Project Aphelion Solo Play #043: Peace and Quiet

After the developments of the last episode, we need to make sure that the timelines align and that the characters’ goals make sense. Project Aphelion is a game about player agency, and while there are tools to just generate the story without any player effort, this is not what appeals to me. Hence, we need an objective for the next leg of the campaign!


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Leave No Spirit Behind

It’s still June 1st, the Summer Groundhog Day. With Chloe busy taking down d’Venescu and Tomorrow rebinding her elemental and dealing with relationship drama, the spirit will take care of what she does best: deals and money.
If you remember, the main trade party in the area are the BBs, a local gang running the Shadowmarket. First, we’ll let Tonight negotiate the use of the market for our nefarious purposes of making money. We need to score three marks, rolling 2v1, so we’re done in 2 days, and on July 2nd, we’ll get 3 Payouts worth of money from our hired use of the Trading Post facility. We count that as +1 project for Tonight, we raise the Fam with BBs to 8, and pay half their monthly upkeep of the Facility to use it (1,500c).

On June 3rd, we’ll send her for an errand of the Income 2 Scenario, which won’t be a complicated thing.

R5 (1) Crew: 5 dice, 5 skill, 3 Resistance, 3 Clout, 2 soak, 2 automarks. +1 automark for 1 Actor
Scenario Payout 2
Legwork: 5v1=5+3. 6 net.
Threat Rating: 2v8 = 1 (-2 soak) = 0. TR 0-3 = 0
Challenge: Payout + 0 = 2.

R5 (1) Crew needs to score 2 marks. Tomorrow is rolling 5 v 6 – 5 (skill) + 2 (Payout Resistance) – 3 (Clout) = 5v1, and starts with 2 automarks, plus scores +1 in each roll. Scenario rolls 2 v 6 – 1 (number of Actors) + 3 (Resistance) = 2v8, and gets hit with 2 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 5v1=5 +3 = 8. MT 8/2. Defense: 2v8=0. MT 8/2 -> Offense wins, with 6 net

2 Payouts of cash, +2 points of Rep for Tonight, +1 to Scenarios done exclusively through Social skills.

Scenario consequences: Rolled a 4 +6 = 10, positive consequence of magnitude +50% = 3. Rolled another 4, so: The target Faction appreciated your efforts and gifted a beneficial Project with a Payout of equal magnitude.

Oh, looks like we actually have to flesh out this Scenario and figure out for whose benefit we ran it. I think it will be best if we keep it close to the home; Tonight was just dealing with the BBs, so I think there’s no reason for this to stop. Obviously, the spirit is still pretending to be Tomorrow, because BBs have no mages in their ranks and Tomorrow isn’t going to waste a surprise ally spirit doppelgänger reveal that can save her life at some point.

So, what did Tonight do for the BBs? They were currently rebuilding their Social strength and their current project includes fixing the Familiarity with the Cutters, so why don’t we treat it like the next step in the negotiations? Maybe setting up some project for the mutual benefit? BBs are a Social/Warfare Faction, and as all their Assets are the Trading Post and some gangers, why don’t we have them run a Commerce project for us, selling our magical goods to a wider group of customers than we can normally reach? This is the same project that we’re already using their Trading Post for, so we’ll cash in 6 Payouts of cash from it next month (3 we negotiated + 3 from consequences). This also means we’re at 2/3 projects needed to raise the Fam to 9!

I think it would actually be fun to get with both main gangs in the area to Familiarity 10, and then make sure they love one another as well. You know, because peace brings prosperity -> prosperity brings Wheeler’s promotions -> promotions bring more independence and reduce the chance of getting shot by the higher-ups. At this point, we have no idea about the CIA issue, but it doesn’t matter – whether we want Wheeler to run the cartel for his benefit or to run it so it can be taken down by the federal government, the first 90% of the road is the same.

Why don’t we work, for once, for the mutual benefit here, and make sure that the situation around Best Western is stable and friendly, so Tomorrow can go for a honeymoon abroad and not worry about some war starting all of a sudden? Pre-emptive strike at the tension in the neighborhood sounds like something we would do. Let’s see. I can make it a nice contextual Scenario with a Payout of raising Familiarity between the gangs. They’re currently sitting at 4, so 3 points would bring them to 7, another 2 up to sympathetic 8 (5 total). Payout 5 sounds decent for a one-Actor Scenario, as Tonight will have to pull it of by herself, but we’ll make it 6, adding a point of intel to the mix. A, even numbers are better, because the system rounds up anyway – B, we’ll need intel in the future.

