Project Aphelion Solo Play #038: The War Council

As we’re working our way up the campaign finale, there’s a lot of scheming, planning, plotting, and strategizing. On all sides.


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May 13th, 2056

Soft knocking on the door pulls Chloe out of her reverie. She rolls off the bed and grabs the pistol from the desk, before making even a step towards the entrance. 

‘Chloe? It’s just us.’ Her sister’s voice is quiet – no wonder, at this hour. No point in disturbing the neighbors. ‘Can we come in?’

As if they couldn’t. There’s nothing stopping Tonight from going wherever she wants. And Sarah has her keys; it’s her flat, after all. But still, it is nice of her to ask, decides Chloe, unlocking the door. She puts the pistol down only after letting her visitors in and pretends to not see Sarah’s concerned look when she stashes the weapon into the desk’s drawer.

‘How’s the party?’ she asks, sitting down on the bed and pulling her legs under her. ‘A bit early for it to be over.’

Sarah finds her favorite spot on the beanbag. Nabucco does a couple of circles on top of her thighs and lies down comfortably. ‘The guys needed to talk. And I think, we also should.’

Chloe can feel the muscles of her neck tense up as she looks at her clenched fists. ‘If you want me to apologize…’

‘No,’ Sarah cuts her off instantly. ‘I want to hug you and tell you that everything is going to be alright. But I have a puppy on my lap and I can’t get up right now. I think he has already fallen asleep.’

‘Oh. You’re not angry at me?’

‘Well, it’s not like you’re wrong about the whole thing. It’s just a shitty, messy world we live in. And you have… a view of an outsider. It’s not always compatible with the reality of the Warrens, but it doesn’t make it incorrect.’

‘I really think Salazar is an asshole,’ mutters Chloe with all the defensiveness she still has, but Sarah just nods.

‘He is. But he has just lost almost everything he had and then was this close to having to sacrifice all that he had left. To save it, he literally sold his freedom, and he won’t be getting it back. There’s nothing but hard choices around here. We are all just trying to make the best out of it.’

‘I thought…’ Chloe stops when the realization hits her. ‘Does it mean you…’

‘At this point? I probably know too much to leave. Or at least, it wouldn’t be easy nor safe.’ Sarah pets the sleeping dog, a soft smile on her face. ‘I trust Adam with my life. But the rest of the Cutters, especially those above him? Yeah, no. I’m very carefully staying as far away from his day job as possible.’

‘Too late for that,’ points out Tonight, and Sarah’s glare makes it obvious that some things were supposed to stay unsaid. The spirit continues: ‘If you two split and the Cutters let you go, feds will pick you up to milk for intel.’

‘And here I was, thinking you have it all under control.’

Sarah shrugs lightly. ‘I do. Mostly. But really, it’s not important right now. I’ll deal with it if and when it becomes a real problem. Now, what’s up with you?’

‘How much time do you have?’ jokes Chloe, but the laughter dies on her tongue, before it even manages to get out.

‘However much you need.’

‘I don’t even know. I guess I’m just tired,’ she admits, staring at the red half-rings her fingernails left in her palms. ‘Of everything. Hiding, running, waking up from nightmares. And every time I look at you and Adam, I’m so envious it makes me sick. I just… I want my life back.’

‘It won’t be long now.’

‘It’s been two and a half years.’

Her sister looks like she wants to say something, then lowers her head. ‘I’m sorry, Chloe,’ she whispers after a while. ‘I should have…’

‘Damn. Sarah, no. I didn’t mean it like that…’ Chloe sighs and slides from the bed to the floor, getting close enough to hold her sister’s hand. ‘You’re right. It’s the closest we’ve ever been to seeing it through.’

Sarah looks up and the guilt in her eyes is unmistakable, but she tries to hide it under a smile. ‘Wanna go get Fayette next? I don’t think d’Venescu is in any position to look for her right now, and she’ll be safe here. We’ve literally just tripled our magical security.’

‘Wait, is that why…?’

‘It’s classified.’

Sarah.’

‘One of the many reasons,’ explains Sarah with an obviously fake grin. ‘Things are rarely worth doing if they serve a single purpose. But just because there are many reasons, doesn’t mean that any single one of them is unimportant. So… Fayette?’

‘God, yes,’ sighs Chloe. It’s been so long… ‘I don’t know where exactly she is, but I’ll ask and we’ll figure out the extraction plan. It shouldn’t be that complicated – the point was to hide from her father’s sight, not to go into some deep undercover.’

‘Well, we know what we’re doing in the morning, then. And we won’t stop until we’re done and the two of you are safely together. Okay?’ 

Don’t cry, don’t cry… 

‘Okay,’ she sniffs. ‘Thanks. Can I have that hug now?’ 


Faction Layer, 14th May 2056

Back to the daily grind! We have a girlfriend to rescue. We’ll ignore the fact that we’re running our protagonists ragged (Tomorrow has played 5 Scenarios this month already, and it’s been only two weeks) and we’ll try to make some more progress in the main campaign. But first, stuff to sort out.


Skill Learning

Time to batch-roll the rest of the month!

