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Talking Combat 010: We’re Rusty the Baliff


Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 010: Quid Pro Cronut.

Unfortunately, I accidentally scooped Steve and talked about leveling in last week’s Talking Combat, so I really don’t have much to add to his pre-game commentary. Oops.

I will chime in a little on “bleeding encounters” a little bit since I might be the person who first mentioned the term. (FYI, the term relates to fighting more than one encounter at a time… hence, “bleeding” one “encounter” into another.) I’d like to clarify Steve’s assessment of my personal courage level – yes, our group does a fair amount of it, but within that, I’m by far the most conservative/cautious member of our group. I’d probably rank it as Chris/John/Bob/me, though Bob is the most variable one – sometimes he’s almost as aggressive as Chris; other times he’s more of a slow-player like me.

For me, it’s all about getting a good flow, and not sitting at either extreme. At one end, you’ve got “OMG let’s rest after every battle” (coincidentally, also the approved method for playing Neverwinter Nights). I’ve been in groups like that, and it breaks the flow of the game and makes your character feel weak and completely un-heroic. I AM AURENDOR THE KINDA-BOLD-BUT-DON’T-MAKE-ME-FIGHT-MORE-THAN-FOUR-ORCS-TODAY-BECAUSE-I-JUST-CAN’T-HANDLE-THAT. At the opposite extreme, bleeding encounters and biting off more than you can chew can be a whole lot of fun and generate some great moments… right up until you wipe the entire group. I don’t think we’ve had a TPK any time recently, but we’ve definitely lost a man or two in our travels by being a little too cocky.

For the record, in the game I play with my son, we had a lot of these early on (though they are learning). Three teenagers who ALL want to be the focus of the action = three people opening separate doors at the exact same time? To paraphrase Tommy Wiseau: “Oh, hi ghouls!

Turning to this week’s action, I have to admit I find our role in this upcoming expedition a little ill-defined. We’re not actually the ones doing the arbitration, so it’s not like we’re the ones who decide who gets the Drift Rock. Even if we wanted to influence the outcome by tweaking the evidence – you know… just spit-balling here… screw over Astral Extractions for murdering Kreel? That’s going to be tough because there’s a camera watching our every move. Yet both factions are treating us like VIPs and trying to “the best bribe is no bribe” us as if we’re the ones with the power to swing it their way. It’s an odd position to be in. Essentially, this is the People’s Court; we’re Rusty the Bailiff.

Also under the heading of “a little odd” were the roleplaying choices Mo and Rusty made. Hirogi is Hirogi – always out for a buck. (Though some of that is more Chris as a player than Hirogi.) My play on Tuttle is that he’s open to a meticulously-worded contract (he’s Lawful Neutral, after all), but he’d also want to throw some passive-aggressive shade at the Astral Extractions people based on what’s happened so far. That’s part of why he mentioned the “rumor” about the gangs; I wanted to see what sort of reaction it might get. But I didn’t expect Rusty to be so chummy with the miners – he’s struck me as a bit of a snob up to this point – and I definitely didn’t think Mo, the streetwise gangster, would side with the monolithic corporation. My image of him is shattered. Then again… they did have donuts.

Overall I still find myself rooting for Hardscrabble and hope we find evidence that resolves the dispute in their favor, but I will admit I’d misjudged the scope of Astral Extractions’ malfeasance. I had this image of some totally mobbed-up corporation where even the janitors would be wearing Downside Kings colors and pushing carts of stolen goods down the hallways. I even was a little worried they’d confront us about the shootout with the Downside Kings, or at least do some low-grade menacing about what would happen if we don’t rule their way. I didn’t really factor in a gigantic organization that mostly had no idea the backroom deals were happening (or else they do a great job of hiding it). As the player, I’m still not all that swayed and hope there’s a chance to stick it to The Man; as the character, Tuttle could possibly be convinced that Astral Extractions had the legal claim and that it was just a couple bad apples that did that whole gangland murder thing.

I hoped the meeting with Jabaxa would be more useful than it was, but it was kind of a wasted trip. Maybe the “call us if you need us” membership cards will come in handy at some point, but probably not immediately since we’re heading to a theoretically dead spaceship. The only tangible takeaway is that it forced us to be resourceful and come up with a way to have private communication even with Nor’s camera rolling. Thank goodness for lashunta telepathy!

I’ll close with a brief reaction to part 2 of the interview with Erik Mona. I felt a little out of my depth with part 2 because a) I have no prison stories (heh), and b) full disclosure: I never played Age of Worms. On the other hand, I do have a story of… well, not ruining a friendship, but a story of having a good friend stop talking to me for about a week.

It was actually because of Top Secret, the spy game that TSR created shortly after D&D really took off. Our team (myself, my brother, and my friend Chris-But-Not-RFC-Chris) got captured and were in the back of a limousine with an armed guard. Chris, being the team’s tough guy and nominal meat shield (he had several mid-90s scores in the physical stats) went for the guy’s gun, and I…

Oh boy, this is awkward. I went for the car door and escaped. (I honestly forget what my brother’s character did, or maybe his character wasn’t there and it was just the two of us.)

