Project Aphelion Solo Play #036: Return to the Sender

In this episode, we’re returning d’Venescu’s spell back to the sender (with some freebies attached!). He, unlike us, will not enjoy it. Also, there’s a lovely surprise at the end.


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Back to Work!

While our enemies and more-or-less allies are all busy, it’s time to put our protagonists to work. The Scenario we’ve played was not planned, nor did it accomplish anything other than averting a disaster of negative consequences.

Skill Learning

A new month, new possibilities! We’ve collected quite a lot of ticks in several skills (Tomorrow’s Sorcery is seriously overflowing, but there’s little point raising it above 5), so let’s deal with as much as we can.

(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Teaching 4, 3v6=2 +3 previous = 5/4, skill raised (by May 4th)
(Teaching+1, 3v2=3) Diplomacy 3, 5v5=5, skill raised (by May 7th)
Hacking 1, 5v6=2, skill learned (by May 8th)
Negotiation 1, 5v6=4, skill learned (by May 9th)
(Teaching+1, 3v2=3) Conjuring 5, 5v7=1/5 (by May 14th)

(Teaching+1, 4v3=4) Diplomacy 5, 5v6=2 /5 (by May 5th)
(Teaching+1, 4v3=4) Leadership 3, 4v4=4, skill raised (by May 8th)
(Teaching+1, 4v3=4) Con 5, 5v6=2 /5 (by May 13th)
Sorcery 1, 3v6=3, skill learned (by May 14th)

(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Hacking 4, 6v6=3 +1 previous = 4/4, skill raised (by May 7th)
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Software 3, 6v5=5, skill raised (by May 10th)
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Diplomacy 3, 6v5=4, skill raised (by May 13th)

Scenario 023: Return to the Sender

For the longest time now, we’ve had a Scenario prepared – one aimed at d’Venescu, with the explicit purpose of harming him. It is a Payout 10 Scenario, and I see no reason why we shouldn’t do it – and at the same time, cause as much hurt as possible.

It is, again, a Scientific Scenario – let me see if I can come up with some cool structure for it. We’re 15 points short of completing the next stage of the campaign against d’Venescu, so maybe we’ll throw a Treasury or two into it. Or am I aiming too high?

Legwork done on May 3rd, Scenario happens on May 4th. Then we let our protagonists breathe. It is, of course, false-flagged as Aztechnology. Our Ghostworks are doing the ghost’s work.

Scenario Generation

Payout: 10 (right into Destroy d’Venescu Structured Campaign)
Legwork: Tomorrow, Sorcery, 5v1=5. Chloe, Hacking, 6v3=5. Tonight, Con, 5v4=3. Total 13, 3 net.
Threat Rating: Scenario 10v3=8. TR 5 (Crew) + 4 (half marks) – 2 (half net marks) = 7.

Now, this TR (or rather, Scenario Rating 17) would mean that every default Actor in this Scenario would be R5. As 2/3 of my team are only R1 and don’t have enough Clout, I’d not enjoy it. So, I’ll spend 7 points of d’Venescu-connected intel to reduce the TR by 7, which brings it down to 0. Why? Because I’ve just ran a hard and long Scenario and I am tired. Also, if I don’t use my pile of intel, what was the point of collecting it? Yes, this means that our net Payout is just 3, but that’s okay. We’ll add some Treasuries.

Scenario Rating: 10+0 = 10. Default Actors R3.

Free Modules: 10 + 10 passages
Free Scenes: 10
Build Points: 10

Here’s the story we’re going with: After figuring out how to dismantle d’Venescu’s spell there’s nothing standing between our protagonists and the ritual that Chloe has dug out from one of the magical databases that are slowly becoming her new home. The ritual is complex and requires preparations, including gathering components, building a circle, crafting sigils, brewing potions, and casting spells. Full-blown hermetic magic on the horizon. The point of the ritual? Oh, basically, we’re hexing d’Venescu, driving away his allies and cursing him with bad luck. Yes, we’re going full witch.

There is, of course, a chance that d’Venescu realizes there’s something going on – ritual magic in Shadowrun causes a slow build-up of the magical energy around the target, and if the target is magically active (like ours), it can track the ritual link and learn what is happening. So, this calls for a time limitation on the Scenario. We don’t need 10 modules, so we’ll sell 3 for BPs, starting the process with 13 BPs.

