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Referee's Lounge Discussion of how to (and not to) Referee Traveller and Cepheus Engine games. No edition warring allowed.

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Old November 25th, 2018, 09:02 AM
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Default Thoughts on Session 0

“Session 0” is one ( or more ) sessions where the players and Referee get together to talk about the upcoming Traveller campaign, or series of sessions. As a Referee I’ve usually split Session 0 into two sessions - pre-character-generation and post-characters. I'm talking about in-person time here, but all of this could apply to online games as well.

Before the first “pre” session, I’ve emailed some ideas I have about the campaign, so when we’re sitting down together that first time we talk more about those options. I outline how I see our universe varying from the OTU, if at all. I want to give the players examples and some details of possible games we could create together, but I also want to be open to what the players might find engaging for story, theme, or any aspects of the game.

In the first session I’ll also talk about house rules, hammer out where we’re meeting and how often, all of that. I’ll talk about the specifics of how I see character development going, give my suggestions or tweaks. I’ll have a sheet to pass to the players with all this admin and character stuff on it, even though I hope players are making note

If there’s time during that first session we’ll start characters. If not, we’ll start the next session with characters. We’ll all make them together, the more knowledgeable players and I helping the newbies. Then we’ll talk about how the characters know each other; the Mongoose rules have some interesting ideas about how to integrate this into character development. I know this can all be hand-waved, but I like taking a little time to work it out and build some cohesion with the players that way. At the end of this session the characters will be done, we’ll know how they know each other, they’ll know where in the universe they are, and have some idea of the events that set the campaign in motion.

During this session I’ll also do a little shakedown play. I’ll run them through a scenario or two to demonstrate the mechanics and help familiarize them with the mechanics and playing together - some skill tests, some roleplay, some combat. None of the negatives will apply; anyone injured or killed will have this hand-waved away before we start the campaign next session but if the players earn, win, or acquire something I’ll let them keep it.

How do you use Session 0? What do you do, or what would you do? What's worked for you, in the past?
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Last edited by Spenser TR; November 25th, 2018 at 02:47 PM.. Reason: Words
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Old November 25th, 2018, 01:42 PM
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A 'unified goals talk' would have been a good idea last time I set up a group, but we went with the 'how do we crowbar these disparate characters together' approach.

We definately did a couple combat run-throughs in a sandbox first.
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Old November 25th, 2018, 02:47 PM
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It sounds like a great idea if you have the players that have the time to do that. In the groups that I have played with, if I did that it would be ore like Session 0, 2 to 4 weeks later, Session 1, and then maybe 4 weeks later to likely never the actual gaming session.

If I manage one game day a month on Saturday I am lucky.
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Old November 25th, 2018, 03:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timerover51 View Post
It sounds like a great idea if you have the players that have the time to do that.
-nods-

I won’t run a game that can’t meet at least once every 2 weeks, and my preference is for every week. I know this doesn’t work for everyone; I am making the assumptions that there is a group, and they are meeting often enough for everyone ( maybe particularly the Ref ) to feel its worth it.

I’ve definitely had games that either didn’t take flight or that collapsed because we couldn’t manage this.
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Old November 25th, 2018, 04:09 PM
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For longer term home groups, I've often done setting questionnaires.

I don't count those as a session 0, largely because they're handed out when I'm nearing the end of the current campaign; my campaign goal is in sight.

My most recent traveller campaign was a proper session 0.
In order:
  1. Describe what makes the OTU.
  2. Ask if they want the OTU. (Resounding Yes)
  3. Ask which type of campaign: Troubleshooter, Merchant, random retirees, board of directors, active duty (Army, Marines, Scouts), Crooks on the Run. (Mixture was selected. So, Marooned! while en route to become troubleshooters.
  4. Generate characters with an aim to setting appropriate.
    • Allows to reroll 2 separate dice during Char Gen - each can be one of a 2d roll, or a 1d roll.
    • One skill roll per term, may roll then pick table
    • Standard "Short term and out" for PCs.
    • Added a decoration roll, reverse engineered from T20. (rather than cribbed from CT)

If they had gone for non-OTU, I'd have had several more questions as step 1.x...
  • Big Ship, Medium Ship, Small Ship
  • Empire Size
    • Large Empire (more than 4 sectors)
      • Edge
      • transition
      • Core
    • Medium (at least two and not more than 10 SS across)
      • Edge
      • Central
    • Small
      • How many subsectors?
      • Weak or Strong?
      • Expanding, collapsing or stable?
    • Pockets galore
  • Role of Empire: one or more of...
    • For-profit for the Throne
    • For-profit for the core worlds
    • Maximization of Trade
    • Protectionism for the nobles
    • Protectionism for member corporations
    • Protectionism for the member pocket empires
    • Protectionism for the member worlds
    • External Threat resistance
    • Internal Threat resistance
    • Advancement of science
    • Preservation of the status quo
    • Reduction of technological status quo (possibly external or fringe only)

Most of my players don't want to get into THAT much detail, tho'...
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Old November 25th, 2018, 04:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spenser TR View Post
How do you use Session 0? What do you do, or what would you do? What's worked for you, in the past?
I give out pre-gens to players interested in learning the mechanic for Traveller. We do a one-shot where the Travellers are sand-boxing on a damaged ship that is re-entering a planet's atmosphere and will burn up and crash. The Travellers need to survive along the way. No maps. No minis. Just role-play.

