May 2020 - Roll For Combat: Paizo's Official Pathfinder & Starfinder Actual Play Podcasts

Check out our review of the Bestiary 2! And don't forget to enter the RPG Superstar Contest today!

Pathfinder Second Edition Bestiary 2 Review: 2 Beast, Or Not 2 Beast?

Make sure to read Jason’s review of the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook, as well as his review of the Pathfinder Lost Omens: World Guide, Character Guide, Gods & Magic, and Gamemastery Guide.

If you enjoyed this review make sure to check out our Pathfinder Adventure Path: Three Ring Adventure and our Tales from the Black Lodge Podcast.

Think about the average college career for a second. Freshman year, you pretty much have to take what your school tells you to take – you have so many required classes, your first year or two is about banging out those pre-reqs so you stay on track to graduate in four years. But eventually, things loosen up, and by the time you’re in your senior year, it’s all electives and you’ve arranged your schedule to sleeping in until 10 am and having Fridays off.

I mean… so I’ve heard.

I tend to look at the Second Edition Bestiary books in the same light. Bestiary 1 was all about getting Second Edition off the ground properly, so a large chunk of it was nailing the basics, and including the monsters everyone would expect to be in the system on launch day. If you’re running your first campaign in a new system and didn’t have access to staples like goblins and orcs and dragons… the game designers did something horribly wrong (of which, of course, they didn’t with Bestiary 1).

With Bestiary 2, Paizo’s newest supplement for Second Edition, our analogy/college student has made it to the second semester of sophomore year. There are still a lot of what one could consider the “classics” of the genre, but we’re starting to see a little freedom crop in around the edges. But you’re still going to see a number of familiar faces, if for no other reason than Paizo already has six First Edition Bestiary books to choose from. Also, if they’d put EVERY staple creature in the first Bestiary, it would’ve been as thick as Webster’s Dictionary.

(Dictionary? A book people used to look up words they didn’t recognize before they could Google them? No? OK… moving on.)

The format will be fairly similar to anyone who bought the first Bestiary book. There seem to be two main types of entries. The majority of the entries are the fairly straightforward standalone monster: one page long, statblock, picture. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. I think I saw one or two standalone monsters that were complex enough to merit a second page, but the vast majority are one-pagers.

The multi-page monsters break the mold a bit to allow for additional details and more complex systems. As an example of a multi-pager (four pages in this case), let’s look at the Ravener. It’s oversimplifying it to say “what if a dragon decided it wanted to be a lich?”, but it’s not that far off the mark either. It’s basically a dragon that undergoes a ritual to become undead rather than embracing its death, and it’s as nasty as it sounds. Among other things, when it kills someone, it has a chance to eat their soul to heal itself; if it succeeds, that person can’t be reanimated by anything less than a Wish or Miracle spell while the ravener remains “alive”. The Ravener also comes with a statblock for a sample version, a process for creating your own from an existing dragon, as well as the details for the ritual it takes to create one. Oh, and if a Ravener doesn’t consume enough souls, it “starves” and becomes a Ravener Husk – more of a mindless feral version of its former self — and there’s a statblock for that creature too. Needless to say, they couldn’t fit all of that on a single page.

Then there are the “families” of monsters with subtypes, where they’ll have a brief introduction to the overarching concept, and then roll out the statblocks for the different subtypes over the next few pages. For an example of the latter, think “oozes” – they introduce you to the general concept of the ooze, list some general properties common to all oozes, and then introduce the individual oozes and their statblocks. In a group entry, each individual entry may not get its own page and artwork, but the family as a whole is well-covered.

