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

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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.

Talking Combat 082: RFC … Assemble!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 082: Stop, Level, and Listen.

The elephant in the room this week is that the editing of this week’s episode doesn’t leave me much to work with. No fighting. We hinted at leveling to come but didn’t actually reveal our Level 8 characters. And OK, we talked about the Teleportation Puck a little bit, but I pretty much covered that in last week’s Talking.

So this week, I’m going off script. Let’s talk Endgame, aka The Defining Film Event Of My Nerdy Adult Life.

Don’t worry… I’ll try to do it in a non-spoilery way since it’s possible (however unlikely) that some of you haven’t seen it yet.

Team RFC is split on the final chapter of Robert Downey Jr.’s career resurrection. We have two “loves” (one of which… full disclosure… is me), two “it was OK but nothing special’s”, and one “actively disliked it”. I’ll leave it to your imagination who is who.

Personally, I loved it, but I will start by offering this olive branch to the naysayers. If someone’s criticism of the movie is that it works better as a bunch of fan-service set-pieces than as a standalone movie… I’m willing to concede that. Someone walking into the theater having seen none of the Marvel movies would be REALLY confused, wouldn’t get why 60-70 percent of the movie was entertaining, and on some Serious Film-Maker measure, that probably ought to matter. On the other hand, let’s be real that 99.999(add-a-few-more-nines)% of the people who bought tickets were going for the fan service moments anyway, so we knew what we were getting. Your specific moments might be different from mine, but most of us got something we wanted. And we all got Grandpa Stan’s last cameo.

In these days of internet saturation, I think one of the marks of a successful movie – and I thought the same thing about Infinity War – is that it’s a success if you KNOW the broad strokes of what’s going to happen, and it still makes you care anyway. With the Internet churning out content, it’s almost impossible to go into a movie totally cold anymore, and depending on how much gets out, you can usually piece a fair amount of the plot together before you set foot in a theater. The premise itself is rarely a surprise; it’s the execution of the premise that really matters.

Go back to the original Thanos Snap from Infinity War. The Marvel smarks know they had a Spider-Man sequel in the can, and Black Panther 2 and Guardians 3 were in production. So you KNOW on some level it’s all going to be undone eventually. But damn if Tom Holland and RDJr didn’t sell the crap out of Peter’s snap scene.

Similar thing with Endgame: from the trailers, you can kinda put together a rough skeletal plot that Ant-Man’s quantum tunnel is the MacGuffin that’s going to enable some sort of time-travel/multiverse hand-wavery, which will create some sort of do-over. They’re not exactly hiding that. Also, there were certain things that were obvious telegraphs as the movie unfolded, which I won’t reveal because that would be revealing spoilers. But then we also know that it’s the last movie for most of the Original Six cast, so there’s probably going to be a few stories coming to an end in the new final conflict. Even knowing all that, I still jumped out of my seat a few times, and there was at least one scene that made me a little misty around the edges. (Though probably not the one you think.)

Compare that to the new round of Star Wars movies. You could put together a rough plot for Force Awakens or Last Jedi just based on publicly available stuff, but aside from a few moments, I was largely indifferent to the final results on the screen. The real-life death of Carrie Fisher lent the whole thing some poignancy, and there was a little twinge at the end of Luke Skywalker’s journey, but a lot of that was rooted more in my own passage through life and Star Wars’ place in it – Star Wars was pretty much the first movie I remember seeing in a theater. The story? Hyperdrives run out of gas now. Who knew?

And don’t even get me started on nu-Trek. I liked the first one (Karl Urban’s McCoy was a pleasant surprise), but after the year of pointless bait-and-switch, I think I actually gave Benedict Cumberbatch the finger in the theater when he said MY NAME… IS… KHAAAAN.

