Project Aphelion Solo Play #30: Operation Honeypot, part II

It’s time to build and play the Scenario. Due to unforeseen circumstances and Scenario complications, let me just put a content warning in here. It goes dark and nasty. Not graphic and I suppose it counts under ‘fantasy violence,’ but the corruption arc isn’t over yet.


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Back to the Honeypot

This is a second part of this particular story. If you’ve missed the first, it’s right here: Operation Honeypot, part I.

Now, let’s build this Defense Tower Scenario.

Payout: 14
Threat Rating: -3
Scenario Rating: 11. Default Actors R4.

Free Modules: 14 + 14 Passages
Free Scenes: 14
Build Points: 11

As we’re building this Scenario from the ground up, we can take a completely different approach to it. Normally, we’d build it based around our goals and the opposition’s current state. This time, we’re building it around the opposition’s goals and our state. As we’re being targeted by an Investigative Crew, they will have an advantage in those fields – they will be sneaky, they will come concealed, they will try to get data without getting spotted. They also come with extra 3 points of Clout for Social Scenes. Our Crew is strongest in the Scientific, Social, and Technical Focuses. That’s why we’re going to hit them in their weaker points and use Investigation just to give them a fake sense of security.

We want them taking their time, slowly trudging through a maze of conflicting information, wearing them down through attrition, then delivering the knock-outs. The negative Threat Rating makes a couple of modules obsolete – for example, Support Modules would only make their life easier, not harder. Hardpoints aren’t much of a threat either – low MT of Checkpoint Scenes wouldn’t give us the ‘stall them and wear them down’ benefit we’re after.

If fact, we don’t need 14 modules. We need 8, and we’ll cash in for Build Point on the rest. That gives us 8 Modules, 14 Passages, 14 Scenes, and 17 Build Points. Let’s make their life hell. Because I can’t be arsed to write it all down point by point (you know how this works by now), here’s the plan:

We lure them into a Social Scene, which will force them to drop concealment or try to create a scene on the fly to avoid the social encounter. However, this Social Scene has a strong supplement of Investigative troops, with an extra Guard Duty Scene. We also add +3 Fitness modifier in that module, to make Sneaking basically impossible – we don’t have to do it, so we don’t care about this modifier at all.

From there, they have two paths – they can either follow the magic thread through modules 5 and 6 and get rid of the global physical modifier – or they can go through the tech route, where Chloe is going to tear them a new one. In either case, we’ll force them into defense in Module 7, where we unleash hell upon them, including a terrible, terrible thunderstorm.

If they manage to go through this, there’s still the Finale, in which they face 14 points of Resistance (and have only 4 Clout). We’re keeping the Finale straightforward and relatively easy, because I don’t expect Offense to get there – and even if they do, we have a way of dealing with that Resistance; they would have to sweat it hard.

In addition, we have our Crew running interference – and between a magician, an agent, and a hacker, physical modifiers mean nothing to us. We’re smart. We take them down though depleting their morale to the point of Drain and possibly Anguish, remove them from the game, and learn as much about d’Venescu’s dealings as possible. We’re dropping Tonight in Social Module (2) in the beginning, Chloe in the Control Module (8) and Tomorrow in magic-connected Operations Module (5). We’ll move them as necessary, depending on the situation.

See the setup below – the orange lines are passages; if they’re cut in half, that means they’re double corridors, taking 2 intervals (and 2 concealment points) to cross.  I told you we’re going to stall them. Two Patrol Scenes are scouting elementals, geared towards sniffing out the opposition. They will be moving around the Scenario each interval.


Preparations

I mean… You’ve read the previous post. I won’t be adding anything more to this. There’s a limit to even my crunch.


April 2nd, 2056

‘Nervous?’ 

‘Like hell,’ admits Sarah. ‘I’m actually happy we need to wait for Chloe until tomorrow, because my head is not in the game. But I’ll get there.’

‘Poor birdie. What’s wrong?’ Adam reaches out to pet her cheek, and she leans into it, turning her head to kiss his fingers. ‘Do you need anything?’ 

‘You.’ She snuggles closer, finding her favorite spot in Adam’s arms, ready and welcoming. ‘Now, I mean. Not during the operation. It’ll be fine, I’ve planned the whole damn thing, so of course it will be fine. It’s just… Huge. So many variables. I’ve either overprepared and most of my effort will be wasted – or I’ve missed something obvious and it will all be for nothing.’

‘Or, knowing you, you did exactly what you should have.’ His strong arms embrace her and dispel at least some of the nervousness. ‘You’ll do great. I know it’s a big one for you, but you could not pull it off alone. You’re doing the right thing.’

‘There’s just so many moving parts! Chloe is going to keep us all connected, theoretically, but we got so many people in it, and spells, and running programs, and elementals…’ Adam kisses the top of her head and she suddenly realizes why he doesn’t seem worried. ‘You’re doing it every day, aren’t you?’ 

