Starting Fresh

My approach to new games with new groups.

Sean Nitter asked if I’d do a panel for Big Bad Con Online this month. Without hesitation, I said yes. Sean and I have history - Fate Adventures: Clockwinder’s exists because Sean asked and supported me. Big Bad Con is a convention that is close to my heart. It’s more than going home to see family. Yes, I told him, and then moaned when the best of the presentation slots left was 06:00 CT Saturday morning. There was only one thing left to do then…drag some friends onto the panel to share the early morning with!

Rich Rogers is the energizer bunny on plutonium. He runs an innumerable amount of games every month for the Gauntlet, many of these are skinned for Star Wars. If you have not, you MUST play Hutt Cartel with Rich. Lowell Francis, no slouch when it comes to running games, puts up impressive numbers too! He’s also written about his approach to learning new games which is worthwhile reading! These two folks will make the morning speed by and we’ll have more than an hour’s worth of material among us!

This is in no way a highlights post of that panel, go watch it!

I’ve got a couple of new games starting in November. Whitehack RPG is a game new to me, and Legacy: Life amoung the ruins I’ve played live with my homegroup. Both groups are new sets of people to me. Some I’ve played with, some not. I figure I’d babble on about how I set us up while it’s fresh in my mind!

The Pitch

I pitched a “Let’s learn Whitehack together”. 2-3 hour sessions for about 5-6 sessions and we’d check-in to see if we’d continue playing for another n number of sessions. The other game is Legacy 2e: Life among the ruins. I picked up the “will someone run …” gauntlet. This I pitched for 6-8 sessions. Legacy IMHO, is great with longer runs. We’re playing Sunday mornings for 2-3 hours for 4 players. My pitch is about what, when, how long. As much as I can nail down. How many sessions is important. I’m not opposed to long-term games, I figure we’ll get there n-number of sessions at a time!

Sessions zero.

In both groups, I schedule a meet & greet & session zero. This can be one meeting or two separate ones. The Whitehack group will have a meet & greet and mess around in Foundry VTT -not everyone can make this one. We’ll do a separate session zero where everyone attends. I do the meet and greet because we’ve likely not all played together in this configuration. In my case, I’ve played with 2-3 of the folks and not all together.

Safty tools. Because we haven’t all played together, a tone and safety tool talk is in order. I’ll pitch the X card, and am open to whatever our conversation produces. We reach an accord for the tools we are comfortable with and use.

I allow for character generation to be fluid for two sessions, especially for new games as we figure things out. I will let players tweak/change their characters over the first two sessions. I make that known in our session zero. If I’m running the game, I will have made a couple or three characters for new games. For some games I’ll create a One Sheet for mood, rules reference, setting lore.

The First Swing

I come to the first session with rails ready to lay down. We do some setting and situation reviews. Character introductions happen next with some space for Q&A. If the game doesn’t provide for the opening situation or scene, nothing presents itself and no player has an idea then I open with something I have prepared for just this occasion. Something hot, with inertia and designed to get the core mechanics warmed up. I continue to build from that until the players find their game legs.

For new games or teaching games, I have a mechanics focus for the early sessions. In The One Ring games, our first session used mostly the core resolution for solving things and we were able to squeeze combat in also which built on the core resolution mechanics. In the next session, we used TOR rules for journeys then social interactions, and so on until we’ve touched all the mechanics. I try hard to use what player actions exist to match up new rules rather than some made-up event —feels more organic and magical at the table.


I don’t know if it’s a lot of work or not. It’s all habit now. I know if folks are comfortable and have tools and permission to express themselves in these games —they do it. I know my game experiences have been better for it. The Session zero/Meet & greet gatherings go a long way to getting folks comfortable talking to each other —we need that.

Play Fearless!