June 2018 - Roll For Combat: Your Friendly Neighborhood Actual Play Podcast

Talking Combat 040: I Do Not Approve Of Your Methods

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 040: Good Cop, Bad Cop, Hirogi Cop.

Oh, Hirogi, what are we going to do with you?

If you’ve been listening to the show this far, you know that Chris is a bit impulsive. Returning Clara-247’s weapons while we were exploring the Drift Rock. Jumping through the Loot Box of Wonder portal while we were still discussing things. I’m sure there are other examples I’m not thinking of. Hirogi Being Hirogi. You know the drill. But this week we graduate to the cold-blooded murder of a prisoner who already surrendered.

What. The Actual. Fffffff…..

On one hand, we’re not a party of paladins, we’re not going to lose our powers if we don’t adhere to strict Lawful Good behavior. It’s not even a Society game, so there’s no risk of picking up an Infamy point. And who’s even going to say anything? Wahloss?

On the other hand, we are still supposed to be the good guys in this scenario and executing prisoners doesn’t seem to fit the definition. More pragmatically, as you can hear me arguing, I felt like there was still plenty of information to get from the sniper and Chris’ need to do… something… kind of robbed us of a chance to get that information.

I guess you can make an argument (and Chris was making some overtures in this direction) that it was a roleplaying decision, that he hates the bugs that much or that it’s part of his hunter code thing. But here’s the thing on that… for all times he resets that Starship Troopers quote, I think he’s getting his lore wrong – the Shirren and the Formians are different species. (Formians look more like ants that walk upright.) Oops. Also, while you can argue the overall fight was a worthy test, I’m not sure befits a “mighty hunter” to kill an unarmed prisoner. The Hirogen… and yes, forty episodes in, I JUST got it that Chris named his character after the hunter race from Star Trek: Voyager… would not approve of such behavior. It seems like a true hunter would’ve given her a knife and a 5-minute head start.

Steve is right that I was mad, though I didn’t think I sounded that bad; in fact, I thought I made some good logical points. Having said that, he’s right: this incident frustrated me because it was so unnecessary. With giving Clara her weapons, it was a 50-50 call, and I even started to move toward changing my vote, only to find out Chris had given her the guns anyway. With the portal, there was no real question we were going to use it; the real question was whether to use it before or after checking the rest of the alien complex. But with the sniper, it just feels like there was nothing positive to be gained and a lot to be lost.

I suppose this is a good time to take a little detour and talk about Steve’s GM tip a little bit. When does something become official? When do you “take your hand off the piece” at a virtual tabletop?

In combat, it’s pretty cut-and-dry because of the way the tool (D20Pro for us) is used creates the decision points. Whatever you say out loud is just thinking it over; even moving can be canceled and re-done if you think of a more efficient path; when you submit the attack in the tool, that’s when it becomes official. Similarly, if you’re not attacking and just taking actions, hitting the space bar to end your turn is the Regis Philibin-esque “final answer”.

Outside of combat is where it gets a little tricky. Steve mentioned his rules about free movement (you move until you see something or step on something) and getting a confirmation, and they’ve worked pretty well for us over the years. The one thing he didn’t explicitly mention is that rolling any sort of die also acts as a confirmation – if you roll that skill check, you’ve committed to it. What this incident revealed is that we don’t really have any sort of understanding amongst us players for deciding what we should be doing, or any way to stop someone from doing something. It doesn’t come up often, but maybe it’s something to consider going forward.

Nevertheless, Steve kind of let Chris off the hook retroactively with the “Sense Motive From Beyond The Grave”, with the revelation that we weren’t really going to get any further info anyway, so I guess there was no real harm done. Beyond yet another mild ding against group cohesion, of course.

After The Incident, you will notice some confusion and clarifying questions on my part. I had gotten a little confused because in the earlier episodes back in Qabar’at, it sounded like the people at the fort were describing a team of professional soldier types, not creepy death cultists. So I started thinking (probably mistakenly) that maybe there are two different factions out here – the soldiers are heading out with Dr. Solstarni, but there’s another faction – the cultists – who already live out here. I guess it could still be the same group and the cultists could’ve dressed in more “professional” disguise when they were in town and then put on their death gear once they got back out in the wild, but that’s why you heard me asking a lot of questions about the various earlier encounters. Trying to nail down who was who, and whether we were dealing with two teams or one.