So, a Payout 6 Scenario of a negotiating friendly relations between the Cutters and the BBs. As Tonight starts working on the project for this Scenario on June 4th, this is when our Faction gets upgraded to Rating 3, which means she gets to roll 3v1 and scores the necessary 6 marks in two days, finishing by June 5th. I think we’ll skip legwork this time, but instead give Tonight a day off on June 6th – which is when we left off with Tonight, introduced the plot with CIA and the Wheeler’s paradigm shift. As Wheeler generally has to be on that gang meeting, and we’ve already made him busy on June 6th having a second first date, the Scenario will happen on June 7th, and from there, we’ll move forward with the new normal. Tomorrow gets a day off on 7th, so I can equalize the timelines.

Scenario 027: Peace and Quiet

Payout: 6 (5 into raising Cutters/BBs Familiarity from 4 to 8, 1 point of Intel)
Threat Rating: Payout x5 = 30. Minus 5 for R5 (1) Crew = 25. Minus 1 for Steven = 24.
Scenario Rating: Payout + TR/5 = 6+5 = 11. Default Actors R4.

Build Points: TR/5 = 5
Free Modules: 6
Free Scenes: 6

We’re playing a contextual Scenario, in which we’re trying to convince the local gang leaders that the co-operation is the only way forward. For the purposes of this, the aforementioned gang leaders (Wheeler for the Cutters and Amy Steur for the BBs) are treated as a single entity, because we’re fighting their strong convictions about the need for posturing and low-level hostility. As such, they’re treated as a R6 Main Actor, and they get +5 side Actors to boost them in group Actions. As both Wheeler and BBs are in Social/Warfare, that’s the Focus of the Actors in this Scenario. It will be nothing but talking, unless something very weird happens.

The Main Actor has Rating 6, skill, Clout, and Res  = 3, soak and automarks = 2. For the Finale, we’ll go for the usual type, because we’re still tweaking the rules for other variants and I see no point in playtesting them yet.

This is not a single meeting by the round table, where we make Amy Steur and Wheeler make friendship bracelets. Tomorrow might be a player in the neighborhood (Rating 3 Faction is not bad!), but she doesn’t have the Clout to tell two gang bosses to sit down and sort out their differences, because she wants to go on a honeymoon. She could do it with Sal and Adam, but this is not the same situation. This is a low-key Faction negotiation literally in everybody’s best interest, but for the most part, not a chat between friends, per se. Just Tonight planning and plotting, putting all the ducks in a row.

As this is a contextual Scenario, we don’t have to preplan it – let’s just quickly look at the important elements, so we don’t mix anything up while playing:

  • Tonight pretends to be Tomorrow, like she always does when dealing with BBs. And she deals with them a lot. She gets Steven to help.
  • Her business suit gives her 2 points of soak in Social Scenes and 1 Res and 1 automark. Flash Bling gives her additional 2 automarks in Social Scenes.
  • The Familiarity with Cutters is at 9, with BBs it’s an 8, so we’ll make it a 9 across the board (mean, rounded up) and won’t care about it anymore. Yes, this means the base difficulty is 1 and skills basically don’t matter.
  • Tonight has 2 PAs, 3 MAs, 5 SP, and 7 MP. Career Rating 2 gives her 2 points of Clout for Con, Diplomacy, Impersonation, and Negotiation.
  • The Scenario has a Payout 6, basic Challenge of 11, and 6 points of Resistance + 3 points of ablative soak in the Finale.

Let’s gooooo!


T1: Module 1: Initiation.
Scenario complications: 6v4=5 /11

Starting with Diplomacy, as this is and will be our main tool here. Spending an Action, using TaB. The Defense responds with the same, as there’s no reason to get nasty. We can establish that the Main Actor of the Defense is a Social/Warfare, Balanced Offense Actor.

T2: We don’t really want to deal with this Scenario in the way it’s constructed, because the Main Actor has 5 extra R4 Defense Actors, and they’re not making out life any easier. Hence, we’ll make a contextual Scenario within a Scenario, and work on removing the extra Defense from the game. Basically, what we’re doing is approaching each of the 5 Defense Actors (Wheeler, Chucky, Sal, Bunny, and Amy) and take them down one by one, picking separate Focuses and approaches for each conversation. There’s no pressure of time, so we can take a detour from the main quest in the Scenario. When we’re done with this, we’ll just deal with the Main Actor, ie. the general tension and unresolved  past issues that stop the gangs from full co-operation.

Unless the Scenario complications make our life a mess.

Scenario complications: 6v4=6+5 =11 /11, 0 net. Complications roll: 3, negative complications of magnitude = Payout 6. And it’s a 6, meaning an Offense’s weapon glitch, but as we’re not about to shoot anybody, we’ll just ignore it and move on with our lives.

