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

052: Too Much of a Good Thing

This week Hirogi learns that carrying two dozen weapons has a heavy price. Plus, when is it searching a massive pile of corpses on a dark asteroid not a good idea? Oh right, always…

Also for this week’s GM/PC Tip, Stephen discusses why you should always put your PCs on the clock.

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Talking Combat 051: Big Hero CHDRR

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 051: Bad Acid Trip.

I apologize in advance, but you’re going to get a pretty half-assed Talking Combat this week. I’ll try to make it up to you next week, promise. I don’t want to throw the curtains wide open on my personal business, but I had to get my daughter on a plane to England for grad school this week. So I’ve been in a bit of a whirlwind, both logistically and emotionally, and the Adventures of Tuttle and His Dumber Companions have been on a low simmer on the back burner. To say more would turn this into some sort of personal therapy session, and I’m not going to subject you that, but… there you have it.

As a brief aside, my daughter never caught the RPG bug like my son has, though maybe that’s my fault for waiting too long and introducing her to The Life when she was in the contrarian teen years. She played a few sessions of 4E, but she didn’t take it seriously and was one of those “pee in the punchbowl” players. Wanted to play an evil character, demanded all the treasure, would only begrudgingly help other party members… you know the type. She is more of a general gamer – had a WoW phase, plays an impressively cut-throat game of Ticket To Ride, we’d do family board game nights here and there. But roleplaying games never quite took hold with her.

Since I’m starting to feel the presence of an invisible man in a tweed jacket saying “Annnnnd I see that our time has expired”, let’s talk about acid.

I think the thing that stands out to me this episode is that for once, I was the dumbass who ran in without getting the lay of the land. I usually play a pretty cautious game – it’s usually John or Chris who are the ones boldly rushing in and setting off traps. OK, let’s be honest… it’s always Chris. I tend to hold back and see what’s up before I jump in. (Ezrik from Iron Gods being the one noteworthy exception; he was always the first one into the pool, because… chainsaw.) But this time… I don’t know if it was feeling useless from the last fight, feeling impatient about finding the entrance to the villain lair, or what… but I really wanted to get in there and start looking around. I think it was the presence of the corpse: I think my thought process was that the corpse represented someone trying to get in or out of the lair, so it represented a bread-crumb toward an entrance.

But I forgot the more common use of corpses: to warn parties that there’s something nearby that wants to eat your face. In this case, a tentacle-beast with mind control. And the fight gets off to a bad start. Tuttle and Mo suddenly think this guy’s their best friend, and Mo, in particular, has to deal with the Joy of Grappling (Bob Ross’ lesser-known field of expertise).

But then we catch two lucky breaks. The first is that Tuttle rolls the lesser of two evils and only dips a paw in the acid. A single die of damage in exchange for breaking the mind control? I’ll take that trade any day of the week. The next is that Tuttle gets lucky on THE BUTTON and rolls… (wait for it)… DAMAGE RESISTANCE. So, of course, that’s going to be acid, though I didn’t realize how enormously useful that would become. I figured maybe CHDRR would get splashed or he might fall in during the course of the battle.

What I didn’t expect (no, not the Spanish Inquisition) was that the opportunity for a “BIG HERO CHDRR” MOVE would arise. I realize I’m skipping a bunch of the fight, but Mo gets dunked into the acid. And stays in. And… yeah, he’s about to die – literally, one more round of even fairly minimal damage would do it. Meanwhile, I did some quick math on the fly, and… it’s really close, but it looks like, with the extra acid resistance, CHDRR would survive at least one round in the acid, even if Steve rolled max damage. Not much wiggle room for a) missing a roll to get back out, or b) the creature attacking or otherwise holding him in there for another round, but… we’ll jump off that cliff if we come to it. (Tuttle also could’ve survived the round of damage, but with his low strength, I thought the odds of him successfully pulling a full-grown vesk out were far riskier. And if Tuttle failed, half our party would then be in the acid.)

So in goes CHDRR, and one blast of the jump-jets later, we have our vesk back, while Hirogi and Rusty do the remaining work on the creature. Whew! Look for CHDRR, with a half-dead Mo draped on his back, to appear on a Wheaties box sometime in the near future.

This nicely folds into Steve’s GM tip about the application of damage. As he points out, moving the damage to the player’s turn is technically wrong – ongoing damage is technically supposed to happen on the creature’s turn. Steve’s point is that he wants to give the player a chance to do… SOMETHING… to avoid or mitigate such a situation, and moving the damage to the player’s turn (and specifically, to the END of the player’s turn) is a way to allow that to happen.

Thinking about it as impartially as I can, I think that’s a fair way to do things, as long as it’s consistent. My thinking is that combat represents six-second slices, happing semi-contemporaneously, anyway, so does it really matter SO much if you move stuff around a little bit within the round? Initiative should definitely be preserved because there’s real value to going first that someone earned by rolling high. But a DoT “tick” effect? Where that gets placed feels fairly arbitrary anyway.

