Jason McDonald, Author at Roll For Combat: Paizo's Official Pathfinder & Starfinder Actual Play Podcasts

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The Bird’s Eye View S1|11: Who’d Like To Share Something With The Group?

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|11: The More You Know

Time to throw off the glorious lethargy of a long holiday weekend and write up a review for this week’s show. This week’s episode is a bit of an oddity – it’s not TOTALLY a downtime episode, but we do kind of drop out of character and go into book-keeping mode for a chunk of it. We also TRY to do a little roleplaying, but it doesn’t really go very far. And I think there’s a couple of different reasons for that.

The first is what Steve mentioned in his show notes: the stylistic question of whether you consider yourself the character, or whether you consider yourself the narrator of your character’s actions. Our group – and I generally include myself in this – has traditionally played more from the narrator standpoint. I don’t think either’s wrong exactly, but I think the narrator method DOES tend to move things along a little faster because it’s easier to drop in and out of character to navigate game information that you’d have to “act your way through” in more of a traditional roleplay game. Add up 20 or 30 moments where we just say The Thing and the Extinction Curse group performs The Thing, and it’s not hard to see how our game might move a little more briskly.

The other way to look at it is internal vs. external. I find our group is just as willing to act out interactions with external entities: NPCs and such. Seth in particular really gets into character when it comes to verbally jousting with Steve, but all of us do to some extent. But it’s almost entirely outward-focused. To use an IT analogy, think of the GM screen as a firewall. We roleplay when we’re going through the firewall and interacting with one of the game challenges Steve is presenting. If we’re just talking amongst ourselves, that’s inside the firewall, and we don’t really roleplay that.

(And yes, I’m fully aware that I just took an already-nerdy topic and explained it in terms that are even nerdier. “Tune in next week when I explain Lay On Hands in terms of hard drive defragmentation!”)

So why did I decide to zig when everyone else was zagging this time around? Why did I stay more in character while everyone else was going RP-lite? I’m not nominating myself for any prizes here, but I think part of what’s going on is that listening to the Extinction Curse shows as our designated blogger has me inspired to try and bring a little bit of that energy over to this side of the fence. They sound like they’re having a lot of fun with it, so what the heck – let’s dip into their bag of tricks. I wrote a decent amount of backstory for Basil, let’s see if we can use some of it. Besides, if they’re gonna start dropping pop culture references like “flameo, hotman” into their show, turnabout is fair play.

Well… back to the show, where we’re dealing with a bit of a mixed message. On one hand, we have to go infiltrate a fancy after-hours club, which argues that we should largely stow our weapons and dress for high society. On the other hand, to get there, we have to sneak in through an underground back entrance that basically amounts to a dungeon crawl. I suppose we could have it both ways: wear our fighting gear until we get close and then change into party garb. Times like these, I’m glad to have a sword-cane… works in BOTH settings. I guess if there’s a silver lining to our squishy party composition, it’s that we’re not especially armor-and-weapon-dependent: Gomez is a caster, Lo Mang punches things, I have an innately concealable weapon. Really the only one who might struggle is Dougie: they probably make you check your maul and chainmail at the door of parties like these. But then again, since he’s a rogue, maybe he should be using his dagger anyway.

Speaking of which… this ongoing debate about which weapon Dougie should use continues to vex us. On one hand, it FEELS like the dagger would be the better weapon (or at least SOME weapon with a crit specialization) for Dougie to use because then he gets precision damage AND crit specialization damage against most foes. But then again, thinking ahead to the end of this week when we run up against a gelatinous cube… you can’t always count on those “extra” sources of damage, whereas rolling a bigger die will really never totally fail you. You can either take this as a mild spoiler for next week, or a thing we learned over in Extinction Curse, but anything in the ooze family is immune to precision damage, and they also don’t have blood, so bleeding doesn’t really matter either. And OK, at the risk of providing a veiled critique of our tactics, you can’t get the most out of it if nobody is around to give you flanking, and neither Chris nor I are the most reliable in that regard. Having said all that, sometimes it feels like John is being stubborn for the sake of being contrary… “I’m going to keep using this maul because everyone keeps telling me not to”… or so Dougie can be more distinct from Mister Peepers. I don’t know.

As we reach the end of the episode, we begin to work our way toward the party, when Gomez’s greed gets the better of him and he goes running right down a hallway into a gelatinous cube. Still one of my favorite monsters of all time, by the way – there’s something about the contrast of being so unlike any sort of normal lifeform, but that it still has the wherewithal to form itself into a sensible geometric shape. I think what I like is that it was one of the first creatures that really got outside the Tolkien box of dragons and humanoid bad guys, and took things in a strange new direction.

So next week, we fight a gelatinous cube! Cool! If you want a sneak preview of how that might go, the Extinction Curse crew fought two of them a few weeks ago, so go listen to those episodes or read the right episode of The Sideshow. While you’re waiting for next week’s episode, 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.

The Sideshow S1|38: Gone In Six Seconds

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|38: Moaning & Sloshing.

I wanted to start this week by wishing all of our American listeners as happy a Thanksgiving as this whole COVID-19 situation is letting you have. Me, I’m going off the Turkey Day grid this year: I already have a fairly small family to begin with, and my parents didn’t want to take any chances, so… me and The Boy are just gonna have a grilled cheese sandwich party or something. And no, that’s not me fishing for sympathy… I think the idea of appreciating the good things in your life is more important than what food you stuff your face with, so I’m good. That and it’s still the first day of a five-day weekend from work.

I also wanted to drop a quick show note which might be a little duplicative if you read both columns. Specifically, I wanted to mention that the holiday season makes our recording schedule a little weird this time of year. We still have material in the can, so there’s no danger of running out of new episodes, but if you’re one of our Patreon subscribers who likes to listen live – be warned that recording sessions tend to get moved around or even canceled outright as the holiday season kicks into high gear and people have scheduling conflicts.

So we have a combat-focused episode this week, with a pair of combat encounters as we work our way to the end of Book 1 of the adventure path. The first is more of a cannon-fodder fight that’s made a bit more challenging by an environmental hazard; the second is a sub-boss with humanoid intelligence, spells, and other toys that will challenge the party.