We’ll start with Wheeler, because there can’t be any peace in the neighborhood unless he wants it. That’s basically it. For the purposes of this Scenario, he’s a R4 Social/Warfare Actor, at Familiarity 9, in a Balanced Control Mood, with 2 MAs and 8 MPs, 4 skill, 2 Clout and Res, 1 soak and 1 automark. The sub-Scenario has a Payout and Scenario Rating of 4.

Again, we start with Diplomacy, so does he, then we move to a Distraction module. A MT with Challenge 4, and if we win, we reduce the Defense’s Actions by 1.
Tonight: 2 MAs Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v1=5 -1 soak, 2 MAs wasted. MA Diplomacy+1, 5v1=5 +3 automarks towards MT. MT 8/4
Wheeler: 2 MAs wasted, and he’s not about to shoot her.

Now we move to the Showdown / Finale, which gets 4 Res and 2 ablative soak, but Defense has only 1 MA now.Tonight: MA Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v1=5 -1 soak, 1 MA wasted. MA Ace in the Hole (Negotiation+1), 5v1=5, +5 automarks to next MT. MA Diplomacy+1, 5v3=5 +8 automarks -2 soak = 11. MT 11/4.Wheeler: MA wasted. Still not about to get physical.

MT 11/4 -> Offense wins, Payout achieved, Wheeler is not going to interrupt us anymore in the main Scenario. This reduces the number of extra Defense Actors to 4.

June 7th, 2056

The first step is obvious. No matter how much Tomorrow wants it, nothing will happen if Adam is not on their side in this gig. Tonight is acutely aware that the situation has changed drastically since January, when she has played the intermediary between the two gangs for the first time. Cutters are no longer losing a turf war – if anything, they’re high and above whatever forces BBs can bring to the battlefield. Everyone knows that – everyone knows that if BBs threaten the peace, they will get destroyed. But then, Cutters would have to take over the whole trade in the area and made themselves the only worthy target… 

Tonight smiles, knocking on Adam’s office door and letting herself in without waiting for an invitation, like Tomorrow would. She already knows he’s alone, she checked. And yet, they need to keep up the pretenses, just in case. Now more than ever. 

‘Can you spare five minutes?’ she asks once she’s through the wards. She passes through them easily, but not without informing Salazar about the disturbance; it’s not Tomorrow’s wards and not her privacy spells, and while the mage is aware of Tonight’s existence, he’s not aware of Adam’s double life… It is unlikely that he’ll investigate, Tomorrow and Tonight obviously are outside most security protocols and can visit Adam whenever the hell they want, but… One can never be too careful. 

Adam nods, the recognition in his eyes removing the need for explanations. Somehow, he never gets fooled by their identical faces. ‘What’s going on?’ 

‘I got a business to discuss with you. Or rather, a mutually beneficial arrangement that will make our collective lives easier.’ Tonight sits down cross-legged on a chair across from Adam and relaxes like Tomorrow would, just in case some Cutter or a civvie comes in for a visit. It’s funny how much a single conversation they had yesterday has changed – how much more attention and care their planning and plotting now requires – how badly they need to balance the levels of clearance and loyalty. 

She really starts to enjoy the games of the metahumans. 

‘What have you got in mind?’ The calm, measured tone carries a note of warning; unnecessary, of course. It’s obvious what they aren’t going to talk about. 

‘Well, I was thinking that we might actually get to the next part of life. You know,’ she copies Tomorrow’s light Southern drawl, ‘Chloe and Fayette are basically done with d’Venescu, and we had plans. Which could, honestly, benefit from some official peace and quiet around here.’

‘We have peace and quiet,’ he laughs. His aura clearly shows the tiredness that comes to metahumans with lost sleep, and his emotions are a mess, but the sound of his laughter is the same as always. It should be enough to fool the others. ‘As much as we can reasonably expect.’ 

‘I mean proper peace. Like we had before all of that Unity mess. One that will let you go away for two weeks and not worry about this place going up in flames. You promised somebody a long trip to a beach.’

‘I did,’ he agrees lightly. ‘And I intend to deliver. Why? Do you have any intel I’m not yet privy to?’ 

Tonight winks. ‘Always, babe. But yeah, I was hanging around your beloved competition lately in the market, and I think they’re finally ripe. There’s chatter. And there are deals. Bunny all but called it a wedding gift, and I’m making a ton of cash on it, so it looks like you have a perfect opportunity to extend a friendly hand and set your terms for the foreseeable future here.’

‘Are you sure you want to use our private matters for this?’ This isn’t the question he’s really asking, but Tonight nods. Of course she has discussed it with Tomorrow; she wouldn’t have suggested it otherwise.

‘You wanted to invite Bunny to the wedding anyway. Might as well capitalize on the perfect reason for your generosity and close the deal on a proper peace treaty. Everybody will benefit from it. You more than the others.’