After that, we talk more about the Traveller game and what we can do theme-wise and character-wise for a next game. We decide if we'll use our characters over again or create new ones for the next game (I have the players make their characters before we meet up again for the next game).

Somewhere in there was our Session 0. This is all done online with mic and cameras these days, by the way.
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Old November 25th, 2018, 06:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aramis View Post
...which type of campaign: Troubleshooter, Merchant, random retirees, board of directors, active duty (Army, Marines, Scouts), Crooks on the Run
I love this list. And your approach. I have my points written out and speak to them, but I only give the players the reference material about my chargen, house rules, and all that. A little like a syllabus.

I also like to get into details if possible, as you call out with your non-OTU groups. Of course I don’t want to give away story arcs, but if I can get some early buy in with a little granularity, that’s awesome.

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Originally Posted by ShawnDriscoll View Post
I give out pre-gens to players interested in learning the mechanic for Traveller. We do a one-shot where the Travellers are sand-boxing on a damaged ship that is re-entering a planet's atmosphere and will burn up and crash. The Travellers need to survive along the way. No maps. No minis. Just role-play.

After that, we talk more about the Traveller game and what we can do theme-wise and character-wise for a next game. We decide if we'll use our characters over again or create new ones for the next game (I have the players make their characters before we meet up again for the next game).

Somewhere in there was our Session 0.
A great idea, about running them through a whole short adventure. Matt Colville ( of DnD fame ) recommends this, but forces the new characters. I like how you do it, with the option.

To jcrocker’s point - for me, bringing the group together from the onset is important. If we’re able to weave in a little story investment and unit cohesion from the beginning, I’ve found that pays serious dividends later.
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Old November 25th, 2018, 06:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spenser TR View Post
How do you use Session 0? What do you do, or what would you do? What's worked for you, in the past?
The groups that have lasted the longest in which I've participated have all followed roughly the same approach, which has been mentioned here already. 1) Go over the rule set being used and what house rules are in play. 2) Sit down together and make characters. Figure out how and why these people are together. 3) If needed, the GM takes players aside for a brief "here's what the others PCs don't know about your PC" talk. 4) Start the game.

The first actual RP session then we were off and running. The above is also my personal preference when I'm running a game just given my personal experience with how a group performs when the above is followed and when it is not. I personally like having all the players together when making characters, then having the GM give each player a couple of secrets that the other PCs don't know about so you have the opportunity for story hooks that aren't immediately apparent to the other players.

Hope this helps.
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Old November 25th, 2018, 09:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Spenser TR View Post
A great idea, about running them through a whole short adventure. Matt Colville ( of DnD fame ) recommends this, but forces the new characters. I like how you do it, with the option.
I use pre-gens to start a test-play session right away with new players. That way, if players don't like the mechanic, the less of everyones time is wasted.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spenser TR View Post
To jcrocker’s point - for me, bringing the group together from the onset is important. If we’re able to weave in a little story investment and unit cohesion from the beginning, I’ve found that pays serious dividends later.
I figure out a scene/situation on the spot for the players, after I see what Travellers the players have brought for the start of a new game. The players will then learn about each others Travellers as the game goes along.

I posted a video on my YouTube about session 0 for my players.
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Old November 27th, 2018, 08:24 PM
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I try to get "Session 0" done in one. Roll up characters while explaining the basic rules of the game, including any house rules that go with them. I use CT so there are not a lot of complicated rules.

Mainly, because we are all busy grown ups these days instead of kids with no lives I try to get this part out of the way as soon as reasonably possible and introduce the nuances of the rule system as we go. I do this by phasing chunks of rules (ship ops, combat, merchant stuff, etc...) into the first few sessions as a sort of interactive tutorial. I've always found that this was faster and more engaging for the players than sitting around for a couple of sessions reading rules and talking about playing when everyone is ready to play and have fun.


I will hand out (email nowadays, a cheap memory stick, or online storage dump) all of the background articles, essays, personal histories, bestiaries, ship lists, subsector maps and descriptions, etc.. These will be compiled in a Player's Handbook I've made for that campaign. Each campaign I run advances my ATU about 20-30 years so I update this as I go.

This also has printouts of my Excel sheets for personal combat and all the myriad descriptions of weapons, both original ones from CT with changes by me, and those unique to my universe. Ship combat charts and rules that are matched to my game universe and house rules are also there, along with a deckplan for the ship the players start with, if any.

The players use this manual to refer to throughout the campaign and give them plenty of background materials to work with. It all gets updated periodically through the campaign because I tend to write up short essays and articles on various aspects of my universe as we go along. I try to keep these geared more towards the overall theme of the campaign I'm running to help provide ideas, details, and interesting color for the players as we go along between sessions.
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