Jason McDonald, Author at Roll For Combat: Pathfinder & Starfinder Actual Play Podcasts

Talking Combat 123: Resistance is Futile

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 122: You’re Locked In Here With Me!

We start this episode with an act of SUPREME BETRAYAL AND TREACHERY!

Yes, I’m talking about the fact that The Voiceover Guy no longer says “and his drone CHDRR!” when introducing me. What the hell, man? We’ve still got five people coming out of the basement and onto the Internet instead of six, but you had time to do CHDRR dirty like that? I’m lodging a formal protest with… well, whoever one lodges those sorts of protests with. The World Court at The Hague? Judge Judy? WHERE IS MY JUSTICE?

Sorry… rant over.

At any rate, after two weeks of “we got this”, here’s where we finally reach the “maybe we don’t got this” portion of the fight. It hasn’t gone bad yet, but it feels like it’s teetering on the edge of bad.

The main thing is that the lion’s share of our damage has gone onto the two biggest damage dealers, so if they drop, the rest of us don’t have the firepower to take the boss out ourselves. (And in fact, we can’t even SEE him.) Mo and Akiro are the big guns – we know this. Hirogi is pretty good when he lands Trick Attack, but if he doesn’t land that, his damage output becomes kind of ordinary. Rusty and Tuttle though are pretty much support characters. If we have to take something out… well, maybe we should just let Rusty try to talk us out of it at that point. Or swear loyalty to the Corpse Fleet and ask for Australia as the price for our help. (Sorry… Gene Hackman turned 90 recently, so he’s been on the brain.)

In a normal battle, we’ve found ways to spread that out a little so the enemy “wastes” some of their damage on me and Bob (another way in which CHDRR might have been useful – clogging lanes and soaking up attacks). Or at least it’s one Big Bad Squaring off against Mo and the rest of us chop down adds. In this combat, the three of us really haven’t been getting hit, except by the secondary damage (the acid sphere or standing too close together and getting caught in an Explosive Blast).

And that’s the other thing that stands out about this fight. There’s a lot of “extra” damage being brought to bear. Explosive Blast isn’t a lot of damage at this level, but it hits multiple targets. Basically the equivalent of endless grenades. The acid damage isn’t a lot of damage, except that it gives you a 10-point kicker even after you’ve moved out of it.

But the poster child for that is the Rewire Flesh spell. Again, 3d6 per round isn’t a huge amount of damage in any one roll. But it’s a nasty little bugger because it’s basically free fire-and-forget damage for double-digit rounds. There’s no action needed to sustain it. A save only halves it; nothing short of Dispel Magic negates it (and I wasn’t paying close attention to Chris’ rolls, but the save seemed like it was in the 15ish range). It’s internal damage, so any sort of externally-focused damage reduction is useless. So even if the “average” damage on the spell is only 11 or 12 points per round, that’s a constant drain while the caster can go on about his business casting other nastiness. To which Chris is also now more susceptible because he moves slower and is flat-footed. That spell didn’t really leap off the page when I first looked at it except that it had gnarly “flavor”… now, I’d be hard-pressed to roll a caster that DOESN’T take that.

And then there’s that other door. I hinted at doing so last session, but this time I really am going to go lock that thing. I have nothing guiding that decision beyond a) general symmetrical dungeon design, and b) the fact that we really can’t handle another round of adds. We have to start making a dent in the boss. Since we’ve already seen the admiral, the captain, and their Mister Worf (Gatecrasher), I don’t feel like there would be a boss-level monster in the other room, but even another helping of undead monks would arguably push us past our limits. If we’re not there already.

Now, as Seth points out, they might still be able to go back out into the main lobby and re-enter through one of the other doors, but… first things first. If it becomes a race to lock the other sets of doors, I think we can win that one because there’s two of us and we’d have the shorter route to the remaining inner doors.

I don’t know how I feel about Steve giving us such an overt hint about the See Invisibility ampule. There’s probably some absolute level where he probably shouldn’t have done that. If we didn’t study our characters well enough, that’s on us, and if we die… I guess we die. But I do think it’s worth mentioning that this fight was being recorded during the holidays, and there was a two or three-week break around Christmas. So it really was more than a month since we had gotten that piece of loot, so maybe the little hint was warranted. I suppose that’s for you as the listener to decide – cheesy or not? Though for the moment, it isn’t cheesy until we benefit from it.

As we end this week, the adds are down or pretty close to it. If I recall correctly, there’s still one undead monk that’s been hit for at least 100 or so damage, and there might still be a second add whose overall status I’m a little fuzzier on, but that’s it. If we can get those guys down and start working on the boss as a team, there’s still a window to win this. Not to metagame too overtly, but if he’s a caster, that should mean he has fewer hitpoints than your average Big Bad. But it’s going to be a race against time, and that’s where we’ll pick it up next week.

As always, 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!

Talking Plaguestone 29: Puke The Site From Oribit

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 29: Here Comes The Drudge.

We start today with a bit of a show note. Last night was supposed to be a recording session for us, but things came unglued because of technical difficulties – like… three different things one right after the other. Clearly someone stole a monkey-god idol they weren’t supposed to, and we all ended up paying for it. IT’S THE CURRRRRSE! (Cut to a close shot of the idol, lit with ominous shadows, with tinkling discordant piano notes.)

And yet we still had a blast because we just sat around and BS’ed about stuff. (Well, it was less fun for Steve because he was mostly down in the electronic boiler room trying to fix things. But the rest of us had a grand old time.) The reason I’m mentioning this is to offer a little reminder that it can be fun to get your gaming group together for a non-gaming session every once in a while. The game tends to impose roles, which sometimes puts us in boxes. Most obviously it separates the GM from the rest of the table by placing them in the role of rule interpreter and captain of Team Monster, but even within a party, people can start to get a little locked into the roles they play in the group. The healer ends up subservient and follows the lead of other players; the face of the party tends to dominate conversations, things like that. Setting that aside and just enjoying each other’s company for an evening is the sort of thing that keeps a gaming group together over the long haul. I highly recommend it.

(Though I’ll also be honest: the new Fire Emblem Three Houses DLC dropped last night mid-session, and I was sorely tempted to feign some “technical difficulties” of my own and go play that. MUST MEET THE SEWER CHILDREN! But that’s a whole other blog. In answer to the obvious questions: “Golden Deer, even though I think Claude is kind of an asshat” and “Petra”.)

OK, uncharacteristically wholesome digression over… time to kick some alchemical drudge ass!

This was one of those fun fights because the acid pools created an element of challenge that was interesting without being overly punitive. Yes, the squares of acid made movement tricky – at one point, the board looked like a half-finished game of Minesweeper. But as long as you didn’t end your turn in one, there wasn’t any real consequence, so it mostly just involved planning your moves carefully.

