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

Celebrate the release of Pathfinder 2e! New Podcast! New Review of Pathfinder 2e! New Review of the Bestiary!

Talking Plaguestone 07: Just The Traps, Ma’am

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 07: Traps R Us.

It’s time to settle this once and for all.

It’s “Phinick” the goblin. As in “a possible distant relative of the Phillie Phanatic”.

We – ALL of us; I want to be clear I’m not just busting Steve’s chops here – have been going back and forth for three or four episodes now between “Finnick” and Pinnick”, and it’s been giving me a low-grade migraine when writing these wrap-ups. So I can only imagine how you listeners might feel about it. I thought about just wildcarding it as “*innick” or using that symbol Prince used to use, but I finally gave in and threw an impromptu strike – told Steve I wouldn’t write another word until he told me the correct spelling. You’re welcome.

So we begin this episode with a rollicking chase through the streets of Plaguestone, as we spy PHINICK trying to sneak away with some of our hard-fought BBQ. You can kill Bort… hardly knew the guy… but do NOT abscond with my swine! Personally, I thought Steve should’ve ditched the usual fantasy-themed score and pumped in some funky Starsky and Hutch-inspired 70s wah-wah guitar, but that’s just me.

And after all the low-grade humiliations Brixley has suffered up to this point in the adventure (falling mud, getting punched during bar fights, bees), it turns out this is one thing Brixley is built for – he’s a jock at heart. STR 16, DEX and CON 14… this is right in his wheelhouse (helped by some timely rolls, but still). I lucked out insofar as at no point in the chase did Brixley have to read street signs (INT) to continue the chase.

To be fair, it’s Short People Parkour, as Cade also handles the task with aplomb, while Prue and Celes have their share of struggles. Celes was probably to be expected, but I would’ve thought Prue would have the stats and skills to hang in there with us. One lively chase later, we have our leading suspect in custody… except that he’s less of a suspect and more of a bread-crumb. It turns out Hallod was the one who put Phinick up to poisoning Bort, by telling him it was just a practical joke.

Thanks to Phinick’s confession and the documents we found at Bort’s cabin, the picture starts to come into clearer focus. Hallod and Bort were doing side deals no one knew about for weird alchemical goods, and either the deal went bad or Hallod wanted to make sure to leave no witnesses behind (that part’s still a little fuzzy). Cop shows on TV always throw out “means, motive, opportunity” as a trope. We’ve got means and opportunity nailed, and as far as motive, it’s more a question of picking which one rather than not having one at all. And we even have a lead on where to find Hallod, thanks to a now-cooperative Phinick. Abandoned shack at the edge of town. So we’d better hurry up and get after him before he finds out we’re on to him.

Aside: I find the “no, not THAT abandoned shack, the OTHER abandoned shack” dynamic amusing. We’re up to like 3 or 4 different quests that involve visiting abandoned properties. Sir Kent’s rumors about undead people. The question of Celes potentially being related to the mayor. Now, finding Hallod’s hideout. “Welcome to Plaguestone: Abandoned Shack Capital of the Inner Sea.”

The second half of this episode is broadly summed up as “What’s the point of having a rogue in your party if you’re not going to use him?” as we manage to set off not one but two different traps. Now, you can probably excuse the first one just based on stereotypes: Hallod has basically been described as a walking side of beef, which is not the physical archetype for a rogue. But you’d think we would’ve taken a bit more caution after the first trap got us. And you would be wrong. Gloriously wrong.

First, after doing a fairly cautious reconnoiter of the house, Prue kicks in a door – a very Prue thing to do – and gets a faceful of crossbow bolt for her troubles. In fairness, Cade did find the (safe) way to get in, but it’s a few seconds too late to help Prue. And for all that trouble, the whole place looks like a bit of a dead-end. Until… footprints leading away in a different direction.

We follow the footprints which lead to the beginnings of a smuggler’s hideout, where we shortly encounter trap #2. This time, it’s Brixley trying to be bold and take the lead, and I end up bringing part of the passage down on our heads because I miss a tripwire. Meanwhile, Cade… I dunno… snacking on beef jerky or something? Whatever halflings do in their spare time.

Now, it’s possible this was all karmic punishment for inflicting my Bee Gees impression on all of you, and if that’s what happened… OK, that’s totally fair. I’ve been trying to behave myself and limit my random outbursts of pop culture minutiae, but that one just got away from me. I totally blame Steve for using the phrase “strut your stuff” – that Travolta strut from the opening of Saturday Night Fever popped into my head… and then right on out of my mouth. I REGRET NOTHING. (OK, I regret missing the trap, no on everything else.)

We shortly get the passage cleared again, and resume our pursuit of Hallod. Eventually, we come out of the passage into a safer and more developed portion of the Bad-Guy Lair. A ladder going down to a lower level of the complex. We descend the ladder (having FINALLY learned our lesson, Cade goes first), find and open a door… and it’s time to defend ourselves against angry dogs. FANNNNTASTIC place for a cliffhanger.

Will the party survive the dogfight (pun fully intended)? Will they bring Hallod to justice? Will they reach Level 2? Come back next week and join us as we explore more of the mysteries of Plaguestone. In the meantime, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks again for listening, and we’ll see you next week!

Talking Combat 100: To Infinity And Beyond

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 100: How The Sausage Gets Made.

Episode #100. Kinda crazy if you think about it. I don’t want anyone to misread and think I expected this to fail, but I would’ve expressed at least mild surprise if you’d told me when we launched this thing that a) we’d still be going and that b) we’d still be on the first adventure path. I suppose my bet would’ve been on “gotten bored of the sci-fi setting and gone back to Pathfinder”, but I suppose we’ve still managed to scratch that itch here and there, particularly with Second Edition. So here we are.

Now about my fantasy football team… (Kidding, kidding.)

Now if we were really planning, Steve should’ve edited the episodes so that I got my new mic in Episode #100. Spoiler alert (or not, if you’re listening to our Plaguestone show), I do eventually get one, but it’s still another few episodes away. So for now, still broadcasting from inside a washing machine. Sorry about that. The end IS in sight, if that helps.

It’s funny to contemplate the flow of podcast time at moments like these. Right now, as Steve said, we’re sitting on a small mountain of surplus material in the can, and what we’re recording right now probably won’t even reach your ears for another month or two. And yet it hasn’t always been like that – we hit a stretch around the holidays last winter where breaks and aggressive edits burned through most of our recordings and were probably down to about 2 or 3 episodes before we might have to start recording live.

