Double Proficiency

Strategy Layer: December 10, 2055

Picking where we left off! It’s now only a week until Tomorrow’s meeting with Henequen and there’s research to be done, skills to be learnt, main quest to be progressed, spell research to be conducted, and – let’s not forget – the consequences of the Scenario on the Fly to consider!

It’s been 10 days since the start of the campaign, and Tomorrow already has her hands full.

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Welcome to the Grand Strategy, version Lite. I’m sure Jakub will one day introduce you to Grand Strategy, version Full Aphelion Rules, but that’s not my thing. As always, if you’re new here, I suggest you start at the beginning – and if you’re not, just come on and see me spill the beans.

Project Aphelion works on three separate layers of play, letting the players zoom in and out from one character’s shenanigans to their corporation building a spaceport in Neptune’s orbit. The game comes with Crew Layer (your standard adventuring experience), Fleet Layer (spaceship races or large-scale battles of the infantry), and Strategy Layer (all things Faction related). Strategy Layer is also the default for downtime between Scenarios, letting the characters pursue their long-term goals, keep track of training or carousing, paint their castle pink, do research, or run a tavern if they so desire.

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In the last post, I’ve generated the Scenario I’m going to be playing today. If you’ve missed it, it’s here. If you’ve missed the whole joy so far, it’s best if you start at the beginning and character generation.

This time, we’re going on an adventure!

As a reminder, the main objective (henceforth known as Main Task, or MT) is to get Tomorrow a meeting with Henequen, an art-dealing dragon who has more information about Tomorrow’s missing sister than was willing to share a couple months back. Tomorrow has decided to go about it in an only slightly sleazy way – book herself a meeting as a prospective seller of a valuable art piece used previously in a world-shattering magical ritual. She actually possesses said art piece and she’s reasonably sure she knows what she’s selling. The core objective is to get a deposit on the art piece (1 Payout worth of cred) and make the Henequen’s Faction like her more (3 Payouts worth of Influence) – enough to get the meeting with the dragon scheduled.

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By Anna Urbanek

Art deals! Artifacts! Lore drops! Getting through the PAs and PR specialists, trying to get a private meeting with Henequen – an art-dealing dragon who possesses more information about Tomorrow’s sister.

Welcome to the first scenario in my Project Aphelion’s Shadowrun-esque campaign, where I playtest PA’s solo play system and an exorbitant amount of fun while doing it. If you’ve missed the previous posts, here they are:

Background

During the campaign we’ve played, Tomorrow dug long, hard, and deep into her sister’s disappearance. One night, after an especially deep dive into Chloe’s (probably) friend, Fayette, Tomorrow received a message on her commlink that led to an incredible meeting that I conveniently have archived for myself, so it’s not gone with our Discord server. You’re getting a free short story then, courtesy of Jakub, my amazing GM in that Shadowrun campaign.

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By Anna Urbanek

Welcome back to the cycle in which I take Jakub’s perfectly good hard sci-fi RPG Project Aphelion and cram Shadowrun into it, using a lot of duct tape and hoping it will all hold. This time, I’m creating the campaign I want to play, establishing the goals and objectives, generating factions and the living, breathing world around Tomorrow. It’s gonna be full of sisterly affection, fun, tactical, and hopefully successful

If you’ve missed it, in previous posts I’ve created my character for solo play, Tomorrow, and homebrewed a career of a professional magician that I needed to pull off what I want to be doing in the game.

Campaign Objective

The ultimate objective of this campaign is to scratch an itch I have.

The in-world objective of this campaign is to find Tomorrow’s missing younger sister, Chloe, who has disappeared about two years earlier, when Tomorrow was still in prison. Over the time of the Denver 2055 campaign we’ve played, Tomorrow has gathered a pile of data on her sister’s disappearance which created more questions than it answered. As we’ve stopped playing SR, I just want to see how all of this works out. 

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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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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!

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.