as a modern woman is like, I would not go anywhere with people I don't know, especially if they have swords. Definitely. That's a no. But maybe I could suspend some disbelief, but not that much. You know, there's no reason to just go do those things. It's not plausible.
Ryan Boelter 34:39
Amelia Antrim 34:40
Which I know plausibility has no place in a role playing games. But I mean, yeah, I think that there's it does, in my opinion, lead to a better narrative experience for sure. And I think even if narrative gaming isn't your if narrative isn't your preferred kind of fun, there's a lot to be said for being able to move Maximize things in a game too if you build characters together, because it's very easy to say, I have this skill, you don't also need that skill. Yeah, you know, or to like make sure that when you're going over what the campaign is going to be about, that you're picking things that are actually relevant to that, because that's a really important part of session. 02 is getting an idea of what kind of game you're going to be playing. Yeah, I strongly suggest that that's a great time for GM to give their players a sort of elevator pitch for what this campaign is. Because you can go into a game of d&d, and it could be anything it can that's a wide open slate. You know, it's a big sandbox world, and you have no idea what kind of d&d game you're gonna be playing, what skills are going to be relevant, and there's nothing worse than showing up with this fully made character with this beautiful fleshed out backstory. And none of it matters. Because nothing ever comes up. Yeah. And so like I said, even if narrative isn't your thing, there's something to be said for the inner power gamer and Some of us that it's to your benefit to maximize things that way too by knowing what this game is even
Ryan Boelter 36:06
about. Exactly. And what's great is the GM can come in having an idea of what they want for the storyline or for their overarching campaign. But as players in a session zero, you start getting some direct input into the going on in the world. And that might actually even reshape some of what the GM was planning to do in the first place. would absolutely which really, it makes the game more more deep, I guess, storyline.
Amelia Antrim 36:40
Yeah, more engaging. Exactly. And I think that that's, that's something that I really want to stress for players that are listening for people who aren't GM, which obviously is my target audience as a non GM. This is your time to tell your GM what you want out of a game. This is your time to start. Here are the things that I like, go back and listen to our eight kinds of fun episode and figure out what your kind of fun is. And like, this is the time to talk about that with your GM to say, here is what a great game looks like for me. And as a GM, this is a great time to get an idea of what will make your players happy, because I think you're going to everybody's going to have a better time. Yeah. If you're all engaging with the story and with the characters and what's going on in the world. And I think this is the perfect opportunity to sit down and say, here's what I want. Here's how we can make this law best.
Ryan Boelter 37:36
Because the last thing that you want as a player is say, none of the players maybe one player, really, really loves tactical combat. So you got one player that loves it, but everybody else's. Why? Why do we have to pull out the grid map again, but nobody voices that opinion at all until it's far too late. Hmm, the GM could have this fully tactical battle after battle sort of game with minimal Rp. But if you don't ever voice your opinions, if you don't ever have this sort of session, you're going to just get stuff fed to you that you might not like.
Amelia Antrim 38:19
Yeah, I mean, this is a life lesson that I tell people all the time, you can't fix a problem that you don't know about. And so the same goes for jamming and for playing if nobody says what they want or what they don't want, I can't fix it. I can't help you. So this is your time. Again, it's my soapbox. It's my health today. But you as a player, half of the power to say, these are things that I want. These are, you know, this is what I want a game to look like and you should role playing games. The group that you are playing with is a kind of relationship and communication is super important and Essentially that's what a good session zero should be. It should be the first date of your RPG relationship. It is a good time to get to know the players even if you know the people are ready to kind of talk about what their play styles are because you can be friends with somebody for years and not know what kind of player they are. Get to know the characters that they're playing. Talk about the system setting talk about the specifics of what you like and what you don't do you want long walks on the beach or do you want tactical combat,
Ryan Boelter 39:30
this is the place to do it. This is your that's my my tagline here is it is the first date of your RPG relationship. And if you are hesitant on approaching your GM about the types of things that you enjoy, try having your GM describe in kind of a neat kind of fun sort of way, what they were thinking before getting to the actual session zero stuff. So that way you kind of have a baby baseline of where their mind is. And then you can add upon that or say, well, maybe let's hold off a bit on this portion of that, and maybe add a little bit more of this.
Amelia Antrim 40:13
Definitely. So we've gone into it a little bit. But I want to dig deeper about why you should have a session zero because we've all played games that I mean, we all you and I, for sure, I don't know about our listeners, I cannot speak for them. But a lot of people have played perfectly lovely campaigns for years and years and years without a session zero. So I want to talk about why I think that should change. Why, why this is worth your time. Because we all know we're all adults, and scheduling is tough. I fully understand the desire to jump right in, you know, with both feet and be like, let's get this game going because I love to play. And I even I get that way like I love I love sessions here. I really do, because I think that they improve the game a lot. But I'm certainly guilty of that feeling of I want to jump in I want to play now. And so I want to just try and stress to people like why this is a valuable use of your time.
Ryan Boelter 41:13
So there's a lot of things that we go over in session zeros, but why should we have session zeros? One of the main and probably biggest things that you should be covering at a session zero is the topic of safety, role playing games, literally anything can happen because it's your imaginations. Yep, some of your friends may be a lot more comfortable with certain content then you are, especially if you have prior experiences with other groups that didn't go so well for certain things. So, this session zero is an excellent time to bring up safety things that you are not okay with things that you're kind of okay with, but rather not go into details and other lines and veils that we can talk about here.
Amelia Antrim 42:06
I think the other thing that I want to stress here is that as much as safety discussions are about things that you don't want, I think that they also should be about things that you do want. And I know, I'm just going to keep referencing our other episodes. Don't listen to this episode until you've listened to all of our other. No, I'm just kidding. But it's something that we definitely talked a lot about with Alex, when we did our star Christ episodes, that there is no reason that this should be less than the best. And talking about not only the things that you don't want, but the things that you do want becomes really important in there because process of elimination is great. But like Ryan said, literally anything can happen. So saying, I don't want a skateboarding dog doesn't really limit things like now we know one thing that you definitely don't want and an infinite number of other possibilities. So if there's something that you feel like hey, I want this to happen, sessions, here's a really good time for that. And I think that that's a thing that I really want to stress to people is as players, you should find your voice and you should say what you want, because you are a valuable part of this process. And the game can't happen without players. It just can't. I mean, your GM can go play Solitaire at home. They are important, but you know what, they make GM less games, they don't make player less games. So Now is your time to say what you want. And I mean, not to say that you can't do that all the other times, but as a player, you have a voice and you should be able to say, this is a thing that I'm really passionate about. This is the thing that I'm definitely don't want. This is the thing I'm kind of iffy on, find your voice and say it and honestly if your GM is not okay with that. I don't know like I feel like that's not talk to your GM about being okay with that. Like I don't want to say don't play in that group. But like,
Ryan Boelter 43:56
Don't play in that great A lot of times, so We're going to be playing with some of our closest friends. Right? And that does compound Yeah. Especially if you've had, like past experiences in real life that you're not okay with having those portrayed within the game, but others in your group, and it could be minor things. It doesn't have to be anything super traumatic. But others in the group that have not had those sorts of experiences might say, Oh, well, that's perfectly okay to put into this game. And then all of a sudden, this thing is in the game. And now you are feeling extremely uncomfortable and you're no longer having fun.
Amelia Antrim 44:37
That's a really good point, too, because I think that we address some of this toward jams and tell players, let your GM know these are the things that I'm uncomfortable with. But I really want to stress to people that this is a discussion that you should feel okay having with your group. And I get that there are times that you don't want to tell everybody and certainly you should feel free to privately talk to your God You shouldn't have to air your dirty laundry to everybody. But I do think that it's important to try to have some of those discussions with the people in your group too, because they're also responsible for the story. I had somebody in a discussion that I was in recently talking about a situation where this came up, a person came to them and said, hey, I've had this traumatic thing happened in my life. Can we just not have that in this game? And the GM said, Yep, I don't have anything like that plan should be fine. But then another player brought that thing in. And that's out of the Jim's control. And, you know, they didn't know that that was going to happen. But it's still traumatic for that other player. And so it's really good to have these kinds of discussions with the whole group so that everybody's on the same page
Ryan Boelter 45:43
that kind of leads into a mechanism sort of discussion, things like the x card or whatnot, where if something does sneak in from a different player that had no idea, somebody either yourself or if you don't, especially the You have what you've already told, should hit that card and say, Hey, some of us might be uncomfortable with this sort of content, let's back it up and do something different. And that shouldn't have to be something that derails the game completely. And derails the fun. And it should be something that in a session zero, it's it's effectively a social contract with you and your friends saying, If this happens, no questions asked, Will just rewind and get rid of the thing.
