Project Aphelion Solo Play #044: In Ants’ Plans

Bored Tomorrow is not a good sign. Tomorrow, whose life was more or less thrown upside-down by learning that her lover was lying to her for almost a year (even if not entirely on his own volition), is a bad omen for anybody she picks as her enemy. She’s not about to go and murder innocent people, of course.

She’s about to run a war, almost entirely on Faction Layer, because I have mechanics to playtest.


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June 8th, 2056

Being invited into Phase’s house is not what Tomorrow has expected after their brief call, but she decides it’s a good sign – a sign of trust. The address is not far from the combat biking arena that Tomorrow got to know in detail over the year of helping the team. What she finds under the address, is just a reasonably-sized detached building in the northern part of the UCAS Sector. Nothing about it suggests that people living inside are not who they seem on the surface – a young couple of professionals. 

Tomorrow can’t stop herself from assessing the location and is forced to acknowledge its protective measures. She can spot a couple of cameras and sensors, and she expects there to be more of them. The wards, though not masked, are invisible from the outside, and the ivy covering most of the wall stops the astral forms from passing through, even if they knew how to fool the wards. The holes in the living coverage seem more like intended entry routes than weak points in the system, and Tomorrow guesses Phase doesn’t have anything against visitors – as long as they don’t try to sneak in.

But it’s the inside that makes her most envious. Yes, the house is big, bright, tastefully decorated, with art pieces on the walls, the peak of comfort – absolutely incomparable to even the best flats in Best Western. But just like Best Western, it carries so much magic, it makes Tomorrow’s head spin as she loses the grasp on the manasphere, the local background count suppressing almost all of her abilities. Resigning herself to not tossing magic around in somebody else’s aspected domain, she just watches the strands of mana converging into a thin leyline running through the house, powering the wards, strengthening Phase’s internal reserves.

One day. One day I’ll have that too.

The runner listens carefully, when Tomorrow explains her desire to join the hunt for the insect shaman, nodding along with a smile. She asks just one question: ‘What’s in it for you?’

Tomorrow grins. She expected the inquiry, of course, and while she had plenty of time to prepare a convincing lie, she opts for the truth. In her experience, no other approach has ever worked on Phase. Whether it was because of the adept’s experience with reading auras, years of shadowrunning, or dealing with shifty teenagers in her free time, she is a running and punching lie detector.

‘Several things,’ admits Tomorrow, making herself more comfortable on Phase’s couch in the spacious living room. ‘One, I owe you for the help with d’Venescu and I’d prefer not to carry that debt indefinitely. Two, I have found myself hopelessly directionless after accomplishing a thing I was working on for a year and a half, so I need a new quest. Three, I like working with you, it fulfills my adrenaline needs and your competence is relaxing. Four, I have a potential issue on the horizon and I want to be in your good graces once shit hits the fan.’

‘When and with whom?’

‘It’s more of an if than a when. Figured you wouldn’t necessarily be against getting at odds with a cartel.’

‘The Cutters? What, trouble in paradise already?’

‘No, it’s just a precaution. In case we get tired of gang life, and they can’t accept it.’

Phase looks at her curiously, then laughs. ‘Sure, whatever. I could use your help. But you know that when you hit people with total honesty, they start wondering what are you hiding behind it?’

‘If I lie, they trust me, and then feel betrayed. I just can’t win.’ Tomorrow shrugs and picks up a cup of green tea, smelling of jasmine and lemongrass. ‘That’s why I have Tonight doing community outreach for me.’

‘Yeah, well, you ravens are shady. I don’t think you can help it, you’re all just mischief and bad news. Try talking to a Dog follower, they’re loyal to a fault. I had one in my team once, years ago. Perfect flatmate. I’m pretty sure I could call him in the middle of a night and he’d be here in a jiffy. Even though he’s still in Chicago.’

‘Sounds like a good friend, at least. What about you?’

‘Me? Gotta go fast.’ Phase grins, clearly enjoying a private joke. ‘Wolf and I parted ways a long time ago, with no hurt feelings. We weren’t too close and I didn’t want to follow in its footsteps anymore. Not everybody has a relationship like you with Raven. I haven’t spoken to Horse once. We just both like being on the move, there’s no point talking about it.’

‘I wonder… Do the insect mentor spirits work the same way?’ Tomorrow grimaces, thinking back to previous encounters. ‘I mean, this insect shaman you’re tracking – do they have the Ant spirit they follow? Or just an ant spirit that they’re working with?’ 

‘No idea. What difference does it make?’

‘None or a lot. Raven knows about his other followers, he even told me when one of them was in trouble, so I could help. Wouldn’t Ant know about stuff that happens to all of its shamans? You said that the hive shares information between them, and they’re already well aware of us – but do other ant spirit hives know?’ 

‘If they do, they’re not particularly interested in helping one another, I think. Maybe Firewatch has the answers you’re looking for, but I’ve lost contact with them some time ago. You can always ask the shaman, once we find them.’