For all the frustration with Hirogi, the interrogation wasn’t a total loss. We did get confirmation that this is the group that has been harrying our progress, including starting the stampede, and we got at least one-way access into their comms. I don’t know if it’s coming up in the next episode, or it ended up on the cutting room floor, but we did spend a little time figuring out if there was a way we could use that to our advantage by feeding the main group false information.

From the temple itself, we also got star charts (or something like it) from the temple walls and more samples of the alien writing, confirming we’re on the right track. None of it seems like it’s of immediate use – I was thinking maybe there would be a secret chamber or something — but maybe that stuff will come into play when we reach the final destination, or maybe the star maps are a guide to the next destination after Castrovel.

So next week, I guess we finally put difficult terrain behind us and resume the chase. I think we’re only like 2 or 3 days from the supposed final destination, so hopefully, we’ll be catching up to the rest of the group and resolving the mystery soon. In the meantime, feel free to pop on over to Discord or join us on social media and let us know how you feel about Roll For Cold-Blooded Murder.

040: Good Cop, Bad Cop, Hirogi Cop

After three sessions and 29 rounds of fighting, it’s time to regroup and figure out why this group was so intent on killing them. Luckily, the RFC gang managed to capture that troublesome sniper. Hopefully, she’ll talk and give the boys lots of mission-critical information. That is if they can make her talk…

Also this week, Stephen discusses how strict you should be as a GM with your PCs and when they discuss their character actions. Do you give them a bit of leeway? Or are you the kind of GM who subscribes to the theory of “if you say it, then you do it.”?

And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Pathfinder Planar Adventures Review – The Good, the Bad, and the Astral

Pathfinder Planar Adventures PDF

If you enjoyed this review make sure to check out our weekly actual play podcast where Jason and the team are playing the Starfinder Dead Sun’s adventure path as well as the occasional Starfinder Society adventure as well.

“One last time. Relax, walk the planes with me. One last tiiiiiiiiiime.”

Let’s talk about Planar Adventures. Planar Adventures has the distinction of being the final scheduled hardcover release for the original Pathfinder system.

Now I must admit, when Steve first asked me to take a look at it, I was a little squeamish. First, we mostly play adventure paths these days, so homebrew planar stuff isn’t really in our wheelhouse as a gaming group. More importantly, my most vivid frame of reference for a book like this is the old AD&D Deities And Demigods, aka “Let’s Give the Gods Stat Blocks. So You Can KILL Them!”. Done poorly, planar gaming is the sort of stuff that can get out of hand and go spectacularly wrong.

Wisely, Planar Adventures seems to know this and is not that kind of book. Much like the Pact Worlds book I reviewed for Starfinder, Planar Adventures is more of a toolkit for GMs who want to play around with this stuff. It gives a framework for what a planar adventure might look like and tools to make it happen, but it also understands that the GM still has to build the game that’s right for his or her table.

Having just said this is mostly a book for GMs, the first chapter (“Planar Characters”) is actually for the players. You’ve got planar archetypes for several classes – some of these are pretty great. The Gloomblade intrigued me because it’s basically bringing Starfinder’s Solarian weapon into the Pathfinder setting – the fighter can summon a shadow weapon of his choosing, and it can be any weapon he’s proficient in. Feats are a mixed bag, but the most intriguing to me were the conduit feats, that can get anyone (even non-casters) access to magic abilities just by investing in Knowledge (Planes). One that made me drool a little was the Flickering Step feat, where for 9 ranks in Knowledge (Planes), you can use Dimension Door as a spell-like ability. The spells and magic items were a little more situational: a lot of the focus was on enabling planar travel – how to get there, how to get back, how to talk to the locals while you’re there, etc. – though some are more “planar-flavored” tools that would still add an exotic flavor to a more conventional campaign. But let’s be honest that the majority is designed to tug you in that direction.

The next chapter (“Running Planar Adventures”) is more of a high-level look at GM-ing planar adventures. First, there are the nuts-and-bolts discussions – how does time work, how does gravity work, how do spells work. Think “underwater combat rules”, but for the planes. Then more of a world-building digression into the actual theological workings of souls and what happens when characters die. Then the book gets back into the brass tacks – how do you enable this stuff in your stories? How do you get characters to and from the planes? What magical items can get them there? What story hooks do you place?

