Jason McDonald, Author at Roll For Combat: Pathfinder & Starfinder Actual Play Podcasts - Page 2 of 12

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

Talking Combat 092: Ship Combat, Now With 100% Less Ships!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 092: The Power of Tuttle Compels You!

Here we go, off to Books 5 and 6! (I prefer to think of it in the same manner as Infinity War and Endgame – it’s really one story, just divided into two different chapters).

And we start with… NOT starship combat. I hate to beat the dead horse, but I’m firmly on the record agreeing with Steve on starship combat. There’s the beginnings of a good system there, and maybe it could be expanded into something more robust and fun, but as written, it’s kind of shallow and plays itself out after the first two or three ship combats.

My main complaint is there aren’t enough disruptive events. If you think about player combat, it can sometimes be susceptible to the same “lather, rinse, repeat” ennui, but the reason it generally doesn’t is that unexpected things happen to disrupt the routine. The enemy trots out a spell they hadn’t used before that changes the battle. The players come up with some creative use of their powers to turn the tables. Something changes about the environment – the room starts to flood, artificial gravity fails, whatever. I think those sorts of things are under-developed in ship combat – yes, you have crits, but that’s really about it. Maybe those will be developed in future releases; maybe the enterprising (pun semi-intended) GM can homebrew their own, but I think a little controlled chaos would add a lot to the system.

My other complaint has always been that some roles are more dynamic than others. Science is a fairly active role (especially if you pair it with Engineer and hop between the two roles), pilot is the most overtly tactical, but the other gigs can get stale fairly quickly. If you’re the Captain or firing a gun, there’s just not that much to do.

Parenthetically, my favorite “system-within-a-system” was the hand-to-hand combat rules from Top Secret. You had different attacks and defenses, chosen from across different martial arts (boxing, judo, karate, etc.) and the interactions between those attacks and defenses determined how the combat was going to go. If you choose a low block and I do flying face kick… you get kicked in the face. It had its flaws – there were a few super-moves that only had one or two defenses – but it was a clever little system.

So the fight itself… this struck me as one of those battles where the flavor of it was more alarming than the actual battle ended up being. You hear “swarm of nanites” and you envision this guy having resistances and being a lot tougher to put damage on. And I guess he did have some of that since CHDRR’s junk cannon didn’t really do anything to him. On the other hand, Mo and Akiro were both landing pretty solid shots throughout the fight, and it never felt like we were in that much danger. Though I suppose the attempted takeover of CHDRR was a big swing that could’ve caused the battle to go dramatically differently. What’s the worst case there… he takes over CHDRR, we have to kill CHDRR (90 points of damage, so several additional rounds of combat), and then we still have to finish off whatever’s left of Nanite Boy on the other end, without CHDRR’s help. If you put THAT fight in the script… well, we probably still would’ve won, but it would’ve been a much more interesting fight. Especially if I had roleplayed Tuttle as ambivalent toward attacking his own drone. Which I might have.

But nope. Tuttle comes through as a computer genius and saves CHDRR from hostile invasion, and the rest of the fight was relatively easy.

I did think it was a little odd that Steve would simultaneously play up the possibility of parlay, yet still attack us first. I guess I’d expect that an enemy that’s willing to talk would show that willingness by… you know… not attacking right away. But Nanite Boy started swinging in Round One, rendering most of the conversation moot. I guess they do things differently in this part of the galaxy.

Since Steve did a “show about the show” with his GM tip, I’ll also jump in with some “how the sausage gets made” comments from the player side, and as the person who writes Talking each week.

I will say first and foremost, the other players and I don’t have anywhere near the responsibility Steve does. As players, our commitment is basically the 3 hours a week we’re playing, and sometimes we might have some homework between sessions, particularly when we level up or when there’s a new version of the D20Pro software. But none of us get involved in the editing process… that’s ALL Steve.

Do we censor ourselves? I don’t know how the other guys feel, but for me, I think “compartmentalize” might be a better way to put it. We have a bit of a bullshit session before Steve starts recording that can be anywhere from five minutes to (on one or two occasions) an hour or longer, and we kind of get all the other stuff out of our system during that pre-session chat, so when we do roll, we’re ready to focus on the game. But once we get going… no, not really. I generally play the game I’m going to play and rely on Steve’s judgment to edit wisely when we get too far off in the weeds or start acting like jerks to each other. I suppose the ONE concession is I try not to swear because maybe we have some kids listening and I don’t want “The Guy Who Plays The Science Rat On The Internet” to be who taught them to launch the F-bomb. “What is a legacy? Teaching F-bombs to pre-teens that you never see?

When it comes to writing Talking, I usually remember the “Spark Notes” summary of the week’s episode just from memory and can often start writing just based on what I remember (I know where we left off the previous week, so Steve just has to tell me where the new episode stops, and I can extrapolate). If it’s a Tuttle-centric episode and I mostly just want to talk about that (Aeon Tuttle, for instance), I can put most of the column to bed just based on that. Having said that, I do go back and listen to the whole show, both to catch the finer details (as Steve said, we’re doing these a month or two after they actually happened) and to listen to the intro and outro to see if the GM/PC tip or any of the “other” stuff has any hooks to play off.

The trick is always to find that balance – I don’t want it to just be a dry regurgitation of what you just listened to. That would be pointless. On the other hand, I don’t want to be so far in the weeds that I’m going onto 2000 characters about what I had for lunch three days ago. (For the record: Chinese takeout – beef and broccoli.) I suppose what I’m shooting for is something like the “director commentary” on DVDs: here’s what I was thinking when I chose to do this. Here’s where I briefly considered doing THIS, which could have been cool, but then I realized it would probably wipe the whole party. Here’s what Bob did three years ago that makes this line funny. Here’s where Steve edited out the two minutes of dead air where I forgot it was my turn because I was trying to multitask and play Overwatch in the background because there was a Symmetra skin I really wanted. “Allegedly”.

The GM/PC tip can be hit and miss because if I’m being totally honest, I don’t GM a whole lot. Occasionally for my Dads-n-Kids game, but not regularly. Some weeks, the general topic can still be a fertile one and I can still counter or add to Steve’s GM perspective with a player perspective. Other times, it’s something I really don’t have much of an opinion on and I just let it sail on by. Like… the “packing for PaizoCon” one… if I’m wearing pants and have a dice bag with me when I get on the plane, that’s about all you can expect from me.

I caught myself nodding along with Steve when he mentioned getting the sense of déjà vu, or making the same comment twice on re-listen. I have that happen a lot, right down to the specific wording. Though sometimes it’s the other way around and I get mad that I didn’t think of something at the time. Example: when we were talking about “Rusty’s Daily Affirmations” in last week’s episode, I could’ve sworn I went for a Stuart Smalley SNL reference there, but either I didn’t think of it, or perhaps Steve edited it out. The other thing I’ve noticed is that I’m much more aware of the other guys’ banter the second time around – I don’t know I miss stuff at the time because I’m locked in on what Tuttle is going to do next, but some of the things they said the first time, I barely remember them saying. So it can be like hearing it for the first time when I go back and listen.

Anyway, this is getting long-winded, so I’m going to wrap it up for now. Next week, since Steve already spoilered it just a bit, we’re going to have some more NOT SHIP COMBAT, so you’ll have to come back and see how that goes. In the meantime, drop by our Discord channel or other social media, let us know what you think of the show (as well as check out the community), and we’ll see you next week.

 

Talking Combat 091: In Rusty We Trust

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 091: Be The Best Rusty You Can Be!

