Project Aphelion Solo Play #007: A Dinner with a Dragon

Strategy Layer: December 10, 2055

Picking where we left off! It’s now only a week until Tomorrow’s meeting with Henequen and there’s research to be done, skills to be learnt, main quest to be progressed, spell research to be conducted, and – let’s not forget – the consequences of the Scenario on the Fly to consider!

It’s been 10 days since the start of the campaign, and Tomorrow already has her hands full.

Character Advancement

Tomorrow has a bunch of skills to level up (or, run Skill Learning Projects) – thankfully this can be done while doing other things, but only one-at-a-time. 

  • Conjuring +2; 2/2
  • Sorcery +10; 11/3
  • Palming +1; 1/0
  • Investigation +2; 2/2
  • Sciences +1; 1/1
  • Intimidation +1; 1/0 
  • Con +4; 4/2
  • Conditioning +1; 1/0
  • Diplomacy +1; 1/0

Looking at the calendar, she has little chance of leveling up her Sorcery (needs 4 marks on 5 dice against diff. 7 (6+ skill 3 – toolkit 2), and after each try, the boxes of learning reset), but this will only get harder in time, so I might as well just give it a try. Successful or not, it will take 4 days! She will also spend 1 day on Diplomacy, 1 on Conditioning, and 1 on Palming – you can never know what will come in handy when meeting a dragon (or its representative). I’ll sort out the rest of priorities after the meeting, as they may change.

So far: Sorcery: 5v9=2, 2 marks / 3 towards learning the skill. Next time, when I gather 3 ticks in the learning boxes, I can try again and get that 1 mark I’m short off, then level up the skill to 4.
Diplomacy: 4v6=1, 1 mark scored, skill raised to 1.
Conditioning: 3v6=2, skill raised to 1.
Palming: 5v6=2, skill raised to 1.


Current attributes and skills

Toughness 3Fitness 5Awareness 4Resolve 3Logic 5Wit 4
Athletics 0Acrobatics 0Gunnery 0Conditioning 1Biotech 0Artistry 0
Brawn 0Agility 1Maneuver 0Intimidation 0 +1Commerce 0Con 2 +4
Enforcing 0Dodge 0Marksmanship 0Leadership 0Conjuring 2 +2Diplomacy 1
Melee 0 Palming 1Perception 0Teaching 0Cybertech 0Hacking 0
Throwing 0Stealth 2Piloting 0Demolitions 0Impersonation 0
Remote Control 0Electronic Warfare 0Investigation 2 +2
Engineering 0Navigation 0
IT 0Negotiation 0
Prospecting 0Performance 0
Robotics 0Software 0
Sciences 1 +1Tactics 0
Sorcery 3 (2/3)

Moving on, career-wise: adding 10 more Rep to the Rep tracker – total of 24, and a total of 2 points of Faction Influence received for the Rep, to be spent on various things. Investigated a magical mystery +1. Made a magical item +1. Controlled 2 spirits at the same time. Got Friese a raise to R2 and bought Crowley as R1, bringing the total rating of contacts related to career to 4 (Friese, Crowley, Raven).

Moving on, asset-wise: the three scenarios so far brought Tomorrow:

  • 1 Payout worth of cash 3 Payouts worth of Influence towards Henequen’s Faction
  • 5 Payouts worth of magical research intel.
  • The magic amulet was a one-time deal as a thing made specifically to make metaplanar quest easier and is not a long-term reward. Used, gone, forgotten.
  • 500c has been spent on dragging contacts into the thick of it, leaving Tomorrow at 3300c in cash.

I might yet reconsider the matter of spells as Advanced Action cards – as the process of gaining them is rather complex and taking a lot of time, I think I’ll treat my Sorcery skill as a general ability to perform low-level magic, make only the big spells into Action Cards, as their total number is capped at 10 per career (that is, the spells that create effects that are unique and not possible to replicate by other means, like shape-changing), and things that are neither narrative nor ground-breaking work out through magical items – items can provide access to additional action cards (like lockpick set giving access to Breaking & Entering card) and it will balance itself out through monthly maintenance costs and the time spent on researching and building the items.

Does it mean Tomorrow will be walking around with Fireball grenades? Maybe. But probably not, she’s more of an electricity person.

Does it mean I’m gonna spend an evening browsing classic and homebrewed magical items and spells from other RPGs? You betcha.


Consequences, you say?

However, we still have a matter of that consequence roll from the Scenario on the Fly to consider. Let me quote:

A person from a character backstory gets involved with a new Faction in the Sector. That Faction will commit Projects with Payout equal to magnitude to further that character’s personal goals. Pick which character it entails.

A few things are obvious: I’m getting a freebie towards the main campaign goal. And this freebie is worth 6 Payouts, which added to the current 4, gets me at 10% of completion all of a sudden.

