By Anna Urbanek

Welcome back to my self-indulging project of changing Shadowrun into a strategy RPG, using the engine of our upcoming RPG, Project Aphelion. If you’ve missed it, in the previous post I went through some conversion notes and re-created my character, Tomorrow, according to PA’s chargen rules. What I’ve ended up with is:

Tomorrow
22-year-old elf, a magician
Attributes: Toughness 3, Fitness 2, Awareness 4, Resolve 3, Logic 5, Wit 4
Skills: Sorcery 3, Conjuring 2, Sciences 1, Investigation 2, Con 2, Stealth 2
Rep: +5 Outcasts, -5 Law Enforcement
Contacts: Citizen R1 (Mommy), Citizen R1 (Daddy), Citizen R1 (Friendly hacker), Outcast R1 (best friend, gang magician), Outcast R1 (boyfriend, gang lieutenant), Spirit R1 (Raven, mentor spirit). Note that ratings of contacts are neither loyalty nor connection – they’re both; they’re an approximation of how mechanically useful the contact can be, not whether they like the PC or are a big fish.

Traits: First Impression, Low-Light Adaptation, Fragile, Exceptional Talent (Logic), Lucky (1), Income (3), Low Expectations, Driven.

Gear: a basic jumpsuit, a commlink, a magical-research toolkit, a mini 3D printer, a lockpick set, survival gear, a stealth suit, a non-lethal gun, and a bound air elemental called Steven.

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About a year ago, we played a campaign of Shadowrun. It was delightful, even if the rules did what they could to make it annoying. The campaign came to an end of season one and we’ve never picked it up. But I am definitely not done with my character, Tomorrow: a Raven-mentored mystic adept with a head full of mischief and arcane research.

Resolved to not let Tomorrow move to the bleaker pastures of past characters, I’m taking her for a spin in solo play, using the rules of our upcoming strategy RPG, Project Aphelion. As Aphelion is a hard sci-fi game set in the 2280s and I need my character in the magical cyberpunk of 2055, we need to make some changes.

The campaign I want to play solo is going to have one main objective: finding Tomorrow’s missing sister, Chloe, who is hiding from Aztechnology in an undisclosed location.

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by Anna Urbanek

Get ready for the spooky!

Today we will be talking about the spookiest plants you can put in your Halloween game. We’re not here to discuss the most toxic plants, because let’s be honest – death by poison is a rather boring thing to play out at the table. Instead, we’re about to go for a deep dive into the weirdest, the creepiest, and most horrifying. 

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by Jakub Wisz

It’s time to make some creatures!

With that lengthy and overly elaborate introduction, welcome to the third part of Blazing Aurorae’s worldbuilding blog. In previous blogs, I covered the conditions in the comet’s tail, as well as the spark of life itself. Today, I’m going to create the basis for all the future fantastic beings that will populate the mists’ vast emptiness.

There are many ways in which cellular life could adapt to exist and thrive in the void-like environment, and I think it’s not fair to choose one over the other – which is why we’ll have all of them.

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Looking to scratch that hard sci-fi strategy itch? Well, the projectaphelion.com is up and running!

We’ve just added some basic world lore and the mechanics, including a nice and slick, fully laid out PDF of The Absolute Basics. It looks great, we’ve made it.


What’s gonna be there? Oh, let me just quote:

It’s been almost two years since the work on Project Aphelion has started. Now, after writing the rules, the setting, a novella, and a full-sized novel, the universe of Project Aphelion is ready to be explored.

In the coming weeks and months we’ll be talking about the lore and the mechanics of this hard sci-fi strategy roleplaying game, sharing the science behind it (both the astronomy and the game design bits!), and making sure that the experience of Project Aphelion is as fun for the players as it is to us.

Project Aphelion: Phase 2 blog post

In short: go check it out, we’ll be doing tons of quality things over there, and we’d love to hear what you think!

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.