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Talking Plaguestone 34: So Long And Thanks For All The Turnips

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 34: The Final Countdown.

And so here we are, saying farewell to our Plaguestone podcast. The town is saved, the party lived… all is well in Plaguestone, which will hopefully have a more optimistic nickname if we ever visit again. “Brixleyville”, maybe? And on a gaming level, we survived our first experience with Second Edition, though there were moments where pretty much all of us ended up right on death’s door.

For all the surrounding drama, the final fight ended up being a bit of a squash match, as the final opponent ends up being a single alchemical drudge. The drama here is not that we’re in any great danger of “losing” in conventional terms – we’ve fought groups of three or four of these at a time; one doesn’t seem like that much of a challenge. The danger here is that it didn’t necessarily have to beat us to win, it (theoretically) just had to make it to the stone at the center of town and activate the doomsday device. There’s a version of this fight where, if we had rolled poorly and it just used all of its action on moves, we might have only had 2 or 3 rounds to get it down before things got bad.

That was part of why I figured it was safe to burn my Lay On Hands on Pari. (Aside from the fact that it felt like the noble, heroic thing to do.) This fight was all about burning the bad guy down. If any of us were to drop, we’d just have to fend for ourselves because the other three are going to have to keep damaging the enemy. So healing wasn’t going to be a big priority except as a means of keeping our damage output going. Speaking of which, I was even thinking that if we could get Pari back in the fight, that’s a fifth blade on our side.

Fortunately, the dice were very much in our favor, with a little Hero Point assist on Prue’s grapple and a timely crit. Problem solved, town saved… cue the ticker-tape parade. We even managed to save Pari in the process; Sir Kent… not so lucky. Sorry, man.

In the leadup to this, I wouldn’t say I was mad at Vanessa for getting impatient and storming off, but I feel like she was maybe misunderstanding the rest of the group a little. I don’t think anyone really wanted to take a long rest or search every room for treasure; I think we mostly wanted to top off with my reusable heals (3 or 4 Lay On Hands) and search one or two key locations to see if we could get any sort of hint about what we might be facing when we got back to Plaguestone. One the other hand, it totally works as a story/roleplay moment – over the course of this journey, Celes probably developed the deepest connection to the town by virtue of finding (distant) family there, so it actually makes sense that she’s willing to charge head-first into the final battle. Even if we were destined to be overmatched. So if it was a roleplay thing… bravo. Even if it wasn’t… no big deal, it worked out in the end.

Then again, to be fair to Vanessa (the player) I’ll also admit the pre-fight dallying lasted a lot longer than I remember. I had been thinking we basically ran back to Plaguestone the minute Vilree’s body hit the floor. Going back and listening again, even I wanted us to get a move on.

Another thing that jumped out at me was the ending after the fight was done. Calm Rational Me two months later thinks the ending got a little too huggy and started to feel like an “ABC After-School Special” (that’s one of those references that’s going to lose half of you, isn’t it?). Maybe it was that we stayed late to finish and it was coming up on midnight, maybe everyone was just a little emotional about finishing six months of adventuring, maybe we felt like we needed to “put a bow” on it all… but there were a LOT of sentimental speeches about the value of courage and friendship… I thought I’d wandered into an episode of My Little Pony. Then again Calm Rational Me is a grouchy asshole, so feel free to disregard him if you liked it.

One thing I’ve been doing for the other shows, and I guess I’m going to do for this one as well is the “RFC Casting Call” – who would I cast in the party roles if we were making an RFC movie or TV show? The easiest (or maybe a little bit laziest) one is Prue: I’m stealing Gina Carano from The Mandalorian and throwing some orc tusks on her. We need Prue to be an imposing ass-kicker. The idea that Celes is dignified and descended from royalty put me in mind of Claire Foy of The Crown – I feel like she could capture Celes pretty well. Cade and Brixley initially gave me a little bit of trouble just because of the CGI shrinkage – which actor is still gonna be plausible when you reduce them to about 2/3rds size? For Cade, we want someone with a little bit of a shifty look like you can’t totally trust him, so I actually settled on Rami Malek based on his work in Mr. Robot. For Brixley, other than the fact that he’s short and gnomish, he’s supposed to have a good charisma so he should be a fairly good-looking dude – after kicking a few different ideas around, the wheel settled on Chris Pine (though I briefly thought about going more of a comic take and using Seth Rogen).

So where do things go from here? Well, as Steve says, the characters go on a shelf for a bit, but the shows continue. (According to the favorite saying of a former boss, “the dogs bark, but the caravan rolls on”). I do plan to whip up a Level 4 sheet for Brixley at some point just for the exercise of doing so, but there are no immediate plans for using him. He and Ember will just be off spreading their unique brand of cheer and goodwill. Though what I said two months ago is actually fairly prescient – a foppishly-dressed gnome with a fire cat would actually fit well in a circus environment. JUST SAYIN’. As for me the player, I’m moving on to our Black Lodge show, which you’ll hear more about… well, you can listen to it already, but I’ll pound out a few paragraphs as soon as I get caught up on everything else. Four podcasts in one week is a LOT of writing.

In closing, I wanted to thank you all for listening to our show these past few months, and giving your comments, even when it was to point out when we were being potato-heads and doing rules wrong. I don’t want to get too dramatic about it because at the end of the day we’re still here doing different shows, but it’s nice to have taken this little journey through Pathfinder Second Edition with you. Rather than the usual admonition to see you back here next week, I guess we’ll see you in one of our other shows. But “thanks for listening” still applies, so… thanks for listening!

Talking Plaguestone 33: The Villainous Vilree

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 33: Kill It With Fire!

I’m gonna start with a brief “show note” of my own. I recognize I still owe you guys an Episode 1 recap for the new podcast and a review of the Game Master’s Guide. They’re still coming. Unfortunately, it became a busy week in real life – I do IT work at a university that decided to move to distance learning because of COVID-19, so the relative quiet of spring break became a pretty hectic week and some of my writing slipped. I’ll try to get caught up shortly.

Meanwhile, back in the world of Plaguestone, it’s finally here: the final fight against Vilree. No more long rests, no more dungeon crawling… time to do battle for all the marbles. It may not make any difference if she’s REALLY put her plan in motion already – that’s what she CLAIMS, anyway – but that’s not gonna get her out of a butt-whuppin’.