Adam smiles. Of course he doesn’t want another turf war. A war would mean his job description changes from logistics and intel gathering to commanding the troops, executions, and civilian casualties – which wouldn’t sit well neither with him nor with his agency. ‘Very well – if you want to play the intermediary again, be my guest. You know what we’re trying to achieve here. Have fun, Tonight,’ he adds, making the spirit grin when she gets up and leaves Adam’s office like a normal, material-plane-bound person would.

Moving on! With one Defense Actor down, the Scenario still has 4 more to help, and each of them provides it with +1 dice, making the job much harder than it has to be. This time, let’s deal with the rest of the Cutters’ leadership, namely Charlie Parker, and the chief security officer, Salazar. Chucky is a rigger and a Technical/Investigative R4 Actor in a Conservative Control mood – and Salazar is a Scientific/Warfare R4 Actor in Aggressive Defense. Neither of them is socially-minded, which means that instead of  4 dice, they both need to use their tertiary focus and 1 dice, with no Res, Clout, soak, or automarks. This means that the sub-Scenario has Payout and Scenario Rating of 5 (R4 +1 extra Actor), and its Finale has MT 5, 5 Res and 3 ablative soak.

We start with Initiation and Impersonation, as this time, we need to pretend to actually be Tomorrow. Salazar won’t be fooled, but Chucky has to. Then we move immediately to the Finale, because we’re on a schedule.

Tonight: MA Ace in the Hole (Negotiation+1), 5v1=5 automarks. MA Diplomacy+1, 5v5=4+8 automarks -3 soak = 9.
Defense: Chucky conservatively spends only 1 Action and scores 1 mark on 1 dice; Salazar aggressively spends 2, and scores 2 marks on 2 dice, which means they get a total of 3 marks, which gets the Finale MT to 6/5.

Offense wins and moves on, the Defense Actors get reduced to 2, which means that the Main Actor gets only 2 extra dice.

Tonight isn’t even trying to conceal her approach, but the loud Aztlaner rap playing in the garage muffles the sound of her footsteps. When she strolls inside, hands in her black jumpsuit’s pockets and long blue hair flowing behind her, barely anybody pays her any attention – which suits her plan perfectly.

She finds Chucky and Salazar working on a bike and she cannot stop herself from grinning. The blood mage is covered in grease, halfway through a can of beer, and in the middle of taking apart an engine. Or at least this is what she guesses – the intricacies of technology still evade her. Salazar looks up when she comes to a halt next to him, casting a shadow at whatever it is he’s doing. And then, he takes a second, better look, and his aura lights up when he pierces the veil between the material and astral realm.

‘What’s up, you walking migraine?’ he asks casually, not about to divulge her secrets. ‘Came to ruin my perfectly good afternoon?’

‘Careful, you’re talking to the mistress of the house,’ snickers Chucky, taking a very ironic bow – as much as possible without getting up. ‘How can we serve you, my lady?’

Tonight sits down next to them on the dirty floor and pulls out a couple of joints from her pocket. ‘Just chillin’,’ she lies, lighting up a cigarette and handing the other two to the men. Chucky joins her shortly in a cloud of bluish smoke, but Salazar just shakes his head. He knows that whatever drugs are in the joints, they won’t affect her, he knows there’s obviously a game being played – and she cannot fault him for wanting to stay in full control of his mind. It’s better if he does.

They chat for a while, letting the conversation meander between the day-to-day topics. ‘Family drama,’ answers Tonight with a shrug, when Chucky inquires about the previous day’s encounter and Tomorrow’s teary eyes. ‘Funny how having a cop for a father doesn’t make you any happier when you’re trying to organize a wedding in a gang HQ, right?’

‘Your father is a cop?’ Salazar narrows his eyes, searching for the hidden angle in the conversation. ‘No wonder you’re a family disappointment.’

Smiling, Tonight flips him off. ‘Well, I’ve found myself a new family, better suited to my criminal personality. And I’m helping out to arrange some shit before… Uhm…’ She stumbles on purpose, causing Chucky to laugh at her.

‘Yeah, yeah.’ The rigger lets out a puff of smoke. ‘Good for you, good for him. Maybe if he gets properly laid, life will get easier for all of us. The constant drills and boot camps are cramping my style. If I wanted to join the army, I would.’

‘Let me tell you a secret, then.’ Tonight lowers her voice and leans forward, and Chucky subconsciously mirrors her gesture. ‘You’re extending an offer of a peace treaty. It’s been a while since the war ended, they’ve been beaten, and it’s only gonna bring us more money if we co-operate. Like we did a year ago. Time to get the jammers back and turn this hellhole into a profitable business.’

