Project Aphelion Solo Play #041: Finally, at Peace

This is it! This is what we were waiting for! The resolution to the Great War with the blood mage Anton d’Venescu and his friendly dragon Dzitbalchen. Things happen here, although some people are suspiciously absent.


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In the last episode, we stole our enemy’s money right before his bills were due, and we made his life extremely uncomfortable. Let’s see how did the rest of the world fare, and then, we’ll see how the war is going on.

State of the Word, June 1st

My favorite.

  1. Aztechnology – run day by day, we’ll get to them.
  2. Henequen – chilling in the background.
  3. Cutters – still working on their Staging Arena. I think they had enough screen time lately.
  4. Hellhounds – continuing their job as Cutters’ hired magical security team.
  5. Doc Harmon – the project to upgrade the MedBay has failed, they gifted a hostile Faction a R1 Asset (their lowst Fam is with Aztech, so I suppose Aztech has a new Harmon-taught R1 nurse or sth), and I think it’s time to fade them into the background. I would push for the medical angle, but I don’t like playing with other people’s toys, and Doc Harmon is a PC from our SR campaign, so I’ll just retire him.
  6. Crowley – is done with his months-long project of keeping the anti-spying spells on Best Western. He said he’ll keep them until they’re no longer needed – and they are, honestly no longer needed. As a result, he reduces the Familiarity with an allied Faction by 1 – it’s either us, Cutters, Hellhounds, or Phase, but only the first three have a narrative padding, so a quick roll lands on Hellhounds (down to 6) – maybe the end of the project wasn’t caused by the lack of the need for the spells, but by Salazar and Crowley having discussions over Best Western’s security. Now, for a new project: Crowley’s Primary Focus is Investigative with Hostile Growth behavior. He would benefit most from having an Assessment Facility, so he’ll focus on gaining one.
  7. Phase – her interference against bug spirits has obviously worked out, as we’ve destroyed all of their Assets. Does it mean she will stop? Of course not. I think it’s the time for us to bring this part of the game into spotlight, and let the runner do her things. I like playing with my toys, and I have plans that require Phase anyway.
  8. Ancients – in the background.
  9. ALOHA – in the background.
  10. Yakuza/MCT – in the background.
  11. Green Bishops – in the background.
  12. Zacualtipan – in the background, but probably happy seeing her brother take a tumble.
  13. BBs – they have won their bidding war against Cutters and reduced the Rating of another Faction’s Asset by 1. As they were fighting the Cutters, they get to reduce either the Rating of the Warfare Crew or the Barracks, and the dice decided it’s the latter. They are a placating Faction, so they will try to raise the Familiarity with the Cutters after marking their territory.
  14. Bug Spirits – they were collecting resources, but this has obviously failed, giving a hostile Faction a R1 Asset – a R1 (3) Investigative Crew, to be exact, and as hostile means Phase in their case, I suppose the runner has picked up a couple of helpers in her quest. Their sole new project must be gaining new Assets, because they have none.
  15. Cutters – Hawai’i – in the background.
  16. d’Venescu – having the worst day of his life on daily basis.
  17. Dzitbalchen – without any Assets, so has to focus on acquiring some. I think I’ll run the dragon day-by-day as well now.
  18. Alp Group – in the background.
  19. Irene Woods – in the background, but it was nice of her to take care of Fayette.
  20. Delta Group – in the background.
  21. History Colorado – in the background, but we’ll happily pick up those 12 points of Influence.

And that’s it! Not many new things happening – some potential drama on the Crowley/Hellhounds front in the future, but I’m going to let that simmer (unless emergent gameplay does its thing). Other than that, we’ll be probably wrapping up our current campaign and starting a brand new chapter. With some stinky but spirited creepy-crawlies. And maybe something else (remember that Anomaly we’ve rolled into the game? I do). And maybe also something completely different that was happening behind the scenes for a couple of months now. We’ll see if the story generates an event that lets me seamlessly insert the plot points I have planned (some unresolved stuff from the SR campaign).