  1. Gateway. Starting the preparations for the ritual: reading the instructions. No big deal, just the entry point to the Scenario.
  2. Hardpoint, Checkpoint Scene (1/10) with 5 points of Res, boiling down to translating the instructions – Tomorrow might be a hermetic magician, but what she’s really doing is a mix of physical magic (she’s an adept, not a mage), botany, astronomy, astrology, and shamanistic paths (she was taught magic by a spirit, one doesn’t shake it that easily). Default Actor of R3 Sci/Inv on the Defense, boosted to R4 (BP 1/13).
  3. Operations, Search/Fox Chase Scene (2/10) of tracking down the right ingredients to access the Module 5, Treasury. This is somewhat of a side quest, put in place to waste valuable time and potentially split the party. Tomorrow has a long list of ingredients she needs to pull off a sneaky on d’Venescu on top of the sneaky we’re pulling off already. This is an Investigative Scene – not a sneaky one, more about tracking down well hidden and relatively rare ingredients – the task here is not to win a MT, it’s to find the Actors and capture. Default R3 Inv/Sci Actor gets two friends (BP 3/13).
  4. Social, Offense Scene (3/10). Negotiating purchase of said ingredients, preferably without raising suspicion about all those poisonous things we’re about to buy. To simulate the need for secrecy, I’ll make it a Social Stealth Scene (BP 4/13) against a R3 Soc/Sci Actor, bumped to R4 (BP 5/13), and their another R4 Soc/Inv friend (BP 7/13).
  5. Treasury + Hardpoint, with a Checkpoint (4/10) and Treasury Scene (5/10), bearing extra 5 Payout points and adding +5 BP to the pile. We’ll upgrade the Hardpoint’s default Actor to R4 Sci/Inv (BP 8/18), then add extra 3 points Resistance in the Treasury itself (BP 11/18) to make our job against R3 Sci/Cre Actor harder. This module cannot be attempted unless Scenes in Modules 3, 4, and 6 are won (BP 12/18).
  6. Operations, Offense Scene (6/10) of casting the circle. It’s actually a very easy job, with just the standard R3 Sci/Cre Actor, but its completion triggers the Delayed Reinforcement Scene (7/10) – as soon as the ritual starts, its target has a chance of figuring out it’s us behind it… Which will spawn a R5 Sci/War Actor (BP 14/18) at Module 6, as d’Venescu sends a blood spirit to investigate! I’d gladly cut down on the delay time, but I’ll run out of BPs, so default 10+Payout intervals will have to stay.
  7. Control Module – let’s put a +1 Logic mod in here (BP 15/18)
    • Race Against Time (8/10) – the preparations for the ritual needs to be completed within default time bounds (10+Payout). Three R3 Sci/Cre Actors will do their best to make it impossible (BP 17/18)
    • Offense (9/10) – drafting the sigils, astronomical calculations, consecration of tools – all against a default R3 Sci/Cre Actor.
    • Finale (10/10) – casting the spell! The R4 Sci/Cre Actor (BP 18/18) is going to interrupt us a bit. The Resistance equal to Payout is going to interrupt us more.




As always, mechanics in italics, narrative without. This isn’t going to be a hard Scenario; I just want to test a couple different Scene mechanics, so bear with me here. For quick reference, Scenario Rating = 10, so each MT has a Challenge of 10. This Scenario is planned as a whole day, culminating at midnight, so treat each interval as an hour. It only matters in the narrative.

T1: Module 1, Gateway.
Scenario complications: 10v3=10/10, 0 net. Median roll = 8, a positive complication of magnitude 10! And we rolled a 7, so…

“The Defense 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.”

Ha! Muahahahaha. Lol.

Apologies. Looks like we really are returning d’Venescu’s spell back to the sender. Including the perfect mirroring of the complications. Well. The story just writes itself, doesn’t it?

Let’s just Interact with the Gateway. I think we’ll be fine in this Scenario.

May 4th, 2056

This feels so damn good. No migraine in sight, just people enjoying the moment.

‘You look suspiciously happy today. What happened?’

Tonight’s words can’t even touch this pleasant feeling of self-satisfaction, much less disturb the perfect calmness of mind. It’s been weeks since she has felt like this. Tomorrow laughs and gets back to her notes, preparing for the ritual. ‘Nothing happened. I didn’t do anything. Yet.’

‘Talk about unsettling.’ Chloe puts the three coffee mugs on the table between them and sits down on the beanbag across from her sister. Her face is still flushed after their morning flight – just a couple of circles around the neighborhood, but it would be a shame to not use this weather – and it lost the hardness caused by months of malnutrition and stress. ‘What is it about you that your happiness automatically puts other people on edge?’

She finally starts looking like herself. That took a while. At least this haunted look in her eyes is gone. Dear Raven, please don’t let it ever return. I’ll do anything to stop it from returning. 

‘No idea. I have never done anything wrong in my entire life. I’m innocent and pure like freshly fallen snow.’

‘And yet, you’re grinning like a cat who had her unpleasant way with a whole bunch of canaries. You know you want to tell us.’

‘Oh, fine. If you have to know,’ she answers, absolutely delighted to be asked, ‘I’ve figured out a way to exploit that d’Venescu’s spell. And I mean: exploit. If I were playing a tournament game, I’d be banned from participating.’

‘That… Sounds like you,’ admits Chloe.

It feels like me, too. Finally. I missed me. 

Tomorrow grins even more, her face already hurting from the stretch. ‘Well, I am a thief. So I stole his spell – no matter who cast it for him, it’s still his, I can feel it. I told you I attuned my aura to it, right? I also kinda figured out how to manipulate it. To an extent, of course. I think it might work in our favor in this one. Took me half a night of practicing, but if I manage to cause him the same headache he gave me, I’ll die happy.’

‘But we’re still hexing him, right? I’d rather see him cursed than self-medicating with aspirin.’

‘Of course we’re hexing him. What’s the point of the three of us working together if we cannot roleplay our favorite witches?’

Chloe looks between her near-identical companions, then tosses back her platinum-blond hair. ‘Dibs on the crone.’

‘Damn.’ Tonight sighs with faked disappointment – as if she actually cared. ‘Guess I’ll take that maiden, because there’s no chance she can pull that off.’

Tomorrow chuckles and stretches leisurely. Her thoughts wander, and for once, not into some dark, terrible territory. ‘Well, fine. I’ll channel my sexuality and maternal instincts. I mean… Between the three of us…’

‘I haven’t seen my girlfriend in over a year.’ Chloe sips her coffee with a smile, clearly enjoying the banter. Good. ‘Insert absolutely obvious conclusions. And Tonight’s a spirit. You’re the closest we have to a mother figure. Which is, honestly, hilarious. How’s… The Horned God, I suppose? Any plans?’

