Project Aphelion Solo Play #032: Divide et Impera

Hey-ho, let’s punch the blood mage-o! We’ve been really looking forward to it. And by we, I mean mostly myself.


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Scenario 018: A Friendly Chat

After so successfully driving a wedge between d’Venescu and Aztechnology, we could just watch their worlds burn. However, that would be borderline boring and take too much time. Instead, we’ll carefully pour oil on the flames and feel the warmth in our cold, cold hearts.

Last we left off, Tonight and Chloe were taking two days off, on April 4th and 5th. After that, we need to prepare for the upcoming Scenario to take down d’Venescu – we can’t start it until April 8th if we want it to be false-flagged, but we can start the legwork. As Tonight and Chloe will be the one taking care of this Scenario, they’ll both do the legwork for it. The dice have decided it’s a Social Scenario, but it will, of course, find a place for our hacker to stretch her legs. As they’ll most likely finish the legwork in one day, we’ll actually extend their time off to April 6th.

Remember Irene Woods, the elderly clinic manager, who doesn’t like d’Venescu and thinks she’s helping a friend by delivering us intel about the blood mage? Well, we’re going to follow up on that. Here’s what we know from Irene:

For the last several years, nobody has seen d’Venescu in person – and that’s because the blood mage doesn’t leave the clinic. As an in-patient, he is under the care of one Dr. Arnhill, Irene’s friend – a mage and a healer fascinated by d’Venescu’s case. Irene is worried about her friend, who has been studying d’Venescu’s case for years to the point of obsession. She has heard through mutual friends that we are also interested in this case and – as the blood mage really gets on her nerves – she was willing to tell us where we can find him. Irene hopes that we can solve the mystery of d’Venescu’s illness and her friend can stop obsessing over it.

This is where intel from Irene ends – the rest is up to us. We will, therefore, make a trip to the Juzu clinic, where the d’Venescu’s medical data are being kept, talk our way into getting some more information from Irene, hack the system on-the-sly, and gather enough information to finish the step of this structured campaign. We are 8 points short, and the Scenario has only 6 Payout – so we’ll try to steal a bit more than we’ve originally planned from a Treasury scene! I’m adding Irene as the extra Threat – we’re not attacking her, but she is a part of this Scenario – and as such, she’s raising the Threat Rating.


Scenario Generation

Payout: 6 (all towards reducing d’Venescu’s Faction Rating)
Legwork: Tonight, Diplomacy, 5v5=3. Chloe, Hacking, 6v3=6. Total 9, 3 net. Done on April 7th.
Threat Rating: 6v4=4. TR 2 (R2 Irene) + 2-2=2
Scenario Rating: 8. Default Actors R3.

Free Modules: 6 + 6 Passages
Free Scenes: 6
Build Points: 8

  1. Gateway (Social) – Reinforcement Scene of dr Arnhill arriving (1/6), R4 Scientific/Investigative (BP 1/8) + R3 Social/Technical (BP 2/8)
  2. Hardpoint (Social) – extra 2 pts of Res (BP 4/8), R3 Actor Technical/Scientific
  3. Offense Scene (Social) – R3 Actor (Irene) Social/Technical, bump to R4 (BP 5/8), extra 2 Res (BP 7/8)
  4. Offense Scene (Technical) – R3 Technical/Warfare Actor, +2 Res (BP 9/8)
  5. Treasury + Hardpoint (Technical) Payout 2, +2 BP (9/10) Technical/Investigative Actors
  6. Control Module (Social) Base diff 4 + 6 Res, R3 Actor (Irene, Social/Technical), bumped to R4 (BP 10/10)

Modules 1, 2, 3, and 6 are open spaces, giving the Scenario extra 4 BP. We’ll shorten the Reinforcement delay to 12 intervals instead of 16.
The passages connect 1-2. 2 splits into two paths, 2-4-5 and 2-3-6.


Playthrough!

