Project Aphelion Solo Play #028: Ghosts and the Machine

This time, we’re hitting d’Venescu where it hurts! Or at least, where we hope it will hurt him. Some data stealing, some secondary objectives, and a hell of a lot of planning and scheming. Strategy game, y’all.


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Back to the Villain

Before we move against d’Venescu with our Aztech Scenario, we need to know what he’s up to. As a reminder:

d’VenescuR5Social (Exclusive Defense)
Crew R3
Investigative (Hostile Growth)
Crew R3
(Exclusive Defense)Excessive
add 2 priority to Projects already at the highest Payout.

His hired Investigative Crew is currently running a project to find Chloe. It’s the Faction’s secondary focus, so they are rolling half the dice, rounded up – meaning 3 dice everyday. However, because we’re smart and we keep Chloe in Best Western, where Crowley the Free Spirit has an ongoing project that provides 3 soak against investigative projects targeting the place or its inhabitants, the Crew is making exactly zero progress. They don’t know why and they have no reason to know why, as our Faction did not even blip on their radar so far. In any case, as this is a campaign objective, the Payout of this project equals 9 (Campaign Rating).

On 17th March, the Social R3 Crew has finished its Scenario and destroyed Aztechnology’s Asset in a Payout 6 Scenario. This means that from 18th March onward, they’re free to do something new. The Faction’s standard behavior in Social focus is Exclusive Defense, meaning protecting the assets and making it impossible for others to interact with their targets/assets/projects.

Here’s the deal: d’Venescu has poked Aztechnology, and everybody knows that the megacorp is not going to let it slide. The blood mage must know that the retaliation is coming – and as Aztechnology is now a Scientific Faction with a sole asset connected to magical research, he might logically expect them to hire external, deniable assets to dish out some vengeance – probably either through a Warfare or Investigative approach. As an excessive Faction, he is mostly concerned with that 9 points of Payout from the investigation, as finding either Fayette or Chloe is his only chance at survival.

Access to the Maneuvers project (through Staging Area Facility) would provide his Investigation project with Resistance against Warfare attacks, and it fits perfectly under Exclusive Defense of the ‘Other’ Focus category.  They do not have access to the Facility, so they need to find it and secure it, then wait for the Facility to finish the project. To do so, he deploys his R3 Social Crew to find the Facility; the dice have decided that the one available is R4, belonging to an unnamed R4 Warfare/Scientific Faction of some mercenaries, which means his crew needs to score 4 marks to find it and negotiate the use. Rolling 5v3, they score the marks in two days (by 19th March). The deployment cost cuts his resources down to 32+1125c, and the cost of hiring the Facility to 32+925c. The Facility runs a project with Payout 6, completing it within (4v2=3+3) two days (by 21st March). From that day onward, the d’Venescu’s investigation has extra 6 points Resistance against Warfare project. Nobody can just appear out of thin air and shoot the investigators down!

Good thing we’re not doing that.

Happy that he has protected his valuable Asset, d’Venescu should be comfortable enough to give his Social Crew some time off – he’s been running them ragged and unless he wants to face the doubled deployment costs next month, he needs to give them 5 days off each month, just like we do. Social Crew is on holiday until 25th March, so we’ll pick this up after our Scenario.


Scenario 015: Ghosts and the Machine

Aztechnology has hired Phase to run a Payout 6 Investigative Scenario against d’Venescu’s Faction: a B&B with a data steal, because why not. This is not the Payout we’re getting – this is going straight towards reducing d’Venescu’s Faction (we’re currently – wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey – we will be on 24th March – at 30/50 to reduce him to R4, shaving off 1 dice from all his Focuses). I don’t technically have to play this Scenario, I could leave it to Phase alone and go through it with quick resolution rules, but I like heists and I like Phase. After Tomorrow, it’s a nice change: playing somebody whose basic approach to life is to kick the door in and punch a dragon in the snoot.

Hence, we’re doing a heist. I was considering whether I want to do it with just Phase and Tomorrow, but I’ve figured adding Chloe to the story will be more meaningful. After all, she’s the person who knows most about d’Venescu. Tonight stays home, busy with other projects. This is not a job for a diplomat and a negotiator.


