Reviewing Three-Step Plan the RPG
Designer: Dallas Mix
Artist: Bernie Roessler
Year Published: 2020
No. of Players: Undisclosed (suggested 3-6)
Playing Time: 3-4 hours
Main mechanic / Theme: Role-Playing Game
A quick-and-easy RPG system that recognizes that the most satisfying part of any role-playing game is the achievement (or non-achievement) of a character’s personal goals. Use it as a stand-alone game or as an accessory to your favorite RPG system, Three-Step Plan can make your RPG sessions interesting.
Find more info on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/three-step-plan/three-step-plan?ref=discovery&term=three-step%20plan
Let’s be honest, there are plenty of RPG systems out there already with some possibly older than yourself. Three-Step Plan is a rules-light system but heavy on content. The creator clearly understands that a true RPG system is not about hack-and-slash or amassing make-believe wealth but for players to roleplay their characters towards the achievement of their personal goals.
Gameplay and mechanics:
Like in all RPGs, the first thing you do is Character Creation which is usually one of the more exciting processes of the genre. Three-Step Plan has one of the easiest process I have seen, attested by the two-page character sheet. However, it is by no means the lightest in substance as the first things you will have to decide (or roll) are the following:
- Motivation & Objective (“What makes you tick?”)
- Equipment & Skills/Attributes (“What are you going to use?”)
- Weakness & Strength (“What is your Kryptonite?”)
Guided by the above character profile, you will then distribute the six modifiers (+1, +1, +1, 0, -1, -2) to the following attributes: Intelligence, Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom and Charisma.
Finally, you will have to make a “Three-Step Plan” based on your Objective. This must be vetted by the Game Master and preferably kept secret from the other players. This secretive aspect can spark an interesting RPG session as players will be attempting to guess each other’s objective and decide if they will help or become an obstacle.
Here’s a few samples I can think of to give you a better understanding:
Objective: Complete the Bank Job
Three-Step Plan: Bribe a bank staff; Intercept the money drop; Escape to the hills
Theme: Super Hero
Objective: Stop the Impending Invasion
Three-Step Plan: Assemble a team; Infiltrate the enemy mother ship; Eliminate the leader
Objective: Become a Local Hero
Three-Step Plan: Poison the water well; Convince mayor you will find a cure; Apply antidote.
Theme: Sci Fi
Objective: Save an imprisoned diplomat from space pirates
Three-Step Plan: Travel to last coordinates; Negotiate a talk; Mount a covert rescue mission
These objectives can also be used by the Game Master to craft a cohesive scenario like creating a story from all the characters goals. For experienced Game Masters, this will be an exercise of advanced story telling and improvisation.
The rest of the Character Creation process will weight heavily on the theme that the Game Master has chosen to run. The manual offers four generic themes: Western, Supehero, Fantasy and Sci Fi.
The RPG session can now proceed with a series of narratives from both the Game Master and the Player Characters. Like most RPG systems, you will need dice to determine the outcome of skill checks. Three-Step Plan offers one of the simplest dice system only using six-sided dice (D6s).
A game can last 3 or 4 hours and it can even spill over to another session depending on how the Game Masters unravel the story with the help of the players.
Theme, Artwork and Illustration, Graphic Design and Layout (optional)
The Three-Step Plan rulebook is straightforward and easy to use. It is written to make any new RPG player comfortable but still offer much to the experienced RPG gamer.
I particularly like that there are four separate character creation sections for each of the themes offered by the rulebook.
There is a special section meant only for the Game Master, offering twelve pages of tips, tricks and tools. Compared to other game systems, this section is straight forward and easy to use. Whether you are a newbie or veteran GM, you will find useful materials in this section.
The focus on characters’ motivation and objective calls for an engaging RPG game. This moves away from the usual hack-and-slash session and pushes RPG groups to move towards a more narrative-type of RPG. There are plenty of options provided in the rulebook for players to create interesting characters, eliminating the risk of “writer’s block” or the “stereotype orphaned adventurer”.
One of the interesting parts is that you can choose to be good or evil off the bat without explaining the concept of "Alignment" to your players.
Having all the three-step plan secret from each other (except to the GM) is an interesting concept as it borrows the “hidden motive” game mechanic from popular board games. The guessing and unraveling of each other’s three-step plan can result to fun moments in your gaming table.
If you are getting tired with the senseless and mindless fighting of your RPG system, give Three-Step Plan a try. Maybe this can lead your RPG group towards a more immersive RPG game as you start to get into character development and take away the focus for character progression (levelling up).
Here are few ways I can see Three-Step Plan can be used:
- Palate Cleanser; play this in between your campaign sessions;
- One Shots; short and focused games with a clear beginning and ending;
- 1st RPG; good for kids or new players who want to try out RPG without the complex rules; or
- Accessory; borrow the three-step plan mechanic and add it into your existing campaign.
If you have young players, consider Three-Step Plan as it nurtures storytelling without being impeded by complex rules and dice rolls.