Project Aphelion Solo Play #034: Raul in Distress

Here’s what we were waiting for: more playtests! This time, a Faction Interference Scenario, so we get to mess with other people’s plans and still get paid. Sounds like paradise? That’s because it’s just a game.


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Before We Begin

If you remember, our friend (ish) Raul, an Aztechnology mage and Chloe’s contact, has been targeted by the BBEG of the campaign and eight goons have been sent to murder him. Raul’s mother corp has tried to run interference, but they were a day short and had no free Assets to deal with the situation in any other way. This is where we come in, because our protagonist, no matter how she feels about Raul (not particularly friendly), doesn’t want her sister to be sad. So, we’re risking our lives to save one annoying mage.

However, there’s a lot to do before this Interference Scenario. We need to get prepared and tweak the rules a bit. It’s a playtest, yo!


Skill Learning

The Scenario will happen on April 30th, so we might as well run the skill learning to the end of the month. Tomorrow’s already sorted, but the other two still have some days to use.

Tonight:
Stealth 1, 3v6=3, skill learned (by April 27th)
Sorcery 1, 3v6=0, fail (by April 28th)
(Teaching+1, 4v3=4) Investigation 2, 5v3=4, skill raised (by April 30th)

Chloe:
Stealth 1, 2v6=1, skill learned (by April 25th)
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Tactics 2, 6v4=5, skill raised (by April 27th)
Perception 1, 3v6=1, skill learned (by April 28th)
Brawn 1, 3v6=1, skill learned (by April 29th)
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Teaching 4, 3v6=3/4 (by May 3rd)

Also, we used to have Command and Leadership skills, and now it’s just Leadership. It was unnecessarily split. All skill ranks from Command have been moved to Leadership.


Ready Player 4

Well, again, not really – Wheeler is just a contact, he already belongs to a Faction, and we’ll not trying to extract him (yet). However:

  • narratively, he’s generally worried about his wife-to-be running a war against a powerful blood mage, like any reasonable person would be;
  • the scenario we’re about to run will be exactly up his alley, skill- and personality-wise;
  • I’ve come up with the procedural generation of stats for important Non-Player Actors and I want to test them.

One day, maybe we’ll steal him for the Faction, but I think I’ll wait until he’s a R5 contact and there’s a narrative reason for it. But I admit, a Social/Warfare character would round up the party nicely. Also, Commander is such a cool Career. Ultimate support unit.

Time to test the rules for the Procedural NPC Generation!

  1. Establishing the Actor Rating – he’s a R3 Contact, so that’s easy.
  2. Primary Focus and Career: Social / Commander (duh). This comes with a Career (3) trait.
  3. Secondary Focus: Warfare
  4. Attributes: assign points or roll. I’ll be rolling, as for all other characters.
    Toughness 3, Fitness 2, Awareness 4, Resolve 5, Logic 3, Wit 4
  5. Raise all Primary Skills to [Rating]:
    Conditioning 3, Intimidation 3, Leadership 3, Tactics 3.
  6. Raise [Rating] skills from Secondary Focus to [Rating/2]:
    Marksmanship 2, Melee 2, Enforcing 2
  7. Pick Origin: Human. Traits: Second Wind (-2 diff in Take a Breath). Adaptable (learning new skill has diff -1 but +1 Resistance). High Maintenance (increases the monthly Necessities step by 1)
  8. Pick Upbringing: Military. 2 Opportunities, 2 Military Contacts, Cool Under Pressure AC [M, I, The next reduction to your Stamina or Morale that isn’t caused by you spending it is lowered by your Resolve value. Receive 1 Drain.]
  9. Assign Basic Career Gear at [Rating]:
    R3 wearable + R3 offense item + R3 commlink + 3x different R3 Consumables. I know it should be Social gear, but… Cutters, yo. Nobody’s wearing business suits or chick streetwear.
    R3 Military Fatigues (Res 3, Soak 3, Storage 15, Mass 3, Signature 3, Heat Sink 30, Mod Slots 3, Durability 3, Seal 3)
    R3 Defender PDW (medium, +2 SP dmg) (Clout 1, Capacity 15, Actions 3, Mass 3, Signature 3, Heat 3, Mod Slots 2, Durability 3)
    R3 TerraNova UtiliTec (Res 3, Soak 3, Actions 3, Mass 3, Signature 3, Heat 3, Mod Slots 3, Durability 3, Seal 3, IT/Hack the World)
    R3 Chem Grenade (Scarecrow) (Effect 3, Radius 30m, Durability 3. Drains a number of Morale = Rating for the duration. Deals Drain = Rating afterwards.)
    R3 SilverTongue (Effect 3, Side Effect 3, Duration 3. Provides bonus dice to Social Tasks for the duration, causes Mental Drain afterwards.)
    R3 Peace of Mind (Effect 3, Side Effect 3, Duration 3. Provides bonus Defense against Action Cards targeting Resolve and aiming to deplete the Morale Pool. After it ends, opponents receive the same amount of free marks and Clout for the same duration.)
  10. Pick [Rating] Free Advanced Action Cards for the Career.
    Tactical Analysis (M/I/Resolve/Tactics. Marks = automarks for the chosen Actor’s next Instant Action.)
    Discipline (M/I/Resolve/Leadership. Marks = ablative Stamina soak points.)
    Lead by Example (M/I/Resolve/Leadership. Must be played before a Physical Task. Next P. Task’s marks = bonus Clout for all other Actors attempting the same Task.)
  11. Spend [Rating x2] Opportunities on extra traits, skills, gear, and contacts.This means we have 6 + 2 (from Upbringing) to spend.
    We’ll get him Commerce 1 and Negotiation 1 (2 points spent).
    Traits: Home Ground (Denver) (All Investigation, Tactics, and Navigation Tasks in there have 2 Clout)
    Outlaw (2) (-2 Fam with law enforcement, +2 Fam with Outlaw Factions)
    Exceptional Talent (+1 Awareness)
  12. (optional) Generate the Actor’s backstory through Trials of Life, ignoring any rewards.
    First Day of School (Boot Camp) -> I Know How They Operate -> You’re Hired ->  Serve and Protect -> Wide Dark Yonder
    (Oh no, backstory spoilers!)

