Just so you know, the title is a question, not a statement. In fact, the statement is kind of what I’m looking for.

Since I am still on my Secret World TTRPG kick, I had been considering how to start an adventure with a new set of players. There’s a lot of ways to do this in TTRPGs, and it does depend on how the players themselves want to do it. There’s the tried and true “skip the exposition and you’re all in the tavern” approach, but I feel that such a shortcut has fallen by the wayside over time. A common method is to run a “session zero” which allows the players to take their characters into a kind of “training” scenario so they can all get a feeling for their characters, can set up interactions between the them, and which can provide the GM and players with the impetus for all future shenanigans. But even before that, there are methods for character creation which can play into the need for, or the opportunity to skip, a session zero. One time, I borrowed the FATE creation method for a Starfinder game. This method has each player generate a blurb about their character’s past. They then get to pass their blurb to the player on their right, who writes themselves into that story. The blurbs are then passed to the player on the owner’s left, who does the same. Now everyone at the table has a history with two other characters, but not necessarily all of the characters. This obviously only works when there are four or more players, but at fewer than that, I suspect it’d be easier to reach some kind of beneficial consensus through other means.

In The Secret World: The Video Game, things go differently. All players start as a normal person, but in the intro, we learn that our normal people are chosen to receive these anima powers from Gaia in the form of a bee; the intro videos show our sleeping protagonist unaware that a whole fucking bee is crawling into his or her mouth in the middle of the night. Then, across a period of time, the character starts to control their abilities, at which point they are approached by a member of one of the three Big Factions: Templars, Illuminati, and Dragon. From there, the player takes on standard MMO quests. Some of these result in passing interactions with other players (same or different faction), and occasionally players can group up for dungeons, which is totally in keeping with the “tenuous peace” between the Big Three following the Kaiden Incident. As with all MMOs, each player is an island unto themselves and don’t need to worry about how their choices at creation fit into a more rigid party structure, nor do they have to worry about figuring out how different people from different places happen to meet up to Do Things. If they happen, they happen, but otherwise each player is only responsible for their own experience.

I am having trouble figuring out a good starting point for TSWTTRPG characters who are supposed to be playing as a group from day one. According to the lore in the TTRPG Edition, “Bees” (as PCs are referred to in TSW) are average, individual humans until they get chosen and converted. Even then, their entrance into a secret society is not a given; many Bees operate independently, get jumped by Orochi and subjected to experimentation or are press-ganged into service, or follow some other minor faction path. The obvious confusion surrounding the conversion, as shown in the MMO intro videos, kind of precludes a “group experience” either before or during a session zero; no one is prepared to become a soldier of Gaia, and the likelihood that a group of friends are chosen at the same time is stupidly low (but no, never zero). The point of “zero to hero” is very strong in TSWTTRPG — and is in the MMO — and I feel that for those who like the RP part of TTRPG, managing the pre- and post-Bee personalities and experiences is something that is very valuable.

I keep leaning, then, towards individual session zeros, maybe zero-point-one and zero-point-two, just to get people into a situation where they’d all run into one another organically. Of course, I could be overthinking this whole thing and just allow all of the details to be hashed out by the players OOC, skipping the need to RP their formative experiences, and either agreeing that they all joined one specific faction, or if they opted to join different factions, agree to start a session zero (or even the adventure itself) on the ground as part of a cross-faction task force.

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