But of course, it wouldn’t be a boss fight without a surprise… or two. The first was actually revealed at the tail end of the previous episode, in the form of another alchemical monstrosity: more of a Drudge On Steroids than the guy we fought the previous episode. But we also get a third rematch with Greytusk the Orc, the same archer who harassed us when we first stormed the gates, and then set off the fight with the water-sharks by shooting the statue. She’s been a thorn in our side for a while now. We’ve never formally been introduced, but Steve’s said her name enough, she feels like family.

The first thing that’s leaping out at me as I re-listen to this battle is that we FINALLY got all my powers right. I suppose that’s cheating a bit: since we didn’t take a rest, I didn’t actually have a Lay On Hands. But at this point, I knew the rule correctly, so I WOULD have done it correctly if I had. And I did get my champion ability correct and not take an extra attack. So hey… next-to-last episode and I finally know how to play my character correctly. Yay me!

The other thing that stands out to me is how little role I played in actually winning the fight. Other than the initial alchemical salvo we fired off in Round 1, my rolls were basically terrible the entire fight, and I also burned a lot of actions just on movement, between myself and controlling the cat. Ember made herself a bit of a nuisance in the Greytusk portion of the battle, but other people seemed to do most of the heavy lifting of killing Vilree and her creation. I guess the important thing is we won, but it’s always a bit of a hollow feeling when you beat the Big Bad and didn’t get a chance to contribute much.

I have to admit I had forgotten that crit Vilree landed from across the room. I get that the dice say what the dice say, but there’s something that rubs me the wrong way about that. First, there’s the distance aspect – maybe crits ought to be harder outside the range increment or something. But also, I suppose if I had to put my finger on it, it’s feeling like if you’re gonna get a ranged crit, there ought to be some sort of precision component to it. A sniper shooting a bow from yards away and getting a shot to a vital organ makes intuitive sense; chucking a bomb doesn’t immediately leap out as something where you could get extra damage by placing it just right. (Unless there’s either a tank of flammable materials where you land it or unless it’s a Michael Bay movie.)

It’s not the end of the world – the rules are the rules and I think that ended up being the only damage I took in the fight – but it’s just a little… “off” in my brain. I suppose it’s of a kindred spirit with “Alchemical flasks are martial weapons? Really?”

Another thing I don’t really want to obsess about but still felt kind of off was Greytusk using Orcish Ferocity to run away. Maybe I’m just imposing my own “fight ‘til you drop” value system on the situation, but I kinda figured it was like an out-of-control berserker rage thing and Greytusk would use the extra round to keep attacking. “Orcish Tactical Retreat” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Still though, there’s a little piece of me that likes the idea that she got away… unless of course, that means we have to fight Round 4 with her back at Plaguestone.

For extra credit, if she’s left as an unresolved thread, I now kinda want Steve to work Greytusk into Three-Ring Adventure. “You’re flying through the air on a trapeze, and arrows go whistling past your head. Roll for initiative!”

I suppose if there’s a high point to the fight, it was actually getting to use Ember as an honest-to-goodness mount for at least a few rounds. That was kind of exciting. Mounted combat is kinda frustrating at low levels – among other things if you’re mounted you share the same multi-attack penalty with your pet – but as a taxi service, giving up one move for two really can’t be beat. There’s probably some Ember/Uber joke dying to be made, but I’m not seeing it right now, so… consider it one of those things I’ll forget about for three weeks and then drop it in as a complete non-sequitur in a column about one of the other shows.

So we dispense with the golem fairly easily, we get Greytusk to run away… and we finally have Vilree cornered. Personally I felt like it might have been good to see if we could hold up and get more information out of her, and it seemed like Steve even dropped a little hint in that direction by giving her a last moment of monologue, but nope… not only did we finish the job, but Prue half-kidding/half-not dumps her body in the river. Which was funny, but not necessarily the wisest move if we’ve still got a town to save.

So next week is it. Without giving away too much, it seems like our clear course here is to hoof it back to Plaguestone and see what’s what. It seems like there are three main possible outcomes here. Option One is that Vilree was telling the truth, we’re too late to stop her plans, and we get to do a final “walk of shame” through the ruins of our fan club while we contemplate all those long rests we took. Option Two is that Vilree was TOTALLY lying, the last danger to the town is eliminated, and we get to go back for a big Turnip Party. Option Three is she was telling the truth that plans were in progress but was lying insofar as there’s still time to stop them. In which case, there’s going to be a FINAL encounter with whoever or whatever Vilree sent to destroy the town. (And Greytusk of course, because THAT’S not getting old at all.) So join us back here next week when we find out which page of the Choose Your Own Adventure book we flip to. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you’ve thought of the show, listen to the new Three-Ring Adventure podcast, and generally join the ongoing merriment. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you… for the last time on this particular show… next week.

Talking Plaguestone 32: We Have A Prue

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 32: I Could’ve Had A D8!

Welcome to Final Boss Fight Eve here at Roll For Combat, as we finish up the fight with the amalgam and get ready take on Vilree herself. It’s like Christmas, but SOMEONE’s present is gonna be a butt-whipping.

Conceptually, I love the idea of a freakish alchemical monstrosity. It’s been hinted at with all of the various mutated animals we’ve run into, so this… thing… seems like a natural endgame for that. I see your stone horse and fire-cat and raise you a freakish abomination stitched together from three or four different creatures. A little terrifying to fight… but very appropriate to the theme of the whole adventure.

As I’m going back and listening to the episode, I’m amazed at how lucky we got with this fight. It’s a little hard to sort out at first while the drudges are still up, but I think the amalgam itself only hit us twice the whole time. If it seems busier than that, it might be because the drudges that were left sprinkled a couple of decent hits in. But I only counted two for the big boy, and I think I mitigated one of them with my champion ability. For a big sub-boss type creature, that’s crazy good luck.

I did notice that tactically, we’ve been playing Second Edition for months, and I’m still expecting attacks of opportunity that aren’t coming. Particularly when dealing with creatures that have reach. I’m getting used to it with humanoids because it seems to follow roughly the same template as for PCs – heavily-armed front-line fighter types might get them; non-fighter types don’t. For weird-ass creatures like this… you kinda have to roll the dice, take a full move, and just see if you get hit.

As usual, the flip side of “brutes are big and scary” is “brutes are easy to hit, and even pretty easy to crit because their armor class is so low”. At that point, it’s really just a race to get through those hit points without taking too much damage or using too many resources. This time, we happened to win the race. Cue the huge sigh of relief.