Amelia Antrim 46:33
Right. And we are going to do a whole episode on safety mechanisms in games. We ask people, it's right before Halloween, what they want to talk about, and the answer that won the poll was that people really wanted us to talk about safety in when you're playing horror kind of game. So we're going to sit down. Yeah, we're going to sit down next week, we'll have an episode for you on more particulars on those kind of safety mechanisms because I think that that's a thing that definitely warrants its own. episode, we'll talk a little bit about it here, but I, for sure we're going to get real deep into it. But on that note, I was gonna say session zero is a good time to establish what those safety mechanisms are going to be on top of just saying, hey, these are my yeses. These are my nose. But it's a good time to set up expectations for people of what is that going to look like if there is an issue, because you don't always know what's going to come up with. And so, like you said, it's a good social contract to say, here's what's expected. So aside from safety mechanisms, and kind of making everybody feel comfortable at the table, what are other reasons that you should have a session is there
Ryan Boelter 47:39
another great reason and we hinted at it a little bit earlier relationships, getting your characters to like one another when they'd never knew of each other's existence prior to the first session. Your game is really hard and really hard to make believable. You have to have some pretty active ordinary circumstances to say, hey, stranger, let's go adventuring together because we have to save the world together for some reason,
Amelia Antrim 48:08
right? We are not all the fellowship of the family.
Ryan Boelter 48:10
And even the fellowship, there was a lot of people that knew each other well before the fellowship was established. That's true. But still, there is so many examples of different types of games where you just go in and nobody knows each other, and you're saving the world The next day, and you have to suspend a lot of disbelief in order to get there. It still might be super fun, but it could be a lot more fun when the Joe random person that you're saving is your brother.
Amelia Antrim 48:46
Yeah, I think that you can have some of those games with the classic you meet in a tavern kind of thing and it can be it can be fun. I think that if you're going to do that, that should be part of the story that you shouldn't try and pretend all of these random people Friends. So like, I mean, in my opinion, if I were going to play that game, I would want a central part of that game to be building those relationships. Like, I'd want some of that, you know, like, Okay, now we're hanging out around this campfire. And I don't trust you, because I've never met you before. And you know, I would want that to be part of that game. And I think that there's certainly room to do some of that kind of stuff. But yeah, I mean, my favorite games are games where you establish these kind of relationships with people. I know, one of the games I played in in the past, I was supposed to be my character, we're supposed to be patrolled to this other character, and we hated each other. And so like that was really fun to role play as this whole, like people who are supposed to pretend to be happy together and are not. It's a good end for two characters that otherwise have no reason to hang
Ryan Boelter 49:47
out. Yeah. And like what you said earlier about forming the relationships in the game itself. That's hard to do. Sometimes you have to have a pretty close knit group. Really onpoint GM in order to weave everybody's individual stories together, so you're making it a lot harder for yourself. You're making it a lot harder for your GM. And you're putting a lot of overhead on the game. That doesn't exactly need to be there.
Amelia Antrim 50:19
Yeah, definitely. It's something that everybody would need to buy it. And a session zero is a great time to decide if you're going to buy into
Ryan Boelter 50:26
very well could be at session zero, you say? How about we start this game not knowing each other and play out how we meet for the first time. That's perfectly valid. But you also have all the other stuff that you establish had session zero, that allows you to form the type of game that you all want to play.
Amelia Antrim 50:48
Yeah. Which actually brings up a really cool example because I recently played in a game where our characters didn't know each other at all. And so we did our character backgrounds and you built our characters and everything. And then we had basically a mini session after that, that established how we knew each other. And then going into actual session one, we were people who'd been traveling together for, you know, a week or a month or whatever that had this common goal. But in that first like miniature session, we didn't know each other. And so I think that if you don't want to do these kind of character background relationships, that's also a really good option to make sort of a miniature session out of your session zero. I think there are definitely games that do that. I can't think of them off of the top of my head. You guys can tweet at us or
Ryan Boelter 51:40
whatever the kids are doing these games so far, Amelia,
Amelia Antrim 51:43
I know only nine by the time the sun comes out. You guys don't know about the other one. We know insider information. But that is not necessarily the common occurrence. But I do think that that's cool option if you want to do it that way, and you don't want to be somebody's brother, cousin, mother's uncle twice, rather, you can be a group and you can establish that together and actually play it out, rather than writing backstory
Ryan Boelter 52:12
for it. And I think a mini session with your entire group with the intent of this session is going to be how we got together from start, middle and end. Leading right into session one is a great idea, because let me tell you that last time we played, my friends and I played a heroes unlimited campaign, which was a few years ago, not too long ago, though. It was just two players. One GM did not know each other beforehand. And it took us I want to say four sessions before we even met. Oh my gosh, because our stories were so different. But they were and I gotta say, it was brilliant, the way everything converged, but it was a while
Unknown Speaker 53:00
basically playing two separate games.
Ryan Boelter 53:03
One player RPG is until we met each other basically.
Amelia Antrim 53:07
And like I said, it's it's that's really tough when you are an adult and scheduling is hard, you want to make the most out of those sessions. You don't want to be having those. You want to get in and play. And so, while using a session zero does take up some of that time and does require some of that scheduling. It definitely makes the games that you have moving forward a lot more worthwhile,
Ryan Boelter 53:30
I think, especially if you are wanting to create all of these relationships beforehand, that not only makes your lives a little bit easier with how to know how to act with a lot of your other characters, but also your GM can get into the story they want to be telling a lot sooner than having to hand hold basically everybody into finally meeting In each other,
Amelia Antrim 54:01
absolutely. And some of those choices, the kinds of relationships that the characters build, and the kind of characters that your players build are indications to the GM, these are the things that are important to me. And as a GM that gives you kind of ideas to weave into your game. As you know, you can sort of pinpoint the things that people are picking up on and the things that they're excited about. And so doing that in person really offers that extra level of like, Okay, I know what's up here. And so it is really valuable. And I think that there's a lot there that a GM can take home and kind of work with too. And like I said, you as a player can signal even in subtle ways. These are the things that are important to me, you know, if I built this as part of my character background, my character's backstory, and their relationships, I'm signaling to the GM that this is a thing that I want to come up in the game. This is a thing that's important to me. And so I think that there's a lot of value in doing this together. Just because
Ryan Boelter 55:01
Yeah, if you listen back to pretty much any of the first two episodes of any of our series, by the time we're done with our characters, and we're creating plausible backstory is of how we all know each other. We've got already a bunch of plot points that a savvy GM would easily be able to pick up on, and create a really cool story for pretty much any of those groups.
Amelia Antrim 55:26
I mean, that's the running joke was we always walk away and we're like, I want to play this campaign. And it was like what campaign you just made characters. We had no plot points in mind when we sit down to make this story. We just walk away going, that's a game that I want to play, you know, like our spire series to we're like, okay, I want to know how you are involved in this, like, insider crime thing, and I'm helping cover up this dead body and like, I mean, that's a game that I want to play like, I want to know about those droids and their weird adopted Jedi kid. Like, it's amazing. And so there's so much That happens when you have no spoilers I told everybody already I warned them listen to all the furniture but I there's so much to be gained there that like you know, I mean even as a GM if you walked into session zero with literally no idea what kind of game you wanted to play, which I don't suggest because the valuable part of sessions here it was explaining what the game is gonna be. You could come out with a campaign just based on the weird stuff your players come up with because we have no gems on our episodes we have no you know, and we have no campaign in mind. We just make stuff up. And it's, I'm it's real good you guys. I'm gonna pat myself on the back. We've made some really good weird stuff.
Ryan Boelter 56:44
And I love spoiler alert some of the games that we have created characters for. We prepped a little bit ahead of time to like some of the games that character creations really, really long and so We did a lot of the work beforehand. And we still were able to through talking through a session zero with our guests, we came up with some pretty cool, cohesive backstories that allowed everything to weave together perfectly.
