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Talking Combat 073: Prime Directive? Never Heard of It

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 073: Bringing A Bow To A Gunfight.

I apologize in advance: this week’s Talking is both late and a little on the short side. An exhausting week at work is the primary culprit – staring at the same files for hours on end looking for a needle in a haystack is already a pain, but do it in a machine room right under an exhaust vent blowing cold air on you… I’m dying, is basically what I’m saying.

I think this week excites me because it’s an example of the long game finally paying off. Many many sessions ago, Tuttle took Technomantic Dabbler – basically, it gives you a smattering of magic: two level-0 spells and a level 1 spell. For the record, the Level 0 spells are Psychokinetic Hand and Telepathic Message, and the Level 1 spell is… wait for it… Comprehend Languages.

And this week, we finally get some languages to comprehend. Huzzah!

The first question is: does this constitute meta-gaming? I feel like I’m on firm ground in saying “no” here. To me, meta-gaming is using knowledge the player has but the character doesn’t. At the time I took this feat, we had already established aboard the Drift Rock and on Castrovel that we were dealing with an alien civilization from outside the Pact Worlds. As such, having a skill-monkey character load up on language abilities seems like something totally within the realm of legit character development.

Real-life analogy: if you know you’re going to spend 6 months in China, you’d probably duck into Duolingo and try to learn a few phrases. Feels like I’m on pretty solid ground here.

I got another question, prompted by speculation on our Discord channel: why did I wait so long to cast my spell and let Hirogi try to translate first? Frankly, I was busy double-checking the rules. I wanted to make sure whether it was a once-per-day thing, unlimited (cantrip) use, or something else before I “wasted” a cast of the spell on what amounted to one word. As it turns out, it’s one cast every three levels – so two casts per day – but each cast lasts 70 minutes. Unless we take a long time exploring, that ought to be enough to get by.

I was amused by the general logistics of our interactions with the Kish. So: breaking it down… Tuttle can read written languages but doesn’t understand any spoken language. Hirogi can speak a pidgin version of the Kish language, but can’t interpret any writing. And Rusty can’t do either, but the Kish still love him because he’s… so dreamy or something. Taking off the gamer hat for a second, I’m amused at the overall dynamic – we basically have one coherent communicator spread between three people.  (And yes, I love that by elimination, Mo is just sailing along completely clueless to all of it.)

Anyhow, we talk to Herald (or Harold) Tzayl and proceed to get our next marching orders. It sounds like the Cultists have already been here, gotten what they needed, and conned Huntmaster Whatshisface into guarding the temple so other people (us, the Corpse Fleet) can’t get the information they got. Officially, the status of the Corpse Fleet currently remains unknown – doesn’t seem like the Kish have encountered them.

But to even get to their temple we have to navigate two obstacles first. The one we choose to investigate first sounds like… a precursor-civilization hospital they don’t quite understand, I guess? There’s a chamber that sometimes heals people but sometimes zaps them out of existence. Sounds kinda high-risk, high-reward, but maybe Tuttle can figure it out.

To get there we have to wade through more poorly-armed Kish. Steve keeps trying to make us feel guilty about beating these guys up, but it’s Not. Going. To. Happen. I almost guarantee that within an episode or two, we’ll be facing something with twice the hit dice we have, and Steve will be gleefully cheering every single-digit roll, so I’m not going to feel ashamed about winning an easy fight here and there. To get a sense of HOW easy this was – as I’m going back and listening, I honestly didn’t remember this combat lasting long enough to get a shot in. I thought I sat this one out. Nevertheless, we best the Kish pretty handily and next week, I guess we explore the complex.

I’ll finish with a brief word about Steve and Perram’s discussion about haunts. Here’s my position as a player. I like the IDEA of haunts, and I like that they drive storytelling in a different direction. I give Paizo credit for trying to find ways to do things other than combat, social challenges, or searching for traps and secret doors. I respect that a haunt is like a miniature story-within-a-story that has to be solved. But where the rubber meets the road, they seem to fall into a kind of a no-mans-land when it comes to game mechanics. They’re a little too open-ended insofar as you don’t always know which skills will be useful in solving the haunt, but the victory conditions are too narrowly-defined to be something you can just roleplay your way through. SURPRISE! The ghost wants a song so roll Performance (Lute)!

