Double Proficiency

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.


Project Aphelion

Jakub is working on updating the alpha rules. We’ve had the first playtest already, and I have to admit, the core mechanics work like a charm! They cover social interactions, sneaking, hacking, combat – it’s all equally easy-to-learn but complex enough to motivate the players to employ tactics and thinking.

And the game comes complete with an interface. Yes, it’s a thing, and it saves a ton of time on tracking resources. And there are no hit points. It’s all sleek and glorious.

See the playtest here!

Jakub is now fleshing out the character creation – which is going to be a minigame all of its own! A narrative-based step-by-step process, establishing your character’s aspirations, background, attributes, skills, and resources. At the end of it, you’ll have a ready-to-play character with all the stats, backstory, and connections you will need to start the game. And it shouldn’t take you more than 15-30 minutes!


Herbalist’s Primer

My flagship is sailing. Far and wide. If it’s the first time you’re hearing about it, it’s a system-agnostic book on real-world magical plants, thought as an in-world guide for players, game masters, and characters. I write more about it on the project page.

I’ve been more writing than drawing lately (arthritis flaring up messes up the drawing process a bit) but I’m making progress and getting the hang of the digital watercolors. They are so much fun to use! I could never find enough patience to get properly into conventional painting but the digital seems to be working for me.

We have a Patreon now, and in early July our Patrons will get some more plant spreads from the book, as well as a second set of collectible reference cards. Here’s a sample of what they got in June!

In more news, I even got a publisher! Thanks to Exalted Funeral, Herbalist’s Primer is gonna have a professionally handled Kickstarter, print and distribution. It’s happening, y’all!


Incitatus

Incitatus is done! Or its first draft, at least. Jakub’s working on the second draft (and is, apparently, about 50% in), and then it’s pitch time! If you want to read this space horror ahead of time, I’d suggest joining our Patreon this month. You’ll be up for a treat! Megacorps, ghost ships, intrigue, biodrones, mercenaries, and a mummy that’s definitely not looking like a human.

Also, look at this absolutely glorious cover art by Holly Humphries.

Incitatus cover art by Holly Humphries

Other projects

I love Project Aphelion mechanics so much, I’m making a fantasy hack of it. Yes, Jakub is going to make his fantasy game but I need a generic fantasy ruleset to live my life to the fullest. With more things to do in a game than just go through combat encounters.

And this is all I’m gonna show you for now.


Graphic-design-wise, I’m working on a cool project with Hydra Cooperative, and I’ll let them dictate what I can say about the subject:

It’s an awesome project, and I can’t wait to actually play in the Hill Cantons.

There’s a couple of really exciting projects I’m on as a graphic designer too but I can’t tell you about them yet. But I will. SOON.


Jakub is writing a ton of things for Earthdawn, RPG Kitchen, and some secret projects – and we’ll share the details as soon as we can. But it’s all hush-hush for now.


Personal stuff

We’ve bought a house, y’all! This was probably the busiest we’ve been, finding the time to work between house-hunting, childcare (two preschoolers!), the move, some medical issues (I got officially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and started the chemo treatment, so I’m no longer in pain 24/7)…

But hey. Look at my home office view now.

I need to cut down that spruce at some point.


We’re looking at quickly approaching July with hope for some quieter time. It will not be quieter, though, as we’re soon to get back to our Shadowrun campaign, and the Aphelion playtests, and book writing, and design, and gardening, and new secret projects…

But busy is good. We like busy, as long as it leaves enough time for a coffee break.

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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Here’s a snippet of information about me: I love drawing. I’m no pro, and definitely nowhere to call myself an illustrator but I thoroughly enjoy the process.

Here’s another: I haven’t drawn anything in ages! For many reasons; mainly, my life’s been in a bit of upheaval for the last couple of years. Also, my hands hurt when I draw.

However, Jakub and I are starting a new Shadowrun campaign soon, and I’ve been putting together my character for the last couple of weeks. Working through “20 questions”, I realised I have no idea of how she looks like and what’s exactly her personality, so I decided to just draw her and figure it out as I go.

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Our vintage Shadowrun campaign has come to an end. I know, happens.

Last we left off (at least here, on my blog), we were just getting ready for the big finale of Harlequin campaign – and we did it, it was awesome, glorious, amazing, climactic, and beautiful. A round of applause for the GM, it was just a fitting ending to a year-long campaign.

I got to punch a dragon into unconsciousness. It was everything I wished for.

And then we went for some downtime, as our campaign ended it November 2053, and we wanted to pick up in Spring 2055 – you know, 2055 in Chicago, all the Universal Brotherhood and bugs business.

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