Meanwhile, the War

There’s a lot of things happening here (what else is new).

On June 2nd, d’Venescu and Dzitbalchen score 10 points in the project to destroy Aztechnology, bringing it to 20/40.

On June 1st, Chloe and Fayette score 2 more points in the project against d’Venescu (false-flagged as Aztech’s), bringing it to 29/30. On June 2nd, we’ll spend 3 points of Influence to buy extra 3 dice, which makes the girls roll 5v2, scoring 5 more marks (because I really don’t want to get hit with 30 points of negative consequences) and finishing the project with 4 net hits.

Not only d’Venescu gets kicked down to R2 Faction, cutting down his dice pools even more, but we also roll for the consequences. And we rolled a 9, pushed up to 10. Our net marks got wasted, but it’s fine – I’d rather waste some influence than risk a gut punch. Instead, we’ve generated ourselves a positive consequence of Payout +50%, meaning 45… I rolled a 6, so we’re getting another Think Tank project with Payout equal magnitude (45, yo!) by the Faction’s most hostile competitor.

I think at this point false-flagging is no longer necessary – it’s just Aztechnology sharing their Faction dice with us as we utterly destroy d’Venescu and Dzitbalchen. For the sake of order, this will be split between smaller projects: we only need 20 points to get d’Venescu or the dragon to R1, and another 10 to get them destroyed completely as far as this campaign goes. This means we’ll be paying deployment costs three times, but that’s fine. Let me just roll how the 45 points will be split between d’Venescu and Dzitbalchen; the first 20 goes to d’Venescu, while the next 20 goes to Dzitbalchen, and so does the last 5 points. Looks like Aztechnology has a bigger problem with the dragon than with the blood mage – and I’m not particularly surprised.

Chloe and Fayette are just working with Aztech directly, starting a 20-Payout project to reduce the blood mage to R1 on June 3rd, using Aztech’s main dice pool, rolling 4v2 each day and scoring all the marks necessary by June 7th. I won’t be rolling for consequences until all 45 points are scored. Unless d’Venescu manages to do something, his Faction will shrivel to R1 on June 7th.

As the project to reduce d’Venescu’s Faction to R2 was completed way before the bodyguard could interrupt it, the Asset is now free to do new things. Sadly (for him, not for us), he now only has 1 dice instead of the 3 he had last month – you can expect his work motivation to waver. He still got his paycheck, though, so he’s fully operational. As a R2 (1) Warfare Crew, he has rather limited options:

  1. he can run a project to prepare an Extraction of Fayette from Best Western, but he has no way of doing it quietly, so we’d see him coming from a mile away, and Cutters owe us a Protective Duty project, so that wouldn’t end well for him (d’Venescu doesn’t know about the project, but storming an HQ of an international gun-smuggling cartel to steal away a woman that Aztechnology has decided to put under Cutters’ care sounds suicidal from every angle);
  2. he can first look for an Intelligence Center for hire, but we’d also see that coming and just run interference against the stealth deployment project, and then, see point 1;
  3. he can try to get some Resources – enough for d’Venescu to deploy himself into the field and use his strongest Asset;

Option number 3 sounds least risky and most beneficial for the Faction; as d’Venescu is sitting on 2+1,075c, he needs to bring in at least 4 Resources to bring himself into the game and pay the deployment costs. You know what – I am actually willing to do the bookkeeping and let him pay the deployment costs at the beginning of the next month, like I’m doing it. If he survives until then. Therefore, his bodyguard gets to start working on this Payout 4 Scenario project straight away, and I’ll just keep track of this in the project counter. I won’t even interrupt his money-making attempts. He rolls 1v4, soring the necessary 4 marks in 5 days (by June 7th), which is when the Faction gets reduced to R1. Then he runs the Scenario:

R2 (1) Crew: 2 dice, 2 skill, 1 Resistance, 1 Clout, 0 soak, 0 automarks. +1 automark for 1 Actor Scenario Payout 4.