Anyhow, sorry to be brief this week, but… real life intrudes. Next week we explore the alien hospital complex and hopefully get a taste of Healthcare Beyond the Pact Worlds. Until next week, hope you drop by and join the merriment on our Discord channel, and thanks for listening.

Dead Suns 073: Bringing A Bow To A Gunfight

The RFC crew are strangers in a strange land and find a civilization collapsed and ravaged by time. Can the RFC crew make friends and find the evil cultists before they “accidentally” murder their hosts?

Also, we’re giving away a free trip to PaizoCon 2019! Listen to the episode for full details on the contest and how to enter!

Also, this week on Roll to Assist, Stephen and Perram (from the Know Direction Podcast) discuss how to handle Pathfinder haunts and other similar narrative-heavy story elements.

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 072: A Quest For Fun

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 072: We’re Not in The Drift Anymore.

Hey, who wants to see the Pact Worlds’ second largest ball of twine?

The start of week’s episode feels vaguely reminiscent of taking a family road trip somewhere. We’re all varying degrees of testy from having been in the car too long. Rusty and Hirogi are the parents up front, doing their “Are you sure you’re not tired? I can drive!” routine and arguing over the proper folding of the map. Tuttle is the plucky younger kid, either playing his game system (CHDRR) or trying to come up with little road games to pass the time like finding a license plate from every state. Mo’s the sullen teenager who’s just done with the whole experience and would be sending pouty Snapchats to all his friends about how miserable he is, except we have no cell service this far out.

To wit: I was getting a little frustrated at John when it came to whether to fix the ship or not. One second, he said he didn’t want to do it because he didn’t want to spend the money; then he said he didn’t want to do it because we weren’t going to get attacked again, and then – possibly the real reason – is that he considered the whole thing a waste of time and just wanted to move the game along.

The middle of those was simplest – that’s a level of meta-gaming I’m uncomfortable with. If the argument for not fixing the ship was “we’re not stopping to fix the ship because we’re already days or weeks behind the cultists, and the shields will regenerate”… it’s a risky move, but it at least has a game context. If your argument for not fixing the ship is “Paizo never throws more than one starship event into each module” – that’s the very definition of meta-gaming.

More generally, it was frustrating to me because even though I was the one who originally floated the initial figure (I think I said 100UPB/5 hull or something?), I kinda KNEW that sounded wrong and it didn’t take that long or cost that much. So I was searching the rules for the right figure as this was all happening; I just couldn’t find the page fast enough, and John continuously demanding we move on wasn’t helping. I get that we all had a little cabin fever from space combat that lasted (pre-edit) something like 5 or 6 hours over three sessions, but 5 or 10 minutes to get a rule right wasn’t going to kill us.

And as it turns out, five hours of game time and a couple hundred UPBs is almost nothing, so might as well patch everything up. There you go.

So we arrive, and surprise, surprise… we fall immediately into party-based combat. Hostile locals rather than the Corpse Fleet or the cultists at first glance, and it’s pretty quickly obvious these guys don’t represent much of a challenge. Archaic weapons? Bows? Six damage on a crit? We didn’t accidentally warp back into a Pathfinder campaign, did we? (And a level 1, at that…)

It actually felt like the environment itself felt like the biggest threat – I forgot we were on an elevated platform hanging over nothingness until that guy tried to bull rush Mo. If he had fallen, could we have jumped back in the ship and retrieved him, or would he just be gone? Now I’m almost curious.

It’s weird that Steve seemed to be trying to make us feel guilty for beating on these poor guys… I mean, bows or not, they did attack us first. That’s pretty much all the justification I need. Also, in a “kidding-but-not-kidding” way, I’m not prepared to accept a guilt trip from a guy who openly roots for the monsters to kill us in most other fights. MAYBE YOU COULD JUST GIVE THEM AN AZLANTI WARSHIP WITH MUCH BETTER WEAPONS THAN OURS, STEVE!

