Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|39: Xulgaths in the Tower.
I’m a little out of my routine today – work gave us an extra vacation day on Monday, so I spent a good chunk of the day thinking it was Wednesday, and now I’m playing catchup. Either that or time has lost meaning as I’ve moved on from election-related doomscrolling to repeatedly clicking REFRESH on a bunch of PS5 websites. It’s still a blur, just a blur of a different color.
In the meantime, we have a pretty fun episode this week, as we resolve the final boss of the temple, and even of Book 1 of the adventure path. However, I suppose I should start by taking a little run at the show notes. I found the discussion of Bartle’s Player Types to be interesting, though Pedantic Me feels compelled to mention those were developed in the context of computer-based MMORPGs. So it feels like there’s something social already baked into the decision to play a tabletop RPG with other live people instead of just loading up Neverwinter Nights or something. Playing make-believe with your friends is an inherently social act.
Of those personal measures, I would say I’m mostly the Achiever type, depending on where “story points” fall on the spectrum. Is revealing the story an achievement, or an exploration activity? Feels more like an achievement; exploration would be ignoring the story entirely and just spending the entire session talking to NPCs at the tavern or wandering off into the woods. I’m DEFINITELY not the Killer type – other than maybe Overwatch, I pretty much avoid PvP games entirely. And I’m pretty neutral on the Socializer type – I certainly don’t mind gaming with new people, but it’s also not the reason I pick this activity over any other. Nah, me, I’m about building out my character – new spells, better equipment, etc. – and unravelling the story the GM has put in front of us, which seems to be cut mostly from the Achiever cloth.
As far as Steve’s other point, about people playing characters kind of like themselves… I don’t know how other people do it, but I always build my character portrayals around guiding concept (occasionally a mix of two) and then fill in the blanks around it. But the “fill in the blanks” is probably usually just “me”. The guiding concept doesn’t necessarily have to be a true thing about me, but it’s usually someone I’ve met, or a fictional character I’m trying to emulate. Something I can use to frame the character I’m going for. Tuttle Blacktail was based off a former coworker who was a nice guy one-on-one but always had to establish himself as the smartest guy in the room, to the point of being really abrasive in some settings. Brixley was drawn a little bit from Gilderoy Lockhart from the Harry Potter books – a foppish guy whose real-world skills don’t line up with the version of himself that he puts out there — but with a bit more of a down-to-earth Seth Rogen streak when the adventuring day is done. Basil hews toward the Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes, but he’s got a warmer side Holmes lacks. In fact, one could suppose that’s why I never really found a “voice” for Nella in the Black Lodge game… I chose that character mostly on the class and powers; never really figured out the guiding concept for her.
But enough about me. On to this week’s action.
First, I love the open-ended speculation about gelatinous cube-powered outhouses. Someone at Paizo needs to go ahead and make that canon. It’s a win-win. Golarion gets its basic sanitation needs covered; gelatinous cubes find a purpose and a steady stream of… ahem… nutrition.
The episode breaks into two battles. The first is a flat-out squash match – the poor pteranodon was pretty much done in one round. Not much to write about there except that it would’ve been nice if they’d found a way to bring it back to the circus. A flying dinosaur might have made for an interesting act.
The boss fight, on the other hand, was also a fairly quick flight, but that felt like a bit of missed potential. This one feels like it could’ve been more, except that the boss just got kind of unlucky with its rolls and the party got lucky with theirs. First, you have the whole hazard of falling off the tower, which would pretty much mean instant death. (Or, for that matter, I was a little worried about Hap or Ateran suffering a critical fail climbing up.) There aren’t a lot of ways to invoke the catastrophic death rules, but a 100 foot fall… yeah, that would probably do it.
But then a key moment was when the boss xulgath charged up his hammer and missed Alhara by rolling a 2 (still a 19 with +17… oof). If he connects… much less crits… that had the potential to change the whole landscape of the fight. Alhara would’ve likely been knocked out, the focus of the other party members would’ve had to switch to healing her, and it goes from a fight where the party is dictating the pace of the fight to one where the enemy is. Luckily, he misses, and the party is able to stay on the offensive and make fairly quick work of the final boss. Similarly, Alhara landing the trip was also a big turning point; getting the guy prone – not just a failure but a critical failure — and getting a bunch of advantages to hit made it easier to get downstream crits against him.
(Though at the risk of diminishing the party’s achievement… he’s still a xulgath. Most of those guys have been fairly cannon-foddery. Maybe the succubus was really the Big Bad and this guy was just her tool. Speaking of which… I still half-expected to see her up here, but I guess she got out of Dodge instead of sticking around for the final fight. Will we see her again down the road?)
So after the fight, we get a bit of a lore dump – the xulgaths were attempting to corrupt/destroy the orb that powers the tower, and by virtue of saving the tower, the players get a perma-boon that doesn’t take up a magic slot. Even without knowing the specific benefit, that strikes me as a pretty powerful thing – it’s basically like getting a free feat. The team also claims some papers that might give additional insights, but we’ll probably address those back in town, because our intrepid adventurers still have a final circus show to do before moving on to the next town. This is still the PENULTIMATE episode after all.
And OK… I laughed at Hap just leaping off the tower and Feather Falling down. Another Very Hap thing to do…
So next week, I suppose we get newly-leveled characters, put on the last circus show in this town, and then figure out where the circus goes to next. As always, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.