The highlight of the first part HAS to be Hap’s feather fall assisted dive into the pit to get a better shot at all the enemies. The only thing that was missing was a robust singing of “I Believe I Can Fly”. I kinda get where Loren was coming from: if she was likely to take a hit anyway, might as well do a crap-ton of damage while doing it. And sure enough, at least one of the grothluts crit-failed its save, meaning Hap was able to basically one-shot it. Still, the best part was the sheer audacity of the move – you don’t usually see your clothie diving headfirst into the most dangerous part of the battlefield. There’s a scenario where she doesn’t do enough damage, all the grothluts just drop back down into the pit and eat her for lunch, and no more Hap. (Also… one does wonder on a roleplay level, will Alhara and Ateran scold her for doing that as much as they scolded Darius for using The Mark?)

Speaking of Alhara, it was nice to see her get a chance to really make use of her character’s skills in interesting ways. There are times when I think Alhara’s Swashbuckler build gets a bit of a raw deal – the last few battles have been these kinda static in-place slugfests, which Darius is built for but Alhara is not. (Or at least not as much.) Here we get to see her make use of her mobility skills, using the pit as a weapon and even chucking one of the bad guys into it. I feel like the complex battlefields give Alhara a chance to shine that we haven’t seen in a couple of episodes. Very refreshing.

Luckily, Hap’s dangerous stunt turns out to be OK, as the party takes care of the rest of the grothluts before they can dine at the Hap Buffet. A quick rest to heal – what shall we call “a rest that’s as many short rests as it takes to heal up?… a “flex rest”, maybe? – and it’s back to exploring the remaining rooms.

Our second fight begins with what appears to be a hostage situation, but what soon turns out to be – based on the powers it uses — a succubus sub-boss (assisted by a few wolves). Yes, I checked, they can take on “normal” humanoid form, so the lack of wings shouldn’t be taken as a deal-breaker. And thanks to Darius being a little too gullible, we finally get our first exposure to the “drained” condition. For the record, Drained gives you a minus-X penalty to CON checks AND removes X times your character level’s worth of hit points, both from your active hit points and from your max hit points (X being the level of… drainage?). And the Drained condition only goes down one step per LONG rest, so… that could’ve gotten pretty brutal. And may yet, if this battle has a Round Two.

However, halfway through the fight, the succubus offers to parley and dump some plot on us, which leads to an interesting standoff. Most of the party seems willing to talk, but Hap refuses to stand down (but also doesn’t attack), so on the creature’s next turn, she casts Dimension Door and gets the hell out of there. (She “yeets” herself, as the Young People say.) This also triggers a bit of a rules debate as Alhara had a readied action to attack if she tried to cast a spell, and it SEEMS like she should’ve been able to take it.

This brings us to this week’s episode of “Keywords Mean Things”. Yes, Dimension Door is an innate spell for a succubus, and in fact (mild spoiler) a succubus has two versions of it. It’s got both a 5th-level single cast and a 4th-level cast that’s at will. Neither “innate” nor “at-will” modify the action mechanics of casting a spell – it still has verbal and somatic components. “Innate” just means you have that ability even if you don’t otherwise qualify for it, and that it doesn’t consume a spell slot. “At will” just says how often you can use it – the default is once per long-rest, but an “at-will” ability can be cast every turn if you like. But none of that seems to change the fact that Dimension Door is a two-action spell with a visible “tell”, so I would’ve given Alhara her action. For what it’s worth.

Mechanically and/or thinking ahead to a possible rematch, this also means a succubus can bop around anywhere within a 120-foot radius as much as they want (well, once per round because of the three-action economy), and once per long rest, they can do the one-mile getaway. There’s also something else that’s kind of “interesting” about succubus encounters, but I won’t mention it for now in case it turns out to be relevant in a future episode.

(Speaking of rematches, did we ever find that ghast that escaped from the druid hermitage?)

But that’s where we end the episode… losing out on a possible information dump, and the unsatisfying feeling of a win that wasn’t really a win. That can be frustrating as a player, even if chasing off a bad guy kinda counts as a win and Steve tends to give us credit for beating the encounter, in terms of loot and experience. Not only do you lose that sense of achievement, but you find yourself looking over your shoulder, hoping that missing bad guy isn’t going to pop up as a reinforcement in a future fight. Unfinished business sucks.

It also picks a little bit at the edge of the eternal debate about how smart to make NPCs when it comes to self-preservation. The mechanics of adventures tend to go smoothest if you just have creatures fight until death (or CLEAR surrender, if they need to dump plot exposition), but sometimes it just defies common sense that an otherwise-intelligent creature would just stay and get pounded into the ground when it explicitly has tools to escape that fate. Especially in a case like this where the party is offered a surrender and doesn’t trust the creature enough to take it. So, sometimes the GM has to let the bad guy do the “right” thing and figure out how to fix the mechanics of it (lost experience, missing information, etc.) later.

But we’ll see what happens with that next week. For this week, go enjoy your face-stuffing. 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.

The Bird’s Eye View S1|10: The Art Of The Deal

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|10: We’re Sending Somebody In To Negotiate!

Since I don’t know how many people read one column or the other, or even both, so I wanted to start by wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving in advance. I know it’s likely to be a little rough and scaled-back this year because of all this COVID stuff happening, but I do hope you have some good things to celebrate and some good people in your life to celebrate it with. (And if you happen to read both columns, you’ll get a bonus dose of positivity on Thursday. Ain’t nothing wrong with sending out more good vibes into the world.)

Since we’re talking about the holidays, I wanted to also start this week with a general show note. This is the time of year where our recording schedule gets a little sporadic because of the holidays. Both episodes have plenty of material in the can, so the broadcasts will continue without interruption – no worries on that front. But for those of you who subscribe to the Patreon and listen live, things can sometimes get a little weird between now and the end of the year. Sometimes we move the shows around during the week; occasionally we even cancel entirely. Happens pretty much every year. It is known, Khaleesi.

This week, we finally resolve the hostage situation at the Dragonfly Pagoda, and rather than a big boss fight, it’s more of a chance to talk our way through the situation, with Gomez taking center stage for the first part, and Basil getting a little bit of work in the second half of the episode. We finally make our way to the non-crazy kobold (Shirek) the site manager mentioned when we started all of this.

Now, I haven’t really looked at Gomez’s character sheet, so I don’t know for certain, but it feels like Seth and I kind of split the “face of the party” duties depending on the context. As a sorcerer, I’m SURE he has a higher Charisma score than I do, so he’s likely to do better with the pure social skills like Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate. So I think in a GENERAL setting, Seth probably gets first crack at things. But I think there are a few contexts in which Basil would shine. First, Society is an INT-based skill and I also have the “Political Scion” background from the adventure path, so when it comes to mingling with fancy-folk, I might actually be able to do a little better than him. Also, if it’s an interrogation setting and we need to get specific information that’s being withheld, I have my Investigator’s “spider-sense”, which might let me notice a few things and offset a few points in Charisma. (And at higher levels, I can take feats that double-down on that.) If we really need someone to apply a little muscle, we’ve already got Lo Mang for that. Dougie… eh, he can go get the coffee.