Anyway, that’s the whole process of creating higher-level characters and important NPCs. It doesn’t take long (about 15 minutes, I think?), and it creates a reasonably rounded-up characters that won’t lag behind PCs. As far as the testing goes, I think it was rather successful!


Mind Mining

Just a note here: Aztechnology was employing their Scientific Crew in a Mind Mining project, but as they only managed to finish it by April 30th, it’s too late to affect anything. Azzies failed and Raul’s life depends only on us.


Faction Interference Scenario: Raul in Distress

This is going to be an interesting one. We’re technically neither Offense nor Defense in this Scenario. We’re not competing for the Payout: we’re not trying to kill or kidnap Raul. Although, Tomorrow is really, really annoyed that the Azzie git made himself a target and forced her to clash with d’Venescu’s goons. She was so happy she didn’t have to kill anybody in over a month now. She’s trying. We need to remove those goons from d’Venescu’s Faction – otherwise, he’ll just send them again. He never lets go of his Projects.

Sure, let’s interfere, dispatch some people, and then deal the blood mage another hit. We cannot take out d’Venescu’s Crews in any other way than completely removing them from the game, because we didn’t run a Project targeting them (which would let us remove them just by the sheer fact of winning the Scenario) – but we don’t have to kill them. There’s a reason this game has both Stamina and Morale Pools. We’ll just intimidate them into leaving d’Venescu’s Faction, that’s all. 


Game Balancing Adjustments

The math will be changed a bit, because we’re playtesting the game balance and trying to make sure that the game scale itself as the Player Faction grows in strength. Obviously, stronger groups will reach for higher Payouts, but we want the game to be challenging on all levels of play – which means that the difficulty cannot be only caused by the Finale’s Resistance. Scenes are not supposed to be won in one interval – far from it, actually. As it stands, the game was slightly too easy (yes, I have been overpreparing, but still). Let’s see if messing with the settings makes it more challenging – or whether it makes it too challenging and we’ll all die.

One of the changes is adding player’s group Rating to the Threat Rating – this automatically adjusts the difficulty of the Scenario by giving it more Build Points and requiring more marks in Main Tasks. Also, higher Scenario Rating means higher Rating of default Actors. We’ve been playing with the idea of adding the Rating of ALL groups involved, but it spirals out of control with multiple groups and creates more problems than it solves. I think we’ll just let the opposition be added to the Scenario at no cost in Build Points – that way, they’ll still make the Scenario effectively more challenging, without messing with the math of the algorithm.

Also, appropriate intel may be spent to reduce the Threat Rating directly, instead of buying marks in legwork. Which is fair, because each of them is literally a negative point of Payout.

We’ve also switching (at least for this playtest) the rules of Hardpoints and Support modules. They used to have extra Resistance and bonuses dependent on the Threat Rating, and you may remember how many times I ended up with TR 0 and had to spend BPs to put any kind of Resistance in the Hardpoints. Now, their values will be equal to [Payout/2] – this will always be a positive, non-zero value, which already solves half of the problem. It also makes the narrative sense – the lock in the safe will be harder to open because you’re going for big money, and not because you brought more friends with you.

Last one: Remember how each R4 Actor came with 4 dice, 4 skill, 4 Resistance, 4 Clout, 2 automarks and 2 soak? The high Res and Clout created reverberating problems in Quick Scenario Resolution rules (R5 Actor could pull off anything from Payout 9 to 14 through math alone, at 0% chance of failure). We’ll see what happens if we keep the ‘Actor-dependent’ stats (dice and skills) = [Rating] and ‘Gear-dependent’ stats (Res, Clout, automarks and soak) = [Rating /2].

Now, let’s finally move to the Scenario!


Scenario Generation

D’Venescu’s Payout: 8 (3 to remove a R2 Asset, 5 point towards d’Venescu’s Destroy Aztechnology Structured Campaign)
D’Venescu’s Legwork: Two Crews of R4 (4), so I’ll have them both roll 4v2 +2 automarks, scoring 4+2+4+2, ending with 4 net marks. Opposition’s legwork has no bearing on the Threat Rating, but it establishes the order in which we’ll all appear in the Scenario.

Our Payout: 8 (straight into d’Venescu’s butt… I mean, campaign progress.)
Our Legwork: Tomorrow, Sorcery, 5v1=5. Chloe, Hacking, 6v4=5. Tonight, Con, 5v5=3, Wheeler, Leadership, 5v4=5, ending with 10 net marks.
All legwork done on April 29th, Scenario plays out on April 30th.

Threat Rating: TR is basically always player-facing. We roll for the Scenario, as always, dice equal to Payout, difficulty reduced by 1 for each Actor participating in the legwork. 8v2=8. Half of the marks comes in as TR. To that, we add a total Rating of the Player Crew (including any contacts or hirelings) = 2 + 1 + 1 + 3 = 7
TR = 4 + 7 = 11. As always, reduce the number by half the net marks scored in the legwork. 11 – 5 = 6.

As I’ve mentioned, we’re ignoring R8 Assets and ignoring R2 Raul – they’ll just come for free into the Scenario, increasing actual-play-difficulty by their sheer presence. However, if we were specifically targeting Raul (like Bloodstreet Boys are doing), his Rating would be included in TR as well.

Scenario Rating: 8 + 6 = 14. Default Actors R4.

Free Modules: 8+8 passages
Free Scenes: 8
Build Points: 14

We’ve scored 6 net marks more in legwork than Bloodstreet Boys did; this gives us 6 intervals of head start before they arrive. More than enough to prepare an ambush. If we wanted to just kill them, this part of the Scenario would be ridiculously easy. They’d walk in through the Hardpoint, then an elemental drops a chem grenade, they all have 2/2 Stamina Pools, and even if I give them the appropriate gear with 1 point of soak, that’s still 3 SP dmg per turn, which means they’ll be dead in 2 intervals. Which would be ‘the moment we make it impossible for them to win the Scenario’, which just leaves us with playing the Finale to ‘harm d’Venescu’s cause.’