TonightChloe
SP / PI / PA5 / 3 / 25 / 3 / 2
MP / MI / MA7 / 5 / 38 / 6 / 3

Because we are not taking Chloe right to d’Venescu and his cronies, she’s still doing her hacking from Best Western.

T1: Module 1, Gateway. This only requires interaction, which will trigger the Reinforcement Scene.
Scenario complications: 6v4=4/6
Interact, TaB. Chill.


T2: Module 2, Hardpoint. Tonight must convince the R3 Technical/Scientific Actor of Defense that she has every right to go through this door and talk to Ms. Woods. The Hardpoint has 4 points of Resistance, but it’s a Social Scene with Defense at Conservative Control and Fam 6 (both freshly rolled). We also want Chloe to use her AAC Hijack Broadcast – hack the local communication grid to use it as connection for Hacking. To do so, she need to collect 3 marks on Electronic Warfare (default Actors Rating, so basically, the Rating of the gear this lovely technician is carrying, taking advantage of their Technical Focus, Res and soak.) As this is a Hardpoint, MT = 3.
Scenario complications: 6v4=3+ 4 = 7/6, 1 net. Rolled 8-1=7, no complications.
Reinforcements: 1/12

Chloe: Electronic Warfare+1, 5v6=4 -2 soak. Electronic Warfare, 5v6=4 -2 soak. CR 4/3, reached. Command+1, 3v5=3 Clout for Tonight’s Diplomacy. TaB (comb), 3v6=2. MP 7/8.
Tonight: Diplomacy+1, 5v2=5 towards MT. Stalling Tactics (2 comb.) (Con+1), 5v2=4 > target’s Resolve, forced to commit 1 MA to talk to Tonight. TaB. MP 7/7.
Defense: Stalled, taking breaths in an easy chit-chat with the cute elf that has just wandered in.


April 8th, 2056

‘I’m in,’ says Chloe in the ultimate hacker voice. ‘Honestly, it wasn’t that hard. Feel free to proceed at your leisure. I’ll just move my digital butt to the database. Hope this works for you. It’s really silly talking to you when you can’t respond. And I can’t see you. I assume you’re fine and having fun. I’ll update you on progress when I make any. Stay safe, sis.’

Tonight smiles at the lanky technician at the entry desk, making sure to keep friendly, non-threatening eye contact. Whatever bad one could say about Tomorrow (many things), her body was definitely useful in situations just like that one. Not that Tonight couldn’t talk her way into this place in any physical form… But the elven features, cute smile and dark eyes definitely helped.

‘That’s lovely,’ she answers, knowing that her voice will reach both interlocutors at once. ‘Thank you so much for your help. I’ll be on my way. Have a great day!’


T3: Chloe in a passage to Module 4, Tonight in a passage to Module 3. TaB, MPs full.
Reinforcements: 2/12


T4: Chloe gets to Module 4, Tonight gets to Module 3.
Reinforcements: 3/12

Module 4: Offense Technical Scene, with R3 Technical/Warfare Actor (Balanced Defense) and +2 Res. MT 6.
Chloe: Hacking+1, 6v5=4 Concealment points. Hacking, 6v5=+5 Concealment points. Hack the System (Hacking), 6v3=5 actions next turn (8 Conc). TaB coms, 3v6=2. MP 8/8
Defense: On lookout. 3v3=3 +1 automark -3 Chloe’s soak = 7 Conc.
MT 0/6

Module 3: Offense Social Scene, with R4 Actor (Irene) Social/Technical (Conservative Offense), Fam 6, extra 2 Res. Tonight has 2 soak from her fancy business suit and 2 automarks from Elegant Jewelry. MT 6.
Tonight: Circular Reasoning (Con+1), 5v2=5 Res for Irene to disprove the Con. Con, 5v3=5+2 automarks towards MT. Negotiation+1, 5v6=3 -2 soak = 1MP to Irene. PA comb TaB, 3v6=3. MP 7/7
Irene: 4v5=4 +2 automarks = 6 against MT. TaB with the rest, b/c Conservative.
MT 1/6.