So… yeah. To bring it back full-circle, I thought Endgame was great. 11 years, 22 movies, and they somehow managed to stick the landing in a satisfying way. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a movie project that ambitious ever again… and the more I think about it maybe we shouldn’t. As good as it was, when you look at the success of movies like Logan, Deadpool, Into The Spider-Verse… maybe there’s something to be said for NOT trying to make everything fit in the same box. Maybe we just accept that Disney caught lightning in a bottle and not try to recapture the magic that might be impossible to replicate. (And remember that even the MCU forced us to sit through Thor 2.)

Sorry if you came here to read my thoughts on this week’s episode. Instead, you get Siskel and Ebert At The Movies. I’ll be back to normal next week. Promise.

P.S. – While I’m expounding on pop culture references… put me down for “Season 8 Episode 3 of Game of Thrones was too dark”. Yes, I think it was an artistic decision, but I also think yes they screwed it up and made it too dark. (Or they did it on purpose to stretch out the CGI budget.) You shouldn’t need to calibrate your TV just to watch a single episode of a show…. that’s bullshit. There’s “capturing the chaos of battle” and there’s pausing the action for 20 seconds while you try to figure out who the hell that even is who just got stabbed.

Talking Combat 081: Get The Puck Out of Here

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 081: Roll For Retreat.

I don’t know how you listeners felt about that episode, but that was one of my favorite episodes of the show in a long time. (Probably Vanessa Hoskins’ favorite episode too, for completely different reasons. Congratulations, Esteemed Contest Winner!)

Not solely for the vindication of Tuttle having the perfect object to save the day, though yeah, that’s part of it. It’s fun to have the hero moment… not gonna lie. As Steve alluded to, Tuttle isn’t really built for big hero moments during action settings – it’s like when a football game comes down to a field goal and the kicker gets to be the hero.

More generally, it’s an episode that manages to be an action episode without relying heavily on traditional combat. That can be a delicate needle to thread, but this worked well. Going back as a listener (yes, I listen to each show to refresh my memory to write these posts), it had excitement and drama and it still flowed pretty well even though there were only one or two traditional attack roles. And most of those were against masonry.

I’m not trying to be defensive, but since Steve threw it out there, let me say it loud for the people in the back – I had no advance knowledge of the encounter. Though as an aside, there’s an incriminating picture I now have to delete from my phone: last year, I was at a local game store and sent Steve a picture of me holding the Dead Suns adventure path books with the caption NOW I KNOW EVERYTHING! just to mess with him.

The real, but comparatively boring answer is that I’ve just been a fan of the Teleportation Puck as a device ever since I did my review of the Armory last year. At 1500 credits, it’s a little pricy for a single-shot item (that’s like three Mk2 grenades, and I’m too cheap to buy those!), but I’ve been on record that it could be situationally VERY useful. So one of our shopping trips – don’t remember if it was after Castrovel or the Diaspora, but around then – I went ahead and bought one. Just in case.

(Truth told, I think my nightmare scenario was the bottomless chasm – that Tuttle would be in a place where he’d have to rely heavily on Acrobatics or Athletics to traverse an otherwise unreachable location, in which case a one-time free pass would be really useful.)

Well, welcome to “just in case”. Just not the case I imagined.

I will confess maybe I got caught up on using the puck and maybe missed some other opportunities. First, perhaps if I’d just done assists on the strength checks, maybe Mo might have succeeded. Then again… Steve says in the post-game that the DC was 25… so Mo’s got a +4, even if Chris and I both hit our assist rolls, that’s another +4… +8 leaves us with a 17 or higher, which is still only a 20% chance. So still a pretty tough roll to make. Another thought I had after the fact is that when the distance between us was at its furthest, maybe we should’ve shot the ceiling over the swarm and tried to manufacture some area damage that way. Not sure if that was a viable solution or not but I’m feeling like it was at least worth a try and a bit of a missed opportunity.

But let’s get back to Puck Shenanigans 101.