Tomorrow:
(Teaching+1, 3v2=2) Investigation 5, 5v8=1 /5 (by 19th May)
(Teaching+1, 3v2=2) Electronic Warfare 3, 5v6=1 /3 (by 22th May)
(Teaching+1, 3v2=3) Sciences 4, 5v6=4, skill raised (by 26th May)
(Teaching+1, 3v2=3) Negotiation 2, 5v4=4, skill raised (by 28th May)
Prospecting 1, 5v6=2, skill learned (by 29th May)
(Teaching+1, 3v2=2) Marksmanship 2, 4v5=4, skill raised (by 31st May)

Tonight:
(Teaching+1, 4v3=3) Teaching 4, 4v6= 2/4 (by May 18th)
Artistry 1, 5v6=3, skill learned (by May 19th)
(Teaching+1, 4v3=3) Negotiation 4, 5v6=3/4 (by May 23rd)
(Teaching+1, 4v3=3) Con 5, 5v7=1 +2 previous, 3/5 (by May 28th)
(Teaching+1, 4v3=2) Investigation 3, 5v6=3, skill raised (by May 31st)

Chloe:
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) IT 5, 5v7=3/5 (by May 18th)
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Leadership 3, 3v5=3, skill raised (by May 21st)
(Teaching+1, 3v3=3) Teaching 4, 3v6=1 +3 previous, skill raised (by May 25th)
(Teaching+1, 3v2=3) Negotiation 2, 6v4=6, skill raised (by May 27th)
(Teaching+1, 3v2=3) Investigation 3, 6v5=5, skill raised (by May 30th)
Performance 1, 6v6=4, skill learned (by May 31st)


Saving Fayette

Finding, extracting, and transporting Fayette Vann is definitely the main objective of the second half of the month. As far as the game mechanics go, Fayette is Chloe’s R2 Scientific/Warfare Contact at Familiarity 10, which means that the Scenario to extract her from wherever she is requires running a project that targets an Asset – with a Challenge equal Rating x5. They Payout of the Scenario needs to be at least 3 (1+2 for R2 Asset).

I let the dice decide and made a simple median roll to establish how hard the Scenario will be in reality – rolled a Payout 9. Three points of that are ‘booked’ for Fayette, which leaves us with 6 points to account for, both in Payout and in the Challenge of the project.

We end up with a Payout 9 Scenario (3 for Fayette + 6 points towards our main campaign) and Scenario Generation project with Challenge 10+6 = 16. As I need Tomorrow free for running interference and responding to everything that can pop up meanwhile, the project will be handled exclusively by Chloe and Tonight; two of them rolling 2v4 each day and scoring 16 marks in 8 days (Chloe’s Lucky trait sure comes in handy with rerolls on Faction Layer!), finishing the project on May 21st. The Scenario they’ve generated, by the decision of the dice, is of a Scientific/Social variety – I’m thinking more academia than magic. We’ll get back to it in about a week in-game.


Meanwhile, the Villain

Morning of May 11th has found d’Venescu with his Faction Rating reduced to 3. On the same day, he was also dealt 17 points against him in the next Stage of the Structured Campaign against him, and as Aztechnology doesn’t care about hiding its actions against him, he’s aware of it all.

Let’s look at his options. He has a R3 Warfare Faction with a single R2 (1) Warfare Crew and 7+2,575c total Resources. He has just been hit by two Scientific projects back-to-back, and he has a reason to expect this to happen again (Aztechnology is a Scientific Faction, with a total of 9 points of Focus there!). His previous project was to get himself a Warfare Asset – but a bodyguard has no way of protecting him from magical attacks. The priority queue suggests he should now focus on getting a Scientific Asset. I’d say that leaves him with two options: hire a new Asset (which requires time and Resources) – or join the fight personally.

Joining the game in person would give d’Venescu a free R5 (1) Scientific Asset (he’s a boss-level mage, we’ll treat him like that) at no cost and no delay – but it would also make him vulnerable to attacks. Just like everything with a stat block can be killed, every Asset on a Faction roster can be targeted. And he’ll also have to pay the monthly upkeep costs for himself…

So, would he, wouldn’t he…?

Ah, let’s roll. A simple median roll and we end up on a 5 – not a mark. For now, d’Venescu stays in the shadows, lurking, planning, and scheming. I think I’ll be repeating this roll each time something happens in the war, until he finally walks into the light.

Here’s his current priority queue:

  1. Gain a Scientific Asset
  2. Continue the war against Aztechnology
  3. Continue his main quest of finding his daughter
  4. Gain more Resources

Obviously, if any of the things cannot be accomplished (for example, because he runs out of money), it will be skipped until he gets to a thing that’s doable. Getting a new Scientific Asset is not the easiest job – there were two Freelance Crews in the Sector this month, but Aztech grabbed one, and Cutters the other (well, they will in 2 days, but d’Venescu doesn’t even know about Hellhounds, and if he hired them, it would be a part of the complex plot of undermining him). Hence, d’Venescu needs to:

  1. Find a Scientific Faction in the Sector willing to share their Assets OR a find a brand new Contractor Faction
  2. Negotiate hiring their Assets
  3. Pay.

As it happensI did not see that twist coming, but it really does make sense in here – there is a Scientific Faction in the Sector, that is currently running a project of gaining more Resources to continue their main quest. The Faction has a Crew that they could hire out to earn said Resources. Even better, they’re already connected to the case, and while d’Venescu personally has no Familiarity with that Faction, he has all the narrative reason to know about them.

Remember when Zacualtipan was keeping tabs on her brother’s activities and hired another Faction to collect intel on Chloe and later Tomorrow? Obviously, Dzitbalchen knows about it and he knows how did she pull it off – as is the thing with dragons in Shadowrun, it’s best assumed that whatever it is, they know and they had it planned.

Wouldn’t it be fun if d’Venescu hired a crew of bug spirits?

