As for my thoughts on a true Session Zero... I loved it! Let me explain...
I've been gaming for several decades now, most of that time I've been the DM. I have to admit in all that time I have never had a true Session Zero. It never failed that when I did intend to have a Session Zero what ended up happening was we would get (sometimes rush) through character creation and then decide to start actually playing. Not that I am saying that is wrong. Game time is limited and when you are able to finally get everyone together (sometimes it is like herding cats) I can appreciate wanting to roll the dice beyond generating stats and attributes.
To make this session have a little more oomph than just rolling stats, I brought in an old favorite tool of mine from back in the day.
blog. Stars Without Number has a very old school vibe to it and Central Casting is old school. I found the two meshed together very well. After the characters were generated from the SWN rules, I had them make a few rolls in Central Casting (just a few, Central Casting can go wild with rolls). These rolls allowed for some cool adventure seeds and plot hooks that I might not have otherwise thought to work into the game. If you can score this book, or the others in the series, I encourage you to do so, my copy is about to fall apart and I can't tell you how much it has improved my campaigns over the years. I love this book (series). Central Casting: Heroes for Tomorrow worked with SWN like a charm. I felt like I was back gaming in the old days again, mixing and matching products that while not directly designed to work together seemed to be a perfect fit for one another.
As for our Session Zero, it lasted just a bit over two hours, we chatted in general for just a bit, but everyone was anxious to get into things. SWN layout is superb and even the player who later admitted to me he was a bit apprehensive about learning/playing SWN (the 5E player) by the end of the night he was excited and the first to confirm when we were playing again! Having a Session Zero has allowed the players to have more time to think about their characters, character choices, and backgrounds, it has allowed them to make a few character tweaks, some where I got a few things wrong in regards to the SWN rules (reading is fundamental... LOL). All this before we play our fist true session. But the best part was that I was able to be better prepared to officially launch the Sector Cabal Sigma Campaign next Friday. I now have a solid handle on the players, their characters backgrounds, races, classes, and have had some extra time to expand on the adventure seeds randomly rolled with Central Casting. I know it has been said by many others far more skilled than I, but I want to add my voice to the chorus, if you can manage to do a Session Zero to kick off a new campaign I highly recommend it!
Since last Monday I have been having a ball working on the Cabal Sigma Sector, SWN is true Sandbox play at its best and Mr.Crawford has developed an awesome toolbox to create just the kind of play you and your group are looking for.
In addition and there will be a more detailed post about this down the road, I'm doing something else for this campaign that I have never done before. SWN has a comprehensive section and process regarding Factions. In between actual play sessions, there is a Faction Turn, where behind the scenes movers and shakers are doing their thing. Some of which may indirectly impact the PC's or possibly in a few cases directly impact them. I'm excited to say I have some other folks behind the scenes that don't know each other or any of the players, that will be controlling some of the factions in the Campaign. So I am almost running two games in one. I am only sharing what info the Faction would know with the Faction players so this should be an interesting experiment.
Oh I almost forgot my last post was in regards to mixing magic in Sci Fi. Thanks for all the great feedback, I even got some emails about it. I decided to leave it up to the group to decide and broughtCodex of the Black Sun to our Session Zero to show the players and get their thoughts. They thought Codex of the Black Sun was interesting, but given their newness to SWN, it was decided to have magic be "out there" and an option for them for down the road (we all know how lethal OSR games can be), but at the start of this Campaign just have it for some rare NPC's. I thought this was perfect and thanks to feedback from some of you out there on the net, I already have a cool arcane wielding NPC in mind. heh heh heh
Well that's all for now! Sector Cabal Sigma awaits!!