For an example of “too punitive”, there’s a room in the Emerald Spire where it’s complete (magical) darkness AND difficult terrain, and you’re facing bad guys (orcs or kobolds or something – it’s a low-level encounter) who can see just fine. Some of whom are archers. So you’re wandering around bumping into stuff, hoping you find someone to attack, while they’re shooting you to pieces. That’s an example of being challenging without being particularly fun.

This also strikes me as a fight that really works because of the way Second Edition has limited attacks of opportunity and opened up the battlefield. Put this same fight in First Edition for a second. Then you’ve got pools of acid everywhere, but if you try and escape them too aggressively, you’re choosing between guaranteed acid damage or eating attacks of opportunity. So… “damage” or “also damage”, and we’re back to “challenging, but not fun”. But in Second Edition, it flows much better.

One interesting outcome was that the flow of combat put Prue on a bit of an island. When the fight first started and we didn’t know what the drudges could do, Prue decided to charge further into the room to get in the drudges’ faces. As you do when you’re a front-line fighter. Get in faces, beat ‘em down. But then the drudges started spitting acid, and the rest of us tended to retreat backwards whenever we were standing in acid. So eventually, we had a mini-lake of acid with Prue all by herself on one side and the rest of us on the other. Also, we kind of gave them control of the main choke-point on the battlefield, the doorway. Oops.

The other thing you might have noticed is it mostly took Ember out of the fight, but that a conscious decision on my part. Once I realized that movement was going to be a key component of the fight, it dawned on me that running out of moves and potentially leaving me or Ember standing in acid was probably a worse negative than the positive of any additional damage she could do. (Also, at least early in the fight, the doorway made a natural chokepoint and just getting her into the action was going to be difficult.) If things got dire, I would’ve brought her forward, but as long as we were in reasonable control of things, I figured I’d just let her sit this one out.

Cynically, I also enjoyed this fight because I didn’t get any of my rules wrong – I didn’t use Lay on Hands, and I got Liberating Step right (for the most part). Now to be fair, some of that came about because of Prue’s choice to run into the room: she was out of range of either of those effects, so I didn’t have a CHANCE to screw it up. But we may also be catching up to the point where we actually realized we were doing it wrong and started doing it correctly. Though having said I did it right, there might have been a lost opportunity to do it BETTER. Liberating Step also includes giving the ally a Step as a free-action: as I’m re-listening, I’m thinking there might have been opportunities to use that to not only block damage but to be more clever about moving people out of the acid. Ah well.

And then at the end of the fight, I had almost forgotten about The Leap. That was literally me being a knucklehead for the sake of using a feat that a) I had never used and b) my teammates had made fun of me for taking. So even though it was only 10’ of acid and I could’ve just run through it and ended my turn on the other side, I wanted to try my leap just to say I did it. The DC of the check was pretty low – single digits, I believe – but the universe being the Great Equalizer that it is, I fully expected to roll a Nat-1 and faceplant into the acid. If that had happened, I TOTALLY would’ve deserved it. But no… I finally get to be Brixley the Bullfrog.

And that’s where we end the episode. Drudges dispensed with, new areas to explore, and since this is more of a workshop area, this feels more like the right way to go to find Vilree. And that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. As always, 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.

Talking Combat 122: Admiral on the Bridge

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 122: You’re Locked In Here With Me!

Well, we found the boss. Or, maybe more accurately, the boss found us.

Up to a point, this fight has been going pretty well. I didn’t like losing CHDRR so early, but he did almost 100 points of damage in his swan song, and we actually made pretty quick work of the initial force opposing us (Gatecrasher plus the two monks). Plus, it was a cool storytelling moment.

But… now we have a flying invisible caster to deal with, who’s basically Mirror Universe Akiro. Which is probably the one thing our group doesn’t have an easy fix for. Mo (in particular) is great at stand-up fights – if he can see it and hit it, he can kill it. But so far, Akiro is the only one who can actually see the Big Bad, as see invisibility only works on himself. As one of our listeners pointed out on Discord, we do have a see invisibility spell ampule (basically a potion) we got in the last fight, but for now, we don’t remember it (and I think it’s in Akiro’s possession anyway.. the one guy who doesn’t need it).

I’m going to at least partially plead scheduling on this bout of forgetfulness – at some point during this final fight, we broke for the holidays, and didn’t play for like 2 or 3 weeks. So part of it is as simple as we forgot about the ampule because of the long layover. And/or we got that ampule right at the end of the session when people were starting to mentally pack it in until next week – the “cool” treasure was the four items in the display cases, and the ampule just got overshadowed.

Interestingly, there’s a rules-lawyer I should’ve thought of but didn’t think of until I was re-listening later: the Stinkeye. Just as a reminder, Tuttle has temporary Sense Through Vision (basically X-ray vision) in one eye as an after-effect of using the Stitch Spider. At first I thought I could’ve pleaded that Tuttle might detect a difference in density – that his Sense Through was going through additional material in the spot the lich was in – that maybe might merit a chance to see the edges of the lich or something.

So I went back and read the text of the effect, and it’s actually blocked by “energy fields and sufficiently dense materials”. So, missed opportunity or not? It SPECIFICALLY mentions wall of force, so if I had used the Stinkeye, I would’ve actually seen the wall of force in a bit of reverse X-ray vision. More importantly, it’s also blocked by “force fields that grant temporary hit points”, so if that lich had any sort of shield on him, that might also have blocked my Stinkeye and given me… I don’t know, a lich-shaped negative-space outline? Or, would any of his other spells have tripped it? Granted, if I’d been able to see him, I still wouldn’t be able to do much except wimpy gun damage or chucking grenades at it, but it’d be better than nothing.

(Checked with Steve. He said no, the lich didn’t have a force field. So… wouldn’t have mattered. But I thought it was an interesting digression.)

Meanwhile… reinforcements arrive from the Ready Room, including the named vesk captain Mo has heard of. Again, not an insurmountable bunch, but it ratchets the challenge level up a notch or two, and we probably need to take care to split them up so they’re not all pounding on Mo. The real danger here is that paralysis effect – remember from the train station that paralysis = free coup de grace’s, and that could turn this fight into a shitshow in a hurry. Still, some good saving throws here, a timely crit there, and we’re still hanging in there.

Speaking of good saving throws, I snuck a look at the rewire flesh spell the boss cast, and it’s nasty stuff: 3d6 damage each round (save for half), flat-footed, half-speed, and a -2 penalty to DEX saves. And one round per level so… I dunno… 13, 14 rounds? If/when I get around to playing a Technomancer, I’m definitely grabbing that one.

The arrival of reinforcements from the back left also brings up the possibility that reinforcements could come from the back right door as well – hello, symmetrical “dungeon” construction! Depending on how the flow of the fight goes, I’m going to burn a round or two to run over to that door and try to seal it so bad guys either can’t go in at all, or AT LEAST have to go around the long way and give us a few more rounds to dispatch the current batch. I’ll wait to make sure Mo has things in hand, but sealing that door might be a more effective use of my time than a few rounds of Pew-Cubed.

