by Anna Urbanek

Imagine that: I’m 20% done.

Well, not really – but I’ve finished twentieth plant entry from the planned hundred, and I think it calls for a celebration. Or, at least, for noting it in a blog post for future reference.

If you haven’t heard of the project, Herbalist’s Primer is my pet project: an illustrated guide to real-world magical plants. It’s a guide for beginner herbalists, magicians, witches, and alchemists. It’s an exercise in whimsy: a mix of honest-to-science botany, even more enjoyable ethnobotany and folklore, the modern occult, and a completely fantastical resource for tabletop roleplaying and writing fantasy novels.

I like my hobbies eclectic.

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by Jakub Wisz

In the previous blog, I set up the conditions in the primordial world of Blazing Aurorae. It’s time to get some life going, baby. The conditions we have to start with are a bit difficult for life to arise.

To reiterate – aurorium dust creates fierce, magnetic storms throughout the comet’s tail, generating enough heat for liquid water and oxygen to exist in the form of mist suspended in a vacuum, dragged along with the comet.

For organic life as we know it, this is not a friendly environment – far from impossible, however. For extremophile bacteria and even some multicellular creatures on Earth, like tardigrades, this is just a normal Monday.

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by Jakub Wisz

As a hard-scifi writer, I rarely get to venture out into the magical realms of fantasy. To make a long story short, I intend to change that. Consider this blog post an announcement of my next creation after Project Aphelion and Incitatus, Blazing Aurorae. It’s going to be a fantasy novel and maybe a tabletop RPG as well, set in a world very much unlike our own.

It’s going to be a tale set in the cold darkness of open space, in the tail of a comet full of life, civilizations, and wonders. Full of people living their lives on islands of rock and ice suspended in the icy clouds of the comet’s tail, loving, fighting, and exploring space on wooden ships thanks to the magic and technology of their ancestors.

The universe of Blazing Aurorae is far from your run-of-the-mill fantasy pot of tired old tropes and stories. It’s an unusual world with unusual creatures, but I want them to be intuitively understandable and relatable. There are magic elements and impossible conditions throughout; nonetheless, I aim to build it in accordance with known physics and biology. I believe it’s entirely possible to create a fantastic universe based on our real-world reality. In fact, I believe that a world created that way will be much more engaging, consistent, and original than a complete abstract based on nothing but desire to create something fantastic.

In this and the next blog posts, I’ll go through the process of building the setting step by step as I create the world.

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If you, like many people in tabletop roleplaying circle, are waiting for the newest expansion for Dungeons & Dragons to land, you already know you’ll be probably spending some months around Icewind Dale. Arctic adventures are on multiple schedules this year, and there’s nothing surprising about it. After all, Rime of the Frostmaiden promises the players an opportunity to boldly go where snowman has gone before.

Let’s go on an adventure!

If you’ve read my previous post, you know we’re big fans of player agency in this house. If you haven’t – go give it a read. I assure you, it will make it obvious why I’m suggesting some of the solutions and not the others.

All of the advice below applies to running arctic adventures, whether or not you want to have them in Forgotten Realms. We acknowledge and support everybody’s right to not play D&D.

Do you want to make your traveling through the arctic tundra fun, engaging, and memorable? Well, read on, because we’re just about to embark on a journey. From prep to random encounters, we got you covered here.

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I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anybody because I tried to be nice, even though it was the wrong choice. Should have gone for helpful instead.

Lately, I’ve watched a plethora of YouTube videos with tips and tricks for Game / Dungeon Masters that will engage the party and give the players the hooks they need to latch onto the adventure. So many words spent on ways of ensuring the players will not go and destroy your carefully planned campaign. And before you think I have a bone to pick there: they’re not wrong, and their advice is helpful.

But their advice is mostly applying patches to a system I find inherently flawed.

The Game Master is not the only person responsible for everybody’s fun.

So let’s talk about player agency and responsibilities on both sides of the table.

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We’ve been extremely busy in the past month. We’ve jump-started several projects, moved houses, wrote and designed a ton of things, started Aphelion’s playtests, set the ground for a couple of exciting new things, drew some plants, and cleared out a part of the garden. Not that the last one has any bearing on you, but it’s definitely keeping me happy and grounded.

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Our hard sci-fi tabletop RPG is finally in the play-testing phase! Jakub has been hard at work for months writing and polishing the rules for Project Aphelion, and now they’re ready to see the light.

What is Project Aphelion?

If you haven’t heard about the project before, here are the basics. It’s an tabletop RPG introducing elements of a 4X strategy (EXplore, EXpand, EXploit, and EXterminate, see here). It’s clear, streamlined, efficient, and easy to learn.