July 4th. A day to celebrate freedom. I’m not sure the Founding Fathers realized they were going to bat for the freedom to pretend to be a space mouse once a week, but I assume they’d approve. Of course, for any of our listeners outside the US, it’s just Thursday, and hey… that’s cool too.

Aside: George Washington is a classic Envoy, Ben Franklin is clearly a Mechanic, Thomas Jefferson could also be a Mechanic, but we’ll put him down as a Mystic since he was the most esoteric of the Founding Fathers. John Adams, a Technomancer who infuriates his party-mates by taking nothing but utility spells. Hamilton’s probably a little too much of a hothead to be a second Envoy, so let’s put him down as a Solarian (with a curiously in-depth knowledge of financial systems).

Sorry, where was I?

So, welcome to both book five and Level 9. We start this week with… well, call it what it is… Rusty’s new and improved attempts to brainwash the rest of the party. So basically he can re-roll his Diplomacy roll if he wants, and we have to roll our Sense Motive twice and take the lower result for a chance to lie with impunity. We tend to think of combat as the engine that makes the whole game go, but that’s possibly overpowered. Then again (skipping ahead a bit) we forget there are people out there with high enough Sense Motive scores to see through Rusty’s cons… just none on THIS ship.

As I mentioned, as a roleplaying thing, I seriously considered dipping into Technomancer or Mystic as an extension of Tuttle gaining the Aeon subtype. “Tuttle’s awakening to the Call of the Universe turns him away from science and more toward the magical”… would’ve been neat to play around with that. And even though it would send me to Suboptimal Character Hell, I would’ve preferred to go Mystic rather than Technomancer – both to get access to heals, as well as to make Tuttle different from Akiro Jr.

So why didn’t I do it? I think it’s because of where we are in the adventure path. If this had happened in Book 3, and there was time to shape Tuttle’s character in the new direction, I absolutely would’ve done it. Take a few caster levels, buy different ability crystals, maybe a mnemonic editor… you could make it work. But when we’re about to enter the third act, with no real way to return… I just didn’t see the benefit of having a couple of first level spells, even heals.

Also, it would mean CHDRR would stop growing, and… as weird as it is, I felt a little guilty about that. Yes, Tuttle is “the character”, but at the end of the day, we’re a package deal and it feels unfair to sell his development out entirely.

So, mechanic level it is… even if it’s kind of a boring one. I get to move through difficult terrain; CHDRR gets to move faster, period.

I don’t usually worry too much about what the other guys are doing with their characters, but the back and forth between John and Chris about who’s going to be the tank and who’s going to get the good armor upgrades was pretty amusing. To summarize: John has the classic “tank” profile, but nine levels of being used as a piñata have stretched him to his breaking point. Chris wants the armor upgrades, but half his spells are about damage avoidance. Including invisibility – YOU CAN’T BE A TANK IF NO ONE CAN SEE YOU.

In terms of gear, I feel like I say this every level, but I thought about a melee weapon upgrade, since I’m still using my starter knife, but the cost-benefit just isn’t there. Truthfully I’d like to upgrade to advanced melee weapons and get Tuttle a lightsaber (or whatever they’re called in this universe), but I don’t have that option at this level.

So… JETPACK MOUSE! I think I said this last week, but there have been a few occasions where CHDRR’s jump jets have been Not Quite Good Enough for a given task, so I thought moving the game into three dimensions might help a bit. Besides, the mere imagery of Tuttle flying around like a goofball makes me smile.

Having my own null space felt like a bit of an indulgence at first glance, but there’s a method to the madness. That dragon drake pistol uses petrol as ammo. Well, two problems with that: first, petrol cells have a Bulk of 1 instead of L; second, they can’t be recharged off my suit or the ship like batteries can. So I’m going to probably have to carry a supply of four or five petrol cells on my person… you know, with my completely ordinary strength. And I don’t think having to run over to Mo to reload is practical either. Also, it’s just extra party storage, which never hurts.

The Ghost Killer fusion… the main thing was just making at least one of my guns a magic weapon by putting SOME sort of magic on it. The specific choice of Ghost Killer was more about longstanding pet peeves, even going back to Pathfinder. Incorporeal creatures just piss me off. If there was any real thought process to it, it was that we’re dealing with a long-dead civilization and the Corpse Fleet, both of which might have a ghost on their team. So screw it: I’M COMING FOR YOU, GHOSTS!

Speaking of equipment purchases. I do share some of John’s frustration with the Starfinder economy; it does seem like the market for weapons and armor is a little broken. Accessories, personal upgrades, and such… those are situational enough that you’re better off buying what you need rather than hoping it drops. But armor and weapons… there’s almost NO use case for buying the stuff, and that’s a little weird. Especially not with a 10% sellback price.

Speaking of potentially broken things, I loved the collective groan that swept through the team when I mentioned upgrading the Sunrise Maiden. At a meta-game level, new books tend to start with a ship battle, so I thought we should be prepared. More generally, we leveled up three times since the last time we did this, so we actually had enough build points to afford some decent weapons. But it sounds like Steve admitted he’s going to do starship combat a little differently going forward, so… never mind I guess.

Next week, off to the Gate of the Twelve Suns, where the endgame begins in earnest. We will probably NOT be fighting another ship, but I’m sure interesting things will be happening. Until then, I’m off to exercise my “freedom” to binge-watch Season 3 of Stranger Things in one sitting while eating as many Sweet Spicy Doritos as possible. So 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 next week.

Talking Combat 090: Stop And Smell The Flowers

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 090: Stop & Shop.

I think the moral of this week’s episode is “stop and smell the flowers”. And not just because the Sunrise Maiden has a cargo hold full of them. (Or the Kish equivalent.)

I think sometimes we get so involved with getting from Point A to Point B that sometimes we short-change the “story” side of the game. Not so much “we = Team RFC” (though that’s also true to an extent) but “we = players of role-playing games”. Where’s the next bread crumb? Who do we kill next? This episode – or at least the first 20 or 30 minutes – was more about storytelling and the relaxed banter of the table, and you need a little of that in a campaign.

Which is also a nice dove-tail with Steve’s point about introducing kids to the game, now that I think of it. One of the cool things about bringing kids into this world of roleplaying tomfoolery is that they DON’T see it the same way we do. They don’t immediately reach for that mental manila folder marked BEST PRACTICES every time a situation arises. Yes, sometimes that means that they do “stupid” things from a tactical point of view that make the experienced player in me grind my teeth in frustration (cough-flying 40 feet in the air at Level 1 when there are archers around, and now we know falls from that height are fatal, don’t we?-cough), but they also do stuff that’s FUN because they’re doing it for the pure exuberance of the game. Which is why you don’t want to kill that by focusing too much on the rules.

Which brings me to “Oppressive Snail”. Yes, a potential band name if I ever practice my guitar enough to get any good, but oh so much more. When my son was MUCH younger… probably five or six… we were playing a 4E game, and he was playing a dragonborn fighter named (fitting, for a little kid) “Burns”. He just wanted to hit stuff with a sword and breath fire. But somewhere along the way, he decided for himself that Burns should have a spell called “Oppressive Snail”. Apparently, Oppressive Snail could summon a snail that could attack for him. BEHOLD THE SIX-YEAR-OLD MIND IN ACTION. Now I could’ve sat there and said “the fighter doesn’t have spells and doesn’t work that way”, but when the universe gives you shit like that to work with, you run with it. So basically, we turned it into some minor damage spell on par with his breath weapon, so basically, he could just use that or his breath weapon.

