Talking Combat Archives - Roll For Combat: Pathfinder & Starfinder Actual Play Podcasts

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Talking Combat 104: Pleased To Meet Me

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 104: Bizarro Tuttle.

First and foremost, I feel like I have to mention that it is taking all (and I mean ALL) of my willpower not to demand Steve do an episode where he runs us through a session of Wendy’s Feast of Legends. Cynically, there’s probably a few free burgers for us if we do it, and I would love to see someone really go all-out roleplaying “the Order of the Baked Potato”. Also… imagine the T-shirts! Then again, it probably doesn’t work with D20Pro. Pity.

Let’s start this week with a bit of a “show note”. I’m still deciding how I’m going to handle The Sandstone Secret special episode. Part of me feels like it would be fun to listen and offer some thoughts from the 100% listener perspective for the first time since for once I’m not playing and don’t know what happens. On the other hand, I also think that would be more fun for me than it would be for you… ergo, a little self-indulgent. Part of the value of these Talkings is to give a perspective from the player side of the table, and… I wasn’t a player for that one. (Originally, I WAS going to be in that episode – had a monk rolled and everything – but I had scheduling conflicts arise and didn’t want to push the already-busy Paizo folks back just to accommodate me.) And I also have a couple of book reviews to get cracking on as well. If I do write it, I don’t know if I’ll give it a separate by-line, or just make Talking Plaguestone super-sized this week (“Talking Stones, Plague And/Or Sand”). I guess we’ll see.

Either way, the space side of the house will be business as usual, and this week, we battle against Bizarro Tuttle.

The first thing that dawns on me is that we basically forgot about Zaz’s sister Xix somewhere along the line. If you remember a few episodes ago, the female ysoki Xix was one of the encounters that we elected to bypass back on Moon Six. (All those Six/Xix puns. Lost… like tears in the rain…) And frankly, there were so many gaps in the recording schedule that at one point I actually forget that and speculate about finding her somewhere else in this complex (unless Steve edited it out). Listening to the episodes now, I kind of realize, but as we were recording, I totally forgot.

It struck me as a neat little touch that they used the twins as a way to showcase the two mechanic types – I believe the scans suggested Xix had a Drone, and Zaz has the Exocortex build, so you would’ve had a chance to see both in action. It also means that technically, Xix would’ve been the true Bizzaro fight because we would’ve also had a Bizzaro CHDRR. Dang it… maybe we should’ve taken that fight after all! WE HAVE TO GO BACK!

The fight didn’t really last long enough to showcase it well, but the Exocortex Mechanic plays much more like a soldier or operative. If you’re new to Starfinder, the Exocortex build is more like the “Mister Hyde” Alchemist build from Pathfinder. Instead of upgrading your drone and having it fight for you, your upgrades buff you into a more formidable fighter. You immediately get an additional weapon or armor proficiencies at Level 1, you have a “Combat Tracking” skill that bumps your base attack bonus against a specifically-marked foe, and after Level 7, you can even start putting a subset of drone mods onto yourself. I briefly thought about going that direction with Tuttle, but a) I thought the drone mechanic looked more interesting, and b) if I wanted to play a front-line fighter, I probably would’ve done Solarian.

Having said that, the concept sounds pretty badass, but we kinda beat him down so quick Zaz basically turned into Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film. A couple of lucky max-damage (or close to it) dice rolls, and things mostly became a walk in the park. But then, after a brief interlude to start questioning Zaz, it turns into Murder Hobos 2, The Sequel, as we kill our second surrendered prisoner of the adventure path.

(Take a few seconds to imagine me rubbing my temples in exasperation if you like.)

Going back and listening, the first thing I noticed is how UN-flustered we all were compared to when Hirogi murdered that other guy back on Castrovel. Back then, it divided the party a bit – harsh words were exchanged and some of us felt legitimately bad. This time, it was far closer to a collective group shrug. I don’t know if it’s that we’re coming closer to the end and just want to keep things moving, or maybe it’s that our naivete has worn off and we know the cultists better, but it just wasn’t that big a deal.