Amelia Antrim 57:19
You can build your character, you know, there are lots of games that are really mechanically intense to build characters. And so, Ryan, I want
Unknown Speaker 57:27
Amelia Antrim 57:31
heroes unlimited. But there are lots of games that have really intense, mechanically in depth character creation that aren't fun to sit around and watch people move at their character sheets. So having a session zero doesn't mean that you can't do some of them at a time when we did our deadlands episode. I think that you and I had a lot of our character stuff kind of figured out before we sat down and I want to say that Cameron and Alex Kayla pets on their stuff figured out ahead of time to. And same thing when we did our blue planet story and had a lot of stuff figured out ahead of time. And the important part there is to kind of remain flexible when we get to the table. I think that's a really that's, again, another role playing skill, learning to kind of be flexible and not be super attached to certain stories and things like that, because they they can change and sometimes the dice don't do what you want. But yeah, having a session zero doesn't mean that you can't do any thinking about the game ahead of time. In fact, I strongly discourage that I think that you should go in with an idea of what you want to do, and what you want your character to be and all that kind of stuff and then kind of workshop it from there. Because I think you know pretty well in your heart, what you're passionate about and what kind of things that you like. And so, feel free to maximize that and feel free to build a character that fits what you want. Don't. Again, don't do anything that's less than amazing but You know, it's okay to have some of that figured out ahead of time. And I think you should, because otherwise, you're going to be there for 400 years. It's funny that you mentioned flexibility because even with the blue planet stuff, and the deadline stuff,
Ryan Boelter 59:13
I had pretty much SPECT out my characters almost 100%, mechanically, before we did the recordings. Mm hmm. But both of those characters, I changed multiple things on throughout the session zero because of what other people were saying, I caught on that somebody had this skill, or somebody had this and I was thinking, Oh, well, I don't need that then. So maybe I'll swap it to this.
Amelia Antrim 59:43
Right. And there's a lot of like, oh, that idea, you know, because we start coming up with those ideas for like, well, what is this group doing? Like, why do I have this and you're like, Oh, well, then it makes sense for me to take this skill instead, or I want to increase this trait or, you know, there were lots of times where we sat down to and somebody mentioned something about mechanics that we didn't know. And we were like, oh, okay, I'm going to change the stats around because what you just told me about leveling up later on, you know, I can't buy this later on or whatever. And so there's a lot of value in having those discussions with people to especially, you know, your GM or other players in your group who might be super familiar with that system to
Ryan Boelter 1:00:18
especially if you're starting a new system, if you are listening to a lot of our episodes and thinking, Oh, well, we should try this game with our group or whatever. We're sorry.
Amelia Antrim 1:00:32
We're sorry, we're making you by.
Ryan Boelter 1:00:34
It's a thing that we kind of apologize for.
Amelia Antrim 1:00:37
Ryan Boelter 1:00:40
sorry, not sorry. But if you're playing a new game and say only a couple or a few of you at the table are familiar with the system at all, and maybe one of you is an expert. You're going to have questions when you come into character creation, and especially getting into actually play the game itself.
Amelia Antrim 1:01:00
Definitely, the last point that I want to bring up about why you should have a session zero is that it's a good time to talk about the game itself, not necessarily like the campaign or scenario that you're going to play, but like out of character, the game, the other players, your relationship with the GM, you know, so you want to set up expectations for the game because I think we've all been in games where you're kind of like not sure what the other people want out of it, or kind of what the etiquette is for certain things. No, I will play a lot of games now to where people spend a lot of time talking out of character. And as somebody who does more AP podcasting, that feels kind of weird to me, because we're talking in character most of the time. And so kind of setting expectations for you know, how much of that is there going to be? I think it's a really good time to talk about what is the tone of this game, because there are lots of times where you sit down you're gonna plays really good dramatic game and then everybody It gets very silly. And you're like not feeling it, or the other way around that you want to just sit down and have some fun and do something light hearted and everybody's like, no, we're going to solve all the problems in the universe today and have very serious moral quandary
Ryan Boelter 1:02:13
and extremely intense court drama. Right?
Amelia Antrim 1:02:19
Absolutely. Um, therefore.
Unknown Speaker 1:02:23
I don't want to lay them.
Amelia Antrim 1:02:25
Yes. But like little things like, you know, do we want to have computers at the table? Does that, you know, is that okay? Like, what are the rules about phones? How often are you thinking that we should take breaks or their house rules that we're going to be playing with? All of that stuff is good to talk about a branch. They're not halfway through the game and somebody goes, Well, you never said that before? Well, I'm, I did because we have session zero. Yeah. And
Ryan Boelter 1:02:49
session zero is a great place to set a lot of these rules and you have a phone. You have people with social media, you have computers with YouTube and news sites and all sorts of other things that can easily distract players and GM alike. And having all of that established of what are some okay and not okay uses of technology ahead of time will dramatically limit the amount of iron rolling there is at the table at all of the people that are like Bob's on his phone again, during combat doesn't
Amelia Antrim 1:03:31
know it's his turn. He hasn't figured out what he wants to do. And he doesn't know how many enemies.
Ryan Boelter 1:03:37
He hasn't picked out any spells that he wants to cast and his turns next, and he's not even aware that his turn is next.
Amelia Antrim 1:03:45
Yeah, I mean, it definitely that's like any of the advice that we give in this episode. Some of its going to apply to your games. Yeah, some of its not so for me, I do almost all of my role playing exclusively online. We all record remotely. We play remotely. We use on dice rollers, you know, we do stuff in role 20. So not having a computer at the table is not an option because the computer is my game. But you know, kind of setting those expectations even of like, how much other stuff are you doing? Are you paying attention to the game? And just knowing that everybody's kind of on the same page of like, we only have four hours or whatever, we need you to be there. Are we going to talk in character, we will talk out of character, are we going to, you know, all of that kind of stuff. And just as long as you're really clear, and upfront, I don't care what rules you decide to do. I don't care if you decide to do house rules. I don't care if you think that computers the table are totally fine, and they work really great for your group. The point is that it's a discussion that you're having,
Ryan Boelter 1:04:40
and if you're just there to hang out with your friends and have a good time and it doesn't matter how much game you get to play. Because fellowship is your time so fun, then feel free to be very lacks in the amount of rules that you have. There's there's nothing that says you have to follow it this way in order Have fun playing this game. Because that's the beauty of role playing games. You can have fun, however you want to have fun. If you're having fun, you're playing the game. We're doing it right, exactly.
Amelia Antrim 1:05:13
We're not an RPG. So, now that we've explained what on earth a session zero is, and why we think you should have one, I kind of want to dig into a tool that we've been working on. Someone in our Discord server, casually asked, Hey, does anybody have a guide for what kind of stuff to talk about into session zero? And I said, I don't know what someone should? Yes. So we've been putting together a Google doc and we will link it in the show notes for this episode. And it's going to be something that I kind of continue to work on because I want to put links to some resources and stuff like that in there as we go. But for right now, Ryan and I are going to kind of run down this document that we've put together that kind of goes over some of the questions And conversations that you should be having, or that we think you should be having at your session zero. And like I said, we'll put a link to it in the show notes so that you can kind of it's a Google Doc. So you can make a copy of it for yourself if you want and use it for your games, because I think that it's a useful tool just to kind of remind you of things to talk about
Ryan Boelter 1:06:17
exactly. And I just got to say, Amelia did a lot of the work on this. And if you really liked the layout here, you will know a little bit of what our guests get to see when they come on our show and get a very beautiful outline every single time.
Amelia Antrim 1:06:33
It's not color coded, like our show. Oh, that's okay. I think that the biggest piece here that I want to say up front, is that this guide is for GM and for players. So there are spots where it's kind of broken down a little bit to ask questions of the GM or to prompt them to ask questions of the players. But there's also sections to prompt players to ask questions of their GM because I think that that's a thing that we don't do enough and then A lot of the sessions zero advice. I see. I mean, on top of my soapbox about role playing advice before jams. A lot of the session zero advice I see is, hey, GM, these are things that you should ask your players or you should talk to your players about. But conversations go two ways. And so this document does have sections for gems. But it does have a lot of stuff for players too. Because I think like I said before, this is a really good time to set those expectations. And as a player to say, here's what I want. Here's what would be fun for you. I'm going to start right at the top and say that I think the best place a session zero should start is with the basic premise of the game. Yeah. I think that knowing what kind of game you're going to play, it's a really valuable part of your character building. And part of why I don't think you should build characters alone. Because, you know, like I said before, you can end up with this character that has nothing to do with the kind of campaign or scenario that you're going to play. So I really encourage jams in particular to kind of say, here's the elevator pitch for what the game is. Just like a quick couple sentence, maybe one sentence even rundown of like, here's the here's the splash thing that goes on the movie. Like, here's kind of what we're going to be doing.
Ryan Boelter 1:08:17
Exactly. You don't want to be creating characters for a land game when your GM has a underwater campaign planned. That's just absolutely not gonna work.