This brings up a meta point about the blog itself. The next few episodes represent an interesting writing challenge because we begin and end in the same battle. Which is not to say there’s not interesting stuff in each segment, but there’s a potential for overlap and repeating things. There are going to be callbacks to previous parts of the fight, and there may even be a few places like this where I talk about strategy for future parts of the fight. No overt spoilers, but a little bit of “here’s what I was thinking of doing next at this point in the fight”. I just wanted to acknowledge that the blog will be a little fluid about episode boundaries, but I’ll try to avoid spoiling anything outright.

So we end Fight Night, Round Two in roughly the same place as before – pretty good shape on the adds, NO plan for dealing with the boss, unless Akiro can somehow solo him. If you want to delve into the metagame, greater invisibility lasts one round per level so if we wait him out and can stay alive… 13, 14 rounds… we might get a target to shoot at. But that’s easier said than done. Hope you’ll rejoin us next week – you stuck with us two years, don’t leave now! – and see how this goes. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the final fight so far. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week!

Talking Plaguestone 28: Uninvited Guests

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 28: Halfling Trap Detector.

The theme of this week’s episode is time management.

In the course of “normal” adventuring, standard operating procedure tends to be to gather every scrap of information and pillage every piece of loot you can find. In First Edition and even Starfinder, we sometimes boil it down to the cynical and meta-gamey “we search the room until we find whatever we’re supposed to find”, “Grayhawk the room”. Even earlier in this adventure (the Hallod fight, for instance), we were doing a bit of that. What fun is being an adventurer if you’re not getting paid?

This particular week, it’s a little harder to do that because there’s a lot of… stuff… pushing us toward trying to resolve things quickly. First, we’ve got the lone archer who survived the courtyard battle – I don’t think that’s Vilree, since it’s unlikely an alchemist would ALSO be a great archer, but it is someone who could return any time with reinforcements. Next, there’s the homunculus who should have a telepathic connection with Vilree, so it’s a pretty safe bet she knows we’re here now. And then toward the end of this session, we get the ominous diary entry claiming the final preparations for Plaguestone’s destruction are already underway. Like I said, there’s a lot pushing us to keep moving forward.

As such, I think we may have missed a few things. It’s one of those things I didn’t really pick up on when we were playing, but when we first entered the “living room” (but before we found the kitchen), Steve described one of the bookshelves as being full of “scrolls” and “exotic objects”. Or maybe “esoteric”… it was definitely an E-word that sounded promising and vaguely magical. That sounds like it could’ve been either been magic items, something that related to Vilree’s plot, or both, but I don’t think we ever came back around to searching that shelf because we were kind of in “keep it moving” mode.

The running clock does seem to be a bit of a signature Paizo move; it shows up a lot. Ironically, our Starfinder game is also in a running-clock section at the exact same time. That scenario (in case you’re only listening to this show) is that we have to disable the enemy starship before they capture the Doomsday MacGuffin – the ship is fighting its way through the outer defenses, and we have to stop them before they get to the destination. We have access to the ship’s computer so we have a rough idea of how the battle is going and how much time we have left, so… another running clock.

Sometimes the running clock is more on the order of weeks, just to keep the adventure from going completely sideways. You don’t really have to rush an individual encounter, but it does keep you from spending a week crafting or something. I suppose “the judge gets here at the end of the month” was the thing that kept us moving on investigating Bort’s murder in the first half of the adventure. But toward the end of adventure paths (like this), it’s on the order of hours, and the goal is to explicitly force the party to finish an area without taking long rests. It sometimes feels a little contrived, but at least it provides an in-story reason for it, rather than arbitrarily saying “you can’t rest here” like one of those isometric 90s-era video games.

I do think a secondary reason we’ve been getting sloppy about loot is that the “loot table” for this adventure is tilted pretty heavy toward alchemy. I feel a little guilty complaining, considering I’m the one person in the party with martial weapons training who can throw bombs the best, but still… personally I’d be more excited to search some of these bodies if there was going to be a sword of a shield. But nope… MORE POTIONS. I suppose there was that orc with the club, but I’m not sure I could live down the sheer physical imagery of Brixley swinging a club that’s taller than he is.

I don’t have a strong reaction to the homunculus encounter. On one hand, it feels a little unsatisfying like maybe we should’ve done something other than just lock it in the kitchen. But it doesn’t sound like we could talk to it, and I’m not sure fighting it would’ve been worth the time and resources, so what else was there, really? I don’t know: it just feels like some sort of thread was left dangling there, but I can’t put a finger on a better idea.

The other thing we get a closer look at this week is hazards and lock picking. I vaguely recall Cade trying to do a lock earlier in the adventure, but I think he only had one pick and broke it, and Prue ended up using strength to force it open. This time we get a closer look at the process. I have to admit, even though it’s a bit more challenging, I like the multi-step approach to locks and hazards – it always seemed kind of anti-climactic to just resolve it in a single roll (“oh look, a trap”… [roll]… “oh look, no more trap”); with this approach, there’s some anticipation involved. Makes the job of a rogue (or other trap-disabler) a little more fun.

As we reach the end of this episode, that journal entry is picking at my brain pretty hard. What if we’ve ALREADY taken too long? What if Spite’s Cradle served its purpose and Vilree has already gone… back to Plaguestone even? What if the orcs were just left behind to tie us up while she finishes the job? Or, Vilree’s previous shenanigans have involved tampering with the water supply… what if whatever’s going to kill Plaguestone has already been deployed into the water supply and there’s nothing we can do? What if we get back there and everyone’s dead?

(And by the way, I’ve still got that 2% conspiracy theory that the archer is Noala. She keeps disappearing to “clear the perimeter”… maybe she’s really one of Vilree’s henchmen and she keeps leading us into traps. Haven’t totally let go of that one either.)

So we get the living quarters cleared, and now it’s time to head into the more functional area of the keep. We’ve got some fountains (that nagging doubt about the water supply just kicked into overdrive), and that’s pretty much where we leave things for next week. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by the Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show; always lots of good stuff happening there. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Combat 121: Everything is Deader with CHDRR

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 121: Die, Robot.

I have some mixed feelings about this episode, as you can imagine.

First, as a brief aside, I’ll back Steve up that none of this was scripted. Here’s the thing: even without intimate knowledge of the tool, I’ve noticed D20Pro DOES have seem to have some mode where Steve can approve/change/override dice rolls. Mostly Steve uses it to adjust for damage modifiers, and in our PF2 game, the version we’re using doesn’t handle crits quite right with the multi-attack penalty. But when Steve puts a hold on a die roll, there’s a noticeable delay, and that “01” was in my dice window the second I clicked it. So unless he’s got some next-level D20Pro Blacksite add-on I’m unaware of that was hacking my client in real-time, that roll was legit.

On a storytelling level, I think it’s fantastic to have CHDRR go out in a blaze of glory, and even more generally, I like it when big, crazy, unexpected things happen. Paint-by-numbers combat is boring; having something out on the skinny end of the bell curve happen livens things up. So on that level, this was very cool.

