Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 09: Crit Happens.
Today we learned that boss battles are TOUGH in Second Edition.
And for what it’s worth, it’s not just us. We’ve been hearing this from other people who have been playing through this adventure – there are quite a few people who had a tough time or even a TPK on this fight. I’ve been thinking about this battle for a while, and I think this is a byproduct of how the math interacts with the new system.
Think about it. Usually boss battles are set to a CR that’s a little higher than your cannon-fodder creatures. And that usually means they have higher to-hit rolls, right? (NOTE: At the end of the episode, Steve mentions Hallod’s bonuses were +11 unarmed and +12 with his kukri.)
That’s going to create two challenges in the new system. First, the -5 penalty for multiple attacks isn’t as much of a deterrent if it’s a boss who already starts +11 or +12 against the party. His second attack is as good as our first attack, so bosses are probably going to hit on follow-up attacks more frequently than the party will. Second, and more relevant to this fight, a boss that’s at +11 or +12 is going to have a better chance to crit (at least on the first attack) in Second Edition than in First Edition. PF1 gives you a crit on a 20, so a flat 5% chance. In second edition, even with my AC of 20 (with shield up), Hallod could’ve critted on an 18 with the kukri, and I think Cade and Prue have lower ACs than I do. If I had my shield down, make it a 16 or higher to crit: a whopping 25% chance.
I do get the feeling this fight might’ve been easier if we’d had a stronger ranged component in our arsenal. If you think about the battlefield, it’s got tripwires and difficult terrain to prevent advances but it’s also got crates and barrels to hide behind. It kind of made for a slow initial advance, and Hallod was able to pick us off one-by-one for a few rounds before we got all three melees up in his face. I think of Cade in particular – we lost the strategic advantage of his sneak attack because nobody else could get up there to create flanking for him.
Frankly, it feels like grinding him down from behind cover might have been a good tactic to employ here. Unless he can fast-load his crossbow, he would’ve basically gotten one attack per round and we would’ve had 3 or 4. But we don’t really have a strong ranged element in our party – Celes has her Produce Flame, Cade has his slingstaff, but I don’t have anything and I don’t think I’ve seen Prue use a ranged weapon either.
Speaking of ranged weapons: WHO PUTS TRAPS ON A PERFECTLY GOOD BATTLEFIELD? (Oh wait, a rogue, that’s who.) This whole fight got off to a bad start when Prue sets off a trip-wire and eats a crit from a concealed crossbow. Celes heals her and got her back on her feet, but it kind of threw our tactics out the window from the jump.
And if ALL of that wasn’t enough, Hallod can also do attacks of opportunity, making it even harder to navigate the fight. Poor Cade gets to be the celebrity spokesmodel for Getting Unexpectedly Punched In The Head, and then the rest of us have to tread lightly so we don’t do the same.
On the plus side, we get to really put our hero points to good use, between reviving from death and re-rolling crappy attack rolls. I have to admit I was a little iffy on the Hero Point system at first, but it’s starting to grow on me. Though I find myself wishing there was “anti-hero point” where you could force an enemy to re-roll… hmmm… I don’t know… one of Prue’s two crits, maybe?
We also got to see Brixley’s shield eat a few attacks, and I’m starting to feel a little uneasy about this system. Basically, my shield – a STEEL shield – was able to take all of TWO hits before it was broken. That seems a little… off. I don’t exactly know how you’d change it… more hardness? maybe a save to resist the breakage?… but I’m still concerned about reaching a point (not necessarily this adventure but in general) where I have to carry four or five shields around at all times. (Or maybe I invest a skill train in Crafting so I can fix on the fly.) To be fair though, I got through every battle leading up to the boss fight without taking ANY shield damage, so I don’t know if it’s a general issue or just another wrinkle that specifically comes out in boss-fights.
So Cade gets knocked out on an attack of opportunity, Prue eats her second crit of the fight and is down, and it’s down to Brixley tanking and Celes chucking fire from afar. Even with the shield, Hallod’s first batch of attacks on me took about half my health and broke my shield, so this was basically one round from turning even worse than it already was. I thought about using Lay on Hands to get someone back up (Prue would’ve physically been closest – I would’ve had to eat an AoO to reach Cade), but it did feel like Hallod was close to going down, so I decided to push through, and… whew. Just made it. BOSS DEFEATED.
Well, sub-boss, anyway. After the fight, we get a little more plot, in the form of a letter Hallod was carrying. It turns out Hallod was not the alchemist but was just an errand boy for “V”, whoever that is. We also get some treasure (mostly stuff for Cade, but still… stuff is stuff), and we have enough points to level next time we have a chance to rest. Huzzah!
Next week, we’ll return triumphantly to town, rest and recuperate, hopefully level up, and maybe start to take a further crack at figuring out who “V” might be. We also still have a few side mysteries – finding out whether Celes is really related to the mayor and investigating the house Sir Kent thought was infested with undead. Until next week, feel free to drop by our Discord channel, let us know what you think of the show, and join in the online shenanigans. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.