Amelia Antrim 1:08:26
You want everybody to have fun, and you're going to have the most fun when your character matters in this.
Ryan Boelter 1:08:31
Exactly. So, so yeah, having that right at the top gets a lot of that basic stuff right out of the way, and lets you start diving into some really good stuff. The next thing that you probably want to cover is what does the GM want from the game? And what did the players want from the game? You can go over what sort of themes that everybody wants to cover what ideas that you want to explore what types of adventure you want to go on. You want to have like a redemption story? Do you want to focus around family things like that? What sort of tone? Do you want the game to be? Do you want to play a really serious game? Do you want to play a really silly game? Or Or maybe you want to dig into something like really dark? That's fine. This is a great place to set what you want from the game. And then also, the Do you want stories or scenes? Are there specific moments that you want to have things that you want to highlight like locations or or something like that? So there's a lot of different little things that you can talk about it this portion to get what the GM kind of wants out of the game and what the players want out of the game?
Amelia Antrim 1:09:42
Yeah, and I think that this is a thing that sort of the, the old school rulebook kind of frowns upon sometimes is saying like, here's a specific scene that I want to have, or you know, a specific story beats that I want to hit. But I think that there's a lot of value in that as a player, in one of our campaigns, we had a player who said, I have this boyfriend who has gone missing. And I want to make sure that he comes back at some point, and it is a complicated thing my character has to do. And to some people that feels a little bit metagaming to say, you know, and because you know, this thing is coming now. And I think certainly that's a discussion that you can have in a session zero, about whether you're okay with that or not. But I do think that there's a lot of value in like I said, just saying what you want, because I can't help you, if you don't tell me. And so, I know that that's, that's a thing that's a little bit weird for some people, because it's kind of not how it's not how I was, quote, unquote, brought up in role playing to have those kinds of discussions. It was like the GM is doing their thing over there and you as a player, get to experience it. Well, it's effectively a spoiler.
Ryan Boelter 1:10:55
Right, right, because you're saying hey, This somewhere into your story. And I don't care how it does it if you if you leave it general enough, a good GM should be able to put that into the story where it makes sense.
Amelia Antrim 1:11:10
Absolutely. And I think that, you know, when you say something like that, here's a specific story that I want to hit on, you know, like, I really love bank heists or I really love you know, like, that doesn't tell you anything about how that's going to happen, how the GM is going to pull that off, like, where that's going to go down. If you say you're playing these criminals or whatever, and you're like, you know what, I really want to rob a casino. Yeah, that's a that's a cool story beat that, you know, like, I love those kinds of movies. Great. You as a GM can be like, perfect, you have just given me something to, to do a scenario to write. I didn't have to think of it. That's awesome. And I know that my players will like it, because they voiced that to me, right. And so I know that when you look at this guy that we've written up, there is some of that in there and if you decide that that's not a thing that you want to use, because you're not super comfortable with some of that metagaming type stuff. That's totally okay. But I do want to encourage you to kind of think about it because I do feel like there's a lot of value in that. Another topic that I think is really important for session zero is expectations. And I'm going to start by talking about GM expectations of players, because players a lot of times feel like I show up and a game happens to me. Yeah. And I know that that's something that people heard me say, if they were at the one Chat panel and Gen Con, that like, games don't happen to you, you need to show up and you need to play
Ryan Boelter 1:12:30
you need to be part of the game.
Amelia Antrim 1:12:32
Absolutely. And so I think in some of these conversations, while the GM is kind of working out, like what do my players want, this is also a time where the GM can tell you what they expect of you. And you know what kind of things need to go into a game for to make it worth their time James put in a lot of planning and a lot of prep and I certainly in our player advice series don't want to diminish the role of a GM because they are like, I love the beautiful story. Is that they put together and my life would not be nearly as fun if I didn't have GM. But they are allowed to say that they expect things of you as a player as well. And so I think some of the things that a GM should kind of set up are, how much in character versus out of character talk they want, again, whether we're going to have laptops or phones at the table. What kind of supplies Do you expect your players to bring? And left feels really basic, but like, should they show up with their own dice? Do you expect everyone to have their own copy of the rulebook? Are we going to share at the table? Do you want people to have minis because you're going to be doing some tactical combat stuff? All of that is good stuff to kind of lay out so nothing's really left unspoken. How much story input? Do you want your players to have? You know, a lot of gems have crafted really specific worlds. Or you have kind of this idea of scenes. Do you want your players to be able to walk into a room and kind of describe it for you? Or is that something that you're not super comfortable with because you have an idea of what you want in your head? It's best to avoid disappointment by just setting that up outright. Do you expect that your players are going to narrate their own actions? Do you want them to describe how they deliver that killing blow? Are you okay? If they just say, I rolled a 20 instead? You know, like, what kind of feel Do you want out of that? Another thing for during Sessions is how to talk about problems when they arise during a session. Yeah. You know, how do you expect players to communicate that to you? Do you want them to pull you aside and do it one on one? Are you okay with them? Saying it in front of everybody? Does that not bother you? Do you want them to wait until the game is over to kind of bring up a concern about the game? setting? those expectations, I think will help people not have hurt feelings. Because people deal with confrontation differently. They deal with praise differently. I know as a person like if somebody called me out in front of a lot of people I would not really like I know other people to Care. They're saying, you know what, like, tell me if there's a problem. I would rather be pulled aside one on one. But I would want to know, while it's happening, not after when, but that may not be everybody's preference. So I think it's good to kind of set that up and let players know if you do have something to say, here's how you should say it. Do you want to talk a little bit about the between sessions section? Yeah.
Ryan Boelter 1:15:20
And then between sessions, you have to figure out what kinds of homework that you want your players to have? Do you want them to be thinking about what their characters are going to be doing next session? Do you want to have them figure out if there's any other portions of their background that they want to be kind of pulling into the story for next time? All sorts of little things that players can do between sessions that will enhance the game for next time?
Amelia Antrim 1:15:50
Yeah, I know there have been several games where I've had that there was like a month or a week or whatever of downtime, like while you were traveling, and the GM will say next time you come back, let me know what you were doing. So you may want your players to kind of think about those little vignette and come back to you with something exactly to sort of narrate that too.
Ryan Boelter 1:16:07
Yeah. And then between sessions, whether or not you want your players to be doing their their leveling up for the characters, say you advanced to a new level, you can do that. Or if you have an XP by system, have them spend their XP between sessions, maybe you don't want to be taking time at the table to do all of that. So you just say, we're going to hold off on all advancement until the session and and then you can start doing your stuff between sessions. If you have questions, just hit me up on Facebook or whatever, between sessions is a great time to do that for games that are designed to allow that has little exceptions here and there.
Amelia Antrim 1:16:46
Yeah, but that's always a good again, a good conversation to have to say, you know, I do want this between sessions or I don't I know that there are some gems to who say, No, I want to talk to you about what skills you're picking up so that I can you know, use that or I like built that into the story or that Tuesday, May, they may want you to do it at that.
Ryan Boelter 1:17:04
Yeah. And then another thing to talk about is should people be in touch between sessions? Do you want your players to be discussing the story between when the story is actually happening? Or do you want to keep that all at the table? I think that's a perfectly valid thing that that a GM could ask of their players.
Amelia Antrim 1:17:24
I know that I've had games here and there where we kind of do some between sessions, sort of like laying out some downtime stuff, you know, you have these Okay, time passes, you know, what, what is happening? Like, what is your montage of that kind of? Some of that is cool to play out between sessions. So you may not want your players to speculate. You may say, like, I want what happens at the table to be the game. If it doesn't happen at the table. It didn't happen. And that's certainly valid. I also think though, that there are other games where you say I want to narrate some of this weird stuff is happening in between that we're not seeing Yeah. And so you know, what level of comfort do you have with those kinds of things? Yeah. And how should people do that?
Ryan Boelter 1:18:07
Yeah. And if you want your players to even go a little bit more meta and start building a town that's separate from those characters, and say the town that you build will be cannon, and maybe you'll visit and at some point, let them Oh, that would be so Exactly. Let them have fun with part of your world. That'd be really interesting way to keep people in. Well, john, thanks. Yeah, dude, that's awesome. So there's a lot of ways that you can keep players engaged. I know as adults, we have a lot of time between sessions. If we're not able to find babysitters. If we have variable schedules, if we're doing two plus podcasts, things like that.
