Project Aphelion Solo Play #033: This Means War

This episode is about as full of plotting and scheming as one can expect. We have unresolved consequences, lots of unresolved tension, stuff happening all around us, a raging war, a plot to kill one of our contacts, we have personal growth and character development, and a rework of the magic system.

There’s also, you know, plot.


Disclaimer

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Faction Layer, 14 April 2056

Stuff’s happening, y’all.

If you remember, on April 13th, d’Venescu lost his Social Crew and went down to R4 Faction thanks to combined forces of Aztechnology’s hired R5 Scientific/Investigative Crew and our months of hard work.

Here’s all the consequences that we have unresolved:

  • after d’Venescu bribed away Aztech’s R2 Scientific Fleet, he was gifted with a Payout 4 Scenario furthering his campaign goals.
  • after we stole his medical records from the Juzu clinic, d’Venescu launches a hostile Project against Raul with Assets Rating 8.
  • after we reduced d’Venescu’s Faction’s Rating to 4, Aztechnology gifted us a Payout 5 Scenario.

It’s bright morning of April 14th, and we have things to do. Let’s unpack this.

D’Venescu doesn’t have enough Assets to pull off his attack against Raul, so he’ll have to find and hire them – or maybe borrow from his sole ally. Dzitbalchen has a total of R3 Assets and would be, potentially, willing to lend them, but this needs to be negotiated, which takes time. The blood mage is going to do the thing he can do straight away, then – the Payout 4 strike against Aztech. This costs him standard deployment costs of a R2 Fleet, 1000c, bringing him down to 27+575c. This R2 Fleet is actually two R1 Actors.


R2 Fleet: 2 dice, 2 skill, 2 Resistance, 2 Clout, 1 soak, 1 automark. Scenario Payout 4.
Legwork: 2v4=2+2 +1 automark, 1 net (finished by April 15th).
Threat Rating: 4v6 = 2 (-1 soak) + 3 (-1 soak) = 3. TR 2-1= 1
Challenge: Payout + 1 = 5.

D’Venescu’s Crew needs to score 5 marks. They’re rolling 2 v 6 – 2 (skill) +4 (Payout Resistance) – 2 (Clout) = 2v6, and start with 1 automark. Scenario rolls 4 v 6 -2 (number of Actors) + 2 (Resistance) = 4v6, and gets hit with 1 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 2v6=2 + 1 automarks = 3. MT 3/5. Defense: 4v6=2 -1 soak = 1. MT 2/5
T2: Offense: 2v6=0. MT 2/5. Defense: 4v6=3 -1 soak = 2. MT 0/5 -> flip!
T3: Ex-Defense: 4v6=2 -1 soak. MT 1/5. Ex-Offense: 2v6=1. MT 0/5 -> flip!
T4: Offense: 2v6=2. MT 2/5. Defense: 4v6=2 -1 soak = 1. MT 1/5
T5: Offense: 2v6=1. MT 3/5. Defense: 4v6=2 -1 soak = 1. MT 2/5
T6: Offense: 2v6=1. MT 3/5. Defense: 4v6=3 -1 soak = 2. MT 1/5
T7: Offense: 2v6=2. MT 3/5. Defense: 4v6=1 -1 soak = 0. MT 3/5
T8: Offense: 2v6=1. MT 4/5. Defense: 4v6=2 -1 soak = 1. MT 3/5
T9: Offense: 2v6=0. MT 3/5. Defense: 4v6=3 -1 soak = 2. MT 1/5
T10: Offense: 2v6=1. MT 2/5. Defense: 4v6=1 -1 soak = 0. MT 2/5
T11: Offense: 2v6=1. MT 3/5. Defense: 4v6=2 -1 soak = 1. MT 2/5
T12: Offense: 2v6=1. MT 3/5. Defense: 4v6=0 -1 soak = 0. MT 3/5
T13: Offense: 2v6=1. MT 4/5. Defense: 4v6=0 -1 soak = 0. MT 4/5
T14: Offense: 2v6=2. MT 6/5. Defense: 4v6=2 -1 soak = 1. MT 5/5

Offense wins, with 0 net marks. That took them a while. D’Venescu’s campaign of dismantling Aztechnology goes up by 4, to the total of 10/40, by April 16th.

Consequences: median roll 4, no consequences.


Aztechnology’s Response

Okay, that takes care of the first of the unresolved consequences. But as it’s already April 17th in d’Venescu-land, we need to leave him be for a moment.

Meanwhile, on April 14th, Aztechnology needs to negotiate the hiring of their Freelance Crew. As they have no Assets, they need to do it through an extra, which takes them 6 days: by April 19th, Aztechnology adds a R5 Scientific/Investigative Crew to their roster, shaping the Focuses on the Faction. It ends up as R4 Scientific (exclusive growth) / Investigative (exclusive growth). As both a Vindictive Faction and a Faction focused on growth, they will not take kindly to d’Venescu actively trying to reduce their Rating.

Meanwhile, on April 13th, Aztechnology has gifted us with a Payout 5 Scenario – as they’ve been robbed from their sole Asset (the R2 Scientific Fleet that’s currently in d’Venescu’s employ), it would make sense for them to hire us to recover the lost Asset. They might have suggested just dispatching of the traitors, but Tomorrow would object strongly to being hired by Aztech as an assassin – therefore, this will be an extraction mission.

We’ll collect the team and return them to their mother corp to do with as they wish. As we don’t want d’Venescu to take any notice of us, this is going to be, as always, false flagged, with the Ghostworks completing the project in 4 days (1v5=1+1 by April 15th, then 2v5=1+2 by April 17th). The legwork can, of course, be completed earlier, but the Scenario will happen on April 18th at the earliest – and the dice have decided it will be an investigative one.