Not gonna lie, still, a little surprised the dwarves in the tanks didn’t wake up and join the fight. It’s Chekhov’s Gun – you don’t put a funky mutated dwarf in a tank of poison gas if you don’t plan to use him. I briefly thought about seeing if we could destroy those tanks, but the potential of doing it wrong and releasing poison onto ourselves ultimately seemed like a risk not worth taking.

After dispatching the amalgam and doing a little further exploration, we finally reach the pretty obvious Final Room. River with a single bridge crossing… check. Ominous bubbling cauldron on a dias/shrine-like area… check. Crazy boss lady? OF COURSE. It’s the payoff we’ve been waiting for – Vilree herself.

But then Vilree drops a little bit of a conversational bomb on us (since she’s an alchemist, real bombs are probably coming too). Vilree gets to monologuing – as villains do – and hits us with the potentially big reveal that we might already be too late. As well as offering us the chance to walk away from the final fight.

First, I’m not sure she’s telling us the truth. She may just be some combination of over-confident, and/or trying to psych us out of the final fight. I suppose it’s POSSIBLE she’s telling the truth. At a metagame level, some of these adventures have explicit victory conditions, and I’m like… 5, 10 percent worried there was a clock we weren’t aware of and time expired while we were taking long rests. But for the moment I choose to believe she’s lying, and that we need to beat the actual plan out of her so we can stop it.

But even if it’s true… so what? Even if it’s true and everyone’s dead, then I want some damn revenge. To borrow from Tony Stark: “If we can’t protect Plaguestone, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it”. Plaguestone’s a weird little town with its turnip-based economy, but it’s our adopted weird little town at this point. Among other things, I didn’t go found a Cayden Cailean church only for this lady to immediately go and kill all my new converts. And in Celes’ case, they’re distant family! So even if she IS telling the truth, there’s no reason not to beat her down before we go back to town and reckon with our failure. So let’s do that.

But of course, as the episode ends, we learn it’s not going to be QUITE that simple, as a creature pops out of the river and plants itself between us and Vilree. So yeah… she’s got a bodyguard on top of everything else. Not to worry… to continue the Avengers analogy, “we have a Prue”.

So next week, it’s finally time. Team RFC vs. Vilree for all the marbles. Since Steve explicitly said there are two episodes left… yeah, it’s a long fight. But you’ll have to come back next week (and the week after) to see how it goes. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 31: Come Up to the Lab and See What’s on the Slab

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 31: Firecat vs. Firerat.

We start this week with a new rules dispute, but one that – for once – I’m not the center of. Whew.

This time it’s Cade’s Nimble Dodge, which in addition to getting a callout in the show notes, is also sparking a lively discussion on Discord. If you read the rules (page 183) the trigger for Nimble Dodge is “a creature targets you with an attack and you can see the attacker”. So it’s when you’re attacked, not when you get hit. So basically it’s a +2 to AC once per round – and if the enemy rolls an easy miss or an easy hit, you “wasted” your ability.

One thing that’s complicating the issue, per the Discord conversation, is that it’s a little inconsistent when it comes to monsters and NPCs – there are some monsters that have the same Nimble Dodge the rogue has, but you have other enemies (one of our listeners mentioned the Drow Rogue) that can use the Nimble Dodge after they’ve been hit.

Maybe it’s because I’m less personally vested, but I always felt like the ability to auto-negate an attack if it’s on the borderline of hitting seemed a bit overpowered anyway. If it’s something you can do once per round; it’s probably not meant to be hugely game-changing. Also – this isn’t necessarily a criticism of Rob, but there’s probably ways to mitigate it with tactics; fight so that your party’s rogue doesn’t end up taking shots from 2 or 3 enemies.

I’m also going to give you a mild spoiler – since we’re just discovering this now, we never really “fix” this. I don’t remember how many times, or even if, Cade uses it again, but we’re probably going to be stuck with the wrong interpretation because we’ve already wrapped.

On the bright side, we FINALLY get my champion ability correct this week. See? Not trying to be smug, but a few weeks back I grumbled that I remembered a conversation where I was getting it right, and people tried to talk me out of it… turns out that was THIS week. I’m not going to regurgitate the previous discussion that it feels like we’ve already had four or five times, but I’m going to take a second and talk about the unsung hero of that ability – the immediate Step action. First, in the case of these alchemical drudges, it’s an automatic rescue from standing in the acid pools. But more importantly, was something Prue hinted but we didn’t do – you can use that Step action to disrupt an enemy from performing multiple attacks. If an enemy used Action #1 to close and Action #2 to attack, that Step lets you steal that follow-up attack, as long as the enemy doesn’t have reach. Instead, they’d have to use Action #3 to re-close the distance. Honestly, I’ve been so focused on the damage mitigation that THIS is something I wish I’d been paying closer attention to. How much damage could I have stolen by moving my teammates out of range?

I have to admit I had kind of forgotten about the weirdness with the map dimensions. It did seem odd that all of the major features of the room – the fire-rat, the dwarf in the tank, the alchemical benches – were described as if they were normal size, but the supposed scale of the map implied that all the furniture would have to be huge. I’m not going to complain as a game mechanic because if it was a mistake, it impacted both sides equally. If we had to use extra moves to reach them, they had to use extra moves to reach us. But it was a little… disorienting, I guess?

The fight itself was shaping up mostly as business as usual – we had fairly good luck hitting the fire-rat through its smokescreen and alchemical drudges are a known commodity after we fought the ones upstairs. I do wonder how calculated it was that the encounter led with the fire creature; it does start to feel like maybe Buhlman was trying to lure someone into popping the fire resistance potion before throwing a bunch of other damage types at them. But if that was the case, it feels like the rat should’ve been more formidable.

But then… the amalgam. Yikes! That’s going to be a bit of a challenge. Big means it probably hits harder than any of us do. Big means it probably has reach. Gut says it’s going to have some resistances – I have nothing to back that up, but we’re at the level where bad guys start to have those. And it’s got that howl that adds status effects to the mix. If there’s a glimmer of hope here, it’s that its first move wasn’t very fast… it only advanced about 10 or 15 feet. So there might be a possibility that it’s slow and maybe we can kite it a little bit. Having said that, this isn’t EverQuest: I suspect at some point we’re gonna have to go toe-to-toe and trade shots with it.