T5: Reinforcements: 4/12

Module 4:
Chloe: Cashing in on those free Hack the System actions: 1/5, force Defense to reboot (6 Conc). 2/5, open Hardpoint from Treasury (5 Conc). 3/5 disable Actor from that Hardpoint (4 Conc). PA comb TaB, 3v6=2, MP 7/8.
Defense: glitched, rebooting.
MT 0/6

Module 3:
Tonight: Diplomacy+1, 5v3=4 towards MT. Stand Out (2 comb.) (Impersonation+1), 5v3=3 > no. of Actors in the Module – each must spend 2 actions observing Tonight. PA comb TaB, 3v6=1, MP 6/7
Irene: Looks at Tonight in awe and/or disbelief. She doesn’t have to score marks to win this turn, so she doesn’t.
MT 5/6


T6: Reinforcements: 5/12

Module 4:
Chloe: Cashing in on those free Hack the System actions: 4/5, force Defense to reboot (3 Conc). Hacking, 6v5=5 towards MT (2 Conc). Electronic Warfare+1, 5v5=3 towards MT (1 Conc). PA comb TaB, 3v6=1 (0 Conc), MP 5/8.
Defense: glitched, rebooting.MT 8/6 -> Offense wins

Module 3:
Tonight: Diplomacy, 5v3=5 towards MT. Stand Out (2 comb.) sust. PA comb TaB, 3v6=1, MP 7/7
Irene: continues spending her time with Tonight.
MT 10/6 -> Offense wins


‘In case you’re wondering, I’m not done yet – but I’m working on it. I only need a couple of minutes here. I’ve found some tasty things, we’ll like them. Stall a bit, please? Won’t be long, promise.’

‘You must be kidding, darling,’ says at the same time Irene and all Tonight can do is keep spinning her web of lies around the older lady. ‘Do you really think it’s that dangerous?’

‘Well, they say it’s blood magic,’ the spirit confirms in a confidential tone. ‘Who knows? Maybe it’s some kind of a magical parasite? You’ve said it yourself, Ms. Woods, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him, but he’s lost his magical abilities and grows weaker every day. Doesn’t that sound to you as if something is draining him? And if it is, who is to say it’s not contagious? I think you’re absolutely right, the poor man should be quarantined and your friend would do best if he kept his distance. Now, about those symptoms…’


T7: Reinforcements: 6/12

Chloe: In the passage leading to Module 5. MA Hacking, 6v3=5 Concealment points. MA Hack the System (Hacking), 6v3=4 more actions, total 5 next interval (4 Conc.) MP 4/8

Tonight: Moves to passage between Module 3 and 6. MA Activating Wit’s End, 5v8=1, Wit 6 for the next 5 intervals.


T8: Reinforcements: 7/12

Module 5: Hardpoint + Treasury. The Hardpoint has been opened through hacked actions, the Defense has been disabled.
Chloe: Hacked actions: 1/5: Disable Treasury Defense (3 Conc). 2/5 Download Treasury Payout (2 Conc). 3/5 Log out from the system.
Offense wins, in the cheekiest way possible.

Module 6: Finale! In here, we have Irene, R4 Scientific/Technical (Conservative Offense). The base difficulty is 4, with 6 points of Resistance +1 for 1 attempting Actor.
Tonight: Diplomacy+1, 6v7=2 + 2 automarks towards MT. Stand Out (2 comb.) (Impersonation+1), 6v3=5, Irene forced to spend 2 actions chilling with Tonight.
Irene: chills and chats.
MT 4/6.


‘I’m out of the system and ready to help!’ Chloe sounds about as happy as Tomorrow when she manages to pull of a new feat of magic. ‘Looks like Irene is about to break – did you remember to ask her about her grandchildren? Those contagious magical blood parasites sound like a good segue.’


T8: Reinforcements: 7/12

Module 6:
Chloe: (3 comb) Command+1, 3v3=2 points of Clout for Tonight’s Con.
Tonight: Con+1, 6v5=3 towards MT. Stand Out (sust).Irene: keeps on chilling and talking about her grandchildren.
MT 7/6 -> Offense wins, 1 net mark.