But! I need to create a new Faction and figure out the narrative padding. To establish the Faction, I follow the same steps as in the Campaign Generation:

  1. roll 9d10 against difficulty 6 to establish the Faction’s rating (3)
  2. roll for the Focuses: Technical/Investigative
  3. roll for behavior: Benefactory Defense (which means they’ll protect their Assets and generally run Projects that will benefit their allies. We reworked the behaviors a bit meanwhile, yes – they now work similarly to NPC behaviors and make it easier to come up with projects for them. There’s a reason it’s a playtest.)
  4. roll for faction trait: Obsessive (which means they’re likely to repeat Projects over and over again)
  5. choose Faction Assets: R3 Crew of hackers
  6. establish Faction connections: one, with ALOHA, at Familiarity 9.
  7. determine ongoing projects: Helping Tomorrow and providing her with Intel about her missing sister, apparently.
  8. establish Familiarity with Tomorrow’s Faction: 8
  9. do a happy dance to celebrate the Gods of Emergent Gameplay, because I’d not come up with this for myself. But it’s awesome and it actually does, right at this point, create a massive breakthrough in the campaign, throwing ALOHA into the mix and providing Tomorrow with Intel she’ll need for her meeting with Henequen.
  10. realize they need a name; spend an eternity trying to come up with it; use a random generator. They’re called Green Bishops. Could be worse.

Now, to pick a person from the backstory to deliver the goods… Well, there really isn’t that many people who know about Tomorrow’s investigation and Chloe’s hiding place.


December 10, 2055

As soon as Tomorrow looks at her commlink after a shower and a snack, she wishes she hasn’t eaten anything. Her stomach sinks at the notification: ‘Missed Call from Dad (16).’ She takes a moment, stopping herself from returning the call right here and now.

Dear god, what could have happened there? She forces herself to breathe slowly and deeply, used to meditation, used to staring down fear. Hell, she fought insect spirits before she even knew what they are. She fed ghouls to a corpselight and tore down astral barriers out of sheer curiosity. She shot a demon in the face in the middle of bargaining for her soul. She killed people who tried to kill her. She saw five little kids of her friend die of VITAS, one by one, on the same day.

And yet, her family was never on the line.

And yet, whatever’s on the other side of the line is probably better than the thousand of scenarios her tired, panicked brain just came up with.

She presses the button and waits as the signal rings, once, twice…

‘Sarah! Finally! Where were you? Your mother was so worried!’

Her dad’s face is full of relief and Tomorrow feels herself relaxing – enough to finally sit down.

‘Sorry, Dad. I was helping a friend and couldn’t take the ‘link with me. Is everything okay with you? You’ve called… a bunch of times.’

‘Yes, yes, we’re fine.’ Her father waves a hand dismissively, dispersing the rest of the panicked thoughts. ‘Everything’s fine, your mom just got concerned when you didn’t pick up. And we have some good news.’

‘Oh? Do tell, sir.’ She smiles widely, puts the commlink down and reaches for a hairbrush to bring some order into her tangled, wet hair.

‘Well, your mother and I were working on this for a while now. Didn’t want to tell you before, in case it doesn’t work. You know how it is.’

Tomorrow nods carefully. After all, she has kept her life a secret from them for half a year – in case she proves to be an even bigger family disappointment. She’s sure her parents didn’t yet forgive her this lack of trust – but then, it’s been only a couple of months since they actually started talking to each other.

‘Yes?’ she prompts after a while, looking at her father’s beaming face.

‘You know, between her friends and my friends, we managed to reach out to an acquaintance in Honolulu, who put us in contact with a small group of friendly operatives connected to another group…’

‘Dad?’

‘Yes?’

Tomorrow beats down the urge to tell him to cut to the chase, like she does with all her friends. She hates wasting time. But to see her father so happy, so enjoying himself… It must have been a decade since she’s seen him like that.

‘Nothing. Please, continue. Sounds important.’

‘Well, yes. We have made contact with a group who calls themselves Green Bishops, of all things. They’re… Officially just a small tech startup, but they’re affiliated with ALOHA. A bunch of IT specialists and hackers, I believe. We’ve fed them some data – after vetting them, don’t worry – and they got to work. They got a lead on Chloe, Sarah.’

Tomorrow bites her lip, quelling all the racing thoughts.

‘How… deep was that vetting, sir?’

‘Deep and thorough. You’re not the only person who knows how to dig, little one.’

‘Right. I got that from you. We both know that law school is a joke.’

‘I can hear you, Sarah.’ Tomorrow giggles as her mother’s voice joins the conversation off-camera.

‘Hi, Mom! So, what’s with that lead?’

‘According to them, Chloe and her friend – we never mentioned Fayette to the Bishops, they came with it to us themselves – they have been, for some time, using ALOHA’s resources to disappear from Aztlan’s view at the insistence of Fayette’s aunt. They have since moved on but there’s no proof of them leaving the islands.’

‘That’s where the lead ends?’ she asks, already drafting a network of connections in her head, looking for missing parts, inconsistencies, reasons, and qui-bonos.