I will warn you the gods make an appearance here, but no, you can’t kill them. In fact, the only real tangible game impact is that each god has a “Divine Gift” they can bestow on their favored mortals. If you’ve been listening to our Starfinder podcast, Sarenrae is going to be particularly popular in our group – her divine gift is a prayer that makes all healing actions heal for the maximum amount for 24 hours. No more pesky 1’s to deal with!

The next, and largest section (“The Great Beyond”) is the Rand-McNally World Atlas of the planar universe.

Let’s first review the general structure of the planes as Pathfinder sees them. In the center is the Material World, which is where we adventurers hang our hats 99% of the time. The next layer out represents the various magical forces – the four elemental types, plus positive and negative energy. (Though there are also Material-Positive and Material-Negative boundary planes.) Now dunk all of that in Jell-O to fill in the gaps between planes – that Jell-O is the ethereal plane. (“Though really it’s metaphysical Jell-O that co-occupies the same space as the Materi… never mind.”). That ball of cosmological stuff is the “inner planes”.

But then that Inner Planes ball represents the core of a larger ball, like the nucleus of an atom or the core of a planet. The next layer out is the ethereal plane, which connects to the “outer planes”, which are alignment based afterlives/homes of the gods themselves. “Heaven” is the Lawful Good plane, “The Abyss” represents the Chaotic Evil end of the spectrum, and so on. Outside all of that, there are a few other general planar spaces (“demi-planes”) that don’t fit in the model, but that’s kind of the gist of it.

Feel free to take a “box wine and Cheetos” break and contemplate you or your character’s place in the universe for a few minutes. I’ll wait.

The book presents each of the planes in consistent fashion. There’s a “stat-block” for each plane that summarizes the bullet points of each plane – gravity, passage of time, alignment, who the major inhabitants are, etc. They then go through subsections:

  • Denizens: Who lives there on a permanent basis. The Denizens section is usually where they place an inset for a random encounter table for the plane in question.
  • Deities: Are there any gods here? As a quick cut, no for the inner planes, yes for the outer. The elemental planes have elemental lords that end up in this section, but they’re not really gods since they’re not generally worshiped by the humanoid races.
  • Locations: You don’t think of planes as having “locations” but most of them do. Sometimes these will be formal cities with population, government, notable NPC’s, etc.; other times, they’ll just be interesting map locations to visit. These represent the storytelling hooks a GM can build an adventure on.
  • Exploration: This is where any relevant game rules are discussed in further detail – all spells are twice as effective, map-making is impossible because everything is constantly shifting, penguins with death touch, etc.

There is also a subsection for “Demi-Planes and Dimensions” which covers a few places that don’t fit the model. Those write-ups tend to include the stat-block and a few paragraphs describing it, without the other formal categories. I thought the neatest of these was the Akashic Record also known as the “Reading Room” hidden somewhere within the Astral Plane that contains a psychic library of all knowledge, anywhere in the multiverse.

The final section is the Bestiary, which is… you guessed it… creatures relevant to the planar settings. (21 to be specific). As you would expect, most of the creatures are mid-to-high level threats – you’re not going to be sending new characters out to the planes – but I was surprised to find three races (Aphorite, Duskwalker, Ganzi) with rules for creating actual characters. Some of the creatures represent the “cannon fodder” species for a particular plane, but there are a few oddballs sprinkled in as well. You have the Sapphire Ooze, a good ooze that wants to help people – it will even allow itself to be worn as armor. There are The Watchers, these giant walking eyestalks that show up to observe the destruction of worlds – they’re invisible in plane… errr… plain sight unless you make a ridiculously high Will save and they aren’t there to attack… just watch. (And if you see one, shit’s about to get real.) And there’s the Wrackworm – all the fun of a traditional CR20 giant worm, but he can also bite dimensional portals into existence. But if you’re really cruel, there’s the Level 30 Leviathan – eye beams, bite that dispels magic, tail slap that can plane shift targets, and if you get eaten, its innards are a maze you have to escape. If you really need something god-like to fight, the Cosmic Whale is willing to be your huckleberry.

I think one “elephant in the room” question one has to ask this close to the Pathfinder Playtest is “how much of this stuff could be ported over to the new system?” You’re going to have some people on the fence because maybe they’re worried about buying books for a system that’s… it’s not going away, but it might be fading into the background a little. I think most of this stuff is written at an abstract enough level that it can be brought to the new system intact. I think the character stuff and the creatures might not survive the transition easily – though Paizo or the community may yet create a conversion path – but the general world-building and infrastructure stuff that comprises most of the book should survive intact. Or… just keep playing original Pathfinder if that’s your thing. There’s probably still some glutton for punishment playing blue-box D&D out there somewhere.