It also, indirectly, has the chance of putting us on d’Venescu’s radar! After all, our Familiarity with bug spirits is currently at 7 – let’s assume that if d’Venescu’s familiarity with bugs ever reaches 7 or above, they’ll share what they had on Tomorrow and Chloe. That’s going to raise the stakes in the campaign.

We can assume that Dzitbalchen is going to cover d’Venescu’s project of contacting bug spirits in stealth deployment – last time the blood mage was gathering Assets openly, he lost them all just a moment later. However, there is somebody who’s keeping an eye out on the bugs’ activities… We’ll get back to that too.

Now, as the bug spirits’ Faction is R5, the Challenge of the project of a diplomatic meeting is also 5 and the Dzitbalchen’s project to cover it all in stealth deployment has also Challenge 5. The blood mage is careful, and he’ll make sure his activities are hidden, giving the dragon a day ahead. Dzitbalchen rolls 3v5, scoring 5 marks in 3 days (by May 13th), and d’Venescu’s bodyguard scores 5 marks (+1 net, but no consequences) by May 14th, getting in touch with the bug spirits and establishing Faction relations with the starting Familiarity of… 4! Looks like our secret is safe for now. D’Venescu pays 1,000c (10% of monthly upkeep) of deployment costs for his bodyguard, leaving himself at 7+1,575c.

He still needs to run a negotiation project to hire the Crew, scoring the necessary 3 marks in one day, by May 15th (and getting another 1,000c paycheck, leaving the blood mage with 7+575c), after which d’Venescu pays his 3 Payouts worth of Resources to hire the Crew, leaving him at 4+575c. Somebody’s almost out of money!

Looking at his priority queue, d’Venescu assigns his Assets to projects. His best Asset, R3 (3) Scientific Crew gets assigned to the mission of fighting the Aztechnology, and the R2 (1) Warfare Crew gets tasked with the basic investigation of Fayette’s whereabouts. As he can only have one project covered with stealth deployment at a time, he’ll cover the second one – Aztechnology is so used to the dragon’s shenanigans, they’d just run interference against it if it were directed against them again.

As the first one requires us knowing what’s up with Aztech, we’ll sort out the second first.

Remember when we were running the general investigation about the bugs? Pepperidge Farm remembers. (Yes, I know, it was in December irl – long time.) R2 Warfare Crew is going to run an investigation with the Challenge = Campaign Rating (ie. 9) to learn whodunnit and what-for. Rolling 3v5, they score 9 marks in 5 days, ending on May 20th (which costs d’Venescu another 1,000c – down to 3+4,575c).

By that time, he learns where Fayette is hiding (median roll 9: Right Under Your Nose – the responsible party is somebody near you: a coworker, an acquaintance, a favorite bartender, or a neighbor) and what is the main motivation of the person hiding her (median roll 2: A Matter of Principle – they are motivated by a clash of values, perceptions, faith, or by plain prejudice. They might change their ways after an appropriate Social Scenario with Payout equal to 10 – Familiarity.)

So, Fayette is actually hiding behind somebody whom d’Venescu knows and who has a gripe with him. Well. Well. Well.

Enter, stage left: Irene Woods, the Juzu Clinic manager.

Not only she knows d’Venescu (and doesn’t like him at all, at Fam 3), she has also appeared in our life out of nowhere with a beneficial project, delivering us a pile of intel about the blood mage – because she was helping a friend. Wouldn’t it be hilarious…?

Oh, I love how this story writes itself. In any case, we’ll get back to this later in the month, when we get to rescuing Fayette (our Scen-Gen project is ready on May 21st, a day later than d’Venescu’s investigation project!) However, we don’t know that the blood mage is getting closer and closer to his daughter, because of stealth deployment. Good thing we have made that decision to go for Fayette before that!


Meanwhile, the War

On May 11th, Aztechnology’s R4 (1) Scientific Crew has finished that lovely Think Tank Project with us, hitting d’Venescu with 17 points of pure hurt. On May 12th, they are joined by the R4 (3) Scientific Crew of paramedics, trained by Doc Harmon and his clinic in Best Western. I think Aztech is covered on the ground of Scientific Assets for a moment.

What they didn’t do this month yet, is retaliating against the second of their enemies – Dzitbalchen. The dragon was running this stealth deployment left and right, helping d’Venescu and causing Aztechnology problems. The Aztech’s mage will take care of this, while the paramedic team will do the basic job of generating resources for the Faction (just because we don’t track them, doesn’t mean they can just completely forget about the Faction growth).

Aztech’s R4 (1) Scientific Crew will prepare and execute a Scenario to take over Dzitbalchen’s Intelligence Center; first, it’s a matter of vengeance – second, it fits the idea of gaining new Investigative Assets. Targeting a R1 Asset is a Payout 1 Scenario, so we’ll add a bit to it, to make it worth the effort: extra 5 points for Destroy Dzitbalchen’s campaign Aztech is running. The total Challenge for Scenario Generation project is 10 (5+5), and the Crew is rolling 4v2, scoring 11 marks in 3 days (May 14th) – Dzitbalchen has no Assets to protect his Facility, and d’Venescu is in the middle of another project, so they’re both out of luck.


R4 Crew: 4 dice, 4 skill, 2 Resistance, 2 Clout, 2 soak, 2 automarks. Scenario Payout 6.

Legwork: 4v2=4 +2 automarks, 0 net (finished by May 15th).
Threat Rating: 6v7 = 3 (-2 soak) = 1. TR 1 (facility) + 1-0 = 2
Challenge: Payout + 2 = 8.

