Talking Combat 118: Hack The Planet! - Roll For Combat

Talking Combat 118: Hack The Planet!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 118: Undead of Unusual Size.

This week’s column is going to be a bit of a rush job, as I had an unexpected childhood friend come to town and lost more of my weekend to frivolity than I planned. Also, I may or may not be in self-imposed shame exile because “Undead of Unusual Size” was originally my joke (from last week’s Talking) and I forgot that ellicoths aren’t actually undead, thus nullifying the entire premise. SHAME! SHAME! (rings bell)

The battle itself turns out to not be that big of a deal… and that’s kind of been a recurring theme for Starfinder. Things that JUST have a lot of hit points and nothing else going for them have not traditionally been that hard for us. Mo lands a crit or two, Bob’s Get ‘Em usually means we can do full attacks against them and still stand a chance of hitting both attacks, and we can usually chop ‘em down fairly quickly. The fact that they had reach was a little bit of a nuisance at first, but once the first one dropped we pretty much had enough room to move safely. Either that or Mo could afford to eat the first attack of opportunity and let the rest of us move freely.

The radiation could have been a problem in a different setting. If we’d run across an ellicoth on Castrovel, when we were sometimes not wearing our armor to save on the total days of cooling, that could’ve gotten messy fast. (Or if someone had gotten behind the upgrade curve and still had level 5 or 6 armor.) But in a scenario where you’re already wearing a de facto Hazmat suit… it’s kind of shrugworthy. I don’t know if this was bad creature design, or just pairing them with an encounter where people are already going to be geared for it is the issue.

I kinda retroactively liked Steve’s idea of having a couple of support troops with them. Not only might have that been a way to spice up the encounter a little and mix in some different dynamics, but it does seem kind of odd you’d leave (essentially) farm animals to guard a train station with no humanoid supervision. But whatever… big beasties it is. I guess I leave my dogs to guard the house when I go to the grocery store; maybe this is the same concept. Except I apparently need to make stilts for my dogs to get the full ellicoth effect.

I’ll have to admit I got a little frustrated toward the end when Seth was trying to lawyer Steve into a roll on re-routing the guards once they had already been called. I have some sympathy that on a storytelling/improv level you want to say yes to players rather than just shutting them down cold – it’s that whole “spirit of cooperation” vibe. But at the same time, there are limits to that. Some things in life are just flat “no”s, and I’m not sure the GM is required to give out a roll on an impossibility just to humor the party. I mean, where does that logic end… if I proclaim that Tuttle learned how to breathe fire, how many Nat-20s do I have to roll before Steve has to let me do that? Or is it on us as players to SOMETIMES accept that X, Y, and Z are just impossible in this story and work with that?

I’m gonna stick with this for a second and go a little more granular. I’m an IT guy, and this scenario is mostly a computer problem, so it’s kind of in my wheelhouse. I would say there are probably five broad classifications of things I run across in my day job. I would call it easy, easy with dependencies, hard, long-term projects, and impossible.

The first three are a kind of classic problem resolution with increasing levels of difficulty. You know what you have to do, you might even have all the knowledge and tools you need to fix it, but it will take some non-zero amount of time to accomplish. And in the middle case, it’s a conceptually easy fix, but there are binary failure conditions where if you don’t have the right password/cable/tool, it becomes a harder or impossible problem. The long-term project stuff is something where articulating the problem on a theoretical level is easy, you might even have a sense of what you have to do to fix it, but there’s no realistic way you could do that quickly – it’s an hours/days/weeks effort. And then there’s impossible, like getting an air-gapped computer to talk on the Internet or retrieving usable data from a single disk pulled out of a RAID array. You can want to solve those problems all you want, but you’re not going to succeed.

OK, so how does all of this tie back to Seth’s request? Well, going back in time a few episodes, installing and using TombRobber was probably an “easy with dependencies” situation. Once Tuttle got access to the right computer system, running TombRobber was just like running any other program. The idea Seth had in the previous episode with re-routing the trains or crashing them on purpose was more like a long-term project – if Tuttle could’ve studied the system for a few hours or days, he might have been able to re-write the system, but it hardly seems like the sort of thing he could’ve done in five minutes. But the fact that the captain or the admiral (I presume) saw their ellicoths dying and had already called troops to come back… I mean, that’s not really even a computer problem anymore. The message already went out. That’s a “the captain of the ship has ordered guys to Hangar Bay 23, we’re in Hangar Bay 23, we need to not be here when they get here” problem. I’m no military expert, but I don’t even think recalling the order would work as a matter of protocol: if your captain orders you to return to the bridge and then some computer says “never mind”, you probably still come to the bridge.

At any rate, we win the battle, we’ve got a foothold on the command level, but the clock is running. Whoever is on the bridge is at least generally aware we’re on our way even if they can’t see us on the security scans, and reinforcements are on the way. The sprint to the finish begins now.

And that’s where we’ll pick it up. Feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you think of the action and join in the ongoing merry-making. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week!