Since we’ve predominantly been a Starfinder podcast, this led to an interesting side discussion: could you use this material for Starfinder? And… after thinking about it, I’ll give that a “maybe” as well, though I’m not sure I’d recommend it over the official Starfinder releases. I mean, it’s clearly meant to be a shared universe, the races of the Pact Worlds worship many of the same gods. It’s not hard to imagine that maybe Drift travel is powered under the hood by planar forces, and if that travel goes awry, maybe you could find yourself on a different plane. I’d say the context is there if someone wanted to use it that way. On the other hand, maybe with the Starfinder system being so young, there’s a little danger in creating new lore in your own campaigns that could later be contradicted by a future official release.

So what’s my final analysis? I’ll put it this way: as a personal philosophy, I like my cosmos mysterious an unknowable, and I’m not crazy about reducing the planes to Just Another Place To Visit. But if I was into that sort of gaming, this feels like the right way to present it – it brings some level of order to the chaos, but without the excesses of god-killing, and still leaves the major decisions to the GM sitting at the table. If planar campaigns are your thing, this book feels like a good one to have.

SFS02.1: #1-04 Cries from the Drift, Part 1

Roll For Combat Starfinder Society is back with a new crew! We have our regulars — Stephen Glicker, Jason McDonald, Chris Beemer, Bob Markee and Rob Trimarco — as well as newcomers Rebecca Wigandt and Loren Sieg from Know Direction: Adventurous!

Once again we are playing space horror (our favorite genre) and tackling adventure Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Scenario #1-04: Cries from the Drift. Can our intrepid heroes survive this legendary deadly adventure? Listen and find out!

And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Talking Combat 039: Cheesy and Chrome

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 039: The Great Indoors.

Well…. No more difficult terrain to deal with. What am I going to complain about now? Part of me finds surrender an unsatisfying way to win, but I suppose if the sniper had jumped down and started running across the difficult terrain and we had to chase it, I probably would’ve voluntarily poured Diet Coke on my own laptop to make the misery stop.

On the surface, we started this phase of the battle in pretty rough shape, as everyone except Tuttle was pretty dinged up. On the other hand, we’d gotten the two biggest challenges out of the way with, and what’s left didn’t feel that imposing. Two guys who just felt like cannon-fodder and a sniper whose weapon hits hard but fires slowly. Even in our current condition, I still felt like we could handle it, and that turned out to be correct.

In fact, I’m noticing a larger trend here. I find myself worrying when we face monsters – they tend to come with the sorts of nasty special abilities that really stretch our lack of magic and/or healing to the limits. Disease. Poison. Paralysis. Implanting of chest-bursters. General nastiness. But when we face humanoids? By and large, they tend to just be straight-up slugfests, and I usually put my money on our team in situations like that. Even in a situation like this where we enter pre-damaged, I’m able to retain a certain level of “we’ve got this” confidence.

You’ve got guns, we’ve got guns. You’ve got grenades, we’ve got grenades. Cue the Morpheus “bring it on” hand gesture.

I will admit part of that bravado is just dumb luck that we haven’t run into any humanoids with magic or other special abilities. So far it’s just been their firepower vs. our firepower. It’s possible we’ll eventually run into a humanoid caster and that might get uncomfortable. (See Also: PaizoCon, where we fought a technomancer NPC that definitely took a little bit of a toll on us.) But for the most part, it’s been battles of roughly equal tools.

And another part of that bravado is that in this particular battle, it’s easy for me to say that – I’m only into stamina damage.  Maybe I’d be feeling different if the StarJelly had spent the last 15 rounds chewing on me instead of Mo. I’ll accept some ribbing from the guys about that, but I can’t feel guilty about it. It’s a product of circumstance. As I pointed out last time, the game mechanics of moving the drone put me at a disadvantage. Unless the guys would’ve preferred I left CHDRR (and half my offense) to supervise Wahloss’ omelet-making, I was going to fall behind and there wasn’t much to be done about it. At least until Level 7 where CHDRR gets an AI upgrade.

I do think Steve gave us a bit of a hint how we could’ve handled this differently when he dropped the factoid into the conversation that the sniper didn’t start shooting until we reached 250 feet. The good folks at 20/20 Hindsight Farms would probably say Mo should’ve pulled back when the SpaceJelly hit him and we should’ve dealt with that outside the sniper’s range first, and then charged. But hey… you live, you learn.