‘Well, not with programs and barely with elementals, and most certainly not every day, but yes. Standard logistics of a small-scale operation.’ 

‘My sister’s life depends on it and you’re calling it small-scale?’ She laughs, but even she can hear how fake it is. 

‘Does it really? Worst case scenario, you flunk completely, waste some cash, and they learn where Chloe is. They’d still have to go through us to get to her. And that would be a challenge even for them. Nobody’s walking into Best Western if we don’t want them to, babe.’

‘Fair,’ she accepts with a sigh and lets her muscles relax a bit. Between Crowley’s magic, Friese’s protection spells, Adam’s retinue of Cutters, and her own, well, self, knowing where Chloe is wouldn’t really net d’Venescu all that much. 

Adam continues, still petting her hair as if she were a child. ‘I know you’re more of a solitary maverick than a commander, but you got troops of your own for this one. You have to lead them, so you will. It’s honestly not that hard. If Sal manages to run a gang, you can run a simple sting operation. Can’t you?’

‘Well, when you put it like that… Of course I can. I’m just more used to pulling off heists alone.’

‘I know. But you’re not alone anymore. And honestly… You’ve been commanding a team ever since that deal with Treys, Maddie, and Lennox. Everybody treated you as the leader of that group for a reason. Between you and me, we will always have people working for us. I have a small army, you have a growing business. That’s just your life now. Take it in stride and save yourself the hassle of feeling bad about it.’

‘Said the man working three jobs, because he can’t delegate.’

‘Not for long. I’m hiring new people and organizing proper command structures, actually. We’ve put so much effort into the commerce lately, that we’re slipping elsewhere – and with Hellhounds rebuilding and BBs trying to undercut us, I want my people ready to roll when necessary. Because it will be, sooner or later.’

‘Social and military tension in the area keeps your higher-ups from swooping in, I know,’ laughs Sarah. By now, the matters of local gang politics hold no secrets from her, at least from the Cutters side. ‘Wouldn’t want this place to be too comfortable.’

‘Only for us. And I think neither of us minds a bit of a turf war from time to time.’

‘Not if we’re winning, no.’

‘Losing a bit is just a part of the process.’ Adam shrugs and kisses her again. ‘If you push the enemy too hard from the beginning, they’ll break and run away, and then you lose the pleasure of slowly grinding them down. The point is not to destroy the opposition, it is to control them. You want submission, not obliteration. Otherwise, you’ll spend all your time fighting – until a bigger fish comes along. And it will, because you’ll have more enemies than allies. Alliances and logistics are what brings the success in the long run, and long run is all that matters.’

‘If we ever get out of the criminal biz, you should just run for office.’

‘No, thanks. Politics are too dirty, even for me.’


Playthrough!

The Offense arrives at Module 1, the Gateway. They start in 3 points of Concealment, thanks to Dzitbalchen’s support. The moment they lose concealment, they trigger the Delayed Reinforcement Scene. Let’s roll for some details about the Offense, so we know how to play them according to the game algorithm.

Offense consists:

  • Techie: R4 Investigative/Technical, Debuff, Conservative Defense
  • Mage: R4 Investigative/Scientific, Wingman, Conservative Control
  • Face: R4 Investigative/Social, Tank, Conservative Control

Oops. Looks like our grand plan of tiring them out might be rather complicated – with all three of them focused on Defense and Control in a Conservative way, they’ll spend a fair amount of time trying to Take a Breath and regain their spent Morale/Stamina. None of them is particularly concerned with scoring marks for the main task either… Crowley’s interference aside, I think we now know WHY they made no progress in this investigation. We wanted to stall them – looks like they’re stalling themselves. Which, I suppose, makes narrative sense – they’re getting paid looking for a girl who’s basically a ghost, as far as they know. And they’re clearly not overexcited about this sliver of data – they probably had a fair number of dead ends.

This time, they actually have a chance to succeed.

Now, to succeed at this Scenario, we need to make it impossible for the Offense to win the Finale. I am honestly not expecting them to get to the Finale – not with that attitude. So, instead, we’ll… fight against their conservative behavior and try to completely deplete their morale and/or stamina. Each of them has 4 dice, 4 skill, 4 Resistance, 4 Clout, 2 automarks and 2 soak in Investigative Focus (halved for Secondary Focuses and halved again for all other). They also have extra 3 points of Clout in Social Tasks, which means they’ll probably resign from their concealment early on (especially as we’ve effectively raised the basic difficulty for Stealth to 11). Each has 8 SP and 8 MP, which brings them on the level of my Crew (slightly above, but we’ll live), and 2 PA and MA each turn. As this is not a Warfare Scenario, I’ll go with the simplified initiative of Offense-Defense. As they’re a part of d’Venescu’s Faction, who is with us at Familiarity 1 but he doesn’t know this, the basic difficulty of Social Tasks equals 9.