So we get up to the top of the pagoda where the hostages are being held, and it’s Seth’s time to shine. And I have to admit, it’s nice to see this side of Seth as a neat little window to get to know him better as a person. I’ve gamed with him, I’ve gotten a sense of his taste in pop culture, but this was a chance to see him in a different context. I was really impressed by how quickly he came up with different angles and counter-arguments and navigated the negotiations. I mean, I never in a million years would have come up with “third-party mediation”.

That said, I do think the scenario as a whole teetered on the edge of “out of our pay grade”. We KIND of negotiated a plea bargain on the spot which would normally be the role of judges and lawyers and added a labor negotiation as a cherry on the sundae. Those don’t seem like normal “beat cops” tasks. But if the Lawbreaker Badge didn’t throw a tantrum, I guess we were allowed to do it. Also, if you’re totally rigid about what cadets fresh out of the academy should and shouldn’t be doing while unsupervised, this could run the risk of being the most boring adventure path ever. Sometimes you gotta bend “reality” for the sake of story.

As you hear in the episode, I got a little turned around – I thought the missing stonemasons WERE the hostages, and that rescuing them from the kobolds closed out this little chapter. But it turns out that we had to take care of the hostage crisis before we were even able to begin our investigation of the other situation. My bad there.

So, back at the station, we got to do more of an interrogation, and as I mentioned above, this turned out to be a better chance for Basil to take the lead. Though it actually turned out that my Society knowledge ended up being as useful as my investigative skills, as the next breadcrumb is a speakeasy-type establishment run by Jeremin Hoff, an influential but mildly shady character. So it sounds like our next stretch of adventure is going to be more of a social encounter, and one where Basil may be in clue-gathering mode. So I’m excited.

And we’re already getting close to Level 3! I’m a little surprised at how fast we’re managing to plow through the first two levels. Certainly in terms of game days – this is day TWO in-game time – but also in terms of show episodes. I went through my blog posts and tried to figure out how far along we were by Episode 9. We were Level 1 in Black Lodge, but that’s Society, so you level differently anyway. Not sure that’s a fair comparison. Plaguestone was also at the tail end of Level 1 – we fought Hallod in Episode 9, and would’ve leveled right after that. In Extinction Curse, I believe they had reached Level 2 – it was the battle against the demon that came down to Ateran’s last spell cast. I even went back to Dead Suns, and… OK, totally different game system, but Episode 9 was where we leveled up to Level 2. Yet, here we are, well past Level 2 and may hit 3 soon. Crazy.

The other exciting development is getting 50g apiece for the day’s work. I know Steve is abstracting a few things, but still… that’s a LOT of money for how low-level we are. Though… we’re also burning through consumables at a painful rate too, so it evens out. Not sure how well the “party full of squishies + no healer” party composition is going to work in the long haul, but for now, we live to fight another day.

And that’s just what we’ll do. Next week, we go undercover in the world of high-society dark-money social clubs. I have a strategy for how I’m going to approach this baked into Basil’s backstory, but I think I’ll save that and talk about it next week when we arrive there. 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.

The Sideshow S1|37: Make Your Mark

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|37: Teacher, Mother, Secret Lover

First, I’d like to state that not only would I have “gotten” the “Kung Floor Fighting” joke, I would’ve sung along and added another few bars. “They fight it out while reclining?” Just Sayin’.

There’s really one big story in this week’s episode… the return (and upgrade) of Darius’ mark. If you remember, the last time it made an appearance – the final fight in the druid hermitage – it gave Darius a dose of what one would assume was barbarian rage. Punched a hole in a dude. Kept punching him after he was dead, in fact.

This time around, The Mark decided to make its presence known with a bit more grace and subtlety, as Darius turns invisible in the middle of combat. And it was first class invisibility, not coach, where he could attack and remain invisible, which proved to be VERY useful. Sneak attack damage out the wazoo.

(quickly dons Ziggy Stardust makeup) “Ch-ch-ch-chAAAAAAANGES!”

So the question that naturally comes out of this: how does The Mark work? Does the power change with each use, or is it evolving from one static thing to a new static thing? Do its powers just come from combat classes, or might he get spell-like abilities on some future usage? Is the ability chosen at random or does The Mark have some sort of sentience that decides what the user needs at the moment? Is Mama Varus watching over the proceedings or is that just how it manifests in Darius’ brain? Heck… is Darius secretly a Pokemon, and he’s evolved to his next form? DARIUS is now DARIOSUS!

If you think about it, there does seem to be some intelligence behind The Mark. Last time, Darius was going one-on-one, and it was the late stages of a fight the team had pretty much in hand, so pouring on damage and finishing his opponent off was the priority. This time, Darius was facing multiple foes and pretty beaten up, so something that got him out of harm’s way was a higher priority. So… was it just the dumb luck of Table 13.2, Subsection B, or is there something tactical at work here?

BUT… it’s clearly not all tactical genius – or even all benevolent – as one of the side effects of The Mark is a desire to go fight the Invisible Stalker for the Invisibility Heavyweight Belt. In a bit of a comedic moment, the invisibility expires shortly after Darius enters the room, and Darius luckily gets out of the room again before the probably-very-confused Invisible Stalker pounds him into a pulp. I was kind of looking forward to that fight, but it’s probably for the best that it didn’t happen. Otherwise, the rest of the party might have had to wait for the smell of Darius’ corpse to overpower all the other smells in the dungeon before they learned of his fate.

After the fight, there is a bit of an intra-party kerfuffle about whether Darius should’ve used the power or not, with Darius basically taking the “I’m gonna do what I have to do to keep us alive” position, Ateran and Alhara expressing a little more concern/skepticism and Hap mostly siding with Darius. As a mostly tactical player, I’m firmly on the side of using any tool in your arsenal to stay alive, but I do appreciate the team playing around with the roleplay a little.