Scenario Generation

Payout: 6, straight into taking down d’Venescu
Legwork: Phase, Stealth 6v5=5. Tomorrow, Sorcery 5v4=4. Chloe, Hacking 6v4=5. Total: 14, 8 net. Oof.
Threat Rating: Scenario 6v3=4. TR 2-4=0
Scenario Rating: 6+0 = 6. Default Actors R3.

Free Modules: 6 + 6 passages
Free Scenes: 6
Build Points: 6

The Scenario is rather Build Point starved, so we’ll add some Treasuries to it. To make life more difficult, I’ll make it a rather living-creatures unfriendly place, with no human Actors. Think of the target of this Scenario as a secure server room, held at low temperatures and vaguely uncomfortable.

Module 1/6: Gateway. Free Scene: Reinforcements (1/6) with a free R3 Security Guard (Investigative/Warfare) arriving after a standard delay of 10+Payout interval if any alarm is raised. Connected directly to the Module 2.

Module 2/6: Hardpoint. Free Checkpoint Scene (2/6) with a free R3 Camera (Investigative/Technical) and a paid-for R3 Lock (Technical/Investigative) on the doors to the building (BP 1/6). Because there’s TR 0 in this Scenario, the Checkpoint Scene has 0 extra Resistance – I’ll throw 3 points into it, otherwise it’s rather pointless (BP 4/6). Connected directly to Module 3.

Module 3/6: Operation Space. Free Patrol Scene (3/6) with a free R3 Drone (Technical/Investigative) keeping the place running – and if necessary, raising alarms and taking care of trespassers. Connected with Passages to Modules 4 and 5, and 7.

Module 4/6: Treasury+Hardpoint. Free Checkpoint Scene with a R3 Lock on the Hardpoint. Free Treasury Scene (4/6) with 3 points of Payout inside and a free R3 Hacker in the network, keeping the data secure, giving us 3 more Build Points, because we’ll need them (BP 4/9).

Module 5/6: Modifiers Module. This is the room in which we can succeed at the Offense Scene against the R3 computerized system (Technical/Scientific) to change the temperature and other living conditions in the Scenario. Because the current conditions are +2 modifier to all Physical Actions (BP 6/9) due to it being terribly cold. To be fair, I’ll pay one more point to have it affect only living creatures – that way, the Defense is unaffected, but Phase and Tomorrow will be rather unhappy about it (BP 7/9). However, if the do mess with the conditions without disabling the system first, it will trigger the Reinforcement Scene at the Gateway as well. A passage connects this to another Module 6.

Module 6/6: Treasury+Hardpoint. Yes, I’m adding another Payout 3 Treasury, because I need Build Points. We’re going with all default here, Checkpoint + Treasury Scene, but we’ll reduce the Ratings of both free Actors to R2. This is more of a stalling point, to keep the characters occupied – and it nets us 5 Build Points (BP 7/14). A free Passage connects it to Module 7.

Now, I got 7 BPs left (more than we’ve started with!), but I’m out of free modules and free scenes. I need 1 for the Control Module, 1 for Finale Scene, 1 for Getaway Scene. I want to make this all harder by putting some mental pressure on the characters, with extra 2 points of Stress modifier, affecting all Mental Actions – again, only of the Offense, which costs another 1 BP. That’s 13/14 BP spent, leaving me only with 1 to pimp up the Finale.

Module 7: Control Room. With the Finale Scene comes a free R3 Actor (Technical/Investigative), the protection of the datastore. To make it all less convenient, I’ll spend the last point on adding a R3 Camera (Investigative/Technical), forcing the people physically-there to stay in concealment, lest they trigger an alarm.

Finale complete, they’ll still have to succeed at the Getaway Scene against a R3 Technical/Investigative Hacker making rounds in the system.


Preparations

Meh. You know my gear, I know my tactics. Let’s go.Oh. Phase and Tomorrow are breaking in, Chloe is on comms and safe in Best Western. Hacker’s life.


Playthrough!

As always, mechanics in italics, the narrative without. See you on the other side.