‘If we get to talk, sure. I’d love to learn more. But I assume it’s not a priority.’

‘Not mine, no. If you want to study them meanwhile, be my guest. Nothing bad ever came from getting too much intel on the enemy, right? Maybe it’ll kill your boredom.’

Tomorrow sighs. ‘It’s been a week since I left the matters to Chloe and Fayette, and I am now starved for something new to fixate on. It’s either hyperfocus or a complete lack of interest with me. I’d rather go stab an insect spirit than sit on my ass and study for the finals.’

‘I think I’m currently out of insect spirits, but that actually gives us a perfect opportunity to do some sleuthing work, if you’re up for it. It will be dangerous, complicated, and time-consuming.’ Phase gets up from the couch and heads towards the door. ‘Come on, T., I’ll show you what I got so far.’

‘Is it a giant map of the Sector with pins and red thread? Please, let it be that.’

As it quickly becomes apparent, once they end up in the building’s basement, after passing several more detectors and mag-locked doors, it is exactly that. The room is huge and well lit, with rows of metal cabinets along the walls, enough wards to stop a great form spirit, and two racing bikes in the far corner, suggesting there’s another, hidden way out. The table in the middle of the room is covered in notes, sketches, photos, and print-outs from matrix bulletin boards – and there’s a large map of Denver taped to the wall, complete with pins, red thread, and sticky notes. Tomorrow takes it all in, gauging the amount of gear stashed in the cabinets, the scope of the investigation, the sheer enormity of the task ahead of them.

‘Yes, please,’ she finally says, her voice so full of happiness, it makes Phase laugh. ‘Whatever it is you’re doing, I’m here for it.’

We’re in Ants’ Plans

Remember when bug spirits messed with Tomorrow’s life and ants were in our plans? Back in in-game January? Tomorrow remembers. It’s payback time.

Yes, they were only spying on Chloe and Tomorrow for Zacualtipan’s benefit, and we’re about to try and destroy their whole Faction, but Tomorrow is, in fact, a rather vengeful person. Not that she has any reason to be kind to insect spirits. In any case, this is what we’re looking at:

NameRatingPrimary Focus, Behavior, & AssetsSecondary Focus, Behavior, & AssetsTertiary Focus BehaviorTrait
Tomorrow3Scientific Crew R5 (1): Tomorrow
Scientific Facility R3: Field Lab
Social Crew R5 (1): TonightInvestigative Facility R1: GhostworksN/A
Phase4Investigative (hostile offense)
Crew R6 (1): Phase
Crew R1 (3): Helpers
Technical (hostile defense)
Crew R1 (10 Extras): bunch of combat bikers
(exclusive growth)Excessive
add 2 priority to Projects already at the highest Payout.
Bug Spirits5Scientific (exclusive offense)Investigative (hostile defense)(beneficial growth)Exploitative
add 2 priority to Projects acquiring Resources from the environment and gain control of Resource nodes.

If there ever is a good moment to start a project to destroy a Faction, it’s exactly when said Faction has no Assets to protect itself and retaliate. If you remember, taking down a Faction from R5 to R4 is a Payout 50 project, which causes immediate retaliation, interference, and drop in Familiarity. Not that we care – Phase is already at Familiarity 1, and we don’t mind getting there.


It’s June 8th.

  • Tomorrow is a R3 Faction, currently standing at 51 Resources (30 influence, 13 cash, 8 intel).
  • Phase is a R4 Faction, coming into the active game with 40 Resources.
  • Bug spirits are a R5 Faction with 50 Resources to spend. They will be, by default, mostly concerned with getting Assets – contractors or their own recruits, because otherwise, they have no way of counteracting the thunder we’re about to bring. 

We’re about to start an Investigative project – while mechanically we’re going for Faction Rating Reduction and triggering all that it involves, narratively this is going to be an investigation. If you remember, we’ve destroyed the last of bug spirits’ Assets when they joined forces with d’Venescu, back in May – since then, the insect shaman and his hive queen were trying to replenish their Assets, but as they were a background Faction, it was supposed to happen sometime this month. Well, they are no longer a background Faction, and the normal route for bug spirits to gain more Assets, is to kidnap and invest people with more bug spirits. As far as the game rules go, this is equivalent to reworking Extras into R1 Actors, costing 1 Payout each. As this type of Assets is worth about as much in the field, they’ll also have to look for and splurge for somebody more useful – a team of contractors, most likely.

This time, we won’t be false-flagging anything – Tomorrow has already worked against the bug spirits and they’re aware of her involvement. Also, with the hive mind in mind, pretending to be somebody else is pointless – once one of the spirits saw us, the Queen did as well.

Here’s what we’re going to do: we’ll assign both Tomorrow and Phase to the project of Faction Reduction; between the two Factions, we can score 7 marks (R3 + R4) each day, which means 56/50 marks over 8 days, 6 net. Let us start and see how the story generates itself through the emergent gameplay mechanics! Starting on June 8th, we get to that point by June 15th. It’s +1 Investigative project for Tomorrow, and Phase pays 10% of her monthly upkeep as deployment costs (she’s a R6 Crew = 3,000c).