In the short term, it doesn’t seem like much is accomplished: too little information to really form a hypothesis. But it does open up some opportunities to shuffle the roleplaying deck down the road. In particular, the Darius-Alhara brother-sister dynamic has always been one of the cornerstones of the show, so it’ll be interesting to see if the disagreement over The Mark tests that at all. (And OK, I’d actually be curious if Vanessa is folding jealousy into her reactions or if it’s just concern about the origins of The Mark – is there a part of her that’s actually MAD that Mom may be talking to him and not her?)

As a sorta-related aside to the whole story of The Mark, I’d like to mention that I’m a complete weasel. The first time I heard about Darius’ mark is roughly when we were making our characters for the Edgewatch show. So I won’t tell you what it specifically is, but I wrote at least one supernatural character hook into Basil’s bio so that if Steve wants to give me something similar, he has a ready-made parking place for it in my backstory. Not subtle, I realize, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. WHERE’S MY MARK, STEVE? (Then again, we are something like 4 or 5 months behind them, so… patience, padawan.)

We get a few little light-hearted moments toward the end of the show. As far as a voice for Csillagos, I’m going with vintage 80s Bobcat Goldthwait. I’m weird that way. As far as the debate over Darius’ healing, I don’t recall his heals being memorably bad, but maybe that’s one of those things where you feel it more intensely when you’re in the party. I mean, the thing about John rolling 1s and 2s in our Dead Suns game was absolutely a real thing and I remember that perfectly clearly.

Lastly, we have one more reminder that the dungeon is still unstable as the party gets bounced around by a rogue gust of wind. So… earthquake, room getting real hot, sound of lightning, now wind gust… we’ve got some sort of elemental situation going on… don’t we? I guess we’ll find out precisely what that is soon. Perhaps as soon as next week, since it seems like we’re running out of territory to explore. Whatever it is, probably best to do it quickly before the whole place caves in on their heads.

So, join us back here next week, when we’ll potentially put this dungeon to bed and get back to circus-related merriment. 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.

The Bird’s Eye View S1|09: Taking Friendly Ire

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|09: Double Secret Difficult Terrain.

This week’s theme actually plays off an off-hand comment that came up in the group chat during our Among Us session. We had Loren from the Extinction Curse show; Seth, John, and I from this show, and a few of our Patreon listeners just BSing while we waited for more people to join the game. We were discussing what we like about the various shows, and I said something – half-joking, half-serious – to the effect of “even though our group’s been together longer [Edgewatch], you guys sound like you guys actually like each other better [Three Ring Adventure]”.

Now… don’t read too much into that statement. It was mostly meant to be a commentary on their roleplaying ability – that they really sound like a family unit that’s known each other for years, while there are episodes where we sound like a table thrown together at a convention. But there’s also some truth buried in there when it comes to the competitive dice-rolling side of the game. We tend to be a competitive bunch looking to squeeze every last advantage out of our characters, and SOMETIMES that creeps into evaluating (and giving the stink-eye to) choices our teammates make. That doesn’t translate into personal animosity outside the game: we’re totally different people bullshitting about movies for the 20 minutes before the “cameras” roll. But in-game? Yeah, it can get a little salty at times, and this episode felt like one of those times.

First, there was the whole back-and-forth with Seth’s readied action. I don’t know if you could tell, but I was actually kinda low-key pissed at that. Because if Seth stepped out of the way, guess who was going to be the next most logical attack target? Yours truly. I deflected with humor, as I often do, but it’s like… your “tactical brilliance” is to basically let me eat the attack for you. GREEEEEEAT. And then John did a similar thing which might have been harder to visualize on the map: I moved into the room to potentially give him flanking with the spider, and instead of taking advantage of that, he backed off to crossbow range and shot at the spider. Again, leaving me hung out to dry as the only person in melee range. No major harm done, but it was a little frustrating.

Going back to the ready-action thing, John speculated a little to the effect of “why you wouldn’t just do that all the time?”. And at first glance, it does seem handy to have a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card for a single attack. I can think of a few downsides, though. First, the battlefield might not be conducive to it tactically; it pre-supposes walls, doors, or other cover that you could move behind to avoid the attack entirely. To pick a counter-example, if you’re fighting in a wide-open meadow, there’s nowhere to hide and at best maybe you can add a -2 range increment.  Second, paying two actions for one action you may or may not use is a pretty steep trade. But most importantly, the enemy still gets three actions on their turn. Even if you do that fancy avoidance maneuver on its first action, it still has two more and can still adapt to your new position and pummel you in other ways. So maybe that tactic isn’t the big I WIN button it might seem like at first glance.

The fight with the spider-lady unfolded in a reasonably straightforward fashion – again, kobolds themselves have NOT that much of a problem whenever we can take traps out of the equation. But then at the end of the fight, we had another little squabble about whether to leave rounds, with Seth… rage-drinking?… a potion just to assert ownership over his turn. This was also the thing Steve mentioned in the show notes: I feel like maybe Steve cut some bickering because three of us REALLY wanted to drop out of rounds and heal, while Seth REALLY wanted to stay in rounds for some reason and I recall the debate lasting longer than that. But… no harm done, I suppose. I just didn’t want him to waste the potion until after we’d burned up our free resources first.

FINALLY we get to take our short rest, and I get to test out Ward Medic for the first time. Reminder: that’s the one that lets you heal two different people in the same 10-minute interval. It’s a nice little feature, and (sneak preview) it’ll get even better down the road when I can pair it with the Continual Recovery feat that lets you drop the cooldown from an hour to 10 minutes. In the here-and-now, I managed to fail on one (me) and succeed on one (Gomez), but I wasn’t down all that far, so it wasn’t the end of the world. Especially if it’s still just kobolds the rest of the way. I figure if there’s another boss-level kobold in the final fight, I’ll pop a potion or use my badge ability.

Speaking of “the rest of the way”: as I listen to this episode, the one thing I wrestle with was whether we were supposed to deal with the bloodseekers to the south or not. This is one of those places where adventurers would have different priorities than officers of the law with a specific task to accomplish. Adventurers would do it in a heartbeat. Experience is experience, loot is loot. As a member of the local constabulary, it’s a little more muddy. On one hand, they’re still a threat to the general public safety and should be dealt with; on the other hand, the hostage situation is still the higher priority and I’d hate to lose hostages because we “wasted” resources on what amounts to a side encounter. The bloodseekers seem like the sort of thing you could call in the reserves on later – whatever the Absalom equivalent of Animal Control is. (Of course, based on the menagerie battle, WE might be Animal Control.)