As I was listening to this episode last night, I heard at least one thing that is going to become REALLY useful sometime in the next two months, and one thing that WOULD have been really useful had we remembered its existence, but it kinda slipped our minds and represents a missed opportunity. I’m not going to tell you what those things are right now because it would be spoilery. For now, put a pin in it, and when we hit those moments in the show, I’ll try to remember to come back around and call those out.

As far as the game action, there wasn’t a lot going on in this episode because we hit the end of a block of story. I do have to admit it was low-key humiliating to have Akiro do most of the computer-based heroics this episode. Yes, defeating the countermeasure was still pretty slick, and Tuttle got the final roll at the end to put the evil AI back in its box, but still, I’m a little red-faced even with the built-in excuse of not reading the language. Computers and engineering are supposed to be My Thing. (And you’ll notice when it comes time to level, learning the Kish language becomes my highest priority.)

I noticed I actually had a little bit of a mental vapor-lock when we were discussing what to do about the two remaining sub-bosses. This wasn’t a case where I forgot something from the previous week; I literally lost my train of thought in the span of about 10 minutes. We establish that there are two sub-bosses, including Evil She-Tuttle in this complex with us. I even make a joke about getting Tuttle a girlfriend. But somewhere in there, we shifted the conversation to what awaits us on Moon #2, and somehow I transposed that conversation into the current complex and decided we only had to clear out a few maintenance bots in our current location. In fact, going back to spoilers for future episodes, I forget so thoroughly that at some future point, I speculate about where the female ysoki is, thinking she’s yet to be found. (Or maybe Steve will spare me some humiliation and cut that bit.)

As far as the decision itself, I get the logic of locking them in and hoping for the best – we’re out of resources to fight them, and we’re generally on a clock. One can argue the sense of it on merit, and at a metagame level, they’ve mostly served their collective purpose in the story. But I have to admit, leaving a mechanic behind seems like it MIGHT be a bit of a tactical error. The fighter type? Whatever. Punch the walls all you want. But leaving someone who potentially has Tuttle-level (or at the risk of being egotistical, 80% of Tuttle’s level) hacking skills as a fire in our rear seems like a questionable choice. Hope it doesn’t bite us later.

And OK, maybe I’m biased because it would put Tuttle front and center, but I feel like depriving the world of a drone-v-drone slapfight is a missed opportunity. If we can have a Hirogi-based bottle episode (totally in favor of that, by the way – Steve should let the rest of us play NPCs who try to kill him), maybe we can also go do one where Tuttle goes back and fights Lady DeathTuttle by himself.

As far as the “working session”… yeah, that doesn’t happen too often, but every once in awhile, it’s unavoidable. Steve’s generally pretty good about warning us when level-up is coming or ending an episode at a level-up, and we come back to the next session with finished characters. The one exception is loot/shopping: it’s hard to resolve EVERY buy/sell decision over email (and some things like serums come from group loot), so money tends to be a moving target until we’re back at the table. I think this hiccup was some combination of Steve being really busy in the middle of convention season (this was somewhere between PaizoCon and GenCon), or maybe he didn’t have us level because he expected us to be completionists and do the other two rooms, and we surprised him. I will say that historically, clearing the whole complex is more of an “us” move.

(The one other exception I can think of recently is when we blew through content too fast – during Iron Gods, we had a sub-boss fight which probably should’ve taken an hour, but was reduced to a triviality because the boss missed four straight saves on Hold Person and we were able to walk up to him and calmly coup de grace him. Oops.)

Lastly, the fact that we got to claim those Kish hoverbikes is pretty great. As much as Logical Me thinks they’re a party resource, Emotional Me is TOTALLY on Mo’s side – if anyone in this group should be founding his own motorcycle gang, it’s Mo Dupinsky. “Skittermanders of Anarchy”? Still working on that one. Reluctantly, I’d probably also admit that Hirogi would’ve been a good fit for one as well if he ever returns. I’m in the middle on whether Akiro and Rusty are biker types. Tuttle’s a hard pass, though.

So we have our little working session, but we don’t really get resolution or a full unveiling… just that Akiro is probably going to prioritize saving his own hide and Tuttle will turn into the Duolingo Owl. For full details… I guess we’ll pick it up there next week, and I assume we’ll make our way to Moon #2 to continue that story as well. I realize it will “only” be Episode #101, but I hope you’ll be back to join us next week. In the meantime, feel free to drop by the Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. See you next week, and thanks for listening!

Talking Plaguestone 06: Dinner And A Motive

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 06: Swine Dining.

It’s been a hectic few episodes in the town of Plaguestone – three combat encounters and a fourth that could’ve blown up if Cade hadn’t landed his stealth rolls – so this week we slow it down a little. In fact, we slow it WAAAAAY down, spending half the episode just socializing and relaxing with a good meal. We do still manage to fit in a little movement on the mystery of Bort’s murder, but it’s good to pause and catch our collective breath. Right until the cliffhanger at the end, of course.

It dawns on me: did we roll dice at all this episode? Maybe a Perception roll at Bort’s cabin, but that’s about it, I think.

Our first “duty” of the night was celebrating our victory and restoring a little bit of confidence in the kitchen staff of the Feedmill, courtesy of a good old-fashioned pig roast. Since we found the empty poison vial and there’s no sign of Pinnick skulking about, there are some pretty broad signals that Bort’s murder was a one-time thing. I don’t think we have to worry about any further danger on that front, so I think this is more about generating some goodwill amongst the townspeople. (But you’ll notice I still let Prue take the first bite. Just sayin’.)

During dinner, we actually do a little more (re-)introduction of the team, since if you want to get technical we never really formally got to know each other. Things always seemed to come up, whether it was wolves, bar fights, murder. You know… the usual! I have to admit (out-of-character) that I didn’t really get the memo about tying my backstory into the Whispering Tyrant like the others did. I feel like it’s OK though because I kind of planned on Brixley being a little little bit sheltered and naïve – think of him as “the cop fresh out of the academy”. Having been on the front lines at Lastwall and seen death up close would’ve undermined that a little bit anyway.

Though I’m chuckling a little bit at the general tone – you’ve got three people who’ve Seen Some Serious Shit, and then there’s Brixley bouncing around like a doofus. The Burt Ward Robin of Second Edition. “Aw shucks, fellas! This Whispering Tyrant sounds like a real piece of work!”

