May 2019 - Roll For Combat: A Starfinder & Pathfinder Actual Play Podcast

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Talking Combat 084: Mo’s Seen Fire, Mo’s Seen Pain

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 084: Severe Weather Advisory.

It’s Throwback Thursday on Roll For Combat, as we conduct with a fight that could’ve easily appeared in a Pathfinder session – elementals!

First, let me say I’m pissed. With the ability crystal raising my intelligence, I think I added 3 or 4 new languages last level, and I was VERY close to making one of them an elemental tongue. But I didn’t because I figured at best, I’d have a 1-in-4 crapshoot chance of picking the right one, and it would be MORE annoying to have the “wrong” elemental language than to not have it at all. Oops.

As a general complaint, elementals don’t exactly fit with the theme developed in the rest of the adventure. Up until now, it’s mostly been Kish or “nature run amok” life forms. So it doesn’t exactly make sense why they’re here… or maybe we get that explanation later… but despite Steve’s protests that they’re really just here to make friends, they seem pretty intent on killing us. So… game on, I guess.

The first challenge of this encounter is just getting everyone into the room. I don’t know if you were able to visualize it well, but you basically have a long staircase leading up, leading into a sharp left turn into the room at the top. The fire elemental was directly in the door going flame-to-toe with Mo, and a second – the air elemental, I believe – was close enough that it would have reach (and therefore attacks of opportunity) on anyone who tried to just dash into the room and find a corner to occupy. So for the first few rounds, we were clogged up on the steps while Mo created some space for the rest of us. Think of it like those Drano commercials where they show the transparent U-trap… Mo was the giant clump of hair.

I suppose it did give me an opportunity to push THE BUTTON in the first round. I’d like to state for the record that we have seen THE BUTTON’s healing function before; it’s just a) it’s been a while, and b) just like this episode, when we landed on that one, CHDRR was already at full health so it didn’t really make a difference. But I do remember one of the numbers healed CHDRR, so it was not the first time we had that outcome.

It’s looking like a rout early on… Akiro does his big blast damage, Mo is doing solid damage with his pike (not sure how you stab fire, but we’ll table that for now), and the fire elemental drops fairly quickly. One down, three to go, and we can start moving into the room. Even Tuttle is doing OK because sonic seems to be one of the few damage types they don’t have any sort of mitigation against. In fact, a couple of the elementals actually appear to fall back.

But then things get a little interesting with the air elemental’s Swirling Vortex of Terror. (I know, Finding Nemo… water-based… poor analogy for the air elemental.). And the two that had feigned retreat turn around and start to attack. Maybe not out of the woods yet.

My first reaction was a brief chuckle of familiarity because back in our Pathfinder days (specifically Carrion Crown), I actually played a Wild Shape druid who spent most of his time in air elemental form (hence the nickname “Windy”). But I have to admit I didn’t use the vortex power much. First of all, there was a size restriction on who you could pick up, so I had to reach a certain level before my elemental form was big enough actually pick up humanoids. More importantly, it just didn’t do that much damage compared to the rest of my spells. It had nice flair, but compared to blasting people with lightning… ehhh.

Then we have the digression into how the rule works, and here we’ll get into a bit of cross-talk between the game and Steve’s GM-PC tip. I think as a general position, my interest in stopping the game to figure out how the rule works is based on two major criteria:

  • Are we likely to keep running into this situation in the future? If so, we might as well stop and get it right now, so we don’t re-litigate the same thing the next 2 or 3 times we run into this.
  • What is the likelihood that this is going to swing the ultimate outcome of the battle or get someone killed? I feel like if it could result in rolling a new character, it’s worth taking 5 or 10 minutes to crack the rulebook and make sure.

Full disclosure: this situation seems like it fails both tests. It’s an enemy power and an enemy that we’re not likely to run into again. If we were up against Cult of the Devourer minions that had some weird power or weapon, let’s take the 10. Air elementals? Not likely to be an ongoing problem. And as far as the outcome of the battle, this fight seemed like a tune-up and we weren’t in that much trouble. I’m not sure anyone was even out of stamina at the point this came up. Even the whirlwind power itself was more an inconvenience than anything else. If it was doing big damage? Problem. Rolling saves to take actions? Moving along.

So I think Steve’s handling of this was fair. He got it wrong for a round, fixed it mostly on the fly, and moved on. Didn’t go back and replay the previous rounds or whatever. Honestly, I think he probably slowed down to get it right for you the listeners, rather than for us as players. Which, if behind the scenes he had to go to Paizo forums to figure it out, is probably worth the trouble.

