With the start of a new year nearly upon us, many people, myself included, are thinking of starting brand new campaigns. Fresh starts are great for getting people excited about the game again and are important to allow you to explore areas you otherwise wouldn’t be able to if you played the same game for years on end. Starting a new campaign can be difficult, however. Managing schedules, coordinating characters, planning overarching plots, building a world, and encouraging teamwork all before the end of the first session can be overwhelming. Today, I’d like to break down what goes into starting a new campaign, and what can be done to simplify the process.
One of the most important things I like to do when I start a new campaign is to hold a session 0. For those of you haven’t heard of session 0, it is a session with its sole purpose to have everyone on the same page. You discuss the rules, create characters together, establish boundaries, and discover what everyone wants from the campaign. Session 0’s are very important but are very often misunderstood because people don’t know what to expect from them. Because session 0’s are so different from normal sessions, many people tend to overthink them. Session 0’s are actually fairly simple, it’s just a time for you and your players to establish what you want out of the game.
This Session 0 Checklist made by /u/HazeZero provides a massive wealth of questions that you can ask your players the first time you guys sit down together. Just go through it piece by piece and be sure to ask your players the questions you find to be most relevant. Doing this will give you a great understanding of what everybody wants, and might even spark important discussions that everyone should be aware of.
Inbetween 0 and 1
I do very little planning before the Session 0. At most I will have a world prepared and a general idea of what I want from the game. (Sometimes, I won’t even have a world prepared). But after I receive everyone’s input, we have a world prepared, and characters have been made, I start to prepare. One of the first things I start with is creating a Map with 3 Hooks. To put it simply, I make a map of the surrounding area, about 1-5 miles across, and add 3 or more hooks to it for the players to explore. Doing this gives the players the freedom to explore while keeping the workload reasonable on my part.
The next thing I would recommend is to create the endgame villain. In the Session 0, you should have learned how long the players would like the campaign to be. With this in mind, you can then create a villain who the players will eventually have to face off with. With this in mind, you can also tune your 3 hooks to also tie into this final villain. Thanks to the information you have received in the Session 0, you can also create a villain who is tied with the players and is a foil to the party. This villain can then be the driving force behind the campaign, and the ultimate goal for your players.
Once you get to this part, everything should be set in place. Everyone knows what to expect, you have a great villain waiting in the wings, you have a mini sandbox for them to explore with several hooks to choose from. With all of that being said, the goal of this session is to get the players invested with their characters and with each other. Dnd is a game all about teamwork, and establishing that early on in the campaign will lead to great sessions down the line.
There are 2 ways to establish great teamwork in the beginning. The first can be through a puzzle that requires all of the characters unique skills to accomplish. What if there is a door that requires the rogue to unlock it, but it is floating in the air? Then you need the wizard to cast levitate to allow the rogue to unlock it. But then, goblins start swarming in and the fighter has to protect the wizard. The other way you can establish teamwork is through insurmountable odds. When everything is at it’s most dire, the party will do everything they can to get out, which in turn will lead to teamwork. Whether the task is insurmountable or not isn’t really that important, but the appearance of unbeatable odds will drive your players to work as a team.
Starting a campaign is not necessarily an easy task. But if done correctly, a good start will lead to months and years of fun. There are a lot of things to cover at the beginning, and breaking it up into smaller tasks is one of the best ways to go about it. Session 0’s are great for establishing the tone for the game and can give you all of the information you need to prepare for the actual game itself. And once you finally get there, if you can get the party to work as a cohesive unit, the rest of the campaign will be a breeze. Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a great week and an amazing Tuesday!