The next, unexpectedly light-hearted interlude was watching Celes get all flustered dealing with the idea that the mayor thinks they’re related. As a roleplaying thing, Brixley generally likes Celes and has built some initial rapport with her, but his mischievous side can tell this is a bit of an awkward situation for her and he wants to see how this all plays out. (Coincidentally, my own motivations as a player.) I have to admit I don’t think they’re REALLY related, but this might be a hook to something else – maybe more general information about why the town is the way it is or something.

(It also dawned on me during this interaction – a couple of episodes after the fact – that this feels like the setup to Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom. Plaguestone has that pedestal in the town square that seems to be missing… a magic rock, perhaps?… and they’ve been having bad luck ever since. WE MUST GO TO PANKOT PALACE!)

Similarly, the drunken soldier – I don’t think we’re supposed to take him literally that the undead are invading Plaguestone. Heck, if it were undead, they probably wouldn’t hide in an abandoned house, they’d probably just start attacking people. If it’s good enough for the local wildlife, after all…. But I do think he saw… something. Maybe Pinnick is holed up there. Or perhaps there are other co-conspirators involved that we haven’t been introduced to yet. It’s still a little hard to believe Phinick is some criminal mastermind.

After dinner, it’s time to get the mystery going again, and that means a trip to Bort’s cabin to look over his paperwork. There’s not a lot to go on here, but we do learn a few things. In addition to his more innocuous contributions to the turnip-based economy, Bort has been running a side business delivering “reagents” to someone in town. Someone with the initial “H”. I mean… that sounds like Hallod to me, even if he himself doesn’t seem like the magic-using type. He certainly fits the bill as a bad and imposing dude who would make a formidable adversary… much moreso than a fairly meek goblin bar-back. So we’re starting to bring the picture into focus… perhaps Hallod and Phinick are working together, and maybe there’s even someone else of a more magical bent involved. And (taken with the dinner-time revelations) maybe some of them are using that abandoned house Sir Kent saw as a base of operations.

And as we leave Bort’s to head home for the night, answers present themselves in the form of our wayward goblin friend. All that we have to do is catch him!

Buuuut… that’ll be an exercise (figuratively and literally) for next time. Heck of a cliffhanger, huh? We’ll see you back here next week when the chase gets underway. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know your thoughts on the show. Until then, thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Combat 099: One Step Forward And Two Steps Back

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 099: Bravely Run Away!

For once, I start with a bit of a “show note” of my own. As Steve mentioned, I will probably be moving the Tuesday Talking (Dead Suns) to Mondays – it was going to be this week, but I had surprise guests in town for the holiday weekend and things got away from me. The big motivation for me is easing confusion – it seems like a bit of a disconnect to have the Plaguestone episode and Dead Suns Talking Combat release on the same day. If I move this to Mondays, it kinda closes the book on each in sequence – Plaguestone airs Tuesday, Talking on Thursday; Dead Suns airs Friday, Talking on Monday. I think it makes more sense that way; it just turns out I needed an extra week to get with the program.

Does it count that it FEELS like a Monday because of the holiday?

This week, we complete the big fight against Malice and its minions. A close call, but we live to fight another day.

The first thing I noticed is it’s about 15 minutes until I actually get to say anything this episode. Part of it is as simple as being at the tail end of the initiative order – my turn didn’t come up, what are you gonna do? I’ll also admit I was a little self-conscious about talking with my Hobo Mic when it came time to discuss the inner workings of grenades. But I have to admit I was a little amused to be cruising along almost 15 minutes into the action and then have the narrator pop in with my intro.

I don’t know if this fight was statistically the closest call we’ve had – with Xavra, the final Solarian boss fight on Istamak, we actually had people drop and didn’t even have CHDRR – but this just felt like it could go either way right down to the wire. I think the big difference was group damage. Xavra had group damage, but it was centered on him and could be mitigated by spreading out so he couldn’t focus on more than one of us at a time. In this fight, there was a LOT of group damage, between the Cultists’ grenades and Malice’s Tron disc, and it could be directed more easily. Also, the adds in the other fight were literal cannon fodder; in this fight, the adds were actually a force to be reckoned with.

The Tron Disk, if I remember correctly, made its first appearance during the final boss fight on Castrovel. It seems to be a staple of crazy cultists everywhere! It’s kind of a high-risk, high-reward spell – if you make your attack rolls, it can dole out a TON of damage for a second-level spell, but if you miss a roll, the whole thing just kinda dies on the vine.

Grenades really proved their usefulness in this fight – on both sides. I’ve always felt like the economics of grenades are kind of flawed – just, for example, each of those Shock Grenade III’s that Rusty used retails for about 5400 credits – but if you set aside the cost and get them for free, they’re actually fairly useful. Even with all the mitigating factors, Rusty was still putting 30 or 40 damage up across all enemies with each grenade. The perfect tool for thinning numbers when you’re outnumbered. Then again, also a handy tool for letting the Cultists take a few chunks out of us.

I don’t know how easy or hard it is to visualize, but the flow of this fight was basically a rolling retreat. Basically, CHDRR and Mo were meant to be the defensive front line, and that was going well at first. But once they started taking damage, they both started falling back toward the entrance to the north. Of course, that left the squishies on the front lines and so we had to get back behind our reluctant tank again. I doubt anyone would come out and admit it, but there may also have been some jockeying for position to not be the first one hit by the Tron Disk.

Well, everyone except Akiro. Despite the fact that all the Cultists seemed out for his head, he took the least damage of any of us. A fact that seemed to infuriate John to no end.

Not that I blame John for being frustrated. That exhaustion spell he got hit with sounds like a bear, and that’s even with John’s haste circuit evening things out somewhat. If he didn’t have the haste circuit, that probably would’ve been a freaking nightmare. Not to mention he almost certainly would’ve ended up stuck up front taking hits and probably would’ve dropped. Did the haste circuit save us from a TPK? Hard to say, but you can make the case.

As far as the decision to have CHDRR back out of the fight… I realize I’ve spent the better part of 99 Talkings telling you that CHDRR is disposable and he can be sacrificed for the greater good if need be, but in this fight, you’ll notice I was a LOT more concerned with keeping him standing than in previous fights. I think… I wouldn’t be so grandiose to call it “roleplay”, exactly, but I do feel like it’s more important to keep him alive because the story is unfolding in terms of hours, not days. There’s clearly no chance to retreat to Abaslom for a day or two and rebuild him at my convenience. Even below that threshold, it feels like we’re going to have to jump right into the next stage of the fight, which doesn’t seem to leave a 24-hour window available for a CHDRR Mk 5. So this one time, I actually got a little more protective of my yellow companion.