As a roleplaying decision, non-committal seemed like the right way to play Tuttle on this one. Tuttle is Lawful Neutral so he’s not obligated to be a complete goody-two-shoes in a situation like, but I’d still see him a little squeamish about actually executing people. Even deranged cultists. In addition to the general “I didn’t sign up for this” vibes, Zaz is still a fellow ysoki and nominally a Man of Science, so he’d probably feel at least some sense of kinship with the guy. Not crazy about the biker bar fashion sense though. THAT’S NOT HOW A RESPECTABLE SCIENTIST DRESSES.

The other missed opportunity here was the chance to have a Flying Rodent Slap Fight. I haven’t really had a chance to use my jetpack, so when Zaz went airborne, I thought long and hard about it. It would’ve been great theater. If anything held me back, it was actually the residue of my Dads-and-Kids game, where one of the kids flew up 40 feet in the air, took a critical arrow hit that knocked him unconscious in midair, and the resulting fall killed him. Granted, those were level 1 characters, but that misfortune was still fresh in my mind.

And frankly, though it wasn’t a deciding factor at the time, I’m realizing now that if I went up against an exocortex mechanic in any sort of melee fight, I’d probably get stomped. So it’s probably just as well I kept both my feet… paws… whatever… on the ground.

So there you have it. One more sub-boss down and the search continues. I suppose if you want to look for signs of progress, we’ve dealt with their best technical people – one dead, the other abandoned back on Moon Six – but that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet. Could be others, could be they already did the “hard part” of the job. But… we’ll find the answer to that question next week.

As usual, feel free to stop by our Discord channel and let us know what you think of the show and join in the ongoing festivities. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Combat 103: Fat Mech, Little Dwarf

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 103: Ain’t Got Time to Bleed.

Two years. It’s pretty crazy if you stop to think about it.

(pushes glasses up nose) “Well actually, we recorded for a few weeks to build up a stash of raw footage before we started putting anything out on the Internet…” [SLAP]

Sorry, where was I?

First, just to fill in my corner of Steve’s history, I probably joined the online version of the group in the 2011 timeframe, and at that point, the group had moved into Pathfinder. Carrion Crown and Iron Gods were the two major adventure paths we ran, though we also fit some smaller stuff in there (Emerald Spire, even tried a Society adventure or two) and had JUST started Strange Aeons when we decided to assemble the Action News Team for Starfinder. In terms of the technology, I’ve always been impressed with D20Pro, though Steve always complained that there was a lot of work on the back end loading everything into the tool. We tried a few sessions with Roll20 – it did a few things better, but most things worse. Voice chat was always a bit of a crapshoot until we landed on Discord, which has been pretty stable. I remember Skype being pretty tetchy, a few weeks of dabbling with Ventrilo, maybe one or two others… before finally settling on Discord.

As far as the choice to start the podcast, I don’t know that I ever flat-out refused to do it, but I was probably a little bit on the skeptical end.

First was the Starfinder game system. In my heart of hearts, I’ve always been a swords and sorcery guy. I was raised on the Rankin-Bass Hobbit adaptation (“the greaaaaaatest adventurrrrrre”), John Boorman’s Excalibur, and AD&D. The grand total of my experience with sci-fi role-playing games was a few underwhelming sessions of Gamma World, and of buying the rules for Traveler but never really getting around to playing the damn thing. Sci-fi gaming has not traditionally been in my wheelhouse, though I dig it as an overall genre. If we’re being honest, I mostly agreed to play because the rest of the group seemed enthusiastic about it, and I didn’t want to be the killjoy. I figured I’d give it the first book of the adventure path and see how things went.

The second: I’m an introvert by nature, and that need to be in “perform” mode was a little daunting. When we’re just playing for ourselves it doesn’t matter if I, say, doze off during a session. ALLEGEDLY. If you’re recording and putting it out there on the Internet, there’s more of a need to be “on”. And OK, I’ve seen comment sections – feedback scares me. I wasn’t totally sure I wanted to put our sessions online because I was leery of having people tell me I’m playing my character poorly and my jokes aren’t funny. I’m a delicate flower that way.

