Last time I talked about Prodigal Son and the changes I made to it. This time I’m talking about Session Zero and getting ready to play. I recruited my players Liam, Thomas, Alex, and Daniel from GoPlayLeeds (which hasn’t met this year due to lockdown).
Although I was using the four pre-generated characters from the Liminal rulebook, we spent 45 minutes in Session Zero getting to know them.
For me, the most important bit of an RPG character isn’t their statistics, skills or attributes—it’s the relationships with the other characters and the world. Like most RPGs, Liminal doesn’t cover this well so this is what I did.
The “Crew” is one of the most important parts of Liminal. The Crew is Liminal’s equivalent of the adventure party. It’s the group that ties the PCs together.
Liminal is a game of solving cases (at least, that’s what the published scenarios so far would have you believe). And so the PCs need a good reason to be motivated to investigate and solve those cases, and that’s where the Crew comes in. The Crew’s reason for existence is to allow the PCs to solve cases.
A Crew can be many things—such as an investigation business, a group with a powerful enemy who have banded together for protection, or group allied to a faction who provides support in exchange for services. (I do think Liminal’s section on creating a Crew could be stronger, but that’s a subject for another day.)
I wanted the players to have some ownership in the crew, so I use this to frame a discussion:
Crew Concept: Who you are and your reason for taking on cases and engaging with the world.
- An investigation business.
- A group with a powerful enemy who have banded together for protection.
- A group allied to a faction or powerful individual who provides support in exchange for services.
Crew questions: Why does the Crew investigate cases? How do clients get in touch? Who formed the Crew? Is it an established Crew, or formed with the PCs? Is being part of the Crew full-time? Does the Crew have a reputation?
We had an interesting discussion about the Crew. Was it the day job, or is it on top of the day job? We decided that each player could decide. We liked the idea that the Crew could provide deniable services, and that it would have a patron.
The group chose several assets, including a base below the Impact! Art Brigade art collective in Leeds.
We then moved to the character questions:
- How did you join the Crew?
- Which faction to you admire, and why?
- Which faction worries you, and why?
- With which faction do you have a positive relationship, and why?
- With which faction do you have a negative relationship, and why?
The question about admiring and fearing factions revealed interesting views that the PCs had—and a common admiration of the Queen of Hyde Park. I’m sure she’ll be pleased.
Finally, I asked each to choose a contact from the list below (or they could invent their own) and determine their relationship and how trustworthy they are. I almost always do this in my games as I find it so useful as a GM: it gives me a ready supply of NPCs linked to the players that I can use to create drama and provide information.
- Michael Fraser, young magician being groomed for greatness by the Council of Merlin. (Academic Wizard)
- Mina Cotton, not the frail old lady she appears, but a formidable fae knight loyal to the Queen of Hyde Park. (Knight)
- The Deacon, leader of a fae criminal game, loyal to the Winter King. (Clued-up criminal)
- Meera Stone, untrained wizard who married into the Jaeger family. (Gutter mage)
- Lynden Grant, bodyguard to the Order of St Bede (Bodyguard)
- John Cooper, P-Division liaison officer (Investigator)
- Jet, pavement artist and street urchin with links to The Mercury Collegium (Changeling)
What is your relationship to them?
- Childhood friend
- Immediate family - spouse, parent, sibling or child
- Distant family - uncle or aunt, grandparent
- Team player
- Schoolmate / university friend
- Mentor or teacher
- You share an interest
- You shared an experience
How strong is your relationship?
- I trust them with my life
- I can rely on them in a time of trouble
- I owe them a favour
- I find them unreliable at best
We ended up with a friend, a couple of mentors and an unreliable lover. One of them already appeared in our opening session, and I’m looking forward to working the rest into the story.
Session Zero Feedback
Player feedback was that they appreciated the chance to explore their characters before diving straight into the case. The challenge I have is to make sure I keep drawing on the Session Zero material we go along—I know I have to work at that.
Next time: running Prodigal Son.