As a side effect, I’d also note this might be the first time I’ve ever used THE BUTTON twice in the same combat. If I’m being honest, I was totally fishing for the heal effect I know is hiding in there somewhere. Movement speed and damage weren’t useless, but I really could’ve used some hit points. Alas… ‘twas not to be.

Tuttle himself didn’t really fare too badly – I did take that one crit from the sword for 30 or 35 damage, but other than that, I didn’t really take a lot of hits. I ended the fight very close to the stamina-hitpoint border, though I honestly don’t remember if I was JUST over or JUST under. I mention it because if it had come right down to it and people started dropping, I probably could’ve slugged it out with Malice for another few rounds if I’d absolutely had to.

As a low-key comedic moment, it was kind of funny to hear Chris offer his nugget of poker wisdom (“only one player to a hand”) after he just got done with five solid minutes of… we’ll call it “constructive criticism”. One player to a hand, indeed.

Lastly, I always enjoy it when Bob and Chris get into one of their pissing matches about who’s doing more damage and I sneak in and get the actual kill shot on the boss. I played it cool on the show, but internally, I was cracking up. Sweet victory for Aeon Tuttle!

Next week… we deal with the aftermath of the fight, advance the plot, and since Steve’s been hinting at it, it’s probably not a huge spoiler to suggest we probably level in there somewhere. In the meantime, I’m cutting this short tonight because we have our annual fantasy football draft. I’m picking last, I’m not happy about it, it is what it is. Feel free to drop by Discord or our other social media outlets to let us know what you think about the show, thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 05: The Bearly Boaring Episode

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 05: Boars and Bears and Bees! Oh My!

This week’s visit to Plaguestone is brought to you by the letter “B”, apparently.

We return to the investigation of Bort’s murder, with a few decent leads to follow up on. We’ve ruled out the cook, Amora, but there are two people left who handled Bort’s food that night – Phinick the goblin who helped prep the food, and the waitress Trin. It’s also going to be important to check Bort’s body because of the strange floral scent we found in Bort’s bowl.

We start with our first real examination of Bort. We confirm that Bort’s whole body now has the same floral scent that was in the bowl, but initially we strike out on finding anything else. It does dawn on me that we’re not being particularly cautious about this – there’s always a possibility that whatever killed Bort could be communicable, and we’re just sniffing around his orifices like it’s no big deal. It also dawns on me that we haven’t ruled out Bort reanimating as some sort of undead. But for the moment, nothing like that happens, so on to our next clue.

In the barn, things are a little more fruitful, as we find an empty vial with the same floral scent. Since the barn is Finick’s preferred off-hours hangout, that tends to elevate him to the top of the suspect list. Never did trust goblins.

While at the barn we’re approached by the stablehand with a good ol’ fashioned Side Quest! Our horses have fleas so we have to go gather herbs to cure them. And ohbytheway, the bushes we need are guarded by a big nasty (but sleeping) bear. (There’s something almost MMO-ish about this.) We basically decide to handle this as a stealth mission, with Cade sneaking up on the bear, but part of me wonders after the fact if we should’ve eliminated the threat to the townspeople. I mean the next time someone needs rosemary, there’s still a bear out there. But no, we decide to go with the stealth mission. After a few tense rolls, and Cade burning a Hero Point, we successfully get our rosemary. Huzzah!

This is also our first real exposure to Hero Points. Basically, Hero Points are one of those things that used to be a house rule but have been codified in Second Edition. They basically serve as rewards – either for hitting certain progress points in the story, or they can be rewards for good roleplay – but you can only hold up to three at any one time, so there’s no stockpiling 20 or 30 of them. Their two main uses are stabilizing from dying (which we hopefully won’t have to play around with any time soon), or to take take a re-roll. Here Cade takes a re-roll on a stealth roll, and whether it’s actually true or Steve was just humoring us, it saves us from a face full of an angry bear.

With the sidequest out of the way, we now have three main leads left. Trin, Phinick, or visiting Bort’s house and seeing if there are any clues there. To me, Phinick seems like the next most obvious choice, but we don’t actually know where he is at the moment. Bort’s house might be useful, but it’s presumably not going anywhere. So let’s go visit the waitress, Trin. Among other things, she’s reported to have a bruise on her face, and she fled the inn in the immediate aftermath of the bar brawl, so even though the goblin is Suspect One, she’s not totally in the clear.

But before we can talk with her, we have to protect her from being killed by a wild boar. Seriously, between the wolves on the way into town, and now stirges, bees, a bear and this boar, it’s like nature is out to put a foot in this town’s collective ass. This turns out to be a fairly quick fight – the boar hits hard but a four-to-one numbers advantage wins out. To me, Celes was the MVP of this fight, both hitting the boar with her flame attack AND healing Brixley after he took a big hit. Brixley was a mixed bag – he got the eventual kill-stroke, and being able to matador away from the piggie’s charge attack was kinda fun, but he did also take a 15-point thump and was going to have to Lay On Hands until Celes intervened.

Speaking of which, as an aside, I’m very glad that entry-level heals are 1d8+8, given all the 1s we rolled for healing in our Starfinder campaign.

Boar dies. Now it’s time to interrogate Trin, and it becomes quickly obvious she had nothing to do with Bort’s death. She got hit with a flying mug during the fight (hence the bruise) so she got the hell out of Dodge. That might actually make her the most normal person in this town. Furthermore, she hadn’t been back to work yet, so she didn’t even know Bort was dead. Personally I find that a little surprising – you’d think news like that would get around town faster than that – but she does seem genuine in her confusion. So… one more suspect eliminated unless she’s a much better liar than we’re giving her credit for.

By process of elimination (for the moment – there’s still Bort’s house to check), I guess that leaves Phinick the goblin as the center of suspicion. But since we don’t know where he is anyway, we decide to take our slaughtered piggie back to the inn for a celebratory pig roast! A feast fit for kings, and more importantly, not another turnip dish! And as a side benefit, it might get people to start trusting the food at the inn again – not explicitly in our job description, but still a nice thing to do.

We’ll get back on the trail of the killer after we fill our bellies, and that’s a good place to leave it for this week. Hope you’re enjoying the show – feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think. In the meantime, thanks for listening, hope those of you in the US have a nice holiday weekend, and we’ll see you back here next week.

Pathfinder Lost Omens World Guide Review: The Brand New Same Old, Same Old

Make sure to read Jason’s review of the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook, as well his review of the Pathfinder Bestiary.