And OK, pulling back the curtain a little, Steve sent me the results of the roll by text, but with the understanding that I wasn’t allowed to say anything until he gave me the cue that it was happening. So for MOST of that time, the rest of the group was getting ready, I was sitting there thinking “you poor bastards, you have noooooo idea”. It added a layer of amusement to sit on that secret for a bit. It was like having one foot behind the GM screen for a few seconds.

But… there’s the real consequences of it, which are not trivial.

First, there goes half my offense and my designated bodyguard for the rest of the fight. If you haven’t picked up on it in the past two-plus years, Tuttle is not some offensive juggernaut; take CHDRR away, and he may very well be the wimpiest member of the party. Also, fighting without CHDRR is kinda boring – there’s no real choices to make. So now I gotta do the final fight of the whole game with the least effective, least interesting version of my character. Won’t that be fun? I pretty much have to hope the fight as a whole is entertaining because my role is not likely to be.

Second, in one fell swoop, it undid my plans for The Button. Before all this happened, I specifically wanted to rules-lawyer a better Button for the final fight, and Steve gave it to me. As I said, the main reason I haven’t used The Button more is it costs me (and therefore CHDRR) a full-round action, which hasn’t been worth it for the random effects it generates. But if the Button activation is a move, or even better, a swift? That’s worth doing. I was preparing to be a button-pushing fool – certainly as many times as my intelligence allowed, and maybe even keep going after that. Now? No Button either.

The third thing is that other than the randomly-typed damage and d8s instead of d6s for damage, that was basically the same effect CHDRR already has installed in the form of the Shock Wave (which kicks in when he hits 10 hit points). So somewhere out around Plan G or Plan H on my list of internal scenarios was that if CHDRR got down around 20 or 15 points, I was going to send him on a suicide mission out into the middle of a group of enemies. Including, if needed, shooting him myself to detonate the EMP. (Preferably with a single tear trickling down Tuttle’s cheek. I had this all planned, I’m telling you…) So the coolness of dealing 49 damage to each foe was slightly undercut by the fact that I could’ve let CHDRR fight for a few rounds, let him get whittled down, and then done pretty much the same thing myself as a conscious choice.

And then the other thing that threw a wrench in the works – but this is more normal party shenanigans – was John (in particular) running out into the middle of the room. Chris did too, but he at least went for a corner and got out of the way of the blast. I don’t know why John was getting testy with me… what else did he think I was going to do with a drone that had just turned into a giant bomb? Waste all that beautiful damage? I do understand why John didn’t want our free round to go to waste – Mo’s all about getting in people’s faces and smashing them – but thanks to John moving in, I had to angle CHDRR away from the direct center of the group to avoid clipping Mo, and as a result, I only hit 2 of the 3 bad guys.

Aside from the spoiler-y fact that we just finished recording this week, there are a few in-game hints here and there that this isn’t the whole fight. Right now we’re fighting the brute and two of the same monks that were in the outer chamber which doesn’t seem like a final battle on its own. Additionally, as Seth points out, the main guy is muscle and doesn’t seem like command material. These guys aren’t some pure warrior race where they just put the biggest strongest dude in charge; they’re undead, so I’d expect someone with brains running the show. This guy seems more like a security guard. We also know that logs mentioned a captain AND an admiral, and the captain was identified as a Vesk general Mo had heard of – so even if the brute is one of those two… we’re missing one. And then there’s that force wall Mo ran into: the brute isn’t likely to have that power, and it didn’t seem like the monks could do anything like that in the previous fight. So where is that coming from? There are also multiple doors leading to other areas – is the “bridge” really a bridge complex where we have to clear multiple rooms?

All good questions and I’m sure we’ll find answers – whether we want to or not. But we still gotta clear what’s in front of us first, which we’ll continue to do next week. While you’re waiting for that, feel free to drop by Discord – among other things, Steve posted the complete list of CHDRR Button effects on the “spoilers” channel. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week!

Talking Plaguestone 27: Angry Birds

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 27: Parkour!

OK, let’s start today’s post by going through this Liberating Step thing one more time. I don’t know why I didn’t get this right this particular episode – I’m gonna chalk it up to the fact that it was close to Thanksgiving and I may have still been suffering the after-effects of a turkey coma. Though… I seem to recall a version of this conversation where I say the RIGHT thing (no free attack) and everyone else tells me I’m wrong and talks me out of it. Maybe that was a future episode, or maybe Steve edited that out of this one. Whatever… don’t want to make a federal case out of it. For today, I forgot.

(I also got the damage on the cantrip wrong, but that was just a little bit of confusion between rounding down and rounding up. That strikes me as a lesser sin, especially since I’ve only used that spell once or twice.)

But to recap: there are three flavors of the champion class. There’s the Paladin (lawful), Redeemer (neutral), and Liberator (chaotic), and each flavor gets its own “Champion’s Reaction” as a class skill. They ALL have the property where they block [2 + (LVL)] damage, but they each have their own secondary effect. The Paladin’s Retributive Strike gets the free counter-attack if they’re within reach of the attacker. It’s probably the simplest and most straightforward of the three abilities – who doesn’t love damage? The Liberator’s Liberating Step (the thing Brixley has) gives an ally a free chance to get free of any sort of restraining-type effect – from a brute-force grapple to paralysis – and also allows the ally a free Step action. Situationally useful, but not always. And though it’s not relevant to this conversation, just to be a completist: the Redeemer’s Glimpse of Redemption gives the enemy a choice – either the damage can be mitigated entirely, or it’s the usual [2 + (LVL)] damage resistance and the damager becomes enfeebled 2 (without a save). Arguably Liberating Step is the weakest – or at least most situational – of the three, but I wanted to be chaotic for roleplaying reasons, so… I guess that’s what I’m stuck with.

It didn’t really impact the game that much because I only used it twice and missed at least one of the attacks – or it was the attack that canceled out because the bird couldn’t really use the special attack anyway. So it wasn’t a huge screw-up, but I always hate getting rules wrong. Especially when it’s something I got right all the way back at first level.

On the other hand, speaking of rules mistakes, I suppose we also have to eat the shit sandwich this week because this time, Cade’s health was low enough that the difference between a 12 and 18 point Lay on Hands mattered in terms of keeping him alive. I still think we would’ve won the fight and gotten Cade back on his feet, but it probably would’ve taxed more of our healing resources – might have had to pop a potion or have Celes break out a heal. So… oops.

Listening to this combat, I’m not sure how much of it was “these birds are tough” and how much was “Cade was a doofus who should’ve done a better job of hiding behind his tanks”. (And yes, I say this knowing that although it’s DEX-based, his armor class is higher than mine.) I suppose the honest answer is “a little bit of both”.