Legwork: 2v4=2 +1. 2v4=2 +1. 2 net (finished by June 9th).
Threat Rating: 4v6 = 3 (-0 soak) = 3. 4v6 = 1 (-0 soak) = 1. Total = 4
TR 2-1 = 1
Challenge: Payout + 1 = 5.

R2 (1) Crew needs to score 5 marks. The bodyguard is rolling 2 v 6 – 2 (skill) + 4 (Payout Resistance) – 1 (Clout) = 2v7, and starts with 0 automarks, but scores +1 in each roll. Scenario rolls 4 v 6 – 1 (number of Actors) + 1 (Resistance) = 4v6, and gets hit with 0 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 2v7=2 +1 = 3. MT 3/5. Defense: 4v6=1. MT 2/5
T2: Offense: 2v7=0. MT 2/5. Defense: 4v6=2. MT 0/5 -> flip!
T3: Ex-Defense: 4v6=1. MT 1/5. Ex-Offense: 2v4=1 +1 = 2. MT -1/5 -> flip!
T4: Offense: 2v7=2 +1 = 3. MT 4/5. Defense: 4v6=3. MT 1/5
T5: Offense: 2v7=1 +1 = 2. MT 3/5. Defense: 4v6=2. MT 1/5

Okay, so the dice hated me. I rolled for 40 intervals and the scenario still wasn’t resolved, just kept flip-flopping from Offense to Defense, with no resolution in sight. Thankfully, the game is prepared for it (I’m just unreasonably stubborn), and we can just solve this matter by zooming-in and playing the Scenario. We already have all the details we need: stats of the Offense, Payout, Scenario Rating, and the number of BPs (1).

Let’s quickly generate the Scenario and run it. As SR = 5, all default Actors are R3, with no automarks. This is a Warfare Scenario, so we’ll just go with a Hit & Run Scenario Type – a variant of King of the Hill with a Deconstruction Metascene – once the Offense eliminates the Defense or manages to destroy the target, they win.

There are only 4 modules: we start with the Gateway (1), followed by a Security Station (2), then a free Passage leading to a Social Space (3), connected with a free Passage to the Treasury (4). For the Scenes, we’ll place Reinforcements at the Gateway (delay 9 intervals), a Standoff at the Security Station (there’s no sneaking in the Warfare approach, so the security will try to take the Offense down), an Offense Scene in the Social Space (intimidating the Defense into submission), and a Finale in the Treasury (grabbing the cash and leaving).

T1: Gateway
Scenario complications: 4v5=3/5
Bodyguard: Interact.
Defense: Take notice, alert the Security.

T2: Security Station. We’re spawning half a median roll of Defense Actors = 4x R3 Inv/War security guards. Which means they have a total of 8 physical actions vs Offense’s 1…

You know what? He simply cannot win this Scenario. Investigative Actors go for capture, not for kill, but in either case, the Scenario is lost, and the Asset is taken out completely – arrested, most likely, but for all intents and purposes, out of the game. Median roll says there are no more consequences, but as far as d’Venescu is concerned, they are dire enough.

On June 10th, d’Venescu’s desperate push to bring in any Resources to his Faction fails, and he loses his only operational Asset. His bank account still shows 2+1,075c, but there’s barely anything he can do with it. Let’s see what else is happening, so we can make informed decisions.

Meanwhile, the Dragon

Enter, Dzitbalchen and his 20 starting Resources (Faction Rating 2). The dragon was just dealt a great blow by Aztech, and he joined his forces with d’Venescu to take down Aztechnology. The project to do so is currently at 20/40 points, but neither the dragon nor the blood mage have any Assets to deploy to continue the project. All the dragon can do, is try to acquire new Assets – he is being attacked through Scientific Focus, so this is what he needs to protect himself. He needs a strongest possible Asset and there is one Faction allied with his who currently has an unused R5 (1) Scientific Crew – d’Venescu. And while they’d both like to work together, there’s no cutting corners here.