Tomorrow sticks out her tongue and gets back to studying the notes on the ritual Chloe has dug out from one of the magical databases. ‘None that concern you. Also, we don’t do wicca in this house. Adam and I may have discussed some things, but we put them on the shelf until our lives aren’t in constant mortal danger. Insert equally obvious conclusions.’

‘Well, if there ever was a reason to hex somebody into oblivion…’ laughs Tonight. ‘Just tell us what to do, o, Mother Witch. We’ll follow you with youthful enthusiasm.’

‘And provide you with the wisdom of the ages,’ adds Chloe in a mock-serious tone. ‘But after that, we’re retrieving Fayette. Seriously, it’s been far too long.’

T2: Module 2, Hardpoint. Protected by a R4 Sci/Inv (Balanced Control) Actor, this Checkpoint will not be much of a trouble. Mostly because the Defense faces 10 Res on Sci/Inv tasks. Sucks to be them. It sucked being us previously. We have Res of 6, but between Driven, Career (3) and Sorcery toolkit, it’s reduced to 0.

Tomorrow: MA Sorcery+1, 5v1=5. PA TaB.
Defense: 4v10=0. 4v10=0.

MT 5/4 -> Offense wins and doesn’t break a sweat. Sometimes it is like that.

T3: Passage to Module 3. We’re chilling.

T4: Module 3, Operations. We’re looking for three R3 Inv/Sci Actors who are trying to succeed at their MT before we sus them out. All of us are in the Offense here, just working on separate MTs.

Due to Scenario Complications, our Inv/Sci Actors are facing 10 Res, and have skill 3 and 2 Clout, which means that each of them is rolling 2x PA 3v11, which means an automatic autofail. They could combine their actions to each roll PA (2 comb) 3v10, possibly scoring their marks… Or they could ALL combine their actions, making a voltron of 5 (3 + 2 other Actors) v6 (11- 5 extra actions, combined), which actually allows them to score something. Meanwhile, we’re just facing the MT Resistance, so I think we’re good.

Tomorrow: PA Perception+1, 4v5=2 towards MT. MA Commerce+1, 5v7=3 towards MT. MA Prospecting+1, 5v7=3. PA TaB.
Chloe: PA Perception+1, 3v8=1 towards MT. MA Prospecting+1, 5v9=0. MA Commerce+1, 5v8=2. PA TaB.
Tonight: PA Perception+1, 3v8=0. MA Investigation+1, 5v7=3 towards MT. PA TaB.

3 R3 Inv/Sci Actors: 5v6=4.

Our MT: 14/10. Scenario’s MT: 4/10. We win, yay!

‘When you said that we need to pick up some ingredients, I thought you’ve meant a trip to the store,’ complains Chloe, removing a leaf from her long hair with an expression of absolute disgust. ‘Not that we’ll end up raiding a botanical garden.’

‘Oh hush. Would you prefer spending three days looking for knotgrass in the wide, wide fields around Denver?’ Tomorrow calmly snips a piece of a creeping weed covered in tiny pink flowers and puts it in her pocket. ‘I mean, I could get it all on the Matrix, but the moment you put an order for black hellebore, hemlock, and deadly nightshade, you join a couple of lists. So, stop bitching and start looking for my poison plant babies.’

Chloe looks at her commlink and browses the botanical garden’s collection. ‘It’s scary how you’re embracing this motherhood vibe. Third alley to the left. Stay out of sight, will you?’

‘Please.’ She rolls her eyes. ‘I’m a ghost. It’s what I do.’

I can’t find any of those flowers you need, but it looks like they have seeds and saplings in the planters in the store. Tonight chimes in though the mental link. I’m contractually obligated to be supportive, so steal away if it brings you joy, but you can just buy what isn’t growing right now.

Mostly, I just wanted a walk in the garden with my sisters. Work-death-life balance reasons.


Tomorrow chuckles to herself. ‘Tonight has found everything we need in the garden’s store. How about we just have a picnic brunch instead? I’ll make us some mimosas.’

‘Was all of this just a ploy to drag me into the nature?’ Chloe looks up from her commlink. ‘You’re a monster, Sarah. This mimosa better be good.’

T5: Passage to Module 4. We’re chilling and regaining spent pools while enjoying the beautiful May weather. Everybody deserves a break, and we paid for it with 7 points of Intel. We could cover almost two months of expenses with it, but no. We spent it all to have a picnic and put a curse on our enemy in an easy-breezy, feel-good Scenario. Really putting ‘me’ in homicide.

~~*~~ hexing your nemesis is self-care ~~*~~

T6: Module 4. This is a simple Offense Scene, in which we negotiate the purchase of a bunch of ingredients for a potion and the ritual and try to make sure nobody balks at the bunch of toxic plant material we’re gathering. The Defense is R4 Soc/Sci (Conservative Offense) and R4 Soc/Inv (Aggressive Defense), which means they don’t have to face the extra Resistance if we make it a Social Scene – but they still need to face us. As it’s a Social Scene, I rolled for Familiarity, and we’ve landed at 5, so the basic difficulty for all Actors involved is 5; except, it’s 4 for us, because of First Impression.

Chloe: MA Diplomacy+1, 6v4=4 towards MT. MA Negotiation+1, 6v6=4 towards MT. MA Investigation+1, 6v5=4 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 6/8
Tonight: MA (2 comb) Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v3=5 -2 soak, 2 MAs of the R4 Soc/Inv Actor wasted. MA Negotiation+1, 5v3=3 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 7/7
Tomorrow: MA Con+1, 5v3=4 towards MT. MA Negotiation+1, 5v4=3 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 7/8

R4 Soc/Sci: 4v2=4 against MT. TaB with the rest of the actions.
R4 Soc/Inv: MAs stalled by Tonight.