We’ve play-tested it last Saturday in a team of four; some of us never played RPGs before, some mostly know D&D, some play RPGs for years, some (me) have been with Aphelion since its beginning. Nevertheless, it was the first time any of us played it, and it took barely any time to start using the system intuitively.

It’s based on d10 only and has zero exceptions, yet manages to stay easy and complex at the same time. Crunch? Yes. Three days of character creation? No. (I’m looking at you, Shadowrun).

The alpha rules and the recording of the first play-test (explaining exactly how to play the game and use the interface) are for now available for our Patrons. Why not join them?


The featured image is in Public Domain: The planet Jupiter from the Trouvelot astronomical drawings (1881-1882) by E. L. Trouvelot (1827-1895). Original from The New York Public Library.

When I made a character who wanted to be an arcane researcher, one thing was obvious: custom spells. However, Shadowrun is not D&D 5e or Pathfinder, and third-party content is neither supported nor really created, leaving the mages with a rather limited spell list, most of them geared towards shadowrunning.

As I like making life hard for myself, I made a character who doesn’t want to be a shadowrunner.

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If I was ever glad I became a freelancer, it’s in the middle of the global pandemic.

It’s been quite a ride these last couple of weeks. As I write those words, watching Mary Popping Returns with half an eye (the movie really doesn’t warrant a whole eye on it), it’s been over four weeks of Finland on lockdown. Working as a full-time freelancers was a bit of a challenge for both of us, between two preschoolers running around and me catching the virus and being definitely worse for wear for almost a month.

Regardless, as I’m sipping on strawberry milkshake, I’m happy to declare that the spring has finally arrived in Finland. No snow for a week, almost! The cats are delighted, the dog less; she likes digging in the snow. The things are looking brighter already, especially as I can finally breathe like a human being should be able to do.

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We’re seriously behind on the blog. (This is not news.)

Both Jakub and I have been working lately on about a dozen of projects, all of them cool, exciting, and board game- and roleplaying game-related, but about half of them is still covered in NDAs, and most of the other half is still on my pile of ‘need to write a portfolio entry about that’.

Between the writing, designing, and pushing pixels around for other people, we’ve been hard at work on Project Aphelion, Incitatus novel (Jakub is just finishing the second chapter of the second draft, and the plot very much thickens), our Shadowrun campaign, and a new zine for a fantasy RPG audience.

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Nothing spells ‘professional shadowrunner’ like going for completely unrelated side quests just for the sake of hiking. And for money, obviously.


We’re playing Shadowrun!
Read about the campaign here:
https://doubleproficiency.com/2019/10/28/tomorrows-looking-bright/
Watch the episodes on YT:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwQngabhLGQ5XLHxAQa0BdRxrInMBLvfM
Visit our Discord channel to catch up on the between-the-sessions roleplay, and even make your own character and join us as a viewer-led NPC:

https://discord.gg/hQ7vtK6


After our last ‘run’ (we’re not really shadowrunners if you remember), we had a moment to breathe and take care of our personal stuff. Not much, mind it – the aftermath and fallout of session 001 is still ongoing and I’ll get into details after session 002 this Saturday.

Meanwhile, there were some job postings on Denver BBS, including an interesting snippet from Momma Calderwood, local talislegger and talismonger:

> Looking for a skilled “procurer” of reagents. Pay’s decent, location will be revealed if you agree to help, hazard bonus involved if things go sideways.

– Arlene Calderwood (05.19.2055))
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We’re playing Shadowrun!
Read about the campaign here:
https://doubleproficiency.com/2019/10/28/tomorrows-looking-bright/
Watch the episodes on YT:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwQngabhLGQ5XLHxAQa0BdRxrInMBLvfM
Visit our Discord channel to catch up on the between-the-sessions roleplay, and even make your own character and join us as a viewer-led NPC:

https://discord.gg/hQ7vtK6


Denver is a weird city: split between six more or less hostile countries, it’s a hub for smugglers, black marketers, and shadowrunners. The Big Game is played there, earning Denver the name of City of Shadows.

Meanwhile, a group of definitely-not-shadowrunners is trying to survive in the city’s worst district: Aurora Warrens.

Chuy who just wants to open his taco place.
Mack who needs to pay off his debts and cure his hangover.
Sax who wishes he was left alone to pursue his passion for music.
Tacho who just managed to get his junk car to work and hopes nothing bad happens to it.
Tomorrow who has a ton of magical research to do when she’s not partying.

Alas, life happens.

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