More generally, I agree with Steve about sanding some of the rough edges off the learning curve until they’re definitely hooked. In my Dads-n-Kids game, I’ve sometimes discussed, we don’t sweat encumbrance, or material components for spells, or even memorizing specific spells – we actually use more of an MMO mana system where you have mana cards that you can use to cast whatever spell you want. Yeah, purists will be angry that we gave wizards all the benefits of a sorcerer or arcane caster, but the point here is to get the kids to dig the game, so if letting them just cast Magic Missile 3 or 4 times does that… cool. As they get used to it, we do start to say… “hey, if you ever sit down at someone else’s table, the actual rule is THIS” so they don’t get caught unaware, but in the short term, get them to love the game first, and then focus on the nitty-gritty of rules.

SON, TODAY YOU ARE A MAN. (Pulls out a copy of 3.5 grappling rules.)

So, back to this week’s show. We party down with the Kish for a while. Hirogi gets sainted (for the love of FSM, WHY are you people saying “All Hail Hirogi” on the Discord? That’ll just go to Chris’ head…), Rusty has a harem waiting for him if he ever comes back (also assuming we save the universe and there’s a planet to come back to), and Tuttle at least gets acknowledged as a supernatural being (though I’d like to register a complaint that they spent their time hailing Talavet instead of Tuttle himself). Mo? Good at kids’ birthday parties. Which… the way John has played him, he’s a simple, uncomplicated, little-bit-world-weary guy… that’s probably a fitting legacy for the big lunk.

Now we have to decide whether we have time to go back to Absalom. I think the right answer here is yes.

There are two forces at work here, but they’re pulling in opposite directions. On one hand, yes the cultists have a head start on us. (As does the Corpse Fleet… have we heard from them recently?) That head start could be days, weeks… probably not months, but… “defense will stipulate” as the courtroom shows say. On the other hand, they have to figure everything out when they get where they’re going whereas we have to just show up and beat some ass. To use an analogy from academia (Tuttle would approve), the cultists have to actually do experiments and write a dissertation; we just have to show up and read the finished paper. That gets back SOME of the time we lost on the front end.

Also, detouring to Absalom is only a couple of days. This had always seemed silly and counter-intuitive to me, but then I had the sort of epiphany only an IT guy would have. Imagine a tangle of identical network cables, and you have to follow ONE of those cables end-to-end and untangle it. An annoying, possibly impossible task depending on how many cables we’re talking about. Now imagine all those cables are identical, except one that’s a high-contrast color like yellow or red. Still not easy, but becomes more doable. To me, outbound voyages or point-to-point travel are the random gray cables and returning to Absalom is the red one. Because… “magic-n-stuff”.

So we decide to go back to Absalom.

Character build? Sounds like we get into that next week, so I’ll do so then. I think Level 9 is a drone level, so it’s probably going to be anti-climactic compared to adding an ability crystal AND becoming a demi-god. Consider yourself warned.

Gear? I’m kind of settling on a jetpack and some sort of weapon fusion as the big-ticket purchases.

The jetpack because added mobility is nice and I’ve been frustrated at the number of times CHDRR’s jump jets were “right idea, but not quite good enough to do what I want”. I’d have to sacrifice one of my existing upgrades, but the environmental control is pretty situational anyway, and it can always be re-installed on short notice (I forget whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, but either way… it’s pretty unlikely we’d get dropped into a desert by surprise.)

The weapon fusion… it’s this feeling that I can’t really afford a full upgrade, but I want to be a little more dynamic in my offensive capabilities. After poking the Armory with a stick, the Ghost Killer fusion starts to have some appeal. Incorporeal is one of those things I’m not sure we have a great answer for, and it’s always been one of my personal pet peeves. (After that battle at the security center, something that would affect swarms would also be tempting, but grenades can probably handle that.)

And then there’s poking the bear… upgrading the Sunrise Maiden. Our last outbound voyage sucked because we were seriously outgunned, and we now have two or three more levels’ worth of build points to play around with. Also at a metagame level, the writers of these adventure paths seem to love to kick things off with space combat. So… yeah, we probably ought to do that. Unless Steve were to do something crazy like re-write the beginning of the next module or something.

So we’ll come back next week and finish up the leveling process and get back out on the road. In the meantime, feel free to stop by the Discord channel and join the ongoing merriment (sigh… fine, you can say “All Hail Hirogi” if you feel strongly about it). Go out there and roll some 20s at your own tables, and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Combat 089: I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again…

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 089: He Says He’s Not Dead!.

Short episode, but a surprising amount to discuss this week.

The basics of the situation – we’re into Xavra’s resolve points, so we keep knocking him down and he keeps getting back up until someone can hit him again. Lather, rinse, repeat… and eventually, he dies.

(Pardon me while I sigh and rub my temples in frustration for a few minutes.)

It’s not that I think it’s unfair overall. If it’s a humanoid enemy with a character class, it ought to have all the same character tools we have, including, yes, resolve points. If we can get back up a certain number of times after being knocked out, so can the bad guys. On that level, fair’s fair.

Here’s the thing. There were probably two avenues for short-cutting this encounter, both of which we missed.

The first is that it’s technically GM prerogative whether to even use resolve points when the bad guy drops. In short, Steve could’ve just skipped to the end if he’d wanted to. I feel like the decision points there would be whether a) there are other enemies keeping the encounter going, and/or b) whether the overall fight is close enough that the bad guy could turn things around by using resolve points. In this case, the first wouldn’t be true, but you can make a case for the latter – Rusty was already down, Mo and I were pretty low on health, and Akiro, while healthy, had burned through his best spells. So all in all, I can see a case to be made for continuing. IF Xavra could’ve gotten back on his feet, he could’ve still been formidable.

The other thing is on us as the players – coup de grace does actually exist in Starfinder. Ummm… oops. You make a full attack that’s an automatic hit and an automatic crit, and the victim has to Fort save against instant death.

So… yeah, we kinda whiffed on that.

What we ended up with… well, it wasn’t difficult, but it was kind of a storytelling and logistical failing.

First, the storytelling front. Sitting there whomping on an unconscious character to finish it off doesn’t feel very… heroic. They might bury it in the appendices of the Starfinder Society Handbook, but I’m pretty sure borderline corpse desecration is still a no-no within the Pact Worlds. Gleefully hacking corpses to pieces dice roll by dice roll! You know… because we’re the good guys.

Then there’s the logistics of it. If you don’t use CdG, it’s kinda goofy that you can whomp away and they’re still “alive” because you can’t reach their negative hit points threshold for insta-death, but if you wake them up and lightly tap them, they catch the vapors and fall down again. It’s just such a weird little dance.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to lean into the absurdity of the game mechanics, this is where grenades come in really handy. If the bad guy springs right back up with one hit point, the to-hit is against the area and even a Level 1 grenade (as long as it’s typed to avoid damage resistance) can put him back down. Oh, you made your reflex save? Well, hate to break it to you, but half of death is still death. If one wanted to be a joyless min-maxer (not that I’m recommending such a course of action, but I’m not not recommending it), it’s almost worth keeping a cache of Level 1 grenades of various damage types around for just such an occasion.

Which leads into Chris’ mini-freakout the first time I hit him with what turned out to be a phantom grenade blast. First of all, it turns out I didn’t even do it wrong – Steve just put down a wider template by accident. So let the record reflect that I eye-balled it correctly. But honestly, so what if I did? Half the party is teetering on the brink of death, Chris has an almost full health bar, and he’s complaining about 1d6 of damage. I SPECIFICALLY used a Mark 1 grenade a) to not be wasteful of our better resources and b) to mitigate the effects of friendly fire if I somehow missed. I get that friendly fire offends his sensibilities as a player, but we were well past the “style points” portion of the encounter – I was just trying to get the guy to stay down.