As a lesser point, it’s a question of discrete vs. incremental damage. If you swing a sword, the damage happens when that sword strikes flesh. If you’re immersed in an ongoing effect… it’s not like the “tick” is a real thing where you take zero damage for five seconds and then on the 6th second… OW! It’s a game mechanic that’s already meant to be a summary of the previous six seconds, so if that “summary damage” slips a little bit in favor of giving the player options, I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep over that.

I did want to dip back into the podcast just to share a chuckle at Mo landing the knowledge roll when everyone else failed. There’s a tendency to think of Mo is the mindless muscle of the group, but Mysticism is one area where he’s really no worse off than anyone else. Now Tuttle is going to have to keep pumping Mysticism at every level because he’s not going to risk being second-best to Mo at anything knowledge-related.

(As far as real names of members of the Legion of Superheroes: somehow I still remember Garth Ranzz is Lightning Lad. And Mon-El is just Mon-El. Saturn Girl is… Irma, but I don’t remember a maiden name. Can I cheat and use Irma Ranzz since they were married most of the time anyway? So… guess I’ve got some homework to do.)

Annnnnd I see that our time is up. For real this time. Next week we continue our search for the cultist base – we’ll find it one of these times, I swear – and maybe I’ll try to whip up something PLUS-ULTRA for the end of our first year. Haikus? Dirty limericks? An audio supercut of every time Steve gloats when the enemies crit? This will take some thinking. In the meantime, pop by Discord or other social media and feel free to give us your questions, comments, or other feedback. (OK, maybe not a stream of incoherent profanity. But anything else is fair game.)

051: Bad Acid Trip

What self-respecting evil cultist hideout wouldn’t be complete without an acid pool guarded by a mind-controlling squid-beast? A few of the team end up going for a rather painful swim, but what’s a few chemical burns amongst friends?

Also for this week’s GM/PC Tip, Stephen mixes things up and discusses rules that he might have gotten wrong and asks for some help from the audience!

And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast our Patreon page: where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Talking Combat 050: Spy vs. Spy

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 050: Never Tell Me The Odds.

You guys don’t realize it, but you dodged a bullet. As I’m sitting down to write this week’s Talking, we just wrapped up our fantasy football draft, and you were this close to getting a full column on THAT because I’m tired and want to go to bed. It’s not officially an RFC league, but all five members of RFC are in the league, as are two guys who have been part of our gaming group over the years but have not (yet) appeared on the show. So RFC at least has a quorum, which means I could’ve found a paper-thin rationalization to talk your ear off on that, but… nope. As the DEFENDING CHAMPION, I shall be magnanimous and move on.

(And yes, I threw that last bit in just so Steve would have to read that when he edits this. He knows he’d do the same.)

As Steve mentions, it’s Episode 50 of RFC, but I have to admit that doesn’t mean as much to me as the time-based milestones do. I think it’s because of the way the editing process works: as we’re going back and listening now it’s a milestone event, but at the time it was just another session. It’s like the M. Bison “it was a Tuesday” scene from Street Fighter – it means something now, but it didn’t while we were putting it on “tape”. At least when we hit the one-year mark in a week or two, we’ll know it as it happens and maybe we’ll break out the party hats in quasi-real-time.

The above having been said, if we have any amateur goldsmiths in the crowd that WANT to commission a solid gold statue of Tuttle and CHDRR to mark the occasion, I won’t stop you. Just don’t ask where it is a few weeks from now when I’m posting pictures of my new Tesla on the Discord channel.

In-game, it’s a combat episode and a rough one as it’s basically Operative vs. Operative, both with the exact same cloaking effect. I won’t lie: as it first started, it was pretty amusing to realize that the enemy was pretty much working from the exact same toolbox Hirogi was. But the novelty wore off as the combat dragged on, and it became kind of frustrating. First, because it was so hard to land hits with the 50% miss chance. It really sucks to land a hit and then have it wiped off the board. (And Steve was maybe a touch TOO gleeful about erasing Mo’s crit… no, you really don’t need to tell us it would’ve been 38 points of damage.) The other half of the equation is that the enemy only took the penalty if he attacked Hirogi; if he … hypothetically… dropped a bunch of grenades on the rest of us, we weren’t nearly as lucky. For us, it was Operative vs. Operative; for the bad guy, it was Operative vs. Fish In A Barrel.

As an aside, I loved the moment when the big semi-sentient hunk of metal hit its reflex save and the supposedly racially-nimble mouse-creature did not. Fannnnnntastic. That was the grenade that hit for almost minimum damage, but I still thought it was funny. Images of CHDRR busting out his best parkour moves or doing Matrix-esque bullet-time flashed through my mind for a few seconds.

On the bright side, the riding saddle got its first real use, and while it wasn’t the game-changer I thought it would be, it was fairly handy, and at least saved me some of the two-step shuffle. I think it’ll get even better if I can add some movement improvements to CHDRR at future levels to leverage it better – upgrade those jump jets to full flight, greater ground speed, something like that. (So what I’m saying is Level 20 CHDRR will have his own drift engine.) If you were listening closely, I thought about kicking in the jump jets at one point early in the fight, but I realized it wouldn’t cover the vertical distance anyway and would leave me halfway up the cliff wall with a big target painted on my back. So I decided to go around the long way, even if it cost me a few rounds.