Amelia Antrim 1:18:58
It's the holiday holidays like I feel like when I look at game planning to I'm like, just count out the half of November, all of December and half of January. Like we're just not going to plus
Ryan Boelter 1:19:10
pretty much my friends and I, that's what we do. It's, if we can get together in the beginning of November. Perfect. Otherwise, it's going to be the next year until we get together again. So let's Yeah, absolutely.
Amelia Antrim 1:19:25
And momentum is such a huge part of games, and especially long run campaigns like keeping things moving, and honestly, not feeling totally, like not having to completely like reengage and totally off track. When you sit down to play again, having some kind of discussions between sessions can kind of keep some of that momentum going. And we are in touch pretty much daily. Either talking about like ideas for the campaign, or like, here's a cool thought that I had or even like, we're not role playing stuff out, but it'll be like a quick Message to say like, Hey, here's a thought that I had. So it gets written down somewhere, and kind of keeps some of that momentum going, yes, but then also just talking about life because these people are my friends. But it's it keeps some of that engagement. And so you don't feel totally like fresh when you go to start. And it's not like starting a whole new campaign because you haven't had time to play. Because everybody was traveling for the holiday. Yes.
Ryan Boelter 1:20:22
And being creative is basically like using a muscle. And if you don't use your muscles, they're going to get weak. So if you've got a good creative outlet, especially if you have a creative outlet that is surrounding the game that you're playing, goodness, you're going to have a better time. Let's see other things that you can have between sessions is what kind of feedback do you want from the players? And how do you want it? So do you want your players to be talking about what's been happening, what they've liked, what they've disliked, how do you want them to contact you about that? Do you want to do that when you're hanging out with them to watch extra sports game together, you know, set some sort of expectations and boundaries there.
Amelia Antrim 1:21:10
Yeah, I think there's a value sometimes in doing it after a session and sitting down to say like, Okay, how did we all feel about this? You know, like doing a little debrief and saying, okay, like, what did you like, what did you not like, but I've had sessions where, like, I walked away, and I was like, it was okay. And then like, a day later, I'm like, you know, what, no, I really liked it. Or, you know, a couple days later being like, you know, this one thing kind of bugged. Yeah. And so I think that there's value in in possibly doing it both ways. But I also think like I said, before, that there are sometimes it like you, you don't want to be called out publicly. And that's totally fine. You know, like, if a player has a concern, you know, here's how you can contact me let's let's have this conversation one on one. What is the best way for them to do that? How do you want that feedback from them between sessions to not just like in game Hey, I don't like the way that you said that or whatever, you know, but between like, Hey, here's the thing that I feel like it's going really well and if we could keep moving.
Ryan Boelter 1:22:08
And another great thing about delaying it a little bit between sessions instead of right after the game sometimes is say you have a really onpoint session, and things are clicking things are moving along at a really great pace. You get done with it. If you've ever gone to a really like exciting movie and gotten out of the movie, you're like, all that was the greatest thing I have ever seen all my gosh. And then two days later, you're like, what the plotholes Oh my goodness, that movie was bad. You don't really have a good sense sometimes when you've got your adrenaline going and you're on the high from a really like overall great game. To see all the
Amelia Antrim 1:22:58
might be just that like you Had a great time with your friends, like the friendship part of it was awesome. But you walk away and you're like, I don't remember anything that we did in that session, like the game itself wasn't exactly, you know, or maybe you walk away and you're like, this was a really great game. But I, I'm having issues with that other player or whatever, like there, there are times where like a little bit of perspective can add a lot. And so yeah, I think there's a lot of value in doing it not just right after a session, but also a little bit later on. Because I think right after a session stuff is still fresh in your mind, too. So sometimes that is a good time to give feedback. I personally would suggest that there's a lot of value in both, but it's a discussion dance like how do you want it? When do you want it?
Ryan Boelter 1:23:39
Exactly. I got these are GM expectations of players. And the last little bit that we have for between sessions is what kind of feedback Do you plan to give players yourself?
Amelia Antrim 1:23:51
I think player feedback is super underrated. And as a player, I want my GM to say, Hey, here's the thing that I think you You did really well today, like you were on point with this role playing thing, or you had this really great scene. I also similarly want my GM to pull me aside and say like, Hey, here's some character knowledge that like you maybe should have maybe before next time, if you want to read up a little bit on this, because I think that like, you'll have more fun. If you know more
Ryan Boelter 1:24:18
about this. Yeah, especially if it's like a mythology thing,
Amelia Antrim 1:24:21
right? Or not just pull you aside and say, like, Hey, you seemed a little hesitant about this thing, like, what can I do to help you feel a little more comfortable or to say, like, Hey, you, I really appreciate the way you handled this thing, whatever. I think that GM should give their players feedback as much as players should give it 200% because, again, the GM is another person at that table. It's another part of that relationship. And so, you know, they, they want to play with good players as much as players want to play with a good GM. And so I think that players should be open to feedback and I think that GM should be open to giving you
Ryan Boelter 1:25:00
Exactly. And again, this isn't negotiation, this isn't a, this is what's happening. This is a, you're having a discussion between the GM and the players. And this is the expectations that are being set for your game. This is session zero.
Amelia Antrim 1:25:18
As a player, you may look at your GM and say, You know what, I don't want feedback on my character voice, for me sometimes is like, you know what, I know it's bad. Do I don't need you to, like, I don't need you to tell me that I didn't do a good job on that there. There may be things that as a player, you're like, You know what? I don't, I don't really care. And I don't want to hear it. Say it. Say it more nicely. But again, yeah, it's a discussion. And so you should feel free to say like, No, I don't really want feedback on that. Or like, that's not a thing that I'm super comfortable talking about, or I'm embarrassed by my inability to do good character voices or whatever. Exactly. It certainly doesn't mean that the GM should feel obligated to give you a rubric and critique your ability as a player. Because this is fun. It should be fun. Like, right Just hanging out having a good time. But we want it to be the best thing possible. And so there is some room to say, Hey, I think that it could go a little better. Or, hey, here's what went really well, because we should always remember that feedback is not always negative. Oh, yeah, right. But there's such thing as positive feedback too. And so certainly, it's really good to get back.
Ryan Boelter 1:26:20
Positive reinforcement for me is one of the best learning tools because it tells me I'm doing something right. And that feels so good.
Amelia Antrim 1:26:31
I strongly agree. I think we all respond better to positive feedback. So remember, when we talk about feedback, it is not just negative feedback, but positive feedback as well. This section kind of mirrors what we talked about with GM expectations of players, but now we go into player expectations of GM, the GM. There are some things that are specific to a discussion with your GM. Should the GM make rolls out in the open Are you okay with they do it behind the screen? How do you want the GM to To answer rules, questions or disputes, you know, do you want them to take the time to look it up in the book? Or do you want to say, you know what, I trust your judgment? That's fine. Are there any house rules that you you want to go over? Or that you would love for your GM to implement? Hey, I played in this other game, and we did this thing. It worked really well. It would be cool. If I could do that here. This is the time to have that discussion. Again, like we said before, how much power do players have to define scenes or to narrate or describe things? You ask a GM, how they're going to handle problems that arise during a session? You know, if there's a problem with another player, they're gonna pull them aside one on one, is it? Are they going to pause the game and talk it through? Do you want to wait until the game is over? All of those kinds of things, like we said, in the GM section are things that you guys should kind of negotiate and have a discussion about?
Ryan Boelter 1:27:51
Yeah, and one of the things that this kind of brings me to is it's a negotiation it's it's a discussion With your GM from your perspective, so don't expect this to be a, you need to do it this way, because that's how we want it and have them accept that as law. This is a, I'm suggesting that this is the way it should be. And if it's not, that's okay.
Amelia Antrim 1:28:20
Right. I think, you know, as much as we talk about the GM isn't God, they don't make all the rules, it's important to remember that just because the players outnumber the GM does not mean that their their word is locked either. Like, again, this is a relationship. It's it needs to be given take there needs to be open communication about things and you need to set expectations entirely. What this is about is yes, compromise the key word in any in any good relationship. But, you know, just say what's important to you say what isn't, and be really open about that. Because again, it's going to go better if you say what you want. You know, it's like it's like anything else in life?
Ryan Boelter 1:28:58
Yeah. Now, we're leaving Kind of in between the sessions for the player expectations of the GM. Basically, the lot of this will be mirroring what the GM expectations were, we want to know, how much communication should we be having with the GM? Or each other between the games? What kind of feedback Do we want from the GM about the session? What kind of feedback? Do we want to give our GM? can or should players engage with the story between sessions? And how much should the GM tell players about what is coming up?