So, here’s what’s happening in our Faction: Tomorrow’s busy on 14th and 15th, as she’s finishing up the Faction upgrade. From that time onward, our Faction has 2 dice instead of one! Now, if we were a Non-Player Faction, we’d have those 2 dice only in our primary focus – but imagine how annoying it would be in a party of three different characters from three different focuses (like a scientist, a hacker, and a face), that your friend’s PC’s advancement pushed your PC into a tertiary focus and crippled you on Faction Layer! So, Player Faction gets a free pass and our R2 means 2 dice in all Focuses. Which means we’ve doubled out productivity, y’all. Living the life now.


The Land of the Big Birds

Well, not really, because it’s only 2 dice – but you get it.

First off, let’s catch up on some skill learning by the end of the month / end of the skills to raise.

Tomorrow:
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Conjuring 4, 5v6=3 +1 prev =4, skill raised (by April 18th)
Biotech 1, 5v6=5, skill learned (by April 19th)
Engineering 1, 5v6=4, skill learned (by April 20th)
Cybertech 1, 5v6=2, skill learned (by April 21st)
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Investigation 4, 4v6=4, skill raised (by April 25th)
Robotics 1, 5v6=4, skill learned (by April 26th)
Remote Control 1, 4v6=4, skill learned (by April 27th)
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Agility 2, 5v4=4, skill raised (by April 29th)
Artistry 1, 4v6=2, skill learned (by April 30th)

Tonight:
(Teaching+1, 4v4=2) Command 2, 4v5=2, skill raised (by April 15th)
(Teaching+1, 4v4=4) Diplomacy 4, 5v5=4, skill raised (by April 19th)
(Teaching+1, 4v4=2) Teaching 3, 4v6=3, skill raised (by April 22nd)
(Teaching+1, 4v3=3) Impersonation 4, 5v6=3 /4 (by April 26th)

Chloe:
(Teaching+1, 3v4=2) Command 2, 3v5=3, skill raised (by April 15th)
(Teaching+1, 3v4=2) Teaching 3, 3v6=2 +1 prev, skill raised (by April 18th)
(Teaching+1, 3v3=2) Sciences 2, 5v5=3, skill raised (by April 20th)
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Diplomacy 2, 6v4=3, skill raised (by April 22nd)
Biotech 1, 5v6=4, skill learned (by April 23rd)
Sorcery 1, 5v6=4, skill learned (by April 24th)

There’s a clear lack of physical skills in this party. I think we’ll try to solve this issue in the next Scenario, at least a bit.


Now, it’s April 14th where we live, and we have stuff to do. The Ghostworks are working on the cover-up for extraction of d’Venescu’s team, which leaves Chloe and Tonight a couple of days to work on their things before Tomorrow takes them for a ride.


First, on April 14th, Tonight has an Income Scenario to run, which is just a quick Cash Payout 2 thing.

R2 Crew: 2 dice, 2 skill, 2 Resistance, 2 Clout, 1 soak, 1 automark. Scenario Payout 2.
Legwork: 2v4=2 +1 automark, 1 net.
Threat Rating: 2v7 = 1 (-1 soak)= 0. TR 0-1= 0
Challenge: Payout + 0 = 2.

Tonight needs to score 2 marks. She’s rolling 2 v 6 – 2 (skill) +2 (Payout Resistance) – 2 (Clout) = 2v4, and starts with 1 automark. Scenario rolls 2 v 6 -1 (number of Actors) + 2 (Resistance) = 2v7, and gets hit with 1 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 2v4=2 + 1 automarks = 3. MT 3/2. Defense: 2v7=1 -1 soak = 0. MT 3/2
Offense wins with 1 net mark.

Tonight scores +2 Rep, we gain +2 Cash Payouts, and there are no consequences. Scenario is done on April 14th.


Meanwhile, as we want to take down d’Venescu, we will run a project to prepare a Scenario against him, which is Chloe’s job. We’ll reach for Payout 10, which seems like the correct difficulty level for us now, which means Chloe needs to collect 10 marks to create the Scenario. She rolls 1v5 on the first 2 days, scoring 1 mark by April 15th, then she rolls 2v5 as the Faction Rating jumps to R2, where she scores another mark. By April 16th, we have 2/10, and we’ll pick up this up later.

In that time, we’ll keep Tonight busy trying to find that Wit Training Facility. As I’ve completely forgotten about Zac giving us 4 points of Social Focus, which means our difficulty is 1, so we’re scoring a maximum number of marks each day. As we were on 3/6 and we roll 1 dice on April 15th and 2 on April 16th, we’re done with this project in time to do the Legwork on April 17th.

Tomorrow has nothing special to do on April 16th, so she’s getting a day off. That way everybody’s on the same calendar, including d’Venescu.


The Murder Plan

On April 17th, d’Venescu starts working on his Project against Raul. It’s a doozy. Because according to the Consequences, he commits Assets with Rating 8, that means this Project has at least Payout 8 – Factions never commit Assets with higher Rating than the Payout. Because the Project is supposed to be hostile against Raul and d’Venescu is still the villain of this story, he will be preparing a Project to kill Raul and further harm Aztechnology as a Faction. Raul is a R2 contact, which makes him a R2 Crew for all intents and purposes – hence, the project targeting him has a Payout of 3 (1+2) and a Challenge on 10 (R2 x5). Let’s say that the other 5 points of Payout are just supposed to further the Destroy Aztechnology campaign.