‘Cool. Why do you know about it, and I don’t?’

Tonight laughs at Chuck’s bemused expression. ‘Because the topic is about ten minutes old. I was just in Adam’s office and on my way here, so I told him I’ll ask you to come over, so he can discuss it with you, XO. I’m just giving you a heads-up, so you can think through your opinion on the matter ahead of time.’

‘Oh. Right.’ He stares at his half-burned joint. ‘Why did you have to get me high for it?’

‘Shit and giggles. You better go, you have about half an hour before it kicks in.’

‘What’s the game?’ asks Salazar when Chucky leaves, extinguished joint stuffed into his back pocket. ‘He’s on the chopping block or something?’

‘There is no game.’ The feigned innocence is perfect, but Salazar doesn’t buy it anyway. ‘We really are going for the peace treaty. I know you don’t care, but it’s better for the business. Not just Cutters’, ours too. Including yours.’

‘There must be something about your face that makes it impossible to believe in your good intentions,’ he mutters, getting back to working on his bike. ‘I gotta talk to your other half anyway, so I’ll probably learn what’s the deal.’

‘The deal’s just that. Somebody got promised two weeks on a beach in Greece and we’re now making sure this place doesn’t blow up meanwhile. Saving Wheeler from running a war from abroad and you from being on the frontlines. You’re in?’

‘Sure. Every day I don’t have to die for somebody else’s profit is a good day for me.’

Let’s carry on! I think I’ll only do Bunny next, so you can meet this absolute unit of a troll, and leave Amy for the main Scenario. Tomorrow and Tonight don’t really have a personal relationship with the head of the BBs, so it’ll work better narratively.

Let’s start with a round of Diplomacy with Bunny, a R4 Social/Warfare Actor in a Conservative Control mood. He’s got 4 dice, 2 Res and Clout, 1 soak and 1 automark, 2 MAs and 8 MPs. We’ll go straight for the Finale, which has Payout 4, 4 Res, 2 ablative soak. Our Fam with BBs is at 8, so basic diff = 2.

Tonight: MA Ace in the Hole (Negotiation+1), 5v1 = 5 automarks. MA Diplomacy+1, 5v5=2 +8 automarks = MT 10/4.
Bunny: conservatively, 4v1=4+1 = 5 against MT.

MT 5/4 -> Offense wins, removing 1 Defense Actor from the Main Scenario.

‘Bunny, darling! Exactly the man I wanted to see.’

The troll, tall and muscular even for the high standards of his metatype, turns around, caught midway to his office. ‘Hey, Tomorrow. What brings you here?’

‘I come bearing gifts.’ The spirit grins at Bunny’s suddenly suspicious expression. ‘I really don’t know what I did to all of y’all that nobody around here trusts my goodwill. Have I ever lied to you, Bunny?’

‘Not that I know of,’ he admits, opening the door and letting her into his office. The signs of warfare have almost disappeared from the Shadowmarket; only a stray bullet hole here and there in the metal walls reminds about the violent past.

‘Well, then you have no reason not to trust me.’ Tonight drops onto a couch and stretches her legs in a perfect display of relaxation and a purely social call. ‘Your best friend across the parking lot says hi.’

‘I’ve figured as much. In just what capacity are you here now?’

‘Of an unaligned third party. Funny, huh?’

‘Laughable. How are the wedding preparations going?’

‘Getting the invitations printed. How about we let bygones be bygones, and I can deliver yours as well? The third party is interested in having the two parties at her party.’

Bunny drops heavily onto his massive desk chair and regards Tonight carefully, looking for signs of deceit. He’s curious, with flickers of hope and apprehension dashing through his aura. Birdie really should work on her social skills; save for Adam and Chloe, all of her allies are low-key expecting to be backstabbed at some point. And they’re not necessarily wrong.

‘We can let it be, Tomorrow. But whether Amy and Adam can, that’s not up to us. I’m just a humble spokesman, and you’re – somehow – still an independent meddler in gang affairs.’

Tonight laughs, amused with Bunny’s fake humility even more than with the well-deserved callout. ‘I like sitting on a fence, it makes life more exciting. Adam has already agreed. He understands profit much better than the rest of his war-profiteering cartel. Talk to Amy for me, please, and we can heal all the wounds that are still festering. Patch up the bullet holes and get this place back to its former glory. Nobody wants another war.’ Least of all, you, remains unsaid, but Bunny nods. He knows it’s not a threat – but he also knows it’s a warning. And a clear message of what would happen if Wheeler were not in charge. The personal loyalty might be needed some day.