Phase’s small retinue of helpers will busy themselves with preparing a Scenario, in which Phase can score extra Intel about the bugs – the median roll landed on a 7. Rolling 4v5 (R1 Crew), they score the 7 marks in 3 days (by June 11th), which means that the moment we’re done with Faction reduction, we can jump on a new Scenario. It costs Phase another 500c of deployment costs.

Meanwhile, we’ll have Tonight negotiate with Crowley the use of his Intelligence Center to provide us with Stealth Deployment for that Scenario, which will be a Social project for the spirit, accomplished within 1 day (June 8th). We do not need to use it yet, but it’s arranged for when we need it. Other than that, Tonight stays free to run interference against whatever the bug spirits come up with – and until they do, getting her well-deserved days off.

Meanwhile, the Bugs

As we’re starting our project on June 8th, the Faction gets to react the next day, on June 9th. They automatically know that we’re working against them and they’d love to retaliate – both through interfering with our project and starting their projects to reduce our Faction ratings – alas, they have no Assets, because we killed them.

Their best recourse is to quickly generate low-rating Assets, so they can start working against us. They fastest they can do it is to upgrade Extras to R1 (1) Assets, at a cost of 1 Payout each.

  • On June 9th, they’re getting a R1 (1) Scientific Crew (primary focus) – a poor soul lost as it gets invested with an insect spirit.
  • On June 10th, they’re getting a R1 (1) Investigative Crew (secondary focus), and the Scientific Crew starts running interference against our Faction Rating Reduction project, costing the bugs 500c of deployment costs, and rolling 5v5 each day, scoring (4+3+4+4+2+1) 18/50 marks by June 15th and failing to interfere in our Project.
  • On June 11th, they’d love to get another R1 (1) Scientific Crew (primary focus), but the Crews stack until they’re R1 (5), so they have a choice between bolstering their Scientific Crew or creating a new one, in a different Focus – they go for the latter, making a Technical Crew (tertiary focus), and the Investigative Crew starts their project of reducing Phase’s Faction Rating from R4 to R3 – it’s a Payout 40 Project, for which they incur 500c deployment costs and roll 3v5, scoring (2+2+1+2+2) 9/40 by June 15th if nobody stops them.
  • On June 12th, they’re getting a R1 (1) Social Crew (secondary focus), and the yesterday’s Technical Crew starts their retaliatory project of reducing our Faction Rating from R3 to R2, which is a Payout 30 project, incurring 500c deployment costs. They roll 2v5, scoring (0+2+1+2) 5/30 by June 15th if nobody stops them.
  • On June 13th, they’ve covered all their immediate threats, and can stop spending Resources left and right on low-quality Assets. Instead, they’ll deploy their yesterday’s Social team (500c costs) on a project to find and negotiate hire of a higher-rating Crew, more capable and harder to remove from the roster. As a R5 Scientific/Investigative Faction, they’ll be looking for a R5 Scientific Crew (which makes perfect sense, because they are being harassed by a R5 magician and a R6 infiltrator). The project to find a Faction with contractors ready for hire takes them (2v5=2+1+2) 3 days (by June 15th), by which time they’re learning that what’s available is a R3 (2) Scientific Crew.

At the end of this process, bugs’ Resources are down to 45+3,000c. Having organized bug spirits’ activities up to June 15th, let’s look at what’s happening on our side.

Play and Counter-play

On June 11th, the insect spirits have started their Project to reduce Phase’s Faction Rating from R4 to R3. As they’re rolling 3v5, and Phase has a team of people willing to interfere in it (rolling 4v5), she’ll just deploy her R1 (3) Crew of helpers at a cost of 500c to run interference, starting on June 12th. The bugs’ score 9/40 by June 15th, and Phase’s team scores (2+3+2+3) 10/40 by the same date.

On June 12th, the insect spirits have started their Project to reduce OUR Faction Rating from R3 to R2. We will kill them. Mostly because they’re rolling 5v5 and the best we can do is 3v1, which means they will probably accomplish their task before we manage to interfere. As we’ve just spent 150,000c to raise this Rating to R3, this will not stand. So, on June 13th, after several days of rest (fulfilling all of her free-days needs for the month), Tonight starts the project to create a Scenario to remove this R1 (1) Technical Crew from existence. As we’re targeting a R1 Asset, it’s a Payout 3 Scenario, requiring a Project with Challenge 5. Tonight scores the marks by June 14th, and on June 15th is ready to run the Scenario.

Tonight is not a Warfare character, far from it. She’s a Faction agent, and her approach to removing the bug spirits’ Asset should be a social one too. Do you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to get them arrested.