If you think about it, that special attack is deceptively powerful – the birds got two attacks at zero penalties, and then they could retreat back out to range after doing it. Meaning melee characters – which is most of our party – have to spend one action to close distance, get one attack at zero penalty, and then have to choose between a second attack that’s less likely to hit, or using any other abilities. Also, the birds had a surprising amount of hitpoints for wispy air creatures. The case for the “we needed better tactics” is that we let them tangle us up in the doorway for almost two full rounds, and Celes, Ember and myself couldn’t get involved in the fight right away. It kinda left Cade all by himself getting pummeled at the start of the fight, which meant he spent most of the battle fighting on death’s door, and that tends to change what one can do. Things got a little better once everyone got in the room, so maybe that whole fight could’ve gone more smoothly with a little more planning.

As an aside, I’ve heard of parties where they literally spend the first round delaying actions to get themselves in optimal fighting order, before they take a single aggressive action. That always struck me as being a little TOO meta-gamey, but in a situation like this where the works get all clogged up, good sequencing might have actually made a difference. Either that or our party needs to have a designated choreographer. (I know… there’s probably some reference to “Cheer” waiting to be made here, but I haven’t seen the show yet so… missed opportunity.)

The final thing that caught my eye this episode was Prue finally critically failing a Treat Wounds check. It’s one of those things you always knew was bound to happen eventually, but of course, it waited for the most critical part of the adventure to happen. I kind of like this – it’s a source of magic-less healing, but there’s just enough of a risk to keep you on your toes. Granted, it’s far easier to say that after Cade had lived – if the damage roll was an 8 and that’s what killed Cade for good, I might be sitting here saying all sorts of unkind things about Paizo’s developers.

(And yes, I’m sticking with my head-canon that Prue failed in the most slapstick way possible – “let me hold my torch a little closer to get a look at this wound!” and lights Cade on fire, or something like that.)

And there we basically leave it for the week – another week that ends with rest and recuperation (though not a full long rest; just enough time to Lay On Hands enough time to get everyone to full) and we’ll pick up the exploration of Spite’s Cradle next week. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you then.

Pathfinder Lost Omens Gods & Magic Review: A Fine Time With The Divine

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 Review and Pathfinder Lost Omens: Character Guide Review.

If you enjoyed this review make sure to check out our Pathfinder Adventure: The Fall of Plaguestone Actual Play Podcast!

I feel like I should start with a bit of confession that maybe I’m not the best person to be reviewing this book. I’ve always had an indifferent relationship with the gods when it comes to roleplaying games. As far as I’m concerned, they serve as the plot engine for how divine magic works; you pick one that sort of fits with whatever alignment you’ve decided to play, and then it’s time to roll dice and fight stuff. Even my clerics and paladins sometimes make more references to Grabthar’s Hammer (what a savings!) than they do to the actual deity they’re supposed to be worshiping.

On the other hand, for better or worse, I do represent a certain type of player that exists within the RPG landscape, so my opinion is no less valid than anyone else’s; it’s just a filter you’ll have to read through. I figure as long as I acknowledge my biases in advance, I can still give you a look that’ll help you decide whether this book is right for your gaming table.

Let me acknowledge that writing a book about the gods is a tricky tightrope to walk. The challenge that presents itself is that the gods are supposed to be mysterious and unknowable. So if you write them as TOO mysterious and unknowable, you write a book full of fluff that doesn’t provide any actual gaming value. If you write with too much specificity, you make the gods an ordinary part of the world and undermine some of the mystique that makes them… well… gods. If you need an example of how wrong the latter approach can go, go back and look at the original AD&D Deities And Demigods… also known informally as “Hey, Let’s Give The Gods Stat-Blocks So We Can Kill Them”.

I suppose that’s where the “And Magic” part of the book comes in. The large majority of the book is about the gods themselves, and…. not gonna lie, it gets a little esoteric and detached in places. But there are about 20 pages toward the end – feats, spells, deity-themed magic items – where things get very rubber-meets-road.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the gods since they represent the majority of the book.

First, we have the main 20 gods that were introduced in the Core Rulebook (and the gods you’re going to be most familiar with coming from First Edition). Desna, Cayden Cailean, Pharasma… the whole crew. If you’re already playing this game, I would assume you have at least passing familiarity with them, but Gods & Magic gives you a deeper dive. Each god gets a two-page writeup that starts with a summary block – which gods are allies and enemies, who worships them and where they do so, and other such “quick-hit” information. (Including favored colors, in case you need help painting your miniature!) This is generally followed by a high-school civics breakdown of the god and their place in the Pathfinder universe, a sidebar that gives you some common aphorisms, and perhaps the most interesting part of the write-up: rules for divine intercessions.

Divine intercessions attempt to answer the question of “how would each god choose to reward or punish their followers?” This is handled through the mechanisms of boons and curses, with mild, moderate, and major options given for each. (To quote Sesame Street, this section of the book was clearly brought to us by the letter “M”). A mild boon or curse might be something as simple as a re-roll of a skill or saving throw. Major boons and curses can be character altering effects that might seriously change how a character plays. The Moderate curses and boons fall in between those two extremes – some of them are pretty close to minor effects, while others could almost be major effects.

To give an example, let’s look at Pharasma. Her minor boon is a single +2 to a skill check. Eh… whatever. Her moderate boon is an increased mastery of life and death magic – +1 positive energy damage against undead on melee attacks, +1 damage per spell level on damage spells, and/or +1 point per level on heals – not overpowering, but a nice little bonus. Her major boon, though, is pretty crazy. Pharasma decides on a fate you must fulfill (in game mechanics, the GM decides on a task you must complete). Until you fulfill that fate, you cannot die – anything that would kill you gets converted to a non-lethal misfortune of some sort. However, if you should’ve died and the boon saved you, you die peacefully in your sleep once the fate-quest has been completed. Crazy, huh? (Meanwhile, her major curse is that your family line is destined to end and you can’t have kids or otherwise procreate.) Pharasma does NOT screw around.

After the main 20 are fully fleshed out, we get introductions to 20 newer gods. These seem like the up-and-comers of the Pathfinder universe (and eyeballing it, may represent gods that were introduced during First Edition adventure paths). In terms of coverage, these gods split the difference – they don’t get as much detail as the main 20 get here (no boons and curses, one page instead of two), but they do get more ink than the main 20 got in the Core Rulebook. For these gods, we get an information block that covers the basics – domains, favored weapon, anathemas, etc. – followed by a few paragraphs about the god and then statistics for that god’s version of the Avatar spell.

The next couple of sections are a little more geared toward GM world-building, though some could also have player character applications. First, there’s an extensive lore dump on demigods and other supernatural entities that aren’t gods but can still have followers: demons, elemental lords, and such. These guys are pretty much entirely world-building material for GMs, since they’re monster-oriented and almost all toward the evil end of the spectrum. After that, the book introduces the concepts of pantheons and philosophies. Pantheons are a group of gods one can worship as a collective – for example; a dwarf can worship Torag (one of the Big 20) individually or can worship the whole family of dwarven gods in their entirety. Philosophies are religious organizations that aren’t connected to any god or divine origin – Religion Unplugged. My personal favorite of these is the Prophecies of Kalistrade: the basis of their religion is the accumulation of wealth through trade, but amongst their anathemas are giving to charity and wasting money on extravagances such as food and drink. So they basically rack up a bunch of money and then don’t spend it on anything fun. Cool plan!