But here we are. Two years later, and it’s actually been a lot of fun. The things I was worried about weren’t that big a deal – Starfinder has been pretty great (and I’m glad to see they’re bringing some of the ideas into Pathfinder Second Edition), and it’s been fun watching you guys enjoy the show and interact with it. And even when we screw up on the rules, you’re pretty cool about it, so thanks for that.

I’m trying to decide what my favorite moment of the past two years has been. There’s a few to choose from. There’s the original goblinization of CHDRR, certainly, courtesy of John Compton. The first Meats and Lasko session with Rob Trimarco and Jason Keeley was a blast. The battle against the swarm on Istamak was a thrill just because it was so cool to have the perfect piece of technology that I’d been sitting on for 2-3 levels. And of course Aeon Tuttle – you could go a whole “career” and not roll a 00 on a Loot Box of Wonder/Deck of Many Things.

If there’s one mild negative… criticism… whatever, it’s the scheduling. When you’re playing for own pleasure, if someone can’t make it or you just don’t feel like playing, it’s cool to cancel and pick it up next week. With the ebb and flow of recordings, there have been a few times where our footage reserves got low and we HAD to play to stay out in front of things. Also, it can just be tough to get five schedules to sync up perfectly, and sometimes someone has to “take one for the team” a little. (Conventions season and the winter holidays can be tough in particular.) Not gonna lie, there were a few sessions in there where it felt like playing to feed the beast… those were a bit of a drag. But currently, that’s not an issue. We’re at least a month ahead in Dead Suns, and even Plaguestone has a few episodes in the can. So right now, we’re green, Corbin Dallas. Super green.

With Talking, the challenge is mostly just a matter of keeping it fresh and coming up with new things to say. When I first started writing these, they kinda wrote themselves because it was a new rule system. There was enough new material that just explaining how things worked and giving impressions on how it compared to Pathfinder was a column within itself. (In a bit of déjà vu, I’m seeing the same dynamic play out in Talking Plaguestone.) Two years in? Not gonna lie, it’s a little tougher… you all know how the rule system works, I’ve told a lot of my best stories, I’m even starting to repeat my pop culture references! I don’t want to just regurgitate the play-by-play, but there are weeks where I struggle to come up with much more than that.

Take this week. Kind of a straightforward conclusion to last week’s fight. Thought that dwarf would be tougher, but we kinda mopped the floor with him. The interesting dynamic here was our first real introduction to powered armor. Here’s what I noticed, and why I think it went so easily for us: most of what powered armor really gives you is a better armor class and strength bonus, which is primarily good for melee. It doesn’t especially improve ranged combat, and it doesn’t give additional hit points. So offensively, the machine gun was something of a suboptimal use of the tool; defensively, he’s HARDER to hit, but the dwarf on the inside was just as squishy when you land a shot. And we didn’t seem to have any trouble landing shots.

Next week, it gets interesting though. Remember back on Moon 6, I said that there was one thing that we kinda blew off that would turn out to be important, and another thing that would’ve come in handy but we completely forgot about? I think next week, we hit one of those two incidents. So there will be a chance to see us eat a bit of humble pie in this next episode if I’m remembering things right.

I’m gonna wrap things up there for this week. Thanks for the lifers who have stuck with us for two years, and thanks to those of you who jumped on the train once it was already moving. It’s been fun sharing this experience with all of you. Feel free to stop by our Discord channel and let us know what you think of the show, and we’ll see you next week. Thanks for listening.

Talking Combat 102: Let’s All Go To The Lobby!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 102: Grenade Expectations.

The French have this great expression: “l’esprit d’escalier”… “the spirit of the stairs”… that captures that sense of thinking of the perfect thing to say after you’ve already left. For those of you who want me to stay in my lane and provide a reference more grounded in pop culture – the “Jerk Store” episode of Seinfeld. (Though I went all the way to French V in high school 30-plus years ago… my lane goes to mysterious places.)