I mean – yes, this sounds more like their problem. They are a bunch of Extras with guns, because d’Venescu didn’t have the time or resources to get himself proper Crews. Obviously, they’ll fold when countered with a powerful magician with a bunch of elementals – other PCs notwithstanding. 

But Tomorrow doesn’t want to walk around killing people. There might have been just ghouls, as she considers them monsters, but somebody who spends her life on a gang turf and has friends in at least three different gangs will never consider people just gangers. And will not default to murder if she has other options.  As Salazar said, killing people is easy. It’s when you want them alive, it starts getting difficult. 

All modules except for the first two are forbidden to the Offense, which means the moment they breach the Hardpoint, they are automatically treated as hostile. This costs us 6 BPs. See diagram below for all the red zones. Note that we are the rescue party and the red modules are not forbidden to us the moment we negotiate entry at the checkpoint.

  1. Gateway; placed potential Getaway Scene for the Offense, with default R4 Technical/Warfare Actor (a drone) and extra R4 Warfare/Technical Actor (another drone) in pursuit (BP 7/14).
  2. Hardpoint; Checkpoint Scene, with default R4 Technical/Investigative Actor (camera). It’s generally just a door, really. We don’t want to put any active Actors there, because we want the Offense to actually get inside. 4 points of Resistance in the Checkpoint should keep them busy – but they’ll probably just shoot the camera down and break the door.
  3. Social Space with a pre-placed Idle Scene – nothing is going on here, and the default R4 Investigative/Scientific Actor (a watcher spirit), primed to raise an alarm the moment Offense appears.
  4. Operations, Guard Duty, R4 Investigative/Warfare (a guard) and his R4 Investigative/Scientific friend (a spirit) (BP 10/14).
  5. Modifiers, Offense, R4 Scientific/Investigative (a technician), 3 BP spent on +3 Awareness modifier in Social Space (BP 11/14). The moment it’s breached, it will become pitch black, filled with magic darkness. Good luck shooting.
  6. Support Module, providing 4 Res to Module 8. Offense Scene, R4 Social/Investigative Actor (faction agent) + R4 Warfare/Scientific Actor (an elemental) (BP 12/14).
  7. Hardpoint, Checkpoint, R4 Technical/Investigative Actor (a camera) + R4 Warfare/Social (a guard) (BP 13/14).
  8. Control Module, Finale, R2 Scientific/Creative Actor (Raul) + R4 Warfare/Technical Actor (a drone) + R4 Warfare/Scientific Actor (an elemental) (BP 14/14).

Preparations

We’re taking Jade with us. Because Jade, imagine, has this:

Guard [M, S, N/A, Effect: Target receives [Rating] points of Soak against physical attacks and environmental damage. Max number of targets = Rating]

Fear [M, I, N/A, CR: Resolve. Effect: If marks >= Target’s Resolve, reduce Target’s Morale Pool to 0. Counts as a hostile action.

Jade is an earth elemental made about two months ago specifically in case we’re ever attacked through Warfare means, as a perfect protection for Chloe. Jade will be MVP of this Scenario, because Jade is a R3 Actor and can cover 3 people with said soak (Tomorrow, Tonight, and Chloe – all the elementals are treated as drones and have [Rating] of soak and [Rating x10] Durability before they get damaged). I need to remember to upgrade both her and Steven to R4 and unlock 4th power for each of them. Item Creation projects for Tomorrow for when she has a moment.

Would I saunter into this Scenario if I didn’t have a convenient source of soak against physical damage? Obviously, not. But again, it’s a strategy game. Being prepared will generally work out in your favor.

For the purpose of winning this Scenario in the Finale, I think we’re good. Might need to make some Scenes on the Fly to make the narrative move where we want it. We’ll see how my updated rules on the magic system fare here.


Playthrough!

T1: Module 1: Gateway. We’re using this interval to create a passage to avoid the Hardpoint, that is, we’re interacting with the Gateway by waving at the Hardpoint Camera and showing the guards that it’s us, the rescue party.
Scenario complications: We want the complications for us, not for Offense/Defense, so Scenario is rolling 8v1=8/10 (apparently, drones/elementals count as Actors for the purposes of everything, so I guess I’ve been playing the whole game wrong  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

Chloe: MA IT+1 (calling Raul), 5v5=2 towards SotF.
Tonight: MA Diplomacy+1, 5v4=4 towards SotF.
Tomorrow: MA Investigation+1, 5v3=5 towards SotF.
Wheeler: MA Leadership+1, 5v4=3 towards SotF.
Total: 14, 0 net.

Scenario: 8v3=8.
TR: 4-0 = 4


T2: Module 2: Scene on the Fly. It gets 4 BPs, so what we’re doing is replacing the current Hardpoint with a Checkpoint Scene (the locked doors and a camera) with a passage with a Checkpoint Scene (a guard who came to open the doors for us, because Chloe has called Raul and told him we’re at his front door with pizza and guns). The Scene is free (we’ve just made it) and it comes with a free R4 Investigative/Warfare Actor (Balanced Control) – he’s an Aztechnology guard, which means that we’re at Fam 7 (8 with First Impression, 10 for Chloe). We’ll spend the 4 BP to add 4 points of Resistance in the Checkpoint (as we’re skipping Hardpoint, there’s no Res from there). It is still MT 4. If we win, we just go straight to Module 3.

Scenario complications: 8v1=8 +8 = 16/10, 6 net. Median roll 9-6=3, a negative complication of magnitude 9! And we land on a 7, meaning:
The Offense Actors suffer a sensor glitch. Add Resistance equal to magnitude to all the Investigative and Scientific 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.
Guess we’re not thinking and sneaking our way out of this, then! This feels like a personal attack or something. +9 Res to all Scientific and Investigative Tasks.

