[RPG] Persuading players to be less attached to a pre-session 0 character concept

character-creationplayer-communicationsession-zerosystem-agnostic

I am currently running a campaign that is coming to a close. This is fine, and as planned. However I would like to start another campaign after. I mentioned this to (some of) the players, who seemed happy(ish) to switch over when the conclusion was reached, including that I was considering a vaguely Gothic-horror theme. I also specifically stated that there would be a session 0 to discuss things like setting and appropriate characters.

Having heard this a couple of players have, I discovered, started creating characters, of varying levels of appropriateness. I have tried subtly suggesting that those may require revision but at least one player seems attached already.

(The character is a pacifist illusion wizard, and I am trying for a setting with unavoidable violence (mostly against monsters) and
extremely rare and distrusted magic (so wizard would be exceptional enough to be disruptive). 5th Edition D&D, but I don't think that's relevant.)

My question is:
At Session 0 how can I persuade players to be more willing to abandon (potentially campaign inappropriate) character concepts, especially ones they already seem somewhat attached to?

Ideally without causing offence. If it would be better for me to change my plans, I might accept that as an answer.

Best Answer

You missed a step ...

Session 0 comes after the pitch.

The pitch is the sales pitch the gamemaster puts out to see if anyone (other than them) is interested in playing. Now, you did put that out there but not in sufficient detail.

If your new campaign was going to be just like your old campaign but with giants instead of dragons (like Wizards of the Coast do it) then your pitch was fine. Similarly, if you are pitching a Munchkin-esque dungeon-of-the-week campaign to strangers, you don’t need much detail. However, if you a creating a massive change of tone then you need more.

The various Adventurer’s League Player’s Guides are examples of a pitch (and a Session 0 rolled into one). I used this as my model for my pitch of Tyranny of Dragons which was the first online game I ever ran - it has too much detail.

What I do now is:

  • 2 paragraphs of sales pitch, 1 showing off what’s special about the world and the second being the first adventure hook. You’re writing for players: the minority that can read don’t like to.

  • The Rules:

    • allowed books
    • allowed playable (sub)-races
    • allowed playable classes/archetypes
    • disallowed spells

Then you throw out the bait and see who bites. Not all sections are required.

For your gothic low-magic campaign.

1,000 years ago all wizards and sorcerers went mad (those that weren’t already) unleashing monsters onto the world. Eventually their evil power was defeated by the mysterious Shadow Lords whose tendrils of influence and power still permeate the land.

Save for vague rumours of secret wizarding cults, no wizards exist while heartbroken parents sacrifice any children tainted by sorcery to the Shadow Lords. However, in the village of Splat, more children than normal have been showing the “taint”. Is this just chance or is there some malign influence or is someone making false accusations for their own purposes?

Rules

Books: Players' Handbook + 1 (not that I think it’s a good rule but it’s fun to watch players agonise over their choice - but then, I’m a bad, bad person)

Races: Humans, Dwarfs, Halflings only. (Just an example)

Classes: No Sorcerers or Wizards.

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