  • on June 3rd, Dzitbalchen starts his project to acquire the R5 Asset. As he has no Assets, he needs to do it through an Extra, which doubles the number or marks he needs to score = 10 and he only gets to roll 2v6. He gets his 10 marks in 8 days, by June 10th – which is exactly when d’Venescu loses his bodyguard. Guess the blood mage didn’t have any other option but to join… Which is probably what Dzitbalchen has planned all along…
  • Dzitbalchen needs to both pay for the monthly Upkeep of the inactive Asset (spending 5 Resources) and pay the cost of the hire (another 5 Resources), which leaves the dragon with 10.

Dzitbalchen gains an Asset and d’Venescu’s Faction loses it, and as this Asset is literally the Faction, d’Venescu’s R1 Faction simply ceases to exist. Because we’re nice, we’ll let the dragon also take over d’Venescu’s spare cash, raising his Faction Resources to 12+1.075c. From June 11th onward, he gets to use d’Venescu as deployable Asset, sending him to interfere with the Aztech’s project to destroy him…

Wait a Second…

D’Venescu’s Faction is no more. This means we won, right? The war is over? Just like that? No boss fight, no hair-raising, tense assassination attempt?

I told you it’s a strategy game. We could have gone for the assassination and a boss fight, we have the technology (I mean, the rules). The thing is, I don’t want to do it, and in Project Aphelion, I don’t have to. Tomorrow’s quest ended the moment Chloe was safe. Chloe is now reunited with her millionaire girlfriend, and if Fayette feels like her father needs to die, she can do her own bloody work or hire somebody to do it for her. Tomorrow is not an assassin for hire. She fought d’Venescu for months, bringing his Faction from a massive threat into a sole, sad man, she stole his money, but she won’t break into his room at night to slit his throat.

As far as our protagonist is concerned, the war is over. Chloe and Fayette are free to finish it off. It’s their life. Project Aphelion lets you win without killing all your enemies. They can be convinced, demoralized, befriended, or even given $100 to piss off. Warfare is just one of six Focuses. We won this war by a mix of Scientific, Social, and Investigative, with a sprinkle of Technical and Warfare (the ALOHA job). Creativity is not one of our protagonist’s strong suits.

Anyway. Let’s just run this war to the bitter end.

Back to Work

On May 8th, Chloe and Fayette are switching to their second part of the Aztechnology project, now working specifically against Dzitbalchen. As this is all within one Think Tank, they don’t get to rest between the projects – I doubt they’d want to anyway. They score 20 marks in another 5 days (by June 12th), reducing the dragon to R1 Faction. He has no time to run interference (not with his 2 dice in 2 days).

Over the next two days (by June 14th), they score the marks for the last part of this massive project for Aztechnology, putting another 5 points into the project of complete destruction of Dzitbalchen (5/10). They gathered 8/5 marks and ended the 45-Payout project for Aztech with 3 net marks – enough to avoid negative consequences. In fact, as I rolled a 5, they generated another positive consequence with magnitude = Payout, and I rolled a 9:
A person from a character’s backstory gets involved with a new Faction in the Sector. That Faction will commit Projects with Payout equal to the magnitude to further that character’s personal goals. Pick which character it entails.

Odds, Fayette – evens, Chloe. Ended up with Fayette, and we don’t really care about her all that much (not my toys), so this actually is a good ending to the story. 5 of those points will go into destroying Dzitbalchen’s Faction completely, removing the dragon AND d’Venescu from the map by June 17th (there’s literally no way they can stop it), and the rest will go into sorting out Fayette’s and Chloe’s lives, I think.

Let me just quickly generate that Faction, and then we’ll just roll with this through the narrative.

No.NameRatingPrimary Focus, Behavior, & AssetsSecondary Focus, Behavior, & AssetsTertiary Focus BehaviorTrait
22Aerico Global2Technical (exclusive defense)
R1 Facility: CommNet Node
Investigative (hostile growth)
R1 Facility: Repurposing Center
(exclusive growth)Excessive
add 2 priority to Projects already at the highest Payout.