And then there’s Mo, basically sitting out the post-credits scene entirely. I mean, yes, I get that he was pretty close to death – we don’t see each other’s exact hit points, but I’m pretty sure he was in single digits or close to it. But given that Mo generally has the best chance to hit if the encounter restarted in earnest, I kinda wish he would’ve jumped back in to help finish things up. Especially since he had reach with his pike – I had something like 15 or 20 points left, so I would’ve been more than willing to reverse roles for a round or two and be the meat shield while Mo poked him to death with the pike.

That strategy became even more relevant once Xavra had been relieved of his melee weapon and could only hit me with the gun that couldn’t do any damage. It was a shame this didn’t come into play earlier, but it was still gratifying for Aeon Tuttle’s new abilities to finally come into play in a combat-relevant way. I was a teensy bit worried it was actually going to be necrotic damage instead of cold or some such nonsense, but nope… full blast to the face, zero damage. Imagine a Nelson Muntz “HA HA!” there if you like.

At any rate, we FINALLY get Xavra down. The first reward is loot: if I wanted to be selfish, his gun and armor would both represent minor upgrades for Tuttle, but given that I just got the ability crystal upgrade and a new pistol, I don’t really feel like I HAVE to have either. Truth told I wish I could use the sword, but it’s an advanced melee weapon, and I never got past simple melee weapons. (There’s a wonderful bit of mental disconnect about Tuttle being able to resolve matters of quantum physics but not being able to figure out how to stab someone with a sword, but we’ll let it pass for now. Apparently, none of the aeons he’s now communing with ever got the “stick ‘em with the pointy end” pep talk Arya Stark got.

We also get a lore dump which fills in some blanks and sets up the sprint to the finish. Apparently, the grand destroyer of worlds we’ve been chasing is a superweapon created by the Kish’s ancestors that’s capable of rendering stars inert (GET IT? GET IT?… DEAD SUNS!), which naturally eradicates life on any planets that rely on those stars. It was used once during a war in the distant past and then sealed away in a pocket dimension, the gate to which is the cluster of identically spaced stars we first heard about back on Castrovel. Easy to see why the Cult of the Devourer (general nihilism) OR the Corpse Fleet (revenge against the living; a quick means of creating more undead) would want to get their hands on such a thing. Sooooo… guess we’d better try to stop them.

But we’ll get to that next week. We definitely get to level up to Level 9 (huzzah!), we might have some sort of close-out with the Kish villagers, and then we have to decide whether to spin back past Absalom Station or just keep going to the final destination. (Given the Sunrise Maiden is back to being held together with duct tape… maybe the latter?) While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and other social media and give us your thoughts on the now-complete Book 4 of the adventure path, and we’ll see you back here next week.

Talking Combat 088: Down Goes Xavra! Down Goes Xavra!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 088: God Things Come in Small Packages.

This is a bit of a rushed Talking this week because I’m in the midst of packing for the annual family beach vacation. Part of me would prefer to be packing for – or at least planning a day trip to – Origins, but for something like the fourth or fifth year in a row, we have a schedule overlap. While Origins is fun (especially now that John and Bob are close enough for an in-person meetup) it’s not “Losing A Day At The Beach, Turning 10 Hours In The Car Into 16, And Spending All My Beer Money On Dice And Minis” levels of fun.

On the other hand, while I’m missing Origins, my good non-RFC news is that my Dads-N-Kids game is finally getting up and running again after being on extended hiatus. I won’t go into a deep-dive because it’s ultimately a side game you don’t care about – very basics: 5E homebrew, starting at Level 1, I’m playing a Warlock – but it might come up from time to time in a “compare and contrast” fashion.

Back in the world of RFC, the boss fight continues. It’s kinda grindy, but there are enough little moments to keep it interesting. In general, this hasn’t been quite as painful as, say, the sniper fight on Castrovel. Whether that’s because of the lack of difficult terrain or Tuttle turning into a demi-god, I leave as an exercise for the discerning reader.

The first bit of fun is that I get to make use of my Miracle Worker class skill. Frankly, I wish I’d thought of it earlier, but the truth is this fight ran multiple sessions, and this was a between-sessions inspiration. I started looking for… something… to increase my offense between sessions (since Aeon Tuttle, while very cool, doesn’t help my damage-dealing at all) and the act of re-reading my character sheet dug that up. A +2 to hit and damage doesn’t do a LOT to improve my chances, but every little bit helps.

I was incorrect about a few of the minor details. First, just as a matter of nomenclature, it’s a class skill, not a mechanic trick – every Mechanic gets it automatically at Level 7. Second, I think on the podcast I said something about it taking a resolve point, and that’s not actually the case – it just has limited uses (once per day, plus once for every 4 additional Mechanic levels). I must’ve been confusing it with the Scoutbot or something else.

Tactically, I was thinking that if I wasn’t dealing with being slowed, the smart play would’ve been to put it on Akiro’s weapon instead of my own. For one thing, it he seems like he already has a little better native chance to hit, but more importantly, hitting with that 1d20 rifle is probably worth more than me hitting with my 1d8 sonic pistol. But it would’ve taken two turns to do it AND it would’ve bunched us up more for his Solarian abilities. So… I go with the self-buff, even though it’s sub-optimal.

Second, I had almost completely forgotten about Rusty’s call for the phantom reinforcements. That was a bit of an inspired play by Bob. This is one of those cases where I credit Steve with letting a goofy idea go through when he didn’t have to. He could’ve said it was too implausible to be believed or even just made it a lesser effect where Xavra was confused for a round and stood where he was, but no… Steve let him buy it hook, line, and sinker. Tactically, it gave us a round or two to serum up and get some readied attacks going, but I enjoyed it most as a storytelling moment. It also confirms that whatever MacGuffin we need is in the records room since he did seem pretty intent on protecting whatever was in there.

So Xavra finally comes back out, and we end up moving the fight back into the cube farm where we fought the previous sub-boss. The best thing about this is it gives us some room to spread out. The lower level of the records room was maybe 40 or 50 feet in each direction, and the cube farm is closer to double that in width. It also has cover (the undestroyed cubes) which may or may not be useful against his Solarian blast.

Somewhere along the line, we also decide to start using more grenades. The damage ceiling is lower, but it means you only have to hit a square instead of hitting his armor, and I don’t get the sense he has the evasion skill that would let him take zero damage. I don’t think we could burn him ALL the way down this way, but if it comes down to the last 10 or 15 points, that might be how to do it.

So the fight continues. Rusty even drops (and turns into a pile of creepy goo… what’s up with that?), everyone’s getting pretty low on hit points… and Xavra finally drops! Whew.

OR DOES HE? Cue ominous music.

Without getting into it in great detail – and believe me: next week I’ll have THOUGHTS – Xavra has resolve points, so he’s not QUITE done yet. And with a few of us teetering at death’s door, finishing him off isn’t necessarily the slam dunk you’d normally expect it to be. But that’ll be next week. For now… time for me to get ready for sun, sand, and seafood. Feel free to drop by our Discord channel and join the fun, and we’ll see you back here next time.

Talking Combat 087: Are You a God? Well… Kinda?

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 087: What’s in the Box?.