Her father nods, bright smile still on his face.

‘For now. They said they’ll let us know if they find out something else. There’s a whole package of data with this, but I didn’t want to risk sending it to you through an unprotected line. Pick it up at Christmas?’

‘I will… No, I won’t,’ she corrects herself right away. ‘No chance in hell I’ll wait that long. Can you share some contact detail of those Bishops? Or give them mine? I’ll get Dash to sort out a safe data transfer.’

‘Will do. Don’t forget you still have to make the Christmas party.’

‘Will do, sir.’ She grins, all worries temporarily forgotten. ‘God, I’m so happy this wasn’t all a ruse. We’ll get her back, Dad.’

‘We will. Then you can both just get home. Damn, you can even bring that nice boy of yours.’

Tomorrow laughs and shakes her head. ‘I think he’s rather fond of Denver. But maybe I’ll get him down South for Christmas, give you two a test run.’

‘Is that the moment when I’m supposed to pretend to load a shotgun? Because I can if it makes you happy.’

‘Nope, all good here. Get me the data, and I’ll take it from here. Good work, you two. Seriously, thanks.’

‘Anytime, Sarah. Seriously.’

‘Thanks, Dad. Thanks, Mom. Love you.’

‘Same. Stay safe, alright?’

‘Same.’

She disconnects the call, sending her father one more smile, and lies down on the bed. Her fingers twitch for action, so she stuffs her hands under her head and forces herself to stay still and think. Jumping in has always ended badly for her, and she’s not making that mistake ever again.

ALOHA, huh? She doesn’t know all that much about this bunch of self-proclaimed freedom fighters (or terrorists, as the media call them; Tomorrow assumes it’s both until proven otherwise), but it’s good to know that Chloe has found allies. Dangerous allies, but it’s better than nothing. It’s also good to know the Hawai’ian thread is not a ruse, that there really are some other leads in there. She was halfway expecting this to be all fake, just a faux glimmer of hope created by some deeper, darker plot of blood magic and old gods. True, maybe it still is – but Tomorrow knows herself well enough to recognize her usual paranoia setting in, and she pushes against it.

So she should go to Hawai’i, right? There isn’t all that much she can do in Denver – and yet, what if whoever set her up on that path is hoping she does just that and finds Chloe (or more likely, Fayette) for them? The matter of true-of-false Henequen is still a big unknown, and even if he’s the dragon she spoke with in July, what assurance does she have that he’s not Aztlan’s patsy, just feeding her intel to use her as a bloodhound?

She chuckles at the unplanned pun and breathes out, slowly. As good as it is to know Chloe’s probably still in Hawai’i – if those Green Bishops can be trusted – she can’t just pack up and fly there. There’s work to be done in Denver. She needs to resolve the Henequen conundrum. She needs to make sure she doesn’t have an Aztech tail. She should probably go to Shoalwater and talk to Fayette’s aunt – she might know what happened to Chloe after ALOHA connection. Then, and only then, she should maybe go to Hawai’i – and even then, she should find a damn good pretense to go there, preferably with some allies on the islands. Maybe she’ll manage to find a job there? Or some runners looking for magical backup and willing to trade favors?

With a gesture, Tomorrow calls Steven from his metaplane, and as the swirling vortex of glowing arcane symbols materialized next to her, she’s already getting up and dressed in her usual black jumpsuit. She dries and braids her hair with a spell, reciting a long list of tasks for the elemental. The construct does not acknowledge it in any way, mute and unyielding, but Tomorrow has no doubt it will all just get done. It’s her construct, after all. She’ll need to move carefully. Dad’s quality police work or not, a bunch of intel delivered on a silver plate deserves proper double- and triple-checking. The stakes are too high to leave anything up to chance.


With only a week left to prepare for meeting with Henequen, Tomorrow needs to get prepared. As this Scenario definitely takes precedence over other matters, I’ll start with legwork for it – and then, if the time allows, I’ll look at other options, like creating new magic items, research projects, and other side gigs like making money.


Scenario 3: A Dinner with a Dragon

Scenario Generation

The main objective of this scenario, narratively, is go get a confirmation whether is was really Henequen who has spoken with Tomorrow in July – it might not have been, as photos of Henequen available on the Matrix show a wingless feathered serpent, and the astral form met by Tomorrow wings definitely did possess. Maybe it’s just because this is how the dragon wanted to shape his astral form, or maybe it’s another faction impersonating him. Meeting with real Henequen sounds like an easiest way of solving this dilemma.

However, nothing’s ever easy, and I need to factor in the sale of the artifact and – hopefully – dragging out some more information about Chloe from Henequen or his agent (after all, the dragon himself doesn’t need to appear).