Lastly, I’d like to go all the way back to the show notes and mention that whichever one of our listeners came up with the John McClane/Die Hard analogy to justify taking a short rest… you’re my new favorite. The real question is did you know I have a soft spot for Die Hard references, or did you get lucky? I mean… you can’t possibly have missed three years of me saying “SEND IN THE CAR” every time I sent CHDRR forth into melee on the Dead Suns show.

So finally, as the episode draws to a close, we’re finally sorted out and ready to make our final “assault” on the kobolds holed up in the head of the dragonfly structure. I’m still holding out hope we might get through this with negotiation – that once the battle leader is dead, cooler heads will prevail. On the other hand, if the kobolds still want to get jumpy, we can handle that too… just need to do a better job checking for traps.

So that’s where we’ll leave things for 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.

The Sideshow S1|36: Give Peace A Chance

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|36: Wolves Can’t Do Math!

I have to start this week’s column by reporting that I might be banned from the local Sheetz near my house thanks to this podcast. Turns out they don’t take kindly to people who start cackling maniacally at the check-out when they see a bin of hand-warmers sold under the brand “Hothands”. Did I further confound the cashier by whipping out my cellphone and taking a picture of the item so I could send it to everyone? Of course I did!

I’d also like to start with a really quick tease at Steve’s expense from the show notes. All meant in good fun, but… did he really say “taste” when discussing incorporating the other senses into dungeon exploration? Now I have this image of Darius licking the dungeon walls: “Tastes orc-y. Think some orcs went through here. Maybe a hint of… (takes another lick)… ogre as well?”

It feels like the embedded message of this week’s show is two-fold: a reminder that you don’t have to rampage through a dungeon killing everything you see, as well as an admonition to not neglect the soft skills when building your characters.

To the first point, between the invisible stalker and the dinosaur pen, there were a whole lot of potential experience points that the party may have missed out on by not just Murder-Hobo-ing their way through things. But on the other hand, neither encounter stood out as evil or even all that necessary. There’s a general sense that you don’t want to leave fires untended in your rear, but neither of these seemed like they’d be giving the party any problems: the invisible stalker couldn’t even leave the room it was in, and the dinos might be a threat if their trainers ever return; if not, they’re Just Vibin’, as the Young People say. The dinos, in particular, might be able to be rehabilitated if they can clear the complex and come back with a proper druid.

I will point out that as a GM, Steve tends to be fair about this sort of thing, and finds ways to reward us so we don’t get punished too much for skipping potential encounters. After all, the danger of bypassing is you miss experience and/or treasure, and you reach some future encounter under-prepared because you didn’t take earlier fights. Maybe there was a treasure cache behind the wall the invisible stalker was aggravated by. Steve tends to take that into account, PARTICULARLY if you avoided the encounter in a creative manner, but he’ll do what he can if you just decide to be lazy and duck a fight.

As an aside, when Steve described the invisible stalker, I thought of the monster from the “Darmok” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where you could momentarily see an outline of it right when it attacked. I therefore nominate “DARIUS, HIS PLATE FULL OF BACON” as the first addition to this form of communication.

The other theme of this week’s events is a reminder not to neglect one’s soft skills. Particularly at low levels, combat survivability takes on such a magnified sense of importance that sometimes we’re optimizing solely for combat. It’s not like we ignore the soft skills entirely as players, but I do think we sometimes kick the can down the road a few levels because we HAVE to: the thinking being let’s survive until level 5 or 6 and THEN we can start doing cool stuff. Here that’s reflected in the fact that the party doesn’t have the language skills for dealing with the invisible stalker, nor do they have the animal handling skills to deal with the dino pen.

Now, some of that is just luck of the draw on party mix. Add a druid or a ranger, and one of those problems goes away entirely.

The language issue is a little harder to unravel because languages are harder to come by in Second Edition than they were in First Edition and Starfinder. In prior editions, an Intelligence-based skill monkey character was basically getting new languages at every level. If you listened to our Dead Suns show, by the end, I was actually considering having Tuttle invent his own language because I’d pretty much exhausted the Pact Worlds’ languages entirely. Here, you mostly have to rely on the Multilingual feat to get extra skills, which is a tough ask. I’m starting to think that kind of like healing scrolls and potions are pretty standard, some sort of magical source of Comprehend Languages might be the sort of thing you’d want to build into party loot – it seems like it will come up enough to be a problem and there’s not an easy solution.

So that’s the other thing: “paying attention to soft skills” doesn’t necessarily have to be the character build, it can also be gathering enough equipment to cover these contingencies. And on THAT front, there isn’t that much the players can even do – their circus is kind of out in the boonies, so even if they WANTED to buy equipment, their options are limited. (Compare that to our Edgewatch show where we’re in the heart of Absalom and can run to the corner store for anything we need.) So none of this is really meant to bag on the party or suggest they screwed up: more “what can we learn from their cautionary tale when we go back to our home games?”.

So we make it through a good two-thirds of the episode with fairly little combat, unless you can count Darius’ one-sided beating as “combat”. And we even get a little roleplaying interlude where Ateran and Alhara get some alone time to develop their… whatever’s going on between them. I mean, OK, it’s the opening stages of a “relationship” but it’s still the awkward feeling-out phase. It’s like a meet-cute going on its 4th month.

Finally, we get a good proper fight toward the end. This one’s more of a “numbers” fight – combat in Second Edition tends to be either “single boss or mini-boss creature that’s over the party’s level”, “2-4 creatures around the same level that almost amounts to party vs. party”, or a whole bunch of weaker enemies that probably only cause problems if they either get lucky on their rolls or they gang up on the same party member. This fight FEELS like the latter, but they do kinda get lucky and start pushing Darius to his limit.

And uh oh… it’s Dark Mark time. (OK, I know he’s not a Death Eater, and I don’t want J.K. Rowling to sue us, but… it’s a source of kinda-scary power that we don’t fully understand. “Morally Gray Mark”… better?) The last time Darius used it, he pretty much punched a hole in a guy; what’s going to happen this time?

Alas, the answer to that question lies down the road a week. 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.

The Bird’s Eye View S1|08: The Near Death Experience

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|08: Traps ”R” Us.

Ah yes, the week of the 1-in-8000 pain.

It’s funny because if you listen to both our shows, the same thing – three natural 20s in a row — happened (with slightly lower damage) to Vanessa in the Extinction Curse show a few weeks ago. I did the math, that is in fact a 1-in-8000 chance, and it’s happened twice within the same month-ish window. The first one, we were mathematically due after three years of shows; this time, I think we used up our allotment of luck until 2023.

