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

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Talking Combat 093: I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 093: Akiro The Hero

It’s another week of Not Ship Combat on Roll For Combat, though as Steve points out, last week’s encounter was actually supposed to go the way it went and this week was the one that was significantly different from the way it was written in the book. This week we get to REPEL BOARDERS!

I get what John was trying to say about the fact that the enemy ship was able to sneak up on us, but at the end of the day, you can’t have it both ways. We were all fairly unanimous that we didn’t want to do ship combat, so Steve accommodated us and gave us something different to work with. If you ask the chef to make something that’s not on the menu, you don’t turn around and complain about it. So if that means the enemy vessel gets Plot Armor when it comes to being detected on sensors… whatever. As the guy on the sensors, it makes Tuttle look a little bad at his job, but I’ll get over that.

(Aside: I know there’s a minority of people on our Discord channel who like space combat, and if you do… cool. I don’t exactly HATE it, but I do think it’s a little under-baked and could use a little more fleshing out in future supplements.)

In Steve’s defense, I think part of the problem is that this is one of those grey areas in the rules. There are a few scattered mentions of boarding enemy ships scattered throughout the rules, and there’s even a transporter upgrade you can put on a ship. But they don’t really tell you how to manage that seamlessly. It’s a little unclear how you transition between the two modes – if you’re in ship combat and the crew of one ship or the other leaves their stations to board the other vessel, who’s running the ship? Or does it just fly in a straight line and you can take free shots at it. Or, at least for the bad guys, do you assume an army of red-shirts to keep the lights on while the boarding party comes over? But then what do the players do if THEY want to board a ship?

All of this kind of strikes me as fuzzy, so I can understand why Steve just did a hand-wave and let them sneak up on us. Blame it on the nebula, I guess. SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE, MISTER SAAVIK. So now we have an enemy vessel “parked” in our cargo hold and intruders on board. Yay! Specifically, one humanoid boss-type NPC, who appears to have some sort of mind-altering effects, and a bunch of minions who, ohbytheyway, are incorporeal.

Would. You. Look. At. That. Somebody put the Ghostkiller Fusion on his weapon! SERENDIPITY.

Now I swear on a mint-edition copy of Detective Comics #27 that I had no idea what was coming, but it’s quite the handy break. Incorporeal has always been one of my pet peeves, and we’ve run into ghostly enemies at other points in this adventure, so I just thought it would be a handy thing to have. The closest thing to meta-gaming was the consideration that it would also make my weapon magical (since we’re getting toward the levels where some creatures can’t be damaged by conventional weapons) but I could’ve done something trivial like Called and gotten that same effect. Ghostkiller was just a lucky bit of happenstance.

Just to set the stage in case it’s unclear, this fight is being held at a four-way intersection. Using the bridge as north, we came in from the north, the bulk of the minions came in from the west, and the boss is down the hall 30 or 40 feet in a room to the west (the aforementioned cargo hold). The bonus surprise minions came out of the wall into the south passage – we’re not totally flanked, but it did mess up my positioning in particular, as I had hidden in the south passage where I thought I was safe. Now I had two minions in striking distance when I had Mo, Akiro, and CHDRR between me and the other bad guys.

So battle starts, and my Ghostkiller gun draws a few oohs and ahs, but then it gets pushed off the stage by Akiro and his ridiculously powerful electrical attack. It’s exciting to finally see Chris cut loose a little. We’ve seen a few of his tricks back at Istamak (blowing up a battery, your garden-variety fireball), but it’s starting to dawn on me that maybe we should’ve had a magic-user in the party all along. Then again, maybe Chris should be casting something other than mirror image all this time, too. Door swings both ways.

The good news about this fight is that the minions don’t seem to have a lot of hit points, so if you can put damage on them, they go down quickly. Also, knowing the layout of our own ship, they’re boxed into a dead-end, so once we get down into the room, it’s Pinata Party Time. On the other hand, the damage rules for incorporeal creatures are going to slow things down AND there’s the fact that they can control the battlefield better than we can by going through walls. And there’s also the fact that the boss can play Whack-a-Mole with relative impunity. Yes, we did put a little damage on him early, but he seems to have the ability to hop in and out of the doorway – possibly aided by a Haste Circuit – so there are rounds where he can just take a shot at us and move so we can’t hit back. So… this doesn’t feel like a LETHAL encounter, but it does have the potential to be highly annoying.