After the previous scenario, Tomorrow has 3 points of Influence that she can use against Henequen’s faction – they can be sold off as marks on any layer or used to raise the Familiarity – with three points, she could raise it to a Sympathetic Faction (8), setting her base difficulty in the task to 2 – but as Familiarity works in both directions, she’d give the same advantage to the opposition in this scenario! It’s easier to get something arranged if you’re talking to a person you’re on friendly terms with – but it’s also harder to say no to their requests, isn’t it? As always, it’s a matter of math and careful planning: as this is going to be a social scenario and Tomorrow’s social skills aren’t really that great (Con 2, Diplomacy 1), setting the base difficulty low would benefit her quite a bit – unlike Clout and Resistance which have multiple sources, there’s not many things that can affect base difficulty. Also, setting the difficulty low is going to benefit her more than the opposing party – as R3 or R4 Actor, they come into play with effective skill rank 3 or 4 – but they can’t reduce difficulty below 1, so most of that reduction would be wasted on a low base difficulty.

Decisions, decisions!

Quite easy, actually – Tomorrow will be most certainly using Diplomacy and Negotiations (which she does not possess), so she will benefit most from low difficulty and building up Resistance and Clout for herself (as these are not affected by other party’s skills). However, raising familiarity to 7 already brings the base diff. to 3 AND let’s me keep 2 Influence points for other things, so I’m just going to hedge it.

I told you it’s a strategy game, didn’t I? It has crunch for days if that’s your kind of thing.


Scenario type: Social Capture the Flag
Payout: 5 (after previous scenarios, this seems like the most appropriate complexity level, given the stats). Tomorrow wants to get some cash out of it (2 Payouts worth of cred), confirm Henequen’s involvement (1 Payout worth of Influence towards the Faction), and get some more details about the blood magic and Aztlan angle of the investigation (2 Payouts worth of Chloe-related Intel).
Legwork: Employing all Tomorrow’s investigation skills to gather all information necessary for running the negotiation and collecting as much knowledge as possible about the dragon himself, we’re rolling dice! This is the main quest, so Tomorrow gets the pretty part of Driven trait this time. Tomorrow 4v2=4/5 on day one. Helping herself up with a knowledge of the blood magic she has already gathered, Tomorrow gathers 4 more marks on day 2, bringing the total to 8/5 and 3 net marks.
Threat Rating: Scenario rolling 5v5=3 and 5v5=5, raising Threat by 3, reduced by 2  by net marks => 1
Scenario Rating: 6 (R3 Actors)
Build Points: 6
Free Modules: 5 + 5 Passages
Free Scenes: 5

As this scenario is a matter of conversation, not a heist or an assault, the modules are abstract ideas and pieces of the conversation that need to be navigated, not physical spaces. As such, there’s going to be a Gateway (1) with a Hardpoint (2) of establishing a good rapport (with a Checkpoint scene with a free R3 Actor; as this is the same person Tomorrow will be talking to in the whole conversation, I’ll bump it to R4 to give it an extra oopmh for 1/6 BP). A nice, slow Passage of a conversation will lead us to a Social Space (3), where we’ll start a Race Against Time metascene, forcing Tomorrow to reasonably quickly (16 intervals) lead the conversation towards the matters of July meeting with Henequen against a R3 Actor (1/6 BP), while simultaneously collecting marks towards MT to sell her magic artifact (an Offense scene with a free R3 Actor, 2/6 BP), then top it off with Equivalent Exchange scene (3/6 BP) with a free R3 Actor to agree on the price. If the metascene scene is successful, that will bring Tomorrow to the Finale scene in the Control Module (4), but if she wants, there might be some more to the story to be found in the Treasury (5), where 3 points of Payout and a Treasury scene are hiding. The Treasury scene is protected by the R3 Actor (4/9 BP) but it gives me extra 3 BP to build the scenario. There is an extra Support Module (6) connected to the Social Space, which contains the data that Henequen’s Faction has on Tomorrow, giving them 1 Point of Clout in the Scenario – if she wins a cheeky Offense scene (5/9 BP) there, she’ll take this point away from them. Now, bumping the default R3 Actor to R5 for the Finale takes the BP to 7/9, and the last two will work as extra points of Resistance in the Hardpoint. Passages connect stuff. Normally, there would be a Getaway scene in Capture the Flag, but it’s pointless in this case, so I’ll skip it.


Preparations

As Legwork took only 2 days, that leaves Tomorrow with some time to get herself prepared even further for the meeting. Here’s what she has and what will be important during the meeting:

  • Driven trait, giving her 2 points of Clout in all actions, as this Scenario brings her closer to the main goal.
  • First Impression, if the meeting is being led by an agent of Henequen (and it should be; dragons aren’t that easy to reach), giving her 2 points of Clout in the first social Scene.
  • Career Trait, providing 1 more point of Clout. Flaunt that magic!
  • Fancy business suit, building up 3 points of Resistance in the social Scenes.
  • Faction Familiarity 7, setting up basic difficulty at 3.
  • An optimizer bot, run on her commlink, giving her extra Clout for Mental Actions.
  • 2 points of Influence towards Henequen’s Faction, letting her buy 2 marks if it gets down to the wire.