MT 18/10 -> Offense wins!

T7: Passage from Module 4 to 6. We’re chilling, regaining morale points. So far, so good.

T8: Module 6, Operations. It’s time to cast the circle and start the ritual! Protected by totally-screwed R3 Sci/Cre (Conservative Control) Actor, who has a choice between rolling 3v11 on Scientific or 2v4 on Creative – and as it cannot do anything in the first one, it’ll be mostly a creative issue. Let’s… pick up some artistic skills while we’re at it?

Tomorrow: MA Sorcery+1, 5v1=5 towards MT. MA Artistry+1, 5v6=3 towards MT. MA Conjuring+1, 5v2=4 towards MT. PA Tab. MP 6/8.
Chloe: MA Sorcery+1, 5v8=1 towards MT. MA Artistry+1, 6v9=1 towards MT. MA Performance+1, 6v9=0. PA TaB. MP 6/8.
Tonight: MA Artistry+1, 5v10=1 towards MT. MA Performance+1, 5v10=1 towards MT. MA Sorcery+1, 3v8=2 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 5/7.

R3 Sci/Cre: 2v4=1 against MT.

MT 17/10 -> Offense wins and triggers the delayed scene of d’Venescu’s blood spirit trying to make us into a blood splatter.

The two near-identical faces look at Tomorrow with various degrees of distrust and disbelief.

‘Do we really have to sing?’ challenges Tonight. ‘This is… A brand new information. I have not yet considered the existence of music.’

‘It’s called chanting, and yes, you gotta. I’m busy actually casting the circle, and somebody needs to… Ah… Raise the vibrations in the room.’

‘You’re just making fun of us, aren’t you?’ Chloe’s face carries several different shades of suspicion, but she picks up the tune without much effort. ‘You don’t need any help at all with this.’

‘Perhaps, perhaps not. Let me worry about magic and be a good backup singer. I need to focus.’

A vortex of white light materializes in the middle of the room, swirling and turning like a miniature tornado. Tomorrow shoos it away and the tornado disappears, already on its way to the target. ‘Now, we have about… Well…’ She looks at her commlink and confirms the time. ‘About enough time to pull this off and finish the hex at midnight, like proper witches. The magic is going to build up slowly, but it will be already tiny-little-bit noticeable at the delivery point. Tonight, can you keep an eye out? If he plans to bounce it off to us, I’d appreciate an advance warning.’

‘Sure.’ The spirit shrugs and joins Chloe in chanting, copying her expression of pure martyrdom. ‘Here. Is this helpful?’

‘Not particularly. But it sure as hell is hilarious. Now come, we have a potion to brew.’

T9: Passage from Module 6 to 5. Time to cash in on that Treasury! And get some morale points on the way.
Blood spirit: 1/20

Tomorrow, PA TaB, 3v6=2, MP 8/8.
Tonight, PA TaB, 2v6=2, MP 7/7.
Chloe, PA TaB, 3v6=0. MP 6/8.

T10: Module 5, Hardpoint. Protected by 5 points of Res and a R4 Sci/Inv (Balanced Control) Actor, who’ll have to combine both actions to get to 4v9… Yeah, we got this. You know, I made this Scenario and Actors Scientific, because that gives them soak and Res against magic… I did not expect them to be so utterly screwed by the complications.
Blood spirit: 2/20

Tomorrow: MA Sciences+1, 5v4=1 towards MT. MA Sorcery+1, 5v1=5 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 7/8.
Chloe: PA TaB, 3v6=3. MP 8/8.
R4 Sci/Inv: 2 MA comb, 4v9=0

MT 6/4 -> Offense wins.

T10: Module 5, Treasury. Containing 5 points of Payout and protected by 8 points of Res (we added +3 here!) and a R3 Sci/Cre (Aggressive Defense) Actor, who will have to default to Secondary Focus to get anything done…
Blood spirit: 3/20

Tonight: MA Leadership+1, 4v3=1 Clout for Tomorrow’s Sciences. MA (2) Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v1=5, Defense’s MAs wasted. PA TaB. MP 7/7
Chloe: MA (3) IT+1, 5v7=3 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 8/8
Tomorrow: MA Sorcery+1, 5v5=3 towards MT. MA Sciences+1, 5v5=5 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 7/8

R3 Sci/Cre: MAs wasted.

MT 11/10 -> Offense wins and scores 5 extra points of Payout.

‘Honestly, it’s really not that complicated. Look. We take knotgrass and braid it together with belladonna leaves. The first is to bind and compel the target and make it impossible to flee or avoid our spell. The second is one of the most protective plants, especially if you need to retaliate against somebody else’s malicious intent, not just disperse the spell that’s coming at you.’

‘This website says you should use hawthorn for that.’

Tomorrow shrugs and picks up a thorny short branch from the pile they brought from the botanical garden, then wraps the braid around the twig, making sure the thorns don’t pierce nightshade’s leaves. ‘Let’s double-deck it, then. It’s not math, multiplying negatives doesn’t make a positive. And now, we take some cedar bark…’

‘Isn’t it supposed to be a good thing?’ Chloe re-reads the instructions. ‘Lessens the hold of bad habits and excessive behaviors, alleviates self-loathing, and counteracts self-sabotaging caused by negative thinking. That sounds counterproductive to our case.’