Amelia Antrim 1:29:35
Yeah, so a lot of that kind of mirrors. What we said for the gym to kind of talk about between sessions, but, you know, again, it goes both ways. Yep.
Ryan Boelter 1:29:42
And it's very valid. If If you want to take this and hand a copy to every player and say, you know, write down your answers to these questions, and then we'll go over them. If you want to have them do that ahead of time. That's perfectly that's a perfectly valid way of using this document for your sessions heroes, so that when As players, you can focus on the player points. And then you might find some similarities with the other players as you're going through things.
Amelia Antrim 1:30:08
So now we're going to start to get into like a little bit of the meteor stuff will say. But I also want to say that we're actually not going to get too deep into it. So we're going to talk about safety in your sessions and kind of how to navigate that in the session zero. But we're going to dig much deeper into that in another episode, because it is a thing that's, that's really important, and it's important to navigate well, and I want to make sure that we give it its due time and really highlight as many resources and stuff as we can. And I just don't think that we have time to do that in one episode about all of session zero. So we'll kind of give a quick rundown here and some of the stuff is in the documents. And like I said, eventually I want to be able to put more like sources and resources and stuff and for people, but for now we'll just kind of cover the bare bones basics and I promise that next week will will really dig into you. For safety, the best place to start is to say, here are the specific things I want to avoid. Ideally, going into a session zero, you should at least know what game you're playing. And so you can kind of get an idea of the system. And you know that because there are some systems that straight off the bat, you're like, Okay, here's the thing that's going to come up. You know, if I sit down to play nights, black agents, I know there's going to be vampires. That's what the game is. But now, at this point, your GM has kind of given their elevator pitch of like what our scenario is, and you as a person know what you are and are not comfortable with, in general, this is a good time to say, here's my list of absolute notes.
Amelia Antrim 1:31:46
And here's my list of things that like, I'm maybe not super cool with if they were done, right. You know, like, here's my list of things that I would like you to be careful with, because I think that those are important distinctions. You know, There are, there are themes and a lot of games that are mature, but if done well and done carefully, can help tell really good stories. So you don't necessarily want to say I want to outright avoid this absolutely under no circumstances. But you want to say like, Hey, this is a thing that could maybe be a little bit touchy for me. I want you to handle it with care, or also to save your GM. Hey, if it's going to come up, would you mind talking to me about it ahead of time so that I can sort of emotionally prepare myself? Or can we talk about how it's going to come up so that I can let you know if that's a thing I'm going to be okay. This is the time to have that discussion, and to talk to your GM about like what you want that to look like, because I also think that's kind of an ongoing conversation. That should happen, but you can signal to your GM like, Hey, here's the thing that might be a little bit touchy for me and I would like to know ahead of time or I'd like to talk it out with you how it's going to
Ryan Boelter 1:32:52
come up and this is also a great time to have that conversation not only with your GM, but also with the other players at the table. If you You're comfortable with that. Because, like we said before, you don't want a player to accidentally bring up something that is an absolute no for you. And that could very easily happen since you can do anything in role playing games. Absolutely.
Amelia Antrim 1:33:14
And another thing I want to say is that sometimes making this list can be rough for you. I know that I have a few things that I that are hard nose for me. And it's a little bit tough to say because to some degree, I feel like this is my own, like personal sense of obligation. nobody's really making me feel this way. But sometimes I feel like I have to explain why I'm not okay with that or like, what part of it bothers or something like that, you know, you can kind of you feel uncomfortable, like there are things that I want to say like this is a hard know for me, and I don't want to share my life story with you. I'm lucky enough to play in a group of people where I feel really comfortable saying this is a no for me and here's why. So that they know to avoid all of the things around that as well. But sometimes you don't. And so there are definitely mechanisms to get that across without having to like, say it out loud. Yeah. That's the beauty of like online communication or a shared Google Doc. So I know for our games, because we're all remote, we will put one together like months ahead of starting a campaign. We've had one for months for upcoming game, the book just came out yesterday. New Alpha Dog I mentioned five hours ago. But we've been kind of talking back and forth and one of the sections that we always include is like here are my heart knows. And so I can go into that Doc, and I can type it in there. And it doesn't like have my name attached to it. You know, my GM doesn't care who said no to it, they just know that it's a no and that's that's the other option is if you feel comfortable with your GM, you can ask them to make that list. You can all kind of message the GM and say, You're so that like the other players don't necessarily know who wasn't comfortable with that, but they know that it's still on exactly. So there are certainly mechanisms to do that if you don't feel comfortable sharing with the class, but still want to get across that this isn't okay Exactly. On the other hand, like I really encourage you to say how you feel and like say what your nose are and you don't have to explain and if somebody says why, just say, because that's fine, they don't need your whole life story they don't need you to relive your trauma for them. That's that's not a problem The answer is quickly and I have very few rules about role playing but like that, that falls into one of them that if I say like no means now is in life in role playing in general no means now. So if I say this is a no,
Ryan Boelter 1:35:41
it's no be talked about that a lot more in the next episode about all the safety stuff when we do a deep dive into it. But that's, that's pretty much the gist of the x card. You hit it. No questions asked it to know do something different. You don't have to worry about it. And We're coming at this discussion, from the perspective of we're playing with friends or playing with people that we want to be friends with, at the very least. And we're playing with people that we probably know, especially especially for a campaign, because campaigns are especially important for having session zeros like this. Now, we really hope, and I know this is not good. That's not the case for a lot of places. We would really hope that a lot of local game stores, games and campaigns would implement safety tools like this, so that players are
Amelia Antrim 1:36:40
seeing them more and more honestly at conventions too. I know that a lot of convention games that I have played at have, you know, the GM has put in an X card on the table or there been a couple times to where another player has like taken out an index card, put an X on it and put it on set. Are you aware of what please remember as a player if you're in a convention game, or something and you want to implement the x card, do it with like, just have the courage of your convictions, throw that thing in the middle of the table, ask the GM if they have a poster, or rip off a piece of paper, whatever, and just say, you know, explain real quick to the table like, here's what an X card. Yes. Here's how it works. Here's, I want to establish this row, and you are fully within your right to say, this is the thing that makes me feel safe. Exactly. And if somebody has a problem with that, I don't, that's how it will.
Ryan Boelter 1:37:28
Actually, if you're playing with strangers, especially at a con or especially at a brand new game store game, if you don't know the people you're playing with. This is a perfectly acceptable tool. You can use it totally if they refuse, they probably aren't worth playing with.
Amelia Antrim 1:37:47
Absolutely, you know, when you play with people that you know, I can sit down with my friends and you know, like I said, because we communicate pretty frequently. They know what's going on in my life. And they can be like You know what, Amelia is A week, like let's just avoid that particular event. Because we know that that's been exactly. And when you're playing at a convention game at or a game store or something like that, you don't necessarily have that benefit of knowing those people or what's going on in their lives, and they don't know you and what's going on in your life. So absolutely, you should feel free to implement your own safety tools if they are not provided. And jams. If you are running a game at a game store or convention, it is so important to make people feel safe at your hundred percent. I'm sure that's something that once again to next time, because I think that, like we have a whole plethora of tools that can help you do that and not totally stole your game because I know that that's a concern with people to they're like, Well, I mean, if somebody has the x card, then it just ruins the whole game. And it's like, No, they're not accessing your game. They're accessing that stupid thing you just said. Like,
Ryan Boelter 1:38:50
be respectful. Enough stupid or sub optimal sub Yes, yes. So yeah, and less than amazing. Exactly. And we'll go over a lot of that in the next episode about safety. So basically know that there are a lot of mechanisms that one can use to implement these safety tools. And this is basically where you would choose which one you want to use, and discuss how it's going to be used during the game.