Wrapping up

Payout: 8 (6+2 from Treasury, all into taking down D’Venescu). This brings the step of the campaign to 50/50.
Rep: +8 for Chloe and Tonight, which nets another Influence point for the Faction
Familiarity: It was, technically, a hostile Scenario against d’Venescu, but it was false-flagged as always, so… A pleasant chat with Irene brings the Familiarity up to 7.

Skill learning:
Chloe: Electronic Warfare +2, Command +2, Hacking +1
Tonight: Diplomacy +3, Con +3, Negotiation +1, Impersonation +2

Scenario consequences: a 2 +1 = negative consequence with magnitude 8!

An enemy Faction launches a hostile Project against the character’s Contact, with Assets Rating equal to magnitude.

Hmph. This is d’Venescu against Raul, there’s just no other option. We don’t technically have any Familiarity with him, because he doesn’t know about our Faction – but he is our enemy and definitely knows about the Aztechnology mage who is covering the tracks of both Chloe and Fayette. However, he is currently deadly busy – we’ll have this kick in at d’Venescu’s earliest opportunity! Which is April 14th, I suppose. But we don’t know about it yet!


Down a Notch

We did it! We scored 50 points of Payouts, which is enough to take down d’Venescu’s Faction from R5 to R4. To do so, just like with the Faction Advancement Structured Campaign, we need to run a Scenario with Payout equal the number of projects/scenarios it took us to get to this point. In this case, it’s 5. This means that we need to create a Scenario of the Fly, run legwork, and execute it – preferably before April 14th (mostly for the reason of ‘this is how far I’ve gone with the calendar’ and I can’t be bothered to change anything’).

But first, let’s see if any of them manages to level-up any skills that might be useful in the Scenario:
Tonight: (Teaching+1, 4v4=1) Con 4, 5v8=3 +3 previous, skill raised (by April 12th)
Chloe: (Teaching+1, 3v4=2) Electronic Warfare 4, 5v7=2 +2 previous, skill raised (by April 12th)

Now, it’s April 9th when we can start this project and we’ll need at least 5 days to run it, a day for legwork, and a day to run the Scenario – and we’re already running out of time. So, let’s delve into our 12 points of intel about d’Venescu and get this party started!

We also want this false-flagged, so let’s see if our Ghostworks manage in time! They roll 1v5=1+1+1+1, actually scoring those 4 marks needed to pretend we’re Aztechnology by April 12th!

Project for the Scenario: rolling 1v4 (for 2 Actors) = 1+1+1 by April 11th, then we just throw 2 points of d’Venescu’s intel at it and call it a day. The project is finished on April 11th, and we have 10 points of this intel left. Cool beans. Our R2 crew might have a problem to pull off Payout 5 Scenario through quick resolution rules, though. Rolling 2v7 against Scenario rolling 5v6 is a recipe for a disaster, and this it too important to leave to chance. So…


Scenario 019: Divide et Impera

Payout: 5 (we don’t get anything from it, it’s just setting up the Scenario difficulty – well, what we’re getting is d’Venescu’s headache.)
Legwork: Chloe, Hacking, 6v3=6. Tonight, Con, 5v4=4. Total 10, 5 net. Done on April 12th.
Threat Rating: 5v4=4. TR= 2-3 = 0
Scenario Rating: 5. Default Actors R2.

Free Modules: 5+5 Passages
Free Scenes: 5
Build Points: 5

This is a Social Scenario. This is the Scenario, in which Tonight and Chloe meet with their Aztechnology allies and hammer out the agreement for the mutual help in taking down d’Venescu. As this Scenario takes place on April 13th, this is a very bad day for d’Venescu and it works our perfectly (as if I didn’t literally pay an equivalent of 10.000c to make it work out perfectly in the calendar).