Now, as we will be using Focuses instead of skills for the most part, we’re going with Aphelion’s defaults: Warfare and Investigative use Physical Actions, the other Focuses use Mental Actions. This matters due to +2 global Physical modifier.

For the purposes of this Scenario, our Crew is actually:

  • Tomorrow, R4 Scientific/Investigative
  • Tonight, R4 Social/Technical
  • Chloe, R4 Technical/Scientific

Because I really don’t want to roll all night, we’re just short-handing everything with Focuses. Yes, this means we won’t learn any new skills, but that’s okay.


T1: Offense arrives at the Gateway with Concealment 3. They are aware that the moment they engage with the Gateway, each of them needs to spend 1PA on the Interact card, which will reduce the pool by 1, leaving them with measly 2 in Module 2, where sneaking is going to be neigh impossible. They can either take the initiative and try to build a Scene on the Fly to avoid the Social Offense Scene set up in Module 2, or they can bite the bullet, drop the concealment, and just try to win the Scene. Honestly, they don’t strike me as a proactive group, so it makes sense for them to just go with the flow here.

Also, hey, look: Scenario complications. Rolling 14v3=14/11, 3 net. Median roll 2 -3 = terrible bad luck. For us. Oy, vey.

The Defense Actors suffer a comm glitch. Add Resistance equal to magnitude to all the Social and Creative Actions they attempt for the rest of the Scenario. Attempts at alerting others or communicating using comms become a Main Task with Challenge equal to magnitude.

Magnitude equals 16. Well. Well. Well. I think we’re not going to do great in those Social parts, because they now have 16 points of Resistance for us. Good thing we didn’t really plan on doing that too much. Tonight is going to be screwed – or rather, she’ll need to improvise. Almost everything she can do, is Social.

ANYWAY.

Offense: Interacts with the Gateway. Moves to Module 2. Decides to drop Concealment entirely, as they can’t really succeed at it. They trigger the Reinforcement Scene, bringing in the cavalry in interval 25th.

Defense: Realizes they have a comms issue and nobody knows what’s up. Lack off comms automatically puts Tomorrow on edge, which sends her moving towards Module 2 to check up on things. Because she is and always will be a control freak.


April 3rd, 2056

It took but a minute for everything to go straight to shit. Yes, the thunderstorm was a good idea, so was the freezing rain. It might make their hired patsies miserable, but the conditions were plainly devastating for the group of investigators. Tonight didn’t care about the weather, Chloe was safe and warm at Best Western, and Tomorrow herself… Lived through worse. 

The fact that the magically-caused storm was raging outside of her control and somehow managed to mess up their comms – that was less than ideal. At least she assumed it’s the storm that caused it. It must have been magic – nothing else could stop her and Tonight from staying in touch. 

Well, shit went south. She knew there were too many variables, too many moving parts. Hired goons, careful spellwork, detection charms, patrolling elementals. Allies, troops, best laid plans. Bullshit. 

She should have just done it herself. 

Tomorrow curses and changes her form. She hates flying in this weather, but fuck, she hates losing even more. 


T2: Module 2: Social Space. Offense has dropped concealment, so they’re just approaching the Main Task of Challenge 11. My two R4 Social/Investigation Actors are rather hamstrung in this situation due to the Scenario complications, but we’ll make it work. As we didn’t make this Module (or any other, for that matter), an open space, the Offense has no right to be there – Guard Duty Scene (an Investigative one) plays out at the same time as the Social Scene, forcing the Offense to split their attention: they need to gather data while trying to avoid apprehension by the security we security we security elementals we have flying around.

Offense:

  • Face: Social 2v8=0 towards Social MT. TaB. SP 8/8 MP 8/8
  • Techie: Investigative 4v4=2 + 2 automarks towards Investigative MT. TaB. SP 8/8 MP 8/8
  • Mage: Investigative 4v4=2 + 2 automarks towards Investigative MT. TaB. SP 8/8 MP 8/8

Social MT 0/11. Investigative MT 8/11.

Defense: Our Social team faces problems here. Their basic difficulty is 9 due to low Familiarity, reduced by Skill 4, + 16 points of Resistance, reduced by 4 by the Clout, reduced by 4 thanks to Scenario on the Fly. This means we’re sitting at 5+8 = 13. Each of the Social characters (we have 3, including Tonight) has 2 MA, plus one R4 Tech/Soc with 1 MA. To get ANYTHING done, we need to combine them all.

  • Social Group Action (R4 Soc/Inv + R4 Soc/Inv + Tonight + R4 Tech/Soc) 4v7 (13-1-2-2-1) = 1 + 2 automarks against Social MT
  • R5 Inv/Sci, Balanced Defense: Investigative 5v3=4 + 3 automarks against Investigative MT
  • R4 Inv/Sci, Aggressive Offense: Investigative 4v4=4 + 2 automarks against Investigative MT. Investigative 4v4=4 against Investigative MT

End of interval: Social MT -3/11. Investigative MT -9/11.