I have to admit, as I was listening to this episode, I was struck with a bout of that because I realized I had the perfect tool for this situation and didn’t think to use it. Scoutbot. (I’ve played enough Rainbow Six Siege to know better. OPFOR DETECTED!)

Here’s the thing. Scoutbot has a time limit (one minute per level), the bot has a damage limit if it’s attacked, but there’s no range limit specified. So the 200-300 feet down in the elevator would have not been a problem, as long as it got there in 10 minutes. (On the other hand, contrary to what I thought, it doesn’t actually fly… not sure where I originally got that.) So if I was thinking properly, I would’ve pulled the old Die Hard standby and sent the Scoutbot down on the elevator to see what was waiting for us at the bottom. (Feel free to listen to the rest of the episode imagining Mo writing the names of cultists on his arm with a Sharpie.)

Now, I know it wouldn’t have been a perfect solution. The elevator door still opens as normal, which would clearly attract attention. We’d have a quick rules-lawyer break about how quietly it moves and how easy it is to see, but at the end of the day, they’d probably destroy it and be just as ready for us when WE came down. And strategically, the single point of entry renders it somewhat moot: it would’ve been a more useful tactic if we had the option of choosing a different entrance. But it would’ve been a pretty handy use of a resolve point, and even if it only survived a round or two, we might have gathered some intel on their strength and the layout of the room before we ever set foot on the lower level.

Instead, we plow forth into a sea of grenades. Yay! On the other hand, they’re pretty weak grenades. In fact, at first, they’re pretty weak ENEMIES. Base-level cultists, shades… nothing we haven’t seen before. You don’t want to take things too much for granted, but at first, this feels like a warm-up battle: you just leveled and got your new powers, let’s see what you can do with them.

It’s not a new power, but I have to admit I’m still a fan of Akiro’s trick with the exploding battery; it’s basically all the power of a grenade, but at the cost of a battery, which is dirt cheap. That’s a pretty good bargain. (Alternatively, it’s Fireball, but with a physical object to focus the spell’s power on.) I’m sort of envious – the Mechanic can do that with a weapon, but the damage is nowhere near comparable, and destroying a weapon is even less cost-efficient than grenades themselves. Don’t get me wrong, rigging a phaser to explode has a lot of Mechanic flavor (I just re-watched an episode of Next Generation and a bad guy did that) but the results just aren’t there. WHERE’S MY 9d6 DAMAGE?

But then things take a turn for the more serious. First, we get Berserker Cultists. Not sure if they’re any harder to kill, but they definitely hit harder while they’re alive. And then, just as we’re getting a handle on that. BOSS FIGHT right at the end of the session. Setting aside that I haven’t been the hugest fan of including Pathfinder core races in Starfinder, a dwarf in power armor is pretty dang cool. As long as he doesn’t kill us, that is.

Before closing for the week, I’ll take a moment to reflect on Steve’s point regarding bleeding encounters, and the realism of killing enemies in adjacent rooms without them noticing anything. (We’re almost back to the glory days of GM-PC Tips!) It’s a tough call. If you went with TRULY realistic acoustics, you probably couldn’t fight something on the same level of a dungeon without alerting everyone and their mother. So at some point, you probably have to suspend disbelief a little bit just to make for a playable game. On the other hand, I’ve been in games where people took long rests with enemies right on the other side of a door, which is a little immersion-breaking in the other direction. So we slaughter Goblin Troop A, and Goblin Troop B never thinks to check in on them? They don’t have dinner together? Nobody goes and checks when Grugg fails to show up for the nightly card game?

As far as that Emerald Spire story Steve told, it was basically accurate. Maybe not ONE long fight, but we certainly didn’t stop for a true rest, and probably didn’t have more than 5 or 10 minutes even when there was a pause in the action. Though I think at one point I remember clearing a few empty broom closets.