OF course, that’s assuming we’ve seen all the tricks the boss can throw at us. If he’s got something worse, I may choose to revise my remarks at a later date. Or… next week, since that’s when the battle continues.

Before I close, one general show note: Steve mentioned I might be making it out to GenCon this year. I’d say that’s about 50-50 for now. I’d certainly LIKE to, but without throwing my personal life WIDE open to the world, there are moving parts regarding the fate of my dogs and how those I leave behind would fare without a car for a few days. I’m still rolling ideas around my brain, but… TBD. If it works out, it’d be cool to see y’all there. (And a fine opportunity to con a few new RFC T-shirts out of Steve by claiming I “forgot” the ones I already have. Shhhh!)

So, next week we should conclude the Battle Of The Sunrise Maiden – I don’t remember it being a three-episode sort of fight. How will it turn out? I guess you’ll just have to come back next week and find out. In the meantime, feel free to drop by our Discord server and other social media and join the ongoing merriment. We’ll see you next week, and thanks for listening and reading.

SP12: Interview with Paizo Creative Director James Jacobs

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. And check back next week when we start our brand new actual play podcast where we play through The Fall of Plaguestone!

Welcome to another special edition of the Roll For Combat Podcast where we sit down with Paizo Creative Director James Jacobs. With the upcoming release of Pathfinder Second Edition, James and I had a lot to cover!

We discuss the new Pathfinder Adventure Path, the Age of Ashes, how Pathfinder Second Edition makes development easier and faster, some of James’s favorite creations, how his home campaign shaped the world of Pathfinder, and much more. 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!

093: Akiro The Hero

Last week the RFC Crew had combat in space by having actual combat on their ship. This week the RFC Crew explore more fun ways to have “space combat” without firing starship weapons!

Also this week, GM Stephen explains our plans for the new Roll For Combat Pathfinder podcast (coming really soon!).

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!

Talking Combat 092: Ship Combat, Now With 100% Less Ships!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 092: The Power of Tuttle Compels You!

Here we go, off to Books 5 and 6! (I prefer to think of it in the same manner as Infinity War and Endgame – it’s really one story, just divided into two different chapters).

And we start with… NOT starship combat. I hate to beat the dead horse, but I’m firmly on the record agreeing with Steve on starship combat. There’s the beginnings of a good system there, and maybe it could be expanded into something more robust and fun, but as written, it’s kind of shallow and plays itself out after the first two or three ship combats.

My main complaint is there aren’t enough disruptive events. If you think about player combat, it can sometimes be susceptible to the same “lather, rinse, repeat” ennui, but the reason it generally doesn’t is that unexpected things happen to disrupt the routine. The enemy trots out a spell they hadn’t used before that changes the battle. The players come up with some creative use of their powers to turn the tables. Something changes about the environment – the room starts to flood, artificial gravity fails, whatever. I think those sorts of things are under-developed in ship combat – yes, you have crits, but that’s really about it. Maybe those will be developed in future releases; maybe the enterprising (pun semi-intended) GM can homebrew their own, but I think a little controlled chaos would add a lot to the system.

My other complaint has always been that some roles are more dynamic than others. Science is a fairly active role (especially if you pair it with Engineer and hop between the two roles), pilot is the most overtly tactical, but the other gigs can get stale fairly quickly. If you’re the Captain or firing a gun, there’s just not that much to do.

Parenthetically, my favorite “system-within-a-system” was the hand-to-hand combat rules from Top Secret. You had different attacks and defenses, chosen from across different martial arts (boxing, judo, karate, etc.) and the interactions between those attacks and defenses determined how the combat was going to go. If you choose a low block and I do flying face kick… you get kicked in the face. It had its flaws – there were a few super-moves that only had one or two defenses – but it was a clever little system.