Take that, Shadowrun. ‘Excuse me, officer, but this guy is following me for the last couple of days, and here’s a pile of evidence that he’s an insect spirit.’ Let’s see. Tomorrow is a Pueblo citizen, with a valid visa to stay in UCAS Sector, because she’s an entrepreneur and works in different parts of the city (also, as much as she doesn’t mind jumping borders, she can’t risk getting caught being in UCAS illegally). There is nothing stopping Tonight from reporting a crime of insect-spiriting

Let’s do it the fast way – Payout 3 Scenario is not going to be a challenge.

R5 (1) Crew: 5 dice, 5 skill, 3 Resistance, 3 Clout, 2 soak, 2 automarks. +1 automark for 1 Actor
Scenario Payout 3

Legwork: Skipping to not waste a day
Threat Rating: 3v8 = 2 (-2 soak) = 0.
TR 0-0 = 0
Challenge: Payout + 0 = 3.

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

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

We remove a R1 Technical Crew, +3 points of Rep for us (+1 Influence point), +1 to Scenarios done exclusively through Social Tasks, +1 to ‘Avoid Combat through Social Tasks’. A consequence roll 7+5 = 10, positive consequence with magnitude 3 +50% = 5. Rolled a 5, so:The target Faction appreciated your efforts and invited you to a diplomatic meeting to establish relations. The initial Familiarity equals magnitude. If caused by a hostile move, the target Faction’s most hostile competitor appreciated it.

It’s obviously a hostile move, the most hostile Factions to bug spirits’ are: Phase (already known), d’Venescu (out of the game), and Green Bishops (already known). I’d say, either we’re getting back with the Bishops (ignoring the initial Familiarity thing) or generating a new Faction. Scored a mark, so let’s add another Faction to the game, at initial Familiarity 6 (5+1, because First Impression).

No.NameRatingPrimary Focus, Behavior, & AssetsSecondary Focus, Behavior, & AssetsTertiary Focus BehaviorTrait
234Technical (hostile growth)
R2 (4) Fleet
Social (beneficial offense)
R2 (2) Crew
(hostile growth)Nomadic Faction add 2 priority to acquire new Fleet Assets and move existing Fleets to different parts of the sector.

Looking at this, I think there’s one Faction that would make a perfect fit: the Jammers – a bunch of smugglers we’ve just invited back to the Shadowmarket in the previous Scenario! The Fleet of VTOLs and GMC Banshees is their primary Asset, and the Crew deals with the Social/trade side of the Faction. Smugglers are a perfect intro to the world of black-market deals for us. Not that we’re making any – yet. Us and bug spirits aside, they have only one more connection with other Factions – logically, it has to be BBs, but as I’ve rolled a 2 on the initial Familiarity, the arrangement with the gang is a rather peculiar affair, potentially generating a lot of fun for us in the neighborhood!

What do they have to do with bug spirits? No idea yet, but it makes sense that the moment we start openly fight bug spirits, people are going to hear about it – and it’s not surprising to get a call with: ‘Hey, Tomorrow, so I heard you’ve kicked some bug spirits’ asses lately – well done!’

Back to the Insecticide

It is June 15th, roughly a week since we started the campaign against the bug spirits.

  • Phase and Tomorrow have finished their Project against the bug spirits, scoring 56/50 marks and reducing the Faction Rating to R4. There will be consequences, but we’ll deal with them in a moment. This means that the R1 (1) Scientific Crew that was running interference and failed is free to start another Project.
  • Tonight has removed the R1 (1) Technical Crew that was pursuing the project against our Faction. The project has stopped at 3/30 – the progress from June 15th doesn’t count, because the Asset was removed, but everything they scored up to that point has been scored and can be picked up by another Asset. They’ll use their other R1 (1) Scientific Crew (the one above) to pick this up, but now they’re only rolling 4v5 – still, against our 3v1, and they’re starting with 3 points pre-scored!
  • In the project against Phase’s Faction, the bugs scored 9/40, and Phase’s team scores (2+3+2+3) 10/40 by the same date. From now on, as the Faction Rating dropped to R4, bugs’ Investigative Crew gets to only roll 2v5 to pursue this project, while Phase’s team keeps rolling 4v5. This means that the bugs have no chance at finishing this project with the current means and will have to either commit more Assets/Resources to it, or attack Phase’s Crew. As their Behavior in the Investigative Focus is Hostile Defense, they’re unlikely to reveal themselves and attack openly. Instead, they’ll continue their current project and add more Assets to it.
  • The second Social Crew has learned about the availability of a R3 (2) Scientific Crew for hire and will move forward with negotiations if nobody stops them.

Whatever happens next, depends mostly on the result of the consequences roll, right? Of the Payout 50 Project we’ve just finished with 6 net marks. With a median roll = 7 +6, we generate ourselves 50 +50% = 75 Payouts worth of positive consequences. With another median roll = 3, the consequences is: A Contact asks for help in a Scenario with a Payout equal to magnitude. If successful, that Contact gets a Rating promotion.

A Scenario. With Payout 75. Seventy-five. Seventy. Five. Oh boi. Well, a perfect opportunity to test the rules for Complex Scenarios. We have them, for things just like this.

I could just be given a freebie, a project to my benefit. But no, I actually have to work for those 75 Payouts.