Now, what Tomorrow could use is some more Resistance, more Actions for her – or Action denial for the opposition. I know I’ve decided that Multi-tasking adept power could give Tomorrow extra actions at chargen, but I’ve since dropped it, not wanting to replant a freebie that doesn’t work with the rest of the system.

I can, however, use the time to get myself an item that would work in a similar way! The easiest way for that is to make a consumable item that works like a boost to Wit attribute – at 5 Wit, a third mental action is available.

To make such item, I need to go quickly through gear creation rules – they’re easy and adaptable, and what I want to achieve is just a magical version of a Booster <Attribute>. “Release your inner strength.” (Rating: 1+, E:1+, S.E:1+, D:1+. Note: Provides bonus points to a specific Attribute for the Duration equal to marks scored, up to a maximum of +50% the Attribute value.)

All of those items come with a Rating, which is a dice pool rolled against standard difficulty with Resistance equal to the affected attribute. Effect works as Clout for that roll, Side Effect is the Physical Drain (like spending Stamina Points, only can’t be recharged with Taking a Breath) that sets off after the Duration is over.

Now, let’s do math and probability. I need a consumable that will overcome 4 points of Resistance of Tomorrow’s Wit, so Effect 4 sound like a good start. Rating 4 makes sense – it automatically sets all stats at 4. I can mix and match stats, exchanging positive stats (Effect and Duration) or reducing them to reduce the negative stat of Side Effect. I’d prefer a longer duration, though, so I’ll go for R5, setting all stats at E5 SE5 D5, then reduce both E and SE to 3 – with 5 dice and difficulty of 7, I still have a good chance to get the 1 or 2 marks I need (can’t improve the Attribute by more than 50%!), and it won’t be that painful when the duration ends.

Now, the math done, Tomorrow needs to run an Inventive project. As it’s a matter of Faction layer, Tomorrow only has 1 dice, 5 marks to score, and 4 days to pull it off. But she also has a friendly Scientific faction of Doc Harmon’s clinic with their medbay and a mini drug factory. Working together to make a magical preparation that boosts mental acumen sounds like a good idea – until you consider that Tomorrow would most likely need 2 days to convince them to help (10-Familiarity of 8), and in this short time available it might not be the best idea. Something to keep in mind in the future, though!With 5 Payouts worth of magical research Tomorrow could just buy the marks needed for this item creation project but that would be boring, so let’s roll and waste some time!

Rolling 4d10 (4 days) against diff. 5, she actually scores these 4 marks, buys one more with 1 point of magic research Intel, and will go into Henequen’s scenario with a one-use (per Scenario) consumable spell raising her Wits and number of available mental action for a small price of a persistent (about an hour-long) headache. The spell needs a name, though, so see you next century!

I’m joking, it’s called Wits’ End and nobody will ever talk me out of it.

Anyway.


Playthrough!

December 17th, 2055

When Tomorrow arrives at the restaurant, the sun is already hiding behind the skyscraper-covered horizon of Downtown Denver. What was once a job all of its own – getting through all the border control and fake-ID checks – became surprisingly easy (if annoying) since joining Pueblo Corporate Council and equipping herself with a pristine new SIN of an entrepreneur magician, not an ex-con adept. Best spent money in her life, decides Tomorrow, still not used to the feeling of legality. Too much time spent as a fifth-grade citizen in CAS. Well, CAS and its law enforcement can now kiss Tomorrow’s butt.

She enters the restaurant, admiring the tasteful decor and fresh color palette of green and matte gold. She thinks of the check she’ll have to pick up at the end of that evening and waves the though away – if it brings her closer to Chloe, it’s worth it. If it doesn’t – well, at least she should be able to cash in on this piece of junk they’ve found in the mine when digging for reagents.

She introduces herself to maître d’ and soon she’s sitting at her reserved table, waiting for her guest to arrive. She’s early, just about 10 minutes early – enough to get her nerves under control and her breathing pattern to normal. ‘Raven, let this be worth the hassle,’ she thinks a moment later, seeing a tall man in a suit approach her table. She gets up gracefully, smiles,  and stretches out her hand. The handshake is firm and warm – the kind they teach you on leadership workshops – and Tomorrow knows this will not be as easy as her steam-roller conversation with Cynthia.

‘Jose Edwards. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss James,’ responds the man to her greeting. His accent carries a slight tinge of Aztlaner Spanish, sending Tomorrow on a quick and unexpected trip down to her Texas homeland. (Jose is a R4 Actor with a Social/Creative focus, a tank with ‘agressive control’ behavior – so using as many actions as possible, not wasting time on Taking a Breath, trying to reduce Tomorrow’s chances of scoring marks and taking away her actions).

‘The pleasure is all mine, I assure you,’ she plays up the pleasantries, wondering where they’ll end up.

