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Talking Combat 065: Let It Glow! Let It Glow! Let It Glow!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 065: The Year of Rolling Dangerously.

So I guess we’re going to leave 2018 on a bit of a cliff-hanger. Yes, we survived the fight against Radioactive Space Cow, but we still have to find the marrowblight behind the mini-crime-wave, so clearly, there are hijinks (and probably battles) yet to come.

Listening to the fight one more time, this strikes me as one of those battles that was rough for me personally, but not for the group as a whole. I had to contend with two main problems – the fact that I couldn’t hit on anything less than a 15 or 16 (I’m not going to go back and calculate the exact breakpoint, but it was a pretty high number) and the fact that CHDRR basically got neutralized in the first two rounds of the fight. I don’t want to complain too much: to an extent, I signed up for that when I took the Mechanic class instead of something more offense-oriented. That said, it’s still a little frustrating in the moment. That double attack where I hit both shots… I’d have to go back and listen again, but that might have been my only damage for the whole fight.

I did think it was odd at first that any halfway decent armor basically nullified the ellicoth’s radiation effect. If you’ve gotten this far in the adventure, you presumably have upgraded from your starter suit, so on the surface, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. On the other hand, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with throwing in a little bare-minimum “you must be THIS tall to ride this ride” penalty for people who severely neglected their gear.

If you think about it, it’s pretty common for GMs to build in a certain degree of low-level gate-keeping into adventures, just to keep the players honest and encourage well-rounded play. Put a trap in a key location to trip up the party that went without a skills monkey. Throw in social encounters so you have at least one face of the party. Throw in a room with a physical separation (chasm, balcony, etc.) in case the party was dumb enough to travel without ranged weapons or casters. I suppose you could see this in a similar light. “Here’s a radiation effect that’s only a problem if you optimized entirely for offense and neglected defense.” I don’t know if that was Paizo’s explicit intent, but it kinda works out that way where the rubber meets the road.

Hindsight being 20/20, hearing Steve make the explicit dog comparisons, I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t make more of an effort to understand the creature’s motivations. On the other hand, when the thing basically lays 50-some damage on you in 2 swats of a tentacle… to quote Conan The Destroyer, “ENOUGH TALK!”

Could we have bypassed this encounter entirely? Gut says no. I mean, go back to dogs… I could probably get a strange dog to take a treat from me or maybe even puff up and get one to back off a little if we met on neutral ground. But if I tried to go into his master’s house, it’s probably On Like Donkey Kong. So I feel like even if we “reasoned” with the ellicoth in the short term, things would’ve blown up when we tried to enter the hut. So… Radioactive Space Cow and whoever or whatever is inside the hut. I’ll go ahead and take the outcome we got.

Not going to lie, though. It is annoying the corpse managed to park itself right in front of the door. That’s going to be potentially annoying. Can we bust through the sides? Can we remix our Castrovel exploits and climb up to the top and go in through the roof? Are their people inside, and if so, did they not hear the fight or do they have guns trained at the door like the opening of Star Wars? (Or is that the end of Rogue One? Time is a flat circle.)

Good questions, but questions that can wait until 2019.

I’m not going to do a year-end retrospective, because I wrote one when we hit one year/Episode 52 doing the show, and not a lot has changed since then. The only tweak would be that we didn’t dig into the Pathfinder Playtest as much as I thought/hoped we would. Ah well. Time and tide wait for no man.

As far as the show going on break, Steve mentioned I may or may not write something, but I haven’t really decided yet. Unlike Steve’s big escape, it’s more that my holiday plans haven’t really fully gelled yet. My daughter caught a flight home from grad school, which is cool but also threw things up in the air a little. My brother may come into town but he pretty much never tells anyone until he’s in the car. There may or may not be a day trip to see extended family across the border in Ohio. And I have to make time to sell bodily fluids to afford Hamilton tickets since Pittsburgh is the touring company’s first stop in 2019. The one thing I do know is I don’t have to work (yay, working in higher ed!) but the rest is a bit of a moving target.

(OK, I have to set aside time to kick my kids’ asses in Smash Bros. So that’s two things. But other than that.)

On one hand, there’s some appeal in breaking free of the episodic structure and writing something a little more off the beaten path. Don’t worry – it would still be somewhere within the roleplaying game space; I wouldn’t jabber on about my cute things my dog did or why my fantasy football team didn’t make the playoffs. On the other hand, Steve’s not wrong that churning out a weekly column can sometimes be a trying thing and sometimes involves a creative definition of “Thursday”, so the time off might be welcome.