One thing I’d add to the GM-PC side of the discussion is that to be fair, the GM or the player ought to be able to call for a rule check. I don’t want to play at a table where the GM is too… in love with the power of being the final arbiter, unwilling to admit they made a mistake, whatever… that they’re not willing to let a player “go over their head” by consulting the rules. Now if it’s happening all the time for stupid stuff, that’s a rules-lawyer issue and that’s a different thing. But if making sure we get a rule right is the difference between Tuttle living and Tuttle dying… damn right I want the ability to press PAUSE for a minute or two.

The one risk you run in all of this – Law of Unexpected Outcomes – is that by only doing lookups at critical times, it can sometimes create bad optics, as if you’re trying to get a particular outcome. I don’t remember the situation exactly (it was a pre-podcast Pathfinder game), but we had a game session collapse into an argument because it WAS a critical moment in the combat, Steve looked up the rule and it was different than he’d been doing, and Chris (I think) got really upset that he was changing how the rule had been enforced for weeks if not months. I don’t think Steve did it to be malicious – he was trying to get the rule right since it might make the difference of a TPK – but it came across to Chris as arbitrary enforcement. Though this too can cut both ways… it’s equally possible the player comes across looking like they’re trying to come up with a new enforcement of a rule to get an outcome they want too.

On a more lighthearted note, Steve can do what he wants on rules lookups, but sometimes I wish he’d not try to make us feel bad for winning fights. That’s one of his go-to moves (along with saying “are you ready for this?” right before a crit). If a fight ends up being easier than it looked on paper, Steve sometimes tries to guilt-trip us, like we should’ve let them hit us for a few rounds before starting to take it seriously. I AM PRETTY SURE THE ELEMENTALS WERE NOT TRYING TO BE OUR FRIENDS.

Perhaps we’ll find out for sure next week, or maybe it’ll just be one of life’s little unsolved mysteries. Either way, we’ll be back to continue our exploration of the temple-nee-armory, and hopefully, get a little closer to saving the universe. In the meantime, feel free to drop by Discord and other social media and give us your thoughts on this week’s episode and the show in general. Until then, happy gaming and roll well.

SP11: Interview with Rone Barton & Lou Agresta (Iron GM Games)

If you enjoyed this interview make sure to check out our weekly actual play podcast where we’re playing through the Starfinder Dead Sun’s Adventure Path. 

Welcome to another special edition of the Roll For Combat Podcast where we sit down and talk with Rone Barton & Lou Agresta from Iron GM Games about their upcoming Grimmerspace Kickstarter.

I talk with Rone and Lou about their extensive and award-filled history in the world of RPGs, what Grimmerspace is all about, Sean Astin’s involvement with the project, what to expect from the Kickstarter, a sneak peek at my live game of Richard Pett’s Abattoir 8 from PaizoCon, and some of their favorite horror books & novels. Check it out!

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

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!

084: Severe Weather Advisory

After a messy fight, the RFC Crew continue their trek through the temple where they stumble upon a violent school field trip?

Also, we announce another winner of the PaizoCon 2019 contest. Make sure you listen to find out if you won! Make sure to check back next week as we’ll continue to give out weekly prizes up until PaizoCon.

Finally, this week GM Steve examines what do when you mess up a rule during a gaming session.

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

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!

Talking Combat 083: Tuttle Makes New Friends … Literally

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 083: He Slimed Me.

Alright, back to work this week. No more movie reviews, we have actual gameplay to dissect.

And brand new cheese puns!

We start with leveling, and the exciting thing this time around is that Level 8 unlocks a brand new tier of mechanic tricks. There are a lot of decent choices here, but I’ll look at the ones that were highest on my list. Engineer’s Eye is basically a passive trap detection – you get a roll whether you’re looking or not. Given that we’re always forgetting to check for traps, that’s automatically in consideration. Drone Meld has cool flavor – CHDRR turns into a suit that Tuttle wears, which serves as reductive plating – but it doesn’t feel that useful compared to having CHDRR as a separate combatant. There’s an improved shield, but I would have to go back and get the base-level shield first. There’s also an ability to see invisible creatures (Invisibility Bypass Protection) or I could go the Hirogi/Akiro route and get the Holographic Projector which works the same way as the spell.

But no… not when there are cheese puns to be had. Enter the Base-Unit Reconnaissance Interface Extension, known more generally as the Scoutbot mechanic trick. Basically, I can use a resolve point to make a short-duration flying recon robot. It only has as many hit points as my level, and only lasts for that same number of minutes, so there’s no real combat application, but it could be useful for doing a quick scout of an area. Especially if there’s an area that’s not easily reachable on foot.