This is all well and good, but the blood mage simply doesn’t have the Assets to pull it off, neither does he have many allies from which to borrow. He’s at Fam 1 with Aztechnology, Fam 2 with Crowley (it dropped after a month of running a hostile project against the investigation), and at Fam 7 with Dzitbalchen (started at 5, had 2 successfully stealth-deployed scenarios). Dzitbalchen’s R1 Intelligence Center is going to be needed for stealth deployment, but R1 Research Lab (Scientific) and R1 Fleet (Investigative) are all up for grabs, if d’Venescu’s Fleet manages to negotiate. As their primary Focus suggests, first they’re going for the Research Lab, scoring the necessary mark on April 17th – this means d’Venescu has a combined Rating 3 of Assets he can commit to this project. On April 18th, they will be going for Dzitbalchen’s Investigative Fleet, and this is where we walk in.

Because here’s the thing: our Scenario to kidnap d’Venescu’s Fleet happens exactly on the same day as d’Venescu’s Fleet is meeting with Dzitbalchen’s Fleet – why don’t we grab both, then?

Damn, we’re busy this month. Deployment costs are gonna be through the roof.


Scenario 020: Smash and Grab

The Scenario we were gifted by Aztechnology has Payout 5. 3 points of that are spent on extracting a R2 Asset, 1 point on taking over that R1 Asset, and the other 1 – I think we’ll just get paid. 5.000c is barely any money for this kind of job in Shadowrun’s universe, but let’s assume we haven’t been negotiating that hard. If at all. We’re not in it for the money.


Scenario Generation

Payout: 5 (3 to extract a R2 Fleet, 1 to extract a R1 Fleet, 1 Cash)
Legwork: Tomorrow, Sorcery, 5v1=5. Chloe, Hacking, 6v3=6. Tonight, Con, 5v4=4. Total 15, 10 net.
Threat Rating: 5v3=4. TR R2 Fleet + R1 Fleet + 2 = 5 – 5 = 0.
Scenario Rating: 5. Default Actors R2

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

Fine, we are going for skills and money here. Extra 3 Payouts of Cash in the Treasury.

  1. Gateway – potential Getaway Scene with R2 Technical/Scientific Actor.
  2. Social Space – Stealth Offense Scene with R3 Investigative/Scientific Actor (BP 1/5)
  3. Treasury+Hardpoint – Treasury Scene with R2 Technical/Investigative Actor, Checkpoint with R2 Scientific/Investigative Actor (+3 BP)
  4. Modifier Module – providing +2 Physical Mod (2/8 BP), Offense Scene with R2 Investigative/Technical Actor
  5. Control Module – Finale Scene, with R3 Scientific/Investigative Actor + R3 Scientific/Social + R3 Investigative/Social (BP 8/8) and an extra point of Resistance.

1 connected to 2, 2 connected to 3, 4, and 5.


Playthrough!

T1: Module 1: Gateway. We’re trying to be stealthy, so we’re going to make a passage from Module 1 to Module 4 to avoid sneaking with two non-sneaky Actors with a +2 Physical mod.

Scenario complications: 5v3=4/5

Tomorrow: MA Conjuring+1, 5v2=5 actions for the summon. PA Stealth+1, 5v5=5 towards Scene on the Fly. PA Stealth, 5v4=3 Conc points. SP 6/8 MP 7/8.
Steven: PA Concealment, 4v2=+4 Res against being spotted for T, T, C, and himself.
Summon: PA Concealment, 4v2=+4 Res against being spotted for T, T, C, and itself.
Tonight: PA Stealth+1, 3v9=0. MA Investigation+1, 5v5=2 towards SotF. PA Dematerialize. SP 3/5 MP 6/7
Chloe: MA IT+1, 5v2=5, -1 mod to Stealth from Overlay Bot. MA Tactics+1, 6v7=3 towards SotF. MA Activate InvisiCloak. PA Stealth+1, 2v7=1 Conc point. SP 4/5 MP 5/8.


T2: Scenario complications: 5v3=4 +4 = 8/5, 3 net. Median roll 8-3 = 5, no complications.

Scene on the Fly: 10/5, 5 net. Scenario: 5v3=4. TR 2-3 = 0. Built a passage, no BP to spend on it.

Tomorrow moves through the Passage (2 Conc).
Chloe: InvisiCloak kicks in (4 Conc). PA Stealth+1, 2v7=0 (4 Conc.) SP 3/5 MP 5/8.
Spirits and elementals: Sustain what they’re doing.
Ton TaB, SP 4/5 MP 7/7.


T3: Module 4: Modifier Module. Offense Scene with R2 Camera (Investigative/Technical) in it. Tomorrow is in a R2 stealth suit, so any marks scored by Defense are soaked. The rest of the Offense stays in the passage until Defense is dealt with.

Tomorrow: MA Animate (Sorcery+1), 5v1=5 -> Actor changed into R5 Offense Actor while sust (1 Conc). MA EW+1, 5v4=3 towards MT (0 Conc). PA Palming+1, 5v6=4 towards MT. PA TaB. Leave the module through the passage to Module 2. SP 6/8 MP 6/8.

Defense: Carefully looks in another direction as we control its physical actions, then resets itself after Tomorrow leaves.

MT 7/5 -> Offense wins. +2 mod is no more.


T4: This changing of the modifiers alerts the Defense that something has changed. The ones in Module 5 will ignore it, but R3 Investigative/Scientific Actor from Module 2 will in their turn move to the passage leading to Module 4.

Tomorrow: PA Stealth+1, 5v2=5 Conc., delaying the rest of the actions until after the Defense moves past her -> beginning of the next interval.
Chloe & the rest: calmly wait outside for the signal.