Well, it’s brought by a Contact, so let’s roll a d12 on my list of 12 contacts and see what’s the story.

A 5. Of course.

Well, the story writes itself. But I gotta sleep on it and figure out where exactly we’re going to go with all of this. I did not expect it to drop right now, barely a week after the whole CIA reveal. Emergent gameplay, damn it. Anyway…

Back to the Insecticide, I said.

Here’s how the situation looks like on the morning of June 16th:

  • Bug spirits’ R1 (1) Scientific Crew picks up the project to destroy our Faction (at 500c deployment cost) and we don’t like it. We need to both interfere in this project AND take down the Crew, there is no other way we can survive this assault. We’ll put Tomorrow on the insecticide duty, and Tonight on the interference. It will take Tomorrow 2 days to prepare the ‘remove a R1 Asset’ Scenario and another day to run it, giving the bugs’ a chance to interfere in this, if they have a free Asset (they don’t, but they can and will create another R1 (1) Crew, this time a Warfare one – we are clearly on the warpath, and they will get murdered at some point.) This costs the bugs’ another Resource and is completed on June 17th. We’ll give this Crew a job soon enough – they won’t manage to stop us from taking down the Scientific Crew, but that’s not their main purpose.
  • Tomorrow is ready to run the Insecticide Payout 3 Scenario on June 18th; this means that the Scientific Crew has 2 days of rolling against us, scoring 7 more marks, and bringing the total to 10/30 – one-third there! Meanwhile, Tonight scores steadily 3 marks per day, getting to 9/30 by June 18th.
  • June 17th is when we have drinks with Chloe and Fayette and tell them how we’re busy with college stuff, because we’re nasty, lying witches who don’t want their sister to worry.
  • On June 16th, bugs’ Social Crew starts negotiating the hire of a R3 (2) Scientific Crew as a contractor party (deployment costs 500c). They roll 1v5 and need to score R x5 = 15 marks. However, they’re not doing it in secret, and Phase very much doesn’t want them to have that team of contractors, so she will interfere in their project and try to hire those contractors herself (deployment costs 3,000c). With the bugs’ rolling 1v5 and Phase rolling 4v1, the runner finishes first, on June 19th, pays 3 Resources, and adds a R3 (2) Scientific Crew as contractors to her Faction until July 19th.
  • In regards to the Project bugs are running against Phase, they continue, scoring (0+2+2) 4 more marks by June 18th (13/40), on which day they generate themselves another R1 (1) Technical Crew, deployed to the project (for 500c) on June 19th. By June 18th, Phase’s team has scored (3+1+3) 7 more marks (17/40). On June 19th, two teams of bugs score 2+1 marks (16/40), and Phase’s team 1 more (18/40).
  • The R1 (1) Warfare Crew the bugs have spawned on June 17th is going to start preparing a project to remove Phase’s R1 (3) Crew from the game. It’s a Payout 3 Scenario, requiring a Challenge 5 project, and with a Crew rolling 1v5 (tertiary focus), they’ll accomplish the job in 8 days (by June 25th), unless somebody stops them. And somebody tries, because Phase’s hired R3 (2) Scientific Crew gets on their case, jumping into the interference by June 20th, costing 1,500c, rolling 1v3 (Tertiary Focus), with extra 2 Resources spent to buy them 1 extra dice on day 4, 5 & 6 – and they succeed, scoring (1+1+0+1+1+5) 5/5 marks by June 25th. As this is when the bug spirits’ Crew is also finished with their project, this means the Forces will face-off in a Scenario – but with a Warfare R1 (1) Crew on one side and Investigative R1 (3) AND Scientific R3 (2) Crew on the other, we won’t waste time playing it, just deem the bugs’ Warfare Crew removed from the game by June 26th.

Let’s call it June 18th and let Tomorrow remove the R1 (1) Scientific Crew that hounds us. Unlike previously, when we just got an insect spirit arrested, this is Tomorrow we’re talking about – she’ll hunt the spirit down, toss a can of industrial-strength insecticide at it, and then fry it alive with magical lightning. As one does. She has the same dice pool as Tonight and the Payout is the same, this will, by sheer math, end the exact same way:

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

This means we’re ending the Scenario with Scientific Crew removed by June 18th, +3 Rep, +1 Scenario won with magic, and positive consequences of magnitude 3 +50%, because I rolled a 7+net marks. This ended up in an 8: A person from a character’s backstory invites the player Crew to a Think Tank pushing that character’s background plot forward, with Payout equal to magnitude. Pick which player it entails.

Tomorrow’s background plot at this point is her magic research – a quick roll on contacts (yea, I know it was supposed to be a person from backstory, but they’re all contacts by now) landed on 11, which is Salazar. We like Salazar. As Salazar is part of the Cutters now, we get to roll Cutters’ dice, which is going to be 3 in the secondary Scientific Focus, taking Tomorrow 2 days and generating 5 points of intel, completing the project with with 1 net mark – but does she have the time for this?

