Double Proficiency

It’s time to start the offensive! We have a lot of cash getting dusty on the bank account, and I look forward to spending it before some other Faction decides I have a nice trove of cash and it would be a shame it something has happened to it… Those 65 thousands of nuyen are just sitting there, and there’s not that many things we can do with them…

No, I’m lying. There are millions of things I can spend this money, intel, and influence on. Just watch me <imagine some money-throwing gif here>.

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Welcome to another episode of Project Aphelion‘s playtest, in which I’m making sure the mechanics work regardless of the world and play style. In the last post, my PC Tomorrow went for a holiday break for a couple of days, taking care of her familiar relationships. If you’ve missed it, give it a read.

Meanwhile, we’re ending the first month of play, starting another, updating the character and Faction sheet, pushing the world forward a month, and checking what did the gods of emergent gameplay bring me as a Yule gift!

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Family drama, Christmas miracles, gods of emergent gameplay, and a strong vibe of ‘I should be writing a book.’ But there’s also a detailed playtest of the combat system! Somehow.

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Welcome back to the solo game of Project Aphelion, in which I take this lovely engine and do weird things with it – and it still works! Now, this episode is mostly a matter of downtime, comes with a very short story, and sets up another scenario. There are no dragon encounters, but I promise it’s still worth the time.

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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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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. 

If you’ve been following Herbalist’s Primer and Globetrotter’s Guide to Greenery, you probably know at least some of them!

1. Deadly Nightshade

An illustration from Herbalist’s Primer by Anna Urbanek

Probably one of the most devious plants in folklore. It is planted and tended to by the devil himself, who only leaves it unattended for one night every year – Walpurgis night, known as Witches’ Sabbath. Which is, by the way, the night of 30th April to 1st May. While Devil’s out carousing, this toxic bush changes into a mysterious enchantress, as beautiful as she is deadly. 

2. Bladderwort

Image in the public domain through Biodiversity Heritage Library

This lovely carnivorous plant grows in lakes and ponds. The floating stems are covered in transparent bladders, almost invisible underwater. They suck in everything that comes in contact. All it takes is a fraction of a second, and a poor insect or a fish are trapped with no chance of escaping. Now, bladderwort is too tiny to be of any risk to a human… But in your game, it doesn’t have to be.

3. Baneberry

An illustration from Herbalist’s Primer by Anna Urbanek

Did you ever have the players’ characters walking through the forest and feeling as if they’re being observed? If not, this is the perfect opportunity to give them a taste. White baneberries are known as doll’s eyes, for probably obvious reasons. Next time the party feels too perky with their survival skills, they can have those disembodied eyes on fleshy stalks follow them around.

4. Corpse Flower

New York Botanical Garden corpse flower in bloom June 27, 2018 via Wikipedia Commons

This beauty is native to rainforests of Sumatra and can grow to over three meters tall, which is equivalent to a portion of a football field, probably. Not only the main leaf has the color and texture of fresh meat, the whole thing also stinks of rotting flesh and for as long as it’s blooming, it stays at the temperature of the human body. It also has a ridiculous Latin name if this is your type of humor. No judgement.

5. Aconite

An illustration from Herbalist’s Primer by Anna Urbanek

Also known as monkshood and wolfsbane. As the story goes, the first plant grew from the saliva of Cerberus, and ever since, it is strongly connected to all kinds of lore about wolves and werewolves. If you ever need some lycanthropy-adjacent potions or elixirs, aconite is your best bet.

6. Ghost Plant

Photo: Will Brown via Flickr

If, like myself, you grew up with stories about dark, scary forests, you’ll feel right at home. These delicate, parasitic flowers need no sunlight and can grow even in complete darkness. Usually white or pink, they can appear overnight like a tiny army of ghosts. Fun fact: in the 19th century, they have been used in Europe as an anti-anxiety medication, and I am personally convinced that they are the reason for the existence of Hattifatteners, which were the biggest scare of my childhood.

7. Pitcher Plant

Image in the public domain through Biodiversity Heritage Library

A scent of sweet nectar drives the misguided and misinformed straight into the shapely, colorful pitchers. Where they get trapped and slowly drowned and digested, of course, because nature is more metal than one usually thinks. Some of the pitcher plants come equipped with specialized leaves creating fake exits and mini-labyrinths to keep the poor prey occupied while it dies.

8. Mandrake

Image in the public domain through Biodiversity Heritage Library

Everybody’s favourite – it’s toxic, it’s hallucinogenic, it’s going to kill you with its scream when you pull it out of the ground. Obviously. Enterprising harvesters were using pigs or dogs for the operation, hoping the curse will befall the animal, although technically, it’s the string that should get hurt. In any case, the humanoid roots of mandragora were thought to cure anything from impotence to cancer, work as voodoo dolls, and sometimes walk around on their tiny legs and become familiars to witches and warlocks.

9. Venus Flytrap

Venus Flytrap showing trigger hairs.jpg
Photo by Noah Elhardt via Wikipedia Commons

There is just something inherently terrifying about the idea of a giant maw closing around you. Trapped in the darkness, fighting to escape, you can feel the digestive fluid slowly coating your body. Soon, you struggle to breathe… If you’re a fly, that is – or if your game master upsized the plant a bit. I don’t know if it helps that the digestion process takes around ten days, but it is a thing you know now.

10. Red Tide

File:La-Jolla-Red-Tide.780.jpg
Photo by Alejandro Díaz via Wikipedia Commons

We’re starting to cheat from here, because the following aren’t technically plants. They are, however, way too spooky to not be discussed. Red tide is caused by blooming algae. If you ever get stuck on the sea adventure, because the players’ characters have stolen a ship and now need to sail for two months in whichever direction, give them the proper fright by changing their whole environment into red, murky depths full of poisoned fish and shellfish, dead octopuses, and the unfortunate Kraken with an upset stomach. Oh, did I mention that the air is now full of toxins too?

11. Bleeding Tooth Fungus

File:Hydnellum peckii.darvin.jpg
Photo by Darvin Deshazer via Wikipedia Commons

Number eleven: bleeding tooth fungus, also known as devil’s tooth – by a very specific type of people, also known as strawberries and cream. These fungi ooze thick, blood-like substance – fun fact: the secretions have anticoagulant properties, so they can really make you bleed. Add to that nasty-looking spikes that cover the base, and you have a recipe for a Halloween special.

12. Octopus Stinkhorn

Clathrus archeri.jpg
Photo via Wikipedia Commons

A treat for all you warlock types. One look at these fleshy eggs erupting in an array of crimson tentacles, and you start designing a Fungus Warlock Patron for your next campaign. If the Devil’s fingers aren’t haunting you yet, just think about the fact that this lovely mushroom smells of putrid flesh and has a global distribution – which means there are probably some growing quite close to wherever you are.

13. Vampire Pumpkins and Watermelons

Via Rawpixel.com

This folktale comes from the Balkans, the source of all best vampire stories. According to the account, any pumpkin or watermelon that has been left outside in the night during a full moon will turn into a vampire, free itself from the ground and go for a hunt. They leave a trail of blood behind them, as they slowly creep towards houses full of sleeping people. (Read more on Wiki.)

Now, as it is the year 2020, let me just say that this Halloween is going to happen with a full moon right there on the sky, because of course it is. Even more, according to the Internet, the full moon will also be visible from every single place on the planet, for the first time since 1944. Oh, and it’s a blue moon.

In short, we’re doomed.

What’s Your Favourite?

So, what’s your Halloween favorite? Are you planning on using any creepy plants in your games or books? Let us know in the comments before the vampire pumpkins eat us all!

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