Now, this trap was quite a bit nastier than the enemy Vanessa ran into because it was either 3d6 or 4d6, doubled, which made for a tense few moments for myself and Seth. (But more for Seth as he had fewer hit points to start with.) But fortunately, the Massive Damage rules say “twice your hit points from any one blow”. So three darts later mean we just barely survive.

And then I go and do something stupid. When I get healed with John’s Battle Medicine, instead of being smart and crawling off the trap mechanism, I just stand up like a moron and trigger another round of attacks. But that’s OK because the second time around, we learn how Steve lucky got the first time – it ends up being only a +4 or +5 to attack and it misses most of its attacks the second time. Whew.

Overall, I’m sticking by my original position. Between Lo Mang running across the seal and my passive Investigator ability, I thought we were safe. Even when I stood up, I guess maybe I thought it only had one shot and would either be done entirely or need some time to reset. But the fact of the matter is these traps are just kicking our butts between last week’s fight and this week’s continuation. The frustrating thing is kobolds are pretty weak overall, so if we can avoid stepping on rakes like Sideshow Bob, we should be able to handle this encounter and free the hostages.

The pursuit continues… sorta. Well, Lo Mang heads off, and I follow him, but Dougie and Gomez trail behind a little while Gomez gets back on his feet. And that leads us to the next kinda-sorta trap – I don’t know if the walkways are explicitly sabotaged or they’re just dangerous because they’re not finished yet but several of the walkway edges give way if you step on them, and it’s a 20-foot drop to the ground below. Lo Mang lucks out and plows right through to the stairs to the upper part of the complex, but I have a little more trouble and fall through, not once but twice, and the second time I miss my Grab An Edge save.

But here’s where I get to use the ace in my pocket for the first time – my Skyborn Tengu heritage! It’s not full flight (though you can take Soaring Flight at Level 9 to get that), but it’s the equivalent of Feather Fall – you can fall any distance safely without taking damage. So OK, I step on the wrong plank and fall 20 feet. For another character, that would be the point at which you wad up your character sheet and retire from Pathfinder for a while, but for Basil, it’s a minor inconvenience. I’m just down at ground level with no immediate way back up. Running all the way back to the front entrance at the “tail” of the dragonfly is an option, but eyeballing it, it looks like AT LEAST 5 or 6 rounds of doing nothing but full-round movement. So I decide to climb back up. The bad news is it’s ultimately strength-based, and my strength is 10. The good news is that the DC isn’t that hard, and the worst that can happen is I can suffer the low-grade humiliation of another zero-damage fall. Or MAYBE suffer the indignity of the rest of the guys having to lower a rope and pull me up.

So here’s where we get into the dilemma that turns into a freeform discussion. Lo Mang is fine and definitely wants to continue the chase, but the rest of us definitely need to heal – both to recover hit points, but also to remove the dying condition from people. We’ve all got the Dying condition, and Gomez (I think) also used his Hero Point. But from a story/roleplay standpoint, it strains credibility that we would break off a hot pursuit when there are hostages whose lives might be at risk. Also, some of our reasons border on meta-gamey; our characters shouldn’t know what the Dying condition is, nor would they know about Hero Points. So making choices based on those game mechanics is also kind of immersion-breaking.

Taking out the metagame stuff, I can see justifications in both directions. If you let the kobolds run, they could at worst just start killing hostages; even the “best”-case scenario is that it gives them time to fortify a defensive position and maybe meet up with reinforcements, which will make the next battle against them more difficult. The counter-argument is much simpler: you can’t rescue hostages if you’re dead yourselves. But they are just kobolds, and there’s also a sentiment that MAYBE the power dynamic will shift a little once we removed the battle leader. Remember that there’s supposed to be a “reasonable” kobold somewhere in here that the foreman actually liked. Maybe if we find her, we can still defuse things. So I think as we end the episode we’re leaning toward a 10-minute rest, but I’ll admit it feels just a little “off” around the edges.

And that’s where we’ll pick things up next week. As usual, 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.

The Sideshow S1|35: Darius’ Disgusting Destructions

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|35: Slumber Party Massacre.

Despite my best efforts, tonight’s column comes to you from the land of distracting myself from refreshing election coverage sites to see where things stand. As with Monday’s column, don’t worry… I’m not going to get all strident about politics, except to note that I’m ready for the thing to be done. And OK, as a resident of Pennsylvania, it’s a little weird to have my state be one of the epicenters of things this time around. (I’m western PA which hasn’t really borne any of the controversies, but still…)

I wanted to start with Steve’s whole idea of the family unit from the show notes. It’s been kicking around my brain – the idea of playing a character that’s closely linked to another character on a roleplay level. I have to admit, going back through all the different characters I’ve played over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever played a character like that. Some of that is just the fact that our group is roleplay-light, but I also think it’s not traditionally been something I’d be interested in. I suspect it comes down to autonomy and wanting to control my own character’s story: if you’re playing someone’s father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate, you’re handing over part of your character’s identity to the other person in whatever relationship you create and hoping they make choices you’re going to enjoy playing through. I’m not a selfish player in terms of making party decisions or sharing loot or whatever, but when it comes to the story of who my character is, I kinda like to be the captain of my own ship. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

Having said that, this Extinction Curse crew is doing such a good job of playing out their connected stories that I find myself wanting to give it a try someday. I’m starting to feel like it would be kind of neat to play siblings or a father-son thing or even just a longtime adventuring pair who had a pre-existing relationship before meeting the rest of the party. I’ll be honest that the whole “romantic relationship” angle isn’t something I’d want to try, but other than that, I will admit this show has expanded my roleplaying horizons a bit. You know… two years from now when we finish this adventure path and start the next one.

At any rate, back to the show action.

First, Loren gets the gold star (and a Hero Point) for working an Old Woody reference into the show early on. I’m OK with making “Old Woody contains liquefied gelatinous cube” canonical moving forward. Then again, that’s kind of the beauty of Old Woody: it’s so open-ended you can pretty much put ANYTHING in that cup if you want to. The only thing I’m worried about is that people don’t start to try milking this to get Hero Points and Old Woody becomes as played-out as the Budweiser “WHAZZAP?!?!” commercials. All things in moderation.

We also get another hint early in the episode that maybe something is environmentally unstable about this place, as the area the party is resting in starts heating up to the point where it damages everyone. (Except Hap, who considers it sweater weather.) Add that to the earthquake in the middle of the fight, and the booming noise later in the episode, and you get the feeling this whole thing is resting on top of an active volcano or something. If this ends in the mining-car chase from Temple of Doom, I am DOWN with it.