This Scenario is essentially a Social Chase, because there’s no reason why we wouldn’t just go straight to the Finale. Let us just go straight to the Finale, like we did in the first ever Scenario we played in this campaign. I’m not going for any Treasuries or extra fireworks, this is an opportunity for Chloe to stretch her legs and actually talk to people she treats as her allies. (Because the investigation is gone and d’Venescu simply can’t find her! Also, even if he finds her at Aztechnology… What does that change for us?)

At this moment, Aztechnology has zero assets – this might explain why it will be so easy to convince them to join forces (Threat Rating 0!). Due to TR 0, Defense starts with 0 net marks, but all that time, we have 5 points of Payout Resistance, because we’re doing the Finale from the moment we start talking to Raul in Module 3.

  1. Gateway – potential Getaway Scene in case Defense wins, R2 Social/Warfare Actor
  2. Hardpoint – Checkpoint Scene (Social), R2 Social/Creative Actor + extra 3 Res (BP 3/5)
  3. Social Space – Offense Scene (Social), R3 Scientific/Creative Actor (Raul) (BP 4/5)
  4. Modifier Module – Offense Scene (Social), R2 Social/Investigative Actor, providing +1 Wit mod in Social Space (BP 5/5)
  5. Control Module – Offense Scene (Social), R2 Technical/Social.

Gateway is an open module, which means we’re getting 1 extra BP, which we’ll use to raise the Wit mod to +2. The rest requires gaining a peaceful entry through a checkpoint.


Playthrough!

T1: Module 1: Gateway. Interact.
Scenario complications: 5v4=4 /5


T2: Module 2: Hardpoint. 3 points of Res, R2 Social/Creative Actor, Balanced Control. Fam 6 b/c Aztech, but both characters have First Impression, so it’s 8. MT 2
Scenario complications: 5v4=2 +4 = 6/5, 1 net. 8-1 = 7, no complications this time.

Tonight: Command+1, 4v5=2 Clout for Chloe’s Diplomacy. Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v5=1, soaked. PA Deep Sigh. Stalling Tactics (Con), 5v5=5, Defense’s Actions wasted. TaB, MP 7/7
Chloe: Diplomacy+1, 6v7=3 towards MT + 3 automarks (Tomorrow’s dress + jewelry). TaB. MP 8/8
Defense: gets his MA wasted and he’s not about to tackle these two elves.
MT 6/2 -> Offense wins.


T3: Passage to Module 3.

T4: Finale! Let’s cut to the Chase, talk to Raul. As this is a Chase, each mark scored by Raul will push the MT of the Finale, possibly to the point where we can no longer do anything about it. Raul is a R3 Scientific/Creative Actor, Balanced Control, and he’s Chloe’s contact at Fam 8. First impression won’t work for him, but that’s okay. It’s a Finale, so it comes with 5 points of Resistance.

Tonight: Command+1, 4v5=2 Clout for Chloe’s Sciences. Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v5=3, Raul’s actions sadly wasted.
Chloe: Sciences+1, 5v5=4 +3 automarks towards MT. Biotech+1, 5v6=3 towards MT. Sorcery+1, 5v6=0 towards MT.
Raul: stares at the naked ally spirit, like some 22-year-old boy.
MT 10/5 -> Offense wins, with 5 net.

Well, that would be it, thanks for playing. Social action control vs. non-Social characters is devastating. Shame it doesn’t work as well all the time, but when it does…


April 13th, 2056

‘Chloe! So good to see you. Hi, Sarah. How’s liiiiife…? Wait, is this your sister?’ Raul’s eyes glaze over as he focuses on the astral space. ‘This is not your sister.’

‘Uhm, no. Nice to see you too, man.’ Chloe hugs her friend and playfully punches him in the arm to catch his attention. ‘I take it you got my message?’

‘Yeah, I did. Thanks, we’ll take this further. Are you going to introduce me to your not-sister or what?’