Meanwhile, Tomorrow moves 1 Passage closer to Module 2. Patrols are walking around. The rest stays put.


T3: Module 2: Social Space. Not only have we beat the odds with this ridiculous 16 points of Resistance (crunch is life, y’all), we’ve brought both Scenes on our side. Offense Crew is now in Defense for both of the Scenes. This means we get hit with the extra Resistance for working on MT, but it doesn’t apply to group actions. Anyway, what we want to accomplish here is to win the Investigative Scene of Guard Duty, apprehend the ex-Offense and run an Escort Scene to move them to either Module 5 (Scientific) or Module 3 (Technical) for questioning. Probably the Scientific, because – can you see Tomorrow not taking charge of the situation? We come into those flipped scenes with pre-scored 3 marks in Social MT and 9 in Investigative MT.

Offense (that’s US now!):

  • Social Group Action (R4 Soc/Inv + R4 Soc/Inv + Tonight + R4 Tech/Soc) 4v7 (13-1-2-2-1) = 2 + 2 automarks towards Social MT.
  • R5 Inv/Sci, Balanced Defense: Investigative 5v3=4 + 3 automarks towards Investigative MT
  • R4 Inv/Sci, Aggressive Offense: Investigative 4v4=2 + 2 automarks towards Investigative MT. Investigative 4v4=3 towards Investigative MT

Social MT: 7/11. Investigative MT 23/11.

Defense:

  • Face: Social 2v7=2+1 automark against Social MT. TaB. SP 8/8 MP 8/8
  • Techie: Investigative 4v4=3 + 2 automarks against Investigative MT. TaB. SP 8/8 MP 8/8
  • Mage: Investigative 4v4=3 + 2 automarks against Investigative MT. TaB. SP 8/8 MP 8/8

End of interval: Social MT 4/11. Investigative MT 13/11 -> Offense wins. (We’ve scrapped those net marks moving to the following scenes; you’ll see why below.)

Tomorrow joins the rest in Module 2. She’s vaguely distressed but happy to be a part of the team. Will help escort the group to Module 5.


She finds them all soon enough, in the abandoned building in southern Warrens. The trail of breadcrumbs they’ve carefully constructed brought d’Venescu’s people right into this ruin, to talk with a local gang, with which their missing girl was allegedly hiding. It looks like the conversation goes rather poorly – not only they all need to shout over the rolling thunders and torrential rain, there’s also clear, heavy tension between her troops and the blood mage’s hounds.

She lands under a half-burned beam to take at least some shelter from the elements and tries to catch Tonight’s attention. 

The spirit, carefully disguised, looks positively pissed. And worried, realizes Tomorrow as she tries and fails to tap into the telepathic connection between her and Tonight.

Well, plan B. 

B is for bringing more thunder. 

She still has the command over her spells and elementals. It’s high time to collect the dogs and get them barking. 


T4: Passage. The Defense Team has won its Investigative Scene, apprehended the Offense and is now running an Escort Scene – moving them where we want them, which it into Tomorrow’s Scientific domain. As Defense, we have the right to just create Scenes as the situation develops. The Offense, however, needs to do a Scene on the Fly if they want to introduce something new into the Scenario, because it’s not theirs.

So, as we escort them from Module 2 to Module 5 through interval 4 and 5, they have a chance to figure out a way out of this. As always with Scenes on the Fly, there’s no guarantee that the new Scene is going to be easier.

In case of the Offense Crew, if they don’t want to be thrown into a Scientific Scene (in which they have zero chance of succeeding, even with the Mage in their midst), their best chance is creating a new Investigative Scene of sneaking away and losing the tail while being escorted. As they’re no longer in Module 2, the +3 Fitness modifier no longer applies, but the global +2 to physical actions stays where it was.

Offense: tries to create a Scene on the Fly. They need to collectively score 11 marks.

  • Face: Investigative, 4v4=2 +2 automarks
  • Mage: Investigative, 4v4=3 +2 automarks
  • Techie: Investigative, 4v4=2 +2 automarks

Total: 13/11, 2 net

Scenario: 14v3=11 -6 soak = 5
TR: 3-1 = 2. Build Points for the new Scene = 2.

Defense: leads the Offense through the first Passage towards Module 5. The Patrol Group from this Passage joins the Defense, bringing it to:

  • R5 Inv/Sci from Module 2
  • R4 Inv/Sci from Module 2
  • R5 Inv/Sci from Patrol
  • R4 Inv/Sci from Patrol
  • Tomorrow

If this makes you imagine them being captured by 4 elementals and a pissed-off magician, you’re winning a prize.

While Offense is looking for the way out, Defense is calmly escorting them where they want them but trying to succeed with its own Investigative Escort Scene.