‘Ah, but you see.’ Tomorrow crushes the bark in her hands and lets it fall into the metal bowl in front of her. ‘One negative does flip the whole thing around.’ With a practiced gesture, she cuts open a thick stem of hemlock, squeezing the juice on top of the bark. ‘Shame the hellebores are not in season, this would look much nicer.’

‘I don’t think anybody would care.’ Tonight glances curiously into the bowl and raises her eyebrows. ‘This seems rather… inert. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’

‘I’m not, but does it matter? The science checks out.’ Tomorrow tosses the hawthorn braid on top of everything else and removes her poison-covered gloves. ‘The rest is just pure intent. And well, a price to pay.’ She picks up a second knife, sterilizes it with a spell and quickly cuts across the outer side of her forearm, slicing the vein. Clenching her fist, she watches as the blood drips into the bowl, mixing with the toxic juice, splattering over thorns and leaves. Seven, eight, nine… Enough.

She seals the wound with a quick healing spell and rolls her shoulders to relieve the tension. Only then she raises her eyes and notices Chloe’s expression. ‘What?’

‘N-nothing. I sometimes forget.’ Chloe shakes her head. ‘You really are a witch.’

‘I’d love to be a wizard, but I’m really having trouble with the beard stuff.’ Snapping her fingers, she makes the contents of the bowl burst into flames, the blood and juice quickly evaporating as the plants turn into ashes. She takes a swig of wine straight from the bottle, then pours the rest over the ashes and mixes it with her fingers. Her eyes stare into the astral space, tracing the black and purple swirls in the red wine, the pure mischief and misfortune dripping from her fingertips when she raises her hand above the liquid.

In the back of her mind, Raven smiles.

Thank you for showing me who I am. It’s a narrow path to walk, but hell, it is fun.

‘Let’s get this party started.’

T11: Passage to Module 7. A short break and regaining morale.
Blood spirit: 4/20

T12: Module 7. All Scenes within this module have an extra +1 Logic mod – which also means +1 mod for Defense. Ah well. We have two Scenes to win here: a standard Offense Scene (against a single R3 Sci/Cre (Balanced Control) Actor) and a Race Against Time Scene (against three of those, all of them on Aggressive Control). As the Scientific method is currently unavailable to the Defense, they’ll all use the Creative approach, because this is, honestly, the best they can do. After finishing these two Scenes, we can approach the Finale. Note that both Scenes happen simultaneously, so we need to split the party.

Blood spirit: 5/20
Race Against Time: 1/20

Offense Scene:
Tomorrow: MA Conjuring+1, 5v3=3 towards MT. MA Sorcery+1, 5v2=4 towards MT. MA Sciences+1, 5v4=4 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 6/8
R3 Sci/Cre: MA 2v4=1 against MT. MA 2v4=2 against MT. MP 4/6.
MT 8/10

Race Against Time Scene:
Chloe: MA IT+1, 5v3=5 towards MT. MA Sorcery+1, 5v7=2 towards MT. MA Investigation+1, 6v5=4 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 6/8
Tonight: MA Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v2=4 against A1; 5 against A2; 4 against A3. MP 7/7
A1 R3 Sci/Cre: 1 MA wasted. 2v4=1 against MT. MP 5/6
A2 R3 Sci/Cre: 1 MA wasted. 2v4=1 against MT. MP 5/6
A3 R3 Sci/Cre: 1 MA wasted. 2v4=0 against MT. MP 5/6
MT 9/10

T13: Module 7, still.
Blood spirit: 6/20
Race Against Time: 2/20

Offense Scene:
Tomorrow: PA Perception+1, 4v4=3 towards MT. MA Investigation+1, 5v2=5 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 5/8
R3 Sci/Cre: MA 2v4=2 against MT. MA 2v4=1 against MT. PA TaB. MP 3/6.
MT 13/10 -> Offense wins.

Race Against Time Scene:
Chloe: MA Sciences+1, 5v6=5 towards MT. MA Performance+1, 6v7=3. PA TaB. MP 5/8
Tonight: MA Stalling Tactics (Con), 5v2=4 against A1; 4 against A2; 5 against A3. MP 7/7
A1 R3 Sci/Cre: 1 MA wasted. 2v4=1 against MT. MP 4/6
A2 R3 Sci/Cre: 1 MA wasted. 2v4=2 against MT. MP 4/6
A3 R3 Sci/Cre: 1 MA wasted. 2v4=1 against MT. MP 4/6
MT 13/10 -> Offense wins.

It takes almost two hours, but the circle finally looks like it should. Precise lines drawn with sharpies on the floor will be a pain to remove, but for Tomorrow, that sounds like the next tenant’s problem. Long strands of sigils written along the seal’s edges glisten with wine, already absorbing the mixture’s power into themselves, ready to unleash it into a curse. Tomorrow looks at her sister adjusting the position of the candles and sighs.

‘Yet another glorious piece of magic I can’t tell anybody about. One of these days, I’ll have to do something legal.’

‘I assume this is not what they’re teaching you at uni?’

‘This is.’ Tomorrow points to the complex seal and sigils. ‘Although they’d probably cut my grade for using a sharpie. They’re still at the stage of red ink, chalk, and charcoal. The rest, though… We call this method: fuck around and find out. That part’s stolen from an old druidic book, the potion is basically modern witchcraft, even if based on Crowley’s – not our Crowley, the dead… the non-spirit one – Crowley’s interpretation of Kabbalah in 777, and the rest is just… what makes sense, I guess.’ She suddenly laughs and shakes her head. ‘Shit, I’m one step away from becoming a chaos magician. Maybe that’s why uni is chaffing me so hard lately. Sal was right: Mercury’s in retrograde, we might as well do this.’