In that particular game, I was playing a rogue, so my job was fairly easy and there weren’t a lot of resources to manage. Just stab whoever is closest. The main frustration was the running fight didn’t leave a lot of opportunities to set up Sneak Attack damage because the bad guys tended to be down-range. I think John played a Paladin, and Bob was playing an archery-based monk. I feel like maybe Chris didn’t play that one because he was busy with WoW raids, but I’m not 100% sure who our fourth was or what character they played.

There were two main problems that conspired to turn it into a bit of a… well… “cluster-something”. First, the front gate of the complex was an easily defensible position with arrow slits that took a lot of initial effort to overcome. So there was some concern that if we retreated to take a long rest, the remaining bandits would just retake the “front door”, and we’d have to do The Hard Part all over again. If I remember correctly, I feel like we were pinning our hopes on finding a back door which would make it easier to come and go, and then we’d go heal… and things just got out of hand. (Full disclosure: the back door DID exist, but we didn’t find it until the whole level was cleaned out.)

The second was bad tactical luck. In one case, we chased the last runner from one encounter into a new group; in another, one of our guys was looking for a place to grab a quick heal potion and opened the door to another NPC area we hadn’t cleared yet. In fairness, based on the rooms around it, we REALLY thought it was likely to be just another storage room, but that turned out to NOT be the case.

Much to my surprise, we did survive. We pretty much burned through every spell and special ability, and most of the party was at death’s door (I want to say whoever was playing our fourth dropped and had to be revived with John’s Lay on Hands), but we made it. Definitely a fun night of gaming – that one was basically three hours of non-stop action, without being a fairly static slugfest; very fluid, almost a chase dynamic to it all.

If only we’d been recording back then. Ah well.

Anyway, enough wandering down memory lane. (Unless Steve follows through with some Year Two content, in which case, MORE wandering down memory lane.) Regardless, we’ve got to get back to saving the universe and fighting Dwarven Colonel Quaritch, but that’ll be for next week. Until then, drop by our Discord channel or other social media and join in the ongoing shenanigans. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you back here next week.

Talking Combat 101: Fly Me To The Moon

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 101: Rusty Has A Posse.

In terms of game activity, it’s a fairly simple episode – we level, we get in the ship, we go from one moon to another. We basically rolled the dice one time (to avoid gravity effects) and that’s about it. No, the meat of this episode was in the banter.

I always feel a little guilty at times like these. Sometimes I feel like I should get more involved in the back and forth that goes on… might make for more interesting banter if there was an additional participant in the reindeer games. But if I’m being honest, that’s – to varying degrees – not Tuttle, not me as a player, and not me as a person.

Me as a person is the easy one. I’m generally conflict averse, and doubly so after coming home from work, feeding kids, supervising homework. Getting into disputes with my fellow players – even roleplay ones – aren’t that high a priority to me. (I save that sort of behavior for fantasy football.)

That kinda filters down into my choices as a player. I noticed Bob and Chris both, to varying degrees, like to play quirky characters, sometimes even anti-hero types. They seem to enjoy characters that generate tension and create story fodder. Me? Maybe it makes me a little boring, but I’m a do-gooder at heart and I play pretty straightforward character types. I almost always play good, maybe a little more evenly mixed on the law-chaos spectrum. Heck, Tuttle being Lawful Neutral is kind of a big step for me!

(I would point out this tends to be true across the board, not just in Pathfinder. I tried playing the Renegade path in Mass Effect, and I always felt like a complete asshole every time I had to say something mean or hostile. I’m just not wired for it.)

It’s not like I’m averse to complexity or character development or anything like that… but if I had to put a finger on it, I’d say I prefer to keep that aspect of the game self-contained and find it in my own character rather than creating friction with other party members to generate it. Or maybe it’s as simple as Tolkien being a formative experience and I’d rather my character be one of the hobbits than Boromir.

In a separate direction, I think some of it also comes from being goal-oriented when we’re playing. I tend to want to get to the next battle or the next plot point. Banter between partymates? Yes, it’s genuinely entertaining, but there’s always this level on which it feels a little indulgent and I want to just get on with things. We only get three hours once a week, I tend to want to make the most of it.