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

The Lost Omens World Guide is a bit of a late arrival to the Pathfinder Second Edition party. It was originally supposed to launch at GenCon alongside same time as the Core Rulebook and the Bestiary, but it was unfortunately delayed at the printer. But much like Wonder Woman showing up for the last 10 minutes of Batman v. Superman, it’s finally arrived on the scene to complete the launch-day trinity. (Unlike Batman v. Superman, you’ll be pleased to hear that the word “Martha” is nowhere within its pages.)

So, what IS the Lost Omens World Guide? Well, at its simplest, it’s “the setting book” for Pathfinder Second Edition. It’s a means of introducing the world of Golarion (or at least the portion of it where most of the fun stuff happens) to new players and re-introducing it to players who are making the jump from First Edition.

I don’t know how K-12 education is structured these days, but back in 10th grade, I had a class called “World Cultures” that took a 2-3 week survey-level look at many of the main areas other than the United States. How many people live here? What are their religions and languages? What are some of the biggest cities? This book is a lot like that, but for the Inner Sea region. Aside from getting from Point A to Point B and knowing where to buy more rations, it lets you know things like whether elves are commonplace or if you’re going to be regarded as weirdo in the town you’re about to enter. It might also stop you from… ohhh I don’t know… creating an entire party of characters who don’t speak the dominant language of the area you’re visiting. Hypothetically. LIKE THAT WOULD EVER HAPP… (sigh).

Perhaps most importantly, it’s a sourcebook for the ambitious and creative GM, to help them design homebrew content for their gaming tables that would still fit within the Inner Sea setting. Much like the Pact Worlds book from Starfinder, the Lost Omens World Guide is teeming with “jumping-off points” – people, locations, important landmarks, and so on – that an aspiring GM can use as the foundation for telling his or her own stories. If you want to do an undead or horror-themed adventure, the Eye of Dread region is basically the backyard of the Whispering Tyrant, a lich-king who’s caused all manner of trouble over the years. The Impossible Lands are where a battle between two wizards has warped the very land itself, so if you’ve got a mind for weird, trippy, high-magic shenanigans… there you go. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to things afoot on (and under) the high seas.

There is, however, a bit of an elephant in the room. Doesn’t the first edition Inner Sea World Guide already cover a lot of the same ground? And the answer to that is “yes, but…”.

Look. The broad strokes of Golarion remain the same. The city of Absalom still serves as a one-stop hub for adventuring. Most of the “themed” regions still exist; if you want a campaign with a desert flavor or a jungle flavor or an arctic theme, all of those are right where you left them. There are going to be long-time First Edition players who already know most of this, and that’s cool.

So what’s truly new here? That’s the question, isn’t it?

First, as a reference manual, it’s organized a little more intuitively than its predecessor. The Inner Sea World Guide was broken down by topic, using straight alphabetical order within each topic. Straightforward in a way, but not necessarily easy to use – two locations that were just down the road from each other on the map could be on opposite sides of the book, and different pieces of information about a place might be scattered across the book. Much like the Starfinder Pact Worlds book, the Lost Omens World Guide takes more of a geographical focus, organizing itself into 10 meta-regions, and tackling each region separately. It’s the difference between having to flip 200 pages to get from Montreal to Toronto rather than them both being in the chapter about Canada. To me, the latter feels more rooted in common sense. Furthermore, the book presents a nice simple one-sheet “flashcard” for each region that includes all the important details an easy-to-digest format. Very handy – something that can very easily be printed off and given to the players at the table.

The next thing is that on a lore level, the Pathfinder world has undergone changes. The fates of different nations have risen and fallen, and some of the formerly dominant powers are less so, with new players taking their places. But here’s the cool thing. It’s not simply “Oceania and Eastasia are enemies now… 30 dollars, please”. The changes that happen as result of the time-skip are often directly or indirectly tied to the last 10 years of official First Edition adventures – adventure paths, individual adventures, even Society play. Our online game proceeds at somewhat of a slower pace, so we haven’t done all of the adventure paths, but at first glance, I recognized hooks to both the Iron Gods and Carrion Crown adventure paths in the “timeline” running along the sides of the pages. The takeaway being that this isn’t just change-for-change’s-sake; there’s a decent amount of thought put into HOW the world would have changed if one assumed the outcomes of the various adventures as fact. While I admit my knowledge of prior adventure paths isn’t deep enough to totally appreciate it, I think it’s pretty neat, conceptually.

Lastly – and here’s where players’ ears will perk up – there are region-specific backgrounds, archetype feats, and sometimes even little extras (items, non-archetype feats, etc.) interspersed within the lore dump. That’s right kids, it’s not ALL fun for the GM; we players get in on the action too.

On one level, the backgrounds are nothing game-changing, it’s still just a couple ability scores and a couple skill bumps. What they do represent is a means of integrating your character more tightly with the setting and world lore. Just to pick an example, instead of just being a “sailor”, the High Seas section gives you the option to be a storm survivor, an aspiring captain, a member of a press gang, an undersea enthusiast, or other options… each with their own flavor, and yes… their own stat bumps.

The archetype feats tend to be related to key organizations (formal and informal) within the Inner Sea realms. The most likely (from a player perspective) would be the Pathfinder Agent – if you join the Pathfinder Society (and are from Absalom), you’d gain access to additional feats you can take as you level. On the “formal organization” side, there’s several old standbys like the Hellknights and Red Mantis Assassins. For an example of a more informal grouping, there’s the Runescarred, residents of the Saga Lands whose exposure to magic over time has left… well… scars. In general terms, there’s one archetype for each region – access to these archetypes generally has a skill requirement and you have to be from the region to take it. The skill needs vary from fairly straightforward (“ability to cast focus spells” for the Magic Warrior of Mwangi Expanse) to fairly specific (the Red Mantis Assassin requires the right alignment, the right weapon proficiency, the right deity, AND membership in the Red Mantis Assassins). So some of these, you may be able to train into fairly easily; others will require a pretty specific build (or a pretty lenient GM) to even get in the vicinity.