The main focus of this week’s episode was the Great Gross-Out Fight. Since we were just dealing with a new flavor of xulgath and it was the first fight after a long rest, it still wasn’t that difficult of a battle, but give Steve credit for pulling out all the stops on stomach-churning special effects. And here I was thinking Darius punching through a guy’s chest a few shows back was pretty hardcore.

We did reach a bit of a dilemma for Ateran: what to do when there’s no handy ammo for Telekinetic Projectile? You wouldn’t think this would come up too often; fantasy settings in general and dungeons, in particular, are usually dirty, run-down places with lots of handy debris scattered about. Not too many fights take place in NIH-compliant clean rooms. But thanks to the gel cube buddies, there’s not much to throw in this particular room. It does suggest if you’re going to use that spell as your damage cantrip, you should probably buy a few sling bullets or caltrops or something that can be chucked in a pinch.

(Also, Rules Lawyer time: can you Telekinetic Projectile an alchemist bomb that someone makes for you? Just thinking out loud here.)

Truth told I’m going to wrap up there for the week. I’m a little fried, and a one-fight episode against easy enemies is a little bit of a challenge to write about. That’s alright. They can’t all be epic sagas. Maybe I’ll give you some extra words next week. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S1|07: Yer A Wizard, Basil!

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|07: Enough Talk!

As requested by the Pop Culture Desk of Roll For Combat, we start this week’s Talking Combat with a brief virtual moment of silence for the passing of Sean Connery. Yeah, he’d stopped making movies a while ago, but he was a big part of our collective upbringings. The iconic James Bond… Indiana Jones’ dad… Captain Raimius… possibly even “Ramirez” from Highlander if you want to go with a deep cut. I probably won’t follow through, but when I first heard the news, I threatened to record this week’s show entirely in my Sean Connery accent as a tribute.

First things first, we had a good chuckle in group chat about the “podcast wars” comment. Steve, ever the provocateur, pulled the sound-byte while editing this episode and shared it with a combined chat group that included both teams. Shit was talked back and forth, good times were had by all. Me, I’m sticking by my idea that this would be fertile material for PaizoCon next year.

This week’s show is a little weird insofar as we leveled up, but we didn’t really talk about our changes. Usually, when we level, we send it around the horn and each person talks about what they took (except for Bob in the Dead Suns days, who liked to be all secretive about that stuff for roleplaying reasons). This time, we kind of just jumped right into the action. I don’t remember why – maybe we got a late start or the episode broke in a weird place. (I even kinda remember having such a conversation, but either it took place before Steve started recording, or maybe it’s in a later episode.)

So the big news of Level 2 is that I decided to have Basil do a multi-class dip into wizard. I pretty much knew I wanted to mix some magic into my build to make Basil a little more dynamic, but I considered going a couple of different directions to get there. One choice was a multi-class dip into alchemist, but that felt a little like I would be invalidating my Level 1 build: if I wanted an alchemist investigator, I should’ve just gone with the Alchemist build and taken That’s Odd as my Level 1 feat instead of the one that finds traps. I also thought about the Scroll Trickster archetype from the Advanced Player Guide – basically, that archetype lets you duct-tape together fragments of scrolls to make temporary scrolls at each long rest, and you also get Trick Magic Item with an added +2 bonus for scrolls. But I think it was Level 6 before you got even ONE Level 1 spell; in the meantime, ALL you got was Trick Magic Item, which I can get in other ways. Though I will admit Scroll Trickster is WONDERFUL on the roleplay flavor front, and it’s also neat that you can choose ANY spell of the appropriate level from the Core Rulebook at the time you make the scroll, as long as you’re trained in the right skill (and Basil has all four now). I looked at the witch for like, five seconds, but I didn’t want to be too duplicative of Ateran from the other show, and on a roleplay level, the flavor didn’t feel like it fit: I didn’t see an upper-crusty kid like Basil forging pacts with mysterious forces, and a familiar showing up out of nowhere would’ve been weird.

So I settled on wizard. In the immediate short term, there’s combat survivability. Just adding a few cantrips gives me a +1 bump to armor class as a single action and damage mitigation (shield) and another ranged damage source (ray of frost) for creatures that might be immune to my ancestral electrical ability. Also, I can swap in light if we’re doing anything more explicitly dungeon-delvish. The spell slots on a multi-class wizard aren’t great – one slot per level, though I think there’s a feat you can take in the mid-teens to get a second slot at each level – but I like the wizard’s big-picture flexibility of being able to add spells to your spellbook by transcribing them. In a game where we seem to be getting a lot of money and stores are everywhere, I feel like there will be a lot of chances to tweak my spell arsenal as we go. I also feel like it gives me roleplay flexibility as the game progresses: sure, a bunch of combat spells are probably the path of least resistance, but I have the option to choose some spells which will magically augment my core investigation skills. Comprehend languages? Knock?

So… wizard it is! If you care, I also took Nature as my skill, so now I’m trained in all four caster skills, and I took the Ward Medic feat, which lets me use Treat Wounds on two people at the same time. Still no Battle Medicine, so I’m still useless as a mid-fight healer. Leave that to Gomez and consumables, I guess.

Of course, tying this back into game action… in my excitement to unveil my new-found wizard abilities in dramatic fashion, I made a bit of a tactical mistake and forgot to call out the traps I saw when I entered the room with the kobolds. Oops. Which came back to bite us when Dougie went charging in and stepped on not one, but two, traps. Followed by an appearance of Mildly Pouty John, complaining about how he doesn’t get any help and we can just fight without him.

I’m willing to split responsibility for this down the middle. John stepping on the first trap is totally my fault for not calling it out… yeah, I screwed up. But maybe once you hit the first trap, stop and do a Perception check instead of just keep walking? Moving forward onto the second one… that’s on you man. And, OK, I’ll say it: in the moment, it almost seemed like he wanted to take the additional damage so he could add it to the list of grievances. “Fine, you’re not going to tell me where the traps are? Well, I’ll just step on ALL of them!” Contrast that with Seth having Gomez just kinda downplay getting hit by the trap and continuing to negotiate as if nothing had happened. Squeeze the water out of your robes and move on. Something about that just cracked me up.

(Somewhere in here I’m also wondering how many individual traps I could effectively call out in the span of a six-second round while also taking actions of my own. The best comparison I can think of is those war movies where they call in grid coordinates for an airstrike, and it’s not an immediate process.)