  • R5 Inv/Sci, Balanced Defense, Investigative 5v3=5 + 3 automarks towards Investigative MT.
  • R4 Inv/Sci, Aggressive Offense, Investigative 4v4=2 + 2 automarks towards Investigative MT. Investigative 4v4=4 towards Investigative MT
  • R5 Inv/Sci, Balanced Offense, Investigative 5v3=4 + 3 automarks towards Investigative MT
  • R4 Inv/Sci, Conservative Offense, Investigative 4v4=2 + 2 automarks towards Investigative MT.
  • Tomorrow, Investigative 2v6=1 + 1 automark towards Investigative MT.

Defense MT 29/11. (Yes, 18 net marks. That’s why we scrapped the idea of them transferring from one scene to another. I broke the crunch.)


T5: Passage. While the Offense Team is being escorted, they have found an opportunity to try and escape. They’ve created a Scene that gives them the biggest chance of success – they will try to sneak away in Covert Ops, a Stealth Offense Scene. The Scene is created by the Offense, so it comes in for free together with the Free R4 Investigative/Scientific Actor. We’ll spend the 2 BPs we have to add two more of those. If the Offense is trying to run away and hide from elementals, it’s elementals who will search for them.

Offense: Their behavior is still as it was, Conservative Defense/Control. As they’re taking breaths all the time, I’m still not counting their pools.

  • Face: Investigative, 4v4=4 +2 automarks
  • Mage: Investigative, 4v4=3 +2 automarks
  • Techie: Investigative, 4v4=4 +2 automarks

MT total: 17/11

Defense: I’ll re-roll behaviors for Defense, as it would be unfair to pick from the previous ones.

  • R4 Inv/ Sci, Aggressive Defense, Investigative, 4v4=3 +2 automarks, Investigative, 4v4=3
  • R4 Inv/Sci, Conservative Control, Investigative, 4v4=2 +2 automarks
  • R4 Inv/Sci, Conservative Offense, Investigative, 4v4=1 +2 automarks

MT total: 2/11

Meanwhile, Tomorrow moves to Module 5. Where she will collect her two Sci/Inv friends and move her pre-placed Scientific Scene to the Passage from which Offense is currently trying to escape. We’ll see if she manages to do that in time.


T6: Passage. Offense is still trying to lose their tail, but as they’ve already cashed in on their automarks for this tasks, it’s more of a matter of luck now.

Offense:

  • Face: Investigative, 4v4=1
  • Mage: Investigative, 4v4=3
  • Techie: Investigative, 4v4=1

MT total: 7/11

Defense:

  • R4 Inv/ Sci, Aggressive Defense, Investigative, 4v4=3, Investigative, 4v4=2. MP 4/8
  • R4 Inv/Sci, Conservative Control, Investigative, 4v4=4
  • R4 Inv/Sci, Conservative Offense, Investigative, 4v4=3

MT total: -5/11

Meanwhile, Tomorrow does what she needs to do in Module 5 and moves back to the Passage, with her two R4 Sci/Inv friends in tow, bringing in the thunder and a brand new Scene for Offense Crew to win. A Scientific one. They are doomed, as far as that goes.


They tried, they really tried to escape. She can’t fault them. If anything, they’re showing their worth by not simply accepting their fate. She flies above their heads, calmly observing as her group of air elementals – heralds of the storm in the middle of a storm – mercilessly corrals the three investigators towards a remote alley, in which she has planned to trap them with magic.

But the dogs are doing their best and almost, almost manage to give their escort the slip.

She really feels bad for them as she starts molding the astral space around her.

She is their fate now and there is no escaping that.


T7: Passage. As the magic starts to mess with the Offense Crew, they need to split their attention between running away and keeping their wits about them. Magic confuses them, tires them out, makes their lives hell – and they suddenly get pushed into the position of defense in their Scene on the Fly. As this is technically a new MT, automarks kick in again. The d’Venescu Crew knows that their only chance of success is to win the Scene on the Fly, as they cannot succeed at the Scientific Scene – which, admittedly, is only there to deplete their Morale Pool, not to collect marks towards the main task. As their pools get depleted, they’ll have to choose between taking breaths and making progress in the Scene on the Fly (all of that are physical actions!)

Ex-Defense of the Scene on the Fly:

  • R4 Inv/ Sci, Aggressive Defense, Investigative, 4v4=3 +2 automarks, Investigative, 4v4=4. MP 2/8
  • R4 Inv/Sci, Conservative Control, Investigative +2 automarks, 4v4=3
  • R4 Inv/Sci, Conservative Offense, Investigative +2 automarks, 4v4=3

MT total: 24/11

Ex-Offense of the Scene on the Fly:

  • Face: Investigative, 4v4=2 +2 automarks
  • Mage: Investigative, 4v4=2 +2 automarks
  • Techie: Investigative, 4v4=2 +2 automarks

MT total: 13/11 -> Ex-Defense wins, which means that Scene on the Fly fails anyway! They do not manage to lose the tail of elementals! They’re recaptured and will soon have to figure out a new solution to their sad predicament.