As far as the “toys”… it’s a little more hit-and-miss here, both in terms of the number of extras and the presentation thereof, but there is some fun stuff here. It’s a little wonky, presentation-wise: sometimes they’re in the flow of the main text, sometimes they’re tucked off in a corner or on the sidebar, so it can be a little difficult going back to find them later. Some sections have three or four; other sections won’t have any. But you do have some fun choices. There’s the Aldori Dueling Sword: the sword itself is nothing special, but training in it and being from that part of the world lets you potentially take the Aldori Duelist archetype and get access to some interesting feats. The High Seas area offers the Jellyfish Lamp, a lamp made of bioluminescent jellyfish, but it loses its potency if it’s removed from water for an extended period of time. I think my personal favorite is the Eye of the Arclords feat – it basically creates a temporary third eye in your forehead that gives darkvision, detect magic, and a bonus to Perception checks. WHO DOESN’T LOVE EXTRA EYES?

So, is this something your gaming group is going to need? At a 30-thousand foot level, it’s a book that’s heavy on lore and light on nuts-and-bolts rules content, and some portion of that lore – fresh coat of paint notwithstanding – is stuff that’s been out there for a while. But it does have new wrinkles to offer in terms of world lore and gameplay that, pass-fail, make it worth a look. I certainly think anyone who’s brand new to Pathfinder with Second Edition probably ought to pick this one up, and GMs who want to do a lot of homebrewing that would still fit in with published material would find this book useful as well. If someone’s a First Edition lifer who already has this committed to memory or if you’re a GM who’s more about the ruleset and don’t really use the Golarion setting as much… maybe it’s OK to wait a bit and see how your Second Edition experience goes before taking the plunge. Having said all of that, it’s a worthy successor to the Inner Sea World Guide and a solid platform to launch a new era of Second Edition gaming.

Talking Combat 098: The Ghost With The Most

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 098: Shock It To Me.

First, it’s totally true. My dog ate my homework… errr… microphone. I have a dog with a taste for personal electronics. Over the years, I’ve lost a few charging cables, more than one pair of headphones, and… yep… most recently, the mic I use to record the podcast. I’m going to go ahead and throw my son under the bus here – I know to put my stuff up in a safe place; he’s the one who borrowed my headset and left it in the Canine Death Zone, not me. But it is what it is, and for the next few episodes, I sound like I’m broadcasting from inside a trash dumpster. Apologies for that.

I had actually forgotten about the brief interlude where we met the evil AI and I got zapped – my memory of this was that we went right from the good AI into the final fight. Having said that, I suppose this encounter still served a larger purpose. Up to this point, I was a little skeptical of the good AI, and not totally convinced this isn’t some sort of elaborate double-cross – that the superficially friendly AI isn’t trying to get us to hack into a system it can’t get into itself so it’s come up with a story to get us to do the dirty work for it. But this gave us a chance to log onto a terminal and verify that the bad AI is doing nefarious things with the security system and lying about it – that certainly clarifies things. OK, I take a bit of damage in the process, but it only hit stamina and I have like 300 resolve points at this point, so no big deal.

So with that resolved, we move on to what turns out is the final encounter. Didn’t know that at the time, not sure what we would’ve done if we had. It’s easy with 20/20 hindsight to say we should’ve cleared out the rest of the complex and leveled, but sometimes you gotta go with what feels right in the moment. I think our thinking was we could always go back and clear the remaining rooms after we moved the plot forward. Also, as a roleplay thing, we’re on a bit of a clock here.

So just to describe the room a little better, you enter on a south-bound corridor that’s only 10’ wide. At the bottom of the corridor, there’s a small flight of stairs and then the contour of the room kind of fish-hooks back on itself, opening into the majority of the room in the process. So there was kind of a pivot point at the bottom of the stairs. The wall gave both groups some protection, we couldn’t advance too far into the room without opening ourselves up to FAR more attacks in return, but they also couldn’t push too far into the corridor we were in. (Unless the shades went incorporeal and went through the walls. I suppose that’s always a possibility. Let’s all agree not to tell them they can do that, okay?)

Ironically, I was feeling pretty confident when this fight started. There were two or three regular Cultists, but those weren’t much to worry about. They don’t hit hard, they don’t do a lot of damage, so other than clogging up movement and potentially getting attacks of opportunity… they’re basically speed bumps to keep us from getting into the room too fast. The shades… slightly more problematic, but my gun and Mo’s pike work just fine against them, and Akiro has SOME spells that can damage them, though a finite amount. We did OK against them on the ship, so… non-trivial, but also not insurmountable.

But then there’s the boss. It quickly becomes evident that he’s got all the benefits of the regular shades, and ohbytheway, he’s got real spells (Mystic, maybe?) in his arsenal. Have I mentioned lately I hate incorporeal creatures? Just checking?

So the emerging strategy is that Mo (and to a lesser extent, CHDRR) will hold the pivot at the bottom of the stairs, Akiro and Tuttle will try to find firing angles to thin the shades since we can damage incorporeal creatures, and Rusty will lob grenades, which will at least clear out the Cultists, and if it can damage the others, that’s just gravy.

But you know what they say… no plan survives contact with the enemy. First, the shades do remember that they can move through things (and fly over them) so they can pretty much move past Mo and CHDRR at will and get at our back lines. So far, only one of them has, but it suggests our initial plan may not be tenable in its current form. More importantly, the Big Bad rolls out a spell which makes Mo exhausted. A bunch of negatives to, well, just about everything. And embedded in there is bad news – I’m not sure he has any magic on his gun, so if he switches from melee to ranged weapons (his pike has a weapon fusion), he loses some of his damage against incorporeals. (I could be wrong about this, he might have put a fusion on his gun as well… I can’t remember so I’m going to find out along with you next week.) So… things just got a lot more interesting right there at the end, didn’t they?

Well, without giving away too many spoilers, it’s gonna get even more interesting (cough-worse-cough) next week. How exactly? Sorry… I guess you’ll just have to come back next week and find out. In the meantime, 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 back here next week.

Talking Plaguestone 04: Float Like A Bloodseeker, Sting Like A Bee

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 04: Ghost Bee Gone.

It’s a fun week on Roll For Combat as it’s a mostly combat-oriented episode with a pair of encounters. Granted, the whole adventure did kick off with the fight against the wolfpack, but that one was over pretty quickly and was mostly straight melee, except for Celes casting a few spells. This time, between the stirges and the bees, we got to explore a few more situations and got a little deeper into our powers.

Brixley, in particular, got to test out a couple of his champion abilities. The first class feature to get the spotlight is Liberating Step. The short version is basically what I described on the show – if someone within 15 feet gets grappled, I can use a reaction to give them a free chance to break free. It’s actually got a few additional wrinkles that I didn’t cover. It can also confer damage resistance (2 + my level) and/or can let the target take a Step. So, it’s actually a pretty neat and versatile little ability, even if it’s a LITTLE bit situation-dependent.