‘I’ll talk to Amy,’ he agrees after a moment. ‘Are you free to help out with the negotiations later? I have a list of smugglers that we can try to get back here if they no longer have to worry about stray lead scratching their jammers’ paint.’

‘I’m free to do business with you at any given time, Bunny.’

Alright! We’ve cut down the Scenario from a R6 Main Actor +5 Defense Actors to R6 +1, which reduces the dice pool from 11 to 7 and makes our life much easier. Now, last we left off, we’ve established that the Main Actor is a R6 Social/Warfare in Balanced Offense. As of now, the Finale has CR 11, Resistance 6, 3 points of ablative soak – a bit too much to eat in a single bite, and I don’t want to risk it. Let’s play the longer game, so we can soften them up for us.

We’re going to move to Module 2/6: Distraction. Let me roll – looks like we’re spending a Build Point here, to add an extra Scene with a single default Actor, then another BP to add a second default Actor to it, and another for a situational Awareness modifier. So suddenly, just as we wanted to move to the job of  distracting the Main Actor, something popped out – an Investigative Scene against a R4 Technical/Social (Conservative Control) and R4 Scientific/Technical (also Conservative Control) Actors. I think we’ll need to track down the smugglers and their jammers with Bunny, before moving forward with the negotiations! I’ll make it an Offense Scene, with a standard CR of 11 (Scenario Rating) – it’s not a Social thing, so Familiarity no longer applies. We’ve also spent 3/5 BPs of the Scenario here.

Tonight: MA Investigation+1, 5v3=3 towards MT. MA Diplomacy+1, 5v1=5 towards MT. MA Leadership+1, 4v3=4 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 5/7
Defense: Investigative is their tertiary Focus, so they’re both rolling 1v5, scoring a total of 1 marks.
MT 11/11 -> Offense wins, finds the two smugglers willing to put the Shadowmarket to their roster and exchange the goods for money.

And NOW, we move to the Distraction Scene! We’re the Offense in a Scene with MT 11. We’re not playing against the Defense Actors here, we’re playing against the Scenario – so we don’t get to reduce their Actions, but instead, we generate automarks in the Finale – 3 if we win!

First, we’ll give ourselves a new MT: applying Stalling Tactics to the Defense – it’s a MT with CR 7 (6+1 extra Defense Actor), Res 3 and 2 soak, so it’ll take a moment – but if we don’t, Defense will score too many marks for us to succeed otherwise. We’re just a simple, single spirit.

Tonight: MA Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v2=5 +3 automarks -2 soak = 6/7. MA Stalling Tactics, 5v2=5 = 12/7; 2 MAs of Defense wasted. MA Diplomacy+1, 5v1=5 +3 automarks = 8/11 towards the Distraction MT. 2 PA TaB. MP 6/7.
Steven: MA 4v3=4 towards MT. MA 4v3=4 towards MT. MT 16/11.
Defense: 2 MAs wasted by Stalling Tactics. MA 7v1=7+2 automarks against MT. MT 7/11. MP 11/12

Tonight: 2 MAs sust Stalling Tactics. MA Ace in the Hole (Negotiation+1), 5v1=5 automarks for Steven.
Steven: MA 4v2=4 +5 automarks towards MT. MA 4v2=4 towards MT. MT 20/11.
Defense: 2 MAs wasted. MA 7v1=7 against MT. MP 10/12

MT 13/11 -> Offense wins and starts the Finale with 3 automarks.

‘Can it stop flying around? It’s unnerving.’ Bunny’s voice cuts through Tonight’s concentration. She looks up from her notes and stares at the swirling vortex of yellow light, casting unearthly glow at the metal walls.

‘It’s just magic, Bunny. It cannot hurt you… Oh wait,’ she laughs. ‘Chill. It’s just bored. Either I let it roam or it’ll start doing sillier things. Did you call Zak?’

‘I’ve left him a message. I don’t know if he’s up for it, but I dropped a line about Hummer being back in the game, and he’s always trying to one-up them, so it might work.’

‘I love that we’re already working under the assumption that Amy agrees to the whole plan.’

‘Well…’ Bunny hesitates, then plows through, his low voice suspiciously light and non-committal. ‘Even if she doesn’t, we won’t shoot first. We never did,’ he adds with a meaningful glance.

Tonight nods. She has been briefed on the whole mess with Unity, the provoked war, and the role Tomorrow has played in it. Thankfully, she doesn’t have to feel as guilty in this situation – not as much as Tomorrow would, after she unwillingly delivered Cutters the key intel, then built them a secret tunnel for an ambush attack, and stayed by their side even as they were losing. ‘I know. I tried to stop it. But I’m just the independent meddler in the affairs and a concerned citizen trying to live her life in peace. I didn’t have any pull then. I barely have any now – but what I have, I’m willing to cash in here.’