Chris eventually disarmed the guard but took a few bullets in the process. His character survived the encounter, but he was NOT happy that I bailed on him and didn’t speak to me for about a week afterward. And yes, looking back, 47-year-old me recognizes I was a complete bastard and probably deserved a month of the silent treatment for being such a coward. It’s all good; we’re still friends today, but yes… it happens.

Getting excited for the boys to leave the safety of Absalom and step out into space? Got your own stories of friendships almost coming to blows? Drop us a line and let us know. Look forward to hearing from you, and see you next week!

Dead Suns 010: Quid Pro Cronut

On the heels of accepting the job investigating the Acreon, both Astral Extractions and the Hardscrabble Collective reach out to the team to make their cases. Mo proves to be surprisingly receptive to a tasty donut and a compelling PowerPoint presentation, while a hot cup of coffee brings out Rusty’s fondness for the working man. Meanwhile, Tuttle never met a well-worded contract he didn’t like, and Hirogi looks for an opportunity to squeeze a few extra credits out of the situation.

We also continue our interview with Erik Mona, author, editor, and Publisher of Paizo Inc., creators of the Pathfinder and Starfinder Roleplaying Games. In part two of our interview, we discuss Erik’s time as editor-in-chief of Dragon and Dungeon magazines, Erik’s best prison stories, and the history behind creating the greatest adventure path of all time… The Age of Worms!

Also this week, GM Stephen discusses the term “bleeding encounters” and what does it mean? (It turns out most people didn’t seem to know the meaning of the term … sorry about that.)

Also, make sure to check out the “Big Podcast Launch Giveaway” with over $1000 in prizes, and we announce another weekly winner! And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Talking Combat 009: Better… Faster… Stronger…

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 009: Dead Man’s Party.

This week’s episode is a veritable Thanksgiving feast of stuff to talk about – the recap of the story so far (if Steve is considering Christmas gifts, I’d totally be down with having the voiceover guy record my voicemail greeting), the interview with Erik Mona, and of course the progress within the campaign. But I’m going to actually start with what largely ended up on the cutting-room floor – leveling.

Time for a Dirty Little Secret from behind the scenes: Steve does give us a little heads-up a session or two in advance of when we’re going to level, so we can have our Level N+1 characters ready to roll. It’s a concession to the fact that we only play once a week and our game time is at a premium – we don’t really want a play session to grind to a halt while we stare blankly at the rulebook and mumble incoherently about what feat we’re going to take. Trust me, as listeners; you don’t want that either.

I suppose there might be purists who might be worried that we might abuse that knowledge and start meta-gaming it, but it hasn’t traditionally been much of an issue. We’re pretty good at policing ourselves, and even if we’re not, Steve is willing to drop the hammer (or a wandering monster) on us if we ever try to take undue advantage. Besides, I think anyone who plays a formal adventure path probably has to deal with this, as it feels like Paizo designs these things to have the experience points line up with major story breaks, anyway. You’re pretty likely to level after a boss fight. It is known, khaleesi.

So I figured I’d use this opportunity to talk a little about leveling – both my general philosophy and specifically how I chose to handle Tuttle 2.0.

As a general plan, I place an undue importance on combat survivability at low levels, almost to the exclusion of anything else. I’m not a power-gamer, I respect that the game is more than just a series of battles, but I also don’t want to be the most interesting character concept in the morgue ( a distant cousin of Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man In The World). So up until level… let’s say 4 or 5, if it’s not related to doing more or taking less damage, I’m generally passing. One of these days I’ll challenge myself to do a complete soft-skill build from Level 1… BUT IT SHALL NOT BE THIS DAY.

So how does that translate to Tuttle? Well, Cliff’s Notes: Tuttle gets a new mechanic trick at even levels; CHDRR gets a new drone mod at odd levels. It’s a little more complicated than that with some additional class and theme abilities that layer on top, but those are the broad strokes. At level 2, Tuttle’s most appealing choices are:

    • Energy Shield: Temporary hit points. More hit points are always good, but it’s INT modifier + Mechanic levels, so… 6 points. Basically, that buys me one extra hit when I don’t plan on being a front-line fighter anyway. And since it only goes up one point per level, it’s not going to scale.
    • Overcharge: Allows you to add 1d6 damage to an energy weapon but at the cost of 3 times the charges. Among other things, I like the fact that it can be your weapon OR someone else’s. It’s also got a scaling issue, but it’s appealing in the short term.
    • Overload Weapon: You basically rig a weapon to explode, which you can either throw like a grenade or leave it in a trapped state for the next person to fire it. Now… thematically, I LOVE the idea; there’s something wonderfully “mad scientist” about turning your gun into a bomb, and it’s very in-genre: how many times did someone set a phaser to overload on Star Trek? I’m just not convinced it’s financially practical at low levels to turn a 300-credit pistol into a 60-credit grenade. What can I say: I’m a cheap bastard.
    • Repair Drone: Mechanics get a heal that restores 10% of the drone’s hit points with a 10-minute rest; this turns it into 25%. Clearly, this will be valuable at some point; I’m just not sure that point is now because the difference between 2 HP and 5 HP isn’t really screaming “must have”.