Speaking of which, I have a confession to get off my chest. It may be my fault the Sunrise Maiden’s weapons are so crappy. I think when we did the refit at Level 6 I got confused and thought the Sunrise had a Small frame when it has a Medium. Theoretically, that means we have access to heavy weapons, right? But since I had the wrong frame in my head, I think I shot down Chris or John when they proposed something from the heavy weapons list. Granted, they cost more PCUs and build points, so we would’ve probably had to sacrifice some shielding, but we probably could’ve packing a little more heat. Something to address next time we re-fit.

I’m going to close with a little bit of discussion of gods and alignments, to branch off of Steve and Perram’s Roll To Assist segment.

I will say that by and large, I’m indifferent toward religion in these types of games. Roleplaying a deeply devout character generally doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me; I’m usually just looking for enough of a MacGuffin to power my spells. I don’t play a lot of divine casters in general… not really my thing. Or if I do, they’re the Golarion equivalent of people who only go to church on the big holidays.

Where the rubber meets the road, my alignment tends to be Chaotic Good or Neutral Good, so I get a lot of mileage out of Desna. There’s nothing about her in particular except that “luck and travelers” sounds pretty adventure-y to me, so she’s probably my go-to when picking a deity. In this campaign, Triune seemed like a better fit for Tuttle, and I did have a lot of fun playing my Gorum-worshiper in Iron Gods, so I’m not opposed to mixing it up a little, but it’s not a big motivator to me.

I don’t think I’ve ever run an evil character. Just something I’ve never had any interest in doing. I’m weird enough to sometimes feel bad about the fake actions of my fake avatar; I like being The Good Guy. Even making Tuttle Lawful Neutral feels like a bit of a concession.

The funny thing is it’s even worse when I’m playing RPG videogames; in computer-based RPGs, my choices hew a lot closer to Lawful Good. Maybe it’s because you’re acting out someone else’s writing, or because you’re usually constrained to two or three choices and the “chaotic” option reads as “asshole”, but I can’t bring myself to be a bad guy or even an annoying guy in computer-based games. In live-table games playing off other real people, there’s more nuance and you can shade it the way you want.

That’s about all I have for this week. Next week, we’ll get to explore our new surroundings a little and hopefully find out who the locals are and why they want us dead too. (Does anyone ever like us?) Maybe we’ll even start making up some ground on our Pact Worlds competition and start unraveling the mystery of the doomsday weapon. In the meantime, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and share your thoughts about the show and join the PaizoCon contest. We’ll see you next week, and thanks for listening!

Dead Suns 072: We’re Not in The Drift Anymore

After a tumultuous few weeks of space combat, the RFC crew are finally out of the Drift and onto Nejeor, where the RFC crew expect to make friends with the natives … after a few dozen senseless combats of course.

Also, we’re giving away a free trip to PaizoCon 2019! Listen to the episode for full details on the contest and how to enter!

Also, this week on Roll to Assist, Stephen and Perram (from the Know Direction Podcast) discuss our favorite gods from Pathfinder and Starfinder.

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 071: Shocking Developments

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 071: Ship Happens.

This week’s going to be a little tricky. I have to thread the needle of another column about starship combat, without necessarily repeating myself from last week too much. I can’t promise zero repetition, but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum. The good news is that the second half contains a few specific developments that change the contour of the fight a little, things that would’ve been spoilers if I had gotten into them too far last week.

Like the energy clouds, for instance. Last week, I think they played more of a passive supporting role: they created some level of visual impediment, but since nobody actually parked in one, we never got to see what the lightning might do. This week… oh boy. I didn’t bother figuring out what the DC must have been – BOB! MATH! – but 0-for-2 on our cloud rolls was pretty painful. Meanwhile, it seemed pretty close to automatic for the Azlanti ship to hide in there… right up until it wasn’t. Somehow that’s how the dice go, I suppose.

