campaign preview & Session Zero plan

My gaming group includes veterans of other systems and relative roleplaying newbies. All of us are still learning to lean into 13th Age's narrative foci--icons, one unique things, and backgrounds.

I ran our first 13th Age campaign. which grew out of a one-shot adventure. When it started, I gave players no guidance.

Throughout the campaign, I felt like I was struggling with character cohesion. For example, their icon relationships were all over the place. The players gelled and have been having fun throughout our 2+ years of campaigning. But I always felt the characters' connections to each other and the setting were weak. That in turn seemed to make everything harder: creating memorable NPCs, creating interesting icon benefits and complications, exploring OUTs.

Part of the challenge was simply me being a brand new GM. Another part of it, I've been telling myself, could be improved with a better start.

One of the hardest parts about dungeon mastering is...letting go of the story.
— Mike Shea, aka Slyflourish, "Random Creativity in Dungeons & Dragons"

Letting go of the story to make room for players to contribute... this was the most important thing I learned while creating this preview.

Originally I identified demons as the main threat. But I eliminated all those references, so the players could decide. In the first draft, I pinpointed the location of the Goldenfields on the Dragon Empire map. I ditched that too.

I included brief descriptions of a handful of NPC residents of Riverborough. I took them out, so they wouldn't take up narrative space the players might want their characters to occupy. I replaced it with a generic list of Riverborough backgrounds to inspire players for creating their own NPCs. Then I took that out too.

 CW's  Supernatural . Artist unknown.

CW's Supernatural. Artist unknown.

I also described in more detail the "vestiges of ancient magic," the racial make-up of Riverborough, and pika. But I took that out, so the truth could be determined by the players' character-creation choices.

In other words, the map image above and the pentagram at right...they both have nothing to do with this campaign.

I'm excited for session zero! I'm eager to be surprised by where the players take it!

Slyflourish's Lazy Dungeon Master helped give me confidence to start GMing 13th Age. My campaign preview is indebted to his "Session Zero of Tomb of Annihilation."

The 13th Age G+ community gave great feedback on the first draft.