Maybe I’m a bit sensitive to the fact that Tuttle hasn’t really done much damage in the first two fights, but I decided that Overcharge is the play here. Yeah, Overcharge itself doesn’t scale well, but there are higher-level versions of it that can upgrade it to 2d6 (Improved at 8th level) and 4d6 (Superior, 14th).

Not much to say about shopping: I already got my spare gun, and I didn’t really use any of my consumables, so I’m mostly going to save my money for something bigger down the road. I do buy a trap detection kit since it turns out that’s NOT part of my mechanic rig, and an extra healing serum just in case, but that’s it.

CHDRR’s rebuild was easy enough. The only real question there was whether to stick with the name CHDRR or start coming up with more cheese-based acronyms for each rebuild. Bob, in particular, was egging me in the latter direction, but that felt like it would require far too much effort and run the joke into the ground too quickly – OK, I can probably make “brie” and “gouda” work, but then fast-forward to CHDRR’s 9th rebuild when I quit the game in frustration because I can’t come up with technobabble that spells out CAMEMBERT. Welcome to the Darkest Timeline.

Besides, if our Discord channel is to be believed, CHDRR has fans now. Who am I to stand against the vox populi?

So, back to the game action, and that brings us to our encounter with our new Eoxian benefactor, Gevalarsk Nor.

Undead. As a normal part of everyday life. To quote Mr. Horse from Ren and Stimpy, “No sir, I don’t like it!” (In fairness, I never really warmed to the idea of playable undead in World of Warcraft either. Nobody tell John.)

Look. I know Starfinder is going to be different, but getting all chummy with the undead is going to take some getting used to. I’m old and set in my ways: too many fantasy tropes, too many seasons of The Walking Dead. You will not convince me that beneath that mild-mannered bureaucratic exterior, Nor isn’t planning to harvest our organs. I’m fully expecting his “special cargo” to be a foul-smelling crate that’s leaking blood out the bottom, at which point Tuttle will do his best Wile E. Coyote impression and leave an ysoki-shaped indentation in the bulkhead of the Arceon trying to escape.

But that’s Jason the player talking. Tuttle the character grew up in this universe and accepts undead as Just Plain Folks, so I guess I’m duty-bound to go along with it from a role-playing standpoint. Nor’s the guy willing to pay the bills and give us a ship for the next stage of our investigation, so off we go. I’m also hoping that even though we don’t directly control the outcome of the mediation, this will lead to a chance to take Astral Extractions down a peg, but we’ll just have to see.

From a gameplay perspective, I have to admit I’m excited where this is going next. First, if we’re headed out into space, that may mean we get to start playing around with space combat, which was really interesting in our test session. Also, at the risk of meta-gaming, going out to the Arceon sounds like it might shape up as something more like a traditional “dungeon” crawl and I’ve missed that sense of structure a little bit.

I’m probably not going to comment on it in great detail because it’s Thanksgiving and I have to go stuff my face with turkey, but I really enjoyed the first part of Steve’s interview with Eric Mona, and I highly recommend it. In particular, I found it pretty interesting to get a sense of how Starfinder achieved critical mass and went from “project for a rainy day” status to an actual release. A few takeaways:

    • I do agree with the point about fantasy being an easier sell because the tropes are more well-known – I think I said something similar in my review of the Alien Archive. “Fantasy” is a pretty known commodity and Tolkien casts such a long shadow that any tweaking usually comes at the periphery – playing around with how magic works (I’m looking at you, Brandon Sanderson) or making the core races a little different for flavor (dwarves and gnomes becoming a gateway to gunpowder-level tech). “Sci-fi” is a lot broader field to cover – Star Trek is not Doctor Who, and neither of them are Battlestar Galactica – so there are a lot of different expectations to meet, and one game probably can’t meet them all. Having said that, I think part of the reason sci-fi games have a bad rep is that the early efforts just weren’t that good. Thinking about my first experiences with sci-fi RPGs, Gamma World wasn’t different enough – it was D&D wearing a spacesuit – and Traveler was TOO different and open-ended; it was more like a rough sketch of a system that expected the players to fill in too many blanks. Here’s hoping Starfinder finds that sweet spot of “familiar, yet different”.
    • It’s easy to see these decisions solely from the customer perspective – “I wanted this and, yay, they made it” – but it’s quite interesting to hear about the business side of these decisions from Paizo’s perspective. And frankly, I appreciated Erik’s candor in admitting that there was an element of… not “stagnation”, exactly, but admitting that the market was ready for something new and not just “Bestiary N+1”. And his willingness to admit they don’t always read the market right (the underwhelming response to Pathfinder #100).
    • I’m a big supporter of the “cantina” vibe – the sense that when in doubt, something should be playable. I suspect that will create challenges for GMs as the game expands, and it might reach a point where it’s daunting to new players to have 40 or 50 playable races to choose from at character creation, but I still think it’s the right direction to go with it.
    • To reiterate what I said above, I’m still not convinced on the whole “undead as good-ish guys” thing. Maybe I’ll get used to it, but for now, as the Young People™ say, I’m Not Here For It.

