Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 23: The Legend of Ol’ Woody.
With Steve on vacation, I get to be the first to welcome you to… “RFC2020” (assuming I’m doing jazz hands). I hope you rang in the new year well, whether that’s partying up or… say… binge-watching the entire first season of The Witcher. You know… as I’ve heard people do.
This is one of those episodes I’ve been waiting for. This is my Dead Poets Society moment where Ethan Hawke has to freeform the “sweaty-toothed madman” poem about Walt Whitman. I knew where I wanted it to go, but didn’t know how I’d get there, and it was a little bit of an unnerving whirlwind of roleplay. But I think it turned out well in the end.
Let’s pull back the curtain a little bit. I’ll admit that Steve and I coordinated the broadest of strokes – that I would take Divine Steed if we could work out a way that Fire Kitty could be my steed. I’ll admit I briefly considered just surprising Steve at the table to see how he handled it, but realistically, it had to be that way because I had rules questions I needed him to answer before committing. If I misunderstood the rules and saddled myself with a steed I couldn’t use (or if Fire Kitty couldn’t work and I just ended up with a boring old horse), that would suck. So it couldn’t be a surprise to EVERYONE. Beyond that, everything else was ad-libbed, and I specifically didn’t let the rest of the group know because I wanted somebody to be surprised.
As an aside, this was also why I trained in Nature – figured it would be useful in handling the pet. At the time I chose to play it off as story-telling… “Brixley immersed himself in nature, it was helpful for the campaign, blahblahblah”… but it was All Part Of The Plan. For similar reasons, I thought about taking Ride as my general feat, but that would’ve given the game away, and I can always take it later.
The first question I had for Steve was a fairly specific rules-lawyer: do ALL the rules for animal companions apply to mounts or is it just a mount? The dirty little secret is that mounted combat – at least at low levels – doesn’t really get you that much. You don’t get extra actions, the mount shares your penalty for multiple attacks… other than the fact that your mount gives your attacks a special property (for cats, I think it’s a trip effect or something), there’s really not much point. Again, this is at low levels: at higher levels, there are feats that can make it more efficient. But at low levels, it’s tactically underwhelming.
But here’s where it gets interesting… a champion’s steed is also described as an “animal companion”, and Paizo is usually pretty intentional when it comes to using keywords. An animal companion can be given commands that serve as a 2-for-1 action trade – you use one action to give your animal companion two. (If you’re listening to our Dead Suns Starfinder show, it’s not dissimilar to the Tuttle-CHDRR dynamic.) If you can use a divine steed THAT way, it starts to become more useful. Though also a little ranger-y. Like Technicolor Drizzt.
The second question as more obvious and high-level: how would I be allowed to ride a cat that’s on fire all the time? I had been thinking that maybe Steve could arrange to put a ring of fire resistance in a future treasure haul, or perhaps that Metamon could help craft a saddle that has fire resistance or something. But that was one of those things where if Steve agreed we’d at least solve it at SOME point, I was willing to play the long game and defer to Steve as to how, and even WHEN, we’d deal with it. If I could use it as a non-rideable pet in the short term, I was willing to let the fire issue be something we’d solve over a longer timeframe. It turns out Steve decided to hand-wave it and just give it to me, so… yay me, I guess!
So figuring out those rules questions was the extent of the coordination. Everything else was whipped up in the moment. From my standpoint, my thinking on using the church was twofold. First, it would just generally preserve the element of surprise until the last possible minute rather than just saying “oh, by the way, Fire Kitty is my pet now” when we leveled up. Second, I was thinking that conducting my Divine Ally ritual at the church would be a way to give Steve a window to maybe fold the reward from that side quest into this or include Metamon in the logistical side of things. The specifics of the ritual, including dragging Old Woody into it, having to make a toast, throwing open the doors, going on the victory ride… that was all just me and Steve figuring out where to take it in the moment.
I have to admit there was one moment I laughed out loud at while re-listening: when I describe drinking Old Woody as being a “good role model”, and Rob deadpans “yes, gather the children”. I don’t know if I was too locked in on how I was going to roleplay the ritual to appreciate that the first time, but something about the way he delivered that line killed me.
In moments of calm, I do wonder if I’m making the right call here. The elephant in the room is that the Divine Weapon boon would’ve probably still been the tactically wiser choice. A pet might give you an extra attack and set up some flanking if you use it right, but it’s still a little situational and you have to give up one of your own actions to use it. Magic weapon? That’s handy every time you swing it, especially if you apply the right effect (ghost touch alone is SO worth it). But storytelling won the day — it just seemed like such a good way to weave the Plaguestone story and my character’s arc together… it felt too good to pass up.
You will probably notice I pretty much disappear for the rest of the episode. It’s kind of a three-fold thing. First, I’m not a natural roleplayer, so that took a surprising amount of “effort” (yeah, I know it’s not busting rocks or anything) and once it was over, I needed to mentally recharge. Second, I felt just a twinge of guilt for hogging the spotlight and I wanted to step back and let other people have the floor for a while. But also, if I’m being honest, part of it was as basic as coming up with a suitable name. I hope you guys find “Ember” fitting. At some point, all those “FireSomething” names started sounding like discount-rack members of the X-Men, while Ember sounded more simple and elegant.
Sorry we couldn’t make a contest work, but then again, I’m not sure I relish the idea of having my beautiful new pet saddled with the name “Firecat McFirecatface” if you guys had wanted to be troublemakers. So Ember it is.
So the rest of the episode passes uneventfully. Cade helps set Pari up with an internship with the caravan, more turnips are consumed, and we’ll probably be hitting the road again next week. Once you’re done enjoying your remaining holidays (me, I’m back at work today), feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you thought of the show. Heck, you can still vote on what you WOULD have named the cat if we’d actually subjected it to the democratic process. Thanks for listening, happy new year, and we’ll see you back here next week!