Defense on the Scientific Scene: We’re not about to try and win this Scene (yet). We are the Defense, and we’re happy with it. Instead, we’ll attack the d’Venescu’s Crew to deplete their MP and basically kick them out of the game. As we’re attacking other Actors directly, our automarks kick in every time – so does their soak. Unfortunately, only one of them has any soak for Scientific/magical attacks – the rest just gets the full brunt of the non-lethal but certainly hostile magic. Also, as Scientific Focus is a mental one, we don’t have to fight against +2 Physical modifier.

  • R4 Sci/Inv, Conservative Defense, Scientific, 4v2=3 +2 automarks vs Face = 5 MP dmg.
  • Tomorrow, R4 Sci/Inv, Scientific, 4v2=3 +2 automarks -1 soak vs Mage = 4 MP dmg. Scientific, 4v2=4 +2 automarks -1 soak vs Mage = 5 MP dmg.
  • R4 Sci/Inv, Aggressive Control, Scientific, 4v2=3 +2 automarks vs Techie = 5 MP dmg. Scientific, 4v2=4 +2 automarks vs Techie = 6 MP dmg.
  • Face: 5 dmg, MP 3/8
  • Mage: 9 dmg = 8 + 1 drain. MP 0/7
  • Techie: 11 dmg = 8 + 3 drain. MP 0/5

T7: Passage. Things are not looking good for d’Venescu’s team. Mage and Techie are at 0 Morale and all they can do is Take a Breath, hoping that they’ll regain enough to keep fighting (they won’t). Face is the last one standing, but they have no chance of coming up with a new Scene on the Fly alone – not before another attack of the Defense takes him down. They also can’t succeed in the Scientific Offense Scene, rolling 1v5, because they’d need to score 11 marks on 1 dice.

Let’s be honest: this means that the d’Venescu’s team is out – they’ve been lured into a honeypot, hunted down by elementals, then completely drained by confusion magic. We aren’t causing them long-term damage (although we could: if we reduced them with drain to 0/0, we’d start dealing Anguish – as they’re R4, 4 points of it would mean we’ve permanently destroyed their minds. Even one point is enough for months-long therapy before coming back to the game. But we’re not doing that.) Drain will heal in about an hour to two – but it’s enough for us to win the Scenario for the Defense.

There’s no point in counting intervals anymore; the reinforcements don’t matter. Instead, let me just play out the Finale for the Defense here and there.


Finale. As devised, the Scenario has a Finale for the Offense. We are not that. That’s why we’ll be creating a new Finale, using the same number of BPs as I used for the Offense’s Finale. Lucky for me (yeah, right, I’ve pre-planned this, luck has nothing to do with it), the original Finale had no BPs spent on it. If Offense Crew managed to run away, they could make a Scene on the Fly and create a Passage leading them straight to the Finale, where they’d face almost no opposition – just Chloe and Jade. But they’ve failed and that’s on them.

Instead, I’m making my own Finale, with blackjack and hookers. Tomorrow has d’Venescu’s Crew completely at her mercy and gets to clearly and precisely explain to them why working for the blood mage is such a bad idea. Blood magic is bad for business, and the three investigators will probably be able to find a better, less evil employer, who isn’t going to use them as accomplices to at least two murders. Sadly, as this is really hard to explain through Social approach due to Scenario Complications, we will do the one thing Tomorrow has promised herself she won’t ever do, and we’ll force them to obey through mental manipulation magic.

You thought we’re done with that corruption arc? No, we’re only just starting.

That’s it, that’s the Finale. It gets, as always, 14 points of Resistance and a free Actor. To make my life harder, I will make this Actor a Sci/Inv, which will give them at least some chance at slowing down Tomorrow’s magic. She and her two Sci/Inv elementals (Steven and the usual Summon, of course), will do their best to succeed. The standard difficulty here is 6 – 4 skill + 3 Res for 3 Actors attempting the Finale + 14 Res of Payout – 4 Clout – 4 extra Clout = 4v11 – which means we cannot attempt the Finale as 3 characters and have to, instead, use group actions to do so – or zoom in, cast some spells, and use attributes, skills, and gear.

Group action gives us: 4v 6-4+14-4-4- (1-2-1) = 4v4. Defense gets 4v2. Still not great – we can attempt the Finale, but we’re at disadvantage, and I don’t like failing. Looks like we’ll zoom-in after all. Let me quickly roll for the Summon’s actions before it disappears: 5v3=3.