Well, that’s it for me. A very happy Thanksgiving to our US fans; I’ll see you on the other side of my turkey coma.

Dead Suns 009: Dead Man’s Party

ATTENTION NEW LISTENERS: We here at Roll For Combat recognize that jumping into an existing podcast can be a daunting task, especially one like this that involves an unfolding story. To help newer listeners out, we’ve prepared a brief synopsis at the start of this Episode that will catch you up to the story so far. Give it a listen, and you’ll be ready to join us, all caught up ready to jump right into the podcast. Enjoy the show!

After wrapping up business with the Downside Kings, the boys enjoy a little rest, relaxation, the fruits of their labors – full membership in the Starfinder Society, leveling, and shopping. Soon after, a new lead emerges from an unexpected source – an undead ambassador to Absalom Station offers the group work as investigators in the mediation between Astral Extractions and the Hardscrabble Collective. Both sides want the Acreon and the Drift Rock, and our team must sort out this mess. All that’s required is a trip to a quarantined ship where everyone died….

We also have a special guest join us on this episode. Erik Mona, author, editor, and currently serving as Publisher of Paizo Inc., creators of the Pathfinder and Starfinder Roleplaying Games, joins us on the show. In part 1 of our interview, we discuss the decision behind the creation of Starfinder, the future of Starfinder, and unleash gaming stories from his past.

Also, make sure to check out the “Big Podcast Launch Giveaway” with over $1000 in prizes, and we announce another weekly winner! And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Talking Combat 008: Chedd’s Dead, Baby

Talking Combat 008

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 008: Payin’ The Cost To Beat The Boss.

Well… that was disappointing.

Not the boss battle itself, obviously. We won, and all the sentient humans were still standing at the end, which is how you want things to end. So in the grand scheme, we did pretty well, particularly considering it came on the tail end of two other mini-fights. But I’ll admit that while CHDRR isn’t shaping up as the front-line fighter I hoped he’d be, I didn’t expect him to be quite so… squishy.

Tactically, putting CHDRR in the way was the right call. When Hatchbuster… well… busted through the hatch… Hirogi and Mo were still getting their legs back under them from the previous battle. The gameplan was that maybe CHDRR would hang in there two or three rounds and buy them time to heal, get into position, whatnot. Getting steamrolled in (basically) one shot was NOT how I envisioned it playing out.

I’m still sorting out how protective I’m “supposed” to feel about CHDRR and how bad I’m supposed to feel about his “death” (temporary though it may be). On the one hand, CHDRR is not fully sentient (yet); he’s “just” a piece of equipment Tuttle gives orders to. On the other hand, CHDRR does have his own identity emerging within the game, and it’s kind of hard to imagine Luke Skywalker ordering R2-D2 to stand in front of a laser blast and take one for the team. (Threepio? Maybe. R2? Never!)

To compare and contrast, look at Pathfinder. You have creatures from summons that are disposable by their very nature. They show up for a few rounds, they do their thing, and even if everything goes great, they disappear. There’s no attachment beyond the momentary visceral thrill of dropping an owlbear on someone’s head. On the other hand, there are companions – wizard familiars, animal companions, the summoner’s eidolon – that are true independent entities and are pretty integral to the main character’s identity. CHDRR is certainly toward the latter half, but – maybe this is a function of how he’s always under my control – he’s not all the way there, for whatever reason. Maybe I’ll feel a little differently when CHDRR gets access to the more advanced AIs and feels more like an independent companion, but for now, he’s more of a tool than a true companion.

(Please don’t tell him I said that. I don’t want to hurt his interaction subroutines… err… feelings.)

I also think if you meta-game a little and look at the rules, I think the game designers pretty much intended for the drone to take one for the team every once in a while. It’s inconvenient to replace a drone, but it’s not truly painful. You don’t have a credit cost, and the time factor is reasonable. Yes, you need downtime – can’t rebuild in the middle of a run-and-gun dungeon crawl – but it doesn’t completely grind the campaign to a halt. There are no real provisions for how much of the drone needs to be salvageable or details about where you get the parts to rebuild it… it just kinda happens. The idea that the drone’s mind is downloaded onto your datapad also gives you some cover to feel like “your” drone is still alive. Add all that up, and I think developer intent is on the side of letting the drone eat a shot or two occasionally.

At the end of the day, you know what REALLY made me feel better, though? Thinking about R2-D2. If you think about Star Wars, R2 is basically a smoking husk when Luke returns to Yavin, but R2 goes on to get a medal and appear in every other movie in the franchise. If R2 can do it, so can CHDRR.