The “family” concept is a bit of a delicate balance. If you make the creatures in a family too similar, it starts to feel like Creature 2 is just Creature 1 wearing those glasses with the fake Groucho Marx mustache. In the other direction, it runs the risk of becoming weird for the sake of weirdness. You know… were-penguins. I do think Paizo did a good job staying in the middle of the lane here. Take elementals this time around, they gave us elemental-themed creatures like a stone turtle or a fox with a flaming tail. So it’s not just a BIGGER walking blob of flame, it actually expands the line in a way that makes sense and adds flavor. For a different example: the Psychopomps, the entities that guard the Boneyard in the afterlife, are an eclectic mix of creatures ranging from a skeletal grief counselor who attempts to calm people who can’t accept their deaths to a platypus-looking “guard dog” to… basically a dragon… but the accompanying lore ties it all together. I’ll admit some of the giants start to feel a little “same-y” but for the most part, Paizo hit the mark here.

And in all cases, the tactical information is supplemented by flavor text presented in the sidebars – this flavor text can run the gamut from tactical advice on how a GM should run an encounter with the creature, to more general “world-building” flavor and lore.

Confession time. One of the first things I do when I get a book like this is to go looking for the most powerful creatures. I’m a sucker for that wow factor. Thanks to the index in the back (creatures arranged by level), the nastiest creatures check in at Level 23 – the Solar and the Jabberwock. Now… the Solar is actually a good guy (a member of the Angel family), but with a +44 holy greatsword and a list of INNATE spells that would put most Level 20 casters to shame, you probably don’t want to get on his bad side. The Jabberwock, on the other hand, is both a nasty dragon and an impressive literary nod, since it folds the Lewis Carroll poem “Jabberwocky” into the statblock at several points. Including, true to the Carroll poem, a special relationship with vorpal blades. Your party will probably hate fighting it… unless your party is comprised entirely of English majors, in which case… well, they’ll probably still die, but they’ll feel like they learned something in the process.

Another thing I tend to look for is over-arching themes. One of the Starfinder Alien Archives, for instance, was REALLY heavy on undead; another seemed to want to encourage outdoor adventuring by including a lot of sci-fi versions of wild animals. I’ll grant it could be just me looking for patterns that aren’t really there, but if there are two that stand out, it’s probably extra-planars (angels, devils, demons… even elementals kinda qualify) and monstrous and/or enlarged versions of wild animals (typically big things like bears and elephants, but also upsized versions of flies and ants). In the latter category, I’d like to point out that even though a normal hippopotamus could easily kill a human, Paizo felt we needed a “behemoth hippo” that can capsize boats, just to inflict more pain.

If you’re looking for RPG classics that didn’t make the cut the first time, we’ve got plenty of choices there as well. Everyone’s favorite stone-fed beef, the gorgon, is here. Remember the intellect devourer, the brain that walks around on stumpy little legs? He’s in here too, ready to hijack the nearest recently-deceased body. The froghemeth also puts in an appearance, because a giant frog wasn’t really complete until someone also gave it freaky tentacles. If you want to get crazy and take your campaign underwater, tritons and hippocampi are here for you.

Maybe it’s because I come at this mostly from a player perspective and I’m always looking for what might become a player or NPC race down the road, but if there’s one thing the book feels a little light on, it’s humanoids. I didn’t break the book down by page count in an Excel spreadsheet or anything, so don’t come at me with a bunch of numbers, but it felt like there weren’t that many compared to other things. That’s not to say none: just at first glance, I saw grippli (frog people), geniekin (elemental-themed planar types), and serpentfolk, and I imagine there were others. But seemed like there was more of… other stuff.

I don’t want to totally Farley this review (“remember Creature X?… that was cool”), but I did want to mention a few that jumped out at me for whatever reason. The Spiral Centurion looks like something out of the Final Fantasy series (or for a deeper cut, Lost Odyssey) – construct soldiers with circular sawblade torsos. The velstrac are a collection of fiends that are all about the infliction of pain, so lots of blades, spikes, chains… very Clive Barker. The glass golem initially struck me as silly – who makes a golem out of one of the most brittle materials available? – but they have some neat powers related to re-focusing light that make them interesting. And you gotta love that Paizo put a stake in the sand by offering their interpretation of the real-world boogeyman, the Chupacabra.