Defense from Module 2: enters the passage to Module 4 to investigate who has messed with the thermostat.


T5: Passage between Module 2 and 4:

Tomorrow and her 3 delayed actions: Move to melee (4 Conc.). PA Agility+1, 5v4=2 SP dmg to the Actor. MA Sorcery+1, 5v1=5 -2 soak = 3 SP dmg to the Actor. MA Sorcery, 5v1=5 -2 soak = 3 SP dmg to the Actor. SP 4/8 MP 4/8.

Defense: got pummeled with 8 SP dmg, taking him down to 0/6 and 2 drain, so 0/4.

Tomorrow: PA Marksmanship+1, 4v5=2 SP dmg to the Actor. MA Sorcery, 5v1=5 -2 soak = 3 SP dmg. MA Inform the rest. PA TaB. SP 4/8 MP 3/8.

Defense: Taken down to 0/0, unconscious, stuffed into a corned.

Module 2: The Scene from here got removed, so Chloe and her 3 (4, with Jade) spirits walk inside. Chloe, 3 Conc.


T6: Tomorrow saunters into Module 2, out of Concealment, but quietly (everybody is covered with 8 points of Res against Lookout tasks, so…).

Tomorrow: PA comb TaB, 3v6=2. SP 6/8 MP 6/8.
Chloe: PA comb TaB, 3v6=2. SP 5/5 MP 7/8.
Tonight; PA TaB, 2v6. SP 5/5 MP 7/7.

Elementals stay in Module 2, just in case, invisible. Tomorrow, Chloe, and Tonight move to the passage to Module 3, out of concealment.


T7: Module 3: Hardpoint+Treasury. There is no extra Res in the Hardpoint, so it’s just a MT 2 Checkpoint Scene with a R2 Scientific/Investigative Actor.

Tomorrow: MA Command+1, 3v5=2 points of Clout to Tonight’s Sorcery. MA Shapechange (Sorcery+1), 5v1=5, Chloe changed into an Agile monkey. TaB. SP 7/8 MP 5/8
Tonight: MA Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v2=5, wasting Defense’s Actions. MA Sorcery+1, 3v7=2 towards MT. PA TaB. SP 5/5 MP 6/7.
Chloe: PA Brawn+1, 5v8=0 towards MT. MA Conditioning+1, 3v6=2 to not freak out under the spell. PA TaB. SP 5/5 MP 7/8.

Defense: Stalled.

MT 2/2 -> Offense wins


T8: Module 3: Treasury. This comes with Res 3 and R2 Technical/Investigative Actor. Tomorrow and her Animate spell are monsters.

Tomorrow: MA Animate (Sorcery+1), 5v1=5, taking over the R2 Camera. MA sust. Shapechange. PA TaB. SP 8/8 MP 5/8.
Tonight: MA Command+1, 4v4=4 points of Clout for Chloe’s Perception. MA Command, 4v4=3 Clout for Chloe’s Investigation. PA TaB. SP 5/5 MP 5/7.
Chloe: PA Perception+1, 5v6=2 towards MT. MA Investigation+1, 6v5=5 towards MT. PA TaB. SP 5/5 MP 7/8.

Defense: Pointedly looking elsewhere as the Payout is stolen.

MT 7/5 -> Offense wins


T9-10-11: Passage back to Module 2, then Module 2, then passage to Module 5. Chloe is no longer a monkey. All pools regenerated.

T12: Module 5: Control Room. Finale with R3 Scientific/Investigative Actor + R3 Scientific/Social + R3 Investigative/Social and total 6 points of Resistance.

Tomorrow: MA Sorcery+1, 5v1=5 SP dmg to the Investigative/Social. MA Sorcery, 5v1=5 SP dmg to him again. PA Agility+1, 5v4=3 SP to Scientific/Investigative. PA Agility, 5v4=3 SP to him again. (Yes, we kicked in the door, threw spells at the one non-spellcaster in the Defense, then punched the mage in the face. Twice. Can’t counterspell a suckerpunch). SP 6/8 MP 6/8
Steven: MA Accident, 4v5=2 -2 soak against Sci/Soc. MA Accident against Sci/Soc, 4v5=3 -2 soak, 1 action wasted. PA Elemental Attack, 4v5=2 -2 soak = 0 SP dmg to Sci/Soc. PA El Att, 4v2=3 SP to Inv/Soc.
Summon: MA Accident against Sci/Soc, 4v5=3 -2 soak, 1 action wasted. MA Accident, 4v5=1 -2 soak against Sci/Soc. PA El Att, 4v5=1 -2 soak SP to Sci/Soc. PA El Att, 4v5=4 -2 soak SP to Sci/Soc.
Tonight: MA Command+1, 4v4=3 Clout for Chloe’s Investigation. Command, 4v4=2 Clout for Chloe’s Hacking. Command, 4v4=3 Clout for Chloe’s EW.
Chloe: MA Investigation+1, 6v8=3 towards MT. MA Hacking+1, 6v7=3 towards MT. MA Electronic Warfare+1, 5v6=4 towards MT.

Defense: Inv/Soc got 13 SP dmg, he’s unconscious and with 1 Injury.
Sci/Inv got 6 SP, forced to TaB, SP 2/6.
Sci/Soc got 2 SP and 2 MA wasted.

MT 10/5 -> Offense wins, with 5 net marks. Defense clearly sees they’re outmatched and surrender. Best they can do, really.