Aside: “BOB! MATH!” is destined to become the “AZIZ! LIGHT!” of Roll For Combat. Or perhaps the “KOWALSKI! ANALYSIS!” Pick your cultural reference of choice.

Speaking of near-automatic rolls: one thing I didn’t really notice last week but was very aware of this week was the difference in skill levels between the crews. Last week my focus was almost entirely on weapon strength – their guns hit a lot harder than ours. This week it was far more obvious that part of the problem was that the Azlanti had close-to-automatic rolls while we had rolls that were 50-50-ish propositions. The initiative rolls were the one place where things were pretty even; shooting, actual piloting skill checks… they had a lot of wiggle room while we had to be close to perfect.

Part of the reason I didn’t notice it at the time is that when we’re in the throes of ship combat, I tend to get a little tunnel vision and focus mostly on my stations. I’m all about which systems are glitched, managing our shields, and if it feels like we get the upper hand, only then do I look for opportunities to contribute offensively (target specific systems, goose our speed with Divert, etc.). When we’re in a slugfest like this, I’m pretty much in a defensive bubble; I honestly couldn’t even tell you at any point during the fight how much damage we DID, just what we took. The gunnery rolls, the actual piloting tactics, whether Bob or Chris is piloting or captaining… it might as well be Miss Othmar in Peanuts. WAH WAH wah WAAAAAH!

Getting back to the action, this fight had two main turning points, one of which I sort of discussed last week and one of which would have been a spoiler had I brought it up last week.

The first was the fact that they had a LOT less shielding than we did, so we were able to get into their hull points quicker. I almost feel a little bad mocking Hirogi for wanting so many shield points – turns out that pretty much saved our bacon on this fight. If they had 65 or 70 shields (I’m not going to go back and check), that’s only about 16-18 per quadrant, and I didn’t get the sense Steve had the Azlanti doing much (any?) rebalancing as he went. DO YOU EVEN SCIENCE OFFICER, BRO? So yeah, our shots weren’t as powerful, but we were taking meat off the bone fairly quickly.

The spoilery one gets kind of lost in the shuffle and only gets a brief callout, but it was also clutch in its own way: the fact that their torpedo launcher eventually ran out of ammo. One could argue that the damage of the turret and the damage of the lasers was a wash, but a) losing the turret deprived it of four-quadrant coverage, and b) I think the turret was shooting against a lower number to hit since we put resources into AC but didn’t do anything about TL beyond what Sunrise Maiden 1.0 originally had. And as you heard for yourself, this really played into the endgame; once we took that starboard gun down, we actually had a legit blind spot where we could shoot at them and not take return fire.

Though this is one of those places my memory is a little wonky… I thought we had two or three rounds where it had no starboard gun, but that gets back to the aforementioned Tuttle Bubble. Maybe I’m thinking of when it was glitched rather than when it was actually broken. Or maybe it felt longer because there was one of those 10-minute arguments about where to position the ship that got left in the editing bay.

We also got to see the first use of my new Level 6 power “Overpower”. Basically it lets you do Divert to three systems at the same time by using a resolve point. It’s a decent ability, but it doesn’t change the fact that the underlying Divert actions aren’t that game-changing – heal a whopping 7 points of shields, change a damage roll of 1 to a 2, +2 speed (OK, that’s genuinely useful), or +2 to Science rolls (more handy if you have a separate Science Officer and Engineer – if one person’s doing double-duty, not so much). Still, at the point in the fight I used it at, it seemed like the right call.

In Steve’s post-game, he took us to task a little bit for not thinking of boarding or being boarded. I’ll meet him in the middle on that one. I actually did initially think that surrender might have been the right play, but events kind of overtook us before I could present it as a serious option. I’m not sure it would’ve ever occurred to me to board them, though. I suppose some of that was the general mystique of the Azlanti – if these guys are so tough and technologically-advanced, that’s a suicide mission, right? Though in fairness, I’m also going to give us a pass because of unfamiliarity with the ruleset – we already only play starship combat once every 2-3 months, and the rules for boarding are even on the outer fringes of those rules. Also, some ships like the undead “motorcycles” don’t even make that a viable option.