Offense:

  • Tomorrow, MA Artificial Intelligence (Sorcery+1), 5v1=5 = 5 points of Clout. MA activate Wit’s End, 5v7=3 = Wit 6 from next interval. PA TaB. MP 7/8.
  • Steven, MA Accident, 3v3=2, 2 soaked. MA Accident, 3v3=1, 2 soaked.
  • Summon, MA Accident, 3v3=3, 2 soaked. (2 actions left)

Defense: R4 Sci/Inv Actor, Balanced Control. Control means they’ll try to limit our number of actions or reduce the number of marks we can score, so instead of attacking us, they will just raise the Resistance for the MT. Imagine d’Venescu’s Mage raising some mental shields here.

  • R4 Sci/Inv, Scientific, 4v2=4+ 2 automarks = +6 Res while sustained. Loses 1 action because of the Summon. MP 7/8

Offense: The MT now has 21 points of Resistance. However, we have 4 Clout from Scenario on the Fly, 5 from Artificial Intelligence, 2 from Career trait, 2 from Driven trait, 1 from Sorcery toolkit. This brings our attempts at MT to 5v (6-5+21-14) = 5v8. Not too good, with the Defense Actor rolling 4v2 and being able to strip us from any progress in a single roll. We need to take them out first.

  • Tomorrow, sus MA Artificial Intelligence. MA Sorcery, 5v1=5 MP dmg vs Defense, 2 soak. MA Sorcery, 5v1=5 MP dmg vs Defense, 2 soak. PA TaB. MP 6/8. Wit 1/5.
  • Steven, MA Accident, 3v3=2, 2 soaked. MA Accident, 3v3=3, 2 soaked.
  • Summon, MA Accident, 3v3=1, 2 soaked. (1 action left)

Defense: As this is purely a Mental Scene, I’m skipping everybody’s physical actions, save for TaB. Defense is R4, so it has 2 MA – one currently used to sustain Resistance on MT, one wasted by Steven’s Accident power. As Defense is focused on Control, not on saving themselves, they will sustain Resistance with their sole MA. As they’re Balanced and their MP is under half, they will try to regain some MPs – but as this is a physical thing (+2 mod) with no skills attached, they roll 4v8 for it!

  • R4 Sci/Inv, Scientific, MA sus MT Resistance. 2 PA TaB, 4v8=2. MP 3/8

Offense: As long as Offense sustains the Resistance, there’s no point for us to attempt the MT. As we’ll bring them to 0 MP in this turn, there’s also no need to control their actions – all they’ll be able to do is to sustain actions and TaB. Let’s take them out.

  • Tomorrow, sus MA Artificial Intelligence. MA Sorcery, 5v1=5 MP dmg vs Defense, 2 soak. MA Sorcery, 5v1=5 MP dmg vs Defense, 2 soak. PA TaB. MP 5/8. Wit 2/5.
  • Steven, MA Sorcery, 3v3=1 MP dmg, 2 soaked. MA Sorcery, 3v3=2 MP dmg, 2 soaked.
  • Summon, MA Sorcery, 3v3=2 MP dmg, 2 soaked. (no actions left, disappears.)

Defense: Was on MP 3/8, got hit with 6 more dmg, getting them to 0 + 3 points of drain. 0/5 it is.

  • R4 Sci/Inv, Scientific, MA sus MT Resistance. 2 PA TaB, 4v8=1. MP 1/5

Offense:

  • Tomorrow, sus MA Artificial Intelligence. MA Sorcery, 5v1=5 MP dmg vs Defense, 2 soak. MA Sorcery, 5v1=5 MP dmg vs Defense, 2 soak. PA TaB. MP 4/8. Wit 3/5.
  • Steven, TaB.

Defense: Was on MP 1/5, got 6 more dmg, taking them down to 0/0. They’re out of the game, the extra Resistance is no more. The mental barriers have been undone and there’s nothing standing between Tomorrow and the Finale.

Offense:

  • Tomorrow, sus MA Artificial Intelligence. MA Sorcery, 5v3=3. MA Sorcery, 5v3=5. PA TaB. MP 3/8. Wit 4/5. MT 8/11.

Offense:

  • Tomorrow, sus MA Artificial Intelligence. MA Sorcery, 5v3=5. MA Sorcery, 5v3=4. PA TaB. MP 2/8. Wit 5/5, ends and deals 3 points of Stamina drain. MT 17/11.

Offense wins with 17/11, 6 net!


I really didn’t want to do it like that. 

I wanted to talk. 

But talking is out of the question now, isn’t it? 

Tomorrow looks at the three men huddled in the corner of the alley. They had no chance against her magic. Not many do. The confusion spell Friese and her brought from the metaplane was enough to send their minds wandering away. They got lost, walking up and down a single street. Their mage did what he could, set up the mental defenses to keep their heads clear… But she can taste his desperation, the bitter, gut-wrenching failure of will, as she strips down his protection, layer by layer.

The pleasure of slowly grinding them down. 

