Before everyone jumps in to embark on an adventure, it’s important to make sure everybody is on the same page. This is done to make sure that everyone can collaborate in the same space, with the same expectations of what the campaign will and won’t explore. This is known as “Session Zero,” providing the group with the opportunity to create their characters and agree on the shape, style, and tone that everyone wants to play. Some groups may have figured out many of these sorts of details from previous games they’ve played, but when starting out with new players or starting a new campaign, it never hurts to reestablish these things with the group. Below are a few discussion points that a group can bring up during a Session Zero.
Game Style & Setting
Does the game involve social problem-solving, political maneuvering, curious exploration, hack-and-slash action, high intrigue, or a resource-intensive survival in a harsh land? Will the game be fast and furious action, bleak horror, or interpersonal drama? This isn’t a complete list, and there are so many ways to play, but it’s important to know what your friends want to play.
One way to do this is to have players mark a triangle, which balance between the three corners of Social, Combat, and Exploration; this way you can see to what degree people are looking to interact with these core aspects. This helps the narrator figure out what style of game and overall storyline will best fit what everyone else wants to play.
Sometimes you want to experiment with the mechanics, play a new class you made, limit or add character options, or even utilize third-party content. These changes or limits are considered house rules, and every group will likely have their own implementation and version of their own house rules.
Perhaps as the narrator you want to change how death works, or perhaps remove the energy cost from actions? Perhaps you’re a player, looking to use a new class you saw on a popular blog or from a separate sourcebook. Sometimes blanket rules are okay, but ultimately make sure everyone at the table is okay with the rule before making characters. This way, the players won’t be surprised when the narrator tells them they can’t use that awesome class they found online.
Here are some general house rules that we’ve seen used in other tabletop RPGs that you may be able to utilize, but do what works for you and your group.
Example House Rules for Character Creation:
The rules listed below are commonly used during character creation, as it’s what the players need to know since it can directly affect how they build their characters. New mechanics and alternative rules would not be included in this example list, but nevertheless, it’s good to get everyone’s mutual agreement when deciding on house rules.
- Core Book +1: This means you can only use content from the Core Rulebook and one other official supplement.
- Only Official Content: This means you can only use content created by the publisher.
- Approved List: This is a list of products, publishers, or creators on which everyone agrees can be used for their characters.
Are there any content sensitivities in the group?
When the world is in ruins, it’s easy for oppression to take form in its various shapes. Although it might make for an interesting story, many people have experienced oppression and abuse first-hand and have no interest in reliving it at the table. This might not be an issue for you, but it may bring unpleasant memories or experiences for someone else. Similar sensitive topics to consider would also include sex, intimacy and sexuality, physical and mental disability, harassment, and even abuse in its various forms, just to name a few.
One way to go about checking what content is okay or not with your group is to have each player define their Lines and Veils. A line is a literal “hard line,” meaning that it is not okay for a particular topic or action to emerge during gameplay. One of your friends may not wish to engage with any content revolving around claustrophobia; this means, as a fellow player or narrator, its best to not include such descriptions or depictions during the session. Full stop. A veil is something that can be mentioned or glossed over, but the player prefers that the group does not go into detail on such topics. One common veil, for example, is sex and sexual encounters. Between characters is okay, but the scene might “fade to black” after indicating that such a thing is taking place.
At any point that you, as either a player or narrator feel uncomfortable, we recommend using the X-card. The X-card is simply an index card with “X” written on one side and placed in the middle of the table. If a person feels uncomfortable at a given point, they can tap or pick up the card to indicate that they are uncomfortable with the current situation. When this happens, the group skips the section and moves on, be it a player talking or the narrator describing. If you’re confused as to why someone used the X-card, its best to ask them after or outside of the group but be sure to respect their space and privacy.
Now we know what kind of game we’re playing, let’s look at the rules of the table. We have no say in how you play your games, but these are a few things that are worth keeping in mind when setting up and running your sessions.
When and where will sessions start? How will the time and location be decided? What happens when people are late or no-shows? And what if people need to leave early? What happens to their characters, and does the narrator continue with the story?
Are cellphones, tablets, and/or laptops okay to be used at the table? What happens if they become a distraction for members? A bit of thoughtful etiquette can go a long way.
Food & Beverages
Can food and beverages be on the gaming table? If the group orders food, how will payment/repayment work? What happens if a book is damaged? What about washing hands before handling books? (Especially after eating – don’t want pizza hands on a nice book!)
Is it okay to drink alcohol at the session? Much like food, who’s paying, or is it bring your own? What about excessive drinking? What can the group do if a member gets out of hand?
Is smoking or other methods or substances allowed at the table? What about smoking outside?
Creating the Party
When going through the character creation process for your game, chat amongst the group to see what ideas you have and how they may fit in the “Hyper Light Drifter” universe. It’s important to know that group composition does not matter. If more than one person wants to be a Wielder, that’s totally fine! There’s plenty of creative room to allow more than one of each class in a group.
It’s particularly worth discussing character personalities or establishing a niche for your character in the group. The group might not quite work if there are two hardened axe-wielding Warriors who survived the destruction of their sanctuaries – your friends may inadvertently steal the spotlight from one another. Instead, if there are two Warriors in the group, consider how each may be distinguished from one another. Maybe one Warrior is a staff-wielding pacifist who only tries to avoid fighting, whilst the other stylizes themselves as a veteran hunter of beasts wielding a savage blade.
Forming the Party
In Drifter, your character joins with others (your friends) to form a party and embark on the same storyline and quests together. There are different ways to go about bringing all the party members together. Sometimes this can be done before the game starts, in which during character creation you can establish why you are traveling with your friends before you begin. Or, perhaps the narrator intends for the party to meet as a part of the first session, then it would be good to figure out how your character, and everyone else’s, ended up in the same location?
If you’d like, your character can have some backstory with another party member’s character, making them more than just mere strangers. Perhaps the two characters are related to one another, perhaps one character worked with another player’s character in the past, or maybe two of the characters once had a run-in with each other? Make sure any sort of conflicts between player characters are not too aggressive, since that could be detrimental to the fun of the group. If you want conflict between characters, we recommend frenemies or some level of mistrust between the characters (but only to the extent where cooperation and being on the same side is still a worthy endeavor).
Think about what motivates your character. What goals are they trying to achieve? This could be a communal goal for the party, or personal objectives for your character.