Session Zero

I know, I said I didn’t want to abandon this blog immediately after setting it up, then I abandoned it after the first post. Well, I’m back! If nothing else, I’ll at least post D&D write ups here.

We had our session zero last night. The aim of a session zero is to get everyone on the same page in terms of play style, house rules, controversial topics like sexuality, and so on. We went through all of that, nothing surprising or unusual there because most of the players were new, then we started creating characters. We threw party balance to the wind and ended up with:

  • A female halfling rogue whose name I can’t remember.
  • A male halfling rogue named Shadow Throatslitter or something edgelordy like that.
  • A human dragon sorceror who goes by Cliff because nobody can pronounce his real name. His entire backstory is that his human dad really wanted to have sex with a dragon.
  • A dragonborn dragon sorceror named Rhogar who doesn’t realize he’s a sorceror (me). The idea is that a dragonborn draconic sorceror wouldn’t be able to tell that they’re a sorceror. Dragon scales start showing up? Their eyes look like dragon eyes? They already look like that. Elemental dragon abilities? They already have them.
  • A half-elf nature cleric whose name I can’t remember. All I know is that he’s racist against elves.

So we have two squishy skill monkey DPS characters, two squishy magic DPS characters, and our only tank is also the healer. Perfect. I’d also like to note that the players of the male halfling rogue, human dragon, and cleric all rolled for stats, and they averaged something like a 14. The rogue has 19 dex at level one and I’m pretty sure human dragon was the only one who got a negative modifier on anything.

After character creation, the DM ran us through a one-shot story he wrote, because three of the players have never played D&D. Instead of the typical “you all meet in a tavern”, we met outside the tavern, after everyone spent a long day on the road heading into Neverwinter. We hear a scream, turn around, and see a red haired thief stealing a satchel from a priestess of Tyr. Questioning and an Insight check of 24 reveal nothing useful, other than that the stolen money was supposed to go toward revitalizing the poor district, she goes to get guards while we investigate, and we find a matchbox dropped by the thief engraved with a fiddle logo. She comes back with guards, one of them (named Carl) recognizes the fiddle, and takes us to a seedy bar called The Silent Fiddle (ironically in the poor district that the money was already going to.)

The bar is empty, save for the bartender (Barney), a couple guys playing cards, and a drunk passed out in the corner. Questioning the bartender reveals only that he hasn’t given out any of the matchboxes for years, and he doesn’t remember giving one out to a redhead. Nature cleric starts asking the spiders if they’ve seen a redhead, they spell out in their webs Charlotte’s Web-stype that they haven’t seen anything, laughs were had all around. Drunk (Steve) wakes up, freaks out about being late, and wanders off, with the rogues trailing him. Barkeep mentions that Steve just got a new job, and that he’s been seen with a redhead lately.

The rogues follow Steve to an alley, where he meets up with the redheaded thief and yells at him about poisoning him. The rogues get ambushed and both are knocked out inside of a couple rounds.

Back at the bar, the bartender mentions that Steve passed out much faster than usual, so the nature cleric licks his glass to see if he was poisoned, and immediately passes out. The sorcerors question the bartender about his serving practices to try to figure out if the glass was poisoned, he pours himself a pint, and immediately passes out. Sorcerors realize that it’s the suspiciously unmarked keg that is poisoned, open it up to investigate, and the card players pass out. Both sorcerors try to get out to the street to get some fresh air, but human dragon fails the con save and passes out. Dragon dragon tries to use his shirt as a makeshift gas mask, which doesn’t work but he makes the con save anyway, and drags the cleric out. He tries to put some holes in the building to ventilate it, but fails, and makes another con save. He then tries to use Ray of Frost to freeze the alcohol and stop it from vaporizing, but ends up freezing the wood of the keg instead, and it shatters and spills everywhere instead. He finally fails a con save and passes out.

The entire party wakes up inside the bar, naked and missing all of their equipment and money. A dwarf comes by, explains that several adventurers every week are taken by this scam, replaces all of their equipment, and asks them to escort a caravan to Phandalin and help him investigate a mine. That’s where we left off for session one.

The goal the entire time was for all of us to pass out either via combat or the keg trap, so it wasn’t just that we sucked. Actually, we lasted longer than expected, especially the dragon dragon making 4 con saves of increasing difficulty before finally failing because of a difficulty spike.

I’ll admit that at times I felt a little railroaded, but I think that’s inherent in any one shot with a story. In a normal story, you can let the players work at their own pace and spend multiple sessions exploring side plots if need be, and come back to the main thread in their own time. In a one shot with a story, you don’t have any time to waste, you have to keep them on track the entire time. The only ways I’ve seen to handle it are railroading during the session and railroading before the session, by giving them a very explicit premise.

More importantly, the first timers all seemed to enjoy it pretty well, even if they did spend a good chunk of it unconscious. The rogues got to sneak, the human dragon got to solve mysteries, and the cleric got to get wasted. We never had any major playing style or alignment conflicts. We only had two rounds of combat, and the only ones who saw it were the rogues, so the others haven’t had a chance to get used to it, but we’ll cross that bridge in a couple weeks.