Well, most people learn. Us? Not so much.

Speaking of living and learning, I would like to point out that this is the first episode where you can see me actively looking for chances to use THE BUTTON. (And for the record, this was recorded before we went to PaizoCon, so I hadn’t received my public shaming yet.) We reached a point where the sniper was cornered out on the statue’s hand, there was nowhere to run: full attacks from everyone involved to finish things quicker was clearly the smart play, but it seemed like a good moment to give the people what they want. I will admit to a faint glimmer of hubris that we’d still get Whirling Chainsaw Dervish and THE BUTTON would actually notch its first direct kill, but nope… instead, we get NASCAR CHDRR. He will ride eternal, cheesy and chrome!

I’m starting to gravitate toward the realization that most of THE BUTTON’s effects are buffs and heals, which means a) let’s start deploying it earlier in fights and b) let’s not worry so much about positioning CHDRR in front of bad guys before using it. If there’s a Whirling Chainsaw Dervish waiting to be found, it feels like it’s going to be a pretty extreme edge case, so it’s probably best to stop treating it as the most likely outcome.

Regarding Steve’s GM tip about the Pathfinder Playtest game modes, I think we stumbled on a lot of that organically by virtue of being a group that plays remotely (and in particular in different time zones). Even before we started podcasting, time was our most precious commodity – we had people in different time zones, three of us are parents, we ALL have various out-of-game obligations, we tend to not have a lot of wiggle room to start early or end late. Yes, it’s a leisure activity, but we are forced to keep to a schedule with some diligence.

Downtime mode was a natural extension of that schedule – do as much of possible out-of-channel so we could maximize our “productivity” (I hate the word – it conjures up images of PowerPoint slides – but it’s applicable here) when we actually got online to play. For us, “downtime” really meant DOWNtime. Leveling characters, going shopping, crafting, research, even some low-level NPC interactions were things we didn’t actually “play” but instead farmed out to email between sessions. Thumbing through the rulebook choosing feats might be moderately interesting when you’re face to face and can shoot the breeze while you’re doing it: when you’re disembodied voices on the other end of a headset, it starts to feel like an invitation to check out.

Exploration mode is similar though there’s really no way to do it out of channel. Looting/searching rooms after a battle is a prime example – dragging our characters around D20Pro square by square doing Perception checks may be the technically correct way to do it (“I look in the crate”, “I look behind the sofa”), and maybe there’s a way to make that flow sitting at a table. In an online setting, it feels more like turning 2 minutes of actual action into 15 minutes of busy-work. So there are a lot of times where Steve lets us exist in a perpetual “Take 20” bubble that functions a whole lot like “Exploration Mode”. The two exceptions are a) if there are specific things that need to be found, or devices that are binary in nature (you make them work or something bad happens) or b) if we’re in a section of the adventure where time is a factor and the time associated with a bunch of Take-10/Take-20 equivalents would be unfair.

I don’t to make this sound like it was an easy or obvious for Paizo to come up with, but it does seem like a useful way to structure and apply terminology and boundaries to something we already do. Like Steve said, sometimes there can be gray areas where you don’t know whether something should be hand-waved, and having a rule to fall back on could be very useful.

So next week, we’re done fighting, but we’re not necessarily done with the encounter as a whole. We still have to see what information the sniper might have, and we probably need to drag Wahloss up to the temple to see if there are any clues to be found. While we’re waiting for that to happen, feel free to drop into Downtime Mode and join us on social media. See you next week.

PaizoCon 2018: Roll For Combat/Know Direction/Order of the Amber Die Q&A Session

Recorded live from PaizoCon 2018, Jefferson Jay Thacker (a.k.a. Perram) from the Know Direction Podcast interviews the Roll For Combat crew along with the Order of the Amber Die. Find out why the Roll For Combat crew doesn’t have a healer? Learn about the time the Order gamed so hard they ended up in the hospital. And finally, will Jason end up wearing a fish mask? Find out all of this a more!

  • Roll For Combat Crew: Stephen Glicker, Jason McDonald, Bob Markee, John Staats.
  • Order of the Amber Die: Adam Smith, Aerick Lim, Erick Germer, Savannah Broadway.
  • Know Direction Podcast: Jefferson Jay Thacker (a.k.a. Perram).