I’ll try not to make this ALL about me this week, but this is a pretty big moment in Tuttle’s development as a character.

Let’s talk Aeon Tuttle, shall we?

First things first, I’m still generally astounded at the whole situation in general, even though we recorded this at least a month ago, if not longer. When I went for the loot box, all I was really hoping for was something that might make me more combat effective. Better to-hit. More damage the few times I DO hit. Or, like I said, even getting rid of the slow effect would’ve been something. I definitely did not expect to become some sort of extra-planar hybrid. And like Steve said, it’s even more mindblowing because this is the second time something like this has happened to one of my characters. So it’s like winning the lottery twice.

Elephant in the room? I know… I know…. Technically we broke the rules on this. The rules of the Loot Box of Wonder say it’s supposed to be a randomly generated subtype. We kinda blew right past that in our enthusiasm. Going back and listening to the episode, I can actually hear Steve say “random” not once but twice. So… sorry, but also not that sorry (feel free to imagine me saying that in a Larry David voice).

However, the Min-Maxers Defense League would like to present the following arguments:

  1. After finding out about the mistake on the difficulty of the Xavra’s armor, I’m not apologizing for anything else during this fight. To be fair, the Starfinder rules were still being finalized as this adventure was being written, so I’m not going to get too mad about it. (Or maybe I am mad and I’m just writing this to establish plausible deniability at a later date. That’s for me to know and the rest of you to guess at.) Still… as I sit here re-listening to the fact that I missed on a 19, knowing that it was because of a glorified typo… not feeling that guilty. I’m feeling like the universe owed us a little something, and letting me choose was part of the karmic payback.
  2. The downside of rolling randomly is that there are a few options on that table that could’ve really screwed up my character badly when we’re ALREADY teetering on the brink of a TPK. I joked that being incorporeal would be kind of funny, but depending on how encompassing that is, being unable to use my weapons or interact with the environment would really create problems. Below that threshold, some choices would just be… not bad, exactly, but an underwhelming reward for rolling a 00. Goblin? Bleah. If you want to be even more anticlimactic – ysoki! I feel like it’s worth bending the rules just a touch to ensure that a special occurrence is, well, special. Like getting socks for Christmas when you’re expecting the new iPhone.
  3. I feel like I deserve some credit for choosing something that was fair from a roleplaying standpoint because it’s in line with who Tuttle already is as a character. Choosing something with fire immunity just to neutralize the Solarian blast would’ve been taking the lame min-max way out. I did briefly consider the good-equivalent outsider (Azata) because truespeech felt more useful, but I decided that neutral fit Tuttle’s alignment better and the feature about adding to knowledge recall checks seemed more aligned with Tuttle the Scientist. So while yes, the aeon subtype does have some cool stuff, I feel like I tried to respect the spirit of the character in my choice.

If I had written a Point #4, it would’ve been this: for all the long-term potential of this moment, in the here and now, it doesn’t really do all that much to help us win this battle. I know that seems like a rather petty complaint in the grand scheme of things, but it’s true. The biggest thing we could use is more damage to make the fight shorter, and I didn’t get that. Though granted… I personally will stay alive longer. Immunity to crits has a 1-in-20 chance to be huge. Damage Resistance against fire takes some of the sting out of his Solarian blast, though I’d still better hit those saves. Full immunity to cold negates his gun entirely (though he’s only fired that once or twice). The sword still worries me, though – got nothing for that, so if he gets into melee range, I’ve got problems.

The other piece of the package are the communication upgrades, though clearly we have to survive this battle before we even get a chance to kick the tires on those. First… I can communicate telepathically with other aeons… kind of situational. More importantly and more generally useful, aeons get a Pictionary version of telepathy. You can communicate non-verbally by beaming images into the other person’s brain that show your intent. That could be a really interesting thing to explore going forward… you know, as long as we don’t die.

In closing, I’m really happy with this turn of events. It enhances Tuttle in interesting ways without drastically changing who he is or how I play him – I’m not going to be forced to run to the front to use a breath weapon or something like that. It’s not exceptionally overpowering, but it makes me a little more survivable (didn’t even have a chance to mention poison immunity) and adds some interesting wrinkles to Tuttle’s non-combat skills. And next time Gozer the Gozerian asks if I’m a god, I can plausibly say “yes”.

OK, finishing up with Aeon Tuttle, and returning to the battle as a whole, things are going as expected so far. The trash sidekicks haven’t been doing much damage: they just clog up the battlefield and make it hard to move around, but they’re more of an inconvenience than a real problem. Also as expected, Mo is the only one who can semi-consistently hit. On the other hand, he’s rolling like crap at the moment, and naturally, that has John frustrated. (The saving grace being that the Big Bad has also tanked a few rolls too.)

When it comes to John’s relationship with tanking, I’m pretty evenly split between feeling bad for him versus feeling like this is the path he chose. Back when we started all of this, he wanted to play a Soldier because I think he felt more comfortable playing a fairly simple character when breaking in a new ruleset. Unfortunately, given our party composition, this has pretty much meant that he’s the one up front taking damage while the rest of us get to bounce around the perimeter watching him get punched in the face from afar. Ninety percent of the time, he’s fine with it, but every once in a while, a little frustration bubbles over.

As the fight unfolds, I think we were JUST about to sound the retreat, but the combination of Rusty’s slow wearing off and Akiro critting for 40-some points changed our thinking and made us decide to hang in the fight a little while longer. I’m not sure it’s the right call, but I’m both the least damaged AND the least effective damage dealer at the moment, so I’m not sure my vote is the one that matters. Looking at it tactically, I don’t think retreating to rebuild CHDRR would help much here – his attack bonuses are such that he’d probably be crit-farming as well, and Xavra would be resistant to the junk cannon. (Also, it dawns on me that getting slowed again would REALLY screw up the move-sharing dynamic with CHDRR). On the other hand, Akiro having his whole complement of spells probably would be fairly handy… especially now that we’ve learned Xavra has pretty strong fire resistance, so Akiro wouldn’t have to waste any slots on fire spells. So if we want to retreat to get Akiro more spells, cool, but let’s not worry too much about CHDRR.

But whatever we decide to do, that’ll have to be next week, as it turns out this was much fight for even a super-sized episode. I know the armor thing didn’t help matters, but at the end of the day, you can’t really begrudge when Xavra fights run long; they’re supposed to test your limits as a party.

So we’ll see you back here next week. In the meantime, feel free to stop by our Discord channel and other social media and let us know what you think about the show. Which subtype would you have chosen?  Would Ghost Tuttle or Swarm Tuttle have created more problems for the campaign? Should we retreat or push on? Should John retire entirely from the tanking business? All good questions, and we’d love to hear what you think. So… see you next week, and until then, hope you roll lots of 20s.

Talking Combat 086: The Power of the Sun, in the Palm of My Hand

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 086: Always Be Killing.

Last week I was lamenting the uncertainty about whether we were facing a boss or a sub-boss. No such ambiguity this week – it’s definitely time for The Big Bad! He glows, he has a little bit of a speech, and he brought a few plus-ones with him. (Were there two or three? I honestly can’t remember.)

On a meta-gaming/tactical level, I’m kind of regretting we dove right into this fight. I don’t track Chris’ spells but sounds like he’s running low, I have no CHDRR… it’s going to be dicey. But at some point, you have to charge in because that’s what the story demands. Doing it the other way just wouldn’t feel heroic. “Well, we know that the destination we seek is right behind that door, we also know we’re on a clock to the extinction of all life in the universe, but let’s go back to town and take a nap so Akiro can get another cast of Magic Missile!”