Tonight: MA (2 comb) Stalling Tactics (Con +1), 5v3=2 >= target’s Resolve, 2 MAs wasted. MA Leadership+1, 4v4=4 points of Clout for Chloe’s Diplomacy. PA TaB. SP 5/5 MP 7/7.
Wheeler: MA Tactical Analysis (Tactics+1), 4v4=3 free automarks for Chloe’s Diplomacy. MA Tactical Analysis (Tactics), 4v4=3 free automarks for Chloe’s Negotiation. MA Tactical Analysis (Tactics), 4v3=4 free automarks for Tomorrow’s Sorcery. SP 5/5 MP 8/8.
Chloe: MA Diplomacy+1, 6v1=6 +3 automarks towards MT. MA Negotiation+1, 6v6=4 + 3 automarks towards MT. PA TaB. SP 5/5 MP 7/8.
Tomorrow: MA Artificial Intelligence (Sorcery+1), 5v4=4+4 = 8 points of Clout for Logic-based skills. MA Conjuration+1, 5v2=5 actions for the summon. PA TaB. SP 8/8 MP 8/8.

Defense: MAs stalled. PA Investigate, 4v1=4 against MT. PA Investigate, 4v1=4 against MT.

MT 8/4 -> Offense wins and gets through the door without kicking it down. The Hardpoint is still in place, waiting for the Bloodstreet Boys.


April 30th, 2056

It was unlike Sarah to not take part in the conversation. True, they didn’t need more than Chloe’s apparent friendliness with the whole damn megacorp – worth remembering for the future – but for his partner to stay completely out of the action? Weird. Wheeler looks at her with curiosity, raising an eyebrow in a silent question.

Sarah shrugs. ‘I don’t know yet. There’s something… Messing with the astral here. It’s not background count or elementals would be gone. It’s… Tonight, can you feel it?’

‘I can. You’re right, it’s not a natural fluctuation.’ The spirit looks more interested than worried, which Wheeler decides is a good sign. ‘I think it’s a spell, actually. Some kind of a damper aimed at Raul and his protectors?’

‘That’s what I’m getting, yeah. The moment I try to tap into mana, it turns into molasses. A good way to shut down a mage before gunning him down. I was wondering how d’Venescu has planned to pull it off with just some random gangers. Not a group I’d personally send against a trained mage. Not if he knows they’re coming.’

‘Well, can you still run with it?’ Wheeler asks calmly, already reworking the plan in his head. ‘I remember you working on a spell to increase your control over the manascape. Or something.’

‘Exactly that, yes. Let me try it.’ Sarah takes a deep breath and after a couple of seconds, a yellow vortex of arcane symbols materializes next to her. ‘It takes a bit more effort, but yeah, I can do it. Just don’t expect me to pull off any miracles. This is a damn powerful spell in here.’

‘We don’t need miracles. We have a plan.’


T3: Module 3: Social Space. The R4 guard we’ve spawned a moment ago stays at the door and as far as the story is concerned, is of no more consequence. Looks like the Scientific Actions might be a problem today, which does mess with Tomorrow’s plans something fierce – but thankfully, we’ve anticipated that potential issue and now Tomorrow’s just walking around sustaining 8 points of Logic Clout with one of her Mental Actions. Yay, three Mental Actions! Worth the 60,000c.

This Social Space only has an Idle Scene and is basically the grounds for the Ambush Scene we’ll be preparing. However, before that (we still have some time, as Bloodstreet Boys will arrive in T7), we’ll go to Module 4 and negotiate with the Guards there, so they don’t open fire on the Boys – we’re trying hard to not have them dead.

As the Scene in Module 4 is a Guard Duty Scene, we want to change it to a Social Offense Scene, which means we need to come up with a Scene on the Fly again – we’re very much interfering in a Scenario that was prepared for somebody else’s attack, so we don’t just get to roll through it!

Chloe: MA Negotiation+1, 6v5=6 towards SotF
Tonight: MA Diplomacy+1, 5v4=3 towards SotF.
Tomorrow: MA sust AI. MA Investigation+1, 5v2=4 towards SotF.
Wheeler: MA Leadership+1, 5v4=5 towards SotF.

Total: 18, 4 net.
Scenario: 8v2=7.
TR: 4-2 = 2

The Offense Scene we’ve just created in Module 4 gets 2 extra Build Points – which means it becomes a Social Offense Scene with the R4 Investigative/Warfare Guard that’s already there as the Free Defense Actor (for narrative-logic reasons), with extra 2 Res. This won’t be particularly complicated, but then, it has no reason to be. The spirit, for the lack of BPs, doesn’t take part in the conversation – it is not there to be reasoned with.


T4: We’re moving through the Passage to Module 4, using this time to replenish pools.


T5: Module 5 and our Offense Scene to negotiate non-violent means for resolving the problem. With our overwhelming forces, this should not be a hard call to make for the Guard (Inv/War, Balanced Control) – especially as we’re still going to be removing the threat and then hitting d’Venescu over his head with this.

Wheeler: Tactical Analysis (Tactics+1), 4v3=2 automarks for Chloe’s Diplomacy. MA Leadership+1, 5v3=5 points of Clout for Chloe’s Diplomacy. PA TaB. SP 5/5 MP 8/8.
Chloe: MA Diplomacy+1, 6v1=6+2 automarks toward MT. MA Negotiation+1, 6v5=5 toward MT. PA TaB.
Tonight: MA Stalling Tactics (2 comb) (Con+1), 5v1=5 > Defense’s MAs wasted. PA TaB.
Tomorrow: MA sust AI. MA Negotiation+1, 5v4=5 towards MT. PA TaB.

Defense: 2 MAs wasted, can’t really do Social through Physical Actions if they don’t want to be hostile (at Fam 10 with Chloe, they don’t). Gives us a pass.

Offense wins with 18/14 and gets back to the Passage.


T6: Getting back through the Passage to Module 3. Walking and talking takes time!


T7: The Offense team arrives at the Gateway. There are 8 R1 Warfare folks, each having 1 dice, 1 skill. 1 Res, 1 Clout, 1 soak, and 1 automark in Warfare. They physically interact with the Gateway and learn that the doors are closed.

Meanwhile, in Module 3, it’s time for us to build a Scene on the Fly as the Defense. We want to set up an ambush and any Threat Rating we manage to generate will give us BPs for this.