R4 (1) Crew needs to score 8 marks. They’re rolling 4 v 6 – 4 (skill) + 6 (Payout Resistance) – 2 (Clout) = 4v6, and start with 2 automarks. Scenario rolls 6 v 6 – 1 (number of Actors) + 2 (Resistance) = 6v7, and gets hit with 2 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 4v6=2 + 2 automarks = 4. MT 4/8. Defense: 6v7=3 -2 soak = 1. MT 3/8
T2: Offense: 4v6=2. MT 5/8. Defense: 6v7=1 -2 soak = 0. MT 5/8
T3: Offense: 4v6=3. MT 8/8. Defense: 6v7=3 -2 soak = 1. MT 7/8
T4: Offense: 4v6=4. MT 11/8. Defense: 6v7=2 -2 soak = 0. MT 11/8 -> Offense wins, with 3 net marks


On May 16th, Aztechnology takes over Dzitbalchen’s Intelligence Center! This means no more stealth deployment for d’Venescu – this means that we’ll know of him running an investigation to find Fayette at the same time as we’re organizing her rescue! Oh, these are going to be some beautiful narrative beats. Aztech also adds +5 to their Destroy Dzitbalchen campaign (bringing it to 13/30 in two projects) – as he has no more Assets and is one of the passive Factions, the dragon is retired until the new month – we’ll see what happens with him then.

They’ve finished the Scenario with 3 net marks and created for themselves positive consequences of magnitude 6! Specifically, they’ve created for themselves a Scenario furthering the campaign goals with Payout 6, so it looks like Dzitbalchen is going to be hit twice for the price of one.


R4 Crew: 4 dice, 4 skill, 2 Resistance, 2 Clout, 2 soak, 2 automarks. Scenario Payout 6.

Legwork: 4v2=4 +2 automarks, 0 net (finished by May 17th).
Threat Rating: 6v7 = 1 (-2 soak) = 0. TR 0-0 = 0
Challenge: Payout + 0 = 6.

R4 (1) Crew needs to score 6 marks. They’re rolling 4 v 6 – 4 (skill) + 6 (Payout Resistance) – 2 (Clout) = 4v6, and start with 2 automarks. Scenario rolls 6 v 6 – 1 (number of Actors) + 2 (Resistance) = 6v7, and gets hit with 2 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 4v6=2 + 2 automarks = 4. MT 4/6. Defense: 6v7=2 -2 soak = 0. MT 4/6
T2: Offense: 4v6=1. MT 5/6. Defense: 6v7=4 -2 soak = 2. MT 3/6
T3: Offense: 4v6=0. MT 3/6. Defense: 6v7=3 -2 soak = 1. MT 2/6
T4: Offense: 4v6=3. MT 5/6. Defense: 6v7=1 -2 soak = 0. MT 5/6
T5: Offense: 4v6=3. MT 8/6. Defense: 6v7=2 -2 soak = 0. MT 8/6 -> Offense wins, with 2 net marks


On May 18th, Dzitbalchen gets extra 6 points where it hurts him the most (19/30, 3 projects so far), and the Aztech Crew generated themselves another positive consequence of Payout 6 – a Think Tank furthering the goals of the campaign with the Faction’s most hostile competitor – obviously, Zacualtipan. They score 7/6 marks in 3 days (May 21st), raising the progress of their campaign against Dzitbalchen to 25/30 in 4 projects. This time, there are no further consequences.

Meanwhile, d’Venescu has started his brand new hired R3 (3) Scientific Crew on a project against Aztechnology. He doesn’t have the power to take down the Aztech’s Scientific Assets (he could take over the Field Lab, but the time for long-term approach has passed), and his campaign of Destroying Aztechnology is currently at 10/40… a long, long road ahead of him there. So, what is his best way of hitting them? Probably retaking that Intelligence Center. As he isn’t going to send a R3 (3) Crew on a Payout 1 Scenario, he needs to make it a bigger Scenario – maybe taking over ex-Dzitbalchen’s R1 Investigative Fleet as well. That makes it Payout 2, so let’s add extra 5 points of Resources to the deal, to solve d’Venescu’s main problem at the same time. It still costs him 1,500c of deployment costs, leaving him at 3+3,075c.

This means the Scenario Generation project has Payout 7, but the Challenge to prepare the Scenario is actually 15 (5 for Intelligence Center +5 for Investigative Fleet +5 for Resources), and the R3 (3) Scientific Crew (d’Venescu’s Secondary Focus) is rolling 2v3, collecting 15 marks in 10 days and having the Scenario potentially ready by May 25th. Honestly, more than enough time for the one person who keeps track of bug spirits’ activities to run interference.


Meanwhile, the Other War

For several months now, Phase has been running interference against the Bug Spirits Faction – with more or less luck, but consistently. The infiltrator has been previously hired by Aztechnology on a run against d’Venescu, she knows the case both from Tomorrow and from Raul, so it is no surprise that the moment their enemy connects with her enemies, she’ll be right there on the case. And when Phase says ‘interference,’ she doesn’t mean ‘foil the enemy’s plans’ – she means ‘destroy the enemy and everything they hold dear.’ A runner from Chicago will not show bug spirits any mercy. She had a lot of friends there when the city was overrun and nuked.