Well, she has to – at least narratively. As far as mechanics go, her coveted degree is connected to the Career Trait and won’t go up in flames if Tomorrow has no time working on it. Narratively, though – it’s finals week, and Tomorrow spends a weekend of June 19th-20th catching up on uni work. The consequences roll landed on a 4 +1 net mark = 5, so there are no further consequences and no continuation of the college thread at this moment.

June 18th, 2056

Tomorrow doesn’t even move when the shadow of a tall man falls on her blanket and the scattered notebooks. He’s no threat and she really needs a quiet moment in the sun after all this mess. There’s barely any wind, and the roof of Best Western has changed into a hot pan – but it’s better than sitting inside, with no AC to speak of. She’ll bring forth the rain later; people must be running out of drinking water in the Warrens after this dry spell. Giorgio’s tomatoes growing on the far side of the roof are starting to wilt as well. 

‘Wheeler said I’ll find you here.’ Salazar sits down on the roof next to her blanket, putting his back against the bannister. ‘He assumed you’re studying, not napping, though.’

‘I’m not asleep. I’m just chilling.’ The quiet moment over, Tomorrow raises her head and slides the sunglasses down her nose to look at her friend. In the hot sun of the June afternoon, her skin feels delightfully warm, already tanning in places not covered by the emerald green bikini. ‘Do you need anything or just felt like joining me in sunbathing? You could use some radiation.’

Salazar looks up at the cloudless sky and squints at the sun. His pale skin is almost white in comparison with Tomorrow’s half-Texan, half-Italian tanned complexion. ‘I’ll pass on the cancer, thanks. This is a social call.’

‘Don’t you have anything better to do?’

‘No, actually, I don’t.’ The blood mage grabs one of the notebooks and starts flipping the pages, reading Tomorrow’s handwritten notes. ‘The wards are up, the elementals are patrolling, the turf wars are nowhere to be seen, we’ve sorted out some extra protection for the rift, Friese’s perimeter spell is running smoothly – I have about as much work as a fish in a brothel. Not that I care, I get a paycheck each month anyway, but…’

‘You’re bored.’

‘Apparently, if you remove the struggle for survival from your schedule, you’re left with a lot of free time. Who knew?’ 

‘Wanna hunt insect spirits with me?’

Salazar laughs and waves a hand, conjuring a magical barrier above him and providing himself with shade. ‘No, it’s just you who’s a suicidal adrenaline junkie. How did the hunt go?’

‘Well enough.’ Tomorrow turns from her belly to the side, catching the sun rays at a different angle – one that lets her see Salazar better. ‘It was just one pesky spirit. Annoying, but very mortal. Looked completely human. Stank to high heavens when I electrocuted it with magic. I don’t think the scent will ever leave my head. Is that what you wanted to hear?’

‘Geez, Tomorrow, you really need to chill,’ Salazar winces and looks up from her notes. ‘Or stop doing this shit. This isn’t healthy for you.’

‘Yeah, well, neither is having insect spirits around. They’ve been spying on Chloe and me before. They know where I live, what I do and with whom. I need this hive eradicated.’

‘Wheeler also said you have finals next week.’

Tomorrow knows she should treat her friends better, Tonight told her so, but she cannot force herself to put any kind of a positive feeling into her glare. Salazar will have to live with her annoyance. ‘Sal, I love you, but did you come here to chat or to remind me about all the responsibilities I’m trying to dodge for, like, half an hour?’

‘I came to ask if you need any help with uni, birdbrain.’ The blood mage sighs and tosses the notebook back at the blanket, narrowly missing Tomorrow’s face. ‘I don’t know how you can fly, being so dense.’

‘Oh.’ The offer catches her completely off-guard and she fights to regain balance. Her silence doesn’t sit well with Salazar either; the blood mage looks at her with growing unease, but doesn’t avert his eyes. After all they went through, of course they have each others’ backs in matters of life and death; they’re allies. But this… This feels like friendship and neither of them knows what to do with it.

‘Well, you’ve been working on this since October,’ he adds finally. ‘Would be an extremely stupid thing to fail in the last week of year one, right?’

Tomorrow nods. ‘Yeah, it would be.’ Hesitantly, she sits up and starts sorting her notebooks into neat stacks. ‘You sure? I do have a pile of assignments to finish by next week…’

‘Where do we start?’