Beyond that…. Not gonna lie, I’m also still worried about those dwarves (and presumably poison gas of some sort) in the tanks. Releasing those seems like that little added extra “Oh you think you have this under control? Well, what about THIS?” moves Paizo likes to pull. And, one can assume someone opened the cage for the creature – Vilree? The orc archer? There’s another possible add. So maybe the Big Boy is the centerpiece of this fight, but maybe there’s even more hijinx.

But we’ll have to find that out next week, won’t we? While you’re waiting for next week’s episode to drop, feel free to pay a visit to our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you back here next week!

Talking Plaguestone 30: Averting Cat-astrophe

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 30: Baby Shark.

This week’s episode features a battle against an old nemesis…

(record scratch)

(pushes glasses up on nose)

At the risk of being tedious and pedantic, that’s actually a mild spoiler. We never actually SAW the person shooting at us from the tower in the initial courtyard battle, so we probably shouldn’t really know it’s the same person. Though, how many elite orc archer types can one castle have? Whatever… we’ll pretend we recognize her by her fancy bow and move on I guess.

On the other hand, I guess that finally puts my long-running “Noala is an enemy plant” theory to bed. I very briefly thought that “enemy archer” was “Noala is actually Vilree’s lieutenant and snuck into the enemy camp while we were preparing”. But now we’ve got an orc archer on our hands, so consider that idea formally retired.

The single biggest development this time was the almost-death of Ember.

First, I’d like to point out that if you’re listening to both of our shows, this happened within a few episodes of losing CHDRR in the Dead Suns game, so… amusing coincidence, but it’s been a rough month for my poor pets. This does mean I’ve already mentally decided that whatever we play next, no pet for me. No animal companion, no familiar… just me.

Second, I’d like to point out that I was specifically holding Ember out of the battle because I remembered her being vulnerable to either water or ice (couldn’t remember which one, and couldn’t find the stat sheet for her as we were playing). So I swear I was TRYING to keep her safe. But then the shark retreated toward her and it presented a prime opportunity to flank, which was just too good to pass up. And frankly, if the brine shark hadn’t critted, it would’ve been fine and we’d have been in fine shape.

As far as the ruling, it actually looks like it’s NOT GM discretion; It looks like companions are subject to the same rules as the characters. Quoth the rulebook (page 459):

Player characters, their companions, and other significant characters and creatures don’t automatically die when they reach 0 Hit Points. Instead, they are knocked out and are at risk of death. At the GM’s discretion, villains, powerful monsters, special NPCs, and enemies with special abilities that are likely to bring them back to the fight (like ferocity, regeneration, or healing magic) can use these rules as well.

So it’s not even GM discretion… Ember lives! Which is a relief on multiple levels. Tactically, I’m already down a shield, I’d hate to also lose my fire-cat too. Having my character functionality slowly whittled away on the way to the final battle is kind of a drag. But also, I’d hate to have gone through all that trouble to get this cool, fairly unique mount, and then have to trade it in for a boring old horse. No offense to horses in the abstract, but… come on.

While we’re talking rules… I agree with the consensus that it still feels a little silly that alchemical flasks are a martial weapon. I mean… if someone broke into my house right this minute, I could PROBABLY figure out the mechanics of picking something up and throwing it at the intruder. Having said that, allow me to make the other side of the argument. First, on a game mechanic level, it’s an easy way to make alchemical bombs something that alchemists do well – make it a preferred weapon and a class feature, easy-peasy, they’re the designated bomb-tossers. But if you want something that works more in-game, one could argue that the skill is not the throwing, but judging of distances and blast radiuses (radii?) on the fly to be able to accurately put a bomb in the right place in the middle of a firefight. (Also allowing for movement, as everyone’s turns within a round are supposed to be happening semi-simultaneously.) Going back to that previous example, yes I could pick something up and throw it at an intruder. Could I pick up a grenade, figure out where to throw it to hit the intruder but not hit my dogs, while the intruder is coming at me? Maybe that IS a martial skill.

Of course, it’s no skin off my nose. I’m trained in martial weapons, so more fun for me.

As we reach the end of the session, we head to the bottom of the stairs and are presented with the classic RPG dilemma – we’re mostly out of resources, and what we were all hoping was a final room is really an entire additional section of the complex. (Even without Steve zooming the blank map out, we could see two corridors and two or three doors just from where the stairs let out.) So what do we do? We’ve got to assume both Vilree and the orc archer are down there somewhere – so that’s at least two formidable opponents – and maybe even some additional minions too. We simply don’t have the resources for that, but there are ALL sorts of hints that waiting too much longer would be bad for the town.

At the end of the day, you can’t help the town if you’re dead, so I guess we’re stopping to rest. It just doesn’t feel very heroic. You don’t see Superman popping off to the Fortress of Solitude for a nap halfway through the story. (Except for Superman 2, where he kinda does. Maybe not the best example.) But it’s just one of those unsolvable “problems” of any RPG system – as a game mechanic, you have to set the refresh on resources to SOMETHING. If you make it too easy to recover resources, the game becomes trivial and you lose a sense of accomplishment. If you make it too hard to recover resources, you end up with a lot of stories that end in unsatisfying character deaths. So you gotta pick something and just hope that it matches up pretty well with the story beats the majority of the time.

So… long rest it is. Next week we tackle the basement level, hopefully, find Vilree, and also hopefully aren’t too late to save the town. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 29: Puke The Site From Oribit

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 29: Here Comes The Drudge.

We start today with a bit of a show note. Last night was supposed to be a recording session for us, but things came unglued because of technical difficulties – like… three different things one right after the other. Clearly someone stole a monkey-god idol they weren’t supposed to, and we all ended up paying for it. IT’S THE CURRRRRSE! (Cut to a close shot of the idol, lit with ominous shadows, with tinkling discordant piano notes.)

And yet we still had a blast because we just sat around and BS’ed about stuff. (Well, it was less fun for Steve because he was mostly down in the electronic boiler room trying to fix things. But the rest of us had a grand old time.) The reason I’m mentioning this is to offer a little reminder that it can be fun to get your gaming group together for a non-gaming session every once in a while. The game tends to impose roles, which sometimes puts us in boxes. Most obviously it separates the GM from the rest of the table by placing them in the role of rule interpreter and captain of Team Monster, but even within a party, people can start to get a little locked into the roles they play in the group. The healer ends up subservient and follows the lead of other players; the face of the party tends to dominate conversations, things like that. Setting that aside and just enjoying each other’s company for an evening is the sort of thing that keeps a gaming group together over the long haul. I highly recommend it.