After all of this – roughly the first 100 pages of the book – we get into options for player characters. Feats, spells, magic items and other equipment… the fun stuff, from a player perspective. I’m going to spend most of my time here on the magic, which is a combination of standalone spells and domain spells for 18 new cleric domains. The feats and magic items… there’s less than a dozen of each.

The standalone spells are an interesting mix. I assumed they’d be a) mostly divine spells, and b) possibly be tied to the worship of specific gods. Neither of those turns out to be true, though – there are plenty of arcane, occult, and primal spells, and if there’s a connection to specific gods, it’s conceptual rather than explicit.

Just to hit a few examples, one of my favorites is Time Beacon, a single-action spell which basically gives you a chance to rewind your turn if things don’t go well. So you’d cast Time Beacon, do the Dangerous Thing You Plan To Do, and then reset if things don’t go well. Some effects get a saving throw, but it’s still a pretty neat concept. Animus Mine booby-traps your brain against spells with mental effects – if someone tries to cast a mind-affecting spell on you, they get a save against 4d8 (or more if heightened) damage. Toward the weird end of the spectrum, you have something like Iron Gut, which lets you use your stomach as a limited-use backpack – you can store and retrieve a single item of light or negligible bulk in your stomach.

And then there’s also Slough Skin, which causes you to shed and regenerate your skin constantly over the duration of the spell. The good news is if you take any persistent damage based on skin contact – acid, contact poisons, and such – the DC to remove the damage becomes easier because you’re basically shedding the skin that’s in contact with the bad effect. The bad news is if anyone is tracking you, they have an easier time doing it because… well… you’re leaving a trail of dead skin wherever you go. It’s not a huge collection of spells, but there’s some interesting stuff here.

The cleric domains each come with a regular (Level 1) and advanced (Level 4) domain spell, and as mentioned, there are 18 new ones to choose from. My eye was immediately drawn to the Swarm domain: at Level 1, you get Swarmsense, which lets you summon a swarm for scouting purposes (no attack, but has various movement and sight properties), and the advanced spell is Swarm Form, which… you guessed it… lets you turn into a swarm of Tiny creatures. The Soul domain has an interesting advanced spell, Ectoplasmic Interstice, which creates a zone where the material and incorporeal worlds merge – incorporeal creatures can interact with physical objects, and players can hit ghosts as if they have ghost touch weapons. And OK, although it’s Necromancy, I kinda dig Foul Miasma from the Plague domain: if a creature is infected with a disease, Foul Miasma lets you pull it out of the creature’s body and create a 15’ cloud of the disease. Evil… but cool.

The magic items are an interesting mix, but there aren’t a lot of them – only about a dozen. Personally I would’ve liked to see a few more. I’m just marveling in slack-jawed awe at Torag’s Silver Anvil. It’s a Level 18 item, so it’s SUPPOSED to be powerful but… “+3 holy greater flaming greater striking silver meteor hammer”… damn, that’s a lot of keywords. Oh, and it can also be used as an actual anvil in crafting, where it confers bonuses to craft checks or adds additional hit points on Repair checks. MORE PLEASE.

At the tail end of the book, there’s a handy appendix that gives you a comprehensive chart for all the gods – alignments, favored weapons, edicts and anathemas, etc. It’s absolutely a useful reference, but if I have a minor quibble, it’s that its formatted span facing pages in a physical book, so in the PDF, you have to page up and down one page to read all the columns for a particular deity. If you’re going to use it regularly, you’ll almost have to print it out and mount it on something.

So, final verdict time. Overall, I found it a little bit disjointed, like they smushed two books with different purposes together. Yeah, it evens out to something that satisfies multiple audiences, but I’m not sure it feels like one cohesive entity. I think the need for the book is largely dependent on what kind of game your table plays. If you’re playing a “low theology” game where all you’re doing is running around bopping orcs on the head, 100 pages of doesn’t really offer anything you didn’t get in the Core Rulebook and there’s not enough of the “other” stuff to make this book a high priority. But if you’re playing a “high theology” or heavy roleplay campaign that really leans into the religious material – heralds of the gods showing up to challenge your players actions, different religious factions using the world as a chessboard to battle for power, and such – this book becomes a pretty fertile source for world-building and for understanding that landscape better.

Talking Combat 120: Does It Come With A Gift Receipt?

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 120: The Five Stooges.

It’s a bit of a short episode this week as this is basically the last fight before the Big Bad, and it made for better storytelling to let that unfold at its own pace next week. So instead, we finish off what turns out to be a fairly straightforward fight against the monks, and we break down a bunch of pretty cool loot, a lot of which goes unused anyway.

The fight… well, for ONE glorious round you see the potential of the monks, as they corner Rusty and land four attacks on him. So there’s a multiverse world where they catch a party unawares and put a good thumpin’ on them: imagine the party that doesn’t do advance recon and just starts walking right down the middle and lets the monks descend on them from both sides, possibly with surprise. So I’m going to give Seth another round of attaboys for phasing into the room and tipping us off to their presence.

On the other hand: that alarm Seth set off. Still not sure what the full ramifications are there. No new reinforcements joined the fight, but that doesn’t mean SOMETHING didn’t happen. Does it mean more reinforcements are on their way, or is it more just “we lose any chance at a surprise round because the bridge knows someone’s outside”? It’s one of those things I’ll probably ask Steve in the post-game, once we know how it all turns out. In other words, if we TPK, I’ll want to know how angry we should be at Seth. (Kidding… but kinda not.)

Speaking of angry: RULEBOOK WARS!

On a rules level, Steve was correct about the doshkos. The basic unpowered doshkos are indeed unwieldy, but of the advanced ones – basically, anything that’s battery-powered and has typed damage – does not have that keyword. And Paizo is pretty careful about keywords, so that’s pretty much got to be intentional.

More generally, there are two more general principles that pretty much put me on Steve’s “side” on this one.

First, Keep the Game Moving. The amount of time you spend on a rules decision ought to be inversely proportional to the importance of the situation. If the death of someone’s character hinges on a rule interpretation… by all means, stop the game and make sure you get it right. But a between-battles ruling about whether you can take a full attack with a weapon… decide something and let it go. Or… figure it out while you keep playing, which is ultimately what happened. (Perhaps without getting all chippy about it.)

Second, maybe it’s a little self-serving and cynical, but If The GM Gives You Something Good, Take It. I suppose you have a responsibility to be fair and speak up if you know the GM’s making a mistake and you’re getting an advantage you don’t deserve, but if you’ve spoken up and the GM rules in your favor, you don t have to keep arguing. Applying to this situation, John wasn’t wrong to initially call it out, but at some point… take the doshko and enjoy.