This fight did underscore the feeling that I need an offensive upgrade soon. The first time we went shopping, I went armor because it was like a +3 or +4 to both ACs. The next big shopping trip was mostly about utility; making Tuttle a little more versatile. In both cases, going from a d4 to a d6 on a primary weapon was all I could afford on the gun side, which didn’t seem like good bang for the buck (pun fully intended).

But when Mo is thumping guys for double digits on every hit and Hirogi has his trick attack (when he lands it), it’s a little awkward to still be chipping away with the cheapest gun in the game. Even applying Overcharge only adds an extra d6, and since (at least temporarily) I’m not wearing the recharge upgrade in my armor slot, I have to pick my spots with that move. (There’s an improved Overcharge, but I don’t think that’s even available for a few more levels.)

Truth told, I’m a little envious of that fancy sniper rifle we pulled off the enemy. Not envious enough to take sniper rifle proficiency as a feat, but envious. Long arms on the other hand? Maybe. I’ve always felt “Tuttle With A Shotgun” has some serious comedic potential, even if half of it is having recoil toss him across the room in zero or low gravity situations like a cartoon character.

The X-Factor on the weapon front is CHDRR. Steve has been keeping the specifics of CHDRR secret to preserve the surprise, but he has said that some of CHDRR’s abilities scale as he levels up. So I’m torn – I could upgrade CHDRR and have it be a “waste” of money if he gets something next level that renders it moot. Or I could leave him as is waiting for the goblin upgrades to kick in, and continue to be underpowered until that happens. Best of both worlds would be to find a weapon that I could use as a free upgrade.

It’s halfway between show notes and Steve’s GM tip, but I found the ongoing gamesmanship involved with the d100 roles kind of amusing on re-listen. I get that for all our debate, there’s no “right” answer. (Next week’s Etiquette Corner: we debate the pronunciation of GIF – “gif” or “jif”?) Personally, I’m a classic “high is good, low is bad” guy – keep it consistent with everything else. But I can respect John’s stubbornness on sticking with low numbers (maybe that’s how they do it in WoW?), and Bob’s decision to go for the middle was an inspired bit of lunacy that should please fans of the standard normal distribution everywhere. On the other hand, such tomfoolery clearly displeased the Dice Gods, who rewarded him with that insultingly close 77.

Getting to Steve’s point, it’s weird. That little bit of choice and agency – choosing low, high, or ridiculous – doesn’t feel like it should matter that much. It’s not even real physical dice in this case. Steve could literally put a rock in one hand and have us say “left” or “right” and the net effect would be the same. But it still feels like you’re doing something to choose the outcome when you pick the range you want to use. I guess the phenomenon is similar to the slot machines in a casino – they’re going to land where they’re going to land, they technically don’t even need to put buttons on the thing and could just resolve the spin when you put your money in. But putting buttons or a handle on the machine gives you an illusionary veneer of control – “I chose to stop the machine right here”.

So basically, we’re all just filthy degenerate gamblers, is what I’m saying.

In other news, the hint-dropping on Rusty’s condition continues, and it’s a little awkward because here’s where I have to embrace roleplay and split my duties of Jason, Writer of Paizo Book Reviews vs. Jason, Player of Tuttle. Having reviewed the Armory (mild spoiler), there’s something in there that sounds a WHOLE lot like what Rusty is going through, but in the context of this game, there’s no way Tuttle would know that without making some skill rolls (Life Science, Medicine, maybe Mysticism), and I haven’t really pushed too hard on that front. Though I suppose it’s also a partial attempt on my part to embrace the idea that being undead isn’t THAT big a deal in the Starfinder universe. I as the player still think undead are creepy and are going to turn on us at a moment’s notice, but Tuttle lives in a world where they’re normal. (As are talking rats, for that matter.) Just as long as Rusty doesn’t turn full demon in the middle of a fight, we’re cool.

I think that’s about it for this week: tune in next time when we continue to bounce around low-gravity, flop around in the space dust, and try to find the cultists’ base of operations. Well, we’ll try to, anyway. We haven’t seen the last of trouble, and trouble hasn’t seen the last of us. In the meantime, feel free to drop by the Discord and join the fun happenings there.

050: Never Tell Me The Odds

Witness our extra special 50th episode of Roll For Combat! Watch what happens when one Ghost Operative fights another Ghost Operative! See the gang stand right next to the enemy and miss countless times! Astound as Hirogi fails his Trick Attack rolls over and over again!

You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll kiss 90 minutes goodbye! Don’t miss this week’s spectacular Roll For Combat!

Also for this week’s GM/PC Tip, Stephen explains how to make even the most annoying RPG mechanics fun for everyone!

And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast our Patreon page: where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!