So the fight itself… this struck me as one of those battles where the flavor of it was more alarming than the actual battle ended up being. You hear “swarm of nanites” and you envision this guy having resistances and being a lot tougher to put damage on. And I guess he did have some of that since CHDRR’s junk cannon didn’t really do anything to him. On the other hand, Mo and Akiro were both landing pretty solid shots throughout the fight, and it never felt like we were in that much danger. Though I suppose the attempted takeover of CHDRR was a big swing that could’ve caused the battle to go dramatically differently. What’s the worst case there… he takes over CHDRR, we have to kill CHDRR (90 points of damage, so several additional rounds of combat), and then we still have to finish off whatever’s left of Nanite Boy on the other end, without CHDRR’s help. If you put THAT fight in the script… well, we probably still would’ve won, but it would’ve been a much more interesting fight. Especially if I had roleplayed Tuttle as ambivalent toward attacking his own drone. Which I might have.

But nope. Tuttle comes through as a computer genius and saves CHDRR from hostile invasion, and the rest of the fight was relatively easy.

I did think it was a little odd that Steve would simultaneously play up the possibility of parlay, yet still attack us first. I guess I’d expect that an enemy that’s willing to talk would show that willingness by… you know… not attacking right away. But Nanite Boy started swinging in Round One, rendering most of the conversation moot. I guess they do things differently in this part of the galaxy.

Since Steve did a “show about the show” with his GM tip, I’ll also jump in with some “how the sausage gets made” comments from the player side, and as the person who writes Talking each week.

I will say first and foremost, the other players and I don’t have anywhere near the responsibility Steve does. As players, our commitment is basically the 3 hours a week we’re playing, and sometimes we might have some homework between sessions, particularly when we level up or when there’s a new version of the D20Pro software. But none of us get involved in the editing process… that’s ALL Steve.

Do we censor ourselves? I don’t know how the other guys feel, but for me, I think “compartmentalize” might be a better way to put it. We have a bit of a bullshit session before Steve starts recording that can be anywhere from five minutes to (on one or two occasions) an hour or longer, and we kind of get all the other stuff out of our system during that pre-session chat, so when we do roll, we’re ready to focus on the game. But once we get going… no, not really. I generally play the game I’m going to play and rely on Steve’s judgment to edit wisely when we get too far off in the weeds or start acting like jerks to each other. I suppose the ONE concession is I try not to swear because maybe we have some kids listening and I don’t want “The Guy Who Plays The Science Rat On The Internet” to be who taught them to launch the F-bomb. “What is a legacy? Teaching F-bombs to pre-teens that you never see?

When it comes to writing Talking, I usually remember the “Spark Notes” summary of the week’s episode just from memory and can often start writing just based on what I remember (I know where we left off the previous week, so Steve just has to tell me where the new episode stops, and I can extrapolate). If it’s a Tuttle-centric episode and I mostly just want to talk about that (Aeon Tuttle, for instance), I can put most of the column to bed just based on that. Having said that, I do go back and listen to the whole show, both to catch the finer details (as Steve said, we’re doing these a month or two after they actually happened) and to listen to the intro and outro to see if the GM/PC tip or any of the “other” stuff has any hooks to play off.

The trick is always to find that balance – I don’t want it to just be a dry regurgitation of what you just listened to. That would be pointless. On the other hand, I don’t want to be so far in the weeds that I’m going onto 2000 characters about what I had for lunch three days ago. (For the record: Chinese takeout – beef and broccoli.) I suppose what I’m shooting for is something like the “director commentary” on DVDs: here’s what I was thinking when I chose to do this. Here’s where I briefly considered doing THIS, which could have been cool, but then I realized it would probably wipe the whole party. Here’s what Bob did three years ago that makes this line funny. Here’s where Steve edited out the two minutes of dead air where I forgot it was my turn because I was trying to multitask and play Overwatch in the background because there was a Symmetra skin I really wanted. “Allegedly”.