As an aside, I use the same principle when it comes to paying for drinks – ask once, if someone else is buying, don’t ask again. Saved me a lot of money over the years.

The rest of the loot… well, first I’m glad it’s not animating and attacking us. That’s certainly a plus. I was still kind of concerned the mist was some sort of creature that was going to attack us. At least it’s not that. As loot? It’s interesting stuff, it’s got cool undead flavor, but it turns out to not be all that useful to me personally.

The eyes, in particular, are possibly my favorite thing we’ve run across in terms of flavor, except that but they happen to confer two benefits I already have access – darkvision is a ysoki racial ability, and the scouting function basically works the same way as the mechanic’s Scoutbot ability (minus spending a Resolve point).

The worm and the warlock stone are basically Mark 3 ability crystals, which… that’s pretty nice, but I don’t think you waste something like that on a secondary ability, and I’m not sure bumping Intelligence up really does me much good at this point. My primary skills are in the +25-27 range, I already know pretty much every language spoken in the Pact Worlds and then some… It’s something I would probably consider if we were to play another adventure path beyond this one, but for a final battle for this one… might as well give it to Mo for more damage.

Besides, one of the two had the same problem as the Flux Fig – it took an hour to apply and I’m pretty sure we don’t have an hour to work with. Much like the ability crystal, the Flux Fig is something I might consider to freshen up the character if we were to keep playing, but even if it didn’t come with a cooldown, I’m not sure I would want to muck with my character right before the final fight. I mean, I’m barely making some of these Computers checks as it is; imagine if I change to a dumb race and lose points in Intelligence. To say nothing of the fact that “Blacktail” would be a silly last name for someone who no longer has a tail.

Of course, there’s also a rules-lawyer issue I thought of while re-listening: Steve said constructs and outsiders are immune to the effects. Since Tuttle is now part aeon, that probably means it wouldn’t work on me anyway. So I eagerly await Mo taking it and becoming a fellow ysoki… if for no other reason than to visualize a ysoki trying to wield a doshko twice his height.

So this is it. As Steve mentions in the show notes, we’re basically at the threshold of the final fight. For Realz, as the Young People say. I’m glad Steve slowed John down a touch on throwing open the door because this does seem like one of those fights we might want to make sure we’re ready for. I don’t PERSONALLY have a lot of buffs, but I could at least use one of my uses of Miracle Worker to give my weapon a bonus for 10 rounds, maybe pre-push CHDRR’s button once or twice since he has a few buffs in his arsenal.

As far Steve’s description of the Big Bad being an A+ boss… I’m not going to go there yet. Steve can share what he wants to share; I’ll leave my reactions until we’re actually in the fight, and that’ll be for next time. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think about the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 26: Better Living Through Pacifism

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 26: U Can’t Touch This.

OK, first things first, I’m going to indulge in a ridiculously small and nerdy show note. This is one of those rare times where all four of our voiceover intros came one right after the other. Usually, there’s a gap where Steve will say something in the middle, or half the people will come in early and the others will trickle in over the first couple minutes of the show, but this time it was all four of us one after the other no interruptions. Silly thing to get excited about, but I’m weird that way.

So… that was an interesting fight, wasn’t it?

Nine grunts, a barbarian boss, and an unseen archer chucking arrows at us… we should’ve been dead, right?

But no… SANCTUARY TO THE RESCUE! Thanks to some remarkably effective magic from Celes, Brixley does his best impression of a cork in a bottle and manages to control the flow of the fight long enough for the others to thin their numbers and turn the tide of the battle. This is meant as an “aren’t I great?” thing; it was absolutely a team effort. But I’m being realistic that if they had been able to get through the archway and into our backline and start hitting Celes in particular, that fight might have gotten ugly.

I have to admit, I’ve always kinda turned my nose up at Sanctuary in the past. Maybe it’s as simple as I’m a brute force kinda guy, and I like being on offense. Sanctuary seemed like it could be a good spell for a dedicated healer/buffer who never attacks, or situationally as an emergency shield for someone who was about to die until they could pop a potion, but the trade-off of not being able to take any sort of hostile action always left me a little underwhelmed. Consequently, I don’t think I’ve ever taken it as a spell when building characters.

After this? I may have to start because that was pretty close to amazing. Yeah, eventually the boss orc got a critical save and dispelled it, but that pretty much let me hold half the choke point for a good 2-3 rounds taking almost no damage. I kinda lost count, but I think we were up to three orcs that critically failed and couldn’t attack me at all. And though it’s not the spell’s fault, I noticed that even on the few occasions when attacks went through, I had pretty good luck on the hit rolls too.

I don’t know if it’s a strategy that will easily replicate to future games though, so caveat emptor.

First, let’s be honest that we lucked out a little bit that we were facing (mostly) stupid enemies with low Will saves. If they had a few Wisdom-based casters (orc shamans or something), they might have been able to make more saves and put more damage on me and I might have had to retreat. Eyeballing it, it looked like the grunts only had a +2 bonus to the save, and it was DC 19. So their spread of outcomes was 30% critical fail and can never attack me (1-6), 50% regular fail (7-16), 15% regular success (17-19) and a critical success only possible on a Nat-20 (5%).

The other thing is, even with the ability to give actions to Ember, Human Roadblock Duty was still a pretty inefficient way to use one entire party member. It’s not a complaint, exactly… I knew what I was doing was providing value to the party… but it was a little frustrating to give Ember a command than then pretty much have nothing productive to do for the rest of my turn. I think what I’m going for here is an observation that if you ARE going to dabble in the dark arts of the Human Roadblock, maybe use someone who has more defensive/passive actions built into their character, so they’ll have things they can be doing while they clog up the works.

Speaking of Ember, it was nice to finally put my new pet to work. She’s not overpowering – her attack only does 1d8 and I think she’s got fewer hit points than Celes – but it’s an extra source of offense, and being able to set up flanking (especially for Cade’s Sneak Attack) could be useful. If there’s any complaint, it’s a certain sameness that I’ve somehow arrived at playing a pet class in this game AND Dead Suns. But… whatever. Fire Cat Is Good. Fire Cat Is Our Friend. I regret nothing!

The other thing about this fight that gave me a mild chuckle was when the boss orc ran out of reactions and couldn’t use his orc ferocity. You may assume a Nelson Muntz “ha ha” on my part when that happened. After having to deal with all the grunts getting an extra action, I was glad the boss lost his. Fortuitous.

Coincidentally, this is PART of why I haven’t used my champion’s Liberating Step ability more. Fact is, I have three different reaction abilities (block with a shield, Divine Grace to get +2 on a save, or Liberating Step) so there have been times where blocking 3 or 4 damage vs. keeping those other options available didn’t seem like a good trade-off. But now that it’s 5 damage and now that my shield is broken anyway, we’ll probably start to see Liberating Step some more. Some of these future fights, I pretty much use it every round.

