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Talking Combat 006: Don’t Split the Party


Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 006: In Da Club.

First, I have to apologize that this week’s blog post is going to be a bit of a rush job – between Season 2 of Stranger Things and grinding Halloween loot crates in Overwatch, I’ve only recently emerged from my cave to rejoin civilization.

I have to say I enjoyed Steve’s little jaunt down memory lane earlier this week and I wish I could match his post with a show-and-tell of my own; sadly, I didn’t keep as good a track of my D&D stuff over the years. There might still be a few things stashed in my dad’s attic, but a lot of it was scattered to the four winds when he did a remodeling project a few years back. The most I can tell you is that my brother and I used to have a stack of Dragon magazines that would rival some people’s Playboy collections, and I think about 70% of my characters were rangers of various flavors – they were all some weird Aragorn/Legolas hybrid, though I wasn’t bold enough to name any of them Aralas or Legogorn.

ASIDE: It’s not strictly D&D-related, but I also used to like the little mini-games they would sometimes include in the middle pages of Dragon – one of these weeks we’ll have to put Starfinder on the back burner and podcast a session of Awful Green Things From Outer Space.

But that’s for another time. In this episode, we take our first baby steps into splitting the party, as Hirogi and then Tuttle have solo turns at attempting to infiltrate the club.

I’m mixed on splitting the party. I actually like it from a storytelling perspective, letting each character have a moment to shine outside the context of the group. When the party is all acting as a group, it generally moves the action along, but it can sometimes feel like it’s one of those kindergarten field trips where everyone has to hold hands: “we all go to Point A; now we all go to Point B. EVERYONE FIND YOUR BUDDY!” Breaking one or two people out to do something different can push the story in different directions and give each character a little room to breathe.

Logistically, though, it can be a little frustrating, especially in this online setting where you’re not at the table with the other players. First, there’s always that “what do I do with myself?” vibe when the action is focusing on the person (or people) split off from the group. I know the proper answer is “pay attention, support your fellow player, take good notes” but I’ll admit there are times when “check Facebook” or “play Puzzle Quest on my phone” start to get tempting after 10 or 15 minutes of waiting for the action to come back around. Also, there’s just that gnawing sense of having your ass dangling in the wind… if you screw up while the party is split, bad things can happen, man. BAD THINGS.

In this case, nothing bad happens, but we also don’t really get an easy next step out of it. Hirogi’s infiltration kinda-sorta confirms Ferani is there (or at least her henchmen are) but doesn’t give us any insights on alternate ways in, so it’s decision time. Rush the bouncers, or try something else? Clearly, Mo was ready to start cracking skulls, but given the possibility of civilian casualties, I wanted to try and come up with something else – hence, smuggling a smoke grenade in via Tuttle’s cheek pouches.

As a roleplaying moment, I went back and forth a little on whether Tuttle would be brave enough to volunteer to smuggle a weapon past two bouncers and put himself at physical risk. He’s not necessarily the bravest guy, and they were a lot bigger than him. But I think at the end of the day a) he’d want to minimize the risk to innocent people and b) he might actually relish the chance to put one over on a couple of dumb jocks guarding the door. Besides, reinforcements were just around the corner.

So, after enduring a few jokes about “other cheek pouches” (ROLL FOR COMBAT: your #1 podcast for jokes about shoving things up your ass!) and making a few lucky rolls, Tuttle is in the club with the smoke grenade and the plan… well, doesn’t go the way we drew it up on the blackboard.

First… I honestly didn’t expect the grenade to make noise. When you see smoke/tear-gas grenades on TV, they usually smoke quietly or maybe there’s a small pop from whatever launcher was used. Did not expect an actual real explosion.

But even worse, I didn’t actually expect people to think the smoke was part of the show and not react at all. Clearly, we’re dealing with a rough crowd if you can set off smoke grenades on the dance floor and people just go on about their business. Well… shit.

So… I guess we’re left with the frontal assault option. As the combat opens, Tuttle doesn’t have a lot of options, so I just park him in a location where he can get to the fight if he has to and can also keep an eye on Ferani’s henchmen to the west. I kind of wish I had a bag of marbles or something to throw in their path if they come out, but we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. As the episode ends, that seemed like the most I could do at the moment.