Chloe: Electronic Warfare+1, 5v5=3 towards SotF (messing with the room’s conditions, turning off the lights, blocking outgoing communication)
Tonight: Con+1, 5v5=4 towards SotF (setting up the big lie for when the enemy arrives)
Tomorrow: MA sust AI. Sciences+1, 5v3=5 towards SotF (doing the calculations of the effects of a chem grenade in a small room)
Wheeler: Leadership+1, 5v4=5 towards SotF (commanding his small elf squad)

Total: 17, 3 net.
Scenario: 8v10=0. (Scenario is on our side here, because we’re in Defense, so the number of people on the job works against us. Balancing reasons.)
TR = 0 + 2 = 2. Yes, we’re adding to the Threat Rating, because we’re the Defense in here. Next interval, we’ll build our ambush.


T8: The Offense has arrived at the Hardpoint and has decided to just kick the door down – which is fine, because we want them to kick the door down. There’s eight of them, but due to MT’s Resistance raising with each Actor attempting, they can’t ALL just try to kick the door down. They only need 4 marks in this MT, but as this is a Hardpoint with 4 points of Resistance, their best bet is group actions. We’ll split them into 2 groups, so they can score some marks without raising the Resistance too high.

Group 1, rolling 1v 6 -1 (skill) -3 (combined actions) + 4 Res +2 Res -1 Clout = 1v7=1 +1 automark  = 2/4
Group 2, rolling as above, 1v7=1 +1 automark = 2/4

As we’ve already agreed with the Defense in the Scenario, we want the Offense to get in, so neither the camera nor the guard who let us in try to stop them. Offense scores their 4 marks and wins the Checkpoint Scene.

Meanwhile, in Module 3, we’re setting up the Ambush Scene. We’re creating a Defense scene for the approaching goons with a free Actor – we’ll keep the watcher spirit that already was here from the Idle Scene, so it can go and inform Raul the moment we’re done with the Goons. This leaves us with 2 BPs to spare – we’ll introduce a +2 Toughness Modifier. The Modifier Module still provides us with +3 Awareness modifier.

How are we creating that Toughness mod? Oh, let’s just wrap it under the chem grenade with the Scarecrow gas we’re just opening, so it will start dealing morale damage next turn. Tonight and elementals are not affected by them (as they’re not technically alive), Wheeler’s armor comes with Seal 3, so he soaks all of it, but Tomorrow and Chloe need to leave the module; they’ll move to the Passage leading to Module 5 and close the doors behind them. All of our Actors just delay their actions until the next interval.


‘Good luck, babe. Holler if you need anything and please, don’t get shot.’ Sarah sends him a kiss across the corridor and shuts the heavy door behind her.

‘You two are nauseating,’ remarks Tonight, looking at her nails. ‘I’m very happy for you.’

Wheeler smiles under the gas mask, sure that the spirit can read the amusement in his aura. ‘We’re frightfully nauseating,’ he corrects, opening the gas canister and tossing it into a corner. Then he crosses his arms on his chest and leans against the wall, in full view from the front door, his rifle resting on the sling on his arm. ‘This is going to be hilarious. Just watch what happens.’

The kicking on the door grows in strength, and finally, the hinges give up. A group of eight gangers in synthleather jackets runs inside, their rifles raised and ready to fire.

‘Good evening, gentlemen,’ says Wheeler as the magical darkness falls and turns the room into a pitch-black trap. ‘Nice of you to join us. To your left and right, you’ll see nothing. There are no emergency exits either.’


T9: The Offense walks into Module 3. The module 3 is suddenly pitch-black and there will be screams fast enough. As we’ve made this Scene as our Offense Scene, 8 Goons becomes a Defense here. And we have a lot of actions to use. We’re numbering Goons as G1-G8, for the ease of use. Each of them has 1 Res, 1 soak, and SP 2/2. That’s what you’re getting when you’re hiring Extras on the cheap.

Scarecrow Grenade (1/3): Deals 3 MP dmg to all Actors in the module. Elementals and Tonight are not affected, Wheeler has Seal 3, so he’s unaffected as well. Goons have 1 soak in Warfare, and I think we can safely count the use of chemical agents as Warfare. That means each of them still gets 2 MP dmg, automatically reducing each of them to 0/2 MP and forcing each to TaB as their sole action (with Toughness mod +2, so 1v8). We still need to deal each of them 4 MP dmg before they’re out of the game (2 Drain and 2 Anguish), but the grenade goes off for 3 intervals and then deals extra 3 Drain, so…

Wheeler: MA Intimidation+1, 5v3=5 -1 soak = 4 MP dmg against G1. MA Intimidation, 5v3=4 -1 soak = 3 MP dmg against G2. PA TaB. MP 7/8
Tonight: MA Intimidation+1, 4v8=1 -1 soak = 0 MP dmg against G3. PA Deep Sigh. MA Leadership+1, 4v4=1 Clout for Steven’s Accident. PA TaB. MP 6/7
Steven: MA Accident, 3v3=3 -1 soak = 2 actions wasted for G3. MA Accident, 3v4=3 -1 soak = 2 actions wasted for G4.
Summon: MA Accident, 4v3=3 -1 soak = 2 actions wasted for G5. MA Accident, 4v3=4 -1 soak = 3 actions wasted for G6. (2 actions left)
Jade: Covers Wheeler and Tonight with extra 3 points of Soak against physical and environmental dmg.

Those were the actions we’ve delayed. To quickly sum up: by now, none of the Defense Actors can do anything but TaB, and some of them can’t do even that, as they’re out of actions. However, to get them out of the game, we need to ‘kill their morale’, meaning dealing them 2 points of MP damage (taking them down to 0/2), then 2 points of Mental Drain (0/0), then 2 points of Anguish (-2/0), at which point they’re effectively ‘killed’.

G1G2G3G4G5G6G7G8
SP2/22/22/22/22/22/22/22/2
MP-2/0-1/00/20/20/20/20/20/2
Ac22000022

And now, for the regular turn.