So, the day the bugs start working for d’Venescu (without stealth deployment!) – May 16th – Phase calls in her reinforcements and suggests a joint-effort Scenario: she wants to take down the bugs, Tomorrow wants to take down d’Venescu’s Assets, and Aztech has a brand new Intelligence Center that they could use to cover this Scenario with stealth deployment. Convincing a friendly Faction to use their R1 Asset to their benefit takes Phase 1 day (she’s at Fam 1 with Aztech), convincing Tomorrow to join the Scenario (and use her Ghostworks to false-flag the thing) takes her a single phone call, and on May 17th Phase and Tomorrow start preparing the Scenario against bugs’ R3 (3) Crew (a Payout 6, Challenge 15 project). Phase’s 4 Faction dice and joint Investigative Focus of the two characters means they score the required marks in 4 days, by May 20th, right before Chloe and Tonight figure out the plan for Fayette’s recovery.

Phase and Tomorrow together make a R7 Crew – they’ll have 0 problems with a Payout 6 Scenario. I’ll add 4 points of d’Venescu intel to the pile, raising it to Payout 10 – and do the whole thing through quick resolution, because I have a game to playtest and we already ran a couple of Payout 10 Scenarios. You can probably imagine how did the job go, with two magically boosted B&E specialists.


R7 (2) Crew: 7 dice, 7 skill, 4 Resistance, 4 Clout, 4 soak, 4 automarks. Scenario Payout 10.

Legwork: 7v1=7 +4 automarks, 1 net (finished by May 21st).
Threat Rating: 10v8 = 4 (-4 soak) = 0. TR 3 (Crew) +0-1 = 2
Challenge: Payout + 2 = 12.

R7 (2) Crew needs to score 12 marks. They’re rolling 7 v 6 – 7 (skill) + 10 (Payout Resistance) – 4 (Clout) = 7v7, and start with 4 automarks. Scenario rolls 10 v 6 – 2 (number of Actors) + 4 (Resistance) = 10v8, and gets hit with 4 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 7v7=1 + 4 automarks = 5. MT 5/12. Defense: 10v8=3 -4 soak = 0. MT 5/12
T2: Offense: 7v7=0. MT 5/12. Defense: 10v8=0 -4 soak = 0. MT 5/12
T3: Offense: 7v7=3. MT 8/12. Defense: 10v8=4 -4 soak = 0. MT 8/12
T4: Offense: 7v7=1. MT 9/12. Defense: 10v8=6 -4 soak = 2. MT 7/12
T5: Offense: 7v7=1. MT 8/12. Defense: 10v8=0 -4 soak = 0. MT 8/12
T6: Offense: 7v7=4. MT 12/12. Defense: 10v8=3 -4 soak = 0. MT 12/12  -> Offense wins, with 0 net marks


On May 22nd, Tomorrow scores +10 Rep and +1 Influence point, and the Familiarity with Phase grows by 1 (to 8). Our Familiarity with bugs doesn’t change (because of Ghostworks), but the bugs and Aztechnology generate their new Familiarity of 4. We score 4 points of d’Venescu intel. Both bugs and d’Venescu lose that R3 (3) Scientific Crew, Phase is happy, Tomorrow is happy, the blood mage is not. This obviously means that d’Venescu’s project against Aztechnology fails, but the deployment costs have been paid already.

Consequences? Rolled a 6, so none this time.


Tl;dr, What Exactly Has Happened?

It’s May 22nd.

  • Two days ago, d’Venescu has learned that Fayette is being hidden right under his nose, by Irene Woods, the manager of Juzu Clinic where he is an inpatient. Irene dislikes him greatly, but might be convinced to seeing things his way if he succeeds at Payout 7 Social Scenario (especially as she’s a Placating Faction!). His investigation wasn’t secret, so we know that he knows.
  • Today, d’Venescu has lost his hired bug-spirit Scientific Crew, leaving him with just his sole R2 (1) Warfare Crew.
  • Yesterday, Aztechnology has completed a series of strikes against Dzitbalchen, connecting their forces with Zacualtipan. This is not surprising, as they’re at Fam 10.
  • As of now, Dzitbalchen has no Assets and will not take part in the story until the next month, as he focuses on sorting his current problems.
  • Today, Phase has struck against Bug Spirits, with Tomorrow’s help destroying all of their Assets and reducing them to a passive Faction until the new month.
  • Yesterday, Chloe and Tonight have also learned where Fayette is hidden and prepared the Scenario for her extraction. This project was not yet false-flagged, as Ghostworks were busy with the Scenario above – we’ll need to either come into light or wait a couple of days to cover our tracks!

All of that actually left Tomorrow we three days unaccounted for, which we’ll assume she has spent on the thing she was working towards all the time since the beginning of this campaign – she paid 4 points of newly-gathered Cutters influence, ran a Payout 4 Project, and raised Wheeler to R4 Contact. I’ll update his stats to a Rating 4 Commander behind the scenes.


So What Happens Now?

A couple of things:

  • I need some narrative for the Phase/Tomorrow Scenario and the whole ‘everybody’s looking for Fayette’ jig
  • I need to run the Scenario to save Fayette – mechanically, to extract her from a R2 Social/Technical Faction of Irene Woods, where Fayette is a R2 (1) Scientific/Warfare Crew, to our R2 Scientific/Social Faction. It’s a Payout 9 Scenario, and between Tonight and Chloe, they managed to get (6v2=6 and 5v2=5) 11 marks on legwork, 2 net (against 9v4=6 by the Scenario).
  • D’Venescu needs to carefully wage his options, as he has no Social Assets and a Warfare approach might be a better option in his case. Or maybe… Median roll = 8D’Venescu will actually join the action and try to collect his daughter personally. This is the moment where his Faction gains a R5 (1) Scientific Crew – Anton d’Venescu himself. It is still a Warfare Faction, as any changes in Focuses and Behaviors happen at the beginning of a new month.