‘If you insist – in that case, I will purposefully find no joy in this conversation.’

‘I think we’ll manage to solve this in time. We have a common goal, after all.’

‘So I’ve heard – some semi-precious piece of primitive art?’

‘Some invaluable artifact connected to Howling Coyote, more like it – I’m sure you’ll find it interesting enough.’

‘We’ll see, we’ll see. I don’t doubt this conversation will be worth the time, not only because of the companionship.’

‘No, I believe acquiring a piece of art connected to a world-shattering magical ritual for your employer might help as well.’

The smile on man’s face tells her clearly that she’s has finally arrived at the destination. ‘So it would seem, Miss James.’

(Tomorrow: Diplomacy +1, 4v2=3 marks, Negotiation+1, 4v3=3, Take a Breath [J’s MP 5/8;  T’s MP 7/8] MT 3/4Jose:  Diplomacy 4v3=3 marks; Negotiation 4v3=1 [J’s MP 4/8, T’s MP 6/8] MT 0/4Tomorrow: Sorcery+1, 5v1=5 marks, Negotiation, 4v3=4, Take a Breath [J’s MP 0/8, T’s MP 6/8] MT 5/4With Jose Incapacitated and forced to spend one turn Taking a Breath -> Hardpoint/Checkpoint scene passed)

‘Please, call me Sarah. All my friends do.’

‘Again, a pleasure to meet you, Sarah. Call me Jose.’

‘I’m definitely going to. Shall we order something?’

They pass an easy, breezy conversation, talking about art, magic, and weather while waiting for the food to arrive. Finally, around the main course, they pick up the conversation. Tomorrow pulls out the sturdy case with the carved stone cone and passes it to Jose with a genuine smile and starts up her commlink to share with him the data.

(Two scenes (three, even) are here to be played and  I can’t write the narrative before I do all the rolling, so feel free to skip to the resolution if you fancy my writing, and not the exact mechanics involved. Scenes atm: Race Against Time [RAT MT] 0/6, Offense [O MT] 0/6; After O MT finished, Equivalent Exchange [EE MT] 0/6].

T1: Tomorrow: MA1: An order for Steven to use his confusing powers to stall J’s progress at all times; MA2: Sorcery+1, 5v1=5. PA1: Take a Breath. J’s MP 6/6, T’s MP 7/8. O MT 5/6
Jose: MA1: Negotiation: 3v3=3, MA2: Diplomacy: 3v3=3. J’s MP 4/6, T’s MP 4/8, O MT 2/6
Stephen: Confusion: 2v4=2 , Joe’s losing 2 actions next turn. J’s MP 4/6, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 3/4, O MT 2/6

T2: Tomorrow: MA1: Sorcery, 5v1=5; MA2: Conjuring 5v2=5, new R2 spirit with the same task as Steven’s, PA: Take a Breath x2. J’s MP 4/6, T’s MP 4/8. O MT 7/6
Jose: MA1: Negotiation 3v3=1, MA2: Artistry: 2v4=2. J’s MP 2/6, T’s MP 4/8. O MT 5/6
Stephen: Accident: 2v4=2, Joe’s losing 2 actions next turn. J’s MP 4/6, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 2/4. O MT 5/6
Elemental: Confusion: 2v4=0.

T3: Tomorrow: MA1: Sorcery, 5v1=5; MA2: Negotiation, 4v3=4, PA: Take a Breath x2. J’s MP 0/6, T’s MP 4/8. O MT 10/6
Jose: Take a Breath x2. J’s MP 2/6, T’s MP 4/8. O MT 10/6 -> Offense scene completed; moving to Equivalent Exchange. Race Against Time still at 0/6 after 3/16 intervals.
Stephen: Sorcery, 2v4=1, Take a Breath. J’s MP 1/6, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 2/4. EE MT 0/6 RAT MT 0/6
Elemental: Sorcery, 2v4=1, Take a Breath. J’s MP 0/6, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s EE MT 0/6 RAT MT 0/6

T4: Tomorrow: MA1: Diplomacy 4v3=4, PA Take a Breath x2. J’s MP 0/6, T’s MP 5/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s EE MT 4/6 RAT MT 0/6
Jose: Take a Breath x3. J’s MP 3/6, T’s MP 5/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s EE MT 4/6 RAT MT 0/6
Stephen: Confusion, 2v4=2, Take a Breath. J’s MP 1/6, T’s MP 5/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s MP 2/4. EE MT 4/6 RAT MT 0/6
Elemental: Confusion, 2v4=0, Take a Breath. J’s MP 1/6, T’s MP 5/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s MP 2/4. EE MT 4/6 RAT MT 0/6