I also picked up multiple languages and a ton of skill bumps by equipping the Mk 2 ability crystal, taking Tuttle’s intelligence from 19 to 23. I remember taking Azlanti as one of the languages in case we ever run into them again; for some inexplicable reason, I did not take Kish, which seems like an obvious choice in hindsight. I don’t think it’s going to harm us since we’re about to fight the Big Bad and wrap up this section of the story, but that didn’t enter into my thinking at the time – I simply didn’t think of it.

For once, I’ll pause to mention one of the other guys’ build choices. I actually… equal parts “like” and “am horrified by”… Rusty’s new ability. So now when he bluffs, he rolls twice and takes the higher; the victim rolls twice and takes the lower. That’s insane. For dealing with opponents? Cool! But then again, we’ve seen that Rusty doesn’t have a huge problem lying to us, and now he basically succeeds unless we roll back-to-back 20s. Methinks it’s time to start investing ranks in Sense Motive.

So we’re off to the temple-slash-armory where we’ll be fighting the leader of the rival clan, who is also (meta-gaming a little) shaping up as the Big Bad for this section of the story. For starters: he shall henceforth be known as SuperKish. Does he have Devourer cultists helping him or is he a badass in his own right? Does the fact that he’s holed up in an armory mean he’ll have access to something more like modern weapons? Most of the Kish have been pushovers but somehow I think our luck is about to change.

And sure enough, it does – we plunge right into combat as we’re exploring what seems to be the living quarters. But it’s not SuperKish or his buddies; this time, we start with a rootin’-tootin’-shootin’-ooze. Now THERE’S something you don’t see every day. NOW I HAVE A MACHINE GUN. SQUISH-SQUISH-SQUISH.

The fight isn’t hard exactly – more of a warm-up – but it’s tough enough to serve as the official notification that the gloves are off. Feels like maybe we got a little lucky on dice rolls – more than our fair share of misses and low damage rolls. Also, it had a line attack which could have been trouble, but we unintentionally did a good job of spreading out so it couldn’t really hit more than one or two of us at a time.

Especially Akiro, hiding in the bathroom. Good to see Chris’ instincts for self-preservation carry over from character to character. On one hand… he’s a squishy Technomancer, so I suppose it’s acceptable to (ahem) “work from range” (yes, I’m rolling my eyes as I type that). On the other, he did to go all the trouble to take heavy armor as a feat; you’d think that would make him a little bolder. At the end of the day, Chris is Chris. Some days he’ll be ridiculously brave; other days, he’ll be hiding in the bathroom, and you never know which version is going to show up from session to session.

At the end of the fight, we have a little loot to divvy up, but none of it seems particularly Tuttle-friendly. Not a big deal, since I just got that ability crystal, but it does serve as a reminder that I’ve been thinking of having Tuttle take Longarms or some second weapon type; the fact that the ooze dropped three different guns reinforced that it might be a good idea. (I also just find the idea of a ysoki armed with an assault rifle inherently amusing.) But since I don’t have that feat at the moment, I mostly tuned the loot out this time around.

Whenever we have these spare longarms, I also go back and forth on whether to upgrade CHDRR’s weaponry. On one hand, Steve was charitable and gave him a damage upgrade back at… Level 5 or 6, maybe?… so his damage is still tolerable. But sometimes I still feel like I should be on the lookout for something better.

What I really want is a better melee weapon. It’s completely impractical since I’m almost never in melee range. But I am LITERALLY still holding my Level 1 starter knife, and we’re at a point where I doubt I’d even be able to overcome DR on most of them. So mark it down: this is how Tuttle will die. Separated from his gun and stabbing impotently for zero damage over and over.

On that somewhat grim and pessimistic note, that’s our column for this week. Next week we continue our exploration of the complex and see what other sorts of trouble we can get into. “SuperKish? Where ARRRRRRE you?” Until next time, thanks for listening, feel free to drop by and visit us on Discord and hope the dice roll well for you.

083: He Slimed Me

The crew leveled up, they rested, it’s time for them to storm the castle … err, temple!

Also, SM Stephen is looking for volunteers to play a live game of Grimmerspace at PaizoCon.

Finally, we announce another winner of the PaizoCon 2019 contest. Make sure you listen to find out if you won! Make sure to check back next week as we’ll continue to give out weekly prizes up until PaizoCon.

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

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!

Talking Combat 082: RFC … Assemble!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 082: Stop, Level, and Listen.

The elephant in the room this week is that the editing of this week’s episode doesn’t leave me much to work with. No fighting. We hinted at leveling to come but didn’t actually reveal our Level 8 characters. And OK, we talked about the Teleportation Puck a little bit, but I pretty much covered that in last week’s Talking.