Wrapping Up

Payout: 5 + 3 (extraction of R2 Fleet and R1 Fleet +4 Payouts worth of Cash, as we robbed them blind at the same time)
Rep: +8 for Tomorrow, Tonight, and Chloe, which brings us extra 3 points of influence
Familiarity: we were false-flagged, so d’Venescu still doesn’t know about us, but we’ve just delivered R3 of Fleets to Aztechnology, so our Familiarity rises to 7. Also, as we are Aztechnology, and we stole Dzitbalchen’s Asset, their Familiarity drops to 2.

This means that on April 18th, d’Venescu loses his freshly-stolen R2 Scientific Fleet which gets back to Aztechnology. Suddenly, in the middle of trying to get more Assets, he finds himself with nothing but this borrowed R1 Field Lab. Dzitbalchen also loses his R1 Investigative Fleet and will, most likely, retaliate. Aztechnology gained 3 Ratings worth of Assets, strengthening their position spectacularly. What will become of those Assets, we’ll see in a bit.

Skill learning:
Tomorrow: Conjuring +1, Stealth +2, Sorcery +5, EW +1, Palming +1, Agility +2, Marksmanship +1, Command +1
Tonight: Stealth +1, Investigation +1, Con +1, Sorcery +1, Command +2
Chloe: IT +1, Tactics +1, Stealth +2, Brawn +1, Conditioning +1, Perception +1, Investigation +2, Hacking +1, EW +1
(and that’s why we’ve played this Scenario)

Scenario Consequences: Median roll 7 +5 net, positive consequences with magnitude 10!

A person from a character’s backstory invites the player Crew to a Think Tank pushing that character’s background plot forward, with Payout equal to magnitude. Pick which player it entails.

The rest doesn’t really have background plots, because they are background plots, so Tomorrow it is!
Who and why?

Who-dunnit: somebody you recently targeted, harmed, or inconvenienced.
What-for: ambition; progressing their career or personal goals.

It’s obvious whom we’ve harmed, but they either don’t know about us (d’Venescu) or don’t have access to us (ALOHA). So, whom did we inconvenience? Going down the list of Factions:

  • Henequen (we’re helping Aztech and the dragon’s preparing an attack against them)
  • Crowley (he is a placating Faction, but he was running hostile projects for our benefit)
  • BBs (we’re helping the Cutters, which makes it harder for BBs to win)
  • Harry James (dad’s rather unhappy about his relationship with his daughters)

That’s, I think, it? We’ve been rather laser-focused on getting rid of d’Venescu. So, let me quickly roll a d4…

And it’s BBs. There just can’t be any quiet in the neighborhood. It’s a Think Tank, so it has to give me intel Payout, and it obviously has to be connected to the gangs in the area, which actually does further Tomorrow’s personal goals. But we’ll get to that later.


April 18th, 2056

‘I told you it’s an easy job. I could pull it off on my own,’ says Sarah when they pack the unconscious and tied-up mages and the dragon’s sleuth onto the StufferShack van, courtesy of Aztechnology. ‘But I guess it was a good learning opportunity.’

‘Well, I did want to see what it’s like…’ admits Chloe, her expression a mix of an adrenaline high and a lowkey panic.

‘It’s not always like that,’ corrects her sister. ‘This was nothing, this was a cakewalk. But it shows you how… Vulnerable everybody is if they don’t make sure they are protected. Does it answer your questions about all the false flags? I don’t want this to happen to any of you. I don’t want any of you to become a target.’

‘Geez. Who died and made you a boss?’ quips Tonight and the set-up is too perfect to be accidental. 

‘Many people,’ answers Sarah, her gaze not leaving her sister’s eyes. ‘I even liked some of them. This is not playtime. I only took you with me, so you could get some first-hand experience in a relatively safe environment. If you really don’t want to get back to uni and astronomy and prefer to be a hacker for hire… Well.’

Sarah kicks lightly one of the bodies to bring Chloe’s attention where she needs it.

‘I won’t let you go unprepared.’


Back to the Intrigue

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the blood mage doesn’t have the best of luck lately. Just on April 13th, he has lost his R3 Social Crew, got beaten down into a R4 Faction – and as soon as he used his stolen R2 Fleet to hit Aztechnology, Aztech retaliated by taking back what’s theirs. And then some. So now he’s stuck with his campaign to destroy Aztechnology (at 10/40 Payout progress) and his Payout 8 project to murder Raul, for which he needs to assemble 8 Ratings of Assets and all he has so far is one borrowed R1 Field Lab.

Now, a more strategically-minded person would probably resign from this project and focus on strengthening their Faction. Only, between a series of hostile projects and scenarios between d’Venescu, Dzitbalchen, and Aztechnology – and taking into account the Excessive Faction trait – balanced strategy of growth and development is not what the blood mage is going to pursue.
Let’s look at the situation in detail.

NameRatingPrimary Focus, Behavior, & AssetsSecondary Focus, Behavior, & AssetsTertiary Focus BehaviorTrait
Tomorrow2Scientific Crew R2: Tomorrow
Social Crew R1: Tonight
Technical Crew R1: Chloe
Scientific Facility R2: Field Lab
Investigative Facility R1: Ghostworks
N/A
Aztechnology4Scientific (exclusive growth)
Crew R5 (2) Sc/Inv
Fleet R2: a flying lab for magical research
Investigative (exclusive growth)
Fleet R1
(hostile growth)Vindictive
add 2 priority to hostile Projects targeting a Faction who run a hostile Project against them in the past Cycle.
d’Venescu4Scientific (Beneficial Offense)(Exclusive Defense)(Exclusive Defense)Excessive
add 2 priority to Projects already at the highest Payout.
Dzitbalchen3Investigative (Hostile Defense)
Facility R1: Intelligence Center
Scientific (Hostile Growth)
Facility R1: Field Lab
(Beneficial Growth)Nomadic
add 2 priority to acquire new Fleet Assets and move existing Fleets to different parts of the sector.