039: The Great Indoors

After two sessions of non-stop fighting, the guys are nearly out of hit points and the enemies are hunkered down in a defensive position. One team is going down as this dramatic fight finally ends. Or does it? Or Hirogi drop yet again?

Also this week, Stephen talks about how to utilize the new Pathfinder Playtest concepts of encounter, exploration, and downtime modes in your current games.

And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Talking Combat 038: Welcome Back, My Friends, to the Fight That Never Ends

Talking-Combat-38

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 038: Meet And Greet At The Feet.

Full disclosure: this week’s Talking is coming to you from my yearly family beach vacation in the Outer Banks, so you may get whatever I feel like writing before sun, seafood, and…

(Hmmmm…. Alliteration time. Something else starting with “S”. Salamanders? Soul-crushing ennui? SAND!…)

…sand pull me away from the keyboard. Consider yourselves warned.

This is one of those episodes where there’s a lot going on, but not a lot of it involved Tuttle. If you look at my character arc for this episode, it’s basically “run a lot, get shot once”. I’ve noticed the difficult terrain is doubly difficult for poor Dr. Blacktail – even setting aside snotty jokes about the poor physical fitness of academic types, the fact that I have to share movement with the drone is proving to be painful. Rusty and Hirogi can just double-move each round and they’re good. Tuttle has to play his round-by-round game of leapfrog with CHDRR, so it’s taking him a lot longer to get from Point A to Point B.

Some of it is one of those “session vs. episode” disconnects. Since we play for 2.5 or 3 hours and the episodes are usually an hour-ish, one recording session often (but not always) yields two episodes. So you can get a session where someone’s contributions were just front-loaded or back-loaded in such a way that there’s an episode where they disappear a little. This week was one of those. At the risk of providing a mild spoiler for next week, Tuttle and CHDRR do finally get into the action at some point.

I don’t want to beat the dead horse from last week, but I’m still feeling like we missed something when approaching this encounter. Maybe there was a path through the difficult terrain that a Perception check would’ve revealed. Maybe letting Wahloss make a Culture check would’ve given us some insight as to where elves put their temple entrances instead of just barging through. (Yes, I’m saying elves have a racial foot fetish. Add it to the Pathfinder Playtest.) Heck, maybe we should’ve just meta-gamed enough to make the real-world parallel to the Statue of Liberty and assumed the entrance was at the feet. But it still feels a little sadistic of the designers to put the entry point of the map about as far away from the temple entrance as you could possibly put it.

Two things dawned on me while writing this:

First is just the observation that this almost has to be the person who started the stampede. Sniper rifle could’ve spooked the herd from a safe (for them) distance… there can’t be TWO snipers running around out there, right?

Second, I noticed the sniper never tried to shoot Mo. Was that just Steve being charitable and trying to not to pile on John since we left him to die, or did the sniper not have a clear shot? Was THAT our way of separating the two encounters and we missed it – the jelly was guarding the approach where the sniper couldn’t hit us? That seems counter-intuitive at first glance – you’d think the sniper would pick a spot that would cover our most likely approach, but you never know.

The good news is “one down, one to go” as Mo finally got his revenge on the StarJelly. With a crit, no less. There’s a little cognitive dissonance that you can kill a huge creature hovering 50 feet up by hacking at its (wafer-thin) tendrils, but if that’s what the man says, that’s what the man says. Either assume it dropped down to attack and that’s when Mo hit it, or say it died of shock/blood loss and move on. It was definitely a lucky break that Mo was able to get inside and serum up for Round 2 because if he had to just stay out there and trade shots, he was probably toast.

The bad news is that the “one to go” has friends. With grenades. And a pretty good defensive position. I think once we get organized, it’ll be OK because it’s 4.5-on-3 and I recognize cannon fodder when I see it but we’re going to have to figure out something to get past them. I suppose we could start chucking grenades back UP the stairs, but if the sniper is still up in the head, maybe rushing them while they’re divided is the better play. We here at RFC know ALL about divided parties: “You think the divided party is your ally. But you merely adopted the divided party. We were born into it, molded by it.