The GM/PC tip can be hit and miss because if I’m being totally honest, I don’t GM a whole lot. Occasionally for my Dads-n-Kids game, but not regularly. Some weeks, the general topic can still be a fertile one and I can still counter or add to Steve’s GM perspective with a player perspective. Other times, it’s something I really don’t have much of an opinion on and I just let it sail on by. Like… the “packing for PaizoCon” one… if I’m wearing pants and have a dice bag with me when I get on the plane, that’s about all you can expect from me.

I caught myself nodding along with Steve when he mentioned getting the sense of déjà vu, or making the same comment twice on re-listen. I have that happen a lot, right down to the specific wording. Though sometimes it’s the other way around and I get mad that I didn’t think of something at the time. Example: when we were talking about “Rusty’s Daily Affirmations” in last week’s episode, I could’ve sworn I went for a Stuart Smalley SNL reference there, but either I didn’t think of it, or perhaps Steve edited it out. The other thing I’ve noticed is that I’m much more aware of the other guys’ banter the second time around – I don’t know I miss stuff at the time because I’m locked in on what Tuttle is going to do next, but some of the things they said the first time, I barely remember them saying. So it can be like hearing it for the first time when I go back and listen.

Anyway, this is getting long-winded, so I’m going to wrap it up for now. Next week, since Steve already spoilered it just a bit, we’re going to have some more NOT SHIP COMBAT, so you’ll have to come back and see how that goes. In the meantime, drop by our Discord channel or other social media, let us know what you think of the show (as well as check out the community), and we’ll see you next week.


092: The Power of Tuttle Compels You!

Ready or not, the RFC Crew is off to the Gate of Twelve Suns and will either save the universe … or die trying! Well, maybe not “die trying”, probably more like “we’ll try our best, but there are lots of other star systems in the Galaxy if worst comes to worst, you know?”

Also this week, GM Stephen goes into some detail as to what it takes to create an actual play podcast.

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!

Talking Combat 091: In Rusty We Trust

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 091: Be The Best Rusty You Can Be!

July 4th. A day to celebrate freedom. I’m not sure the Founding Fathers realized they were going to bat for the freedom to pretend to be a space mouse once a week, but I assume they’d approve. Of course, for any of our listeners outside the US, it’s just Thursday, and hey… that’s cool too.

Aside: George Washington is a classic Envoy, Ben Franklin is clearly a Mechanic, Thomas Jefferson could also be a Mechanic, but we’ll put him down as a Mystic since he was the most esoteric of the Founding Fathers. John Adams, a Technomancer who infuriates his party-mates by taking nothing but utility spells. Hamilton’s probably a little too much of a hothead to be a second Envoy, so let’s put him down as a Solarian (with a curiously in-depth knowledge of financial systems).

Sorry, where was I?

So, welcome to both book five and Level 9. We start this week with… well, call it what it is… Rusty’s new and improved attempts to brainwash the rest of the party. So basically he can re-roll his Diplomacy roll if he wants, and we have to roll our Sense Motive twice and take the lower result for a chance to lie with impunity. We tend to think of combat as the engine that makes the whole game go, but that’s possibly overpowered. Then again (skipping ahead a bit) we forget there are people out there with high enough Sense Motive scores to see through Rusty’s cons… just none on THIS ship.

As I mentioned, as a roleplaying thing, I seriously considered dipping into Technomancer or Mystic as an extension of Tuttle gaining the Aeon subtype. “Tuttle’s awakening to the Call of the Universe turns him away from science and more toward the magical”… would’ve been neat to play around with that. And even though it would send me to Suboptimal Character Hell, I would’ve preferred to go Mystic rather than Technomancer – both to get access to heals, as well as to make Tuttle different from Akiro Jr.

So why didn’t I do it? I think it’s because of where we are in the adventure path. If this had happened in Book 3, and there was time to shape Tuttle’s character in the new direction, I absolutely would’ve done it. Take a few caster levels, buy different ability crystals, maybe a mnemonic editor… you could make it work. But when we’re about to enter the third act, with no real way to return… I just didn’t see the benefit of having a couple of first level spells, even heals.