At least early on, it’s pretty apparent I should be concentrating on the cannon fodder. The first, and simplest, reason is that the boss is up on a raised catwalk that goes around the perimeter of the room and might also create partial cover. Yes, I can climb up there if I have to, but without CHDRR to protect me, it seems like hazardous duty for a fairly squishy fellow like myself.

The second reason is that as the combat unfolds, it becomes apparent that the underlings are the only ones I’m going to be able to reliably hit. Sorry to meta-game, but the early rolls are suggesting the boss’ EAC to-hit is somewhere in the 29-31 range, so if Rusty doesn’t land his Get ‘Em, I’m basically crit-farming, and even if he does, I’m still down around a 15 or 20 percent chance. (And that’s even before we get into any resistances he might have). So… might as well focus on the trash early on.

The other thing we have to deal with is the boss’ Solarian powers. Solarian was ALMOST my choice when we first started playing this campaign, and I’ve played one in our Society games, so… I’m familiar with the concept, though I haven’t gotten to play it at higher levels yet. (Remember Nala? Pepperidge Farms remembers.)  My general recollection is that the light-side powers are more about direct damage whereas the dark-side powers are more about buffs and debuffs, often related to movement. I know for certain there’s an AoE you get at level 1 which ramps up in power, and at some later level, you get more of an ongoing aura effect. It’s also dawning on me that if he has a conventional off-the-rack weapon, that implies he’s going with the Solarian Armor, which also explains why he’s so hard to hit.

If the Solarian has any sort of weakness, it’s that it’s very oriented toward close combat. Most of the Solarian powers emanate outward from the self – they can’t really project down-range. So that argues in favor of keeping him at distance, spreading out so he can’t really hit more than one or two of us at a time. I don’t know how that’s going to help Mo, who is most effective at melee range, but we’ll figure that out as we go. But it’s another good reason to dispense with the minions – we need to clear the dance floor for maximum mobility.

I’d also add – more toward Steve’s general thoughts about the class being overpowered – that another balancing thing about Solarians is that they’re low-key stat-heavy, like the Monk was in Pathfinder. Your class powers run on Charisma, so that ends up being your main score, but being a melee means Strength, Constitution, and even Dexterity all have their various uses. At least you get to be stupid, though? Contrast that with… well… Mechanic, where Tuttle basically just has to stand there and be smart.

I also feel like at least the dark-side powers are fairly situational. Everybody loves a good AoE, but a lot of the dark-side powers are things like “take less falling damage” or “a bonus to resist bull rushes”. And that three-round ramp-up isn’t nothing… let’s say you’re charging that AoE for two rounds and then the battlefield shifts and there’s only one guy left in range. Do you blow the AoE on one guy? Do you hold it and try to get into position for something better?

On the other hand, it is VERY nice that you never run out of stuff to do. That was even evident playing Level 1 Nala in our Society game (Half-Alive Streets) – our Mystic was running out of spells, we either didn’t have any grenades or ran out of them, but I could still pop an AoE every three rounds.

OK, so somehow this turned into a Solarian rant. Not really complaining – the battle hasn’t fully developed yet – but that wasn’t what I expected when I first sat down to write this. In summary: they’re a pain in the ass, but maybe not as OP as Steve is suggesting. Check back with me when this guy starts kicking our ass in earnest.

PaizoCon… looks and sounds like you guys had a great time. I mentioned this in Discord, but I’m proud that Vanessa (our contest winner) busted out a cheese pun for the Grimmerspace game. I think *sniff* it’s getting a little dusty in here. DAMN ALLERGIES! I think the thing that intrigues me most is how Pathfinder 2 is shaping up. We’re certainly committed to finishing Dead Suns, but if we have a chance to get back to swords-and-sorcery at some point, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Speaking of which, my last thought for this week has nothing to do with the show itself: I’m going to be getting back to an actual physical game table for the first time in a while, as a modified version of my local dads-n-kids game is starting back up after extended hiatus. It’s going to be a few more adults, but one or two of the young’ns who stayed interested will be playing as well. I’ve enjoyed this show tremendously, but nothing compares to breaking out the dice bag and sitting down at a real table. 5E, Level 1 characters, but… it’ll still be A Thing.

Well, I don’t know if it’s a post-PaizoCon malaise or what, but… feels like a good place to wrap it up. (Oh who am I kidding?… I’m trying to plow through Good Omens one more time before the Amazon series drops.) Next week the boss battle will heat up and get interesting, so be sure to tune back in for that. In the meantime, feel free to drop by Discord and join the ongoing merriment. Hope your gaming is good, and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Combat 085: Hostile Workplace Environment

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 085: Snap, Crackle, Crit.

This week, we come to you from… well… not PaizoCon, unfortunately. Couldn’t make it this year. It’s disappointing, but I had some conflicting stuff come up. Nothing serious or life-threatening – don’t want to sound all ominous and make anyone worry – just “stuff and things”, as our friend Rick Grimes once put it.

Definitely would’ve liked to be there. PaizoCon is still one of my favorite conventions. It’s the right size and speed of convention now that I’m not as young as I used to be… GenCon, in particular, has arguably gotten too big. Even though it didn’t work this year, PaizoCon also generally fits my schedule better than Origins (has conflicted with my family beach vacation the last four or five years running) or GenCon (I work in higher-ed, and early August is when we’re getting ready for the start of the new academic year). And Seattle is just a fun city to visit, but let the record reflect I’m not making a reference to legalized pot there. (On the other side of the coin, the Mariners are out of town.)

In terms of actual events, Pathfinder 2 probably would’ve been at or near the top of my list of things to do. I might’ve stretched my legs with a Starfinder Society game just to mix things up with a different class. But the Grimmerspace event was probably the big one, and I expect I’ll be watching the online Twitch feed of that event. At the risk of giving away state secrets, we actually got to playtest one piece of the story and it seemed like it could be good creepy fun, so I would’ve liked to see more of it. On the other hand, Steve should be secretly relieved because, given my affinity for pop-culture references, it’s entirely possible the event would have degenerated into me yelling “PO-TAY-TOES” at Sean Astin until security dragged me out. This above all, to thine own self be true.

So if you’re at PaizoCon hoping to meet or have a game session with us… sorry to have to miss you this time. I might see if I can make GenCon this year instead, but I don’t want to put any carts too far before horses.

So, from my couch here in Pittsburgh with a dog on my legs, let’s take a look at this week’s episode.

Working backward, I’ll admit I’m a little frustrated to find out Steve added those traps after the fact. I’ll concede that’s his right as GM, and his rationale about balancing the encounter makes a certain amount of sense – take those bombs away and it’s a pretty wimpy fight. Take out the bombs and the double-crit on Mo was the only thing that even made it challenging.

On the other hand, traps and combat seem like the sort of thing that ought to be used sparingly because they work at cross purposes – traps force you to slow down and waste actions checking your surroundings, and doing that while you’re taking fire from the enemy is a little lame. Environmental hazards you can see and shape the battlefield? Sure. Invisible death? Not thrilled, to be honest.

I’d also observe that this was the third fight in the chain, and since this person WASN’T the final boss, that means there’s going to probably be a 4th. Maybe it would have been OK to let it be a little on the easy side.