As far as d’Venescu’s outlook goes: FUBAR. But he’ll do his best. His current Resources are 27+575c, which is not that much (we have 48). He can’t just pay people to do his bidding, as he’d have to pay R7 x Payout 8 = 56 Resources to just ‘get this done’ – and he obviously can’t afford it. Instead, he needs a quick and cheap way of generating Assets.

Now, what is d’Venescu after? He obviously needs a Crew, because otherwise he cannot run a Scenario – and a Project to murder somebody without a Scenario is just that: a plan without execution (ba-DUM-tss). The cheapest and dirtiest way of getting a Crew is to train new ones: pick up an Extra and convert them into a R1 Crew. The process takes 1 day and costs 1 Payout for the necessary gear – if you remember, this is exactly how we got Tonight.

Lore-wise, it’s impossible for d’Venescu to find 7 mages just lying around. Also, Scientific Focus isn’t really that well suited to assassination missions. If he wants to murder Raul, he needs Warfare Assets – why wouldn’t he spend a week picking up 7 random gangers and making them into a 7 R1 Crews? Or one R4 (4) and one R3 (3) Crew, because Crew Ratings only go up to 5, as all others? The numbers in parentheses are the numbers of people in the Crew, of course.

This takes d’Venescu’s timeline to April 25th, by when he has his gangers, which costs him 7 Resources (20+575c) and takes up 2 Asset slots out of his 20 (Faction Rating x5). Now he has his total Rating 8 of Assets he can commit to the project. Also, this means that his Scientific Faction has just become a Warfare Faction, with Exclusive Offense behavior.

Please note: the seven projects to recruit gangers as a hit squad were not hidden by Dzitbalchen, which means that we know what d’Venescu is doing – even though we do not know why (the murder plan is covered by stealth deployment). Aztechnology is also aware that Dzitbalchen is working with d’Venescu, providing him with stealth deployment – this is exactly the set-up that has cost Aztech their R3 Social Crew last month, and they are ready for it. Even more now, right after they’ve taken over Dzitbalchen’s investigative Fleet – they have all the narrative and mechanical reasons to run an Interference Project against the stealth deployment and uncover what d’Venescu is planning.


On April 19th, Aztechnology wrings its new Investigative Fleet out of any information and runs an Interference project against Dzitbalchen’s stealth deployment. This is an Investigative project using a R1 Asset, which means Aztech is rolling 2v5 and scoring the necessary 3 marks (stealth deployment’s Payout) in 4 days (0+0+2+2) – there was clearly some non-compliance at the beginning of this new employment. In any case, this means that by April 22nd, Aztechnology learns about d’Venescu’s plan of murdering Raul.

Aztechnology knows it’s going to be a Warfare Scenario, looking the Assets d’Venescu is collecting, and will start working to make this thing impossible. They will focus on running Interference against the original Project, the one with Payout 8 – which makes the Interference Project also Rating 8 – we’ll see if they manage to stop it before d’Venescu finishes. They have a head start! Rolling 2v5, they score 8 marks in 7 days (2+1+1+1+0+2+1), finishing on April 29th – we’ll see if it’s quickly enough to stop the evil plan!

Meanwhile, as the need for retaliation should be satiated, the Aztechnology should focus on their Primary and Secondary Focus Behaviors, which is in both: exclusive growth. They want to increase their passive resource generation, they want more assets, and they don’t want others messing with their plans… Does it spell: taking over Dzitbalchen’s Field Lab, currently under d’Venescu’s lease? A retaliation for all the stealth deployments and a nice, petty move. However, taking over a R1 Facility is worth only 1 Payout and nobody would do that on its own – so, the hired R5 Scientific Crew will at the same time try to score as many points as possible towards brand-new Destroy Dzitbalchen Structured Campaign. As the dragon is a R3 Faction, this sets the Payout at 30 to bring him down to R2. 8 points against the dragon + 1 point for taking over the Facility makes for a Payout 9 Scenario – something that R5 (2) Crew should be able to easily accomplish. However, to do so, they first need to run a Project with Challenge 8+5 = 13, which takes them 4 days (by April 22nd).


R5 (2) Crew: 5 dice, 5 skill, 5 Resistance, 5 Clout, 3 soak, 3 automarks. Scenario Payout 9.

Legwork: 5v1=5+5 +3 automarks, 4 net (finished by April 24th).
Threat Rating: 9v9 = 1 (-3 soak) + 2 (-3 soak) = 0. TR 1 (Facility) + 0 – 2 = 0
Challenge: Payout + 0 = 9.

Aztech Crew needs to score 9 marks. They’re rolling 5 v 6 – 5 (skill) + 9 (Payout Resistance) – 5 (Clout) = 5v5, and start with 3 automarks. Scenario rolls 6 v 6 -2 (number of Actors) + 5 (Resistance) = 9v9, and gets hit with 3 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 5v5=3 + 3 automarks = 6. MT 6/9. Defense: 9v9=0 -3 soak = 0. MT 6/9
T2: Offense: 5v5=2. MT 8/9. Defense: 9v9=3 -3 soak = 0. MT 8/9
T3: Offense: 5v5=2. MT 10/9. Defense: 9v9=3 -3 soak = 0. MT 10/9

Offense wins, with 1 net mark.
Consequences: median roll 5+1, no consequences.
Scenario completed by April 25th.