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

And we’re back where we left off! June 19th:

  • Tomorrow is doing her think-tank project until June 20th, getting 5 points of Intel and a 1/4 Scenarios with Salazar.
  • Tonight is scoring marks against the project of Faction Reduction, getting +6 by June 20th, which brings her to 15/30.
  • Phase is securing her new R3 (2) Scientific Crew on June 19th and starting the Payout 40 Project to bring down the bugs’ Faction to R3 on June 20th (3,000c deployment costs). She scores 4 marks on day 1 (4/40).
  • Phase’s R1 (3) Investigative team keeps scoring marks against the bugs’ project to destroy Phase’s Faction, getting up to 19/40 by June 20th.
  • Phase’s crew of  contractors joins on June 19th and on June 20th, starts running interference against the bugs’ Warfare Crew – until June 25th.
  • The bugs’ R1 (1) Social Crew has failed to acquire the new Asset and is free to do something new on June 20th – it will jump to cover the empty spot in the project against our Faction, rolling 1v5 and scoring 1 mark on June 20th, bringing it to 11/30 and generating 500c of deployment costs.
  • The bugs’ Investigative R1 (1) and Technical R1 (1) Crews are running the project against Phase’s Faction, scoring 1 more mark on June 20th, bringing it to 17/40.
  • The bugs’ Warfare Crew is running a project to remove Phase’s Investigative team, which takes them until June 25th, and they\re removed from the game on June 26th.
  • On June 19th, the bugs generate themselves a R1 (1) Scientific Crew, then on June 20th, deploy it to run interference against Phase’s project of Faction Reduction, costing 500c and rolling 4v5. They score 3/40 marks by June 20th.
  • On June 20th, the bugs generate themselves a R1 (1) Creative Crew. This brings them to a roster of six R1 (1) Crews, each in a different Focus. While they can continue the process of changing Extras into R1 Actors, they can’t create any more Crews – at best, they can upgrade their Crews to R1 (2). This stops them from generating a zerg army and an unending supply of dice. The Creative Crew will join the Faction Reduction interference project on June 21st (500c cost).

Maybe this will make it clearer?

Phase’s Team
Phase’s Contractors
Scientific R1 (1)
Investigative R1 (1)
Technical R1 (1)
Social R1 (1)
Warfare R1 (1)
Creative R1 (1)
June 19ththink tank w/ SalazarFR interf., 12/30getting contractorsFR interf.,18/40createdPhase FR, 16/40Phase FR, 16/40lost contractorsdestroy Phase’s team
June 20ththink-tank w/ Salazar finished FR interf., 15/30bugs FR, 4/40FR interf.,19/40Warfare interferenceFR interf.,3/40Phase FR, 17/40Phase FR, 17/40Tomorrow FR, 11/30destroy Phase’s teamcreated
June 21stbugs FR, 11/40FR interf., 18/30bugs FR, 11/40FR interf.,22/40Warfare interferenceFR interf.,4/40Phase FR, 20/40Phase FR, 20/40Tomorrow FR, 12/30destroy Phase’s teamFR interf., 4/40
June 22ndbugs FR, 18/40FR interf., 21/30bugs FR, 18/40FR interf.,25/40Warfare interferenceFR interf.,7/40Phase FR, 21/40Phase FR, 21/40Tomorrow FR, 12/30destroy Phase’s teamFR interf.,7/40
June 23rdbugs FR, 25/40FR interf., 24/30bugs FR, 25/40FR interf.,27/40Warfare interferenceFR interf.,10/40Phase FR, 23/40Phase FR, 23/40Tomorrow FR, 12/30destroy Phase’s teamFR interf.,10/40
June 24thbugs FR, 32/40FR interf., 27/30bugs FR, 32/40FR interf.,28/40Warfare interferenceFR interf.,12/40Phase FR, 25/40Phase FR, 25/40Tomorrow FR, 13/30destroy Phase’s teamFR interf.,12/40
June 25thbugs FR, 39/40FR interf., 30/30, project killedbugs FR, 39/40FR interf.,30/40Warfare interferenceFR interf.,15/40Phase FR, 26/40Phase FR, 26/40Tomorrow FR, 14/30,faileddestroy Phase’s teamFR interf.,15/40
June 26thbugs FR, 46/40,finishedday offbugs FR, 46/40,finishedFR interf.,32/40SC to save Phase’s team, wonFR interf.,19/40, failedPhase FR, 29/40Phase FR, 29/40Phase FR, 29/40removedFR interf.,19/40, failed

Well, that was a lot things happening over a week or so:

  • By June 25th, Tonight has killed the project of Faction Reduction that the bugs were running against us, causing the Social Crew to fail.
  • By June 26th, Phase’s team of contractors have literally killed the bugs’ Warfare Crew.
  • By June 26th, Phase and Tomorrow finish the Faction Reduction project against the bugs, causing the Scientific and Creative Crews to fail, reducing the bug spirits’ Faction to R3, and scoring 6 net marks on the project.
  • The finished project triggers the consequences roll; I rolled a 7+net marks, so we’re looking at 40 +50% = 60 points of positive consequences. Rolled a 4: The target Faction appreciated your efforts and gifted a beneficial Project with a Payout of equal magnitude. If caused by a hostile move, the target Faction’s most hostile competitor appreciated it.
    We have just been gifted a beneficial Project with Payout 60. By the bugs’ most hostile competitor, which, as we know from the previous consequences, are the Jammers – the smugglers we brought back to Shadowmarket. I think they’ll join the project of removing the problem of bug spirits from existence. Every mark their R2 (4) Technical Fleet scores in those projects will count towards that pool of 60 – and we’ll cash in on what’s left.

