asdfasdf That's My Blog | Personal and Gaming Site of Steve Keller

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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Updates on Projects

I haven't been blogging much because I've been busy on other projects, so I thought I'd write up a quick note on what I'm thinking for a timeline for my current projects.

Dungeoning Ma'att

My dungeon musing / mapping and short fiction personal project.

I'm currently working on the expanded first collection of Dungeoning Ma'att dungeons. The book will include the first dozen maps, expanded and edited text, the new sections on how to use the structure, and a special 13th dungeon that will only be in the pay PDF file. I'm hoping to have the PDF up on DriveThruRPG by the end of January. I'll update my blog with the redesigned maps but probably not the new text.


The goofiest roleplaying game ever designed.

My next project is completing the base GENERALA book. The 3 sample dungeons are still in various states of rewrite and I'm looking toward mid-February to get that up on DriveThruRPG and the GENERALA website. That's probably going to be it for fantasy GENERALA for a bit. I'm toying with opening up a forum and soliciting submissions for a free GENERALA bestiary. We'll see how that goes.


The Adventure, Tabletop or Miniature Gamers of Alaska website.

The AToMAk domain has been registered ( and I'm shooting for a February launch date. I'm building a rough design now and I've got a pseudo-code structure for the forums and calendar events.

The Adventure Plot Tool Kit

Create campaign adventures on the fly.

Yes, I'm still working on the Tool Kit! I went back and rewrote a lot of the text for the frames and restructured the closing section on generic plot variations. I'm designing the book to print A5, which I prefer to 6 x 9. I'll put the book up as digital and print-on-demand, but the PoD is really where I'm directing the book. I'm seriously considering doing an expanded Kickstarter edition to get some print copies into the world that I can donate to fundraiser projects. I'm looking to have that done some time during the summer.

Square Fisted Stars

GENERALA in Space!

Mustache Rangers may be gone, but fandom lives on. I'm looking at an after-summer release on the sci-fi version of GENERALA. I'm working out some ways to make it more than just reskinned dungeon crawling - I really want the sci-fi tropes to be incorporated into actual gameplay and affect how the game works. Also, out of necessity, there's a good bit of extra material that needs to be published at the same time the rules come out. If I don't, the jokes about sexism in early sci-fi won't seem like jokes and I'll get yelled at.

Dynamo, Benandanti, and Apollyon

I have not forgotten any of these games, but they're all on the backburner at the moment. I'm using them as filler work between my main projects. I've rewritten the playing card mechanic of Benandanti and I'm hoping to have a beta of that system out for playtesting soon, but I have no firm timeline. Dynamo is waiting on artwork and an expanded game master's section - I'd really like to make the game completely pick-up-and-play - so the game master shouldn't have much more to do to start a game than players have to do when making their characters. And Apollyon is so esoteric, so out there in its concept of having the players bid against each other to determine how they're going to be railroaded, that I really want to play it with a solid group used to alternative games. Unfortunately, I only have one player in Anchorage that I think can handle it, so I might turn to playing online with it, if I can get my laptop to survive doing so.



Oh yeah! I forgot to add AARG to the above post! It's just that AARG has been such a constant, low-level project for so many years of my life that I never think of it as a project to be completed, it's just always there.

The Narrator's Guide is well underway and should be done in the next few months. My plan is to compile the Narrator's Guide, then gather all of my notes into the first chapter book based on the Amity setting (which will take even longer because it will include all of the elemental spells that were taken out of the main rule book).

Once those two books are done, the game will be ready to go! Seriously! I can't imagine it! With any luck this albatross that I've lived with for more than 10 years will finally fly off on its own and the only work I'll have to do on it, besides the occasional errata, is the settings books. I really can't wait.

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