Students of Strixhaven EP 0 (Session Zero)

Welcome to Students of Strixhaven! This episode is what we call a “Session Zero”, which is a pre-story episode where we discuss the characters everyone has made, briefly talk about the campaign setting, and any questions we have about playing the game. If you want to jump straight into the main story, check out Students of Strixhaven EP 1.

We go around the table and introduce the players:

  • Ben, The Game Master (also known as a Dungeon Master).
  • Jackson, playing Edolkar, a Half-Orc Minotaur Barbarian.
  • Luke, playing Arth, a Human Bard.
  • Michelle, playing Pulsatrix (or just: Trix), an Owlin Rogue.
  • Ze, playing Khorvus, a Triton Paladin.

The players roll a D20 to decide who will discuss their character first, with Ze’s Khorvus up first. Ze explains that Khorvus is a Triton, a seafaring race originally from the Plane of Water. A colony of Triton was established in the Material Plane along the Leviathan Trench, deep below the waters on the ocean floor. Khorvus was accepted as part of an initiative to send Tritons to the surface, to learn about different cultures and societies. Khorvus’ assignment is Strixhaven, where he will learn about the magical society, and continue to develop his skills to ensure he can protect his colony, and the entire Material Plane, from creatures seeping through from the Plane of Water like Krakens and Sahuagin. Like many Tritons, Khorvus boasts a sense of arrogance, born from a collective belief that the actions of the colony should have his people idolised, even though many races do not know of the threats they defend against.

Next up, Jackson introduces Edolkar, who he introduces as a Half-Orc Barbarian (GM note: In episode one we introduce Edolkar as a Minotaur, as Jackson was still finalising the details!). Edolkar is a native of a small mountain clan, who had until recently lived peacefully with his family and village. As an expanding human town moved into the area, Edolkar was one day taken from his family, and put in with a human family who while well-meaning, continue to try to push Edolkar towards what they refer to as more “civilised” society. Edolkar is being enrolled to Strixhaven to ensure that he develops properly in a social setting, as well as learn magic as expected of the human family he has now become a part of. Under watchful eyes and pressure, Edolkar has not had an opportunity to find his people, but dreams of one day returning to his people, using the supposed magic he is to be taught at Strixhaven.

Arth, introduced by Luke, is what you’d call a mature-aged student, who growing up in a small hamlet, has learned everything there is to know about the town, it’s peoples, and history. Believing he is destined for more and now entering his 30s, Arth constantly strives for knowledge and seeks to attend Strixhaven to understand the secrets of the universe. He cares deeply for his family, who encourage him to pursue his dream, and grapples with the conflicting choices of staying close with his family and only knowing the world around him, or continuing his dream to further develop knowledge and understanding.

Finally, Michelle introduces Pulsatrix, also known as just: Trix. Born and raised in an Owlin settlement in part of Yggdrasil, located in the Feywild, Pulsatrix is constantly touched by magic, but does not herself know enough to cast it. Thanks to her small stature, she developed proficiency with sneaking and hiding, but wants to develop magical abilities to protect her when she explores fortified or perilous ancient ruins, whether in the Feywild, Material Plane, or beyond.

After everyone introduces their characters, the Session 0 discussion moves onto discussing more technical terms, such as the general theme of the podcast. The players discuss that the Cyberpunk Red campaign was a lot more serious, with the nature of the setting leaning towards more combat-heavy encounters. Overall, the players agree that a “college lifestyle” would work best as the main theme of the series.

Moving on, the players discuss different forms of storytelling, such as “Railroading”, “Sandboxing” and “Track Drifting” (a flexible combination of the two). Overall through previous experiences, the players agree track drifting is a good approach, as it grants the best of both worlds, with a linear narrative of a deep story, while providing moments of unplanned creativity for character development.

Timelines are discussed next, including how the movement of time should be addressed, especially over the larger scope of a college trimester or year. The general agreement is that major events can be focused on for game sessions, but there can be gaps in-between the study weeks when nothing is expected to have happened on campus outside of classes.

Strixhaven will consist of a focus on mandatory courses, but the players also discuss how to look at elective classes, which each player will take separately. The players agree a quick, short recap as the semester continues to look at how everyone’s classwork is going would be the best idea, and this can be looked at every few episodes with rolls made to determine how well their studies did.

Clubs and Societies play an important part of college life. The Strixhaven book provides useful resources on different clubs, societies, and jobs, that characters can take part in as part of their day-to-day life. Similar to the elective courses, the players agree an occasional focus on the events that happen between classes in their extracurriculars would be best.

Exams play an important part of college life. While the Strixhaven book has some basic concepts for exams, such as making ability/skill checks, the players discuss the concept of a “hands-on” practical part of an exam in the form of Excursions. These excursions would take place outside the college campuses, and allow the characters to tackle physical challenges related to their studying topics. From a group perspective, this would be useful to avoid “splitting the party”, and let the characters go about as a group the assignments for their excursions.

Lastly, Relationships are an important part of a developing student’s time on campus. The players talk about friends, rivals, and even romantic relationships, and how that deep it should be discussed as part of the game. For the most part, brief overviews of developing relationships can be talked about, and it can be considered that friendships and rivalries may develop “off-camera” without needing to be discussed heavily.

If you’ve enjoyed listening to Session Zero, we hope you jump straight into EP 1 of Students of Strixhaven!