Tuttle’s motivations are the easy part. He’s Science Rat to the core. He probably thinks the pissing match about who is “in charge” is a bit beneath him, to be honest. He’s here to do a job and that’s it. I’ve always felt that Tuttle has come to appreciate Mo for much the same reason; he just does the job he’s there to do. I don’t think Tuttle dislikes the other two, but he’s probably a little suspicious of Rusty insofar as Rusty’s powers are more subtle than Akiro’s – Akiro blows things up and makes copies of himself; Rusty just kinda bosses everyone else around and sometimes good things happen as a result of it. Tuttle is big on people being useful, and he doesn’t always see it with Rusty.

Of course, it’s dawning on me that I PROBABLY should’ve been reflecting that suspicion by putting some points into Sense Motive as I leveled up because this Rusty Mind Control stuff is getting a little out of hand. For all the skills Tuttle has, I’ve only put 3 or 4 ranks into Sense Motive, which makes Rusty’s job a lot easier for him. (Generally I have five or six core skills I spend on every level, and then I kinda round-robin the rest. Sense Motive is one of the “rest”.) On the other hand, this close to the end of the adventure path, it feels like ability choices should be essential, and I’m not sure protecting myself from my own teammates is worth a lot of investment.

Speaking of leveling choices, I went back and forth a few times on putting my mechanic trick into Portable Power. Part of me really wanted to go with something more combat-useful since we’re nearing the sprint to the finish. But here’s the thing. First, the combat options I could take at this level weren’t really game-changers – there was a shield, but it would only take one or two hits; there was also an improved version of the overcharge ability I already have. But more importantly, leaning into my role as skill monkey, being able to power a downed system is something literally no one else in the party can do. It feels like that could be important, especially when we’re dealing with centuries-dead civilizations. Do an extra damage die? Or perhaps – even if it’s an edge case – push the game forward in an unexpected way that might save our collective bacon.

Will it work? Well, we’ve arrived at Moon 2, so I guess next week will start to reveal the answer to that question. In the meantime, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you back here next week.

Talking Combat 100: To Infinity And Beyond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking Combat 099: One Step Forward And Two Steps Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking Combat 098: The Ghost With The Most

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, without giving away too many spoilers, it’s gonna get even more interesting (cough-worse-cough) next week. How exactly? Sorry… I guess you’ll just have to come back next week and find out. In the meantime, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you back here next week.

Talking Combat 097: Whine & Crackers

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 097: Cheese & Crackers.

There are times when I sometimes feel a little bit guilty about being The Quiet One on Roll For Combat. Then there are episodes like this one where I feel like Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap… they’re like fire and ice, and I’m lukewarm water.

So let me see if I’ve got this right. Chris wanted to kick doors, but was so impatient that he was generally being antagonistic and basically ignoring the lore dump. John wanted to kick doors, but didn’t want to be the one do the kicking because he didn’t want the umpteenth trap going off in his face, and was probably getting pissed at Chris calling him a coward. And Bob wanted to make sure we got everything we needed from the lore dump and was getting pissed that John and Chris weren’t listening to varying degrees, especially when he is our long-suffering note-taker. (Also, since there were 10 minutes left and Bob likes hard stops, I also suspect Bob wanted to end at the lore dump and pick it up the following week.)

Me? I was just playing with my new space-dog, man.

This is one of those times when I’m reminded that I’m a LITTLE bit of the outsider in the group. I don’t mean this as a mopey emo thing… just acknowledging that I came a little later to the party. As a reminder of the history, I met Steve in college; he moved to NYC and met the other guys and started gaming with them, and then I joined their group and we all started gaming together online more recently (7 or 8 years, maybe?). So “the New Yorkers” (to oversimplify) have a shared history and rapport with each other that I don’t quite share. One way that manifests is that I have a little bit of Rust Belt discomfort telling any of them they’re being a dick. Especially with a hot mic in the room.