Speaking of bosses, at least during the early parts of the fight I found myself wondering “Is this a boss fight?” (dig out your copies of the anime butterfly meme). I’ll admit that’s the question you’re not supposed to ask yourself, but you always do. When the first bomb went off, I’ll admit that I thought maybe this was the Big Bad, just based on the damage number. But gradually, I came around to “no” on that one, even before she announced she was just a lieutenant. Bosses usually have something exotic in their power-set, and she was just shooting an off-the-rack gun and her monkeys were just doing melee attacks. Also, there’s usually some distinctive feature of the room that makes it feel like The Destination – crystal of power, golden head on a pedestal, computer terminal with ominous readings, whatever… The Boss itself usually has some flavor – distinctive gear, a little bit of monologue, etc. – did we even learn her name? (And perhaps more importantly, how did we go an entire episode with those monkeys and not make one ManBearPig reference? WE’RE SLIPPING, PEOPLE!)

More generally, I was pleased I got to use my new Scoutbot ability, even if I got all of one round of pictures of monkey teeth! Yay! Glass half full, at least BRIE-1 took the hit rather than Mo, and we didn’t give them a surprise round. Glass half empty, I would’ve rather the scoutbot had set off one of the proximity mines instead of poor CHDRR. Also, I’ll just leave it out there that the mechanic trick that gives a passive trap detection roll would’ve been FAR more useful in this particular fight. 20/20 hindsight.

I also got a new gun (the dragon drake pistol) and welcomed it to the family with a pretty nice crit. The ammo concerns me a little – I can recharge batteries with my armor upgrade, but petrol is a finite resource and might be a little harder to come by out at the edge of the universe. Still, having a second damage type is welcome. Right now, my backup weapon is still the azimuth laser pistol I picked up in the very first combat. Also, just to clarify some of our discussion at the time, petrol isn’t a line or area weapon – in the lore of the Starfinder universe, they’re little pellets that are fired as projectiles, but then they catch fire on contact.

Lastly, we bid farewell to CHDRR, Third Of His Name. (And apparently the group’s moral compass, since the rest of us are all varying degrees of amoral assholes.) On one hand, that’s what he’s there for: he died putting himself between me and the bad guy as drones sometimes do. On the other hand, the bummer is that he was probably one lucky break from surviving. If he’d made his reflex roll on the first bomb, he might have had enough damage to withstand one more attack. If I hadn’t jumped him right to where the second mine was set up… same thing.

The real ramification of losing CHDRR is whether to continue on and probably face the Big Boss without him. It feels like it would strain reality to take a day off and rebuild him when the story puts us on a clock, so from a storytelling point-of-view, continuing without him is the Hero Move. Also, not to speak ill of the recently-disassembled, but I also question CHDRR’s tactical value in a boss fight. Most heavy hitters tend to have a lot of DR and good defenses; I worry that even if we waited around and rebuilt CHDRR, he might be flailing away for minimal damage anyway. If past performance is any indicator, that’s probably 15 or 20 damage we have to make up somewhere else. But still… you hate to go into a final fight at less than 100 percent.

But I guess we’ll get into all of that next week. For this week, off to PaizoCon for some of you; me, I’ll mix things up by moving to the OTHER end of my couch. (I’m a rebel, Dottie. A loner.) If you are lucky enough to be going, hope you have a great weekend of gaming and roll a bunch of 20s. If not, feel free to drop by our Discord channel, because the reindeer games are ongoing, and if last year is any indication, people will still be sharing their PaizoCon experiences. We’ll see you back here next week.

Talking Combat 084: Mo’s Seen Fire, Mo’s Seen Pain

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 084: Severe Weather Advisory.

It’s Throwback Thursday on Roll For Combat, as we conduct with a fight that could’ve easily appeared in a Pathfinder session – elementals!

First, let me say I’m pissed. With the ability crystal raising my intelligence, I think I added 3 or 4 new languages last level, and I was VERY close to making one of them an elemental tongue. But I didn’t because I figured at best, I’d have a 1-in-4 crapshoot chance of picking the right one, and it would be MORE annoying to have the “wrong” elemental language than to not have it at all. Oops.

As a general complaint, elementals don’t exactly fit with the theme developed in the rest of the adventure. Up until now, it’s mostly been Kish or “nature run amok” life forms. So it doesn’t exactly make sense why they’re here… or maybe we get that explanation later… but despite Steve’s protests that they’re really just here to make friends, they seem pretty intent on killing us. So… game on, I guess.

The first challenge of this encounter is just getting everyone into the room. I don’t know if you were able to visualize it well, but you basically have a long staircase leading up, leading into a sharp left turn into the room at the top. The fire elemental was directly in the door going flame-to-toe with Mo, and a second – the air elemental, I believe – was close enough that it would have reach (and therefore attacks of opportunity) on anyone who tried to just dash into the room and find a corner to occupy. So for the first few rounds, we were clogged up on the steps while Mo created some space for the rest of us. Think of it like those Drano commercials where they show the transparent U-trap… Mo was the giant clump of hair.

I suppose it did give me an opportunity to push THE BUTTON in the first round. I’d like to state for the record that we have seen THE BUTTON’s healing function before; it’s just a) it’s been a while, and b) just like this episode, when we landed on that one, CHDRR was already at full health so it didn’t really make a difference. But I do remember one of the numbers healed CHDRR, so it was not the first time we had that outcome.

It’s looking like a rout early on… Akiro does his big blast damage, Mo is doing solid damage with his pike (not sure how you stab fire, but we’ll table that for now), and the fire elemental drops fairly quickly. One down, three to go, and we can start moving into the room. Even Tuttle is doing OK because sonic seems to be one of the few damage types they don’t have any sort of mitigation against. In fact, a couple of the elementals actually appear to fall back.

But then things get a little interesting with the air elemental’s Swirling Vortex of Terror. (I know, Finding Nemo… water-based… poor analogy for the air elemental.). And the two that had feigned retreat turn around and start to attack. Maybe not out of the woods yet.

My first reaction was a brief chuckle of familiarity because back in our Pathfinder days (specifically Carrion Crown), I actually played a Wild Shape druid who spent most of his time in air elemental form (hence the nickname “Windy”). But I have to admit I didn’t use the vortex power much. First of all, there was a size restriction on who you could pick up, so I had to reach a certain level before my elemental form was big enough actually pick up humanoids. More importantly, it just didn’t do that much damage compared to the rest of my spells. It had nice flair, but compared to blasting people with lightning… ehhh.

Then we have the digression into how the rule works, and here we’ll get into a bit of cross-talk between the game and Steve’s GM-PC tip. I think as a general position, my interest in stopping the game to figure out how the rule works is based on two major criteria:

  • Are we likely to keep running into this situation in the future? If so, we might as well stop and get it right now, so we don’t re-litigate the same thing the next 2 or 3 times we run into this.
  • What is the likelihood that this is going to swing the ultimate outcome of the battle or get someone killed? I feel like if it could result in rolling a new character, it’s worth taking 5 or 10 minutes to crack the rulebook and make sure.

Full disclosure: this situation seems like it fails both tests. It’s an enemy power and an enemy that we’re not likely to run into again. If we were up against Cult of the Devourer minions that had some weird power or weapon, let’s take the 10. Air elementals? Not likely to be an ongoing problem. And as far as the outcome of the battle, this fight seemed like a tune-up and we weren’t in that much trouble. I’m not sure anyone was even out of stamina at the point this came up. Even the whirlwind power itself was more an inconvenience than anything else. If it was doing big damage? Problem. Rolling saves to take actions? Moving along.

So I think Steve’s handling of this was fair. He got it wrong for a round, fixed it mostly on the fly, and moved on. Didn’t go back and replay the previous rounds or whatever. Honestly, I think he probably slowed down to get it right for you the listeners, rather than for us as players. Which, if behind the scenes he had to go to Paizo forums to figure it out, is probably worth the trouble.