‘Well, I think it is, until twelfth…’ confirms Chloe, pulling up the astronomical data on her computer, then looks up. ‘It’s a joke I’m not getting, isn’t it?’

‘Around here, Mercury is always in retrograde. It’s best to just embrace the chaos and frustrations.’ Tomorrow grins and flexes her fingers. ‘If you cannot beat entropy, join it.’

T14: Module 7, still. But now, it’s time for the Finale! The R4 Sci/Cre (Balanced Control) Actor is having a bad time, and we honestly won’t bother with it that much. The Finale gets its 10 points of Resistance, +1 for each person attempting it.
Blood spirit: 7/20

Chloe: MA Leadership+1, 3v4=1 Clout for Tomorrow’s Sorcery. MA Optimizer Bot (Software+1), 6v3=2 mod for Tomorrow’s Sciences.
Tonight: MA (2) Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v2=4, MAs of Defense wasted.
Tomorrow: MA Artificial Intelligence (Sorcery+1), 5v2=5 Clout for Logic tasks. MA Sorcery, 5v2=5 towards MT. MA Sciences+1, 5v4=4. PA TaB.

R4 Sci/Cre: out of MAs.

MT 9/10.

T15: Module 7, still.
Blood spirit: 8/20

Tonight: MA (2) Stalling Tactics (Con), 5v2=5, MAs of Defense wasted.
Tomorrow: MA sus AI. MA Sorcery, 5v2=5 towards MT. MA Sciences, 5v4=3. PA TaB.

R4 Sci/Cre: out of MAs.

MT 17/10 -> Offense wins, 7 net.

The magic builds up until it’s almost unbearable, hot and oppressive against her skin, racing between the three of them like a black, purple, and red school of fish, twisting and turning as the mana flows and ebbs. It feels so natural, so obvious – even though her head is splitting and her heart beats in a completely unknown rhythm.

Is that why Sal likes ritual magic? It’s so damn… Powerful.

This is nothing compared with the ritual they used against Dead Eyes. It’s just a curse: a smart, crafty, underhanded piece of magic, meant to hamper and inconvenience, not kill. She can do it by just using her internal mana reserves – no need for external sources, no need to tap into a leyline or offset the price with blood magic. This is a tiny, tiny thing.

But it feels as if the whole world were under her control.

The spell finally releases, as soon as it reaches climax. She doesn’t have to guide it, it’s already aimed at the target and delivered through the link to the watcher spirit. The chants, the seal, the bloody wine covering the sigils – the magic drains from it all as if it was never there, leaving it all empty.

Leaving her empty too.

Tomorrow shakes her head and tries to focus on Chloe – she can see her sister’s moving lips but it takes a moment for her senses to return to the material world.

‘…done? It feels like it is. The air stopped tingling.’

She tries to answer, but her throat is so dry she barely manages a whisper. ‘Should be.’

‘Oh, you poor bird.’ Tonight raises from her spot on the other side of the seal and flies to the sink, soon returning with a glass of water.

It’s the best thing Tomorrow has ever drunk.

‘It’s done,’ she confirms after a while and the sound of her own voice makes her wince as the lightning of pain cuts through her brain. ‘Ow. Why do I always do this to myself?’

‘Overgrown ambition and years of self-hatred.’ Tonight collects the empty glass and sends it to the kitchen. ‘But that was a nice package you’ve sent there. Awfully nasty. Paint you green and call you Elphaba.’

‘I need a nap.’

‘Take one. And then, we’ll see what’s next on the agenda. For now… You did good, birdie. You’ll make a proper witch one day – even if not a wizard.’

Wrapping Up

Payout: 10 + 5 from the Treasure = 15, all into Destroy d’Venescu campaign, bringing it to 40/40 (in 4 projects) and unlocking the Stage Finale.

Rep: +15 to all three, which not only scores us +3 points of Influence, but also lets Tomorrow advance to Career (2)! She’s a lovely Agent Rating 2 now. And we’ll pick up a new AAC for her from Agent’s repertoire, called Ace in the Hole:

[FREE] Ace in the Hole [M, S, Wit, Negotiation, Wit/Resolve. Marks provide automarks for the chosen roll during a Social Main Task.]

Familiarity: Yarr, we’re pirates flying under a false flag.

Skill learning:
Tomorrow: Sorcery +6, Perception +2, Commerce +1, Prospecting +1, Con +1, Negotiation +1, Artistry +1, Conjuring +2, Sciences +4, Investigation +1
Tonight: Perception +1, Investigation +1, Con +4, Negotiation +1, Artistry +1, Performance +1, Sorcery +1, Leadership +1
Chloe: Perception +1, Investigation +3, Commerce +1, Diplomacy 1, Negotiation +1, Sorcery +2, Artistry +1, Performance +2, IT +2, Sciences +1, Leadership +1, Software +1

Scenario consequences: We’re coming in hot with 7 net marks, so… I rolled a 10, so they all go to waste. Another median roll: 6

A Faction appreciated your efforts and proposed a Think Tank Project with payout equal magnitude. If caused by hostile move, the target Faction’s most hostile competitor appreciated it.

I think our continued cooperation with Aztechnology is just… a fact. We’ll be scoring another 17 points against d’Venescu soon.

Where We Left Off

After two Scenarios ran back-to-back, it’s high time to give the girls some time off – two days each (5th-6th May) sounds fair and will cover at least a part of their monthly anti-burnout buffer. This also lets us trigger the consequences of the Scenario on 7th, when Aztechnology’s R4 Crew becomes available to run this Think Tank, taking Chloe and Tonight with them.

