The 3×3 method: An analysis of a campaign experiment

Inspired after reading Chatty DM’s Freelancer biopic, I decided to start a blog. I hope to maintain it.

During the summer, I run a superhero campaign for the University of Ottawa Gaming Club. It follows the adventures of the Ottawa-based UN superhero team know the World Task Force (WTF for short, the players chose it but it fit my humour). I make the sessions episodic but try to have an overall theme. For summer 2010 (the first season), the major bad guy was Hitler’s brain in the jar, Nazis and time travel showed up. I had a few two part sessions and the finale was battling an army of Hitlers at the beginning of the Universe. It was epic.

For this season (summer 2011), I wanted to do something a bit different but still episodic. For around a decade I’ve had this idea of a alien contact superhero campaign but each time I worked on it, I felt it was too much like a story rather than a game. The idea involved some farmers/scientists discovering the famous Roswell crash site, faking the weather balloon incident, hiding the ship from the government, and using the alien technology to found a company that later became a major corporation. In the process, the corporation spliced some alien DNA and created a secret group of supers for covert ops but most later escaped when they uncovered the corporation’s true plans. This is where the WTF came in.

I read Dave Chalker’s 5×5 method and decided to use a modified version of it. In his 5×5 method, you take 5 quests and given them 5 steps each and you get around 25
adventures. As my summer campaign has only 8 sessions, I needed to cut the number of adventures to around 8. To keep the square grid, I chose to do a 3×3 grid with one of the plots only getting 2 steps. I chose 3 main villains to carry this story and gave them goals. I got Luke Johnson, CEO of Thesmophoros Inc, wants to use his company’s
teleportation technology to raid the alien home world and achieve godhood. The All-Mighty, alien computer program which arrived in the Roswell crash, plans to build a robotic army and take over earth to establish order and discipline. Finally, S’tan, a private eye supernatural entity, wishes to transform Earth into Hell to rule.

After establishing the 3 major plots of the season, I needed to decide which would get less focus. As Thesmophoros and the All-Mighty were related to my Roswell crash
idea, I picked S’tan as the story with 2 steps even though he proved to be the most fun to play. The 2 steps for S’tan was: Augmenting the anger of spousal abusers to transform them into demons; Wedding in Vegas as the focal point for a pentagram that covers the Earth in order to achieve his goal. The 3 steps for the All-Mighty were: Thief
stealing components to manufacture robot army; Robotic spy infiltrating World Task Force’s base to get Earth’s defensive strengths and weaknesses; Robotic invasion of Earth. The 3 steps for Thesmophoros Inc were: Anti-alien terrorists (secretly sponsored by Thesmophoros) attack the area where the official first appearance of the aliens will take place; Experimental drug that gives people superpowers is being sold; Luke Johnson leads a superhuman army onto the alien home world to get high technology.

Overall, the season of World Task Force went well. The method permitted me to organize my sessions and give a build-up. The overall story was a bit railroaded in the overall sense but the players had control over the details and their degree of success on each step set the difficulty for the final step. An issue that my players and I found was the lack of development. With my decision to have 3 story arcs with 2-3 steps, I didn’t have enough space to delve into the story. It was a bit rushed and there were stories that made cameo appearances but we had to put aside due to the time.

The 2012 season of World Task Force will deal with their arch-nemesis. Each player will get to assist me in designing their superhero’s arch-nemesis. Those super-villains
will form a League of Evil in the end to complete their evil task against the World Task Force. For now, I am starting a Gamma World campaign and we shall use ideas from another of Dave Chalker’s articles, The Gammarizer. I look forward to see what the group will create and I plan to write it up.


3 thoughts on “The 3×3 method: An analysis of a campaign experiment

  1. A well written and concise report on what we did the last 2 summers. I for one like the WTF very much. I am subscribing to your blog.

  2. Pingback: RPGaDay: Favourite Supers RPG | Eric's Gaming Pulse

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