Besides, until I completely submerge CHDRR in swamp goo on Dagobah or force him to serve drinks to an international gangster, I’m still a more caring drone owner than Mister Fancyman Jedi. LETTING A SWAMP MONSTER SWALLOW AND SPIT OUT YOUR R2 UNIT VOIDS THE WARRANTY, DUMBASS.

If I’ve shed my guilt about CHDRR, I do have one more (minor) sin to unburden myself of. Remember in the intro to last week’s podcast when Steve was talking about GM mistakes? Well… in re-listening to prepare my write-ups, I found a small one. If you remember a few episodes back, Tuttle was supposed to give his gun to Mo before going into the club, but at some point in the Hatchbuster/Ferani fight I just kinda… decided I had it and started firing. Micro-wormhole? Quantum reality shift? Tuttle only did 2 points of damage, so it didn’t really prove instrumental, but still… oops. Chalk it up to splitting the combat over multiple sessions.

I was momentarily disappointed by the loot we got from the fight, but it makes a certain amount of sense that street thugs are gonna lean more toward the soldier-ly gear. One of these days we’ll get around to raiding a science lab (hey, I bet Astral Extractions does sciency stuff!), and it’ll be Tuttle’s day to come away with the best toys. For now, I’ll take some cash and a grenade and not sweat it.

With the Kings taken care of, I see two possible paths forward. Either the datapad gives us a new lead, or someone (perhaps it’ll be Jabaxa, or maybe just the Starfinder Society) decides that we’ve proven ourselves reliable and give us a new mission. Personally, I expect it’ll have something to do with the quarantined spaceship, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

I’ll close today with a few thoughts on the “show vs. tell” debate. I’ll put it this way. I’m not philosophically opposed to the whole “theater of the mind” thing, and I absolutely appreciate a GM who can render scenes in minute detail; the problem is that GMs who are good at that sort of thing doesn’t exactly grow on trees and someone who does it badly can make the game even more confusing. Or the ultimate sin… boring.

Some of it’s a function of the fact that as an adult, my time is at more of a premium, and I don’t know that I have 20 minutes for Steve to describe every stalactite in excruciating detail like I did when I was 13. Don’t get me wrong… I wouldn’t want a GM who half-asses it either – “there’s like… a monster, and stuff” – but there’s a certain level of detail I’m willing to sacrifice at the altar of Father Time if other visual aids convey the same information quicker. Except for PowerPoint. I’ll flip the gorram table if Steve ever drops a slide deck on us.

But also… I’ll say it. Sometimes, I think we get a little TOO nostalgic for the Good Old Days. Yeah, we did all that stuff in our heads when we were growing up, but part of the reason is we had to because it was a niche hobby and we didn’t have the army of content creators we now have. You had to describe everything because it was exceedingly unlikely that Larry Elmore was going to show up on your porch and paint it for you. Now, gaming is much more mainstream, and you’ve got first-rate talent willing to put their talents to use. We’ve gone from modules that have one or two line-art sketches to modules that have full-color illustrations of every major character or setting. That’s progress, folks – might as well make use of it!

(For those who disagree, Episode 9 will be available through our special acoustic-coupled 1200 baud modem service.)

Don’t get me wrong. The core of what I love about the roleplaying experience is still what it was when I started 30ish years ago. I love the companionship of the gaming table. I still think the appeal of the role-playing game is creating a collaborative story as much as it is rolling dice and consulting tables. I do think the best moments sometimes occur when you throw the script out the window and do something no one expected. But I do also think we’re sometimes guilty of waxing rhapsodic about our unpaved roads and chamber-pots when we have (comparative) superhighways and indoor plumbing at our disposal.

Think I’m full of crap? Think I let CHDRR die too easily? Feel free to drop a line and give me a piece of your mind. You can find me on CompuServe at….

Dungeons & Dragons – Stranger Things Style, Part 3

If you enjoyed this post make sure to check out our weekly podcast, Roll For Combat, where a group of old-school gamers play Paizo’s new Starfinder RPG.

Also, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

When we explored my Dungeons & Dragons treasures from a few weeks ago there was one item in my 1980 Trapper Keeper that I didn’t show – the 1981 TSR Hobbies Gateway To Adventure catalog! This catalog was released in 1980 by TSR and featured all of their new releases for the upcoming year.

My catalog was in poor shape but I wanted to show it in full as the treasures found in that book contain a dragon’s horde of awesomeness.

Luckily I was able to find a more detailed scan of this same book (in full color), so without further adieu, I present to you the “1981 TSR Hobbies Gateway To Adventure”. Enjoy!

Look at that graphic! It’s just begging you to open this catalog and delve into its pages! Today everything is so slick and professional. Back then you really needed to go that extra mile to ignite the imagination … I miss those days.


Let this sink in for a second … this 16-page catalog contained the entirety of the world of Dungeons & Dragons and TSR. Everything in the world of RPG at that time could be contained in these few pages. Look how far we have come!