June 17th, 2056

It’s been so godsdamn long. A year and a half since Tomorrow left the prison and learnt about her sister’s disappearance. Almost a year since she has learnt that Chloe is still alive. Four months since she got her back.

And now, she gets to look at her sister sitting on the other side of the booth, laughing with Fayette, happily drunk and carefree. Finally. The band is playing on the main stage, drowning the noise of other conversations, and there’s literally nothing Tomorrow needs to do to make sure her sister is safe. After all, The Stampede is owned by the Ancients, and nobody will mess here with three elves and their human friend. And the war… Is over.

It’s all over.

Chloe giggles and kisses Fayette on the cheek, wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes. ‘He did not say that,’ she states firmly. ‘He’d never.’

‘No, really. Either you join the band or Raul is shutting it down. He mentioned something about getting a promotion and becoming a respectable wage mage.’ Fayette calmly sips her drink, but the smirk on her face betrays her. ‘Big money.’

‘He probably got hazard pay.’ Chloe falls into another fit of giggles. ‘Wait, this isn’t funny, he almost died.’

‘Oh come on, it was just one tiny hit squad. Barely a reason to log a complaint with the HR. We all had worse.’

‘I didn’t,’ grins Tonight. The spirit adds another candied cherry to the tower she’s building on the table. ‘Nobody has ever meant me any harm.’

Tomorrow laughs, fully relaxed, even as she’s lagging a couple drinks behind her sister and Fayette. ‘Just wait until I drag you to that metaplane. You’ll get your fill.’

‘Is that what you’re doing these days?’

‘Wander the metaplane? No, Chloe, it’s freaking dangerous. I’m just catching up on college work before the term is over. But I expect I’ll need my adrenaline fix in the next couple of weeks, and we ran out of the war.’

‘We did.’ A smile threatens to break Chloe’s face in half. She grabs Fayette’s hand and leans back in the booth. ‘I can’t believe it’s finally over.’

‘So what are you going to do now?’

‘Ditch your sorry ass.’ Chloe pulls out her commlink and quickly scrolls through her camera feed, displaying a shot of a tall, high-class apartment building surrounded by trees and partially covered in ivy. ‘We’ve found a really cool flat. And I got a job.’

‘Wait, I won’t have to watch your ugly face every day? What’s next, will you stop stealing my clothes?’ 

‘I’ll raid your closet before I leave. Not that you have anything worth taking there.’

‘I’m going to miss you, too.’ Tomorrow pours fresh shots for the table and puts down the bottle with just a bit more force than necessary. ‘But I’m very glad you’re moving on with your life. What’s the job?’ 

‘One of Aztech’s subsidiaries needs a good decker to keep their other activities protected. I happen to be a good decker.’ Chloe fiddles with her commlink, suddenly uneasy. ‘It’s an, uh, intelligence job. Well, IT support for it. I can’t tell you more. I already signed the NDAs.’

‘Azzie intelligence. And an Azzie SIN, right? Dad will go and dig his grave, just so he can lie down and turn in it.’

‘I’m sure he already dug it the moment Adam and you got serious.’

Tomorrow downs the shot with practiced ease that would make her father annoyed. ‘I wouldn’t know, haven’t spoken to him since March.’

‘Just be happy he’s just an asshole.’ Fayette reaches for her drink, but her elbow catches on the table’s edge, and Tonight’s carefully built cherry tower topples, fruits scattering between the empty glasses. ‘Oops. Sorry. I’ll clean it up.’

The spirit just waves a hand dismissively and puts a cherry in her mouth. ‘Don’t worry about it. How’s your father?’

‘Alive. I have people watching him.’ There’s a hard look in Fayette’s eyes, standing in high contract with her pleasant, soft, round face. ‘As long as he behaves, it’s all that’s coming to him.’

‘And if he doesn’t?’