I think the net of it is this: I’m probably also going to take the rest of the year off, but don’t be totally surprised if the muse (or boredom – po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to) strikes me and I whup something up. Or… the kids might kick MY ass in Smash Bros and then I’d need to have something to do while I spend the rest of my vacation hiding in my room in humiliation. If this is it for the year, hope you all have great holidays and get whatever present you’ve had your eye on, and we’ll see you next year. Peace on Absalom, and goodwill toward humanoid races. But not undead… Still, don’t trust those guys.

Dead Suns 065: The Year of Rolling Dangerously

Note: The show will be taking a two-week winter vacation break and will return on January 8, 2019, with new episodes.

When fighting a 50-foot, 30-ton radioactive monster, what is the best course of action? One would think to run away, but not for the RFC crew! Only one group will walk away from this battle alive, and the smart money isn’t on the RFC crew.

Also this week, Stephen reflects on the past year of gaming and podcasting and looks forward to more craziness in 2019!

And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast our Patreon page: where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!

Talking Combat 064: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Balloon Of Death

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 064: Pleased to Meet Kaiju.

Hoooooooly crap.

On one hand, this ellicoth isn’t viscerally creepy the way some of the more horror-infused monsters have been. A big dumb cow-ephant doesn’t really give you bad dreams for the next few days the way some of the other creatures might. No larvae, no brain-melting acid… walk in the park, right?

On the other hand… 20-foot reach? Basically hits on anything greater than a 1? LOW damage is about 20? Basically, it’s a Macy’s Thanksgiving Balloon of Death. Any chance we brought harpoons and tow cables? No? Pity.

What’s compounding the problem in the early stages is that we don’t really seem to be settling into any sort of plan. It’s a little hard to place people without the battle map, but we had a distinct difference of opinions. Bob seemed to be maneuvering as if we were in full retreat. I was trying to do more of a guarded withdrawal since we had to move in such a way to avoid hits. Mo sounded like he actually wanted to go the other way and retreat into the hut if that was possible. (Though… isn’t the marrowblight in there? Yeah… bleed encounters… that couldn’t possibly go poorly.) Hirogi was coming from the other side of the building so he was actually fairly safe and was treating it as just another fight. I know, he’s got trophies on the brain again.

Frankly, I liked my idea of splitting up even if it was met with skepticism. I figured if we each picked a compass direction, maybe we could figure out a way to ping-pong it back and forth between us… while at any given time, 3 out of 4 of us would be safely out of range. (Sucks to be the one in range, though maybe that person could double-move to stay ahead of it.) But at least early on, it didn’t seem like that idea was getting much traction, and I will admit I hadn’t considered that the terrain might become difficult or impassable if you stray too far off the road.

Also not good: two hits basically took CHDRR out of the fight. On some level, CHDRR is expendable, and if his dying serves the greater good, I’ll do it. That said, I’d prefer to save his heroic sacrifice for a moment when it means something, not when we’ve barely put 20 points of damage on this thing. Also, not to be too meta-gamey, but if CHDRR dies, I’d need 24 hours to repair him, which puts him out of commission for the marrowblight. So for the moment, I’m going to have to pull him back to the edge of the fight and crit-farm from range.

One thing that dawns on me: I’m just glad we’re not playing this encounter with Pathfinder Playtest rules. Pretty sure critting any time you exceed the hit threshold by 10 would turn this into a massacre.

So, I don’t know how this is going to go. On one hand, it hits like a truck; on the other, it doesn’t seem especially fast for its size, and it has so far only attacked once per round. And while it hits me on any number, maybe the people with better armor are a little harder to hit and it might actually miss once or twice. One can hope, anyway.

The fight makes up the bulk of the episode and is going to continue into next week, so there’s not a lot more to be said about it for now. I did want to briefly go back to John’s confrontation with Wynetta Trux – on re-listen, was John just being exasperated, or did John actually think Wynetta was sand-bagging us on purpose, or that she might even be in league with the Corpse Fleet? I think he was just roleplaying exasperation on Mo’s part, but there’s a few moments where it played like the latter.

THIS IS WHY YOU LET THE FACE OF THE PARTY BE THE FACE OF THE PARTY. There’s a reason you never saw the A-Team sending B.A. Baracus to ply people for information. Face… maybe Hannibal in a pinch.

As far as Steve’s GM tip, I figured I’d talk a bit about how I handle imagery for my characters.

For informal games, I’ll usually just grab something off the Internet, as I suppose a lot of us do. Yes, I have a monk who is represented by Future Liu Kang (“Old Man Liu-gan”?) from Mortal Kombat X, and there was a sorcerer who was a particularly appealing Jace Belerin card from Magic The Gathering.

For characters that are going out in “public”, I like to put in a little more creative legwork; since I’m not any sort of artist (I peaked at stick figures for the most part), I’ll often fall back on character creation tools from video games. Neverwinter 2’s creator tool was a nice one for a long time, though a bit low-res and you got more of a general body look than any facial detail – for facial detail, possibly something like Dragon Age or I think I even used The Sims 3 once. Or sometimes I’ll reverse-engineer the process by going to my local game store and buying a miniature and letting that drive the character I make.

