Session Zero Part 10: Group Template

David Teniers the Younger - The King Drinks (1690)

Everything is going great.  All of the players have come together and created characters, where there were none.  They have tied their characters to your setting.  Everyone participated, contributed, and (hopefully) had a good time doing it.  It can seem lengthy, but that is what Session Zero is all about.

But, alas, we are not done yet.  This is the final post of the series, where we transition from crafting the characters, to how the characters know each other and where they work.

I must admit something.  I have no interest in running games where the characters do not have a relationship together, let alone having never met.  I have spent years crafting opening scenarios where I either trap the players into a scene (“prisoners on a wagon”) to the no one knows anyone (“you meet in a tavern”), and of course everything in between.

No, I make the players tell me how they know each and every party member.  Not just one either.  All of them.  Many times I establish a business or organization (current day) where they all work, then make them determine how they got there.

I do recommend that you, the DM, be flexible to what they want, and listen very closely.


Section 1: Where You Work

For this campaign (the Lost Mine of Phandelver from D&D 5th Edition Starter Box set), rather than the recommended hook where the adventurers are “on their way” to delivering goods for a patron as contractors, I fleshed out the patron’s business, and made our characters employees of it.

To that end, I had the players answer the following questions about their job with the boss, Gundren Rockseeker.  I want to know how long characters have been working with Rockseeker, and are under contract for how many more months.  I also have them get a steady paycheck from Rockseeker, of which cover the “Modest Lifestyle” expenses, but also to guarantee extra coin for their efforts.  To reflect my economy, I show what other jobs pay.  For more fun, I state their contract entitles them to a death benefit (in the unlikely event of course), they can roll for the amount and declare where it should be given.

Another detail I like to find out in this section is about looting bodies.  This is a perfect time for players to figure out about who will loot, how it is split, and who may not care about that sort of thing.

DM Tip:  I had my players make 2 characters each.  That way I could have two teams, just in case of total-party-kills.  If a single player would die, they could be sent to catch up with the original party.

Group Worksheet 1

This final section is how each character knows each other before working for their employer.  Players can pick or roll (in pairs) until every relationship is decided.

Group Worksheet 2

I know this is quite a journey, but once your players go through answering all the questions together, rolling for all their starting gold, and finding out how everyone knows each other, you may not ever have players bring characters made in isolation again.

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