Enter, the Villain

Finally, we’re actually meeting d’Venescu. He’s been hiding in the shadows of this campaign ever since we started it, pulling the strings and plotting. But now, he’s almost out of resources, lacks any allies (as he practically cost bug spirits their only Asset, the Familiarity there drops by 1 – to a 3, antipathy), and had nothing but doors shutting into his face. And he still doesn’t know about us.

Ever since we started actively working against him, he faced a defeat after defeat, with all the breadcrumbs leading straight to his ex-employer, Aztechnology. However, if he manages to convince Irene Woods that he just wants to talk to his daughter – or if we literally steal Fayette right in front of him – he will undoubtedly learn about the blue-haired elven magician who has been actively working against him.

Finally.

(I know, I know – if I really wanted a confrontation, all I had to do want not run Ghostworks for once. But, you know me – I’m a rogue. I play a stealth archer in Skyrim not because it’s easiest but because this is my default play style. Anyway.)

Meet Anton d’Venescu, as introduced in Shadowrun adventure Ivy & Chrome that we more or less (less) playing:

(Art copyright 1991 FASA Corporation.)

Obviously, he comes with his own stat block in the book – an influential magician with a probably self-imposed magical block, incapable of using any magic and with quickly degrading psyche. A charismatic man whose best days are far behind him.

As far as we’re concerned, he’s a Magician who doesn’t use magic. The way our magic system works, it doesn’t really hamper him in any way. He’s a R5 Scientific/Social Actor and we’ll just make him a stat block that fits somewhere between original SR data and Aphelion’s framework.

  1. Career Rating: 5
  2. Primary Focus: Scientific / Magician. Career (5) trait.
  3. Secondary Focus: Social
  4. Attributes: 5, 3, 4, 4, 3, 5. Toughness 3, Fitness 3, Awareness 4, Resolve 4, Logic 5, Wit 5
  5. All Primary skills at 5: Conjuring, Sciences, Sorcery, Investigation
  6. 5 Skills from Secondary Focus at 3: Diplomacy, Con, Conditioning, Negotiation, Leadership
  7. 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. Upbringing: Industrial. 2 Opportunities, 2 Citizen Contacts R1, Job Well Done AC.
  9. Basic Career Gear: R5 wearable + R5 offense item + R5 commlink + 3x different R5 Consumables.
  10. 5 AAC for the Career. I’ll figure them out later – when I know what kind of an encounter we’ll have with d’Venescu – it’s not how the game is supposed to be played, but I don’t want to outfit him with 5 Social cards and then make the boss encounter obsolete by shooting him down in a dark alley.
  11. 5 x 2 + 2 Opportunities to spend.Exceptional Talent (+1 Wit) (2 Opportunities)First Impression (2 Opportunities)Lucky 2 (4 Opportunities)Tactics 1, Perception 1, Marksmanship 1, Intimidation 1 (4 Opportunities)

So, What Is He Going to Do…?

Knowing where his daughter is, d’Venescu has two main options:

  • running that Payout 7 Scenario of talking to Irene and convincing her to let him talk to his daughter (taking him ~3 days to do the Scen-Gen project, then 1 day on legwork, 1 on Scenario, finishing on May 25th), then run another project/Scenario to ‘extract’ Fayette more or less peacefully (extra ~6 days, by May 31st).
  • going straight for Fayette, cutting the niceties with Irene – he can pull off the extraction Scenario in ~6 days (by May 26th), reducing the time needed from 11 days to 6 and practically halving the chances of any interference. Downsides? It will be an obviously hostile, Warfare move.

As it came up earlier in the story, the ritual he needs to finish by killing Fayette has to happen on a solstice; as it’s May 22nd, this is still a month away. This means that by moving hastily and in a hostile manner, he’d get Fayette faster, but also open a can of worms – Fayette is obviously under Aztechnology’s tender care, so they would hit him back, and he has not enough Resources or Assets to calmly assume that he can keep her after kidnapping.

Speaking of Resources, his own deployment costs equal 2,500c, his bodyguard’s 1,000c. On June 1st, he’ll have to pay 5 Resources for himself + 2 Resources for the bodyguard (plus, potentially, 2 for Fayette! He doesn’t have to pay the upkeep costs of the dead bug spirits, as they were only hired as contractors). All he has at the moment is 3+3,075c. As it stands, he won’t be able to pay the monthly upkeep in a week. Deploying a R5 Asset to run a Payout 7 Scenario is simply too expensive – which means that the negotiations with Irene would have be ran by the bodyguard, and he would be the one doing the Scenario project – and as a Warfare Asset, he’ll have the Faction’s tertiary focus dice (1). Not too good. The straight-up kidnapping sounds like a more viable option after all.

Meanwhile, d’Venescu literally has to focus on getting more money, otherwise he’ll be broke and stops being any kind of a threat. If you can’t pay the monthly upkeep of an Asset, they go on a strike and cannot be deployed, and if they don’t get paid for months = Rating, they quit the job. If d’Venescu cannot cover his own upkeep, he won’t be able to do anything, effectively causing him to simply lose. Destitute, devoid of magic and allies, he’ll just fade into oblivion to never return. We wouldn’t even have to kill him. (But then, have you met the people in this story? It will end in murder, one way or another.)