Lastly, I’ll re-acknowledge the mistake we’ve been making regarding Lay On Hands. Since the spell level is half the character level (but rounded up), it should only be healing for 12 points at Level 3, not 18. I did use LoH after the boss hit me twice, so it was in play this fight. That said, I was mentally tracking the damage re-listening to the episode, and I don’t think it got close enough to make the difference between dropping or not. It’s more relevant for after-heals, but that just adds time – 10 minutes per cast, times however many extra casts would be required to make the math correct.

So, orc battle survived, we pause to catch our breath, and we’re going to assault the keep next. Unfortunately, as far as we know, the remaining archer probably survived and had time to raise the alarm, so whoever is left in there (Vilree? More orcs?) is going to be ready for us. Will Steve have more orc rhymes left – Spork? Bjork? Peter Tork? I guess you’ll just have to find out next week. In the meantime, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Combat 119: Me, My Seth, And I

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 119: Interview with the Undead.

Welcome to another edition of “The End, But Kinda Sorta Not The End, But You Know What We Mean”. We’re certainly in the final sprint, and it’s heavily implied at a metagame level that whatever’s left is the amount of combat that can be fit into one long rest (3 or 4 fights, maybe?). But if we’ve got a minion fight and more doors to open and the guy who’s been talking to us on the comms isn’t visibly evident, that probably means this isn’t THE final fight. So hang in there. We’re getting there.

Of course, when we talk about The End, I’m probably the person least affected by resource management – with one huge exception. Ammo isn’t an issue; if we run into something that we have to shoot 50 or 60 times to kill it, we’re gonna lose. I have plenty of resolve points (something like 14). Presses of CHDRR’s button work off my INT modifier (it’s something like 3+INT or 4+INT) so I’m close to double digits on that. The only truly limited-use ability I have is my Miracle Worker (+2 to hit and damage for a weapon), of which I only get two uses. The one big exception is CHDRR himself – if CHDRR “dies”, it takes 24 hours to rebuild him, which would put him on the bench for the rest of the adventure.

Stepping back a little, I was a little caught off guard that I ended up being the one to chat with the Big Bad – Rusty tends to do all the talking for the party, so it’s an unusual position for Tuttle to be in. I suppose I was trying to convince the Big Bad that we were more of a diversion and were distracting him from a bigger problem so he’d keep reinforcements away from the command center, but he didn’t seem to be buying it. On the other hand, I don’t really know that there was anything to be “bought” – we get so locked into thinking every interaction is an active plot point and a chance to roll some dice that we forget that some interactions are just about storytelling. I think that’s what was going on here: I don’t think there was anything here that would influence the outcome (unless we did something REALLY stupid); I mostly think Steve was setting the table and ratcheting up the suspense by letting us know that the Big Bad is both Big and Bad enough that he doesn’t consider us much of a threat even as we’re marching into his inner sanctum. “Sure, come on to my bridge, take control of my ship. Let me know how that works out for you!

Also, somewhere in this bit of pre-game, Chris drops a Mandalorian reference – that’s how you can tell we’re catching up to current. Our cultural references finally have a foot in the 21st century. Now I feel like I’ve got to throw in a current events Easter Egg every time we record so the astute listener can figure out when we were taping. It’ll be the podcast equivalent of taking a picture holding today’s newspaper. “Tuttle takes out a tactical baton and bangs on a trash can to let his teammates know the computer is online”.

We weave our way through ship security – it’s just like Star Wars, only instead of trying to get to the hangar and get OFF the ship, we’re headed for the heart of it. When we reach the command deck, we even start out with some semi-impressive tactics, as Seth phases through the wall while stealthed (I didn’t know he could do that!) and gets us the lay of the land – it’s kind of an antechamber with some glass display cases, and bad guys hiding behind the display cases. So far so good. Though that probably means we have another warm-up fight and then the real final fight in one of the rooms beyond.

Aside: I wonder if the items in the display cases represent a last dose of general-purpose loot, or are actually items that would be specifically helpful against the Big Bad. I feel like they’re almost certainly treasure; I just don’t know if they’re going to turn out to be specific treasure or general treasure. OK… there’s also a 2% chance they Voltron together to form some sort of monster – you’ve got a skull and spine, a severed hand, a spear, and a mist-filled helmet. I mean… there’s also a chance that mist is like… ghost ectoplasm that will join together with the other stuff to form an incorporeal centurion. This isn’t Ghostbusters; it doesn’t have to be green. So, OK… PROBABLY loot, but be wary if the grunts try to open any of the display cases during the fight.

As combat starts, all indications are that these guys are melee dominant – they’re described as both “undead monks” and solarians, both of whom are more effective in close than at range. So for once, Chris has the right idea: I fire up my jetpack and get airborne. I don’t know that I’m going to spend the whole fight in the air – might want to conserve some for the boss – but at least until we get a better sense of how hard they hit and how hard they are to kill, might as well stay comparatively safe.

We get off to a strong start – Mo lands both halves of a full attack, one for a crit, and puts up 100 damage right out of the gate. So it’s a bit of a good news/bad news situation – they have a decent amount of hit points, but they also don’t seem to have anything special in the way of resistances. We tend to thrive in fights like that. Ask the dead ellicoths.

But then Seth… oh Seth. Sweet summer child. Seth puts himself in early running for the “What The <expletive> Were You Thinking?” award by trying to open one of the side doors. I mean… that’s LITERALLY one of the first thing we tried to teach the kids in my Dads-N-Kids game – don’t split the party, don’t bleed encounters. Annnnd, of course, he sets off an alarm. Now look… I don’t mind people acting on their own, as long as they’re able to articulate how what they’re doing helps the party achieve some larger goal. This? Maybe I’m just not a very smart person, but I just don’t see how this possibly helps us. Or even how it WOULD have helped us even if it had worked perfectly. We’ll see what happens, but if THAT’s how we end up losing, I’m gonna be a little pissed.

The remainder of this episode unfolds mostly in our favor. The good news is that we get one of the four monks down – establishing them at around 130-140 hit points. And at least so far, there’s no evidence Seth’s gaffe has brought reinforcements down on us. The bad news is the bad guys do have a ranged attack option, though we made our saves and avoided the effects… this time. (They can also see Akiro while invisible, but that’s mostly his problem.) If they can hit at range, staying in the air may not be the I WIN button I thought it was. Don’t feel like having something go wrong and take a bunch of falling damage, so I’m probably going to conserve battery, land, and try to use CHDRR or the display cases to shield myself from melee.

And that’s where we pick it up next week. We have a numerical advantage, we know roughly how much damage they can take, and it feels like we should be OK as long as Seth hasn’t brought the entirety of the Corpse Fleet chain-of-command down on our heads. Join us next week as we continue our push toward the command center and see how it all turns out. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week!