Also, it would mean CHDRR would stop growing, and… as weird as it is, I felt a little guilty about that. Yes, Tuttle is “the character”, but at the end of the day, we’re a package deal and it feels unfair to sell his development out entirely.

So, mechanic level it is… even if it’s kind of a boring one. I get to move through difficult terrain; CHDRR gets to move faster, period.

I don’t usually worry too much about what the other guys are doing with their characters, but the back and forth between John and Chris about who’s going to be the tank and who’s going to get the good armor upgrades was pretty amusing. To summarize: John has the classic “tank” profile, but nine levels of being used as a piñata have stretched him to his breaking point. Chris wants the armor upgrades, but half his spells are about damage avoidance. Including invisibility – YOU CAN’T BE A TANK IF NO ONE CAN SEE YOU.

In terms of gear, I feel like I say this every level, but I thought about a melee weapon upgrade, since I’m still using my starter knife, but the cost-benefit just isn’t there. Truthfully I’d like to upgrade to advanced melee weapons and get Tuttle a lightsaber (or whatever they’re called in this universe), but I don’t have that option at this level.

So… JETPACK MOUSE! I think I said this last week, but there have been a few occasions where CHDRR’s jump jets have been Not Quite Good Enough for a given task, so I thought moving the game into three dimensions might help a bit. Besides, the mere imagery of Tuttle flying around like a goofball makes me smile.

Having my own null space felt like a bit of an indulgence at first glance, but there’s a method to the madness. That dragon drake pistol uses petrol as ammo. Well, two problems with that: first, petrol cells have a Bulk of 1 instead of L; second, they can’t be recharged off my suit or the ship like batteries can. So I’m going to probably have to carry a supply of four or five petrol cells on my person… you know, with my completely ordinary strength. And I don’t think having to run over to Mo to reload is practical either. Also, it’s just extra party storage, which never hurts.

The Ghost Killer fusion… the main thing was just making at least one of my guns a magic weapon by putting SOME sort of magic on it. The specific choice of Ghost Killer was more about longstanding pet peeves, even going back to Pathfinder. Incorporeal creatures just piss me off. If there was any real thought process to it, it was that we’re dealing with a long-dead civilization and the Corpse Fleet, both of which might have a ghost on their team. So screw it: I’M COMING FOR YOU, GHOSTS!

Speaking of equipment purchases. I do share some of John’s frustration with the Starfinder economy; it does seem like the market for weapons and armor is a little broken. Accessories, personal upgrades, and such… those are situational enough that you’re better off buying what you need rather than hoping it drops. But armor and weapons… there’s almost NO use case for buying the stuff, and that’s a little weird. Especially not with a 10% sellback price.

Speaking of potentially broken things, I loved the collective groan that swept through the team when I mentioned upgrading the Sunrise Maiden. At a meta-game level, new books tend to start with a ship battle, so I thought we should be prepared. More generally, we leveled up three times since the last time we did this, so we actually had enough build points to afford some decent weapons. But it sounds like Steve admitted he’s going to do starship combat a little differently going forward, so… never mind I guess.

Next week, off to the Gate of the Twelve Suns, where the endgame begins in earnest. We will probably NOT be fighting another ship, but I’m sure interesting things will be happening. Until then, I’m off to exercise my “freedom” to binge-watch Season 3 of Stranger Things in one sitting while eating as many Sweet Spicy Doritos as possible. So feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show, and we’ll see you next week.

091: Be The Best Rusty You Can Be!

ATTENTION NEW LISTENERS: We here at Roll For Combat recognize that jumping into an existing podcast can be a daunting task, especially one like this that involves an unfolding story. To help newer listeners out, we’ve prepared a brief synopsis at the start of this episode that will catch you up on the story so far. Give it a listen, and you’ll be ready to join us, all caught up ready to jump right into the podcast. Enjoy the show!

With the start of Book 5 of the Dead Suns Starfinder Adventure Path, we start “the beginning of the end” of our grand adventure. The RFC Crew have finally discovered the location of the Stellar Degenerator. But, of course, so have the Cult of the Devourer, so it’s time for a good old fashioned footrace. Who will get to the Stellar Degenerator first?

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!