TomorrowChloePhase
SP / PI / PA8 / 4 / 25 / 3 / 210 / 5 / 3
MP / MI / MA8 / 4 / 28 / 6 / 35 / 4 / 2

T1: Module 1: Gateway.
Scenario complications: 6v3=4

Chloe: MA R1 Overlay Bot Stealth (IT+1), 5v5=4, difficulty on Stealth reduced by 1 for Tomorrow. TaB. MP 8/8
Phase: PA (3 comb) Stealth+1, 6v2=5 Concealment. SP 9/10 MP 5/5
Tomorrow: MA Conjuring+1, 5v5=3 actions for the Summon. PA (2 comb) Stealth+1, 5v3=3 Concealment. SP 7/8 MP 7/8
Steven: PA Concealment, 3v3=3, +3 Res against spotting for Phase, Tomorrow, and himself. SP 5/6 MP 6/6
Summon: PA Concealment, 3v3=2, +2 Res against spotting for Phase, Tomorrow, and itself. PA Interact with the door. 1 Action left


T2: Module 2: Hardpoint.
Scenario complications: 6v3=4, 8/6, 2 net. Median roll 5-2 = 3. Negative consequence of magnitude equal to Payout! Rolled a 10.

A micrometeor, a fire, or a piece of space trash managed to get past the PDS systems and struck a hole in the module the players are currently in. Defense Actors rush to fix it. The damage done to Scenario is equal to magnitude times 10 for the purpose of Explosive Decompression.

Uhm. Right. I’m NOT playing a hard sci-fi game here, and I’m not in space, because I’m hacking the system to scratch a Shadowrun itch. Welp. Let me unpack this.

There’s a fire going on at the entrance. All the alarms should get automatically triggered, putting us automatically on the timer for the Reinforcements scene – the Security Guard arriving in 16 intervals/minutes. There’s just one Defense Actor in the Scenario that can move and do things – the drone from Module 3, which is going to move and try to fix the damage. I suppose its Main Task has just switched from Patrol Scene to Fix Stuff scene, needing to fix 60 points (magnitude x 10) of damage. It has 3 dice, two actions and about 50% chance of success on each roll, so we’ll call it 20 intervals worth of work.

For us, this is still a Hardpoint Scene, with a R3 Camera and a R3 Lock, MT or 4 (R3 Actor+1 support), and Resistance of 3. Alarms going off aside, this raging fire doesn’t really intrude on our plan that much – if anything, it lets us cause wanton destruction and burn the place to the ground on our way out.


‘There’s a fire,’ says Tomorrow with a mix of amusement and annoyance. ‘We’re barely through the door and there’s a fucking fire right there. Well, that’s unexpected. Kinda changes the mission parameters, doesn’t it?’

‘Please, tell me you didn’t start it.’ Chloe sounds nervous – and suspicious.

‘Why, little bird’s got a pattern?’ laughs Phase. ‘Good to know. But no, looks like a perfectly normal, random electrical fire. Something’s burning in the wall. The alarm’s ringing already. Young ‘un, what’s the security’s response time here?’

‘About fifteen minutes, more or less. The repair drone is just behind the door, though. Abort or hurry?’

There’s no hesitation in the runner’s voice. ‘Hurry. Conditions later might make the whole thing impossible. Let’s move, girls. We should be able to do it in ten. We’ll split inside. Birdie, the mission went sideways, feel free to kick them in the kidneys wherever you find an opportunity. Those electrical fires are pesky business and spread fast.’

‘Roger that, boss. Ready when you are.’

‘Let’s just allow that drone to open the door for us and we’re going inside while it’s busy putting down the fire.’


T2:
Reinforcements: 1/16

Offense: Phase: Move to Melee Range with Camera (4 Conc). PA Interact – plug in Chloe to the Camera/System (3 Conc). PA Stealth+1, 6v4= +4 Conc (7 total). SP 7/10 MP 5/5
Chloe: MA Hacking+1, 6v5=4 towards MT. MA Electronic Warfare+1, 5v8=2 towards MT. MA Hacking, 6v5=5 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 6/8
Tomorrow: PA Stealth+1, 5v3=+4 Conc (7 total). SP 6/8 MP 7/8
Steven and Summon: Sustain Concealment while dematerialized.

Defense: Camera: PA Lookout, 3v7 (-3 Skill, +7 Res, -3 Clout, 2 automarks negated by Stealth Suits’ soak) = 0.
Lock: Idle, not interacted with.
Drone from Module 3: Interacts with the Lock, moves to Module 2. PA Lookout, 3v9=0.

Offense wins with MT 11/4, 7 net.


‘Nice job, rookie. You’re hirable for other runs or is this just a personal matter?’

‘I…’ stutters Chloe. ‘Don’t know yet. We’ll see. Right, I got access to the system. This room’s basically empty. To the left, you got the system that controls the temperature here – if you’re too cold, you can raise it. It must be freezing in there.’