‘I have lawyers working on paperwork to have him committed if he ever does as much as look in our direction. It’s what should have been done all those years ago, instead of this whole shadowrunning farce. There’s not enough evidence to have him convicted for the murder of my mother, but there’s plenty for at least two counts of attempted murder.’

Tomorrow stabs a cherry with a toothpick and drops it into her glass, then pokes a couple more holes in the candied surface. ‘You want us to testify? This might not be a best idea, not with everything that we’ve done. Cops and I are not a good match.’

‘Oh no, there won’t be a trial. It would be a PR disaster for Aztech, no matter the outcome. If my father decides to be himself again, he will be given a choice: a voluntary lifelong containment or an arrest. Aztechnology won’t let it go to the trial, they’ll kill him before the discovery process, and he knows that. They’ve enabled him for too long to come out clean from this. They are now trying to recompense to Chloe and me the injuries they had caused…’ She stops when Chloe reaches out to give her a sloppy, one-armed hug, trying to not spill the shot she’s holding in her other hand. ‘Honey, you are so wasted.’

‘And you are so upset right now.’ Chloe empties her glass, puts it back on the table, bottoms-up, and licks the vodka off her lips. ‘Which is exactly not the point of this party. You and I are hitting the dancefloor and leaving this mess to the responsible elderly to clean up.’

Fayette laughs and stumbles as Chloe leads her towards the crowd; even in high heels, she’s still much shorter than her companion. They soon catch the rhythm, joining the rest of the dancers in front of the main scene. Tomorrow fishes out the candied cherry and drags her thumb over the fruit’s multiple stab wounds as she puts her thoughts in order. Looks like she’s happy, right?

She is. They needed to finish it off by themselves. Tonight collects the empty glasses and stacks them on the tray. You did good, birdie.

I’ll miss her. But at least when I see her, it won’t be to work on a case. It will be fun to just… Have a sister.

And what am I, your dog?

You, dearest, are my best friend forever. Which reminds me: would you like to have your own face?

Tonight’s hand freezes mid-motion, alcohol spilling from the suddenly immobile glass. Dark eyes narrow as the spirit looks at her creator with suspicion. Don’t play with me.

I’m not. Tomorrow hands her a tissue, which gets accepted after a second of deliberation. She continues when Tonight dries her hand and the table. We’re no longer in mortal danger, and I’m sure I can figure out how to tweak your formula to add a second physical form. I can’t rework the astral, but I thought you’d like to have a way of being just, you know, yourself.

Do I get to choose it?

Of course you do. You can look however you want. Pick a face and a name, we’ll get you a fake ID, and you can live your life. You can have my flat, too.

Which one?

Which one do you want?

Tonight turns back to stacking the empty glasses on the tray. The signs of tension in her body are barely noticeable, but they scream loudly at somebody who knows that body like her own. Am I getting rewarded or fired?

Tonight, I just want you to be happy. Do you want to leave?

Not yet.

Then stay, please. I like spending time with you, and I like working with you. But when you do want to leave… You know that Pueblo grants full citizenship to free spirits, right? So does Aztlan. UCAS and CAS don’t, but who’d like to live there?

I’ll think about it. I haven’t given it much attention so far, we’ve been rather busy…

You are functionally immortal, you have all the time in the world to figure out what you want. Tomorrow’s eyes wander towards her sister enjoying her life on the dancefloor, and she can’t stop herself from smiling. We both should have more time now to just do the things we enjoy.

Great. Because I took a good look at those anti-spying spells before Crowley took them down, and I have ideas…

Coming Up

And boom, there it is! The war with d’Venescu is over, without a boss battle, won by long-term planning, alliances, and attrition. If I played it in Shadowrun, this would look much different. But as much as I love the mess of the world and lore, I much prefer playing a strategy game.

In the next episode, we get to do the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey and turn back time to the beginning of the month and actually follow the protagonist of this story – who has now, for the first time in her life, found herself free to do whatever she wants. Previous 24 years of her life did not prepare her for such eventuality.

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