Amelia Antrim 1:39:20
Another thing that you should definitely talk about is how to handle things that come up, that aren't necessarily a hard know, but could be awkward or uncomfortable. This is a thing that I think comes up in horror games and which is kind of where we're going to be directing our next episode because it's Halloween. But in you know, in games, where you have romantic relationships to you know, it's definitely a little bit weird to like, look across the table at somebody and you know, like, my GM is playing my date. And now we're going to narrate the sex scene, like no, we're not doing that. And so these are the kinds of tools where you're like, Okay, I'm okay admitting that this thing happened. I do. not want to narrate. And I do not want to roll Exactly. This is the kind of place to say like, these are things that I'm kind of like, on. And here's how I would like them to be
Ryan Boelter 1:40:09
exactly because it's difficult to flirt with your friends. And doing that in character can be fun, but it can be fun for everybody so uncomfortable. So having a veil for something as simple as flirting, just saying, this is something that happened, and this is kind of how it went. is so much easier sometimes than actually flirting. Because, Boy, that's
Amelia Antrim 1:40:44
Oh, and this is a good time to discuss that because there are because people are definitely too so like I can hear how you're talking about that and saying like, Oh, it's super uncomfortable, whereas me I'm like, that's the thing that I really want to do in a game. I really want to play out like a character romance with somebody and like having This, you and I will be totally comfortable with with an you know, depending on who I'm playing with, obviously. But like, that's the thing that I really want to try out. But clearly you're not the person to try that out with. And so
Ryan Boelter 1:41:11
I'm coming from the perspective of my friends. And I
Amelia Antrim 1:41:16
totally know I mean, I'm not saying specifically but I'm saying like at a table, it's a good discussion to have, because like, if you and I didn't know each other, or let's say, I was one of those friends, and I was totally comfortable with it, and then I go to approach you and you're not, you're not very comfortable with it. That's not going to be fun. And so you can say like, hey, if it does come to this, that's the thing that I don't want to do. And I can say to, you know, my GM or another player, like, Hey, I'm totally cool with that. That's fine. I'd love to see how that goes. So those kinds of discussions to are not just game specific, but can be like a little more granular and be players. And you can say, Yeah, like we said, You know that I just want to like narrate this. You can also just say, I'm Want to say this thing happened? Yes, because sometimes you don't want to describe in detail everything that happened. You know, we we talked a little bit in our AP episode about the different kinds of character voice that there are in character. They're sort of paraphrasing and explaining and then there's out of character. And so you may want to out of character say, here's the thing that happened. You may sort of paraphrasing want to describe a scene, but not actually engage in that full conversation of what that looked like. You may want to actually play it out. And those are all options that you have, but kind of discussing like what things fall into what category Yeah,
Ryan Boelter 1:42:38
exactly. checking in with everybody, especially when touch your subjects are coming in to play is extremely important. If your GM is planning to introduce one of your quote unquote veils that will talk about The terminology leader, if they're planning to introduce something that you are okay ish with, then check in with them to make sure it's not turned from an okayish into a hard dough. There's importance in enthusiastic and ongoing consent, right? Because I keep going back to the fact that this is a relationship.
Amelia Antrim 1:43:22
And so you want to be constantly checking in and making sure that things are not only okay, but still okay.
Ryan Boelter 1:43:30
People can change from day to day, and sometimes you might have a harder week than other weeks and you get to the session, you just want to unwind, you don't want to deal with any of your maybe it's okay, that's perfectly fine. And it might even be fine during this the setup for the game to say you know, I've had a really rough week. Maybe we can avoid any of my life. Happy things on my list of things that are good to avoid
Amelia Antrim 1:44:06
right and I think sometimes to just like the way things are brought up like how they come about you could say that you know like I'm okay with death in my games yeah but I'm not okay with my characters mom dying because you know whatever yeah you don't have to explain but you know there may be like a certain subsets of things that you're not okay with or like the way that it came about in the story is particularly rough for you. Yeah, it for whatever reason, checking in with people as it comes up is good. Check in not just in your session zero, not just when you first bring up the topic, but as it goes along. Hey, are we still okay? Exactly. You know, is this still good? Are we still feeling comfortable? Are we still feeling like enthusiastic about this because like we keep saying anything that's less than great is not worth doing. You are here to have fun. You are playing role playing games to have a good time. Yes. And so if you are not having Having a good time, just say so. But also make sure that the people around you are having a good time. That is part of your responsibility in this role playing relationship.
Ryan Boelter 1:45:11
If everybody is checking in on everybody else and making sure everybody else is having a good time, you're going to have a good time because you're part of the everybody else. Right?
Amelia Antrim 1:45:21
Absolutely. And it doesn't have to derail the whole game. You don't have to stop and be like, Okay, I'm going to introduce topic x now Is everyone okay with that? Yeah. You can just kind of say, like, look at the person and be like, Is this okay? You know, even just like, look at them and give them like a nod. got, you know, I mean, there's, there's lots of ways to communicate those things with people. But as long as you are, like I said, phrasing it as a question to I think I said at one point, give people the option to opt out. Yes. And you know, that is advice for gems for players, like look at everybody around you. And make sure that you're all having fun because even if you and I are playing out a romantic relationship, and something's happening, and we're Both totally okay with it. But our friend, Jim Bob over here is not, then we should stop. Because he is also here to play this game, whether his characters being affected or not he as a player is being affected, you know, and so we need to have those be awareness of everybody to that it's not just one on one, but this is yes. My relationship with everyone at the table.
Ryan Boelter 1:46:23
Yeah, I just heard this recently, I believe on a podcast, where they were talking about, they play with their husband. And there was a point where they would flirt with their, their their character flirt with their husbands character. But the husband got uncomfortable about that in front of all of their friends. Because it was kind of like PDA. Right? It could
Amelia Antrim 1:46:51
Yeah, and that's totally can be weird for people like and people can feel weird about things for a variety of reasons. And again, it doesn't matter what you're uncomfortable. You don't owe anybody an explanation. This is a game. You're here for fun. And just yeah, I mean, and those are the kinds of things to that. You wouldn't necessarily put on your list of hard nose, right? You wouldn't say like, no, definitely no flirting. But in the moment, you're like, you know what, I don't really like this. I thought I would be okay with it, or it's a thing I've never tried before. And I thought I would like it and I don't. So stop like you don't go buy some ice cream, not like it and then keep eating it. Like, no, you stop. This is just like that. If you don't like it, then stop.
Ryan Boelter 1:47:34
Unknown Speaker 1:47:35
And if someone else doesn't like it, stop,
Ryan Boelter 1:47:38
yes. But that's even more important.
Amelia Antrim 1:47:41
Yes, yes. So and again, well, we will we're going to do a deep dive into these at some point and I talked a lot about it because it's, it's an important subject and I definitely want to make sure that people know some of it but if you want to like learn more about some of the specifics of this or some some mechanics that can kind of help you work this out at the table or ahead of time, definitely listen to us next week, because we're going to have a lot of a lot of talk about that.
Ryan Boelter 1:48:06
All right. So once you've gotten all of that wonderful session zero stuff out of the way, there's still a little bit of work that you need to do.
Amelia Antrim 1:48:16
Mm hmm. This is the out of game. So the outer game stuff, right. So
Ryan Boelter 1:48:20
yeah, so how often are you going to be playing? Are you going to be playing in a weekly game like we might have done in college or high school? Or is it going to be monthly, which is going to be maybe a little bit more easy to handle when you have families and newborns and jobs and all this other real life stuff that might get in the way?
Amelia Antrim 1:48:46
How long are your sessions going to take? Are you going to be there for four hours? Are you going to play all day? You know, those are important things to know too. Because again, I have to schedule my babies that are exactly
Ryan Boelter 1:48:57
yeah. And is it going to be a whole campaign that you're going to be playing? Are you going to be playing series one shots? Are you going to have a campaign that spans years or months, there's a lot of different ways that you can go about that. And this is a great way to figure out how long your campaign is actually going to be.
Amelia Antrim 1:49:19
And you may not know, I mean, the answer may be like, until we feel like our story's done, and that's totally fine too. But you know, there are some games where you say like, okay, we're gonna play this for three or four sessions. And then that's it, we're going to try and wrap it up is I have a tight story that I want to tell or you know, we want to try this next new thing, but that's a good thing for everybody to know.
Ryan Boelter 1:49:37
And then how do we get in contact with each other? Are we going to be using slack discord, email, instant messaging, SMS?
Amelia Antrim 1:49:48
carrier pigeon, telegram
Ryan Boelter 1:49:51
Amelia Antrim 1:49:55
What happens if somebody needs to cancel plans, you know, sometimes stuff comes up, you don't feel good about Whatever. How do you get in contact with everybody? Exactly.
Ryan Boelter 1:50:03
And do games go on without a player, you might only have three or four people in your group, one player means you can't play. You might have six or seven people in your group and one player means let's keep playing. We'll catch them up next time.
Amelia Antrim 1:50:19
Well, and what do you do in those instances where you say, we can't play our campaign? Does everybody else look at together for board games? Do they? Do you play something else? Or do you disagree? Like, we'll try it again next time. And you may not always know the answer, but these are kind of just to roughly gauge how people are feeling.