Of course, the caveat on all of this is that it’s easier for the fantasy environment because it’s more established. It can be tough to find anything for Starfinder because the races are so new. OK, humans and androids are easy enough. Ysoki and vesk have some analogs (rat-man/lizard-man) in other universes, though they tend to be holding fantasy weaponry and wearing fantasy armor. But Shirren? Kasatha? Races from the newer books? There, you’re kinda on your own, which, I suppose, is another reason to spring for character art if it’s a character you’ll be using for a while.

I did take a quick listen to Steve’s interview with Rob McCready about the new playtest classes, but I feel like I’m kinda stuck in the middle – I don’t want to just regurgitate what I said last week, but until we actually sit down and play them, I’m not sure I have a ton of new things to say. My main takeaway: comparing them to Pathfinder classes is a bit of a no-no. I also hoped to hear more about the “other” stuff in the Character Operations Manual, but if it’s too early, it’s too early.

Next week, we should get the rest of this big fight against the ellicoth. After that… I guess we’ll see what Steve decides as far as taking a holiday break. Ironically, right when Steve goes on vacation is when my schedule slows down for the year, so I’m game for whatever. Perhaps it’s time for TUTTLE AFTER DARK: A FREE-FORM EXPLORATION OF THE HUMAN SOUL. Jazz music! Bad poetry! UTOPIAN MANIFESTOS! It’ll be like when Dylan went electric, man!

(There, that ought to get Steve cracking on editing the next few episodes…)

Well, whatever Steve decides about the holiday slowdown, we’ve got a new episode next week at the very least, so we’ll see you back here for that. In the meantime, hope you get a chance to drop by the Discord channel, whether it’s to playtest the new classes, or just to drop in on the reindeer games. See you out there in the Drift.

Dead Suns 064: Pleased to Meet Kaiju

The RFC crew head out into the blasted lands of Eox where horrors abound … and they manage to stumble upon one of the largest horrors imaginable. Let’s get ready to rumble!

Also for this week’s GM/PC Tip, Stephen explores the benefits of using visual aids during your gaming sessions.

And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast our Patreon page: where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!

SP07: Interview with Paizo Creative Director Rob McCreary

If you enjoyed this interview make sure to check out our weekly actual play podcast where we’re playing through the Starfinder Dead Sun’s Adventure Path as well as the occasional Starfinder Society adventure!

Welcome to another special edition of the Roll For Combat Podcast where we sit down and talk with Paizo Creative Director Rob McCreary.

With the surprise release of three new Starfinder classes available for public playtest – the Biohacker, Vanguard, and Witchwarper – we sit down with Rob to discuss each class, their abilities, their party role, how they were developed, the public playtest, and much more. We even touch upon the new Starfinder hardcover book expected in late 2019, the Character Operations Manual and what to expect from that new book. Check it out!

And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast our Patreon page: where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!

Talking Combat 063: Take My Breath Away

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 063: Ghouls Are People Too.

I’d like to start this week by expressing relief at Steve’s GM tip. When I first heard it, I thought he was going to do something crazy like argue that we should do away with dice in favor of having 12 listeners vote on whether our attacks hit. “Sorry Tuttle, the jury didn’t find it compelling that you’ve been practicing with that pistol enough… MISS!” Comparatively speaking, court as a roleplay analog is a fairly benign landing spot. If you want to get pedantic, it’s an incomplete analogy as the GM represents both the judge and the prosecution in an RPG, but there are some similarities… the phrase “rules lawyer” didn’t materialize out of thin air, after all.

I have to admit I don’t know how far to get into the new classes – we don’t really deal with “breaking news” very often here on RFC. On one hand, they represent a Thing That Is Happening in the larger Starfinder community, and our Discord channel is already kicking them around. On the other hand, it would feel kind of egotistical to get too far out in front of the other guys’ opinions or (potentially) interviews with Paizo people who actually worked on the classes, if Steve is going to be doing those as he says. Also, I don’t want to get repetitive – it would suck to do a deep dive and then realize that’s what we’re talking about next week too.

For now, I’ll leave it at first impressions.