When the encounter started, I was thinking it would be harder to even get out of the room, and the puck was going to be our ticket out of the dead-end we were trapped in. Turn the tables, get closer to the exit, maybe take some shot at closing the door and locking it in or something. But then it turned out we could just run through the swarm, and that put it on the back burner a little. So I spent the first few rounds thinking “well, that’s anticlimactic” and preparing to put it back in my bag. (And as it turns out, Steve said later it can go through walls, so sounds like that wouldn’t have worked anyway.)

Next, we had the brief interlude of Mouse Parkour where I got caught on the wrong side of the pit that opened up when Mo went through… that was an interesting dilemma. It essentially amounted to “traverse the pit slowly and possibly end up in the swarm for a round or two”, or “try the skill I’m the absolute worst at with pretty serious consequences for failure”. I felt like the nightmare scenario was going to be falling into the pit (so there’s 30’ of fall damage) followed by trying to get out WITH the swarm on top of me, so I was content to maybe eat one attack to avoid that outcome. But then, maybe it’s a little meta-gamey and overly reliant on “squares” but I found the best of both worlds: by catching the lip of the pit for a round, I was able to put myself one square short of the swarm’s movement, and then next round I was able to switch walls and use the rest of my move to get back out of range. MOUSE PARKOUR! (Ironically, I’m currently rewatching The Office on Netflix, and just reached the parkour episode last night.)

So then the chase resumes and my mindset shifted on the puck. I started thinking that if I could find some way to get it outside the building, that would be ideal, particularly once Mo started repeatedly failing on the door checks. I was initially thinking of a window or air vent, or maybe I’d see if there was a natural crack that already existed. Trying to shoot my own hole in the wall? That was more just general desperation and seeing if Steve would let me get away with it.

And that’s a key point. I give Steve a lot of credit as a GM here. An overly-competitive “me against the players” GM might have taken it as an affront that I’d come up with a way to circumvent their death trap. They could’ve ruled that I couldn’t do enough damage to put a hole in the wall, or could’ve had chunks of ceiling come down when I started shooting or could’ve made the roll to get the puck through the hole unnecessarily hard. Heck, a GM who was not competitive but simply unimaginative might have thrown up their hands, said “well, this isn’t really on the page, so you can’t do it”. I think it’s to Steve’s credit that he recognized that letting me try made for an interesting story moment, even if it wasn’t how the encounter was “supposed” to go.

While we’re at it, I also give Steve credit for finding a way to keep Bob involved. I’ve been that guy who sat on the couch for 45 minutes because the party was split and “my” part of the story was easier to resolve than the other group’s – it’s not a lot of fun. Steve’s solution didn’t have to be anything fancy… engine malfunction, ship taking damage, what are you gonna do? (For those of us old enough to remember the first Speed movie… POP QUIZ!)… but it kept us all involved and made us feel like we’re still all doing this as a team.

So I don’t want to break my own arm patting ourselves on the back, but I really thought this episode was what this hobby is all about. Players coming up with unconventional solutions to problems, and a GM who is willing to collaborate and run with it, rather than shunting it back into one of the paths it was “supposed” to follow. It was engaging, dynamic… good god, I’m spouting buzzwords. SYNERGY. PARADIGM. What I’m trying to say is I feel like this episode took a tricky situation we managed to guide it to a satisfying conclusion.

And we split the party and didn’t die. So there’s that.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for this week, folks. I’m about to descend into my Endgame-spoiler-free bunker for the next 24-48 hours (seeing it Friday morning) but hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did, and hope you’ll continue to visit us on Discord and partake of the ongoing tomfoolery. Until next week, have a good weekend and good gaming to you all.

Talking Combat 080: Seems Like Mold Times

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 080: Never Split the Party.

Another short episode this week. Shorter even than the Pittsburgh Penguins’ playoff run. (Too soon, man… too soon.) Not sure how we’re going to handle the fact that the last 30 seconds of cliff-hanger is basically the highlight of the episode, but let’s give it a whirl.