So, not only by April 22nd Aztech knows about d’Venescu’s plan to kill Raul – by April 25th, right as the blood mage was completing his retinue of combined R8 Assets to start the Project the next day, Aztechnology took over Dzitbalchen’s R1 Field Lab, adding it to its Assets and reducing d’Venescu’s available Assets to R7.

This, of course reduces the Familiarity between Aztech and Dzitbalchen – but it also reduced Familiarity between Dzitbalchen and d’Venescu, as blood mage’s actions cost the dragon a valuable Asset. Aztech also gained 8/30 points towards reducing Dzitbalchen’s Faction Rating.

The morning of April 26th finds d’Venescu on slightly worsened Familiarity with his only ally and – again – short of Assets needed to pull off his Project. He sighs and grumbles, spends another day finding another Extra (reducing his Resources to 19+575c), and on April 27th finally starts preparing his Payout 8 Project. As he’s committing all Assets to it, they roll 4 dice each day and gather 4 marks each day, finishing on April 28th – faster than the Aztechnology’s Interference Project! After the project is done, d’Venescu pays deployment costs of 4,000c, leaving him with 18+1575c.

Which means Aztech fails to stop what’s coming towards Raul. They don’t have any Warfare Assets – neither does any of their allied Factions. We are the closest they have to an allied Warfare Asset and… Well… We are not a Warfare Asset. We do not want Raul dead – but is there anything we can do? We have that Protective Duty project as IOY from Wheeler, providing a chosen Project or Asset with 5 points of Warfare Focus, but:

  1. Chloe doesn’t know about it, it’s a personal favor from Cutters for Tomorrow for brokering the deal with Henequen,
  2. Tomorrow isn’t going to cash in something that can potentially save her / her sister’s life for a guy she barely knows and doesn’t like at all. The asshole knew where Chloe is all along and let Tomorrow run in circles for a year, despairing that Chloe might be dead. To try and save his life by endangering what she cares about? Not a chance.
  3. 5 points of Warfare Focus is less than 8 points of Warfare Focus and Tomorrow cares about the lives of the Cutters in her potential retinue more than she cares about Raul’s.

Does this mean Raul’s dead? Well… Let us see. What Aztechnology is left with, is their R5 (2) Scientific Crew who can potentially pull off 4 marks in any project in a day. If they started on 26th… They could run a Mind Mining project, gather 20 marks by April 30th and coerce one out of two R4 Crews of d’Venescu to help them in a project instead of participating in the Scenario…

But whether they manage or not, is not a question for today. In a different part of the universe, it’s still April 19th.


You’re wondering what about the R2 Scientific Fleet that was bribed away by d’Venescu and promptly recovered by us for their mother corp? Yeah, I rolled for it.

They’re dead.

Aztechnology doesn’t like traitors.


A Word About the Attribute Training

In a calmer part of the world, Tonight has managed to find the R6 Wit Training Facility we were after – this gives us a chance to finally unlock a third Mental Action for Tomorrow, because next to her ally spirit and her sister, she’s just slow. And that’s not who she is. It won’t be cheap – each day we use this Facility, we need to pay 6 Resources, and we’re rolling 4 dice (current Wit) v 6 + 4 Res – 2 Clout (difference between Facility Rating and current Attribute Rating) = 4v8. And I need 5 marks. This is going to be expensive, but it’s a good investment. Lucky trait will hopefully come in handy.

April 19th, 4v8= 3/5 marks (spent 6 cash Payouts + 4 influence points to buy extra dice, 11 cash Payouts left)
April 20th, 4v8= 2/5 marks (spent 6 cash Payouts, 5 cash Payouts left)

Yes, you can buy extra dice, up to twice the original Attribute, with Influence points. Comes in handy sometimes. The whole shindig cost us 12 Cash Payouts (60,000c) + 4 Influence points. It’s an enormous amount of money. But! +1 Mental Action each interval is worth it, as is an extra die on Social tasks. Wit 5, here we come!


The Magic System

I am slowly reworking the magic system in this playtest. As it’s obviously not a part of the original game (hard sci-fi is not magic cyberpunk), it’s always a work in progress. I’ve originally made all things magic channeled through Sorcery skill and I now think it’s a mistake. I think I’m going to assume what Tomorrow is doing is magical in most regards, but still use other skills to run the task – ie. use Marksmanship for ranged magical attacks, Palming for stealing something with telekinesis, Diplomacy/Intimidation for mind control, etc. Otherwise, I’m just making a character that constantly uses one skill and fails to develop others, which gives her one button for solving all issues on her path. And while I have no problem with her solving everything with magic, it should still do what the Aphelion’s engine has been designed to do – use a variety of skills and attributes.

Look at Conjuring – this is a skill with a very specific use; the way I designed it, it allows to summon elementals, it could also be used in a Main Task if faced with some spirit-type issue; potentially could be used for banishing, but I’d rule this requires a specific Advanced Action Card (unless the ‘banishing’  is a MT narrative). It is also used passively to establish the Rating of the summoned and bound elementals – and assumed to be used in Item Creation projects (as in: binding elementals, like Steven and Jade).

Now look at Sorcery – we have three spells/AACs so far: Shapechange, Artificial Intelligence, and Animate. They’re all specific and engine-appropriate, creating effects that fit within the Aphelion’s engine: add dice while sustained, generate Clout while sustained, change a piece of gear or a Device into an Actor on our side while sustained. Yes, even the last one is something that already exists in Aphelion – this is what the Creative Focus can do – pull Extras from the background and make them into useful, allied Actors while sustained.