What else is there to report? The artwork, as always, is top-notch. Focused on delivering the basic look of the creatures, so no big sweeping two-page panoramas, but works on a functional level. “You want to know what that creature looks like? Here you go!” Then again, if you’re old enough to have grown up in the Gygax days of this hobby, you remember when the first Monster Manual was basically slapping a cover on a bunch of monsters compiled from newsletters, which meant the art was hand-drawn sketches. The appendices are slim but functional – quick-references of creature abilities and traits, a few ritual spells related to creatures, a quick table of creatures by type, and then a full index of creatures, sorted by level.

Is it a worthy addition to your gaming table? I think so. Pass-fail, who’s gonna say “no” to 300-ish more monsters, but more than that: it does a nice job filling in some gaps in the roster, it brings in a few more classics from RPG days of yore, and it avoids the trap of weirdness for weirdness’ sake.  Bestiary 1 is a little more essential if you’re looking for the “classics” of the genre, but this one isn’t too far off the mark and has enough stuff to keep your gaming table entertained. Definitely consider giving it a look.

Three Ring Adventure S1|12: Dance Battle!

After a big and healthy breakfast, the RFC Crew encounters an old nemesis … and the scariest clown in the world.

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse starting with the first book, The Show Must Go On.

And don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

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 Tales: Tale 3, Chapter 1, It’s A Column About Nothing

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 3, Chapter 1: You Had Me At Merlot.

This week’s Talking is going to be a bit freeform. (JAZZ ODYSSEY!) Some combination of “we didn’t get all that that far in the story” and “there’s a lot of side ‘stuff’ to clear off the books”. So it’s gonna be a little bit rambly. And yes, I realize some of you are thinking “that’s different… how exactly?”.

The first thing I wanted to remind everyone of is that this week, we’re having our live performance at virtual PaizoCon. It will be this Thursday at 7-10 EST (4-7 PST). I assume we’re going to be running a quest because we stand a far better chance of turning a 1-2 hour quest into a 3-4 hour session than we do keeping a three-hour adventure to three hours. If you’ve listened this far, you know this to be true.

In a bit of a related show note, we haven’t really played Black Lodge in 2-3 weeks now, so it’ll be good to get back to it. The circus game has continued, but thanks largely to the run-up to PaizoCon keeping Steve busy and also making it hard to schedule guest players, our Black Lodge game has been on unintentional hold for a bit. We still have episodes in the can, so it shouldn’t impact anything, but still… we’ll be kicking off a little rust. (We’ve been filling some of the time with a little bit of conventional board gaming with Tabletop Simulator, but that’s a whole separate article.)

For those of you who have been watching live, I’m happy to report I’ve FINALLY joined the Webcam Generation. I had ordered two (one via work and one on my personal dime), but after both of those no-showed, both John and Steve dug out spares and sent them to me, which arrived over the weekend. So I finally have a webcam, and in fact, sometime in July I’ll have four and be able to “NFL All-22” it and give you multiple angles of me eating Doritos.

As an additional show note, this is going to be our first adventure in Roll20 instead of D20Pro. There was some weird interplay going on with people hitting the internet harder in quarantine that was making D20Pro a little squirrely, so we decided to give Roll20 another try. (Technically we tried Roll20 YEARS ago in the pre-podcast days, but went back after a session or two.) So you may hear some “learning curve with the new tool” moments as we go through this. I suppose if there’s a single biggest “rubber meets the road” change as a player it’s that D20Pro figures out all the right modifiers behind the scenes and applies the correct damage – Roll20 just puts ALL the possible damage outcomes in the chat window (here’s your regular damage, here’s your crit damage, here’s your extra damage if they don’t save against poison); from there you pick the right damage and apply it. Also, Roll20 doesn’t handle the Second Edition multi-attack penalty yet, so you have to apply it by hand as well.

Lastly, and perhaps most exciting, this is the adventure where if we survive, we level up. It’s basically three full adventures to level (12 experience, with 4 per adventure), and this is the third. John technically has one extra experience point because he did a Pathfinder quest as Mister Peepers WAY back right when Second Edition launched, but that’s not enough to get him over the hump, so he’ll still level up with the rest of us. I suppose if we do more quests, that might get him to a point where he gets out of sync and levels up before us, but that could take a while.