Wheeler: MA Intimidation, 5v3=4 -1 soak = 3 MP dmg against G3. MA Intimidation, 5v3=5 -1 soak = 4 MP dmg against G4. PA TaB. MP 6/8
Tonight: MA Con+1, 5v2=5 towards MT. MA Diplomacy+1, 5v2=4 towards MT. MA Impersonation+1, 5v3=5 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 4/7
Steven: MA Accident, 3v4=3 -1 soak = 2 actions wasted for G7. MA Accident, 3v4=3 -1 soak = 2 actions wasted for G8.

That brings us to Defense.

G1G2G3G4G5G6G7G8
SP2/22/22/22/22/22/22/22/2
MP-2/0-1/0-1/0-2/00/20/20/20/2
Ac22000000

The Defense got completely ambushed by a guy with a grenade and a gas mask. They had zero chances. They’re all incapacitated, four of them are already Anguished, including two ‘dead’, none can even Take a Breath.

We’re ambush predators.

I think we can safely assume that in the next interval, they will become completely Anguished and will disappear from the story. We also succeeded at the Main Task of the Scene, with 14/14 marks, which means we’ve conned them into thinking we’re working for Aztechnology and their lives will be ultimately much, much better if they resign from d’Venescu’s employ. Which they do. The grenade still works in T10 and T11, then goes inert.

This ends our Interference Scenario.


Turning the Scenario Upside Down

As I’ve mentioned, we were neither the Offense nor the Defense for this Scenario – but we still decided to crash it and grab 8 points of Payout, so now we have to earn it! I don’t want to make it into a cakewalk of ‘I’ll go and talk to Raul’ – no, instead, we are taking the heat to where it came from. If you look at the Modules’ plan below, this is all perfectly appropriate for us to take and run with it – all the Scenes that we’ve accomplished, have been accomplished – but there are still four Modules and four Scenes to go!

All we need to go is imagine that after completely breaking the morale of d’Venescu’s goons, we decide to move to the Offense and take over the place from where d’Venescu gets his Extras and where all the gear and the money he paid them are being kept. This will work perfectly well for the purposes of ‘scoring 8 points in the campaign against d’Venescu’.

Now, from our Social Space, we have a choice:

  • we can move to Module 5 and remove the Awareness modifier, but as it only applies to Module 3, we don’t have to bother about it;
  • we can move to Module 6 and remove the extra 2 points of Resistance from the Finale;
  • or we can move directly to the Hardpoint and try to kick in their door.

Technically, we can also decide to forfeit and leave the Scenario without the Payout, but… I mean…

We’re already here.

We’ll let the girls and Wheeler rest for a couple of minutes and then we go.


‘Well, that was fun,’ states Wheeler, looking at the eight gangers sheepishly standing in the center of the room, their weapons nicely gathered on a pile guarded by Steven. ‘Thank you for you co-operation.’

‘Geez, whatever, man,’ bristles the most courageous of them – an ork with a scar on the side of his head. ‘You’ve made your point, now just let us go.’

‘Ah, yes. Maybe we will. What you’re thinking, babe?’

Sarah purses her lips and absent-mindedly pets her summoned elemental. The golden symbols glide between her fingers like long, thick fur, which looks about as weird, unsettling, and otherworldly as she probably wanted it to look. ‘I don’t know. The night is dark and full of horrors. It would be a shame if something ate our new friends on the way back – you know, after we put so much effort into, well, not killing them on the spot. Maybe we should make sure they arrive safely and have a short chat with their boss? Then we can clarify that they need to make themselves unavailable for the future excursions against our employer. You boys really aren’t paid enough for that. And believe me, you won’t get another free pass.’

‘It would suck to die for such a crappy paycheck,’ adds Tonight and pats the ork on the arm. The friendly gesture catches the ganger by surprise and he just looks at the spirit instead of moving away. ‘But chin up, Lars, you already got paid for this, so you’re losing nothing but future trouble. Let the mage bleed his own blood in this war. He’s got a grudge against Aztech, he can risk his own silly life for it. You really don’t have to.’

‘Figured as much.’ Lars winces and looks at his companions, then back at Wheeler. ‘Any chance we can get our guns back?’

‘I don’t think there is any, no. But you keep your lives, so that needs to be enough. If you need new gear, I can put you in contact with a reliable supplier. Now, let’s talk about all the ways in which you can help us convince your boss to block the mage on all social media. He really isn’t worth the trouble he’s bringing you.’


We’re moving to the Support Module! It is providing the Finale with extra 4 points Resistance. In there, we have an Offense Scene, R4 Social/Investigative Actor (Debuff, Aggressive Defense) (faction agent) + R4 Warfare/Scientific Actor (Debuff, Balanced Offense) (an elemental). It was supposed to be a Social Scene and I see no reason why it shouldn’t stay as such – we’ll just treat it as a Social Scene against Bloodstreet Boys’ second-in-command. Note that the Module is still forbidden – we will be treated as people who really shouldn’t be there. However, the Familiarity equals 5, raised to 6 for our party and to 7 for Wheeler, who’s a known Outlaw and spends most of his job dealing with gangers.


T12: Spent on moving to Module 6. We’ll use Jade to provide 3 points of Warfare-appropriate soak to Tomorrow, Tonight, and Chloe.


T13: Module 6. We arrive at the Bloodstreet Boys’ HQ, with 8 disarmed goons with us, who are now treated as Extras for all intents and purposes.

Wheeler: MA Tactical Analysis (Tactics+1), 4v3=4 automarks for Jade’s Fear. MA Tact. An. (Tactics), 4v3=3 automarks for Chloe’s Diplomacy.
Tonight: MA Stalling Tactics (Con+1) (2 comb), 5v3=4 -2 soak, 2 MAs wasted on Soc/Inv Actor. MA Negotiation+1, 5v4=3 towards MT.
Chloe: MA Diplomacy+1, 6v6=5+3 automarks towards MT. MA Diplomacy, 6v6=3 towards MT. PA TaB.
Tomorrow: Chilling, considering her life choices.
Steven: MA Accident, 3v3=3 actions wasted for Sci/Inv Actor
Jade: MA sust Guard. MA Fear, 3v5=2 -2 soak +4 automarks >= War/Sci Resolve; Morale drops to 0/8.