‘You really care about this place, don’t you?’

‘It’s home.’

Time for Module 3/6 – let’s go for a Dirty Twist! Instead of continuing the Social Diplomacy and Negotiations, we’ll pull a sneaky on them, forcing the Defense into where they’re weakest, hoping to reduce soak in the Finale. As the Scenario is Investigative/Warfare, our best best are to drag them into an Investigative Scene! This means they’ll be rolling 2+1 dice with 1 Clout/Res and no soak/automarks, and we’ll get to use our Investigation skill. We’re not spending any BPs here. As investigative Incus is generally a Physical one, we can’t stall their Mental Actions – but we can use Steven’s Accident power to take away their PAs. The CR = Defense’s applicable Attribute +1 per extra Defense Actor, so it’s also 3 (Tertiary Focus 2 +1).

Tonight: MA Investigation+1, 5v3=5 towards MT. PA Perception+1, 3v5=2 towards MT. PA TaB. MP 6/7
Steven: MA Accident, 4v3=4 = 3 PA wasted + 1 SP dmg.
Defense: 3 PAs wasted, fold.

MT 7/3 -> Offense wins with 4 net marks, reducing Finale’s soak by 4 (to 0).

Module 4/6 – we’re going for Poise, as it makes us cooler and reduces the Resistance in the Finale by net marks. MT = Payout = 6. Looks like we’re spending the last 2 BPs here, one on an extra default Actor and one on a global Stress modifier for the rest of the Scenario – this raises the basic difficulty to 2, reduced as always, by skills. Looks like Scenario got an extra dice and we need to pull the stalling trick again!

Tonight: MA Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v2=4 +3 automarks -2 soak = 5/8. MA Stalling Tactics, 5v2=5 = 10/8; 2 MAs of Defense wasted. MA Diplomacy+1, 5v1=5 +3 automarks = 8/6 towards the Poise MT. 2 PA TaB. MP 7/7.
Steven: MA 4v3=1 towards MT. MA 4v3=3 towards MT. MT 12/6.
Defense: 2 MAs wasted by Stalling Tactics. MA 8v1=8+2 automarks against MT. MT 2/6. MP 9/12

Tonight: 2 MAs sust Stalling Tactics. MA Ace in the Hole (Negotiation+1), 5v1=5 automarks for Steven.
Steven: MA 4v2=4 +5 automarks towards MT. MA 4v2=4 towards MT. MT 15/6.
Defense: 2 MAs wasted. MA 8v1=8 against MT. MP 8/12

MT 7/6 -> Offense wins and reduces the Resistance in Finale by 1 (down to 5).

Module 5/6 – I think we’ll Read the Room, and if we win the Scene with MT 7, we can reduce the Finale’s Challenge by half the Payout (3). We already spent all the Build Points, so we might as well go with it.

Tonight: MA Stalling Tactics (Con+1), 5v2=5 +3 automarks -2 soak = 6/7. MA Stalling Tactics, 5v2=5 = 12/7; 2 MAs of Defense wasted. MA Diplomacy+1, 5v1=5 +3 automarks = 8/7 towards the RtR MT. 2 PA TaB. MP 7/7.
Steven: MA 4v3=4 towards MT. MA 4v3=4 towards MT. MT 16/7.
Defense: 2 MAs wasted by Stalling Tactics. MA 7v1=7+2 automarks against MT.  MP 7/12

MT 7/7 -> Offense wins and cuts the Finale MT by 3 (to 8).

Module 6/6: Showdown and the Finale! Against us, the Scene with 5 Res, no soak, and MT Challenge of 8, defended by a R6 Actor, still in Balanced Offense mood, with a friend providing them with an extra dice. I think we’ll skip the stalling this time, and go for the throat. We start with 3 automarks!

Tonight: MA Ace in the Hole (Negotiation+1), 5v1=5 automarks. MA Diplomacy+1, 5v5=3 +3 +3 +5 = 14/8 marks towards MT. MA Negotiation, 5v5=3 = 17/8 towards MT
Steven: MA 4v5=1-2 soak = 0 MP dmg to Defense. MA 4v5=4 -2 soak = 2 MP dmg to Defense (MP 5/12).
Defense: MA 7v1=7+2 automarks against MT. MA 7v1=7+2 against Steven’s MP. MA 7v1=7+2 = 9 Res for self. PA TaB, 7v6=6. MP 8/12.

MT 8/8 -> Offense wins, with 0 net marks!