  • Biohacker might be fun for someone else, but I’m not sure I’d enjoy the playstyle. It’s on the more subtle side of things. Access to heals immediately creates a niche for it in the game, and I like the class ability that gives you a free scan of any creature; I just don’t think it would be my thing.
  • Calling a vanguard a monk is an oversimplification. It’s got some similarities (unarmed striker, “entropy” is kinda like ki) but it’s also got differences (can wear heavy armor, entropy is powered up by taking hits). So it’s not a nimble striker that’s supposed to avoid hits – more of a brute that’s supposed to take hits because it pisses him off. (Now I’m imagining that moment in any Hulk Hogan match where the opponent starts slapping Hulkster to no effect, as his eyes bug out as he hulks up and gets more angry.) The vanguard also formally (re-)introduces shields to Starfinder – yes, the people of the Pact Worlds forgot how to hold a piece of wood or metal in front of their face for thousands of years and just now remembered – so maybe Chris will want to re-roll his fake paladin in the Society game.
  • The Witchwarper is a sorcerer-like caster (including CHA as a primary stat) that has a lot of cool flavor – things that play around with movement and terrain, elemental damage types, etc. – but some of its best abilities run on Resolve Points, so juggling heals/staying alive with unleashing its best powers could get dicey. The single most interesting thing I saw was “Lessen Injury” which allows you – as an interrupt – to lower a damage roll against you or an ally to the lowest possible value. So a 15-point 2d8 could become a 2. It doesn’t work on “extra” damage (crit/sneak attack/etc.), but that’s potentially crazy-useful stuff.

If you put me on the spot, I suspect Witchwarper is probably the one I’d want to try first. Some interest in Vanguard, but if we’re talking close combat, I have this feeling that Solarian already scratches that itch better than Vanguard is going to. Biohacker? Eh… let someone else have that one. Logistically, I don’t think we’re going to have a playtest for the show: not to put our business in the street, but people’s holiday plans are making it tough to fit in our regular sessions, much less extra sessions for a side game. But I do think we’ll be coming back to these after everyone has had a chance to look at them in greater detail.

Meanwhile… right! We had a show this week! Easy fight, rocky week with our people skills.

After poor Mo got beaten to a pulp by the ghouls, it was nice to have a fairly easy fight. I did like the “take your breath away” effect – it had a neat little sci-fi flavor… almost like creating a little mini-black-hole in your lungs. I did find myself wondering if the breath effect got worse with successive fails – maybe you get oxygen-deprived and start attacking other people or pass out if you fail two or three in a row – or if it was just an extra source of damage. The former, if true, could actually get pretty hairy. The latter… not really that big an issue. It seems like they’d make a pretty good boss challenge for a lower-level party – harder to hit at lower levels and the fort saves would be a little harder to make.

I also cracked up that Tuttle got to kill steal while Rusty and Hirogi were having their pissing contest about who was doing more damage. There was something fitting about that, and it actually harkened back to our Carrion Crown campaign, where I was a notorious kill-stealer. Stylistically, I was imagining the opening scene from the first Lethal Weapon where Riggs puts four or five shots in a guy while doing a little barrel roll on the ground. So we’ve got Lethal Weapon AND Lethal Weapon 2 represented – perhaps next week Tuttle will have occasion to explain how they fuck you in the drive-thru. (Or better yet, maybe we can just forget everything Joe Pesci did after My Cousin Vinny.)

Speaking of abrasive Joe Pesci roles, our people skills this episode could’ve used some work. It was oddly difficult to get information out of someone whose life we had just saved, but we somehow managed that herculean feat. And then Mo decided to yell at Wynetta Trux for… reasons. I mean, yeah, it was a little odd she’d get so ornery about having clean up bodies that we had to face doing work on her behalf, but jeez… overreact much, Mo? We’re already facing an uphill battle being agents of the living on an undead planet; probably don’t need to make things harder by alienating the one person who’s on our side.

(General aside: I thought our stint on the reality show all the way back in Book 1 would confer some sort of benefit or grease the wheels for us when we arrived here, but… nope. Reality TV celebrity is just as fleeting in the Pact Worlds as it is in real life.)

Well, hopefully next week, we can talk Wynetta down from being offended (that’s a Rusty job if ever I heard one) and get some information – remember that she was supposed to be researching that bone spur for us, right? So hopefully we can put that together with the new clue we found and that’ll give us a path to follow. I’m still not crazy that it almost has to lead to fighting a marrowblight, but we’ll jump off that cliff when we come to it. So, see you next week, and in the meantime, feel free to drop by Discord and talk about the episode, the new classes, or whatever else floats your boat. (Unless you’re late-career Pesci fans, in which case we’re gonna have issues. My review of The Super was so harsh it almost got our college newspaper’s press passes revoked.) See you next week.

Dead Suns 063: Ghouls Are People Too

After killing several evil ghouls and saving a skeleton-citizen from certain death, the RFC crew soon learn that on the world of Eox it’s the living who are the monsters!

Also for this week’s GM/PC Tip, Stephen explains why serving on jury duty you can learn a thing or two about “theater of the mind” and how to apply those lessons to your home game.

And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast our Patreon page: where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!