Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 03: Murder By Death.
This week we have one of those transitional episodes – there’s no combat (until the last 10 seconds), but it’s also not a full-on social skills challenge either. It’s mostly just setting the table – fleshing out the story points, introducing most of the major NPCs, delivering a little bit of plot exposition and setting. You have these moments, particularly early on in a story. The weird thing is the tonal shift in the middle – we start with a very well-defined murder mystery vibe going, and then – kind of abruptly, frankly – shift into this more folksy “Prairie Home Companion” vibe where we’re pushing the old guy around and getting a history lesson about the town.
First things first, I was a LITTLE worried the sheriff might try to pin the murder on us and the thrust of the campaign would be to prove ourselves innocent. Unless there’s one heck of a plot twist coming, that doesn’t appear to be the case – John Law just feels a little overmatched (or… lazy) and wants to deputize us to do the heavy lifting of solving Bort’s murder. Certainly, Brixley is up for that; despite being more chaotic than lawful, he’s still got that do-gooder gene going for him. You can’t live free if you’re dead.
I do have to admit the idea that we couldn’t leave the town for a month until the judge gets back is a bit contrived, and would also annoy Brixley as an alignment thing. It’s not like they have a large standing militia or walls that would… you know… stop us from leaving. For half a second, I thought about staging a mutiny and seeing what would happen if we tried to leave… after all, except for the town bully, who would stop us? But I think that would’ve just pisssed Steve off, and sometimes you just roll with things to keep the story moving. Episode 3 is a little early to be peeing in the punchbowl.
Going back and listening, I feel like I sound kind of stupid asking “are we sure Bort was poisoned” but I more meant it as “should we check the body for bite marks on the off chance he got bit by the wolves and got some sort of disease, but we didn’t notice?”. So it wasn’t a COMPLETE reach, but yes… I do recognize poisoned porridge is the 99th-percentile answer to this puzzle. I’m not a complete moron.
Or maybe it was a severe turnip allergy. But wait… if he’s been coming here for years, he probably would’ve had an incident before now. Never mind.
So we participate in the impromptu wake for Bert… errr… Bort (OK, that amused me when Vanessa did that) and Cade takes some very cursory first steps toward investigating the murder itself. But then we go to bed because we’re tired, wake up the next morning, and our murder mystery has morphed into that really clunky reboot of Are You Being Served? where they move out to the country farm, and we’re doing chores, including pushing the latest iteration of Mister Grace around in his wheelchair.
As we do this, we get a lore-dump on the history of the town… there’s a witch that may have put a curse on the town, a PowerPoint on their turnip-based economy, all the good stuff. We finally arrive at a shrine to Gozreh, where… oh Celes… OF COURSE you don’t go walking up to abandoned shrines. Yup, time to fight some Things We Used to Call Stirges. The official name is “bloodseekers” now. And that’s where we pick things up next week.
My personal unofficial side mission this episode was to start to figure out how Brixley is going to relate to the rest of the party on a roleplay level. I fully admit it takes me a few sessions to figure out where my character fits, especially when playing with mostly-new players.
The relationship with Celes is taking shape most quickly. Initial positive vibes built by the fact that she chose to trust him with the secret of her magic use, but he kind of sees the naivete and “fish out of water”-ness and will probably feel like he’s got a little bit of an obligation to watch her back. (I mean, Brixley’s naïve too in his own way, but nobody tell him that.)
Cade… there’s probably going to be a little battle between the Chaotic and the Good sides that has to work itself out in Brixley’s head. On one hand, another affable short guy to help close the bar is a good thing; on the other hand, Brixley might take a dim view of things like picking pockets during a bar fight. Some of that will also depend on the choices Rob makes, but for right now, it’s superficially friendly, but with a little bit of internal “better keep an eye on that guy” vibe. Never take your eye off the guy with concealed daggers.
Prue? There’s probably going to be a little bit of “top dog” competitive tension as they’re the two heavy fighters of the team. There’s some basic level of respect for the fact that she’s a formidable warrior, but between his noble background and some level of (over-)confidence that his deity makes him right about stuff, I could see there starting to be some tensions if/when this (in his view) “scruffy barbarian with sketchy ghost magic” starts bossing him around. Or it could turn into a Legolas-Gimli thing where they’ll start keeping score of body counts. I guess we’ll just have to see.
The one thing I think I’ve been doing “wrong” the first few episodes is that Brixley is reasonably high-Charisma, and also a bit of an idealistic crusader. So he should probably be stepping up and taking charge a little more (or at least assuming he’s in charge) than I’ve been doing, and I’ve been a little more passive these first couple episodes. Something to work on for future episodes.
So… bit of a transition episode this week, but we’ll get back into the thick of combat next week and try to keep our blood from being sucked out of our bodies. Feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show, and we’ll see you back here next week. Thanks for listening!