So this week, I’m going off script. Let’s talk Endgame, aka The Defining Film Event Of My Nerdy Adult Life.

Don’t worry… I’ll try to do it in a non-spoilery way since it’s possible (however unlikely) that some of you haven’t seen it yet.

Team RFC is split on the final chapter of Robert Downey Jr.’s career resurrection. We have two “loves” (one of which… full disclosure… is me), two “it was OK but nothing special’s”, and one “actively disliked it”. I’ll leave it to your imagination who is who.

Personally, I loved it, but I will start by offering this olive branch to the naysayers. If someone’s criticism of the movie is that it works better as a bunch of fan-service set-pieces than as a standalone movie… I’m willing to concede that. Someone walking into the theater having seen none of the Marvel movies would be REALLY confused, wouldn’t get why 60-70 percent of the movie was entertaining, and on some Serious Film-Maker measure, that probably ought to matter. On the other hand, let’s be real that 99.999(add-a-few-more-nines)% of the people who bought tickets were going for the fan service moments anyway, so we knew what we were getting. Your specific moments might be different from mine, but most of us got something we wanted. And we all got Grandpa Stan’s last cameo.

In these days of internet saturation, I think one of the marks of a successful movie – and I thought the same thing about Infinity War – is that it’s a success if you KNOW the broad strokes of what’s going to happen, and it still makes you care anyway. With the Internet churning out content, it’s almost impossible to go into a movie totally cold anymore, and depending on how much gets out, you can usually piece a fair amount of the plot together before you set foot in a theater. The premise itself is rarely a surprise; it’s the execution of the premise that really matters.

Go back to the original Thanos Snap from Infinity War. The Marvel smarks know they had a Spider-Man sequel in the can, and Black Panther 2 and Guardians 3 were in production. So you KNOW on some level it’s all going to be undone eventually. But damn if Tom Holland and RDJr didn’t sell the crap out of Peter’s snap scene.

Similar thing with Endgame: from the trailers, you can kinda put together a rough skeletal plot that Ant-Man’s quantum tunnel is the MacGuffin that’s going to enable some sort of time-travel/multiverse hand-wavery, which will create some sort of do-over. They’re not exactly hiding that. Also, there were certain things that were obvious telegraphs as the movie unfolded, which I won’t reveal because that would be revealing spoilers. But then we also know that it’s the last movie for most of the Original Six cast, so there’s probably going to be a few stories coming to an end in the new final conflict. Even knowing all that, I still jumped out of my seat a few times, and there was at least one scene that made me a little misty around the edges. (Though probably not the one you think.)

Compare that to the new round of Star Wars movies. You could put together a rough plot for Force Awakens or Last Jedi just based on publicly available stuff, but aside from a few moments, I was largely indifferent to the final results on the screen. The real-life death of Carrie Fisher lent the whole thing some poignancy, and there was a little twinge at the end of Luke Skywalker’s journey, but a lot of that was rooted more in my own passage through life and Star Wars’ place in it – Star Wars was pretty much the first movie I remember seeing in a theater. The story? Hyperdrives run out of gas now. Who knew?

And don’t even get me started on nu-Trek. I liked the first one (Karl Urban’s McCoy was a pleasant surprise), but after the year of pointless bait-and-switch, I think I actually gave Benedict Cumberbatch the finger in the theater when he said MY NAME… IS… KHAAAAN.

So… yeah. To bring it back full-circle, I thought Endgame was great. 11 years, 22 movies, and they somehow managed to stick the landing in a satisfying way. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a movie project that ambitious ever again… and the more I think about it maybe we shouldn’t. As good as it was, when you look at the success of movies like Logan, Deadpool, Into The Spider-Verse… maybe there’s something to be said for NOT trying to make everything fit in the same box. Maybe we just accept that Disney caught lightning in a bottle and not try to recapture the magic that might be impossible to replicate. (And remember that even the MCU forced us to sit through Thor 2.)

Sorry if you came here to read my thoughts on this week’s episode. Instead, you get Siskel and Ebert At The Movies. I’ll be back to normal next week. Promise.

P.S. – While I’m expounding on pop culture references… put me down for “Season 8 Episode 3 of Game of Thrones was too dark”. Yes, I think it was an artistic decision, but I also think yes they screwed it up and made it too dark. (Or they did it on purpose to stretch out the CGI budget.) You shouldn’t need to calibrate your TV just to watch a single episode of a show…. that’s bullshit. There’s “capturing the chaos of battle” and there’s pausing the action for 20 seconds while you try to figure out who the hell that even is who just got stabbed.