Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|15: Sting Operation.
This week’s episode is somewhat of an achievement for Roll For Combat – a two-hour episode, that’s BASICALLY the resolution a single fight (but not a boss fight – we’ve had 2-hour boss fights before). And mixed in, we had a mid-episode leveling break.
And it all starts with a swarm, the nemesis of many a player over the years. Personally I still hate incorporeal creatures worse than swarms, but the gap is definitely narrowing.
Let’s start with the differences between First Edition and Second Edition swarms. The truth is it’s a bit of a mixed bag – in some ways, they’re better; in others, they’re far worse. And in both editions, they’re a struggle for low-level players to deal with because low-level characters don’t tend to have a lot of area-effect tools unless they SPECIFICALLY prepare for one. Melees don’t usually have ANY area damage, and casters MIGHT have one 1st-level cone or burst spell if they chose their spells wisely.
On the good side, swarms are generally easier to hit and damage in Second Edition – they removed the immunity to single-target spells and modeled a lot of the damage reduction as flat resistances instead of “half damage” or “no damage”. (For the wasps, it was bludgeoning 7, piercing 7, and slashing 3). So you can use more of your toolkit against a swarm and still stand a chance of doing some damage. Area damage is still the ideal, but you can whittle away with other tools.
But here’s where they’re much MUCH worse. Swarms in First Edition did automatic damage, but it was a small amount – even up to 5 hit dice, a First Edition swarm only does 1d6 damage, once a round. Meanwhile, those wasps were doing 2d8, AND inflicting poison. So yeah, you can hit them more often, but they can hit the players more – and harder – as well. The net effect is that offensively, it’s closer to a full monster, but with a bunch of swarm resistances.
So our team of adventurers makes a valiant first try at beating the wasps, and boy it just… does not go well, does it? Both Varus siblings in serious distress, Hap blows her most effective spell (Burning Hands) and does almost minimum damage, the poor dog gets summoned only to serve as a sacrifice… honestly, it’s a miracle this didn’t end in a TPK. Tactically it also didn’t help that they bunched up and made the swarm’s job easy, but I don’t think spreading out would’ve changed the central dynamic of the fight.
On the bright side, we learned a lot about door-hinge technology in the process. Screw putting an icon into Roll20 – we need a “Door of Many Hinges” T-shirt on the website. Perhaps the artwork can be a door where one entire side is a single, massive hinge. Or many hinges made of different metals with different gemstones. Though the door itself should be as ordinary as possible, just to stick a further finger in Rob T’s eye.
Brief digression: Steve didn’t explain this fully, but Rob T. has a history of bad luck with doors. In one of our Starfinder Society games, he was playing an Operative and spent four or five rounds unsuccessfully trying to open a door while we were in combat against space zombies. Never did get it open. Then in our Black Lodge game, his dwarven fighter tried to muscle his way through a door and met with similarly disastrous results. I suppose Darius critting the hinges this time redeemed him a little, but doors still hold a 2-1 lead over Rob in the grand scheme of things.
So the team has to limp back to camp in semi-humiliating fashion (the Minister of Dad Jokes would ask if they had “Bee-TSD” after that fight?), but it’s always darkest before the dawn, as the team levels up overnight! Level 3! At first glance, Level 3 tends to be a boring level for melees, but casters get their first Level 2 spells, and more hitpoints are an across-the-board good thing.
Though on a personal level, I feel like I have to mock Vanessa a little bit next time I see her. After making much fun of me for taking Quick Jump with Brixley (eliminates the run-up action for jumping), she goes and takes Powerful Leaper? That doesn’t seem fair. Then again: Alhara is a swashbuckler and leaping around is an inherent part of her character whereas Brixley is a stubby little gnome in heavy armor – leaping isn’t really much of a priority for him.
I have to admit I’m intrigued by Hap’s unknown ancestry. Obviously there’s not much to say about it yet, because it’s… well… you know… a mystery, but if she’s feeling cold, does that imply she’s got latent fire elemental DNA that’s starting to come to the surface? Is Hap eventually going to ignite and become The Human Torch? If so, I am absolutely down for that.
For the immediate situation, leveling isn’t half as important as the fact that the team can gear up properly for the rematch with the wasps. That means antidotes for the wasp poison, alchemical fires so there’s splash damage available to the melees, and Hap can overload her spell list with extra casts of Burning Hands. It’s kind of rare to go into a situation where you know EXACTLY what you’re gonna fight, so when it does happen, you might as well make the most of it. This is one of those few cases where even if you’re more of a roleplay group… yeah, min-max the crap out of it.
And guess what: armed with better knowledge what they’re up against and better tools for dealing with it, the rematch is actually a fairly easy win for the Wayward Wonders crew. WASPS BEGONE! The mill has been (mostly) reclaimed… after a quick recon of the premises to make sure there’s no more trouble. At first things look calm – even calm enough to allow Ateran and Darius to get into a grumbling match about whether to use the mending oil on the door or not – but then right at the end, moving the furniture around sets off the combat alarm, and we’ve got at least one more fight on deck for next week.
And that’s where we’ll pick things up next time. As always, feel free to stop by our Discord channel or other social media, let us know what you think of the show, and join in the ongoing merriment. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.