She isn’t going to hurt them. It won’t hurt at all. But they will listen to what she has to say, even if talking is not an option. 

She reaches towards the spells running through her brain and calmly undoes the last layer separating the investigators’ minds from hers. 

And then she just watches. 

Thoughts and memories race through their heads. She’s not interested in their feelings and fears, so she moves them aside. They can sort this out themselves, later. Now, she needs to know what they know – about d’Venescu, about his network, about his accomplices, about his plans… She smiles triumphantly when the deep, thorough probing doesn’t find any useful information about Chloe or Fayette. 

They don’t know what they’re doing. They’ve been hired for a missing person’s case, and they did their best to help. They are not the enemy.

Let’s show them who is. 

She assembles her own memories into the tale of a despicable man, who sacrificed his wife on a bloody altar in a constant pursuit of power. An evil, twisted man who will stop at nothing in order to murder his own daughter, not caring about anybody between him and his goal. 

The irony is not lost on her. 

She laces the message with her own feelings – the anguish of losing a sister, the fear of never seeing her again, the overwhelming regret of not being there to help when she was needed. They won’t know what caused those emotions, they won’t have the context – but the raw force behind them should be enough to make them resign. 

They don’t need to be harmed. No more than this. 

This is plenty. 

She’s suddenly thankful for the lack of connection between her and Tonight, for the silence in comms. It is better if nobody knows what exactly did happen here. For once, she won’t be telling her friends the whole story. Just this one time. 

So far. 

She wipes the blood dripping from her nose as the effects of her magical boost pass, collecting the toll for this borrowed bit of power. 

She stays around for a while longer, keeping an eye on d’Venescu’s hounds. She didn’t go through all that trouble to have them eaten by something that just happened to find three confused snacks. As they slowly return to their senses, it’s obvious they’re scared like hell. And scarred. 

This isn’t what they’ve been hired to do, they say. This isn’t worth it. 

This is wrong. 

When Tomorrow unfolds her wings and turns back home, she agrees with their assessment. But between feeling good about herself and making sure her sister is safe, she will always make the same choice. 

She will sort herself out, later. 


Wrapping Up!

Payout: 14 (6 to remove the R3 Investigative Crew from the game, 8 points of d’Venescu intel.)

Rep: +14 for Tomorrow, Tonight, and Chloe, even if Scenario Complications made one obsolete, and Offense’s Scene on the Fly threw a spanned into the whole tech angle I had planned. We’re gaining a total of 6 influence points for Rep here, as be blast through tens of Rep.

Campaign progression: +14. We’re up to, imagine that, 78/100. Soon we’ll be able to collect Fayette, maybe?

Familiarity: Who false-flagged the whole deal? We did! D’Venescu is now fully convinced that this removal of his Investigative Crew was the Aztechnology’s payback for his removal of their Social Crew. Only, they paid him back twice… But as they’re at Familiarity 1, he can’t just call them and demand explanations, can he?

Skill learning: As we run this Scenario on a zoom-out, nobody but Tomorrow got to use any skills, so I’ll just pass on that. This one tick in Sorcery changes nothing for her anyway.

Scenario consequences: With 6 net marks, we land on 7+6, so a positive consequence with magnitude 14+2 = 16. Shit just keep spiraling, doesn’t it? Yes, it automatically builds up the tension and counteracts the power creep of characters. As they grow in power, so grow the effects of their actions.

And I rolled a 9.

A person from a character’s 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.

Well. Tonight is a spirit and she has no backstory. So, odds – Tomorrow, evens – Chloe. Tomorrow it is. She has very few people in her backstory who are not her contacts, so why don’t we generate the Faction first, and then see what’s up. Also, note that the consequences mention ‘personal goals,’ not the main campaign.

Faction Rating: 3
Primary Focus: Scientific (Beneficial Growth)
Secondary Focus: Investigative (Hostile Defense)
Other Focuses: (Exclusive Growth)
Trait: Vindictive. Add 2 priority to hostile Projects targeting a Faction who run a hostile Project against them in the past Cycle.
Assets: R2 MedBay. R1 Augmentation Center
Name: Delta Labs, Inc.
Connections: Doc Harmon, Fam 9. Irene Woods, Fam 4.

Well. I think Doc Harmon strikes again. He’s no contact, but Tomorrow and him worked together in Cutters’ employ against the metahuman-hating policlub Unity. We were even planning to take the next part of the campaign into working for DocWagon (think armored high-threat-response paramedics). Tomorrow’s been also helping out in all kinds of medical emergencies (up and including a VITAS outbreak), and I look forward to adding some biotech skills to her repertoire!

As for the projects they will be running, I’ll tell you in the next episode, as this consequence gives me a perfect opportunity to start a third structured campaign!


Coming Up!

We’ve set the trap and completely messed up d’Venescu’s plans. It’s time to mess with him specifically.

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