(Though I’ll also be honest: the new Fire Emblem Three Houses DLC dropped last night mid-session, and I was sorely tempted to feign some “technical difficulties” of my own and go play that. MUST MEET THE SEWER CHILDREN! But that’s a whole other blog. In answer to the obvious questions: “Golden Deer, even though I think Claude is kind of an asshat” and “Petra”.)

OK, uncharacteristically wholesome digression over… time to kick some alchemical drudge ass!

This was one of those fun fights because the acid pools created an element of challenge that was interesting without being overly punitive. Yes, the squares of acid made movement tricky – at one point, the board looked like a half-finished game of Minesweeper. But as long as you didn’t end your turn in one, there wasn’t any real consequence, so it mostly just involved planning your moves carefully.

For an example of “too punitive”, there’s a room in the Emerald Spire where it’s complete (magical) darkness AND difficult terrain, and you’re facing bad guys (orcs or kobolds or something – it’s a low-level encounter) who can see just fine. Some of whom are archers. So you’re wandering around bumping into stuff, hoping you find someone to attack, while they’re shooting you to pieces. That’s an example of being challenging without being particularly fun.

This also strikes me as a fight that really works because of the way Second Edition has limited attacks of opportunity and opened up the battlefield. Put this same fight in First Edition for a second. Then you’ve got pools of acid everywhere, but if you try and escape them too aggressively, you’re choosing between guaranteed acid damage or eating attacks of opportunity. So… “damage” or “also damage”, and we’re back to “challenging, but not fun”. But in Second Edition, it flows much better.

One interesting outcome was that the flow of combat put Prue on a bit of an island. When the fight first started and we didn’t know what the drudges could do, Prue decided to charge further into the room to get in the drudges’ faces. As you do when you’re a front-line fighter. Get in faces, beat ‘em down. But then the drudges started spitting acid, and the rest of us tended to retreat backwards whenever we were standing in acid. So eventually, we had a mini-lake of acid with Prue all by herself on one side and the rest of us on the other. Also, we kind of gave them control of the main choke-point on the battlefield, the doorway. Oops.

The other thing you might have noticed is it mostly took Ember out of the fight, but that a conscious decision on my part. Once I realized that movement was going to be a key component of the fight, it dawned on me that running out of moves and potentially leaving me or Ember standing in acid was probably a worse negative than the positive of any additional damage she could do. (Also, at least early in the fight, the doorway made a natural chokepoint and just getting her into the action was going to be difficult.) If things got dire, I would’ve brought her forward, but as long as we were in reasonable control of things, I figured I’d just let her sit this one out.

Cynically, I also enjoyed this fight because I didn’t get any of my rules wrong – I didn’t use Lay on Hands, and I got Liberating Step right (for the most part). Now to be fair, some of that came about because of Prue’s choice to run into the room: she was out of range of either of those effects, so I didn’t have a CHANCE to screw it up. But we may also be catching up to the point where we actually realized we were doing it wrong and started doing it correctly. Though having said I did it right, there might have been a lost opportunity to do it BETTER. Liberating Step also includes giving the ally a Step as a free-action: as I’m re-listening, I’m thinking there might have been opportunities to use that to not only block damage but to be more clever about moving people out of the acid. Ah well.

And then at the end of the fight, I had almost forgotten about The Leap. That was literally me being a knucklehead for the sake of using a feat that a) I had never used and b) my teammates had made fun of me for taking. So even though it was only 10’ of acid and I could’ve just run through it and ended my turn on the other side, I wanted to try my leap just to say I did it. The DC of the check was pretty low – single digits, I believe – but the universe being the Great Equalizer that it is, I fully expected to roll a Nat-1 and faceplant into the acid. If that had happened, I TOTALLY would’ve deserved it. But no… I finally get to be Brixley the Bullfrog.

And that’s where we end the episode. Drudges dispensed with, new areas to explore, and since this is more of a workshop area, this feels more like the right way to go to find Vilree. And that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 28: Uninvited Guests

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 28: Halfling Trap Detector.

The theme of this week’s episode is time management.

In the course of “normal” adventuring, standard operating procedure tends to be to gather every scrap of information and pillage every piece of loot you can find. In First Edition and even Starfinder, we sometimes boil it down to the cynical and meta-gamey “we search the room until we find whatever we’re supposed to find”, “Grayhawk the room”. Even earlier in this adventure (the Hallod fight, for instance), we were doing a bit of that. What fun is being an adventurer if you’re not getting paid?

This particular week, it’s a little harder to do that because there’s a lot of… stuff… pushing us toward trying to resolve things quickly. First, we’ve got the lone archer who survived the courtyard battle – I don’t think that’s Vilree, since it’s unlikely an alchemist would ALSO be a great archer, but it is someone who could return any time with reinforcements. Next, there’s the homunculus who should have a telepathic connection with Vilree, so it’s a pretty safe bet she knows we’re here now. And then toward the end of this session, we get the ominous diary entry claiming the final preparations for Plaguestone’s destruction are already underway. Like I said, there’s a lot pushing us to keep moving forward.

As such, I think we may have missed a few things. It’s one of those things I didn’t really pick up on when we were playing, but when we first entered the “living room” (but before we found the kitchen), Steve described one of the bookshelves as being full of “scrolls” and “exotic objects”. Or maybe “esoteric”… it was definitely an E-word that sounded promising and vaguely magical. That sounds like it could’ve been either been magic items, something that related to Vilree’s plot, or both, but I don’t think we ever came back around to searching that shelf because we were kind of in “keep it moving” mode.

The running clock does seem to be a bit of a signature Paizo move; it shows up a lot. Ironically, our Starfinder game is also in a running-clock section at the exact same time. That scenario (in case you’re only listening to this show) is that we have to disable the enemy starship before they capture the Doomsday MacGuffin – the ship is fighting its way through the outer defenses, and we have to stop them before they get to the destination. We have access to the ship’s computer so we have a rough idea of how the battle is going and how much time we have left, so… another running clock.