This was the time when D&D was starting to enter the mainstream and TSR was getting more professional with its presentation. Both covers were created by the illustration god Erol Otus … I would dare say that without the Otus illustrations D&D might not be where it is today. One could spend hours looking at his fantastical illustrations, always finding something new, further drawing you in. His illustration of the Basic Set is legendary, but I always loved the Expert Set illustration which clearly conveyed that the Expert Set was an expansion of the Basic Set in the artwork alone.


Look at all those modules! All … four of them!


Here we go, the “Core Four”. You had/have these books, everyone you knew had/have these books, without these books there would be no D&D. The only question was did you have the original Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia with the Cthulhu and Melnibonéan sections … or the lame later editions which had these section cut? Only the cool kids had the original edition, and you were cool … weren’t you?


I original DM screen I still see people using at conventions from time to time. I wish I still had mine. It must be around here somewhere…


Here we go, the list of the “Advanced D&D Modules”. Back then there was so little D&D content I think everyone had nearly every module, even if you weren’t a DM. Just having them and reading them was fun … and is still is!


You don’t hear nearly as much about the TSR board games, but they were classics in their own right. Dungeon! was THE original dungeon crawl boardgame (it’s right there in the name!) and I probably played this game a good 100 times when I was a kid. I have heard endless stories about how great Divine Right was, however even though I own two mint copies I have yet to play it. One day…


In addition to D&D, TRS also published other role-playing games back then. Gamma World was probably the most popular of the bunch as it was basically D&D in a sci-fi setting. I played Top Secret and Boot Hill a few times, but they never managed to have the same hold on me as D&D. I never played Fight in the Skies, nor knew anyone who played it. I would be curious to know it was any good.


These are some of the more famous TSR boardgames. Snit’s Revenge! I never managed to find anyone to play with for some reason. The Awful Green Things From Outer Space on the other hand, is still in print today … and perhaps the hardest most random game in history. I love that game, but holy crap that game is hard if you play the crew. I never played 4th Dimension so I can’t speak to that game, but the art was always trippy.


The minigames were pretty popular back in the day and they were just that … boardgames that could fit inside a ziplock bag. For a few bucks, you could get an entire game – the rules were a small black & white booklet, the game board was a color piece of paper, a simple color board of unpunched cardboard consisted of the game pieces, and it also included a set of dice. Although I have all of the games listed, I never played them. They were so cheap that it was hard to actually play with the little cardboard pieces and the game board would never stay flat. I guess you get what you pay for.


Back in 1980 “random number generation, multi-sided dice” were still fairly rare. TSR had their own version “Dragon Dice” … and they were single-handedly the worst dice ever released. The dice were that terrible baby blue color, you had to color them in with a crayon, and the dice themselves were so brittle they would start to lose their shape after a few uses. What a piece of crap! I loved them!!!


Ah, Dragon Magazine. Perhaps my favorite magazine of all time. The covers had some of the best fantasy artwork found anywhere, the content was a treasure trove of D&D and role-playing articles. the cartoons were legendary, even the ads were awesome. When Dragon (and Dungeon) Magazine were canceled years ago I was emotionally crushed for months afterward. I still go through my old magazines to this day, I think everyone loved Dragon Magazine.


Holy crap, am I just learning NOW that GENCON had a sister convention GECON EAST in Cherry Hill, New Jersey?!? That was just a few hours from my house! As a kid, there was zero chance I could get to Lake Geneva, but I could have easily gotten to New Jersey! Crap!!! I wonder what I missed?


Look at those t-shirts! T-shirts from the 80s did not age well, even back then they looked like crap, but that is all we had so how did we know? Of course, nowadays you can get an exact replicate 80s t-shirt … for a mere $40!


Holy crap, those t-shirts were only $6 each? Plus shipping? Damn, get me that Fight in the Skies t-shirt right away!

If you have some D&D treasures from your childhood please send them along! We love unearthing these classic treasures when D&D was mysterious and only shared with friends at school.

If you enjoyed this post make sure to check out our weekly podcast, Roll For Combat, where a group of old-school gamers play Paizo’s new Starfinder RPG.

Also, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Dead Suns 008: Payin’ The Cost To Beat The Boss

The Downside Kings’ cannon fodder has been disposed of, setting the stage for the first real boss battle of the campaign. With Mo and Hirogi already dinged up from the previous fights, the tag-team of Hatchbuster and Ferani presents a formidable challenge for the team. Vesk against vesk! Grenade-throwing coward against grenade-throwing coward! Rusty actually fires his weapon! Will the RFC team walk away in one piece? You’ll just have to listen to find out.

Also this week, GM Stephen discusses how he organizes his notes and manages inventory for all PCs.

Also, make sure to check out the “Big Podcast Launch Giveaway” with over $1000 in prizes, and we announce another weekly winner! And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Talking Combat 007: Rules Lawyers, Encounter Bleeders, and the Players Who Love Them

Fusion Queen

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 007: Downsized Kings.