The Project has a Challenge of 17 and we’ll be run with Aztech’s Faction dice, rolling 4v4 and scoring 17 marks in (3+4+4+3+4 = 18, 1 net) five days, finishing on May 11th and ending with (3+1 = 4) no further consequences.

Meanwhile, Tomorrow runs a project to create a small Scenario to pull off the Structured Campaign Stage Finale, scoring the necessary 4 marks in (2+2) two days (by May 8th), then does of legwork and the actual Scenario on May 9th and 10th.

R3 Crew: 3 dice, 3 skill, 2 Resistance, 2 Clout, 2 soak, 2 automarks. Scenario Payout 4.

Legwork: 3v3=2 +2 automarks, 1 net (finished by May 9th).
Threat Rating: 4v7 = 3 (-2 soak) = 1. TR 1-1 = 0
Challenge: Payout + 0 = 4.

Tomorrow needs to score 4 marks. She’s rolling 3 v 6 – 3 (skill) + 4 (Payout Resistance) – 2 (Clout) = 3v5, and starts with 2 automarks. Scenario rolls 4 v 6 – 1 (number of Actors) + 2 (Resistance) = 4v7, and gets hit with 2 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 3v5=2 + 2 automarks = 4. MT 4/4. Defense: 4v7=2 -2 soak = 0. MT 4/4 -> Offense wins, 0 net marks.

On May 10th, d’Venescu’s Faction shrinks down to R3! Tomorrow gets another 4 points of Rep, which nets us another point of Influence. There are no further consequences of this Scenario. However, as I’ve just written above, on May 11th there’s 17 points falling into Destroy d’Venescu Campaign tracker, which brings us to 17/30 to take him down to R2. Yes, we’re already over halfway through.

It’s hard to destroy a R5 Faction, but once you get the ball rolling… It’s very, very satisfying.

May 11th finds d’Venescu with his tiny R2 (1) Warfare Crew (which boils down to, literally, a single bodyguard), one fewer Faction dice, and a lot of hurt coming his way. He deserves all of it – even though, as far as this playtest goes, he hasn’t yet managed to harm us in any way. Who’s excessive now, huh?

May 11th finds Tomorrow being a day behind her more-or-less sisters, so she’ll use it to do her monthly income Scenario. As I said, we’re running out of cash, and we should do something about it. Unless we want to end up like d’Venescu.

R3 Crew: 3 dice, 3 skill, 2 Resistance, 2 Clout, 2 soak, 2 automarks. Scenario Payout 3.

Legwork: 3v3=3 +2 automarks, 2 net (finished by May 11th).
Threat Rating: 3v7 = 1 (-2 soak) = 0. TR 0-0 = 0
Challenge: Payout + 0 = 3.

Tomorrow needs to score 3 marks. She’s rolling 3 v 6 – 3 (skill) + 3 (Payout Resistance) – 2 (Clout) = 3v4, and starts with 2 automarks. Scenario rolls 3 v 6 – 1 (number of Actors) + 2 (Resistance) = 3v7, and gets hit with 2 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 3v4=2 + 2 automarks = 4. MT 4/3. Defense: 3v7=1 -2 soak = 0. MT 4/3 -> Offense wins, 1 net marks.

That’s 3 Payouts worth of cash, +3 Rep for Tomorrow, and +1/2 to raise the Familiarity with Alp Group, the magical security company, for which Tomorrow is doing consulting. It is also fourth Scenario Tomorrow is finishing this month – and it’s barely 11th. I’ve started color-coding my game calendar. Rolled a (7+1) on Scenario consequences, which means a good one with magnitude 3 – then a 1, which is something we haven’t had before!

Your Assets encountered an Anomaly on the way back. Roll an Anomaly into the game.

Now, in Project Aphelion, Anomalies are all the weird stuff you can find in space. They are a way of introducing bigger events of the metaplot, first contacts with aliens, distress buoys in far-away part of the Solar System, or anything else that fits the world/story. There’s a whole table for it, of course.

As I’m not about to encounter aliens, I need to come up with my own Anomaly. And honestly, as the story against d’Venescu is slowly winding down (I mean, there’s little point hiding it, right?), and the matters of magical education, research, and discovery take up more and more space, why don’t we have Tomorrow stumble upon some magical anomaly during her well paid but slightly boring mag-sec consultancy gig? Some of the best discoveries were caused by a mere coincidence.

I’ll need to think about this one, though. There’s a bunch of cool magic-related things I want to explore in the world of Shadowrun, and I think I need to give Awakenings: New Magic in 2057 another browse. Views included there are pretty on point with what Tomorrow thinks about magic, and it all will at some point culminate in Unified Magical Theory in 2064, but… That’s still 8 years away.

So… How about I just use this Anomaly to trigger one of the Shadowrun published adventures I’ve always wanted to play? It technically takes place in 2055, but we were busy then. Already looking forward to it.

May 11th, 2056

‘You need a break, love.’ Adam’s hands gently fall on her shoulders and rub the tension away. His fingers move up her neck and bury themselves in her hair, then move it to the side, so he can kiss the back of her neck. Tomorrow turns her head, enjoying the caress. 

‘I had one last week,’ she murmurs. ‘Two in the same month? In this economy?’ 

‘Hedonism. But we can afford it. Also, you didn’t really have a break, you had two days of not working on the case, and you’ve spent them working in Crowley’s lab.’

‘Right. Yeah, sorry. I know I’ve been busy lately. Running a war is one thing – but why did I ever decide to get that degree?’ 

‘You know why. And I know you still care enough to keep working on it.’