I suppose we did achieve a bit of Roll For Combat landmark history by safely detonating a trap without poor Mo having to bumble into it. That’s exciting. I mean, not totally safely – Akiro’s poor unseen servant bought the farm, but if CHDRR is occasionally expendable, I refuse to shed any tears over Chris’ spell buddy. But given that Mo’s been a human piñata up to this point in the campaign, I’m glad we were able to spare him for once.

Speaking of spells… I don’t know that we’ve full-on broken the rules, but I’ve noticed we’ve been playing a little fast and loose with Tuttle’s Comprehend Languages. I think I got confused and decided it’s a cantrip and can cast it as often as I want; in actuality, it’s a Level 1 spell, and the Technomantic Dabbler feat only allows me to cast it once for every three levels, so… twice. It’s got a duration of 10 minutes per level, so between that and Akiro sometimes handling translation duties, I don’t think we’ve totally screwed up yet, but we do have to be more careful going forward.

(cough assuming we survive cough)

This was a bit of a crazy episode for dice rolls. I think I heard two different natural 20s and at least one natural 1 (as well as a 3 or 4). Granted, some of those rolls were for fairly stupid things like assisting on doors, but still. Can’t we save those for combat? “First Bank Of Crits, established 2019”.

I also got my first chance to use my mechanic trick that kicks in when we hit a countermeasure – that’s kind of exciting. You might remember that I took this one after Chris (still as Hirogi at that point) almost erased the cultists’ data stream when we raided their base in the Diaspora. And somehow, I had not hit that circumstance since taking it. Either we didn’t hit countermeasures at all, or I rolled well enough to avoid them anyway. Annnnnd, of course, the first time I use it, I fail the roll, but it turns out the actual penalty on this particular failure wasn’t all that bad. If you HAVE to fail, I guess that’s how you do it.

So, we do some computational wizardry, and get the MacGuffin – the key codes to enter the temple that sounds like the final destination of this part of the adventure. Annnnnnnd it’s swarm time. It’s funny, as I’m going back and listening… we probably missed a few clues and REALLY should’ve been a little more diligent about testing those filaments – you know… the ones that were moving? – before we boxed ourselves into a dead-end room. But here we are. Swarm between us and the door. Yay us!

I’ll grant – if we’re looking at this as a straight-up fight, we’re pretty screwed. I have a few grenades but most of them are Mk 1. Don’t think we’re taking this down 1d6 at a time. Presumably, Akiro has some spells, but how many do burst/area damage, and that’s even before we get into resistances and such. As much as Mo loves his precious pike, that’s not doing much good. And yeah, the one weapon we had that would’ve done damage – CHDRR – is back on the ship. In the words of Charlie Brown, “good grief”.

That said, all of the above mental math requires thinking of this as a stand-up fight. I don’t think things are QUITE as dire as Steve makes it out, I think it’s going to be a matter of getting creative. Depending on how fast it moves, we might be able to just run for it. Even if it’s fast, maybe we can split up and make sure it only gets one of us at a time. It’s unclear what state the doors are in – can we lock it in, or did opening the doors roughly prevent them from being securely closed again. (Or can it use air vents or something?)

There’s also ship-based shenanigans. Rusty not being here doesn’t mean he’s totally out of the fight. I don’t know how the logistics of Rusty piloting and shooting at the same time would work, but could Rusty nuke the site from orbit? The structure is supposedly unstable – maybe there’s a way to do that. Could Rusty at least air-drop CHDRR in to give us some firepower? I mean, there’s no GREAT solution here, and I’m worried even some of the “good” ones come with a body count, but the gears are turning.

I will say this. On an emotional level, if this DOES turn out to be our Kobayashi Maru moment, this isn’t how I want to go out. I want a death worthy of the “Brave Sir Robin” song – rip some limbs off, incinerate me, drop me into a black hole. “Nibbled to death by space critters”…. It’s just such a lame way to go. So guess we’d better not go out that way, I guess.

Buuuuuut I guess we’ll get to that next week. In the meantime, get those contest entries in and drop by the Discord channel and check out the ongoing merriment. We’ll see you next week.