Sometimes the running clock is more on the order of weeks, just to keep the adventure from going completely sideways. You don’t really have to rush an individual encounter, but it does keep you from spending a week crafting or something. I suppose “the judge gets here at the end of the month” was the thing that kept us moving on investigating Bort’s murder in the first half of the adventure. But toward the end of adventure paths (like this), it’s on the order of hours, and the goal is to explicitly force the party to finish an area without taking long rests. It sometimes feels a little contrived, but at least it provides an in-story reason for it, rather than arbitrarily saying “you can’t rest here” like one of those isometric 90s-era video games.

I do think a secondary reason we’ve been getting sloppy about loot is that the “loot table” for this adventure is tilted pretty heavy toward alchemy. I feel a little guilty complaining, considering I’m the one person in the party with martial weapons training who can throw bombs the best, but still… personally I’d be more excited to search some of these bodies if there was going to be a sword of a shield. But nope… MORE POTIONS. I suppose there was that orc with the club, but I’m not sure I could live down the sheer physical imagery of Brixley swinging a club that’s taller than he is.

I don’t have a strong reaction to the homunculus encounter. On one hand, it feels a little unsatisfying like maybe we should’ve done something other than just lock it in the kitchen. But it doesn’t sound like we could talk to it, and I’m not sure fighting it would’ve been worth the time and resources, so what else was there, really? I don’t know: it just feels like some sort of thread was left dangling there, but I can’t put a finger on a better idea.

The other thing we get a closer look at this week is hazards and lock picking. I vaguely recall Cade trying to do a lock earlier in the adventure, but I think he only had one pick and broke it, and Prue ended up using strength to force it open. This time we get a closer look at the process. I have to admit, even though it’s a bit more challenging, I like the multi-step approach to locks and hazards – it always seemed kind of anti-climactic to just resolve it in a single roll (“oh look, a trap”… [roll]… “oh look, no more trap”); with this approach, there’s some anticipation involved. Makes the job of a rogue (or other trap-disabler) a little more fun.

As we reach the end of this episode, that journal entry is picking at my brain pretty hard. What if we’ve ALREADY taken too long? What if Spite’s Cradle served its purpose and Vilree has already gone… back to Plaguestone even? What if the orcs were just left behind to tie us up while she finishes the job? Or, Vilree’s previous shenanigans have involved tampering with the water supply… what if whatever’s going to kill Plaguestone has already been deployed into the water supply and there’s nothing we can do? What if we get back there and everyone’s dead?

(And by the way, I’ve still got that 2% conspiracy theory that the archer is Noala. She keeps disappearing to “clear the perimeter”… maybe she’s really one of Vilree’s henchmen and she keeps leading us into traps. Haven’t totally let go of that one either.)

So we get the living quarters cleared, and now it’s time to head into the more functional area of the keep. We’ve got some fountains (that nagging doubt about the water supply just kicked into overdrive), and that’s pretty much where we leave things for next week. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by the Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show; always lots of good stuff happening there. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 27: Angry Birds

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 27: Parkour!

OK, let’s start today’s post by going through this Liberating Step thing one more time. I don’t know why I didn’t get this right this particular episode – I’m gonna chalk it up to the fact that it was close to Thanksgiving and I may have still been suffering the after-effects of a turkey coma. Though… I seem to recall a version of this conversation where I say the RIGHT thing (no free attack) and everyone else tells me I’m wrong and talks me out of it. Maybe that was a future episode, or maybe Steve edited that out of this one. Whatever… don’t want to make a federal case out of it. For today, I forgot.

(I also got the damage on the cantrip wrong, but that was just a little bit of confusion between rounding down and rounding up. That strikes me as a lesser sin, especially since I’ve only used that spell once or twice.)

But to recap: there are three flavors of the champion class. There’s the Paladin (lawful), Redeemer (neutral), and Liberator (chaotic), and each flavor gets its own “Champion’s Reaction” as a class skill. They ALL have the property where they block [2 + (LVL)] damage, but they each have their own secondary effect. The Paladin’s Retributive Strike gets the free counter-attack if they’re within reach of the attacker. It’s probably the simplest and most straightforward of the three abilities – who doesn’t love damage? The Liberator’s Liberating Step (the thing Brixley has) gives an ally a free chance to get free of any sort of restraining-type effect – from a brute-force grapple to paralysis – and also allows the ally a free Step action. Situationally useful, but not always. And though it’s not relevant to this conversation, just to be a completist: the Redeemer’s Glimpse of Redemption gives the enemy a choice – either the damage can be mitigated entirely, or it’s the usual [2 + (LVL)] damage resistance and the damager becomes enfeebled 2 (without a save). Arguably Liberating Step is the weakest – or at least most situational – of the three, but I wanted to be chaotic for roleplaying reasons, so… I guess that’s what I’m stuck with.

It didn’t really impact the game that much because I only used it twice and missed at least one of the attacks – or it was the attack that canceled out because the bird couldn’t really use the special attack anyway. So it wasn’t a huge screw-up, but I always hate getting rules wrong. Especially when it’s something I got right all the way back at first level.

On the other hand, speaking of rules mistakes, I suppose we also have to eat the shit sandwich this week because this time, Cade’s health was low enough that the difference between a 12 and 18 point Lay on Hands mattered in terms of keeping him alive. I still think we would’ve won the fight and gotten Cade back on his feet, but it probably would’ve taxed more of our healing resources – might have had to pop a potion or have Celes break out a heal. So… oops.

Listening to this combat, I’m not sure how much of it was “these birds are tough” and how much was “Cade was a doofus who should’ve done a better job of hiding behind his tanks”. (And yes, I say this knowing that although it’s DEX-based, his armor class is higher than mine.) I suppose the honest answer is “a little bit of both”.

If you think about it, that special attack is deceptively powerful – the birds got two attacks at zero penalties, and then they could retreat back out to range after doing it. Meaning melee characters – which is most of our party – have to spend one action to close distance, get one attack at zero penalty, and then have to choose between a second attack that’s less likely to hit, or using any other abilities. Also, the birds had a surprising amount of hitpoints for wispy air creatures. The case for the “we needed better tactics” is that we let them tangle us up in the doorway for almost two full rounds, and Celes, Ember and myself couldn’t get involved in the fight right away. It kinda left Cade all by himself getting pummeled at the start of the fight, which meant he spent most of the battle fighting on death’s door, and that tends to change what one can do. Things got a little better once everyone got in the room, so maybe that whole fight could’ve gone more smoothly with a little more planning.