Which is not to say I haven’t had my chippy moments as well. In a game before we started the podcast, we had a situation where somebody was getting really bossy and basically telling me what I should do… EVERY… SINGLE… ROUND. Not suggesting. Not asking. Pretty much just giving orders. I believe that ended with me suggesting XYZ could just run my character for me, dropping an f-bomb or two, and leaving the session 10 minutes early. So I don’t want to hold myself as some enlightened Paragon of Proper Gaming Etiquette who’s above such outbursts… just saying these guys have a particular dynamic where sometimes there are another 15-20 years of subtext that’s above my pay grade. In moments like that, I just poke aimlessly at my phone until it blows over.

(It’s also small beer compared to how angry the board game RISK makes me, but that’s a story for another time.)

And like Steve said, these incidents are almost always forgotten by the next session anyway. Maybe there’s a little Airing of the Grievances over group chat and things are back to normal. Welcome to life in a long-running gaming group.

Getting away from the gossip and returning to the game, I’d like to footnote my references on my choice of pet names. “Crackers”? Total tip of the cap to Wallace & Gromit – I was thinking “cheese” and “sci-fi”, and the episode where they went to the moon because they ran out of cheese just popped into my brain. Particularly the scene where they’re literally about to launch into space and Wallace’s biggest concern is… wait for it… “We’ve forgotten the crackers!”. And there it was. It’s like an onion – it’s got layers!

So, the actual “action” this week was mostly just a short lore dump. In case it was unclear with all the background noise of our squabbling, there’s a good AI and a bad AI fighting it out in the complex we’re in. The bad AI currently has the upper hand – it locked the good AI away and is trying to help the cultists. The good AI is walled off by the same security protocols that used to protect it but is trying to at least slow the cultists down from acquiring the weapon and will help us if it can. It’s unclear how this will manifest – traps seem likely, possibly Tuttle having to deal with some electronic counter-measures, possibly even security robots to fight? – but our immediate next step is to get to the computer core to undo things and put the good AI back in charge.

Confession: 2% of me doesn’t trust this machine. How do we know this isn’t the malevolent entity and we’d be doing its dirty work by releasing it. For the moment, the computer core seems like a good place to go anyway, but once we get there, I might want to see if there’s any way to verify its story before releasing it.

As Steve mentions, this is one of those times we have to balance meta-gaming against good roleplay. Meta-gaming, it probably would be good to clear the complex room by room. Get a little more experience, find some loot, possibly even level up. But on a roleplay level, if you know a malevolent entity has control of the computers and the bad guys still have an indeterminate lead on you, going directly to the core (do not pass GO, do not collect 200 credits) seems like the “proper” response. Why would you pack in a bunch of extra fights you theoretically don’t need to face? I suppose “clear everything behind you so they can’t ambush you later” could pass muster as legit reasoning, but when push comes to shove, I guess I’d rather get to the core and see what we’re up against there first.

But that’ll be a task for next week. Come back next week as the kinder, gentler Roll For Combat crew (promise) try to get the right AI back in charge. In the meantime, feel free to drop by Discord and other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week!

Talking Combat 096: Gotta Catch ‘Em All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking Combat 095: Permission to Come Aboard

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 095: Blowin’ Up Is Hard To Do.

Welcome to an eventful week here at Roll For Combat. Some of us are at GenCon, though not me personally. The shroud of secrecy has been lifted from Pathfinder Second Edition, and we’ve got lots of content on that, including my written reviews of the Core Rulebook and Bestiary. Annnnd… we’re also launching a second actual-play show to kick the tires on the new system. (And out-of-channel on all of this, don’t get me started on Fire Emblem Three Houses or we’ll be here all day.)

My only addition to Steve’s “show notes”: for the moment, the plan is to write separate Talking Combats for each show, though I don’t yet know which days of the week they’ll go up Aon the site. For one thing, the shows are distinct in setting (sci-fi vs. fantasy) and tone (loose and informal vs. “serious” and heavier on the roleplaying). So while there may (hopefully) be people who listen to both, they really are separate entities I want to give both equal due. For another, specifically for the Pathfinder show, the fact that the game system is brand new makes it feel like it will need its own platform for a while as we tackle the new and unfamiliar aspects. You know… kinda like we did with Starfinder two-ish years ago.