Now, Vanessa, on the other hand… Mama Millicent has been busy while we’ve been smuggling people out of Xin Edasseril, and she actually returns to Black Lodge as a Level 2 character. And she’s got a badass katana, too! Millicent was already kind of an ass-kicker; giving her some more hitpoints and a better weapon can’t be anything but a positive development. The slight negative is that Society adjusts the difficulty of the game as the party levels, so having a Level 2 in our group is going to make the fights a little tougher, but – famous last words – how much tougher can it be?

Well… we’re going to find out. Just not THIS week, as we spend most of the first session traveling and setting up backstory. We start this week’s adventure in the Black Lodge, which was giving off some mildly creepy and otherworldly vibes; it feels like maybe there are going to be some hooks to be uncovered as we keep coming back over time, but for today – despite Mister Peepers’ efforts to locate some trouble to get into — it’s mostly “wait for Grady to give us our next mission”. And that mission is to head to the River Kingdoms to check on the existence of an older Pathfinder Lodge that disappeared… after a brief interlude drinking and shooting the breeze with the closest thing Golarion has to rednecks.

I have to admit I faded into the background a little during this portion. Some of it was letting Vanessa take the lead – partly because she’s a better roleplayer, but partly because of some weird “deference to authority” thing because she was the higher level character AND pulled that fairly specific lore roll out of her back pocket. But I think part of it was that Steve was hyping a combat-heavy adventure so I was mentally gearing myself up for the combat to start… which took quite some time. I don’t mind roleplaying, but after the last adventure, I was ready to hit some stuff.

Which, FINALLY, at the end of the episode, we’re going to get to do. We start wandering out toward Diggen’s Rest, the last known location of the Pathfinders, and sure enough, we stumble across spooky unnatural forests and undead nasties to fight. Skeletons with detached heads… that’s kind of a new one. Hard to say whether I should ease into this as the first fight of the adventure, or go right to Shillelagh and engage Pocket Paladin mode. But I guess we’ll delve into that next episode when the battle is joined in earnest.

THIS week while waiting for the next episode, we encourage you to stop by virtual PaizoCon and check out our live show. But hey, also still stop by Discord and join the reindeer games there, too. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Black Lodge Tale 3, Chapter 1: You Had Me At Merlot

Another tale begins with our crew exploring the Black Lodge itself! And drinking … lots and lots of drinking.

Roll For Combat, Tales from the Black Lodge Tale #3 is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-11 Flames of Rebellion. Our guest-star is Vanessa Hoskins.

And don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

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 Circus S1|11: I Want You To Eat Bacon Until It’s Time To Not Eat Bacon

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|11: Brawls & Bacon.

First, since Steve gave a show note about episode titles, This week, things FINALLY slow down a bit for our band of intrepid adventurers. And yes, I love that the definition of “slowing down” is “hey, at least it’s NON-lethal combat this time around”. Though the party still has to beware of the silent killer – clogged arteries from all the bacon Darius is eating.

Before we get to the action in the episode, I did want to pause and reflect a bit on episode length. I’ve noticed the last several episodes have clocked in over the 90-minute mark, and a few are even pushing the envelope of 2 hours.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you all and admit that as a listener, I’m partial to a little shorter show length. About an hour is my limit for one sitting… maybe I can hang in a little longer if it’s an important moment in the story. But I’m going to also admit I understand why Steve probably needs to err on the side of longer shows with this particular adventure.

First, as I’ve already remarked a few times, except for the first circus performance, we’ve had a LOT of combat with very few pauses in between fights. Even a “short” floor-mopping fight can take 30 or 45 minutes… just how it is. And I know that other than MAYBE boss fights, I know Steve doesn’t like to cut an episode right in the middle of a fight. So what do you do? A REALLY short episode with one fight? Maybe every once in a while, but do it too often and the show will be in Book 1 this time next year. Run two or three fights in a row? More satisfying as a listener… but also longer.

The other is all the roleplaying. Don’t get me wrong: it’s GREAT. But it takes time, and five or ten of those little interactions that would be single die rolls in a lower-roleplay game end up being an extra hour of footage. I think of the interlude where Hap and Ateran were reading the healing scroll and acting out the whole thing in real-time – in a different game, that’s “we attempt to learn the spell from the scroll” and you’re on to the next thing. Alhara going through the emotional turbulence about her facial scars and the heart-to-heart with Darius? That interaction doesn’t even happen in a lower-roleplay game.

So… you want to appreciate what this show has to offer, I guess you just have to learn to love a longer episode. Besides, we’re all in lockdown anyway, what’s another hour?

Speaking of Alhara and Darius, I’m giving out my kinda-sorta weekly roleplay moment to Darius for punctuating the touching heart-to-heart about love and beauty with “you want a piece of chicken?”. Sometimes I give it to the deep, moving stuff that touches my soul; other times, I just go with the thing that got a laugh out of me because deep down I’m an overgrown 12-year-old at times. Also… if Hallmark doesn’t have “you want a piece of chicken?” on a card, it’s a missed opportunity.

In other news, we did finally get a little more circus-related content, even if it was just in passing – “here’s some stuff you could be doing, but nah, we still gotta run down the mystery of the druids first”. I like the idea that there are both permanent and temporary upgrades to the circus, though it seems (at least for now) like the temporary ones are kind of expensive for what you get. Then again, I’m cheap and also grumble about the cost of dungeon-crawl consumables too. (Though I’m coming around on potency crystals.) I mean, if people trying to kill them is going to be a recurring theme, the safety net seems like a no-brainer, but that’s just me.

One thing I hadn’t really considered, but turns out to be enormously useful – using the other members of the circus troupe for rumor-gathering. I hadn’t thought of it, but that’s quite a clever angle and saves the party a certain amount of busy-work. AND it gives us yet another interaction with Cubby the Dog-Faced Dog, who was already shaping up as my favorite non-party character even before he got all testy with Hap for treating him like a housepet.

Based on the rumors the sideshow crew uncovered, the team goes out to the roadside inn and gets in a punch-up with the rednecks. The fight itself is mostly a cakewalk – or maybe it just seems that way because of the comparatively low stakes of non-lethal combat. After the fight, some combination of Darius’ bacon-related diplomacy and Hap doing her best druid impersonation by being nice to animals wins over the matriarch of the gang, and that opens up a further lead to the possible base of operations of the Rat-Hat Druid… a barn covered with weird vegetation.

(Somewhere in the Pathfinder Multiverse, a cold shiver goes down Brixley Silverthorn’s spine…)

Speaking of druids, that whole digression they went on about druids toward the end of the show: agreed and co-signed. It’s hard to judge “overpowered” when mine is only at level 2 so far, but they are a tremendous amount of fun to play because of their versatility. You can heal, sit back and chuck direct damage, grab a few utility spells… you can even wade into melee with a shield and damage enhancers like Shillelagh or Wild Morph. And that’s even before Wild Shape starts being truly useful, opening up all sorts of weird shenanigans. I’m playing one in our Black Lodge game, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

So next week… I guess we’ll be investigating the barn, and maybe at some point we’ll actually get the circus moving again. It’s weird… I’m very much a combat-oriented player, so I never thought I’d say this, but I kinda miss the circus aspect of things and want to get back to that soon. Hopefully we’ll get there in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Also, just to throw in the briefest of plugs, we’re one week out from our live appearance at (Virtual) PaizoCon so hopefully, we’ll see some of you at that. As always, thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Three Ring Adventure S1|11: Brawls & Bacon

After a few rough days, the RFC Crew is rested, healed, and ready to investigate strange happenings in the town. What they didn’t expect was a battle of words.

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse starting with the first book, The Show Must Go On.

And don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

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 Tales: Tale 2, Chapter 5, Regetta Get Out of This Place

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 2, Chapter 5: Sensual Blacksmithing.

It’s an extra-long episode on Roll For Combat this week, but I’m not sure Steve had much of a choice. If you think about it, there’s a lot of indecision and screwing around at the front end, but then once things start moving, there’s no good place to split things up. So you could’ve had a short episode that was mostly bickering and indecision, followed by a normal-sized conclusion next week, or one big episode that includes everything. Guess you get the latter.

The funny thing is, the first extraction is basically set; the bickering mostly revolves around the second extraction the following day. We’re pretty much resolved to use rafts to get the family and the accountant out; it’s how to deal with everyone else – particularly the giant – where things get thorny. I briefly thought about putting the giant on the boat, but I was worried he might count as 2 or 3 of our five slots, so it seemed better to try to best-effort him out the front gate.

Especially once we got the invisibility potion in our arsenal. I was never sold on the “statue” idea, so once we had tools that seemed specifically tailored for this purpose, using them seemed like the right call. Especially since – if you want to metagame it a bit – you don’t get to keep consumables anyway. Might as well use them. Initially, I liked the Air Bubble idea better – have the giant put on Air Bubble, drop into the water somewhere out of sight of the docks, and swim out to the anchor chain of our boat and climb up – but one minute just wasn’t going to be enough time to pull it off. But the invisibility potion… that’s 10 minutes, which should be more than enough, and if we were to get low on time, the giant could just drop into the water and go back to a modified version of Plan A. As an added benefit, it also frees up our resources for normal-sized humanoids.

The next morning arrives, and we finally get our first batch of customers out of town, after doing a raft-piloting mini-game. I’m going to admit to a slight bit of frustration at Seth on this one… it’s like, if you’re not participating in the rescue effort because your character is afraid of water, maybe let the people who ARE doing it decide how they’re gonna proceed. I did briefly consider the plan of turning into a fish, but it didn’t seem like I could give navigation commands to two different rafts at the same time effectively, so I decided I’d rather be piloting one of them directly. Especially once Steve ruled that Nature was an acceptable skill to use.

I was a little off on the Wild Empathy druid ability, but not by enough to change the answer. Yes, druids actually can communicate with animals in a rudimentary fashion. BUT, it takes a minute of conversation to establish enough dialog to try and influence them, and even then, it’s a Diplomacy check (for which Nella is untrained) to see if they’ll actually cooperate. I don’t feel like that really would’ve been effective enough to alter the math – the rest of the party would be crashing on the rocks while I would be trying to negotiate my way out of being some bigger fish’s dinner. Probably unsuccessfully, unless it had a really low Will save.

The rafting adventure mostly goes successfully – despite Thorgrim and Peepers taking a bit of a scenic route – and we get our first five out the door. So now we’re down to Flitch, Garrla, the innkeeper, his daughter, and the giant. After a little more waffling – and yet ANOTHER brief resurgence of the statue plan – we decide to load the normal-sized humanoids into barrels and have the (invisible) giant just stay really close behind the wagon.

(As an aside, I’m REALLY surprised John didn’t have Peepers try to steal some travel papers. He’s done the reckless ill-considered thing every other step of the way, so it certainly would’ve been in character. But it turns out the threat of Infamy Points are the one thing that can get Peepers to dial it back. File that away for future reference.)

So we start off for the docks the next day, and then things immediately start going sideways, as you would expect them to do. Gotta earn this win, after all.

First, we lose one set of travel papers to the wind, and at this point – just so we’re clear — we’re out on the dock and there are guards nearby. So we couldn’t just switch Thorgrim into a barrel for the daughter, give her my papers, and I could Wild Shape into a cat. Too late for that. So we’re committed to a non-zero amount of unpleasantness, though I’m still hoping either a) they’d recognize him as an obvious out-of-towner and let him depart, or b) a small bribe might be enough to get him through.

So then the interaction with the guards starts, and the innkeeper’s daughter starts to panic and gets sick. I don’t know if a heal spell is strictly speaking a legit use there, but I figured I’d throw it out there and Steve would shoot it down if there was something obviously wrong with the idea. (I didn’t say so, but I assume I would be trying to cast it sneaky-like under my breath or something.)

And then Seth goes for it with Guard Elovar. I have to admit I was a little surprised he was so blunt and just gave him the book. Given how well he did with the encounter with Guard Garrla, it was surprising he just came right out and said “oh hey, we know what you did, and here’s the proof of it”. I mean, there was at least a small chance Elovar might have just solved the problem by running us through with swords and throwing the book in the harbor, but no… it actually works and he lets us pass. Up onto the boat, away we go, and mission accomplished.

Well… mostly accomplished, since Steve said we achieved four of the five objectives. Wonder what the fifth one was? I’m feeling like “getting Themolin out without violence” was probably the answer there; there seems like just enough wiggle room in that encounter that maybe we could’ve side-stepped the fight and had a zero-combat mission.

And with that, all that’s left is the aftermath. Nella continues to be the Worst. Scout. Ever, failing her check for the second straight adventure. We explore the dark arts of Sensual Blacksmithing. Nixnox is a cop who plays by his own set of rules. And we have a consensus that everyone’s eager to fight someone next time.

Before I wrap up for the week, I’ll reinforce Steve’s now-official reminder that we’ll be doing a live show at PaizoCon this year – Thursday the 28th, 4-7 pm PST (7-10 pm EST). I assume given the amount of time available, we’d probably be doing a Quest – that fits the timeslot better than a full adventure – but that’s more on the Steve side of things, so don’t take that as written in stone.

Next week, we’ll be back with a brand new adventure. Since Steve already gave it away, Vanessa and Mama Millcent will be rejoining the merry band of adventurers, and oh yes, this time we will be fighting stuff. While you’re waiting for that, please do stop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show and join the ongoing merriment. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Black Lodge Tale 2, Chapter 5: Sensual Blacksmithing

All of the refugees have been recruited, the rafts have been made, and a plan has been hatched. Time to leave … if they can.

Roll For Combat, Tales from the Black Lodge Tale #2 is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-12 The Burden of Envy. Our guest-star is Rob Trimarco.

And don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

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!

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Talking Circus S1|10: Heroics are More of a Hobby

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|10: Disadvantage Sucks.

I have to admit my biggest amusement this week is that we’ve “crossed the streams” a little on Roll For Combat, as end up dipping our toes into what amounts to the 5th Edition “disadvantage” mechanic.

Now I know it’s unlikely, but just in case there’s someone listening to this show who has never touched 5th Edition and didn’t get the reference, let me explain. In 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, instead of having a bunch of one-off modifiers, they choose to resolve a LOT of situational modifiers with the mechanics of “advantage” (roll a 20 twice, take the higher one) and “disadvantage” (roll a 20 twice, take the lower one). So no “plus-this” for flanking and “minus-that” for flat-footed; something just gives you advantage, disadvantage, or neither. So these pugwampis the party fights basically have an “unluck aura” effect that accomplishes the same thing as the disadvantage mechanic – if you fail your save, you have to roll twice on checks and take the lower one.

The thing about “roll two, take one” mechanics is that they’re sneaky-powerful because of the multiplicative effect. I’m not going to put you through an entry-level stats class (at least partially because my college stats class was at 8 am and I got a C because I tended to oversleep it), but to put some numbers to it: I think at one point during the fight, I heard Steve mentioning that someone needed a 15 to make a roll, which is a 30% chance. Stats 101 – to succeed under those conditions, you have to hit 15 or higher on both rolls, which is (0.3 x 0.3 = 0.09), so… a 9% chance of success. If you were to convert that back to a single d20, that 15 – even rounding in the party’s favor – would turn into a 19. So it’s basically a virtual -4. In a game where the math is as tight as it is in Second Edition… a -4 is kinda brutal.