(As a side note, the Paladin equivalent lets the champion take a free swing in return when an ally takes a hit, and the Redeemer can either nullify damage entirely or confer an enfeeble effect on the enemy.)

The other class ability to make it into play is good ol’ Lay On Hands, the staple of the first-edition class. First, yes, all flavors of Champion get Lay On Hands; it’s not just for Paladins anymore. It’s the same basic concept as in first edition, but with a few new mechanical wrinkles. Within the action economy, it’s just a single action – nice and simple. Next, the damage healed is just a flat 6 points per level – no randomness. (However, if you use it as a damage spell against undead, you still roll for damage.) The bigger change is that the number of uses changes – it used to be a flat number of uses per day (half your level + CHA modifier); now it’s based on the mechanism of focus points, which can be regenerated with a 10-minute rest. Cliff’s Notes version: the first-edition paladin can use it more in a single encounter (especially at higher levels) since you can have no more than three Focus Points, but the second-edition champion can replenish them instead of having a finite pool. After-heals galore!

So the stirge fight went fairly quickly, leaving only a little residual guilt on my part that Brixley was the only person who didn’t take any damage. (Sorry, everyone!) We roll the Grumpy Old Man back to town, collect some experience, have a little lunch, and it’s time to get back to the murder investigation at the heart of the story. Our next lead to follow up on is the cook, Amora, who has been absent since Bort’s murder, so it’s off to her house.

And greeeat. Not only do we have a battle against a swarm – one of my least favorite things to fight (it’s either that or incorporeal creatures) – but Brixley continues his gradual descent into slapstick comic relief by stumbling into the bee swarm unawares. Falling in mud, getting punched in a bar brawl, stumbling into a bunch of bees… Brixley is gradually becoming a Warner Bros cartoon character. Which may represent a good career change for him, because he’s totally useless in this particular fight. (I mean, I guess I “did some damage” by letting them sting me? Does that count?)

Fortunately, Prue and Celes manage to be FAR more useful. Statistically speaking, Celes’ fire fingers probably ended up doing the most damage but you have to admit that Prue killing bees with ghosts wins the battle for style points. WITH GHOSTS, people. We also get to see Hero Points in action. I’m going to be honest: I’m not sure how I feel about random do-overs as a game mechanic (seems kinda cheap), but if they’re part of the system, I’ll find a way to get comfortable with them sooner rather than later.

Finally, as we kill off the bees, Amora comes out of her shack with the tools that would’ve been far more useful for the job. Amora invites us in, which leads to both a snack that Winnie the Pooh would envy and a lead on the mystery – it turns out Bort’s bowl has a floral poison-y scent that Amora doesn’t recognize. Presuming we believe her, that means we’re narrowing things down to one of the kitchen staff – either Finnick/Pinnick the goblin who plated it, and Trin who actually served it to the table. Full disclaimer… first edition habits die hard, so I’m blaming the goblin until further notice. As a side mission, we (but mostly Celes) convince Amora to return to work, thus saving turnip-based cuisine for the people of Plaguestone. Yay?

The one thing I probably should have asked a lot earlier is if the woman who has all sorts of beekeeping equipment had any sort of remedy for bee-sting poisoning. You’d think someone who keeps bees would cover all her bases. Does the world of Golarion even have the equivalent of an EpiPen? But unfortunately I don’t think of it until the poison has already cleared my system, so oh well… opportunity missed.

And that’s where we break for the session. We have two new suspects to investigate, a dead body to scrutinize more closely, and Celes has an inside track on special turnip-and-honey concoctions that the general public can only dream of. Brixley? I’d just settle for not enduring some low-grade cartoonish humiliation, thanks. Hope you’ll join us next week to see where the mystery leads; in the meantime, 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 03: The Plaguestone Home Companion

Prairie Home Companion

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 03: Murder By Death.

This week we have one of those transitional episodes – there’s no combat (until the last 10 seconds), but it’s also not a full-on social skills challenge either. It’s mostly just setting the table – fleshing out the story points, introducing most of the major NPCs, delivering a little bit of plot exposition and setting. You have these moments, particularly early on in a story. The weird thing is the tonal shift in the middle – we start with a very well-defined murder mystery vibe going, and then – kind of abruptly, frankly – shift into this more folksy “Prairie Home Companion” vibe where we’re pushing the old guy around and getting a history lesson about the town.

First things first, I was a LITTLE worried the sheriff might try to pin the murder on us and the thrust of the campaign would be to prove ourselves innocent. Unless there’s one heck of a plot twist coming, that doesn’t appear to be the case – John Law just feels a little overmatched (or… lazy) and wants to deputize us to do the heavy lifting of solving Bort’s murder. Certainly, Brixley is up for that; despite being more chaotic than lawful, he’s still got that do-gooder gene going for him. You can’t live free if you’re dead.

I do have to admit the idea that we couldn’t leave the town for a month until the judge gets back is a bit contrived, and would also annoy Brixley as an alignment thing. It’s not like they have a large standing militia or walls that would… you know… stop us from leaving. For half a second, I thought about staging a mutiny and seeing what would happen if we tried to leave… after all, except for the town bully, who would stop us? But I think that would’ve just pisssed Steve off, and sometimes you just roll with things to keep the story moving. Episode 3 is a little early to be peeing in the punchbowl.

Going back and listening, I feel like I sound kind of stupid asking “are we sure Bort was poisoned” but I more meant it as “should we check the body for bite marks on the off chance he got bit by the wolves and got some sort of disease, but we didn’t notice?”. So it wasn’t a COMPLETE reach, but yes… I do recognize poisoned porridge is the 99th-percentile answer to this puzzle. I’m not a complete moron.

Or maybe it was a severe turnip allergy. But wait… if he’s been coming here for years, he probably would’ve had an incident before now. Never mind.

So we participate in the impromptu wake for Bert… errr… Bort (OK, that amused me when Vanessa did that) and Cade takes some very cursory first steps toward investigating the murder itself. But then we go to bed because we’re tired, wake up the next morning, and our murder mystery has morphed into that really clunky reboot of Are You Being Served? where they move out to the country farm, and we’re doing chores, including pushing the latest iteration of Mister Grace around in his wheelchair.

As we do this, we get a lore-dump on the history of the town… there’s a witch that may have put a curse on the town, a PowerPoint on their turnip-based economy, all the good stuff. We finally arrive at a shrine to Gozreh, where… oh Celes… OF COURSE you don’t go walking up to abandoned shrines. Yup, time to fight some Things We Used to Call Stirges. The official name is “bloodseekers” now. And that’s where we pick things up next week.