Wrapping Up

Payout: 6 (raising Cutters/BBs Familiarity to 8 + 1 point of intel)
Rep: +6 for Tonight
Familiarity: It was a beneficial Scenario for BBs and Cutters, which boops our Fam to 8 (1/3) and 10, respectively.
Skills: I can’t be bothered to count exactly, but about +7 for Con, Negotiation, and Diplomacy, +2 to Investigation, +1 Perception, and +1 Leadership
Scenario Consequences: Rolled a 6, no net marks, no extra consequences. But peace in the neighborhood!

‘I told you it’s easily doable.’

‘Was it?’

Tonight considers the question for a moment, watching Tomorrow cook. She flies down and leans against the counter, her materialized body copying the leisurely pose for future reference. Never enough practice. ‘Actually, no. It wasn’t easy. It took almost every ounce of planning I had to spare. But it went smoothly, once I figured out how to do it.’

‘Thank you.’ Tomorrow calmly chops up the vegetables, then tosses everything into a pan, her face full of concentration. An old cookbook is levitating next to her, and the recipe is heavily amended with blue ink. ‘It was long overdue, but I think you’re literally the only person who really could pull it off like that. Does this look edible to you?’

‘No idea, still a spirit. What are doing, exactly?’

Tomorrow adds a splash of soy sauce into the pan. ‘Searching for a new hobby. I’m bored.’

‘I thought you wanted the peace and quiet,’ reminds her Tonight. ‘You’ve spent at least three months complaining about wasting your precious research time on dealing with everybody’s bullshit and running somebody else’s wars.’

‘Well, maybe I was wrong.’

The words hang in the air for a couple of minutes. Tomorrow doesn’t seem inclined to speak, and Tonight knows that pushing is pointless. She’s not in a hurry anyway. Tomorrow focuses on cooking, referencing the recipe more often than the simple dish requires. By the time she calmly puts the stir-fry on a plate, she finally is ready to continue: ‘I just don’t know what to do with the free time. I haven’t had any since I was seventeen. Prison was basically five years trying to keep my sanity between hallucinogenic drugs and magic visions, then it was all about Chloe, then all about getting rid of d’Venescu. All the time, I had a goal. Something to strive for. Now? Now I’m trying to figure out the exact chemical process behind making a stir-fry, so I can replicate it with magic, then do it with nine more dishes, write a paper on it, and turn it in for a credit for my degree.’ With a sudden flash of anger, she tosses the hot pan into the metal sink. ‘Like, what’s even the point?’

Are you sure that’s what you’re angry about?

Tonight’s sudden switch to a mental connection causes Tomorrow to pause, then slowly pick up the cleaning up in a more controlled manner.

I’m angry about many things. But not about Adam. It’s fine. I mean… He could have told me earlier. Had plenty of opportunities before we moved in together. It’s not like he didn’t trust me, right? But… I get it. Loyalty conflicts are a bitch. I’m not going to make his life suck even more just because he put his responsibilities above me. I’d put Chloe above him without a second of hesitation, and he doesn’t hold this against me. It’s only fair.

So what is this about?

‘I think I just need a new project, that’s all.’ Tomorrow returns to the normal speech, the silent conversation having taken only seconds. ‘Something big and over-reaching. The vague do magic research just doesn’t cut it for me. I think I’ll help Phase with her bug spirit problem. She helped us with d’Venescu, and I hate being in debt.’

‘And if you help her, she might be willing to work against the Cutters later down the line, if you need it.’

Tomorrow grins, picking up the plate with steaming food and staring at it curiously. ‘I’m not going to pretend otherwise. She already hates the cartel, getting her on our side in the future isn’t going to be that complicated. Especially if she feels she owes me for the help with bug spirits.’ The magician double-checks the recipe and her notes, then focuses her attention on a second, empty plate. The border between the material and astral plane trembles when the mana coalesces into sauce-covered noodles, peppers, spring onions, and chicken. Tomorrow pokes the new pile, then licks the sauce off her finger. ‘Oversalted. But so is the original, so I’m counting this as a success.’ She raises her voice a bit: ‘Adam, do you want some of my terrible cooking? It’s really bad.’

The answer from the living room comes quickly: ‘No, thank you, I’ll cook for us later.’

Tomorrow raises her finger, telling Tonight to wait, then continues: ‘Do you need anything, babe?’

‘No, I’m all good. Never better.’

‘He’s playing video games,’ Tomorrow chuckles quietly, a fond smile on her face. ‘He has a first day off in, like, five years, and he’s playing video games. What a nerd.’ She stares at the two plates full of inedible food and throws their contents into a garbage bin. ‘I need a project. Tracking down an insect shaman and a hive queen is gonna be long, deadly, grueling, probably traumatic. Will do for now.’

‘If you survive.’

‘Have you ever seen me fail?’

Coming Up!

In the next episode, we’ll make sure Tomorrow doesn’t get bored. She’s unbearable when bored.

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