The way I’ve been using Sorcery, though… It just did everything from levitation to mind control, because this is how it works in Shadowrun. However, it sucks. It creates one-trick, overpowered character builds that just stack dice on manipulation magic with 5 bound F6 elementals and were basically indestructible if built correctly and prepared for the situation. But Project Aphelion is not Shadowrun, thankfully – and throwing everything under one skill actually cripples the character, who will not develop other skills.

However, this creates another issue: does it make the use of any skill fall under the Scientific Focus? Or is magically-infused Melee still a Warfare thing? It obviously matters for the purpose of Defense Actors and their focuses – it matters whether you cast fireball or fist at the local ganger. I think it will be best if we use what the system was designed to use and treat the skill as belonging to the specific Focuses – that way, I will not obliterate a Warfare Actor with a low-level magic missile and Social Actors will still be more resistant to getting magically manipulated. It’s not in line with Shadowrun, but again – that’s not what I’m playing. This move will bring the balance back into the game and stop Tomorrow from becoming a total monster that can only be countered by higher-rating Scientific Actors.


Meanwhile, in Best Western

On April 19th, we get paid our monthly 3 Cash Payouts from the BBs’ Trading Post of Shadowmarket, which is good, because we need to refill our coffers. We’ll have Tonight negotiate the use of the Trading Post for another month – she’s now rolling 2 dice, so it takes her 2 days to get 3 marks, and by May 20th, we’ll get another 3 cash Payouts. Not much, but it helps. Tonight gets 2 days off on 21st and 22nd, which wraps up her free time this month. Tomorrow spends the two days on her consequences-spawned Think Tank with BBs (after they reconnected over the Trading Post discussions), rolling their 5 Social dice with 5v5=3+3, scoring 6/10 before she needs to drop it for something else.

What are they doing there? Well, BBs are a R5 Social/Warfare (Placating) Faction which is somewhat stuck in the constant loop of commerce and warfare with Cutters, a R5 Warfare/Social (Exploitative) Faction. It is in BBs’ interest to do a favor to their mutual ally, Tomorrow, who is at Fam 7 with BBs and Fam 9 with the Cutters, making her the best available intermediary between the two Factions. So what they’re doing is having a sit-down with Tomorrow, generating 10 points of local-gang-adjacent intel that Tomorrow will later cash in on Wheeler’s Contact Upgrade Project in a Cutters-BBs mutually-beneficial way, raising the Familiarity between the two.

She’ll get back to that on 27th, scoring the last 4 marks and ending the project with a negative consequence of magnitude 10:

A rival torpedoes the player Faction’s plans. Generate a Scenario with Payout equal to magnitude. Failing that Scenario adds Threat equal to magnitude to the next Scenario in the Campaign.

We’ll get back to that one later. As always, the moment Tomorrow looks away from the main quest, something bad happens.



Meanwhile Chloe is preparing the Scenario against d’Venescu and Ghostworks are passively covering her tracks. The lovely hacker still has 8 marks to collect, which takes her 6 days, meaning she’s done on April 24th – we have a Payout 10 Scientific (i.e. magical) Scenario against the blood mage, with all of the Payout counting against the Destroy d’Venescu Structured Campaign. Note this is after we’ve learned about his plan to kill Raul, but before he has finished assembling his Warfare Assets.

This smells like ritual magic. I’m here for some ritual magic. I miss Raven.

But meanwhile! On April 22nd, we also learn about d’Venescu’s plan to kill Raul, which makes Chloe very distressed and calls for an immediate action of running Interference. We can certainly try, although Tomorrow is about as against risking their life for this as you can imagine. However, it’s really important for Chloe… Her and Tonight are going to run the Interference as well as they can, with Chloe joining them on 25th, rolling 2 dice each day and scoring: 2+2+2+2, ie. collecting the necessary 8 marks on April 26th – before d’Venescu is done with this project (which only happens on April 28th).

So, I suppose, we’re spending the next days buying armor and weapons. Thankfully, we literally live in Guns’R’Us headquarters and Tomorrow’s fiancé is the manager in it, so I can handwave any negotiations here. Fluff-wise, we can borrow those for free from the Cutters. We will, however, pay (then sell them back, because I do not see the necessity of keeping a pile of weapons and paying for their maintenance). Cutters are an arms-dealing R5 Warfare Faction, so I’m assuming any warfare gear up to R5 is fair game…

Oh wait, we’re facing 8 R1 goons and we’re coming in with an earth elemental providing us with 4 points of soak against physical and environmental damage. Guess who got prepared for a shoot-out, like, two months ago. We need nothing to kick their asses (because they are coming specifically as eight R1 Actors – I thought they should come in at the default Rating for the Scenario, but no – that was just me making my life harder.)

Instead, we just give Tomorrow and Chloe some time off, fulfilling their rest needs for the month. And we’ll get Wheeler on board for this upcoming Scenario, because it’s going to be right up his alley – and I need to test the procedural generation of higher-level NPCs.

Please note that this Interference project is not yet false-flagged! But we do have a couple days to spare, so I guess we’ll abandon all progress in the Ghostworks and run the project again, because we can’t risk d’Venescu learning about the existence of our Faction. Thankfully, rolling 2 dice, the Ghostworks score 4 marks in 3 days, so we easily pull it off while preparing the Interference Scenario.

We’re still flying under the radar!


Coming Up

In the next episode, we’ll get to test a couple of new, never-before seen mechanics! We’ll go through the rules of generating higher-rating NPCs (as in, not standard Non-Essential Actors from the Scenarios), we’ll look at Faction Interference Scenarios, and we’ll see how the system handles the problem of completely flipping the script midway through the Scenario!

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