‘It is. Can you deal with that? Birdie, let’s see what damage we can inflict meanwhile. Then we’ll just grab the data we need and go.’


T3:
Reinforcements: 2/16
Repairs: 1/20
Tomorrow, Phase and elementals: move to Module 4. -1 Concealment from both.
Chloe: move to Module 5.

T4:
Reinforcements: 3/16
Repairs: 2/20

Chloe’s mental initiative is higher than anybody else’s initiative, so she’s going first.

Module 5: Modifiers Module
Chloe: MA IT+1, 5v5=3 towards MT + 7 automarks from previous Scene. MA (2 comb.) Hack the System (Hacking+1), 6v4=4 -2 soak, 2 actions in the system next turn. PA TaB. MP 6/8
R3 System: Alarms are already running, so it doesn’t raise a new one. Behavior: Conservative Control. 3v6=1 -2 soak to reduce number of Chloe’s Actions.

Interval ends with Offense’s MT at 10/6, 4 net. The +2 modifier to Physical Actions has been removed.

Module 4: Hardpoint + Treasury. Defense here is a R3 Lock (Technical/Investigative) on the Hardpoint in a Checkpoint Scene, then a Treasury Scene with 3 points of Resistance and a free R3 Hacker (Technical/Investigative).
Phase: PA Short Circuit (Palming+1), 6v3=6 -1 soak on the lock, forced to reboot (5 Conc). PA Palming, 6v3=4 towards MT (4 Conc). MA Investigation+1, 4v6=1 towards MT (3 Conc). SP 5/10 MP 4/5
Tomorrow: PA Palming+1, 5v4=4 towards MT (5 Conc). MA Electronic Warfare+1, 5v6=2 towards MT (4 Conc). SP 5/8 MP 6/8
Steven: Sust Concealment. Materialize.
Summon: Sust Concealment.

Defense: Resets.

Offense wins with MT 11/3, 8 net, and moves to Treasury, losing another point of Concealment (2 and 3, respectively).

T5:
Reinforcements: 4/16
Repairs: 3/20

Chloe: Moves through a Passage from Module 5 to 6. MA Sust Hack the System.

Module 4: Treasury Scene
Phase: PA Stealth+1, 6v2=+5 Conc (7 total). PA Short Circuit (Palming+1), 6v3=5 -1 soak on the computer system and Hacker’s connection, forced to reboot (6 Conc). PA TaB (5 Conc). SP 4/10 MP 4/5
Tomorrow: MA Sorcery+1, 5v3=4 towards MT + 8 automarks from previous Scene (2 Conc). PA Stealth, 5v3=+5 Conc (7 total). PA TaB. SP 5/8 MP 6/8
Steven: MA sust Conc. PA Elemental Attack, 3v7=1 towards MT. PA Elemental Attack, 3v7=2 towards MT.

Defense: forced to reconnect to the system.

Offense wins with MT 15/6, 9 net.

T6:
Reinforcements: 5/16
Repairs: 4/20

Module 6: Hardpoint + Treasury. No Resistance, MT 2, single R2 Actor keeping the place protected.
Chloe: MA Sust. Hack the System. Free Action 1/2: disable Defense Actor. MA Electronic Warfare+1, 5v5=4 towards MT +4 automarks. PA TaB. MP 5/8

Defense: Disabled.

Offense wins with MT 8/4, 6 net

.Phase & Tomorrow: Move through Passage back to Module 3.
Phase TaB, 4v4=3. SP 7/10 MP 5/5.
Phase: 3 Conc. Tomorrow: 6 Conc.


‘I’ve found some interesting data stored in here. What is it exactly that you’re looking for, boss?’

‘According to the client, there should be a bunch of files covering target’s financial dealings and funding. Probably heavily encrypted. I am going to just steal the whole hard drive, but if you can mooch data from other sources as well, feel free. Just don’t delete it, we don’t want anybody to know we’ve been here.’

‘You’re the ghosts, I’m in the machine. No worries, I won’t leave any tracks.’


T7:
Reinforcements: 6/16
Repairs: 5/20

Module 6: Treasury. Payout 3, Resistance 3, MT 6, single R2 Actor of the Defense.
Chloe: MA Sust Hack the System. Free Action 2/2: disable Defense Actor. MA Hacking+1, 6v8=3 +6 automarks. PA TaB. MP 4/8
Defense: Disabled.
Offense wins with MT 9/6, 3 net.