There was a little bit of an interesting rules-lawyer question toward the end when I thought about using CHDRR’s jump jets to hop him over the statue’s feet to get into the battle faster. I think my original interpretation was right, but for the wrong reasons. My original take was “well, I can’t give orders to CHDRR when he’s out of line-of-sight”. That’s not actually correct, or at least it’s more complicated than that. If CHDRR is anywhere within comms range, I can give orders, so that wouldn’t have been an issue. On the other hand, it would be debatable whether I could give CHDRR effective orders when I can’t see the battlefield on the other side. CHDRR would physically be there, but would I really know where the StarJelly or the guys with the grenades were, to tell CHDRR where to go? Are his protocols advanced enough to seek out the bad guys or does that start getting into independent action? It feels like at best, I might have been able to put him into sentry mode – stay alert, hit anyone that’s not us. On the other hand, being able to park him and use full movement on myself wouldn’t have been a terrible idea.

I think my favorite moment of the entire show was the final moment when Rusty thanked Mo for saving him and no one could process Rusty’s sincerity. Something about that just cracked me up on re-listen.

Before I wander off to the beach, I’ll take a few moments to talk about Steve’s GM tip. From the player perspective, it’s always a fine line when you’re trying to use a real-world example to explain a concept and when you’re meta-gaming. The GM always has that Nixon-ian “if the GM does it, it’s not meta-gaming” attitude to fall back on, but the player has to be aware of that balance. If I’m considering what CHDRR should be able to do, I sometimes assume even Level 1 Starfinder drones are at least as capable as our most modern AIs, so sometimes I’ll say “Elon Musk’s got a robot that can so XYZ so CHDRR ought to be able to do the same thing”. On the other hand, I had kind of gotten the idea halfway through our slog that the entrance to the temple was at the feet, but referencing the Statue of Liberty seems a little too much like meta-gaming – there’s no context to bring that into the game and just decide that’s where the temple entrance was. (Also, past a certain point, going around the back was going to be the shortest path anyway.)

The place where I as a player find it very useful is developing a voice for a character. If I’m trying to play a character that’s different from me, it can be very helpful to pull elements of your character from the world around you. Something that serves as a compass to guide your actions and reactions. It’s not a natural thing to put yourself aside and ask “how would this fictional creation in my head handle this?”. But asking “how would Person XYZ that you actually know handle this?” can help you make that leap, at least until it gets instinctual and takes on its own life.

Tuttle? I knew a guy at my old consulting job who was technically brilliant, but he also had limited people skills and didn’t suffer fools – at one gig, he once told our client sponsor to his face (the one person who WASN’T ready to throw us out of the building because the deployment wasn’t going well), that if he didn’t understand the thing we were doing, he was too stupid to be working with the product. That guy is who I come back to when I need a Tuttle Moment – asking the Astral Extractions suit to her face if they were bankrolling the Downside Kings was one of those.

I think I mentioned this in my Society writeup, but the compass for Nala tends to be my daughter – or at least my daughter from a few years ago when she was at that same age. “How would she react to some grumpy adult (Pollux) bossing her around and lecturing her about good and evil?”.

I suppose you can do fictional characters too, but I always find those don’t resonate as well and it feels a little like cheating. Take our Strange Aeons game: I joined at the last minute because another player dropped out, and I was strongly urged to play a healer. So I wasn’t totally dialed in – I rolled a dwarven cleric and pretty much decided Khelgar Ironfist from Neverwinter 2 was going to be the compass until I figured him out. And I guess it worked, but it also never really felt totally comfortable either. So I think real-world examples are probably best if you can find them.

Speaking of the real world, I’ve got some fish to eat, some beer to drink, and absorb as much sun as I can handle until I turn into LobsterMan. So I’m going to go do that. Next week, we… maaaaaaay… reach the end of this fight; certainly the tide has turned in our favor now that StarJelly is no more and the fight’s about to move indoors. Let’s hope it has, anyway.

038: Meet And Greet At The Feet

The guys slowly make their way around to the entrance at the feet of the elf-statue where Mo’s imaginary friend decides to make friends with the rest of the gang by killing them all slowly and horribly. Meanwhile, Hirogi finds out the hard way that the sniper isn’t working alone.

Also this week, Stephen talks about how to use your real-life experiences while playing a fantasy/sci-fi character.

And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Talking Combat 037: Terrain Pain

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 037: Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads.

Have I mentioned recently how much I hate difficult terrain?

I suppose I should refine that a little bit. I don’t mind difficult terrain in small enough doses that it adds some strategic nuance to the battlefield. Figuring out how to navigate around a few obstacles during a fight can make for a fun challenge. Sometimes it can even be helpful in cases where you can turn the terrain around and use it against the guys you’re fighting. So in small doses, I suppose difficult terrain is fine.

