Dungeons and Dragons Session Zero for 2020

I brought this up a couple of times during the RPGaDay 2019 prompts, but I need to actively plan my next DM session zero, whenever it might be, and think about what I want to bring to it.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the big topic going around at the moment – fantasy races.
I get it, we want to be rid of racism, let’s stop saying that race determines abilities. It’s one of the things that have annoyed me for a while, that I can’t easily make a dwarven wizard or a half-orc sorcerer without taking some kind of penalty.
Are we happy with the word ‘race‘? I’m less inclined to replace it with ancestry, as I’m less inclined to allow half-races for certain groups (I don’t want to know how half-Kenku or half-Centaurs work…). I think I’m going to go with ‘ilk‘ for now, as that works for what I want, and still sounds suitably ‘olde worlde‘.
We’ll pull the modifiers from backgrounds and classes, and I’ll be writing a post about how I plan to do that soon.

Next up, what do I want to bring to the table?

I want my players to know that I like the RP aspect of the game, and I’d rather play that up more than many games. I don’t enjoy endless slogs through dungeons when I don’t also have an option to take a week off and RP.
I’ll also be looking again at the skill challenge mechanics from 4e, which were one of the parts of the game I liked. Sometimes, I want you to find a dungeon without monsters in it, and be focused on exploration, puzzles and avoiding traps.
No monsters in the dungeon in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, except for the Nazis.

I also want to make sure there are ways to communicate easily.
I had a few episodes in the last game I ran where people didn’t show up and had to rapidly change the scale of the session ahead. I’m fine with doing it, but more warning works out better.
So a WhatsApp group or a Facebook page or something is an option.
I will also be doing more of a get-to-know-you experience in session zero if I don’t already know all of the players, because it’s hard to build content everyone is interested in otherwise.

And finally house rules and homebrew.
Generally speaking, I allow a lot at my table, but knowing that my next game as a DM is likely to be with a group with a mix of experience, I’ll have to enforce a couple of things.
This is basically a list of things I’ll need to make sure I implement for fairness –
1. All rolls on the table and an agreement that a die is cocked so deserves a reroll.
2. Inspiration is a thing but will be awarded by me for roleplaying to your Traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws. I tend to ignore alignment but keep a note of ‘evil’ actions for later. It can be awarded by other players if all others agree an action deserves it (and I’ll pull that if it becomes necessary).
I’ve yet to decide if I want to expand the options of what inspiration can do.
3. Three strikes for behaviour with warnings. If it feels like we need to, I’ll be pulling out the consent checklist.
And this is a list of stuff I allow –
1. If it’s printed in an official book and fits the setting, I’ll allow it. It should have been thoroughly playtested already by that point.
2. If it’s printed in a third party book and fits the setting, I’ll consider it. It should have been thoroughly playtested by that point, but depending on the source it can still be difficult.
3. If it’s been posted as an Unearthed Arcana and it fits the setting, I’ll consider it. If it’s been posted on the Reddit page r/UnearthedArcana, I’ll be the one that adds these rules to the game.
4. I’ll most likely be using a lot of stuff pulled from books on DrivethruRPG and DMsGuild, so there will still be plenty of options.

Do I want to steal any mechanics from other games to throw in here? Maybe.
In a perfect world, I’d get everyone to give me a core character concept that I can also throw inspiration at for playing up to, but realistically it’s difficult to have that concept before starting, especially as a new player.
If we go for an urban fantasy setting, I’d probably take a hint from FATE and get some player input on what they want in the game using the city building mechanics from Dresden Files. It’s certainly possible to do that a bit with less urban-based settings, but it definitely works best in that genre.
I’m still sitting on the fence for exploding dice. It could be fun, it could break everything. We’ll see.

I think that pretty much sums up my current plans, though I’m sure players can still throw a wrench in them somehow.

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