R4 Soc/Inv: Got stalled and controlled out of actions.
R4 War/Sci: Has been sufficiently intimidated by our elemental

MT 14/14 -> Offense wins.


T14: Moving through a passage to Module 7.


‘You seem rather blue. And I don’t mean the hair.’

‘Bored,’ admits Sarah. ‘I told you it’s not that big of a job. I appreciate the help, and you’re amazing, but… I wish I left somebody at home? Probably myself. Y’all have this covered.’

‘We do,’ pipes in Tonight, not even pretending not to eavesdrop on their quiet conversation. ‘This magic-dampening spell screws you in each direction, doesn’t it?’

‘I have a migraine already.’ Sarah kicks an empty bottle on the ground, sending it against the building’s wall, where it shatters. ‘Like, I’m a damn adept, not a mage. I don’t do magic. I am magic. This shit feels personal and I don’t like it. It makes me… worried. I don’t want him to use this spell against us. I’ll need to figure out some counter for this.’

‘Well, you deal with the magic, birdie. We got this.’ Wheeler sends her a comforting smile, before setting his eyes on the door leading to the gang leader’s quarters and the guard in front of it. ‘You there. Put this gun down or you’ll end up with it pointing at your head.’

‘Or you’ll just fucking die,’ growls Sarah, electricity crackling around her fingers as she glares at the guard. ‘I’m in a very, very bad mood. Get out of my way.’


T15: Module 7: Hardpoint. We’re on a hostile territory and against a R4 Technical/Investigative Actor (a camera) + R4 Warfare/Social (Support, Balanced Control) (a guard). The camera doesn’t bother us, as we’re not using a stealth approach – yes, this means that the people inside Module 8 will know we’re coming. That’s okay. We are going with a Warfare approach anyway.

Wheeler: MA Tac. An. (Tactics+1), 4v3=4 automarks for Jade’s Fear. MA Intimidation+1, 5v6=3 towards MT.
Tomorrow: MA sust AI. MA Animate (Sorcery+1), 5v1=5, turns the Camera into a R5 Actor for the Offense. MA Sorcery, 5v1=5 towards MT.
Camera: carefully looks away from us as we harass the Guard.
Jade: MA Fear, 3v5=3 -2 soak +4 automarks >= Resolve, Guard MP 0/8.

Guard: With MP 0, forced to TaB.

MT 5/4 -> Offense wins


T16: Module 8: Control Module and the Finale. We were supposed to have Raul here, accompanied by a drone and an elemental. Instead, I suppose, we find a gang leader here (R2 Scientific/Creative, Debuff, Aggressive Defense), a drone (R4 Warfare/Technical, Support, Balanced Defense), and an elemental (R4 Warfare/Scientific, Marker, Aggressive Defense). Again, this is a hostile territory and we should not be here. Taking down the Warfare Actors is going to be clutch for our survival.

Payout 8 causes 8 points of Res in the Finale (total 17 Res for Scientific +1 for 1 Actor attempting the Finale), but Tomorrow comes in with 13 Clout for Sorcery (8 from the AI spell, 2 from Driven, 2 from Career, 1 from Sorcery toolkit).

Chloe: Move. PA Interact with the drone. MA Hack the World (3 comb) (Hacking+1), 6v2=6 -1 soak = 5. PA TaB. SP 5/5 MP 8/8
Wheeler: MA TacAn (Tactics+1), 4v3=4 automarks for Jade’s Fear. MA Lead By Example (Leadership+1), 5v3=4. PA Fire! (Marksmanship+1), 5v6=2 +2 dmg -2 soak = 2 SP for R4 War/Tech, 2 Clout for others doing the same Task. PA Fire! (Marksmanship), 5v6=1 +2 dmg -2 soak = 1 SP for R4 War/Tech.
Tomorrow: PA Fire! (Marksmanship+1), 4v5= 3 SP for R2 Sci/Cre. PA Fire! (Marksmanship), 4v5=1 SP for R2 Sci/Cre. MA sust AI. MA Sorcery+1, 5v6=3 towards MT. MA Sorcery, 5v6=4 towards MT.
Tonight: Stalling Tactics (2 comb) (Con+1), 5v1=5 >= War/Sci Resolve, 2 MA wasted.
Jade: MA sust Guard. MA Fear, 3v5=3 -2 soak +4 automarks = 5 >= War/Sci Resolve, 0/8 MP.
Steven: PA Elemental Attack, 3v3=3 -2 soak = 1SP for R4 War/Tech. PA Elemental Attack, 3v3=3 -2 soak = 1SP for R4 War/Tech.
Summon: PA Elemental Attack, 3v3=2 -2 soak = 0SP for R4 War/Tech. PA Elemental Attack, 3v3=2 -2 soak = 0SP for R4 War/Tech. 0 actions left, leaves the Scenario.

Defense:
R2 Sci/Cre: got hit with lightning twice, SP 0/4. TaB 2v6=1. SP 1/4 MP 4/4.
R4 War/Tech: got hit for 5 SP, SP 3/8 – below half SP, PA TaB. MA (2 comb.) Take Aim @ Tomorrow (for shooting the boss), 4v2=4+2 automarks. 4v6=3. SP 6/8 MP 8/8.
R4 War/Sci: MP 0/8, forced to TaB. 4v6=1. SP 8/8 MP 1/8.MT 7/14.

T17:

Chloe: 5 Actions from Hack the World; her commlink can only run 3, though. MA move the drone to aim at R2 boss. MA unload the magazine right above boss’s head. This uses up drone’s 2 PAs.
Wheeler: MA Intimidation+1, 5v3=4 MP dmg to R2 Sci/Cre. MA TacAn (Tactics), 4v3=4 automarks for Tomorrow’s Sorcery. PA TaB.
Tomorrow: MA sust AI. MA Sorcery, 5v6=3 +4 automarks towards MT. MA Sorcery, 5v6=3 automarks towards MT. PA TaB.
Tonight: Stalling Tactics (2 comb) (Con), 5v1=5 >= War/Sci Resolve, 2 MA wasted.
Jade: MA sust Guard.

