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.