I think the first thing that struck me about this episode was the contrast in styles between Tuttle and Hirogi in this episode. Chris was playing with the throttle wide open – not only did he not seem to care about bleeding encounters; it almost felt like he welcomed it. Heck, at one point fairly early in the fight with the bouncers, Chris suggested I just toss a grenade into the card game just for shits and giggles. Meanwhile, I was playing Tuttle very cautiously, mostly acting as the lookout, waiting for the other shoe to drop – whether it was going to be the goons to the west or the boss arriving on the scene. As a result, I didn’t actually do very much during the fight except move myself around and give orders to CHDRR.

A little bit of it is “still easing my way into a new rule system”. This is only our second fight, I’m still not sure how brittle Tuttle is, so I’m trying to keep him on the fringes.

Another chunk of it is “that’s the character I designed”. At the end of the day, I’m playing a pet class, and that’s how you play ‘em. If that means there’s a fight or two where Tuttle ends up on the sidelines because that’s what a smart and somewhat squishy science-type would do in that scenario c’est la guerre.

But OK, I’ll also admit that I’m not a fan of bleeding encounters, and was cringing a little on the inside every time Hirogi did something crazy. As Steve said in the intro: yes, I like combat, and I like to keep things moving, but what I don’t like is stupid deaths. In the fathers-and-sons Pathfinder game I play locally, the kids are bleeding encounters quite often, and it can get pretty painful. Let’s just say I always bring a few spare character sheets and leave it at that.

Wait. Did I just imply Chris is playing Hirogi like a 13-year-old kid? Ummm… errr…  “a spokesman for Jason would neither confirm nor deny”…

I swear it’s not that I’m a coward. Honest! In the Iron Gods campaign we’d been playing before starting this Starfinder game, I’m playing a meat-shield warpriest with buffs and self-heals out the wazoo, and with that character (Ezrik, should I ever mention him again), I’m diving into combat almost as aggressively as Hirogi is currently doing. Then again, Ezrik also has a giant chainsaw which makes melee intensely satisfying … so … there’s that too.

I will say: one tangible takeaway from this fight is that as I get some credits together, I may have to invest more in grenades. Generally, I’m not a fan of single-use/disposable items – it feels too much like throwing money away — but they actually seemed fairly effective in this battle. Even though I didn’t actually get to throw one, injecting a little more “Mad Bomber” into Tuttle’s repertoire might be a good call going forward. The only thing I could see being problematic is hand-switching between pistol, datapad, and grenade – might get a little dicey with move actions already being kind of scarce.

Beyond the game action, I also thought Steve’s discussion of rules interpretation and mistakes in the intro was worth a few thoughts.

As far as “rules as written” vs “whatever” and getting into extended rules discussions during the game, I’ll put it this way … I’m rules-as-written within a certain (5-10 minute) timeframe, but after that point, I’m willing just to let the GM decide so the game can move forward. Even if it’s something that I fundamentally disagree with or think is the wrong decision.

Steve is right that the “game” portion of the role-playing game works best if everyone knows the rules and the work consistently from session to session. I don’t even mind the occasional house rule (example: in our Pathfinder campaigns, Steve tends to hand-wave material components for spells unless there’s an ingredient that is particularly expensive or exotic) as long as the house rules themselves are ALSO enforced consistently. But at some point, the “role-playing” aspect still matters too, the story is still ultimately driving the action, and I’d rather keep the story moving forward.

I’ll also add that within the dynamic of THIS particular group, I’m far and away the most “whatever” member – I don’t know if it’s that living in New York City makes you relish a good argument, but the rest of these guys can rules-lawyer long past the point where I wander away from the computer and start alphabetizing the contents of my spice rack.

With regards to GM mistakes, I take much the same view I do with sports. I’m a sports fan, and I always felt like unless the bad call literally decided the game in the final seconds, there’s always a chance to fix it or make up for it. If a “holding” call wipes out a TD with 20 seconds left, complaining about the refs is legit. If a “holding” call wipes out a TD in the 2nd quarter … you’ve got an entire half of football to overcome the bad call. (See also: the goal that was waved off early in the 2nd period of Game 6 of the Pens-Predators Stanley Cup Final. YES, it was an important goal, but they also had 38 minutes to score another and didn’t.)

To bring the comparison into the realm of role-playing games – I only get upset about rules questions if the consequences of the mistake were particularly dire and there’s no chance to repair them, which USUALLY means character death. If Steve makes a second attack of opportunity in the same round, and that’s the hit that kills my character, I’ll argue that until I’m blue in the face. If Steve misapplies the five-foot step rule in round 5 of a 22-round combat … life’s too short. Even then, I think most of the value is clarifying the rule going forward, rather than rubbing the GM’s nose in a mistake.

And that brings me to my last point. (And I swear I’m not buttering Steve up to get a roll later.) I tend to give my GMs the benefit of the doubt because of how much responsibility the GM takes on just to make the game happen. For every item a player has to keep track of, the GM probably has 10 or 20. So I’ve always had the mentality that if the GM gets something minor wrong … let it slide because the game is still happening largely because they volunteered to do the heavy lifting. Me, I’m just here for the snacks and smart-ass comments.