‘I do,’ she sighs and puts down the book. ‘Crowley can say whatever he wants about most magical education being passed master-to-student, but I want my damn degree. And then a doctorate. It’s easy for him, because that asshole already has several diplomas and a long-ass bibliography. I’m no one in that world.’

‘You’ll get there, babe. Long-term, it really won’t mater that you’re a couple years behind. It also won’t matter if you take an hour of break.’

‘Can’t argue with that,’ she concedes with laughter. ‘Fine, my lovely fiancé. What’s your offer for this break you’ve requested?’ 

‘I’d like you to meet someone.’

‘Is this about Salazar hiding in the corridor with a box, trying to stay clear of the ward and detection spells around our flat? Because I have watcher spirits there, and he’s absolute rubbish at subtlety.’

Adam laughs. ‘You’re the worst person ever to surprise. Sal?’ he calls out. ‘You can come in.’

‘I can. He can’t, unless she lets us through the ward.’

Tomorrow looks at Adam curiously but is only met with an annoyingly inscrutable smile. She gets up from the desk and opens the front door, suddenly facing a large cardboard box. She picks it up carefully, surprised by the weight, then moves it through the ward. The alarm rings in her head at the obvious disturbance as something astrally active passes through the magical barrier, and for a moment, she wonders whether it’s a good idea. But then, if she cannot trust her friends…

The box comes through, and Salazar right after it; no magic on him, as per their standard rules of the polite entry. The blood mage grins, for once without any sarcasm or malice, and prompts her to open the box.

‘Is that…? Are we…?’ She looks at Adam who just shrugs as if he didn’t know what’s coming.

Tomorrow puts the box on the ground, kneels beside it and opens it. The black ball of fur inside looks at her with suspicious intelligence in its dark, red-rimmed eyes, then tilts its head to the side, making one of the ears flop.

‘Well, hello there, you handsome boy,’ she says, slowly reaching towards it. The black nose sniffs her fingers, then boops them gently. Tomorrow laughs and picks up the puppy. The perfectly black, shiny fur with a beginning of a mane around its neck leaves no questions about the breed. ‘Guess I’m fireproofing the house later today, aren’t I?

‘He doesn’t know how to breathe fire yet,’ explains Salazar. ‘The magical abilities start appearing when they’re about a year old. All you can get at this point is some hot breath on your face in the morning. This one is the most docile cub I’ve seen so far… Shit, Tomorrow, not that docile!’

Tomorrow looks up questioningly at her friend without any break in scratching the puppy’s soft belly. The hellhound plays with her fingers, trying to catch them between his big paws and nibble on them with tiny white teeth.

‘I once saw a guy lose a hand like that.’ Salazar looks at Adam and shrugs. ‘Not by a three-month-old cub, but you know. They grow up fast. You still got that trainer around, right?’

‘We do. Logan hired one the moment we bought the first pair from you for perimeter security last summer. I know what I’m doing.’

‘Glad that somebody does… Tomorrow, for fuck’s sake, don’t roll on the floor with it like that! It’s a pack animal, you need to teach it it’s not your peer…’

She laughs, puts the puppy on the carpet and kneels in front of it, then changes her form. A black-furred wolf, several times bigger than the cub, calmly raises her paw and puts it on the hellhound’s head. Her eyes stare deeply into the cub’s, and the puppy whines and lies down on the floor. She turns it to its back and scratches its belly, then picks it up by the scruff and carries it to the bathroom, a stack of wastepaper levitating behind her.

‘Your girlfriend is fucking weird,’ remarks Salazar.

‘We’re getting married, actually.’

‘Are you? Man, good luck. Your fiancée is fucking weird.’

‘You don’t know the half of it.’

‘That’s for sure. Honestly though, congrats. Doesn’t happen often around here, but you two seem solid.’

‘Thanks. For the dog too. I owe you one.’

‘No problem. It was too friendly for our needs anyway.’

They both know perfectly well what they aren’t going to talk about – that Salazar is working double to earn favors, because soon – very soon – he’ll need to cash in on everything he’s owed. But the topic is there and it’s hard to avoid.

‘You want a beer?’ asks Adam after a prolonged silence, as they both stare at the bathroom door, from behind which a muffled series of barks and howls can be heard.

Salazar shakes his head. ‘Thanks, but I gotta bounce. Can’t risk spreading too thin these days.’

‘Makes sense. Well, thanks again. I appreciate it.’ There’s quite a lot of things that Sal’s pride wouldn’t accept, not from him. But they’ve been allies long enough for some basic decency. ‘Take care, Sal. And if you need anything, let me know.’

With a nod, the mage turns towards the door, but before he manages to open it, a wolf runs out from the bathroom and changes into an elf midway. Tomorrow catches up with Salazar and hugs him tightly, then places a kiss on his cheek. ‘Thanks, assface. I always wanted a dog.’

‘Don’t thank me, you fucking furry. It wasn’t my idea.’ He wipes off the kiss from his cheek like a five-year-old after a meeting with an aunt.

Tomorrow glances at Adam and smirks. ‘Oh, he’s gonna get his thanks. But I need you out of the door for that. I’ll see you tomorrow?’

‘I’ll try to squeeze you into my busy schedule.’ There’s just a smidge more of the usual Salazar in it and Tomorrow hopes it’ll stay. ‘Come by anytime.’

Coming Up!

Well, there’s trouble brewing in the neighborhood, between Cutters, BBs, and whatever Salazar is planning (it can’t be good, can it? It probably won’t be good.) And there’s… Some more things brewing. Like the main campaign, right?


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