So for now, that’s all you’ll hear about Pathfinder Second Edition in this column. Put a pin in it for now.

Now… back to deepest space, where the attack on the Sunrise Maiden has been thwarted but we have to board the enemy ship to disable the alarm system that will bring even more cultists down on us. Overall, I thought this was a nice way to extend the encounter and get us some extra loot in a slightly more organic way than having a boarding party bring a bunch of extra stuff with them. (I AM INVADING AN ENEMY SHIP, BUT I WILL BRING ALL MY WORLDLY POSSESSIONS WITH ME BECAUSE THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE.) My one minor complaint was that the handling of the countdown was a little fuzzy around the edges – it felt like the countdown was stuck on “however much time you need to Greyhawk the ship” for a while there.

(Insert stock movie trope of tapping a gauge and watching it suddenly drop to a critical level.)

I was also sort of expecting a second fight that never came, but then again… I’m not sure it would’ve worked to have combat AND a timer. If there was a second heavy hitter, there’s the risk it could take too long and the ship could blow up while we’re still fighting; if it’s a couple of grunts… it would feel like just… busywork. Nah… one existential danger is enough for one day.

So we clear the ship of loot and valuable information and move on. We learn from the captain’s log that technical difficulties have served as the great equalizer between us and the Cultists – they arrived before us, but have squandered some portion of that advantage dealing with equipment failures. (As an IT guy, I salute this adventure for its commitment to realism. If only they had to send a ship back to Absalom because someone forgot to bring a compatible video connector.) We also get a hint that the guy we fought at the start of the adventure (the “inevitable”) was at some point a good guy, but seemed to have malfunctioned in the window between encountering the cultists and battling us. It’s good to know we still have a chance to stop them, but it does imply we’re on a clock because repairs to the control system for the super-weapon are underway.

On a personal level, I’m glad to learn there’s brother-and-sister bad guy ysoki mechanics! BIZARRO TUTTLES. I’m torn between “Tuttle can’t wait to meet fellow ysoki scientists”, and “they’re psychopaths who give good ysoki a bad name and we have to kill them”. On the other hand, playing ALL the percentages, Tuttle’s still going to iron his lab coat, groom his fur, and pop a breath mint… because “lady ysoki”.

Interestingly, still no mention of the Corpse Fleet or what role they might play in the endgame. It’s a little surprising that we haven’t heard a peep from them since our visit to Eox. I have two theories here. First is that I’ve been misreading the situation and they were a MacGuffin to move the plot along that has since been discarded. Maybe their involvement was just those two books, and then we never hear from them again. The second is that they’re still out there playing the long game, waiting for the Cultists to take do the heavy lifting, and they’ll sweep in at the last minute to claim the prize. (I guess a third choice could be that they joined forces, which would explain why Cultists have their little Shadow Buddies working for them.) For now, I’m going to assume the worst, that there’s still another shoe waiting to drop.

Back to the action. We arrive at the system, and looking at the layout of the system, they made it pretty clear which of the planetoids we have to go to – 11 dead rocks, one Project Genesis planet with a building that didn’t have a neon sign but might as well have. If there was a surprise to be had, it was the 26 points of hull damage we ate on the flight in (not even hitting the shields first!). Ouch. We have enough hull points to take another hit or two (and/or if we absolutely have to and the adventure gives us the time to do it, we can hole up and do repairs), but that was… unpleasant.

And… that’s basically where we break for this week, and that’s fine because, between two book reviews and a second column, I’ve done a lot of typing this week. Next time, we finally arrive at Planet 6 and see if we can stop the Cultists from activating the weapon and destroying large swaths of life throughout the universe. In the meantime, if you’re at GenCon, have a great weekend of gaming; even if you’re not, drop by the Discord channel or our other social media outlets and check out all the new content we’re putting up. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.