T5: Tomorrow: MA1: Con 4v2=4, PA1: Perception 4v6=3, Take a Breath. J’s MP 1/6, T’s MP 5/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s MP 2/4. EE MT 8/6 RAT MT 3/6
Jose: Take a Breath x2. Negotiation  3v3=2. J’s MP 2/6, T’s MP 3/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s MP 2/4. EE MT 8/6 RAT MT 3/6 -> Equivalent Exchange scene completed; Race Against Time still at 3/6 after 5/16 intervals.
Stephen: Accident: 2v4=0, Take a Breath. J’s MP 2/6, T’s MP 3/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s MP 2/4. RAT MT 3/6
Elemental: Accident: 2v4=1, Jose loses 1 action next turn, Take a Breath. J’s MP 2/6, T’s MP 3/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s MP 2/4. RAT MT 3/6

T6: Tomorrow: Take a Breath x2. Con: 4v2=4. J’s MP 2/6, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s MP 2/4. RAT MT 7/6
Jose: Take a Breath x2. Diplomacy, 3v3=3. J’s MP 3/6, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s MP 2/4. RAT MT 4/6
Stephen: Confusion, 2v4=2, Take a Breath. J’s MP 1/6, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s MP 2/4. RAT MT 4/6
Elemental: Sorcery, 2v4=2, Take a Breath. J’s MP 1/6, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 2/4, E’s MP 2/4. RAT MT 6/6 -> Race Against Time scene completed!)

‘I admit, I did not expect to find such an evenly matched opponent in a scientist. You negotiate like a professional, Sarah.’

‘My mother is a lawyer, I had to inherit something other than my charm from her,’ she answers with a brilliant smile. ‘Plus, of course, we both know this piece of stone is going to be worth much more than I’m asking once it’s cleaned and appraised.’

‘We also both know that this piece of stone is not the reason why we’re having this conversation.’ Jose’s smile doesn’t change but here’s a delicate, easy to miss shift in his posture, and Tomorrow can feel her back straightening against her will.

‘True,’ she admits finally. ‘I believe that in July I had a pleasure of speaking to your employer directly about a matter of a great importance for me.’

(Dum dum duuuum! What it or was it not Henequen? I don’t know! Let’s roll. 1-5 not Henequen, 6-10 Henequen. Why make decisions when you can let the fate decide?)

‘I believe you have reasons to believe so. However, I assure you that I would remember it, should we meet before.’

Tomorrow, who has spent over 4 months pondering the question, is not really surprised. She simply nods. ‘Who was it, then?’

(Treasury scene! It has a CR=6, a R3 Actor protecting it, and extra 3 Points of Resistance, which isn’t going to matter, due to Tomorrow’s Driven + Magician traits. As always, Payout gets reduced by 1 at the end of each interval!

T1: Tomorrow: Investigation 4v4=4, Sorcery 5v3=5, Take a Breath x2. H’s MP 6/6, T’s MP 8/8, MT 9/6
Henequen: Con 3v3=2, Diplomacy 3v3=3. H’s MP 4/6, T’s MP 8/8, MT 3/6
Steven: Accident 2v4=2, Henequen’s losing 2 actions next turn, Take a Breath. H’s MP 4/6, T’s MP 8/8, S’s MP 4/4, MT 3/6

T2: Tomorrow: Sorcery  5v1=5, Con 4v1=4, Take a Breath x2. H’s MP 4/6, T’s MP 8/8, S’s MP 4/4, MT 12/6
Henequen: Con 3v3=3, Diplomacy 3v3=2. H’s MP 2/6, T’s MP 8/8, S’s MP 4/4, MT 7/6 -> Offense won, 2 Points of Extra Payout scored!)

‘Another great serpent, I believe. From a side that you’re already aware of.’

‘Oh.’ Tomorrow thinks for a moment, looking the dragon in the eyes. Human form or not, when he wants to, he’s unmistakable for a human. ‘The sister or the brother?’

‘The latter, from what I know. Not personally, of course. He’s above such petty things.’ Henequen smiles at Tomorrow. ‘No offense.’

‘None taken. Quite the contrary. Thank you for taking the time.’

‘Well, you do have an interesting piece of art and magic history on your hands. It warranted a chat.’

‘Does it warrant…’ Tomorrow hesitates, just for a second. Haggling with a human is one thing. Potentially destroying her chances for a powerful ally, however… ‘Does it warrant help against those who wore your name and form like a disposable disguise?’

‘Perhaps…’

(Let’s go to the finale! I can’t be bothered with that Support Module, because it’s 10 pm. Henequen is a T5 Actor because I like my life hard, so he has higher initiative than Tomorrow. Which is a bummer because with no other target in sight, his logical SOP should be knocking out Tomorrow’s Morale Pool completely. And he would do just that, in one turn, looking at math. But! I can trade one of my actions for 3 points of Initiative, which I’m sure as hell gonna do. Let’s see if it gets me anywhere, though!)