As we end the episode, the cannon fodder has been dealt with, and it seems like we’re about to face our big boss battle. I don’t think it’s too spoilerish or meta-gamey to “reveal” that Jabaxa told us Ferani and Hatchbuster are dangerous customers, and Hirogi’s recon suggests there’s almost nowhere else in the club they could be, except behind the door to the north. I’ll admit to a little nervousness because even the grunts put a hurting on Hirogi; you gotta wonder what sort of pain a guy named “Hatchbuster” can dispense. But I guess we’ll find that out next time. In the meantime, thanks for listening and drop us a line if you have any questions or comments.

Dungeons & Dragons – Stranger Things Style, Part 2

Dungeons & Dragons Angels

If you enjoyed this post make sure to check out our weekly podcast, Roll For Combat, where a group of old-school gamers play Paizo’s new Starfinder RPG.

Also, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 3 of this series.

Last week we explored some of my Dungeons & Dragons treasures when I was a kid growing up in the 80s. This week friend of the show Rob Trimarco shared some D&D artwork he did when he was a kid in the 80s as well … and I simply love it! I felt this needed to be shared with the world.

Ladies and gentlemen … I present to you “Fighters and Wizards, Good & Evil Book I” and “Book II, Evil Monsters of the Dungeon”. Enjoy!

From Rob, “I, apparently, made my own D&D type monster manual/campaign book when I was, maybe 10? 12? I dunno but please enjoy it whilst I cringe.”


“Facts not Story!”


“TEEMA EVIL HOBGOBLIN LEADER – Teema is kind of a dick leader to wear nice boots while his warriors are shoeless…”


“…500,000 warriors all without shoes. Truly a tyrant. Also, mixed occurrences of cursive writing is a little unprofesh.”


“EELO GOOD DWARF FIGHTER – Sorry, he definitely looks like an elf. What the hell, 12-year-old Rob? I like his 1970’s disco chain and poofy Aladdin pants, though.”


“GOOD WIZARD OLIN – Fuck yeah, Chain Lightning. Still the coolest spell. Cool sandals.”


“ERGON, EVIL WIZARD – I had to hold up the spine of this poorly assembled ‘book’ to get the full effect of the evil staff. Cool evil sandals.”


“ATHAMEUS GOOD BARBARIAN – Li’l-too-big winged helm, runic axe, longsword in a back scabbard, charging tiger on a shield, furry spiked onesie. And the sandals … again.”


“VIL PALADIN EEMON – Ok, wow. A lot to unpack here. Let’s start from the top:

  • 80’s porn ‘stache on a school principal.
  • Tae kwon do gi top and short shorts.
  • Evil bat shield WITH STRAP.
  • The greatest belt ever.
  • Booties.”


“Book 2! Buckle up!”


“EVIL MONSTERS OF THE DUNGEON!!! Not the good ones.”


“DUNGEON DWELLING GHOUL – Standard. C’mon, 12-year-old Rob, you can do better.”


“VAMPIRE – Screw you, White Wolf!”




“SKELETON – Influenced heavily by Ed Emberly’s drawing techniques.”


“OGRE – Often mistaken for a human? Not with those nipples.”


“GIANT BAT – I know I titled the book ‘Monsters of the Dungeon’ but I seem to have been compelled to remind everyone that these monsters live in one on every page.”




“I definitely fear this monster but for different reasons than I originally thought.”


“ENERGY DRAGON – Conjoured up by Wizardry to … blast walls? Bad. Ass.”


“GIANT SPIDER – It sure is giant … and striped!”


“PLANT MONSTERS (various) – Are those coconut feet?”


“I vaguely remember being proud of almost getting the perspective right on the top vs. underbelly of this beast.”


“Also, it seems I looked up what carrion meant and put it in the book so you all could learn definitions.”


“GREEN SLIME –Heyyyyy wait a minute, look at those eyes… This is the Hedora, the Smog Monster!”


“THE WAMIA– I am definitely sure I saw a picture of a Neo-Otyugh and forgot what it was called but that didn’t stop me!!”


“GIANT RAT – I definitely phoned this one in. BE CAREFUL, ADVENTURERS!!!! The End.”

If you have some D&D treasures from your childhood please send them along! We love unearthing these classic treasures when D&D was mysterious and only shared between friends at school.

If you enjoyed this post make sure to check out our weekly podcast, Roll For Combat, where a group of old-school gamers play Paizo’s new Starfinder RPG.

Also, make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 3 of this series.

Dead Suns 007: Downsized Kings

The battle against the Downside Kings heats up as both the bouncers guarding the door and the card-players in the back join the fray. Hirogi continues to be the least stealthy Operative in the universe, grenades become the team’s new best friends, and we shed a tear for a table that left this world too soon.

This week, GM Stephen explains how to handle rule mistakes when playing an RPG and how to not to be a killer GM.

Also, make sure to check out the “Big Podcast Launch Giveaway” with over $1000 in prizes, and we announce another weekly winner! And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!