Of course, the fight eventually started despite Seth’s best efforts as peacemaker. Clearly, the level-headed female kobold we were told about (Shirek or something like that?) is not the one in charge so we’ll have to fight our way to her. Overall, they’re kobolds, so I’m not that worried: we’ve faced them in a few of the Black Lodge games, and they’ve been pretty wimpy up to this point. The boss kobold is a little trickier than the others, but once we get past the traps and focus on straight combat, I suspect this won’t be too much trouble.

And indeed, we begin to whittle their numbers down, get the boss dealt with, and the last few escape down the hall. So it’s a chase, then. (Caught myself on the edge of yelling “the game’s afoot!”) Unfortunately, the chase will have to wait until next time, as we’re out of time for this week.

In lieu of my usual reminder to visit our Discord channel (though you should still check that out), I’m going to close with a few words about tomorrow’s election for the Americans in the crowd.

First, get out and vote if you haven’t done so, if for no other reason than to preserve your right to complain about the outcome for the next four years: if you didn’t vote, it’s hard for those of us who do care to listen to the opinions of someone who didn’t even bother to grab the lowest-hanging fruit of citizenship.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, though I can’t pretend to be neutral, and I feel like I’ve been generous about dropping hints over the last three-plus years which side I stand on. I’d love to bust out a passionate Sorkin monologue in defense of the things I believe in, but… at the end of the day, we’re not Roll For Political Commentary. I guess I’ll have to hope y’all are either already in agreement, or pick something up through osmosis.

If I’m going to offer a message, it’s this. The situation with the pandemic has made this election weird, and there’s going to be a lot more mail-in ballots than usual that are going to take extra time to count, and each state has its own rules about when they can start processing those. We might not have a clear winner tomorrow night. Whichever side you support, see that as normal and expected, not some sinister agenda to steal the election – regardless of who appears to be winning when polls close in California. If Trump’s leading at 11 pm, you should want everyone’s vote to count. If Biden’s winning at 11 pm, you should want everyone’s vote to count. That’s democracy. That’s America.

OK, that’s all I got. See you next week.

The Sideshow S1|34: Nothing About Much Ado

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|34: It’s A Brand New Car!

You wouldn’t think so, but some of these combat episodes are surprisingly difficult to write about. Counter-intuitive, I realize, but true.

First, you’d think more action would be an absolute positive, in terms of having things to write about, but that’s not always the case. Action that advances the plot provides fertile ground for material. Action that gives us new monsters or powers or explores new parts of the rulebook lets us get into the nuts and bolts of the game to whatever level of detail is interesting. But sometimes it’s just “Week N+1 of fighting mostly the same creatures as last time” and that can be tough. It’s like being a rock-climber and having a flat rock face with no hand-holds to grab onto. And if I’m being honest, we had a little bit of that going on this week.

To finish the thought, boss fights are almost always the outlier in this respect. Boss fights almost always advance the plot, and the boss usually busts out a few new powers you haven’t seen before, so there ends up being a LOT to talk about. But this week, it’s like… “more xulgaths, only this one has an axe!” Eh.

Another thing is I find that the level of detail one needs as a listener and the level of detail one needs as a chronicler of the action are two different things. Don’t get me wrong: Steve and the players do their level best in fleshing out the “theater of the mind” aspect of the show. Vanessa in particular is GREAT at “dressing the set” for listeners and framing the action, and I’ve been trying to follow her lead on our Edgewatch show. For the level of “just a listener,” it’s easy enough to follow along. But sometimes if you’re trying to retain details as you go, it can all get a little opaque. As a listener, you just roll with it until you get your legs back under you, even if that’s the end of the fight. If you’re trying to write commentary and you lost track of whether there are two or three bad guys or how many times Darius critted and don’t want to rewind the last 20 minutes to figure it out… that’s a little tougher to deal with.

And look… some of that’s on me. If I were a more diligent writer, I’d take notes or even come up with some sort of “play-by-play” system to track combat more methodically. But that’s a tough call because I’ve always kind of approached this as a fairly spontaneous reaction to what I’m hearing, and I feel like there’s a danger of OVER-analyzing it to a point where I’m just listing off DPS stats for each fight like a human MMO mod.

The other thing is that I think roleplay is where this group really shines, and you don’t get as much of that in the combat episodes. More of a question of letting these folks do what they do best.

Or maybe all of the above is BS, and I’m just sullen and unmotivated this week because Cyberpunk 2077 moved its release to December and NHL 21 has a bunch of bugs that render franchise mode unplayable. Also a possibility.

Having essentially whined about the task, let’s talk about this week’s episode at least a little bit. The fight this week was fun enough; the creatures weren’t all that special, but it used line-of-sight in ways that kept the fight interesting. And hey, Darius punched a hole in a dude!

One thing was a little fuzzy to me, and you’re welcome to correct me on the Discord channel. There was that earthquake in the middle of the fight that basically knocked over everyone but Darius. Was that a creature’s ability, or was that an ambient environment effect? As in “this whole temple is unsteady and may collapse soon”? I’d been thinking the party had semi-limitless time to explore (as long as they got back in time for the next circus performance), but a seismic event that destroys the temple would put the whole thing on a bit of a clock. But if one of the bad guys did that… never mind. (I tried to go back and look for the moment but gave up after a while. See? Maybe I DO need to take notes!)

Speaking of being on a clock, how do we feel about long rests inside of dungeons? It’s one of those things that always struck me as a necessary evil of the game system, but can sometimes feel a little immersion breaking. You’re just going to lock yourself in a room for 8 hours and hope the enemies don’t notice their buddies are missing and come look for them?

If you remember the Plaguestone game, we wrestled with this a little in that campaign as well, but I think this game is a little different, and in ways that are more forgiving. First, there’s no running clock. In Plaguestone, Vilree was planning to destroy the town in a matter of day(s) and we HAD to stop her. There was a sense of urgency. Here, the xulgaths are just doing their thing and there’s no hard stop event that has to be averted. (At least none we know of yet, beyond getting back in time for the circus performance.) Also, there was more of a “high alert” vibe to the Plaguestone fortress where you had formal patrols that were expecting trouble; this just seems to be a lair where xulgaths come and go, so maybe they wouldn’t notice a missing compatriot for a few hours. Lastly, as Steve pointed out, the room the party is choosing to rest in seems to be one the xulgaths never discovered, so that might also work in their favor.

So we’ll break there, with the party catching the rare long rest, 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.