T1: Tomorrow: MA1: Activating Wit’s End , 5v7=2, Wit raised to 6, will kick in at the start of next turn! MA2: Sorcery 5v1=5. Take a Breath x2. H’s MP 10/10, T’s MP 8/8, S’s MP 4/4, MT 5/6
Henequen: MA1: Con 5v3=3, MA2-3: Negotiation (comp) 5v2=4. H’s MP 8/10, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 4/4, MT 2/6
Steven: Accident, 2v4=2, H loses 2 Actions next turn! Take a Breath. H’s MP 8/10, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 4/4, MT 2/6

T2: Tomorrow (now at Wit 6!) MA1: Con 6v1=6, MA2-3: Diplomacy (comp) 6v1=6. Take a Breath x2. H’s MP 8/10, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 4/4, MT 14/6
Henequen: MA1: Con 5v3=4, MA2: Diplomacy Con 5v3=4. H’s MP 6/10, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 4/4, MT 6/6
Steven: Accident, 2v4=2, H loses 2 Actions next turn! Take a Breath. H’s MP 6/10, T’s MP 4/8, S’s MP 4/4, MT 6/6!!!!!!!!!!) I WON!)

‘Perhaps you might be useful, little raven. After all, I can’t have somebody just fly around Denver, pretending to be me. Looks like your goals might align with mine, at least for now. Shall we call it: a partnership?’

‘With pleasure, sir. As long as I can retrieve my sister and guarantee her safety.’

‘I’m positive we can figure something out. I do not know where your sister is hiding, but it must be a pleasant thought that her enemies are also unaware of that.’

Tomorrow nods, still not entirely sure what she’s getting herself into. But if it gets her closer to Chloe…

‘Let me tell you a story. We are fond of stories, as you undoubtedly noticed. The serpent brother has a sister who does not enjoy his entanglement…’ the dragon chuckles to himself, ‘with the corporation. She finds it crass and boorish, and there’s a bitter rivalry between them. If somebody would to come up with a plan on how to make a fool of her brother and lay his plans to waste, she’d be not only interested, but involved.’

‘I understand. I think.’

‘That’s very promising.’ Henequen’s human form grins; the light of the candelabras gleams in his eyes, changing them into pure silver, just for a second. ‘I’m certain all you need is pointing you in a direction.’

‘Thank you, sir.’ Tomorrow, for the first time this evening, is at loss for words. She nods towards the waiter. ‘How about some dessert?’

‘Ah, if you insist… Now, tell me about those friends of yours. Do I remember correctly that they’re dealing in weaponry?’


Consequences!

No net marks this time on the finale, so it’s high time to give myself into the cold hands of the gods of emergent gameplay! With an 8, I’m getting something good out of it!

A new Faction moves into the Sector and opens dialogue – their initial Project is beneficial to you with Payout equal to magnitude.

Oh. I think that there, what you’re seeing here, is Zacualtipán, Dzitbalchén’s sister.

I guess this campaign should be renamed ‘Please Don’t Eat Me: A Tale of a Girl Who Didn’t Want to Dance with Dragons but She Really Wants Her Sister Back.’


Wrapping up

Skill learning:

  • Sorcery +4 4/3
  • Conjuring +1 3/2
  • Negotiation +2 2/0
  • Diplomacy +3 3/1
  • Con +4 6/2
  • Perception +1 1/0
  • Investigation +1 3/2

Payout:

  • 2 Payouts of cred
  • 1 Payout of Influence towards Henequen’s Faction
  • 2 Payouts of Intel about Chloe
  • Treasury extra: 2 Payouts of Intel about Dragons

Total of 7 Payouts towards the main goal, getting Tomorrow to 17/100 campaign progression!

New Faction: Zacualtipán, the Feathered Serpent of Aztlan Sector in Denver
Faction Rating: 3
Faction Focuses: Scientific/Social
Faction Behavior: Hostile defense (prioritizes Projects against other Factions and protecting their Assets)
Faction Trait: Excessive (prioritizes Projects with the highest Payout)
Faction Assets: R3 Facility (Serpent’s Feather restaurant)
Faction Connections: 2. Crowley, Familiarity 5. Yakuza, Familiarity 7.
Familiarity with Tomorrow: 7.
Current project: Against her brother, Dzitbalchén to Tomorrow’s benefit.

What now? No idea. I mean, some idea – the pretty trail leads Tomorrow towards Zacualtipán, and while Tomorrow would prefer avoiding dragons entirely (you should never trust a dragon, it’s a Top 3 rule of Shadowrun – a rule that everybody breaks sooner or later), she might be forced to try and use one against another – otherwise, her chances of getting her sister back safely look very slim.

But that’s a problem for another episode!


Disclaimer

The Topps Company, Inc. has sole ownership of the names, logo, artwork, marks, photographs, sounds, audio, video and/or any proprietary material used in connection with the game Shadowrun. The Topps Company, Inc. has granted permission to Double Proficiency to use such names, logos, artwork, marks and/or any proprietary materials for promotional and informational purposes on its website but does not endorse, and is not affiliated with Double Proficiency in any official capacity whatsoever.


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