‘Call me Tonight.’ The spirit winks at the young mage and Chloe chuckles as Raul’s cheeks darken with a flush of blood. Sarah’s decision to model the ally spirit after her own naked body was definitely a choice, but it was a choice that paid off from time to time. Tonight adds in a silken, measured tone: ‘It’s very nice to meet you, Raul. I’ve heard so much about you.’

‘Tonight. Right. No, shit, sorry, I’m working tonight. Wait, what?’

‘Focus, Raul,’ laughs Chloe and turns her friend’s face towards herself. ‘This is Tonight. My sister’s ally spirit. She’s amazing, beautiful, and yes – single, but this is not why we’re here. Remember Fayette?’

This seems to finally get his attention, because his eyes focus back on the material world. He casts one quick glance at Tonight, who just raises an eyebrow in response – or in a challenge. ‘Well, yeah. Of course. The data you’ve sent is fantastic. The clinic is our property, but no matter how many times I’ve requested access to the medical files, it was always denied. I won’t ask you how you got it, because not knowing keeps my ass safer, but you made a couple people here rather impressed.’

‘Well, good, because we wanted to make a deal with you.’ Chloe sits on the chair in the rec room and folds her hands in front of her, waiting until Raul joins her. Tonight wanders around the room, seemingly paying no attention to the conversation and the young mage whose eyes keep following her. ‘We have the same enemy, and we have the same objective. Is it okay if we just… join forces for this one? You know I know shit all about magic, but you have that angle covered. Sarah does too. Tonight and I have other strengths. Together, we can take him down so much faster. Would you mind if…’

She stops, noticing her friend’s unfocused gaze. ‘Raul!’

‘I’m listening.’

‘Do you mind if we mess with d’Venescu pretending that we’re working for you?’

‘What? No. I get you want to stay in hiding, so if your sister wants to pretend she’s getting paid by us to harass him, nobody will care. She can probably just get paid by us to harass him if you want to strike a proper deal with my boss. Do what you must. We also want Fayette back. I also want Fayette back, outside of her potential position in the corporation. Do you know how much the band sucks without the bassist?’

‘I know how much it sucked even with the bassist. I’m joking, man,’ she adds quickly, when Raul puts his hands over his heart as if mortally wounded. ‘It’ll be over soon, and we all will get to play together. Yes, I’ll bloody sing.’

‘Jackpot!’ Raul grins widely. ‘Let’s collect Fay and get the party started.’


Wrapping up

And we’re done! On April 13th, not only d’Venescu loses his R3 Social Crew and flips to a Scientific focus, he also shrinks down to a R4 Faction! This brings him down to Aztechnology’s level, and even though he has some head start (with 6/40 Payouts scored in his Destroy Aztechnology campaign), he has more enemies than allies. I’ve wrapped it up with a general hand-waving of our false-flagged projects, because in this situation there’s literally zero reason for Aztech to care about them. Might as well pretend they agreed.

Payout: 5 (d’Venescu’s going down!)
Rep: +5 for Chloe and Tonight, one more influence point for the Faction
Familiarity: none

Skill learning:
Tonight: Command +2, Con +2
Chloe: Diplomacy +1, Sciences +1, Biotech +1, Sorcery +1 (yes, I’m letting Chloe learn Sorcery as a knowledge skill; she can’t use magic but it doesn’t mean she can’t know about it.)

Scenario consequences: Median roll 3 +5 net = 8, a positive consequence of magnitude 5!

A Faction appreciated your efforts, and gifted you information about a potential next Scenario with Payout equal magnitude. If caused by hostile move, the target Faction’s most hostile competitor appreciated it.

I think we’ve just got gifted a new Scenario from Aztechnology. Interestingly, a Payout 5 Scenario is enough to remove d’Venescu’s Fleet of mages (they’re R2, so this is only Payout 3), so why don’t we? Why don’t we also get paid for harassing d’Venescu?


Coming Up!

This is getting hot. April 14th comes, we’ll have a lot, a lot of work. So will d’Venescu. So will Aztech. The war has started and it won’t stop until one of the sides is destroyed. It won’t be ours.

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