Phase & Tomorrow: Move through Module 3.
Phase: PA Stealth, 6v2=+4 Conc (6 total). SP 6/10 MP 5/5.
Tomorrow: 5 Conc.

T8:
Reinforcements: 7/16
Repairs: 6/20
Chloe: Moving from Module 6 to Module 7. MA Sust Hack the System. MA Hack the System (Hacking), 6v5=4+3 automarks. PA TaB. MP 5/8

Phase & Tomorrow: Move from Module 3 to Module 7.
Phase 5 Conc. Tomorrow 4 Conc.

T9: Module 7: The Finale. Resistance 6. R3 ICE (Technical/Investigative), the protection of the datastore; Balanced Defense. R3 Camera (Investigative/Technical); Balanced Offense.
Reinforcements: 8/16
Repairs: 7/20

Chloe: MA Sust Hack the System; 7 Actions. 2 Actions: loop, then turn off Camera. 2 Actions: freeze, then reboot ICE. PA TaB. MP 2/8
Phase: PA (3 comb) Palming+1, 6v8=4 towards MT (2 Conc). SP 5/10 MP 5/5.
Tomorrow: MA Sorcery+1, 5v5=4 +6 automarks (3 Conc). SP 5/8 MP 5/8.

Defense: Turned off, turning on.

Offense wins with MT 14/4, 8 net.

T10: Getaway Scene. R3 Technical/Investigative Hacker.
Reinforcements: 9/16
Repairs: 8/20

Chloe: MA Sust Hack the System, 3 Actions left. 2 Actions: shut down the Hacker. PA TaB. MP 1/8.
Phase: PA Stealth+1, 6v1=+6 Conc (8 Conc)
Tomorrow: PA Stealth+1, 5v3=5+8 automarks towards MT (2 Conc).

Can’t be bothered to do anything else, the Scene is a success and the marks from the Finale is what matters for consequences.


Wrapping Up

In and out, ten minutes, just like Phase wanted.

First point of order: I seriously outgrew Payout 6 Scenarios. With 3 characters, they’re not a challenge anymore. I could do it with one. We’ll be aiming much higher next time and resolving everything around this value through quick resolution rules. We’re moving into much higher stakes here!

Payout: 6 + 3 + 3 = 12, all straight into destroying D’Venescu’s Faction, which brings the counter to 42/50. 8 more and we can run a Scenario to get him down to R4.
Rep: +12 for Tomorrow and Chloe. 2 points of influence for Rep.
Familiarity: Phase vs Aztech, +1, up to 9. Nobody saw us coming, so this is an Aztech vs d’Venescu Scenario and a hostile act from one to another. Back to open hostility, you two!

Skill learning:
Phase: As previously, I’ll just up her the skill she used in the Scenario, as we won’t be using her anytime soon. So: Stealth, Palming, Investigation
Tomorrow: Conjuring +1, Stealth +4, Palming +1, Electronic Warfare +, Sorcery +2
Chloe: IT +2, Hacking +3, Electronic Warfare +2

Consequences: Unsurprisingly, we’re ending with a 10 here (8 net marks in the Finale), meaning a positive consequence of magnitude Payout +2 = 14. Rolled a 2.

A Contact gives the player Faction a freebie. Generate a Scenario furthering the Campaign Goals with Payout equal to magnitude.

Well, here we go. The next Scenario is going to have a Payout 14. Yes, that means 14 points of Resistance in the Finale. We’ll need to actually work for it. We’ll need to prepare. This is going to be fun.

Now, odds/evens – it’s one of Chloe’s contacts. She has only four, and with a 2, we’re landing on Daddy dearest, a Warfare/Investigative contact. Huh. I got some ideas on how to spin this, but because I like my life hard, I’ll roll for the basic shape of this Scenario.

With two median rolls, we’re landing on Investigative/Scientific, which is generally right up our alley. Stealth + Smarts is the motto of our Faction. I don’t feel like an another heist, though: instead, we will make it into a trap. A big, elaborate trap for the enemy. After all, we’re being gifted this Scenario.

It’ll be FUN.


Coming Up!

We’ve been positively proactive in this Campaign. How about we take the role of the Defense next time? You’ll get to see how the Scenario Generation rules work from the other side!

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