As an aside, I’ve heard of parties where they literally spend the first round delaying actions to get themselves in optimal fighting order, before they take a single aggressive action. That always struck me as being a little TOO meta-gamey, but in a situation like this where the works get all clogged up, good sequencing might have actually made a difference. Either that or our party needs to have a designated choreographer. (I know… there’s probably some reference to “Cheer” waiting to be made here, but I haven’t seen the show yet so… missed opportunity.)

The final thing that caught my eye this episode was Prue finally critically failing a Treat Wounds check. It’s one of those things you always knew was bound to happen eventually, but of course, it waited for the most critical part of the adventure to happen. I kind of like this – it’s a source of magic-less healing, but there’s just enough of a risk to keep you on your toes. Granted, it’s far easier to say that after Cade had lived – if the damage roll was an 8 and that’s what killed Cade for good, I might be sitting here saying all sorts of unkind things about Paizo’s developers.

(And yes, I’m sticking with my head-canon that Prue failed in the most slapstick way possible – “let me hold my torch a little closer to get a look at this wound!” and lights Cade on fire, or something like that.)

And there we basically leave it for the week – another week that ends with rest and recuperation (though not a full long rest; just enough time to Lay On Hands enough time to get everyone to full) and we’ll pick up the exploration of Spite’s Cradle next week. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you then.

Talking Plaguestone 26: Better Living Through Pacifism

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 26: U Can’t Touch This.

OK, first things first, I’m going to indulge in a ridiculously small and nerdy show note. This is one of those rare times where all four of our voiceover intros came one right after the other. Usually, there’s a gap where Steve will say something in the middle, or half the people will come in early and the others will trickle in over the first couple minutes of the show, but this time it was all four of us one after the other no interruptions. Silly thing to get excited about, but I’m weird that way.

So… that was an interesting fight, wasn’t it?

Nine grunts, a barbarian boss, and an unseen archer chucking arrows at us… we should’ve been dead, right?

But no… SANCTUARY TO THE RESCUE! Thanks to some remarkably effective magic from Celes, Brixley does his best impression of a cork in a bottle and manages to control the flow of the fight long enough for the others to thin their numbers and turn the tide of the battle. This is meant as an “aren’t I great?” thing; it was absolutely a team effort. But I’m being realistic that if they had been able to get through the archway and into our backline and start hitting Celes in particular, that fight might have gotten ugly.

I have to admit, I’ve always kinda turned my nose up at Sanctuary in the past. Maybe it’s as simple as I’m a brute force kinda guy, and I like being on offense. Sanctuary seemed like it could be a good spell for a dedicated healer/buffer who never attacks, or situationally as an emergency shield for someone who was about to die until they could pop a potion, but the trade-off of not being able to take any sort of hostile action always left me a little underwhelmed. Consequently, I don’t think I’ve ever taken it as a spell when building characters.

After this? I may have to start because that was pretty close to amazing. Yeah, eventually the boss orc got a critical save and dispelled it, but that pretty much let me hold half the choke point for a good 2-3 rounds taking almost no damage. I kinda lost count, but I think we were up to three orcs that critically failed and couldn’t attack me at all. And though it’s not the spell’s fault, I noticed that even on the few occasions when attacks went through, I had pretty good luck on the hit rolls too.

I don’t know if it’s a strategy that will easily replicate to future games though, so caveat emptor.

First, let’s be honest that we lucked out a little bit that we were facing (mostly) stupid enemies with low Will saves. If they had a few Wisdom-based casters (orc shamans or something), they might have been able to make more saves and put more damage on me and I might have had to retreat. Eyeballing it, it looked like the grunts only had a +2 bonus to the save, and it was DC 19. So their spread of outcomes was 30% critical fail and can never attack me (1-6), 50% regular fail (7-16), 15% regular success (17-19) and a critical success only possible on a Nat-20 (5%).

The other thing is, even with the ability to give actions to Ember, Human Roadblock Duty was still a pretty inefficient way to use one entire party member. It’s not a complaint, exactly… I knew what I was doing was providing value to the party… but it was a little frustrating to give Ember a command than then pretty much have nothing productive to do for the rest of my turn. I think what I’m going for here is an observation that if you ARE going to dabble in the dark arts of the Human Roadblock, maybe use someone who has more defensive/passive actions built into their character, so they’ll have things they can be doing while they clog up the works.

Speaking of Ember, it was nice to finally put my new pet to work. She’s not overpowering – her attack only does 1d8 and I think she’s got fewer hit points than Celes – but it’s an extra source of offense, and being able to set up flanking (especially for Cade’s Sneak Attack) could be useful. If there’s any complaint, it’s a certain sameness that I’ve somehow arrived at playing a pet class in this game AND Dead Suns. But… whatever. Fire Cat Is Good. Fire Cat Is Our Friend. I regret nothing!

The other thing about this fight that gave me a mild chuckle was when the boss orc ran out of reactions and couldn’t use his orc ferocity. You may assume a Nelson Muntz “ha ha” on my part when that happened. After having to deal with all the grunts getting an extra action, I was glad the boss lost his. Fortuitous.

Coincidentally, this is PART of why I haven’t used my champion’s Liberating Step ability more. Fact is, I have three different reaction abilities (block with a shield, Divine Grace to get +2 on a save, or Liberating Step) so there have been times where blocking 3 or 4 damage vs. keeping those other options available didn’t seem like a good trade-off. But now that it’s 5 damage and now that my shield is broken anyway, we’ll probably start to see Liberating Step some more. Some of these future fights, I pretty much use it every round.

Lastly, I’ll re-acknowledge the mistake we’ve been making regarding Lay On Hands. Since the spell level is half the character level (but rounded up), it should only be healing for 12 points at Level 3, not 18. I did use LoH after the boss hit me twice, so it was in play this fight. That said, I was mentally tracking the damage re-listening to the episode, and I don’t think it got close enough to make the difference between dropping or not. It’s more relevant for after-heals, but that just adds time – 10 minutes per cast, times however many extra casts would be required to make the math correct.

So, orc battle survived, we pause to catch our breath, and we’re going to assault the keep next. Unfortunately, as far as we know, the remaining archer probably survived and had time to raise the alarm, so whoever is left in there (Vilree? More orcs?) is going to be ready for us. Will Steve have more orc rhymes left – Spork? Bjork? Peter Tork? I guess you’ll just have to find out next week. In the meantime, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 25: Enough Talk!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 25: Have Fun Storming the Castle!