Ryan Boelter 1:50:34
And then how do you want to manage the schedule? Are you going to be doing a Google Calendar? Are you going to be doing doing it on a spreadsheet or or however you want to keep track of it? How is that going to be kept track of?
Amelia Antrim 1:50:48
Yep. Do you just have people put it in their phones right there while you're at the game, just empty, bring it in your paper, calendar, whatever. But like once those once those times are decided, how do you make sure that everybody remembers two weeks that was, was it last week or next week?
Ryan Boelter 1:51:01
Exactly. Yeah. And then you want to go over a few things like the game specifics like house rules, important notes about the suddenness story, all sorts of things like that. You're going to be creating characters probably during your session zero, you know, figuring out the names and backgrounds and all that sort of fun, juicy detail.
Amelia Antrim 1:51:21
Yeah, and we didn't put a whole lot in our session zero document about creating characters and how to do those NPC relationships. I may flush some of that out later. But a lot of systems kind of have some tools built or you'll kind of decide that around the table I you know, I might put in some kind of questions and stuff. But if you want to talk about how character building works in a group, yeah, we're not going to do it. In this episode, you can listen to pretty much any show, to see how that goes and how we how we run down that process. So don't feel like we need to go into that into detail. Here. We have, you know, nine times three episodes already. 26 In other episodes about building characters can go find that somewhere else.
Ryan Boelter 1:52:04
Exactly. So, effectively, that's what a session zero boils down to get all the details, what you want, what you don't want, and start building your characters start building your people create those wonderful, wonderful people, and let them interact with each other. Mm hmm.
Amelia Antrim 1:52:21
And one last thing that I want to say on this topic is that there's also a variety of ways to have this session zero, right? Yeah, there's, we've talked kind of a little more specifically about sitting down in person and doing it as a group. I don't play in person, but even when we do our session zeros, we kind of do them over chat, the same way that we would play a regular game. Exactly. But you know, like I said, we also keep an ongoing Google Doc of like plans for a campaign and lots of stuff is written down in there. So our session zeros are happening for months. You know, it's sort of a long form, session zero kind of process. So definitely do it a way that works for you. You, if you sitting down for an entire session zero, like we said, time is a very finite resource. So maybe sitting down in person or even scheduling a call doesn't necessarily work for you. And you can have that conversation over chat or something like that.
Ryan Boelter 1:53:15
Amelia Antrim 1:53:16
Do what works for you. I just think that you should be having this conversation somehow it doesn't matter how you go about having it, but it's a conversation that should be had, and there's so much value there.
Ryan Boelter 1:53:28
Yeah. And especially if you're comfortable with it, have it open with everybody that's going to be at the table players and GM alike, because you never know when one of your friends is going to have some really brilliant input into something that you want to do. Maybe that'll make a better story.
Amelia Antrim 1:53:44
Yeah, I feel like you hear that in a lot of our episodes to somebody else suggests something and you're like, Oh, we Yes, absolutely. And you want to be able to have those kinds of moments too. And so this is this is the beauty of a session zero is not just a lot of that, like needed. scheduling detail, not just talking about safety and stuff like that. But just really, like the whole goal of a session zero is to sit down and say, How can we have the best game possible exec and here are some some tools to help you do that here is an outline of things to kind of remember to talk about if they apply to your game. That's the whole goal here is just to like help you have an amazing time, because it is a finite resource and don't waste your time having less than an amazing time.
Ryan Boelter 1:54:36
And if you are listening to this episode, which you wouldn't be hearing this otherwise,
Amelia Antrim 1:54:41
if you've made it this far,
Ryan Boelter 1:54:42
this far. If your group doesn't listen, let them listen to this episode before the next session zero because they might be able to glean some stuff from it that may have passed you up. So that way everybody is just as educated. Going into these really, really amazing sessions to create the best game possible. I've gotten so much feedback from our kinds of fun episode, our voices episode how much it has helped everybody that has listened to it in their group at the table
Amelia Antrim 1:55:20
Yeah, that's my favorite when we get feedback from people are like, Oh, I you know, I've made the other players at my table, listen to this. And you know, like if you are a GM or if you are even a player in a game and other people are like not super enthusiastic about having a session zero. And I'm like, I don't really see the point. It let us let us be the bad guys. We will explain it and we will tell them what's what you send them my way and I will have words at them and those words are this episode. We will let us let us explain it because we just spent a really long time explaining it so you don't have to.
Ryan Boelter 1:55:55
It's just for everybody take into account that what we say on the Character evolution cast episodes is to help you become a better player to help your game masters understand the roles of the player better, and to let every single person at your gaming table, have a heck of a lot more fun playing these games that we love so much.
Amelia Antrim 1:56:22
Right. And I think that yeah, I mean, I feel like this episode highlights everything that we are trying to do with our podcasts, which is why Ryan and I felt like we didn't necessarily need a guest for this episode. We've clearly filled our time. But it's basically a session to it was everything that we are trying to do is trying to build great characters and tell a great story and have a really good time. And just like have the best experience possible and a session zero is a great way to start that and I think the last piece of advice that I want to give is to tell players ask your GM for a session zero if they're not planning one because That is again fully within your rights you are here to have fun and play a game and you know all that kind of stuff. So it's okay to ask for that too. If your GM doesn't have one planned having one is not on them. It's you can you can say what you want to. So seriously try it out. I that's my advice. Try it out. See, see how much better see how right I am. You'll see you'll all see
Unknown Speaker 1:57:31
this is what I deal with people.
Unknown Speaker 1:57:34
Ryan Boelter 1:57:37
I love the enthusiasm. I am 100% in agreement, at the very least if you try it out, and you don't like it, at least you tried it out.
Amelia Antrim 1:57:45
So I Ryan, do you have any last words of advice for people.
Ryan Boelter 1:57:48
Now I think we pretty much covered everything and we're going to be getting into the the meteor safety topic next time and I think these two episodes combined will Give you an absolutely amazing session zero, if you go ahead and follow the suggestions.
Amelia Antrim 1:58:07
Absolutely. And like I said, we'll keep kind of working on our living document of session zero ideas, but we'll put a link to that in our show notes. And we will tweet it out on Twitter so that you guys can see it. I know we've shared it in our discord before, it's hopefully you guys will find it to be a valuable tool because we've solidified everything that we've talked about here into a document that we want you to be able to use to help plan stuff. So we will have that available for you too. If you if you liked some of the stuff that you heard here and you want to kind of incorporate it in your in your own game. All right, well, thank you, everybody. Thank you for listening to Ryan and I goof off for a long time not going to say how long because I don't know how much I'll edit
Unknown Speaker 1:58:50
X number of minutes.
Amelia Antrim 1:58:52
But we will be back next week with with more session zero nonsense.
Ryan Boelter 1:58:57
Nonsense. Stay tuned and until next time. Go out there and make some amazing people by it.
Amelia Antrim 1:59:08
Character evolution cast, like Character Creation Cast is a production of the one shot Podcast Network and can be found online at www dot Character Creation cast.com. head to the website to get more information on our hosts and guests, or even find some of our character sheets. Character Creation Cast can be found on Twitter at Creation Cast, and one of your hosts Amelia antrum. And that can be found on twitter at ginger recommend. Our other host Ryan bolter can be found on twitter at Lord Neptune. Music for this episode is used with a Creative Commons license, or with permission from the podcast it originated from. Further information can be found within the show notes. This episode was edited by Amelia antrum. Further information for today's guest can also be found in the show notes. Thanks for joining us. And remember, we find that the best part of any role playing game is character creation. So go out there and create some amazing people. We'll see you next time.
Unknown Speaker 2:00:11
Now we got to read some show blurbs show blurbs
Unknown Speaker 2:00:14
Unknown Speaker 2:00:16
Ryan Boelter 2:00:18
Character Creation Cast is hosted by the one shot Podcast Network. If you enjoyed our show, visit one shot podcast calm, where you'll find other great shows like a horror Borealis.
Amelia Antrim 2:00:31
A horror Borealis is an actual play monster of the week podcast set in the 1990s in the fictional town of Revenant, Alaska, just south of the nation's least visited National Park and way north of everything else, a reclusive small game hunter with a magical secret. A young anarchist librarian with a passion for conspiracy theory, and a sensible park ranger with a strong local book club following find themselves pulled together by common threads woven mysteriously into their passions When monsters begin plaguing their tiny community, but they soon discover the things they're fighting run much deeper and much closer to home. Tune in for a story about identity, empathy, Community Mental Illness and healing and stay for the beloved local diner.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai