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

Check out our reviews of the Pathfinder Advanced Players Guide and Pathfinder Lost Omens Legends!

Three Ring Adventure S1|29: Coulrophobia

Everyone loves clowns, right? Especially those carrying rusty hooks, blood-soaked bags, and miniature skulls. Everyone loves a clown!

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.

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!

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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!

The Bird’s Eye View S1|01: Last Call For Tavern Brawls

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|00: Welcome to Agents of Edgewatch! and Agents of Edgewatch S1|01: The Mean Streets of Absalom.

Welcome to the first installment of The Bird’s Eye View, our weekly Agents of Edgewatch recap column – the “Talking” thing felt like it was getting stretched a little thin, and I’m never one to pass up a quality play on words. (You’ll also note that we changed “Talking Circus” to “The Sideshow”.) This one’s going to be a little longer than usual because I’m going to circle back to a few Episode Zero thoughts as well as covering the first “real” episode.

I wanted to briefly touch on, but not dwell on, the real-world backdrop here. I know some people gave Paizo a hard time for writing an adventure path that featured law enforcement that happened to release right when the George Floyd incident happened and protests started. Some people even felt Paizo should have canceled Edgewatch entirely. I’m not going to tackle that decision – it’s already been made and it’s beyond my non-existent pay grade anyway. I’m going to talk about our decision to go ahead and play it.

First and foremost, I trust Steve’s judgment as a GM. He read the adventure path and he says it’s a really good story, and that the police aspects aren’t THAT central to the story once it gets rolling. In a way, being members of the local gendarmerie is almost a MacGuffin – it’s the thing that puts our characters where they need to be for the dungeon-crawling to happen. Also, Steve has a good feel for what makes for fun gaming and he knows what we like as players, so if he says we’ll like it… that’s a relationship forged over years, even decades, saying we should play this thing, and I trust that.

I also think at the end of the day, it’s up to each gaming table to figure out what their own ethics are. And OK, we have a little more responsibility since we have an audience, but it still comes down to the people we choose to be and the values we choose to reflect. Sure, SOMEWHERE in the Pathfinder landscape, there are going to be some tables that will think it’s clever to Bad-Cop their way through this adventure. That’s not us. We generally like being the good guys, and so we’re going to play this thing FAIRLY straight up. Our characters might get a little weird around the edges, but evil is just not who we are. Heck, me personally? I tried to play a run-through of Mass Effect where I chose the “renegade” option in every dialog, and I quit an hour in because I didn’t like that my character was turning into an asshole. Much as I chafe at the label, I’m Lawful Good to the bone; maybe Neutral Good on a whimsical day.

It does pose logistical challenges, no question about that. Going all the way back to Gygax, the heart of the D&D/Pathfinder combat system is “kill evildoers to get experience, take their treasure to buy better gear, progress to more powerful challenges”. Well… that system breaks down if you’re supposed to be representing the law in a city setting. Townspeople aren’t automatically “evildoers”, or they’re low-grade evildoers that belong in jail, not dead. And cops shaking down people for their money was pre-Jim Gordon Gotham City behavior. So if you wade in with standard tactics, you’re a thief and a murderer, and become exactly the sort of thing you’re supposed to be preventing. But if you don’t replace that mechanic with “something”, you don’t get experience or loot, so how will your characters progress and move the story forward?

Enter the Lawbreaker Badge, our table’s solution. It’s basically (to use modern terminology) a body-cam on steroids. It de-lethalizes your attacks automatically (unless you’re fighting something explicitly evil like the undead, in which case you can turn it off and do real damage). It decides what the legal penalties of a crime are, so you’re just there to collect the fine and take the person to jail if needed. It even provides a little bit of help in the healing department, with a single use of Lay on Hands. I figure if magic can create a portal to another freakin’ dimension, it can create a device that does those things. (Technically the rules of the AP de-lethalize the attacks, but the Lawbreaker Badge creates an in-game explanation for how it happens.) As far as loot? That’s a little trickier but still manageable. We get a “cut” of the fines, and sometimes there are items lying around with no clear owner that we’re allowed to keep. But if we tried to write a bunch of fake parking tickets to make money or just took someone’s stuff without an underlying crime, the Lawgiver Badge would shoot those down, so there’s no incentive to create a crime that isn’t there.

So that’s the system, now on to Basil Blackfeather.

I knew going in I wanted to play a tengu next time we moved to a new game – they’ve been one of my favorite races going back to First Edition, so once they were part of the Advanced Player’s Guide, it was a matter of “when” rather than “if”. (I can neither confirm nor deny I considered getting reckless and killing off Nella in the Black Lodge game to make it happen quicker.) I wasn’t AS sold on Investigator until we chose THIS adventure path, though. As I’ve said in my APG review, Investigator might not be a great fit in a traditional dungeon crawl – they’re a little squishy, and some of their investigation tools might go to waste if you’re just kicking down doors. Having said that, in THIS scenario, they’d be great. Police work is all about unraveling mysteries: figuring out who’s telling the truth or lying, looking for things that are out of place, and such… if there’s an adventure to try an investigator, this is probably the one.

I will say, though… while the dice logistics of an Investigator might be a little daunting, as a CONCEPT, I’m interested because Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite fictional characters ever. I re-read the Conan Doyle stories every few years just because. And the Empiricist build, in particular, IS Holmes walking into a room and noticing three different things that are out of place. It’s not a perfect fit because Holmes is MOSTLY a solo act (Watson and Lestrade aside), and Pathfinder is a team setting, but I still love the idea of a Holmes “gentleman detective” archetype.

ASIDE: Jeremy Brett of the 80s Granada/BBC series is the definitive Holmes and the floor is closed for discussion. RECLAIMING MY TIME! The Cumberbatch version is pretty good for a modern take. The Downey movies turned him into a Victorian superhero and the Watson relationship became “mismatched buddy cops”, so… meh. Never saw the American one with Lucy Liu as Watson. The sleeper here is Without a Clue with Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine. It’s an early-90s comedy that plays around with the idea that Watson (Kingsley) is actually the brains of the operation and he hired Caine (basically an out-of-work actor who’s a complete idiot) to play Holmes because it made the stories sell, and now he’s tired of his creation but can’t move beyond it because the public loves Holmes. (Add another entry to the RFC Virtual Movie Queue!)

A few other minor notes. I was torn on “Blackfeather” as a last name. Half of me felt it was just an uninspired rehash of “Blacktail”; part of me felt like the callback to Tuttle and having some linkage to that first character was actually kind of a fun thing. “Continuity” if you’re an optimist; “branding” if you’re cynical. I’ll let you listeners decide. And the artwork… DAMN! I’ve been mighty impressed with the artwork for all the shows, but this one was… (chef’s kiss) and is now serving as my personal FB avatar. My initial thoughts to Sheppi were basically “the Jeremy Brett version of Holmes + Hamilton, and a fancy sword-cane is his main weapon, but a bird”… and damn if he didn’t capture it. The only “change” we had to make from the first pass was that the color was fairly muted, so the pants became a little bluer and the flower was added. I will say that Basil’s father became a tobacconist in my backstory BECAUSE of the pipe, so… kinda cool how the art actually influenced the character. I did veto the idea of a tophat, though. Seemed impractical in a combat situation. Sorry?

One last thing before we get onto the first episode: I have to admit to just a touch of last-second buyer’s remorse when the Magus playtest came out. I’ve always liked the magus as a class (Spells AND armor? What’s not to like?) so if we hadn’t already started recording, I might have re-rolled, pulled an Alhara, and done the “play a playtest Magus and clean it up when the class goes live”. But the train had already left the station, so Investigator it is!

OK… so let’s get started. After a bit of lore dump, we get our initial assignment as part of Red Squad (as well as a brief nod to Reservoir Dogs implied in the visible disappointment of the members of Brown Squad and Pink Squad). We also get introduced to our stereotypically hard-boiled desk sergeant, who dispatches us on our first mission — to deal with rowdy tavern patrons. That’s gotta be a sly wink toward the trope of getting your first adventure by “meeting at the tavern”, right?

As I’m listening, I have to admit I’m not happy with the early character choices I made on Basil. Too foppish and out of touch, too much Brixley. I took the Political Scion background (it’s one of the backgrounds that comes with the AP), so yes, he’s supposed to be from a well-off/influential family, but I wanted him to be a little more grounded. For the moment, I’ll chalk it up to first-episode jitters, and hope it zeroes in on what I really want him to be.

So we arrive at the Tipsy Tengu. After surveying the scene, I decide to go ahead and confront the dwarf. Now, on a purely practical level, I’m PROBABLY not the best party member for this task — it’s probably Lo Mang or Dougie. But there were two impulses at work. First was just wanting to get in and do something. This is a pretty active “act first, think second” group and if you don’t decide on an action quickly, someone else will. But I’ll admit there was also a little bit of practical sentiment at work; if you send a fighter-type over, it’s almost like throwing down a challenge, so maybe sending a calming presence over would be better.

At that point, we go around the room. John deals pretty effectively with the pickpocket, though if there was a formal skill check, I must’ve missed it. Chris draws the most hilarious interaction, dealing with the party member who was just WAY too drunk and ends up vomiting on him. (As well as the party member who was inconsolable because they lost their familiar.) And then we come back to me… but not really because then Seth takes over negotiations with Bolar.

On one hand, I’m not going to lie; I was a little frustrated I didn’t get to finish what I started. But actually, I’ll give Seth credit: I was almost out of ideas and ready to look for an opening to zap him with Electric Arc (I have it as a tengu ancestry feat, not a formal spell), so Seth’s solution of telling him to do his drinking somewhere else was actually a pretty good compromise. We didn’t REALLY want to fight these guys and take them to jail, but this was clearly the wrong room for them. Furthermore, even just getting them outside if there WAS going to be a fight would’ve been a positive development because it would’ve limited collateral damage. Once we do, they calm down, we’re able to get them to accept the fine, and we’re on our way back to barracks for our next mission. As well as a power-wash for poor Lo Mang. The next day, we’ll be going on our first formal patrol of the festival grounds, but that’ll be where we’ll pick it up next time.

I also did want to briefly talk about the fate of the Black Lodge. In the short term, yes it’s going on the shelf. As players, we don’t really have the bandwidth for two shows, and Steve would have challenges on his end managing three shows. Steve also mentioned on Discord that he’s a little short of adventures that would make for good listening experiences. So… for now, we’re going to roll with Edgewatch. We may come back to Black Lodge here and there – it might turn into a thing where we’ll play one here and there when we have extra time, rather than a third regularly-scheduled show. The ultimate plan is still TBD, but it’s not the intent to give up on it forever, because we know some of you do like Society play and the special guest players are still a lot of fun. But in the short term, Edgewatch takes center stage.

So that’s my extra-long Episode 0 + 1 combined recap; thanks for reading along. While you’re waiting for the next 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.

Agents of Edgewatch S1|01: The Mean Streets of Absalom

It’s graduation day at Edgewatch Academy, as a new crop of rookie officers take to the streets. But this group has a special mission – to protect the people of Absalom during the Radiant Festival, a once in a generation celebration that just might attract once-in-a-generation mysteries. Welcome to the first episode of Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast!

Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch starting with the first book, Devil at the Dreaming Palace.

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!

The Sideshow S1|28: Killer Clown from Outer Space

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|28: Dinosaur Fort.

Oh sure, Steve. Mess with my rhythm. Put all the best stuff in the last 10 minutes of the episode. BE THAT WAY.

That’s OK. I’m going to roll with it and discuss the end of the episode first and then go back to the beginning later.

Let’s start with the creation of the CHDRR Multiverse since I had a very small supporting part to play in that. So I guess this also serves as a bit of a confession: my listener experience was not 100% pure, and this on one occasion, I had some inside information. Though in my defense, this happened so long ago that I had honestly forgotten about it until now.

Way back in the Pre-COVID Beforetimes, when Three-Ring Adventure was either just starting or perhaps even before it started recording, Steve told me there would eventually be a construct member the circus serving as a laborer and handyman, and asked me to come up with a CHDRR-esque acronym for it. The ends were easy: “Clockwork” fell right into place as the “technology” word (thanks, steampunk genre!) and one of the multiple definitions of “Roustabout” is literally “a circus or fairground laborer”. (Also the title of a 1964 Elvis movie.) So I had the concept of “technological laborer” locked in pretty quickly. From there, it was just a matter of filling in the middle bits. Though OK… I cheated and reused “Dynamic” for the D-word.

So yes, Three-Ring Adventure now has its own CHDRR, and I helped supply its name. Having said that, now I’m back to a fresh slate like the rest of you and I’m curious to see what CHDRR is here to do. Will it be beating up drunks during the shows? Is it possibly going to be a source for crafting requests? Could they even find a way to use it in the act? I find myself curious.

But admittedly, nowhere near as curious as I am to see how the addition of Jellico Bounce-Bounce changes the dynamic of the circus show. Now look… one could make the case that a town that’s already been traumatized by marauding wild animals and psychotic druids probably doesn’t need a “dark, edgy” clown act, but from the Professor’s standpoint if you can steal an act from your closest competitor to help grow the show… why wouldn’t you? So Alhara will be sleeping with a dagger under her pillow and one eye open for the foreseeable future… you wanna succeed in this business you gotta have a thick skin!

Also, I don’t know if Steve’s voice for Jellico is an overt homage to Mark Hamill or just one of Bob Ross’ Happy Little Accidents, but I fully support it either way. Now if they hire a female clown assistant who keeps calling him “Mister J.”, that might be a little too on the nose. Though I also volunteer to play said female assistant. And if hired, I fully intend to call Ateran “Bats” at every opportunity. (Bateran?)

I also like the idea that their circus is going to kick off a potential holy war based on an idle promise they made two months ago. “Yeah yeah, we’ll do a show to help you rebuild.” So now they’re all set to do an Abadar-themed show with a Gozreh worshiper as their special invited guest, right after that Gozreh worshipper’s former buddies went crazy and attacked the town. THIS CAN’T POSSIBLY END POORLY. Stay tuned for the red-band version of the next episode where Jellico Bounce-Bounce practices his knife skills on poor Harlock.

Meanwhile, all of that kind of overshadowed the fact that our intrepid adventurers reached Level 4! I think the most interesting thing here was the renewed focus on healing as both Darius and Ateran put resources into the healing arts – Darius’ skills will be more for reducing after-battle downtime; Ateran’s healing will help more in combat. I felt a little bad for Vanessa that Alhara had to spend Level 4 cleaning up the differences between the playtest and the final release version of her character, but at the end of the day, she’s still roughly where she planned to be with Alhara, so no real harm done I guess. Just felt like opening presents when you already knew what they were going to be. And Hap… a lot of moving parts and swapping spells, so it’s hard to see how it’ll play out until we start fighting again.

Speaking of which… I guess it’s not the end of Book 1 yet, but if it’s any consolation, we’re gonna get some freakin’ DINOSAURS before it’s all over. It’s kinda funny to think how that dynamic works – in a fantasy setting, dinosaurs barely register as interesting compared to, say, dragons. When you’ve got a giant flying lion with an eagle’s head and wings, a big lizard OUGHT to be No Big Deal. But in the real world, a dinosaur is probably the closest thing we can imagine to a fantasy creature, so it’s almost hard-wired that we still react with that same level of childish wonder, even back in the game world. (I was at that PaizoCon where they announced dinosaur form as an “oh look here’s a sample spell” part of Second Edition, and Steve’s right… when they put the page up on the projector, the crowd went NUTS.)

I have to admit I didn’t totally follow Harlock’s lore dump, but it sounds like some of the town’s recent woes are tied to the corruption of special stones that led to prosperous harvests, mild weather, and other druid-y things. And the investigation of that is going to lead to a community of xulgaths (formerly known as troglodytes), who buddy around with dinos the way humans integrate dogs and farm animals into our lives. So our party of adventurers is going to head off to their lair as soon as they finish doing their circus performance.

And that’s basically where we’ll pick it up next week. On one hand, going by dice math, the show should be better than ever before now that the party is another level higher; on the other hand, there’s all sorts of weird energy in the air between the addition of the killer clown and the awkward religious overtones. So I guess we’ll meet back here next week and see how it goes. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. THIS week, I’ll also throw in an invitation to check out the Episode Zero of our Agents of Edgewatch show that’s launching… well… today. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S1|00: Welcome to Agents of Edgewatch!

This episode will give you a quick rundown of the Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast (a playthrough of the Agents of Edgewatch Adventure Path), introduce you to the players, their characters, and what to expect on each show.

Whether you are brand new to the show or a long-time listener, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to best experience our podcast and what to expect each week!

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!

Basil Blackfeather

Basil Blackfeather is the eldest son of one of Absalom’s more noteworthy tengu families. His father Mortimer started the Sylvan Bounty Tobacco Company and parlayed an intriguing blend of pipe-weed and a gift for well-spun tales into a career in local politics; his mother Annabelle – the Honorable Annabelle Duskwing – is the arbiter criminals most fear appearing before. While not of noble birth, the Blackfeather house is one with a finger on Abaslom’s pulse and a curiously influential connection of friends.

Basil’s older sister Eleanor got the green thumb… talon… of the family and runs the farm where the Sylvan Bounty grows its tobacco crops. (The less we speak of his younger brother Linus, the better. That one’s a troublemaker.) Basil, with a keen mind and a knack for observational skills, was drawn to his mother’s law books, but flavored with a young boy’s fascination with mystery and investigative work. Some say Basil’s mother encouraged this behavior by letting Basil read the files of tricky cases the authorities were having trouble; there are even whispers that a few criminals were brought to justice thanks to the lad’s eye for detail.

As we meet Basil as an adult, he is enrolled at one of Absalom’s most respected law colleges, but Basil’s friends have noticed an increasing restlessness: a desire to do more than burn candles into the late-night reading books. And then, at a break between terms… Basil’s dorm room starts to show signs of having been vacated, as a “B. Blackfeather” appears on the enlistment sheet for the newest Edgewatch recruitment class…

Basil Blackfeather is played by Jason McDonald.

Gomez

“When I was a kid growing up, I used to hate the city guard. We and the other kids in the neighborhood were always getting into trouble – fights, gang fights, petty theft – always getting harassed by the cops. Parents never seemed to care, we were punks, and we liked it.

But as you grow a little older, you begin to realize what city guard is all about. They’re just doing a job, enforcing the law, and raising families. If you break the law, you get busted and booked. That’s about all there is to it. I learned to respect that. I even began to realize that the only people I knew who stood for something were the city guard.

So when I got old enough, I joined up. I joined the city guard. I joined the Edgewatch.

I have this dream of one day breaking that big case. Maybe one day, that dream will come true.”

Gomez is played by Seth Lipton.

Lo Mang

Lo Mang is a towering hulk of an Orc. 6’5” with greenish skin and black hair in a ponytail from the center of his head.  Tattooed and scarred over his body, one tattoo is prominent on his chest, a crane with red eyes and a bloody beak.  Other features include cloven hooves below his knees, a tail, and what look to be vestigial wings on his back.  He is an impressive, if not somewhat off-putting sight to some.

Lo Mank is fairly soft-spoken, preferring to speak with his fists.  He does have an affinity to the natural world, but city life suits him just as well.  He spends much of his off time in physical training and meditation.

Lo Mang is played by Chris Beemer.

Cadet Dougie McDougal

Cadet Dougie McDougal is the product of a sheltered childhood and only knows what he’s memorized from dated recruit manuals. He holds himself to odd, contrived standards, equipping himself only with earned trophies, and will spend his money only on magic items. Dougie misreads social interactions and survives by the providence of a strength that seemingly comes from nowhere.

He is cheerful and possesses a positive outlook on life. He doesn’t seem to have a care in the world, aside from his self-imposed battle against lawbreakers. Unfortunately for his companions, he speaks his mind and doesn’t filter his opinions, which are often wrong.

Cadet Dougie McDougal is played by John Staats.

Three Ring Adventure S1|28: Dinosaur Fort

Other than the library completely destroyed, animals corrupted, and nearly all the priests devoured by demons, the hermitage is saved! Time to go back to the circus for another show!

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!