Defense:
R2 Sci/Cre: Intimidated by Wheeler and Chloe, MP 0/4. PA TaB, 2v6=2. SP 3/4 MP 2/4
R4 War/Tech: both PA spent, otherwise controlled by Chloe.
R4 War/Sci: MP below 25% and Aggressive, so even it needs to TaB. 4v6=3. SP 8/8 MP 4/8

MT 17/14 -> Offense wins, with 3 net marks.


‘I believe we understand each other completely?’ asks Wheeler, after the echo of gunfire subsides. The man behind the desk – a magician himself – nods shakily. ‘Perfect. This matter really isn’t worth dying for. There are easier ways of making a living than serving as disposable assets for a mage with a grudge against a megacorp. It really isn’t your fight.’

‘I can make it his fight if he wants. But it wouldn’t end well for him.’ The static in the air makes Sarah’s long hair float like a cloud around her and the small sparks still jump between her fingers. Her cold, cruel smile promises all kinds of hell, and Wheeler realizes he actually likes this smile a lot. ‘So I suggest he better tells me what I need to know about this fucking spell in the air. Before I get angry.’

‘You heard the lady,’ Wheeler remarks casually, sitting down on the ganger’s desk and extending a pack of cigarettes towards him. ‘She might look hot when she’s mad, but I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end.’

The ganger looks up at him and grabs a smoke with a slightly trembling hand. ‘Thanks, mate. I think I’m with you on this. Fine, as you’ve already made yourself at home, we might as well talk. Just… Keep her contained.’

Sarah narrows her eyes and the energy around her dissipates. She drags a hand through her hair, putting it in order and clearly stalling as she’s searching for words. ‘Lovely,’ she says finally, her voice light and level. ‘I believe this will be a start of a beautiful friendship.’


Wrapping Up

Oh, this was a long one. It was fun, though! Notes on the playtest:

  • increased Threat Rating definitely works. It raised the default Actors from R3 to R4, which is a big change, especially as a lot of abilities require scoring marks equal or above the attributes, which makes it dicey when countered with both Resistance and soak. If not for Wheeler as a source of automarks, this would be so much harder.
  • I think the Drones and Elementals should also count into the Player Faction’s Threat Rating. Obviously, a R3 elemental is less useful than R1 PC, but it does create quite a lot of dice on the PCs’ side, which should be countered with more BPs. This means I won’t be just taking all elementals with me all the time, and instead, using more Conjuring and Animate spell. Which is fair, I suppose. I might make templates for 4 types of elementals that can be conjured (the AAC description gives me a choice, I just always default to Air for fluff reasons) and stop bringing the army with me.
  • as always, action control is the most important part of the game.
  • also, I’ve managed to tie together the complications of this Scenario with the consequences of the BBs project, which is not a note on the playtest, but it is something that makes me happy.

Payout: 8 (all towards Destroy d’Venescu campaign, 8/40). Also, two R4 (4) Crews of the blood mage have been removed from the game, so he’s back to having 0 Assets.
Rep: +8 for Tomorrow, Chloe, and Tonight. Scoring 3 points of Influence along the way.
Familiarity: With Aztechnology, +1 (up to 8). False-flagged, so d’Venescu still doesn’t know about us. Raul is probably grateful, but Tomorrow still doesn’t like him.

Skill learning: We’ll treat Wheeler like Phase, and assume he raised the skills he used.
Tomorrow: Investigation +2, Sorcery +3, Conjuring +1, Negotiation +1, Sciences +1, Marksmanship +1
Chloe: IT +1, Diplomacy +3, Negotiation +3, Electronic Warfare +1, Hacking +1
Tonight: Diplomacy +3, Con +6, Leadership +2, Impersonation +1, Negotiation +1
Wheeler: Leadership, Tactics, Intimidation, Marksmanship

Scenario Consequences: Median roll = 7 + 3 = 10, positive consequence of magnitude Payout +2 = 10! Another median roll lands on a 10.
A new Faction moves into the Sector and opens dialogue – their initial Project is beneficial to you with Payout equal to magnitude.

How I love new Factions with beneficial Projects. Let’s roll it!

Faction Rating: 3
Primary Focus: Investigative (Exclusive Offense)
Secondary Focus: Warfare (Beneficial Growth)Tertiary Focuses: Hostile GrowthFaction Trait: Vindictive
Faction Assets: R2 Investigative Fleet, R1 Warfare Crew
Faction Relationships: 2 total. I got 20 Factions in the game now, so let’s roll. Henequen, Fam 3. Dzitbalchen, Fam 4. Well, somebody doesn’t like dragons in Denver.

Right, but who are they and what do they want from us?
Who-dunnit: Orders from Above: one of our past or present higher-ups: an employer, a head of a Faction, or an otherwise superior Faction
What-for: Coercion: they were threatened, blackmailed, or otherwise forced to act. They probably dislike the situation as much as we do and might be convinced to help us if we help them.

Looks like we’re getting some help, courtesy of Henequen. The dragon’s not particularly bothered that he’s forcing the poor Faction to help us – I’m sure he has his reasons (we did bring his quite a lot of money through all the Cutters’ deals). They don’t have any Facilities, which means that their Project is probably a free Scenario or a pile of Intel – in any case, I can cash that in as 10 points directly for my Destroy d’Venescu Structured Campaign, please and thank you.

I don’t expect this Faction to stay around – if they weren’t forced to do so, sure, we’d keep them around. But as the situation stands, they won’t be particularly keen on staying in the story. Hence, they don’t even get a name. Thanks for your help, though! Got us to 18/40 Payouts to taking down the blood mage another notch!


Coming Up

Huh, that was a Scenario and a half. Next time, we get to run another month and see what’s new in the world, test the new rules for monthly upkeep and deployment costs, and deal with this pesky, pesky spell that was generated through BBs’ project consequences.

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