I feel like since Steve addressed the “where we go next” question in his pre-show commentary, I figured I’d start this week with a little more of an explanation why I decided not to do Extinction Curse. Full disclosure: Steve offered me a slot to keep the merry Plaguestone band together, but I wanted to chime in on why I passed.

The first and simplest answer is time. Between Plaguestone (soon to be Extinction Curse), Dead Suns (soon to be Whatever Follows That), and my home game, I’m playing three times a week, and I’ve come to the realization that’s my saturation point. I absolutely wanted to do Plaguestone and get in on Second Edition as soon as possible, so I didn’t mind burning the candle at both ends for a few months. But now that some of that new gaming system smell has worn off, I think two games is more my comfort zone.

As to why Plaguestone is the one to go, I think that gets into the style of game Extinction Curse is going to be. I mean, it sounds like a GREAT concept for an adventure. Don’t get me wrong. But Steve is hoping that Extinction Curse will take the roleplaying tone that started with Plaguestone to the next level, and… I’m not going to say that’s not me, but it takes a great deal of effort for that to be me for a full three-hour session. Perhaps more than I’m willing to commit. I’m the guy that breaks out in song when someone says a phrase that fits a lyric, or gets lost in Dad Jokes for five minutes, or stops to philosophize about which Hollywood actor would best fit the NPC we’re talking to. Plaguestone eventually reached a happy medium where we let some of that slide, but if the intent is to take that to the next level in Extinction Curse, I’m not sure my Benevolent Assclown persona fits there. So… “this above all, to thine own self be true”. Granted, Hamlet’s “own self” was a deranged murderhobo, but it’s still good advice.

This is not to say I’ll have zero involvement in the new show. As Steve said, I’m currently planning to write a… Talking Circus?… which will be interesting because I’ll be writing completely from the listener’s perspective for the first time. (I listened to the Pathfinder one-shot where everyone died, but never got around to doing a write-up because that’s around the same time all the hardcovers came out.) I also wouldn’t rule out showing up as an NPC at some point. Heck, if life circumstances change, maybe I’ll pull a Seth and jump in halfway. But for now, I’ll be watching from the sidelines.

OK, enough about the game we haven’t started yet. We still have this one to finish. And this week, we do the initial planning for the assault on Spite’s Cradle.

First thing: I didn’t do all the math, so this might be wishful thinking, but I find myself wishing Prue had taken a stab at reverse-engineering potency crystals so we could make more. If you remember, you can figure out how to make a magic item by breaking it down into its components. I didn’t run the math to determine how hard it would be; I don’t know if we have access to the proper ingredients to make more, but a few more One-Round Superhero Crystals would rock right about now.

We also split up all the bombs and potions. The only real footnote here is that bombs are considered martial weapons, so Brixley is actually the most effective bomb-thrower in the party. But that also goes against the idea that he’s supposed to be up front being a meat shield. So I don’t want to just take ALL the bombs, in case I’m stuck in melee and can’t use them, but I do grab a few, just in case. If the battlefield unfolds in such a way that it’s effective for me to be artillery, I’m totally willing to not get punched repeatedly.

When we reach Spite’s Cradle, we start with reconnaissance. I’m smiling internally because this is something our Dead Suns group is absolutely not known for, unless you think John getting impatient and throwing a door open counts as “reconnaissance”. I have to admit as I was re-listening to this, I didn’t really appreciate the full gravity of the situation – there was a scenario where Cade might’ve gotten caught, and been stuck fighting multiple orcs behind a barred gate the rest of us couldn’t get through. (And then once they’d filled Cade up with stabby-holes, could’ve climbed up on the palisade and started shooting arrows at the rest of us from relative safety.) So this could’ve been the shortest ride to the finish ever if Cade had screwed up a roll or two. Somehow I didn’t really appreciate that in the moment and was mostly just impatient to get on with the fight.

Fortunately Cade did not screw up his rolls (at least not the most important ones), and we got a decent picture of the enemy complex. Only two visible orcs in the courtyard, but there are two structures flanking the valley behind the wall – a true building on the northwest side, more of a thrown-together hut to the southeast. At this point, I’m feeling like the hut may just be a guard shack (maybe just for the two in the courtyard, or maybe there are more guards inside) and the structure is the actual villain lair.

Though this is Paizo we’re talking about… definitely more than two orcs.

So now we have to figure out how to get in. Very generally, we’re going to go with “Forest Moon of Endor” gambit – hide our true numbers, do something to get the guards to open the gates, and then rush it. Minus the AT-ST, of course. (Could Prue reverse engineer one of THOSE?)

At first, I was a little disappointed the group didn’t go with my plan of using Ember as bait, but thinking back on it, it was actually kind of a weak plan. If the orcs were under strict orders to hold their posts, a random fire-kitty prancing around outside their perimeter might not have been enough to get them to investigate. Especially not when Vilree’s been parading weird beasties past them for months, if not years. They’d probably be like “Yeah, yeah… fire cat. Third one this week. Hey Gorth, remember the one that ate your favorite boots?”

So I guess we’re going with that old standby: “I Have A Prisoner”. If it was good enough for Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, it’s good enough for us. The classics never truly go out of style. On the plus side, we do have a partially maimed, menacing-looking half-orc, so we’ve got a natural advantage in the guard department. I’m just not thrilled that Brixley has to be the prisoner. Even faking it, my pride is wounded by the idea of being fake-captured. But I can’t stealth into position like Cade, we don’t want a plan that puts our squishy caster (Celes) up front, so… A Prisoner Is You. Deal with it.

I don’t know if it worked exactly. They didn’t exactly seem to be buying what she was selling, but it got them to open the door open enough for Prue to rush it the rest of the way. It felt kind of like the scene from the second (lesser) Conan movie where the bad guy is doing his little speech and Conan yells “ENOUGH TALK” and just throws a dagger into the belly of a dude wearing some of the most improbable minion armor in movie villain history. Vision obscuring mask, skirts that could tangle my lower-body movement without providing any protection, absolutely no center mass protection? WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

(Then again, Conan is basically nekkid, so maybe I should just leave such complaints at the door.)

Sorry… I digress. (See, this is why I can’t be in Extinction Curse. I’m telling you…) The doors are open, we have a foothold, and now we have to fight our way in… and that’s where we’re going to leave it for the week. Come back next time and find out how many secret orc reinforcements were hiding in wait for us, and see if we survive. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media, and join the ongoing festivities. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.