I also just don’t know the nuts and bolts of how it works: Do we beam over? Throw on our suits and do an EVA? (Oh God, it’s going to turn into the battle scene from Moonraker!) Does anyone have to stay behind and mind the ship or can we all go? Can they keep firing on the Sunrise Maiden while we’re making our way to their bridge? So many questions. Guess I gotta crack a book and check it out.

I wanted to say I was pleased with the amount of conversation that last week’s column generated on our various social media haunts. I was, however, a little surprised so many people want to do away with ship combat entirely. I guess I feel like there’s something iconic about a good space battle that would make me reluctant to throw the baby out with the bath water. Can you have compelling sci-fi without starship combat? Sure. Blade Runner? No ship combat. Doctor Who? Generally no ship combat. Even half of Trek episodes don’t ever take the Enterprise to yellow alert. Looking at Paizo’s published material, some of the Society adventures don’t even touch ship combat and are none the worse for it. But it does seem like a concept worth preserving, even if that translates to “for the time being, house-rule the shit out of it until it improves”.

At the end of the day, I suppose one way to look at it is that it’s a mini-game within the larger game that doesn’t totally click. You wouldn’t throw Witcher 3 in the garbage because you’re not digging Gwent.

Well… either way, we’re done with it for the time being. Next week we get off the Sunrise Maiden and begin our explorations in the Nejeor system. Cultists! Corpse Corps! Other people starting with the letter “C”? Who knows who else might be waiting for us? I guess you’ll have to tune in next week and find out. In the meantime, feel free to drop by Discord and join the ongoing merriment. And don’t forget about the free trip to PaizCon 2019 contest (listen to the show for details)! See you next week and thanks for listening!

Dead Suns 071: Ship Happens

Last week the RFC crew started a fight with the Azlanti Star Empire … and might have met their match. But one way or another this starship combat is going to end this week, and it’s not looking good for the RFC crew.

Also, we’re giving away a free trip to PaizoCon 2019! Listen to the episode for full details on the contest and how to enter!

Also, this week on Roll to Assist, Stephen and Perram (from the Know Direction Podcast) discuss how to keep track of hundreds of books and thousands of rules within your 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!

Talking Combat 070: Ship Out Of Luck

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 070: Never Give Up, Maybe Surrender?.

First: the trivia contest: OOOH! I KNOW THIS ONE!

I’ll start with a bit of a confession based on Steve’s recap. I always get a little twinge of awkwardness when Steve talks about our 100-some years of gaming experience. I mean, it’s true on a technical level – I did pick up my first D&D game somewhere in my late single-digits or early teens and the other guys have similar timeframes, but still… it makes me feel so old to have it spelled out like that. Starts making me feel like the old hunched-over guys from The Dark Crystal, just kinda shuffling along in decrepitude.

Which then opens up the intriguing possibility that there’s some Skeksis gaming group out there somewhere and when one of them drops dead, one of us will turn to dust. Continuing the logic of this scenario, I prefer to believe that if we ever meet them, we’ll morph into some group of super-gamers that roll natural 20s every time we pick up the dice.

Sorry. Imagination getting carried away. Back to our previously-scheduled suicide mission.

After doing out last round of “are you SURE you packed the bug spray?” and “did everyone go to the bathroom, because this car isn’t stopping until we’re at the beach” pre-departure checks, we’re finally headed off to Nejeor. Huzzah.

One thing that excites me at a very high level is an extrapolation from the various Paizo interviews Steve has done – there’s been this sense that Books 1-3 were a little more generalized because the Starfinder rules were still being finalized as they were writing the adventure path. That’s not meant as a criticism of the books or those authors; just a statement of fact that they didn’t necessarily have access to all the paints on their palette when they started working. Books 4-6 is where the rules had been finalized, so I’m hoping that gave the writers more room to cut loose creatively and open up the throttle on the weirdness.