One thing I’d add to the GM-PC side of the discussion is that to be fair, the GM or the player ought to be able to call for a rule check. I don’t want to play at a table where the GM is too… in love with the power of being the final arbiter, unwilling to admit they made a mistake, whatever… that they’re not willing to let a player “go over their head” by consulting the rules. Now if it’s happening all the time for stupid stuff, that’s a rules-lawyer issue and that’s a different thing. But if making sure we get a rule right is the difference between Tuttle living and Tuttle dying… damn right I want the ability to press PAUSE for a minute or two.

The one risk you run in all of this – Law of Unexpected Outcomes – is that by only doing lookups at critical times, it can sometimes create bad optics, as if you’re trying to get a particular outcome. I don’t remember the situation exactly (it was a pre-podcast Pathfinder game), but we had a game session collapse into an argument because it WAS a critical moment in the combat, Steve looked up the rule and it was different than he’d been doing, and Chris (I think) got really upset that he was changing how the rule had been enforced for weeks if not months. I don’t think Steve did it to be malicious – he was trying to get the rule right since it might make the difference of a TPK – but it came across to Chris as arbitrary enforcement. Though this too can cut both ways… it’s equally possible the player comes across looking like they’re trying to come up with a new enforcement of a rule to get an outcome they want too.

On a more lighthearted note, Steve can do what he wants on rules lookups, but sometimes I wish he’d not try to make us feel bad for winning fights. That’s one of his go-to moves (along with saying “are you ready for this?” right before a crit). If a fight ends up being easier than it looked on paper, Steve sometimes tries to guilt-trip us, like we should’ve let them hit us for a few rounds before starting to take it seriously. I AM PRETTY SURE THE ELEMENTALS WERE NOT TRYING TO BE OUR FRIENDS.

Perhaps we’ll find out for sure next week, or maybe it’ll just be one of life’s little unsolved mysteries. Either way, we’ll be back to continue our exploration of the temple-nee-armory, and hopefully, get a little closer to saving the universe. In the meantime, feel free to drop by Discord and other social media and give us your thoughts on this week’s episode and the show in general. Until then, happy gaming and roll well.

Talking Combat 083: Tuttle Makes New Friends … Literally

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 083: He Slimed Me.

Alright, back to work this week. No more movie reviews, we have actual gameplay to dissect.

And brand new cheese puns!

We start with leveling, and the exciting thing this time around is that Level 8 unlocks a brand new tier of mechanic tricks. There are a lot of decent choices here, but I’ll look at the ones that were highest on my list. Engineer’s Eye is basically a passive trap detection – you get a roll whether you’re looking or not. Given that we’re always forgetting to check for traps, that’s automatically in consideration. Drone Meld has cool flavor – CHDRR turns into a suit that Tuttle wears, which serves as reductive plating – but it doesn’t feel that useful compared to having CHDRR as a separate combatant. There’s an improved shield, but I would have to go back and get the base-level shield first. There’s also an ability to see invisible creatures (Invisibility Bypass Protection) or I could go the Hirogi/Akiro route and get the Holographic Projector which works the same way as the spell.

But no… not when there are cheese puns to be had. Enter the Base-Unit Reconnaissance Interface Extension, known more generally as the Scoutbot mechanic trick. Basically, I can use a resolve point to make a short-duration flying recon robot. It only has as many hit points as my level, and only lasts for that same number of minutes, so there’s no real combat application, but it could be useful for doing a quick scout of an area. Especially if there’s an area that’s not easily reachable on foot.

I also picked up multiple languages and a ton of skill bumps by equipping the Mk 2 ability crystal, taking Tuttle’s intelligence from 19 to 23. I remember taking Azlanti as one of the languages in case we ever run into them again; for some inexplicable reason, I did not take Kish, which seems like an obvious choice in hindsight. I don’t think it’s going to harm us since we’re about to fight the Big Bad and wrap up this section of the story, but that didn’t enter into my thinking at the time – I simply didn’t think of it.

For once, I’ll pause to mention one of the other guys’ build choices. I actually… equal parts “like” and “am horrified by”… Rusty’s new ability. So now when he bluffs, he rolls twice and takes the higher; the victim rolls twice and takes the lower. That’s insane. For dealing with opponents? Cool! But then again, we’ve seen that Rusty doesn’t have a huge problem lying to us, and now he basically succeeds unless we roll back-to-back 20s. Methinks it’s time to start investing ranks in Sense Motive.

So we’re off to the temple-slash-armory where we’ll be fighting the leader of the rival clan, who is also (meta-gaming a little) shaping up as the Big Bad for this section of the story. For starters: he shall henceforth be known as SuperKish. Does he have Devourer cultists helping him or is he a badass in his own right? Does the fact that he’s holed up in an armory mean he’ll have access to something more like modern weapons? Most of the Kish have been pushovers but somehow I think our luck is about to change.

And sure enough, it does – we plunge right into combat as we’re exploring what seems to be the living quarters. But it’s not SuperKish or his buddies; this time, we start with a rootin’-tootin’-shootin’-ooze. Now THERE’S something you don’t see every day. NOW I HAVE A MACHINE GUN. SQUISH-SQUISH-SQUISH.

The fight isn’t hard exactly – more of a warm-up – but it’s tough enough to serve as the official notification that the gloves are off. Feels like maybe we got a little lucky on dice rolls – more than our fair share of misses and low damage rolls. Also, it had a line attack which could have been trouble, but we unintentionally did a good job of spreading out so it couldn’t really hit more than one or two of us at a time.

Especially Akiro, hiding in the bathroom. Good to see Chris’ instincts for self-preservation carry over from character to character. On one hand… he’s a squishy Technomancer, so I suppose it’s acceptable to (ahem) “work from range” (yes, I’m rolling my eyes as I type that). On the other, he did to go all the trouble to take heavy armor as a feat; you’d think that would make him a little bolder. At the end of the day, Chris is Chris. Some days he’ll be ridiculously brave; other days, he’ll be hiding in the bathroom, and you never know which version is going to show up from session to session.

At the end of the fight, we have a little loot to divvy up, but none of it seems particularly Tuttle-friendly. Not a big deal, since I just got that ability crystal, but it does serve as a reminder that I’ve been thinking of having Tuttle take Longarms or some second weapon type; the fact that the ooze dropped three different guns reinforced that it might be a good idea. (I also just find the idea of a ysoki armed with an assault rifle inherently amusing.) But since I don’t have that feat at the moment, I mostly tuned the loot out this time around.

Whenever we have these spare longarms, I also go back and forth on whether to upgrade CHDRR’s weaponry. On one hand, Steve was charitable and gave him a damage upgrade back at… Level 5 or 6, maybe?… so his damage is still tolerable. But sometimes I still feel like I should be on the lookout for something better.

What I really want is a better melee weapon. It’s completely impractical since I’m almost never in melee range. But I am LITERALLY still holding my Level 1 starter knife, and we’re at a point where I doubt I’d even be able to overcome DR on most of them. So mark it down: this is how Tuttle will die. Separated from his gun and stabbing impotently for zero damage over and over.

On that somewhat grim and pessimistic note, that’s our column for this week. Next week we continue our exploration of the complex and see what other sorts of trouble we can get into. “SuperKish? Where ARRRRRRE you?” Until next time, thanks for listening, feel free to drop by and visit us on Discord and hope the dice roll well for you.