(And if you were wondering, a corresponding “luck aura” would turn that 30% into a 51% chance. Rounding and compressing to a single die, that 15 becomes an 11.)

OK, Math Nerd Digression over.

I think the thing that pleased me about this fight is that for once in recent memory, it felt like the team finally had one under control from wire to wire. I’ve been frustrated from afar that the team has been flirting with disaster the last several sessions – particularly the fight in the church, which basically came down to one roll – so it was nice to see a fight where they weren’t really with their backs up against death’s door. Granted, some of that also came from getting rid of all their disease effects – thanks to the healer at the church, this was ALMOST like the first fight after a long rest – so it makes some amount of sense that it was a little calmer.

I found myself a little quizzical about the decision Steve made to basically let the party swap out the magic dog statue for a +1 crossbow. I’m curious about what went into that decision. Did he misread the loot? Or did he just take pity on the party for taking such a thumping and coming out with a magic item whose benefit was mostly cosmetic? I have to admit I’ve kind of tuned out magic item drops recently since we’re playing Society and have to hand them back in at the end of the adventure, but for how hard that fight in the church was, it’s nice to see the party get something they can use out of it.

Speaking of magic items, I have to admit I did not realize that the economics of heal scrolls vs. potions were so favorable to scrolls. The flexibility of use makes sense – a scroll is an actual cast of the equivalent heal spell, whereas a potion locks in the single-target version when it’s created. I think what caught me off guard is that I had it in my head that scrolls cost more money than potions. I suppose the trade-off is that a potion can be used by anyone whereas a scroll has to be used by someone who can already cast spells (or someone who has the Trick Magic Item feat, I imagine). If your caster goes down, people can still pull potions off their dead body, but those scrolls would potentially be useless. Also, I suppose there’s also a little bit of action economy flexibility in favor of a bottle you can pull out and open with one hand, over a scroll that you probably have to drop or put away all your other stuff to use. That said, over on the Black Lodge side of the house, I think I’m going to go buy Nella a few scrolls (at least for after-heals) now that I know they cost the same as potions. Learn something new every day.

This week, I’m giving my tip of the roleplaying cap to… GM Steve, for the priest getting all chippy with Alhara and making her clean up the broken glass left over from her heroics. The idea of NPCs who are mildly ungrateful at having their lives saved just cracks me up. Though Hap telling Alhara to “stop being a bitch” to Ateran also cracked me up a little.

One other roleplaying thing I liked… the party actually questioning whether anyone else is available to do the heroic part of the job. I liked it because it challenged our usual assumptions about these sorts of games but in a realistic way. We tend to assume a party of adventurers is revved up and ready to meet any challenge the universe can throw at them. Our Black Lodge game, and Society play in general, assumes your adventurers WANT to make names for themselves and get rich while unraveling mysteries. You’re basically signing up to join the Scooby-Doo gang voluntarily. But with THIS story, it’s actually fairly plausible that a group of circus-folk would rather get back to their day job rather than cleaning up the town’s messes. In the context of THIS campaign, I think reluctant heroes actually make a little bit of sense, so it was refreshing for the party to allow themselves to express that reluctance a little.

As far as plot advancement… well, the quasit with the books got away. For the moment, the team’s giving up the chase, but will that resurface as a plot point later? There are additional bread crumbs leading toward the druid enclave, but it’s a gray area whether the druid cloak found with the monsters they just killed represents an alliance between druids and demons, or just a convenient fashion choice. But it seems like the druid enclave is the next place to go, especially since the town’s mayor is headed there, and might be walking into a trap if the worst is true.

And that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. I do have some thoughts on our PaizoCon announcement, but I’ll probably address that in the next Black Lodge column since that’s the one that I’m explicitly writing from a player perspective. While you’re waiting for next week’s episode to drop, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Three Ring Adventure S1|10: Disadvantage Sucks

The team is slowly starting to realize that they are going to require battle tactics if they are to survive past the week. Of course, putting theory into practice is another story.

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse starting with the first book, The Show Must Go On.

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