But not yet. Our first taste of the bold new world is… space combat! We almost immediately (real time not game time) run into bad guys who want to blow us up. At a meta-game level, not surprising. As Steve says, space combat seems to be a popular opener or closer in this adventure path, and bad things tend to happen when we get on the Sunrise Maiden, man. Bad things. I was kinda hoping we wouldn’t see starship combat so soon, but whatever.

I’m finding the battle interesting because it’s playing back differently from how I remember it in a couple of different ways.

First, I guess as a minor rules thing, I thought you couldn’t fight while in Drift mode. I think I drew that conclusion from the power requirements in the shipbuilding rules – it looked like your power core wouldn’t have enough spare juice to power your other systems if you were in Drift mode. In the grand scheme, it’s a storytelling thing; I don’t think it especially impacts the game mechanics one way or the other. But it was a little odd.

More importantly, at the time we were originally playing through this, I actually thought taking this fight head-on was a mistake. I really thought we should’ve been looking more closely at surrender; that maybe the Azlanti guys themselves were the next piece of the puzzle, and that by going peacefully with them, maybe we would convince them we were doing good deeds and they’d help point us the right direction.

Listening to the playback after the fact, boy do I feel like a schmuck. These guys had the knives out from the get-go. If we had surrendered, we’d probably be crushing rocks on some deep-space prison planet. Well, everyone except Rusty… he could probably talk his way out of it. And they don’t seem like they’re wired for peaceful altruism. It feels like even if we surrendered and pled our case, they don’t seem like the types to say “yeah, sure, go save the galaxy”. If anything, they seem more like a THIRD group that would want the superweapon for themselves. Wouldn’t that have been fun?

So two months later, I think we probably had to take this fight. Point conceded.

The other place where my recollection parts ways with a second listen is this: for the last month or two, I’ve been remembering it as being pretty obvious from the get-go that we were overmatched, but listening to it again, I didn’t think we were doing TOO bad for ourselves UNTIL they scored that first crit. Yes, the torpedoes hit hard and the quantum property didn’t help and we could never position ourselves to make use of the flak thrower… all true. But we weren’t doing too bad those first few rounds, and even though they had better guns, we were at an almost equal advantage on shields – we had more than twice as many shield points as them. So somewhere in here, the hope is we might get into their hull points while they’re still chipping away at our shields. Knock on wood.

And then our dice went ice-cold and theirs got that crit. (A double-crit, since it was the crit itself AND hitting a 20% damage threshold). That’s where things start to get hairy because we’ve got the minuses themselves AND I probably have to start time-slicing between balancing shields AND trying to fix systems here and there.

One of our listeners asked on Discord if we were aware of the Level 6 actions. I can’t speak for the others, but for me, the answer is “yes, but I didn’t see a great opportunity to use them yet”. The Science action (Lock On) is to give a +2 to ALL gunnery actions in a turn, and the Engineer one (Overpower) is to use the Divert ability on three systems at the same time. I think in the early stages of this fight, I’ve been focused mostly on keeping our shields relatively balanced and keeping damage off the hull – as the fight goes on, I might use some of the other actions more aggressively. Particularly at the extremes – if we’re winning and they’re not hitting us as much anymore, maybe we go more offense-oriented to finish them off. If we’re losing, there will eventually be no more shields left to balance anyway.

I don’t want to be too much of a broken record, but I’m mixed on ship combat overall. The first couple of times we tried it, I really liked it, but I’ve since cooled on it a bit. It’s not terrible, and still makes an OK diversion every once in a while, but it’s still a bit rough around the edges.

The first thing is it’s kinda slow. As Steve mentions, this fight ended up taking 5 hours, spread over 2 or possibly even three sessions. I originally thought that was just an after-effect of playing online and a limitation of our tools, but having also played space combats at PaizoCon and at my local game store… nope, it really is that slow. Maybe some of that is still learning curve – when people know the rules and their actions better, it’ll move more crisply – but maybe that’s just how it is.

