Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 117: The Taking of Blackwind 123.
Welcome to a new year of the Dead Suns podcast, and we’re rolling toward the finish line of the adventure path. This week is mostly a transitional week, as we spend most of it riding the train to what we hope is the final destination. Oh, and we pause to level up, so that’s nice if a little anti-climactic.
First, turning to the world of pop culture, I have to confess, as the non-New Yorker, I don’t have the same affinity for The Taking Of Pelham 123 that the others do. Actually, I don’t even think I’ve seen it, so I guess I’ll have to join the rest of you in renting it. On the other hand, as a Pittsburgh native, the mall in the original 1978 Dawn Of The Dead was the one I used to go to all the time, so that’s pretty cool… (For the record, it still exists, but the skating rink is long gone.)
I’ve never played an extended session with Seth, so I’m on the dividing line between “crazy like a fox” and “needlessly overcomplicating things”. Maybe a little of both. I do kind of get where he’s coming from – if we only get one use of the Tomb Robber computer virus, maybe we could create ourselves a second distraction with the train car itself. So I get why he was pushing the Pelham 123 plan. On the other hand, this is one of those times where you could see the rails just a little – after a certain point, it really felt like the Tomb Robber was the MacGuffin to get to the train station on the command deck, at which point we’d have to fight it out the rest of the way. At least that’s the way it seemed to me.
As a brief aside, it’s always been a little fuzzy to me how much these trains are truly independent vehicles, and how much they’re point-to-point, like a glorified elevator, but on a massive scale. Sometimes it seems like we should have fairly granular control; other times, it seems like you just push a button and end up somewhere. At the end of the day… whatever gets us where the plot needs us to be.
Steve does have a point about players needlessly complicating situations sometimes. Over the holiday break, we had just such an occasion in my home game. One of our characters… OK, fine, me; low-level monks are squishy… died and the party didn’t have enough money for the raise dead ritual. The church offered the remaining party a reduced rate if they’d steal a rival evil cult’s holy symbol from their temple. The cult HQ had an alleyway with a window and a locked door… so, have the stealthiest character sneak in and steal the symbol. Easy enough, right? Instead, we had the most morally ambiguous party member (my son) decide to use Charisma, tell the evil cult the plan and suggest they make us a fake holy symbol to let us use instead. (This was after our supposedly good-aligned characters floated the idea of paying town drunks a few silver to have a bum fight in front of the cult’s hideout to serve as a distraction.) My son’s plan got surprisingly further than I thought it would because he rolled a nat 20 on his initial persuasion check, but UN-surprisingly, the plan unraveled and ended in combat, and just short of a TPK.
Luckily, we have no such problems with our computer and engineering checks, and it’s fairly smooth sailing. Though, to be fair, part of that smooth sailing was Steve taking out a fight that was supposed to happen on the moving trains. Which… not gonna lie, as a spectacle, it sounds GREAT – particularly if there would be jumping back and forth between the trains – but I’m just as happy to not do it because of the resource crunch we’re up against. It feels like we have either zero or MAYBE one long rest left (depends how much command deck there is), so burning a bunch of resources before we even reach the command deck would’ve been a little frustrating.
In between, we level up to 12, and I think this is one of those places where it’s underwhelming because the metagame tends to restrict choices. The thing is: we know we’re getting toward the end and that a final battle is coming, so optimizing for combat tends to dominate the conversation at this point. It’s hard to imagine a non-combat ability that would be much of a game-changer, but a lot of the combat options are underwhelming. Energy Shield, which was my selection, is basically worth about one hit, and that was probably the best choice I could make. Now, if the campaign was continuing, Energy Shield would lead to Improved Energy Shield, and that would at least be something, but I don’t see there being another two levels of progression either. So… one free hit it shall be, I suppose.
So we reach the destination station. The good news is that Tomb Robber did its work and most of the enemy forces have left. The bad news is they didn’t leave the place totally undefended. Which… OK, doing so would be pretty stupid, if we’re being honest. Instead, it’s not one but four of… well… something. Larger than humanoid, that’s all I’ll say for now.
I’m going to wrap things up for now – it’s been a little bit of a hectic week, getting back into the post-holiday routine. Hopefully, you’ll join us next week when we begin our assault on the command deck and fight the Undead of Unusual Size… after all, if you’ve been with us for two years, might as well stick around and see how it all turns out. In the meantime, feel free to stop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show; we’ve been a little absent over the holidays, but we’re starting to find our collective way back. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you back here next week.