Hence, the gameplan:

  • R2 (1) Warfare Asset is preparing a project to extract Fayette through Warfare means. This costs d’Venescu 1,000c, leaving him at 3+2,075c. The project starts on May 21st, has Payout 3 and requires 10 marks to complete. Rolling 3v4, the bodyguard scores the marks in (2+3+3+3) 4 days (by May 24th). Add 1 day for legwork and 1 for Scenario, and the soonest d’Venescu can hope to grab Fayette is May 26th.
  • R5 (1) Scientific Asset of d’Venescu is preparing a project for a Payout 10 Scenario – cash only, please. This costs him 2,500c, leaving him at 2+4,575c. Starting on May 21st, he rolls Faction’s Secondary Focus dice and scores 10 marks in 5 days, finishing the project on May 25th. After that, he’ll need to run legwork and the Scenario, hoping to gain 10 Resources – enough to cover his Faction’s upkeep.

He no longer has any stealth deployment, so his actions are in the open.


The War Council

May 22nd, 2056

This was either her best idea ever – or it will prove to be the absolute worst. Six people, fifteen different relationships and potential explosions. And yet, Tonight’s happy voice in her head tells her she did well. She starts to appreciate that voice.

Convincing Phase to visit the Cutters’ HQ was surprisingly easy, given her visceral hatred of the cartel. Tomorrow is sure that Phase is treating the invitation as a free opportunity to case the joint – but she personally doesn’t mind and barely cares. They’ve only just got back from their run against the bug spirits, and it was just so much easier to take Phase with her to Best Western to go through the general debriefs than to handle it all separately. Also, she’s still not over the deaths they’ve just caused, and it’s good to have somebody around who has been there.

She looks at the crowd gathered in her tiny flat, filling the space to the brim. Sitting on the kitchenette counter, she has the perfect view of the group. Phase and Salazar took the beanbags in the middle of the room, both splayed comfortably in strangely similar positions – and with similar careful, but not hostile side-eyes. Adam and Chloe took the bed, and Tomorrow is sure it’s not a coincidence. She has a great vantage point from where she’s sitting – Adam is right by her sister, on the opposite side of the room, providing both the tactical flanking advantage and the personal protection. Tonight is leisurely sitting midair across from Phase and Salazar – a perfect mediator in case of any issues.

But it looks like the issues are just on the surface level, realizes Tomorrow, listening to the conversation in the room.

‘So, where you from, Chicago? Chinatown?’ Sal’s grin is borderline offensive, but Phase just calmly salutes him with a beer, not a shade of annoyance in the dark eyes betraying her Cantonese heritage.

I don’t think anything can sour her mood tonight. This run went so damn well. I wish we didn’t have to kill anybody, but she’s right – nobody wants another Chicago. And we most certainly don’t want to see what happens when the bug spirits and a blood mage have a baby.

‘Black City,’ answers Phase with a smile. ‘Just like you, Hellhound.’

Salazar raises an eyebrow and looks at the runner with curiosity. ‘Have we met?’

‘Nah. I’m from Edgewater, yous were too up north for my taste. But your teacher had a gripe with some friends of mine. Followed them straight from Aztlan and sent a bunch of blood spirits after them. I’ve heard the jagoff became a nice torch when he finally got hit by an overcast flamethrower in the middle of a ritual.’

‘A shaman, a mage, a shapeshifter phys ad, and a gunslinger – I remember.’ Salazar nods slowly. ‘Santiago took the shaman with him, to wherever the hell his portal was leading. I’m sure they’re happy together. As far as Black City love stories go, that one wasn’t the worst.’

Phase chuckles, surprising not only Salazar. ‘Shit, I miss Black City. The air you could chew.’ She shakes her head and looks at the mage with amusement. ‘Just so we can have all shit aired before we need to get to work – thanks for showing my stupid teenagers the reality of being a ganger in the Warrens. They’re suddenly all talking about working towards a better life and all that crap. They even stopped cutting school. I owe you one and that one will be: not kicking your ass for this stunt. Good with you?’

‘Happy to be a terrible example, I guess. No hard feelings?’

‘Dude, if I threw a fit every time some gang tries to recruit my students, I wouldn’t have the time to meet new friends.’ Phase turns to Chloe, sitting quietly in the corner of the bed. ‘So, I heard we have a damsel in distress to save?’

‘Yes, we’re basically ready to go.’ Chloe looks a bit overwhelmed, but she’s holding herself admirably – if a bit stiffly. ‘But I don’t know if we have enough time to cover our tracks. Which means, you know…’ She glances apologetically at Adam, who responds with a calm nod and the truth they’ve discussed many times before:

‘It was obvious it will happen sooner or later. Don’t worry about it.’

‘Well, he’s a mage who can’t use magic,’ cuts in Tomorrow. ‘Phase and I have just taken down whatever magic support he had. It’s just him and that bodyguard he hired.’

‘They wouldn’t even get through the perimeter.’ Salazar shrugs. ‘Not with the wards, patrols, and hounds.’

‘So… Are we just going with it? He’ll know we brought her to Best Western. There are kids here. I don’t want to…’

‘It’s not your job to keep them safe, Chloe.’ Adam smiles in the most reassuring way, and Tomorrow relaxes, seeing how her sister instantly calms down. ‘Leave it to us. Focus on getting Fayette here. Then we can talk about closing this case once and for all.’

