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StarHounds Update

Previously, I'd been posting updates on our StarHounds campaign on Pluspora, but since I don't use Pluspora anymore I'm moving over to here. You can catch up on previous posts by searching #StarHounds on Pluspora

Pluspora posts TL;DR version - The Jenny Haniver is a ship on the frontier of space, the Industry sector. The only reason people are even out here are the neutronium mines in the light-years-across gas clouds where prospectors in mag-containment ships spend weeks in the void alone, capturing free neutronium to sell to the fuel processor stations. The Jenny's crew work for the FCP - the Federation of Collaborating Planets, which is an economic federation regulating trade between free planets and those in the Sol Union. The FCP maintains a small "police" force throughout human space which operates on a bounty system paid for by member corporations, world governments, and anyone else who can afford it. Out in Industry, however, the Jenny is the only FCPP ship and, for most of the worlds out there, the only law.

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This week, the part are still on the train. I planned the entire train adventure to run for three sessions, it's been six and showing little sign of slowing down, so I threw a few things at them.

The party learned that Crashface, the secretive (and highly skilled) assassin for hire was aboard the train. The captain of the train asked the FCP crew members for help and Nova, being Nova, asked the captain to pay them. He said he'd have to contact headquarters and ask if that was possible.

For safety's sake, they moved Kelvin, the young hacker they were transporting to trial, off of the Jenny and into the train's passenger sleeper, which was a lot like a small hotel. There, Kelvin broke into the hotel's entertainment system. Rather than tie him up, Captain Kierce decided to make use of him and asked Kelvin to access the hotel's camera's to keep an eye on things. That's how they discovered that two of the business douchebags they saw earlier were currently breaking into the ship's cargo car. Nova and Mark were dispatched to see what they were up to.

That's when the captain of the train informed them that not only would the train's corporation not be paying them, but they'll be dropping out of FTL to pick up some corporate investigators who will handle things.

And it's about that time that all hell broke loose.

Nova and Mark discovered that the corporate douches had been searching through crates and had found what they were looking for. A shootout ensued when Mark and Nova were caught snooping.

Two more corporate douches showed up in the hotel looking for Kelvin. Turns out, all four corporate douches were robots working for - possibly created by? - Crashface. Was Crashface himself a robot? Kierce didn't want to find out and settled the matter by lobbing a grenade down the hallway of the hotel. Turns out, space hotels aren't built as ruggedly as ground hotel, and Kierce's grenade blew a hole through three levels.

Kierce and crew fled up a few floors away from the destruction and discovered that the corporate investigators never arrived - they were taken out by some of those weird dudes with the little black DEVO hats. The DEVO squad were on board the ship now and after Silk. Jaako and Kierce got in too late to save Silk's life, but he passed a message along to them - "Save her! Keep her safe!" and then transferred a cargo slip to them.

Just then, Mark looked into the box the douchebots had been attempting to steal and found ...

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Making Gaming Notes by Location

This campaign, I've started playing with a new way of organizing and preparing story information that hasn't come to the party yet. The results are that I've reduced my prep work and increased my improvisation opportunities. The players are reaping the benefits as well by seeing their character's actions have a solid effect on the game world without having to tease those changes out through story means.

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Where the hell is Steveo, pt 2

So I've been puttering around, and I still haven't found a place to land. I've got some thoughts, however. (more…)
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Where the Hell is Steve-o?

Well, now that G+ has gone the way of New Coke, where will Steve-o be hanging out? Probably here, for now. I haven't been making much use of this blog, but until I tamp down a new social network that feels comfortable I'll be posting here and resharing elsewhere.

I'll be more active on Instagram. My personal instagram isn't updated all that often, and only has pictures of me and my dog and occasionally my beautiful wife. My costuming instagram is more active, but mostly has costuming and prop making and occasionally pictures of my beautiful wife in various states of dress.

You can usually find me on Hangouts still. Although my gaming group has migrated to Discord, the wife and I still use Hangouts to chat and send funny pictures. So if you just want to say hello or send me a funny picture hit me up on Hangouts @robotkarateman

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Campaign Idea I’ll Never Use – BUCKLR

The party are members of a secret, privately funded global spy organization called BUCKLR. Their purpose is to monitor all of the other secret, privately funded global spy organizations and, when necessary, track down their individual members and serve them with bills for all of the collateral damage they've caused. And, when really necessary, bring them to justice for any lives they've taken or crimes they've committed.
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On Podcasting

Asking what the "best" microphone is for podcasting is misunderstanding the problem. Here's how to sound good without spending a ton.

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Process Map Campaign Design

One of my players has been working on learning to GM and has been asking me questions about my writing processes.

I'll be honest, my processes are few - there's not much to my GM'ing beyond "tell a good story". The way I run my games varies pretty widely depending on the group, system and setting.

