To prepare for Act 0, you will need to draft a synopsis of the setting. This only needs to be as extensive as the story itself. At most, this might mean three pages – one with a summary of information and two more about locations. Players don’t need to memorize the synopsis, it is provided as reference during play.
The summary sheet should contain three things (in bullet form): setting knowledge, a brief history that the protagonists know and pertains to the story (perhaps an ancient legend or the events leading up to a war), and common rumors about the region. The rumors do not need to pertain to the story as long as they help build the imagery of the setting.
The location sheet(s) should contain brief bios of major cities (or districts) and landmarks that the protagonists would most likely know about. The bios should contain a smattering of trivia of the locations, almost like a travel brochure: (e.g. “Known for its spicy desserts, the rain forest city of Hu’Owamoh is a welcoming tourist destination,” etc.). It’s worth repeating: the only locations that should be on the sheet(s) are locations the protagonists would most likely know about and that are within the region the protagonists will explore.
The other major preparation is to study the rules and tools for crafting protagonists and ensuring all the character crafting handouts are ready (see the chapter on Characters for more information.)
Hosting Act 0
Being a special type of session, the purpose of Act 0 is to gather the players into the same room so, as a group, you can discuss expectations about play style, introduce the story, and craft the protagonists.
Unlike a typical session, the whole of Act 0 is considered “out of play” as the story hasn’t technically started yet. Even when the story is being introduced, it should be considered more of a rough preview rather than strict game play.
Since Act 0 has different needs, the suggested agenda is also different. Customize and tweak the agenda based on your needs:
Act 0 Agenda
- Player Introductions
- Setting information
- Create Protagonists
- Wrap Up
Housekeeping for Act 0 is handled the same as it is during any other session except it will feel much weirder – especially if it’s a new group. That’s okay if it does.
The Preview serves two purposes: to discuss the overall goal of the story and introduce the story. The goal of the story is often an indicative element to the genre: “to have an epic adventure”, “to partake in a scheme of intrigue”, “to uncover a dark and frightening plot.” But you can elaborate a little regarding expectations. For example:
Case 1. Ah – so the goal of this story is to go on an epic adventure. There will be high stakes combat with mighty – maybe even impossible – foes. There will be some cool discoveries on the way – if you look for them – but otherwise it should be a fun ride.
Case 2. We are gathering to embark on a most wicked scheme – one that will involve trickery and deceit – for the common good, of course. There will be carefully cautious information-gathering, stealthy spying, and perhaps a touch of some serious sabotage.
Case 3. You ready? No you aren’t. You might think you are but there is no way to be prepared for what awaits. You will be investigating mysterious goings-on and the more clues you discover, the more intense the horror you uncover, and the deeper you’ll wade into the murky mire of madness.
This might be self-explanatory, but you don’t need to go through Player Introductions if everyone knows each other. However, if this is the first time you are coming together as a group, ask everyone to explain their role-playing experience. Make sure to make it a welcoming experience – there’s no shame if this is a player’s first time, quite the contrary – it’s an honor to have them at your table!
Discussing Expectations regarding play style and behavior can be tricky but it is very helpful for avoiding messy social situations in the future. It’s far easier to assume that everyone feels like you do but that might not be true. Talking about these things upfront helps get everyone on the same page as well as offer a chance for players to provide input about certain aspects and open a dialogue. This is meant to be a discussion with input from players and the Narrator. There are no hard/fast rules to this.
The following list is not exhaustive but is a good starting point of things to discuss:
For Setting Information you should have prepared a summary of the setting (as discussed in the preparation section). Hand this out to the players and read through it together. This will allow them to absorb information and offer a time to ask follow up questions.
Breaks for Act 0 are handled the same as they are during any other session.
It is important to Create Protagonists as a group so the players can help each other with ideas as well as get more of a feel of what style of characters the group is going for. Instructions for protagonist creation are in the Character chapter.
Wrap up for Act 0 is handled the same as any other session. You may need to schedule another Act 0 session if protagonist generation isn’t quite complete. If this is the case, you may need to schedule the first half of the second Act 0 session for protagonist crafting and prepare a battle or story element so the players can test their characters out.