My personal unofficial side mission this episode was to start to figure out how Brixley is going to relate to the rest of the party on a roleplay level. I fully admit it takes me a few sessions to figure out where my character fits, especially when playing with mostly-new players.

The relationship with Celes is taking shape most quickly. Initial positive vibes built by the fact that she chose to trust him with the secret of her magic use, but he kind of sees the naivete and “fish out of water”-ness and will probably feel like he’s got a little bit of an obligation to watch her back. (I mean, Brixley’s naïve too in his own way, but nobody tell him that.)

Cade… there’s probably going to be a little battle between the Chaotic and the Good sides that has to work itself out in Brixley’s head. On one hand, another affable short guy to help close the bar is a good thing; on the other hand, Brixley might take a dim view of things like picking pockets during a bar fight. Some of that will also depend on the choices Rob makes, but for right now, it’s superficially friendly, but with a little bit of internal “better keep an eye on that guy” vibe. Never take your eye off the guy with concealed daggers.

Prue? There’s probably going to be a little bit of “top dog” competitive tension as they’re the two heavy fighters of the team. There’s some basic level of respect for the fact that she’s a formidable warrior, but between his noble background and some level of (over-)confidence that his deity makes him right about stuff, I could see there starting to be some tensions if/when this (in his view) “scruffy barbarian with sketchy ghost magic” starts bossing him around. Or it could turn into a Legolas-Gimli thing where they’ll start keeping score of body counts. I guess we’ll just have to see.

The one thing I think I’ve been doing “wrong” the first few episodes is that Brixley is reasonably high-Charisma, and also a bit of an idealistic crusader. So he should probably be stepping up and taking charge a little more (or at least assuming he’s in charge) than I’ve been doing, and I’ve been a little more passive these first couple episodes. Something to work on for future episodes.

So… bit of a transition episode this week, but we’ll get back into the thick of combat next week and try to keep our blood from being sucked out of our bodies. Feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show, and we’ll see you back here next week. Thanks for listening!

Talking Combat 096: Gotta Catch ‘Em All

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 096: Altered Coward.

This has been a little bit of a weird week in Talking Combat. Like a TV show moving to a new time, the Dead Suns show moves to a new night to accommodate the new Plaguestone podcast, so that means that Talking moves as well. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment, and I’m still playing around with the writing schedule a little bit (as well as it just happening to be a busy weekend). We’ll get it squared away though.

This week on Roll For Combat, it’s an unintentional homage to the John Wick movies, as we kick a bunch of Cultist ass in the name of avenging animal cruelty. I don’t think I can write an entire column just about the Alien Puppy (despite Bob throwing down the challenge to do so) but it’s tempting. I have to admit (bouncing around to one of the show notes here) I had forgotten about the third pet until Steve mentioned it just now. I remembered the squox because that was fairly recent, but I had forgotten that WAAAAAAY back in the early episodes of Book 1, the dwarf that got killed welcoming us to Absalom had a pet cat in his quarters that we had kinda-sorta adopted. Geez, I hope somebody is stopping by and feeding it or John Wick is going to be coming to pay us a visit.

In general, it is nice to get off the Sunrise Maiden and get things moving forward again. I mean, the fight on the ship wasn’t boring, but it can only advance the plot so much in comparison to arriving at a destination where story points will be revealed. Having said that, it’s pretty obvious that this first fight is going to be more of a tune-up fight than a serious challenge. The bad guys’ swords did OK damage the few times they hit, I guess, but they never really seemed like that much of a threat, and that was even before it turned out that Aeon Tuttle was basically invincible to their incendiary grenades.

Speaking of which, between shrugging off the grenade damage and being able to communicate with Alien Puppy, this was a good week for Tuttle’s aeon powers – aka ”Hippie Telepathy”. The good outsider (Azata) gets you actual Truespeech, but this turns out to work just as well – being able to “converse” using nonvisual concepts beamed into the head of the other… I was going to say “person” but “entity”. Arguably even better for an animal-level intellect that doesn’t really have complex language. Still… works better than “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”, I suppose. A few games of Psychic Pictionary and a healing serum later, Tuttle’s entourage gets a little bit larger. The real trick will be resisting the urge to perform some lab experiments on the little critter later… Tuttle’s first love is still science, after all.

I’m trying to remember if this was the first use of the Upgraded Button or not. This is where one of the times where the gap between recording and air-date is working against me a little. I know the wider range of possibilities kicked in after the rebuild at Istamak, and I don’t recall using the button during the fight on the Sunrise Maiden, so for the moment I’m saying yes. (Feel free to point out if I’m wrong – my kids do it all the time.) Of course, the Button tends to be anti-climactic in this case – a heal when CHDRR is already at full health. Oh well.

While we’re talking about CHDRR, you’ll note that here is where I really start to make a more conscious decision to use CHDRR’s line effect. Somewhere around the tail end of Istamak or the first fight on the way to the Gate of the 12 Suns, it dawned on me that I had almost never gotten full value out of CHDRR’s line weapon for whatever reason – enemies weren’t bunched close enough, friendlies were in the way… whatever. (Cough-CHDRR-gets-destroyed-cough). This book is where I start getting into a newfound commitment to be tactical and make use of that. You should see more of it in the coming episodes.

I also have to admit that I got a minor kick out of the fact that while Bob and Chris were having their back and forth about the value of kill shots versus total damage, Tuttle kind of snuck in the back door and ended up with more kill shots than either. (At least if you count the Tuttle/CHDRR combo as a united entity). I figured I’d keep quiet and let them do their thing though – it has a little bit of that “Legolas and Gimli at Helm’s Deep” energy to it and either way, the bad guys end up dead.

Besides. I got the puppy, so by definition, I won the session anyway. And yes, I do eventually think of a name for it, though if that’s where Steve chose to cut the episode, I guess you’ll find out next week. (Rampant speculation in the meantime is encouraged.)

And I suppose that’s also where I’ll wrap up for the week. Next week, we penetrate the alien complex where we assume the Cultists are in some stage of attempting to open the gate and retrieve the superweapon. According to that log we took off the ship that attacked us, they were having some technical difficulties, but no way to tell if those are still an issue or if they’ve made progress since then. Join us back here next week to find out, and in the meantime, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and other social media and discuss the show. We’ll see you next week, and thanks for listening.