And then… Adam winks at her across the room, and Tomorrow cannot contain her smile.

‘We’re not expecting it to be particularly hard,’ says Tonight as if she were discussing weather. ‘Just because he knows where Fayette is, doesn’t mean he can get to her before us. It’s not like we’re kidnapping her. The whole thing is mostly logistics.’

‘Oh, my favorite,’ laughs Adam and sends Chloe into a slightly nervous fit of giggles. ‘You got this, Chloe. Sal got the security, Phase got the tabs on the bug spirits in case they breed too quickly. I got enough people here in case d’Venescu gets courageous. Tonight got recon and comms.’

‘I got a puppy,’ adds Tomorrow, delighted that she doesn’t have to moderate the conversation. She jumps off the counter and takes a bow, picking up the dog in the same motion. ‘And he got needs. I’ll be back in a moment.’

Is everything alright? The probing question from Tonight catches up with her even before she opens the door.

Perfect. Amazing. Incredibly well-adjusted team. Makes me weirdly happy about my life choices.

You had terrible life choices.

And yet – look at me now.

You’ve spent over a year collecting allies, so now you have them. Don’t die a tragically-timed death in the next five minutes.

Oh, shut up.

Tomorrow can hear the spirit’s laughter in her head as she walks down the stairs, a hellhound puppy in her arms. The rain hits the windows as if it were trying to resolve an ancient grudge, and the howling of the wind spells an absolutely awful weather outside. Nabucco won’t be happy. For Tomorrow, the storm is the best possible omen.

She chats with the front door sentry, armed and armored, as she waits for the puppy to get over his distaste of wet grass and sort out his business. She has been on friendly terms with the Cutters for a long time – at least since they fought arm in arm during the attack on Best Western. But lately, the relationship has changed. Fewer jokes, more carefully measured, distanced respect. Tomorrow understands why, it doesn’t take a lot of brain power to figure that out, but she is yet to decide how exactly she feels about it.

Awkward is where she’s standing at the moment. It’s going to be even weirder once the whole mess with d’Venescu is resolved, and Adam and her can actually…

We might still be dead within a week. Focus, she tells herself sternly, cleaning up after the puppy with a spell and getting back upstairs. Planning the retirement before the final battle is the worst possible thing to do.

Raven’s mild amusement at the back of her mind is enough to bring back all of her resolve and by the time she walks back into her old flat, she’s ready to plan everything from a murder to a wedding.

‘… I honestly don’t think it’s worth the hassle,’ says Adam when she gets back on her perch on the counter. ‘Sure, you can spend the next few days trying to cover your tracks, and I know it worked great for you so far, but does it really matter at this point, Chloe?’

‘Sounds like you’ve been operating from behind a smoke screen for the last couple of months.’ Phase casually tosses the empty beer can across the flat, straight into the garbage bin. ‘Quality stealth tactics, seal of approval and all, but at some point, you just have to punch the fucker in the face.’

‘But it will make all of us into targets.’

‘Oh no, he’ll come at us with all his might,’ laughs Salazar.

‘Which wouldn’t be the worst solution,’ agrees Tonight. ‘If we make ourselves an obvious target, he’ll have no other option but to attack us. He can’t talk us into anything, he can’t breach Best Western by force, all detection magic is impossible due to the background count and Crowley’s protection spells, he can’t afford hiring a hit squad, he can’t sneak in…’

Phase’s doubtful expression cuts the list short. ‘I don’t know about that one. Depends on who comes snooping. No offense, but as good as you are on the magical and meaty front, you suck on the technical side. A good selection of surveillance drones and a skilled infiltrator, and the path inside and out isn’t all that hard. I’d pull it off. But I don’t think he can afford me.’

‘Oh, come on, you know damn well that it’s impossible to build a perfect security system.’ Tomorrow rolls her eyes. ‘There’s a counter for everything. Otherwise, neither of us would have lived that long. We’re about as covered as we can be.’

‘Which means that all he can do is bleed himself out, trying to steal away Fayette before the next solstice,’ reminds them Tonight. ‘Or he can slink back into wherever he’s hiding, lick his wounds, and try to regain some of his strength. The question is – how desperate is he to pull this off now versus in half a year?’

Tomorrow can hear how cold and cruel her laughter is, but she doesn’t care enough to hide it. ‘Looking at how his life is going lately, he won’t survive until winter solstice. Either we destroy him, or Aztechnology will. It’s not like we don’t know where he lives.’

‘If we build an insurmountable wall around his target, he won’t attack until we lower our guard,’ mutters Chloe. ‘Unless he has no other choice. So… Adam? Is that your plan? To give him a clear target, force him to attack us, then capture and… dispose of him?’

Adam shrugs, clearly treating the matter much lighter than Chloe is. ‘Unless Fayette wants some heart-to-heart with her daddy, we can skip the capture. Sal is right – if we don’t let him in, he won’t get through the perimeter. As far as I can see, two snipers would do the job, and even that’s with an in-built fail-safe.’

‘An elemental with a frag grenade,’ suggests Salazar. ‘Better visuals.’

‘A hellhound with an appetite,’ adds Tomorrow, scratching Nabucco behind his floppy ears. ‘Better pun potential.’

‘Then I suppose we’re picking up Fayette tomorrow.’ Chloe sounds a little stunned by the thought, but the hopeful smile slowly threatens to split her face in half. ‘And then… Then we can finally end this.’


Coming Up

We’re doing The Thing. Not The Thing, thankfully, that movie’s scary. But still capital letters The Thing.

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