THIS map? Where it’s just an entire football field of difficult terrain, with a sniper shooting at us while we’re trying to navigate it? Ugh. At least there are some walls and pillars that can be used for cover, so it’s not a complete charge to our deaths, but it’s kind of a pain. Then again, I suppose it could be worse – going back to Pathfinder, there was a level of Emerald Spire where the whole level was difficult terrain AND complete darkness… fighting against goblins that were unaffected by both. That was just miserable. (Especially since I was playing a rogue and could never get myself into position for Sneak Attack damage.)

I also feel like not knowing where the entrance just feels like a bit too much. You’ve got this huge map with 200 or 300 feet of difficult terrain to cover, someone shooting at you, AND you don’t really even know where you’re supposed to be going? It just feels like some portion of this should’ve been a little easier. Or maybe it’s our fault – maybe we should’ve been doing Perception rolls to look for a path or something. But we’ll give it some time to play out – other than Mo, most of us haven’t taken any real damage. The other great equalizer is that the sniper has been rolling like shit so far. That bought us a little time to figure this out.

I would also like to state for the record that I still hate Incorporeal creatures more, but Difficult Terrain is working its way up the list.

Splitting the party is starting to look like it’s going to be a really stupid move, but I’d like to say a few things in our defense.

First, Hirogi LOOKED like was going to stay to the north with Mo the first few rounds and Rusty and I were going south; 2 and 2 would probably have worked better than 3 and 1. I don’t want to throw Chris under the bus exactly – we didn’t really explicitly say “you go left, we go right” – but by the time he changed course, Rusty and I were pretty far along to the south. I guess this is why Order of the Amber Die has a player captain, huh?

Also, I don’t know about the other guys, but I have to admit I misread the situation at first and thought Mo was getting hit by a trap, not a creature. I thought maybe the sniper had set up some kind of defense perimeter – maybe an entangle grenade or something – and Mo had just set off whatever it was. He’d be entangled for a few rounds, then he’d break free, and we’d get back to business. By the time the thing started following him and continuing to attack, we had already gone south toward the head of the statue and coming back for him would’ve just taken longer.

Lastly, there was a roleplay case to be made for not helping Mo: John was initially kind of ambiguous about the thing attacking him (remember that it missed the first time) and the shooter was the much more obvious threat. So while it was obvious to us at the table, you can make a case the characters acted correctly. When you’ve got someone actually shooting at you vs. “mean air” or whatever Mo’s complaint was… you probably choose the person shooting at you.

I did like discovering Tuttle’s new tactic of “drop-and-pop” by using his ysoki racial Moxie (for the record, Kip Up is the non-racial feat that does the same thing, so we were both right), but I would point out that it’s ONLY good for a situation like this… where you’ve only got a ranged attacker to contend with. Completely useless if there are any melee enemies around. If you’re dealing with ranged attackers… great, you give them a -4 to hit, what’s not to like? If you drop in a place where you could still get meleed… oh boy, might as well just get your will ready. Not only do the melees get +4 to hit, but I’m reading the racial for Moxie, and although you can stand up as a swift action, it doesn’t seem to mitigate attacks of opportunity.

So we end the episode on a bit of a positive note because at least we found where the shooter is hiding. Unfortunately, we still need to find a way to get in – doesn’t sound like those windows big enough, though maybe we could chuck some grenades through them – and we still need to figure out how we can circle back around and help Mo out. (Or strip the gear from his corpse. Only the dice know for sure.) Hang in there buddy, we’re coming for you!

For once I’m not going to spend much effort on Tuttle’s leveling process – Level 4 was kind of boring and the podcast covered the major bullet points: a better heal for CHDRR and learning Elvish so we can carry on if Wahloss meets a nasty end. I’m also not going to say much else about Steve’s PaizoCon observations because I wrote a whole thing of my own. I would suggest you might want to check out Steve’s appearance on Know Direction, though. (I’m listening to it live as I’m writing this, but my understanding is they’ll have an edited version on their site later.) Steve and the Know Direction guys get into a pretty deep dive on their Pathfinder Playtest experiences, so if you want more information on that, you might want to check that out.

Next week: more difficult terrain, we find out if Mo survives, and maybe we’ll actually find a way into the Plague Warden. Or maybe not: Steve’s not lying that this is a long battle. But a fun one, so you’ll want to see how it turns out.