I think it also depends a lot on which role you play – I think some roles are pretty engaging and fun; I think other roles are… we’ll be kind and say “ill-defined”. They all fit sci-fi tropes, but they maybe don’t all fit the game system equally well. Pilot is always engaging because it’s the most directly tactical role. In this campaign, as the main Science Guy, Tuttle can have fun because he can bounce back and forth between two stations, but I wonder how I’d feel if our group had two science types and I was sitting at the same station every round. At my local gaming store, I played the Captain role, and if I’m being honest, I actually found that really boring. Though maybe it’s more fun if you channel your inner Rusty and start bossing people around – I wasn’t going to do that with a group of strangers.

The other thing: space combat doesn’t feel like it contains enough disruptive events. In conventional party combat, you have spells and magic items and terrain and other things that can shape the battlefield and force you to adapt to changing circumstances. The bad guy casts a fireball you didn’t see coming. Your rogue sneaks around to the other side of the fight and changes the dynamic of the battle with a timely back-stab. The room is slowly filling with lava and starts restricting movement. So far space combat hasn’t shown a lot of that – in this fight, we’ve got the variable of the lightning clouds, and maybe the self-destruct might come into play, but that’s about it. The party equivalent of a lot of space battles is two fighters standing in an empty arena banging on each other with swords until someone falls over.

On the other hand, I don’t want to put that all on Paizo’s shoulders. Maybe that’s something GMs and even players can take up the slack on. Want disruptive events? Find ways to use the system to create them. The classic “mirror image” spell could become “sensor ghosts” that work the same basic way. Want the classic Trek cloaking device? Maybe you can create one where you can go invisible for X rounds, but on the round, you enter and leave cloak, your shields are completely down and ANY damage goes directly against the hull. Maybe you can do an emergency fire of the Drift engine, which lets you move to a different position instantaneously, but the ship has to take a crit for doing so. Make the tropes work for you, instead of just lamenting that they’re not there.

Looking at this situation we’re in now, I can think of a couple different ways to spice that up. Maybe just make the clouds move randomly each turn – you think you’re safe behind a cloud, and oops… it moved and you’re out in the open again. Or – and this isn’t a spoiler, I’m just thinking of it now – what’s wrong me as the player trying to come up with “resonating shield harmonics” (or some such twaddle) so the lightning clouds RECHARGE the Sunrise Maiden’s shields? Maybe it’s long odds – maybe Steve’s ruling is “you give up your engineering action for two rounds, and you still only have a 50-50 chance, but if it works, the lightning recharges your shields instead of damaging you”. But there’s a disruptive event that creates interesting moments. All I’m saying is you don’t have to wait for Paizo to write it for you; as the player, you might not even need to wait for your GM to write it for you.

I guess that’s my long way of saying I understand people’s expressed frustrations with the space combat system, but I also see a framework that can be improved upon, and could really become something interesting with a little TLC. All it takes is a little…

IMPROVISATION. Which is what Steve and Perram were talking about! See what I did there? (Let’s pretend I did that on purpose.)

Having performed that feat of mental gymnastics, I’m going to quit while I’m ahead for this week. Next week we continue and… maybe?… hopefully?… see how this combat ends. Someday maybe we’ll release the Director’s Cut where we find out Tuttle is actually a replicant.. oh crap, spoilers. In the meantime, duck on into the Discord channel and join the fun. And don’t forget about the free trip to PaizCon 2019 contest (listen to the show for details)! See you next week!

Dead Suns 070: Never Give Up, Maybe Surrender?

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 on 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!

With the start of Book 4 of the Dead Suns Starfinder Adventure Path, we are officially halfway done … and what a better way to celebrate than with a monster show! This week we start our new contest where you can win a free trip to PaizoCon 2019! Plus, the start of our new segment, Roll to Assist!

So, sit back, stay awhile and listen…

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