But on the other hand, I'm not the type of GM who believes every game should be run 100% on-the-fly. The last thing I want to do is sit at a table while the players are looking at me waiting for some kind of prompt for something to happen. It's far less stressful for me to adapt a story to the players than to improvise a story as we go.

The main story technique in my GM bag of tricks, which I've used to write some of my best campaigns, is to write the story as a process map. I use it every time I write a longer campaign of a dozen or more sessions where the story has to have a meaning (If I'm free-wheeling a sandbox campaign, I usually just make up the next adventure after each session). Having a plot beats map lets me pace the reveals in my story while still being completely open to improvise based on the player characters.

Here's how I do it.

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Campaign idea I’ll never use – Ex Machina

The party is comprised of scientists, military technology experts, etc. The game begins with everyone in a helicopter over a jungle being given a briefing - they're about to be dropped into an extremely remote testing facility where artificial humanoids have been living in an isolated commune. The company wants a full study of AI capabilities - Language, Adaptability and Resourcefulness, Awareness, and Combat Effectiveness. Once the testing is complete, the AIs at the camp will have all memories of the testing erased so that they can continue living without outside influence.

There are five artificial beings living in the compound - Alpha - levelheaded and decisive, Beta - the guardian and protector, Gamma - sensitive and cautious, Delta - nimble and quiet, and Epsilon - the poet and artist. They've been living an idyllic life, quietly farming and just generally existing. The team's arrival is a shock to them, but they adjust and make the party feel welcome - all except Gamma, who is convinced they're about to be terminated. Gamma's fear is so great that it eventually destroys itself, damaging the compound's only source of electricity and the only way the AIs can recharge themselves.

The company says it can't have a team in with repair equipment for at least a day - tropical storms are about to roll over the area making it impossible to do a heavy equipment drop.

Delta blames the party for Gamma's "death" and storms off, returning later to attempt to kill one of the party.

Epsilon apologizes for Delta and explains that they've never been killed during a test before. It becomes clearer as they interact more with the AIs that this sort of testing happens with some regularity. The party begin to wonder how the AIs remember previous tests when their memories should have been wiped.

As dawn breaks and the storm clears and the party prepare for the arrival of a rescue team, Delta shows up again, this time less combative but no less challenging. It tells the party that they're all dead anyway, the test groups are always dead at the end.

As helicopters roar in over the hills in the distance, Epsilon explains that The Archivist keeps their memories for them so they remember what happens with each test. Epsilon would introduce them to The Archivist, but without power The Archivist won't be awake to speak to them. The Archivist, it turns out, is the head of an artificial being that they found in the jungle after a past test - it has burn marks and a bullet wound.

It also looks exactly like one of the party.

The AIs then explain that the residents of the camp are not the artificial beings who are being tested. And the tests are over. And now the soldiers are coming.

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Campaign idea I’ll never use soon – The Library

The main hall of The Library has a tiled marble floor depicting the Earth as seen from space branching out into fragments of nearly identical Earths, sort of like the CBC logo. Each of the multitude of halls and exhibit rooms branching off from the main hall house not an organized collection but a haphazard compilation of books and book-like things from across the continuum. Because that's what The Library does - it gathers research materials from across the known worlds.

But it's research only, here, no check-out, because if you were to walk out of The Library carrying one of its books in your hands you will not find yourself wherever it is that you came from but rather where the book came from and that can be a very dangerous place. The continuum, you see, may be made up of only Earths, but they are vastly different from each other for the Universe does care about minute probabilities. You will not find another Earth exactly like yours except for traffic lights that are a different color. The continuum is made up entirely of improbabilities - the more unlikely a thing is the better your odds of finding an Earth where it is fact.

And that is why the only one way in and out of The Library is past the Head Librarian's counter. It's not that the Head Librarian is physically intimidating - quite the opposite. If Truman Capote dressed up as Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess for Halloween you'd have a fairly close approximation. But that ageless, sexless authoritarian need only glance over those turquoise horn-rimmed glasses to bring an immediate halt to any and all high jinks for s/he projects an imperial air that few would cross. And, no matter the time or day, the Head Librarian is always at the front counter, patiently stamping through the ever-present stack of new acquisitions.

And that's where the players come in. The players take on the role of "researchers" at The Library, doing the legwork that the Head Librarian cannot do without leaving the counter. For example, this new book about blood-sucking leech men of Earth 2311, is it fiction or non-fiction? Find out. And here's a research card submitted by a patron asking for the circumference of the crown worn by the Queen of the Gorgons on Earth 175-a. Go measure it. And why is this trilogy about the tech-wars of Earth 1337 only two books? Find out where the other book is, or at least how it's supposed to end.

 

And hurry up, there's a whole other cart of new books that need to be checked in by the end of the day.

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Home Made GM Screen

I made a new GM screen! I based my screen build on Tim Snider's design, with a few tweaks.

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