‘Tomorrow? Yeah, we’ve heard you’re still on that insect spirit business. Listen, wouldn’t it be easier for you with a couple of GMC Banshee to keep you company?’

This leaves us with several options:

  • we can finally deal with that Payout 7 Scenario with intel about the bug spirits… but do we really wanna?
  • we can start dealing with Wheeler’s Payout 75 Scenario… but do we want to even touch it at this point?
  • we can give Tomorrow and Phase days off – Tomorrow still needs 2 this month; Phase technically needs none, because she had the first 8 days of June off.

Let’s do the Payout 7 Scenario and cash in the rest of the days off, while the other sides of the conflict fight. As this is a Payout 7 Scenario for an effectively R6 (3) Crew, we’ll just run it through quick resolution rules. We did negotiate with Crowley stealth deployment for this Scenario, but as we’re running it through shorthand, we’ll skip this part. It costed us a bit of money, but oh well.

R6 (3) Crew: 6 dice, 6 skill, 3 Resistance, 3 Clout, 2 soak, 2 automarks. +3 automarks for 3 Actors
Scenario Payout 7

Legwork: 6v1=6+3 = 9, 2 net
Threat Rating: 7v6 = 4 (-2 soak) = 2.
TR 1-1= 0
Challenge: Payout + 0 = 7.

R6 (3) Crew needs to score 7 marks. Girls are rolling 6 v 6 – 6 (skill) + 7 (Payout Resistance) – 3 (Clout) = 6v5, and start with 2 automarks, plus score +3 in each roll. Scenario rolls 7 v 6 – 3 (number of Actors) + 3 (Resistance) = 7v6, and gets hit with 2 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 6v5=1 +2 +3 = 6. MT 6/7. Defense: 7v6=2 (-2 soak) = 0. MT 6/7
T2: Offense: 6v5=4 +3 = 7. MT 13/7. Defense: 7v6=3 (-2 soak) = 1. MT 12/7 -> Offense wins, with 5 net

And done, we score 7 points of Intel, get Tomorrow and Tonight +7 Rep (+1 Influence point), and as this is a third project done with Phase, we raise the Fam to 9. And the consequences, with a roll of 3+5 = 8, are of magnitude 7. And with 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.

In a toss-up between Tomorrow and Phase, it’s Phase, so whatever is happening, is happening for her. We can ignore those consequences – and we will, because we have enough. For the purposes of maybe-coming-up-later, it’s an Investigative/Social Faction.

Phase’s Team
Phase’s Contractors
Jammers’ Fleet R2 (4)
Scientific R1 (1)
Investigative R1 (1)
Technical R1 (1)
Social R1 (1)
Warfare R1 (1)
Creative R1 (1)
June 27thlegwork for Intel Sclegwork for Intel Sclegwork for Intel ScFR interf.,35/40FR interf.,35/40Bugs’ FR, 3/30 (57)Phase FR, 34/40Phase FR, 34/40Phase FR, 34/40Phase FR, 34/40createdTom FR, 1/30
June 28thIntel ScIntel ScIntel ScFR interf.,40/40, project killedFR interf.,40/40, project killedBugs’ FR, 6/30 (54)FR interf.,3/30FR interf.,3/30Phase FR, 36/40, failedPhase FR, 36/40, failedFR interf.,3/30Tom FR, 2/30
June 29thday offBugs’ FR, 16/30Bugs’ FR, 16/30Bugs’ FR, 16/30Bugs’ FR, 16/30Bugs’ FR, 16/30 (52)FR interf.,9/30FR interf.,9/30FR interf.,9/30FR interf.,9/30FR interf.,9/30Tom FR, 3/30
June 30thday offBugs’ FR, 30/30, finishedBugs’ FR, 30/30, finishedBugs’ FR, 30/30, finishedBugs’ FR, 30/30, finishedBugs’ FR, 30/30, finished (49)FR interf.,16/30, failedFR interf.,16/30, failedFR interf.,16/30, failedFR interf.,16/30, failedFR interf.,16/30, failedTom FR, 3/30

We arrive at June 30th with another project against the bugs’ finished. They are reduced to a R2 Faction, and our Familiarity with them is down to 3. They started to not like us. Oops.

The project was finished at 30/30, with 0 net marks, so let’s roll the consequences! With an 8, we get ourselves 30 Payouts worth of positive consequences. I don’t know anymore at this point. This war was meant to be. As I rolled a 6, so we’re being given a Think-Tank by bug spirits’ most hostile competitors, so I think we know what Tonight is going to be doing in July: run a social think-tank with the Jammers and generate 30 points of Intel.

Coming Up

I think we’ll end this episode here, because it took us a whole month in-game – we’ll roll the world forward, pay the bills and see what happens! This Scenario Payout 75 is looming on the horizon. I need to think this through – but whatever it is, Wheeler wouldn’t spring it on Tomorrow when she’s in the middle of a war. He cares about her well-being more than she does. 

Also, I think I need to reward myself for not making the antagonist pun once.

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