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Talking Plaguestone 25: Enough Talk!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 25: Have Fun Storming the Castle!

I feel like since Steve addressed the “where we go next” question in his pre-show commentary, I figured I’d start this week with a little more of an explanation why I decided not to do Extinction Curse. Full disclosure: Steve offered me a slot to keep the merry Plaguestone band together, but I wanted to chime in on why I passed.

The first and simplest answer is time. Between Plaguestone (soon to be Extinction Curse), Dead Suns (soon to be Whatever Follows That), and my home game, I’m playing three times a week, and I’ve come to the realization that’s my saturation point. I absolutely wanted to do Plaguestone and get in on Second Edition as soon as possible, so I didn’t mind burning the candle at both ends for a few months. But now that some of that new gaming system smell has worn off, I think two games is more my comfort zone.

As to why Plaguestone is the one to go, I think that gets into the style of game Extinction Curse is going to be. I mean, it sounds like a GREAT concept for an adventure. Don’t get me wrong. But Steve is hoping that Extinction Curse will take the roleplaying tone that started with Plaguestone to the next level, and… I’m not going to say that’s not me, but it takes a great deal of effort for that to be me for a full three-hour session. Perhaps more than I’m willing to commit. I’m the guy that breaks out in song when someone says a phrase that fits a lyric, or gets lost in Dad Jokes for five minutes, or stops to philosophize about which Hollywood actor would best fit the NPC we’re talking to. Plaguestone eventually reached a happy medium where we let some of that slide, but if the intent is to take that to the next level in Extinction Curse, I’m not sure my Benevolent Assclown persona fits there. So… “this above all, to thine own self be true”. Granted, Hamlet’s “own self” was a deranged murderhobo, but it’s still good advice.

This is not to say I’ll have zero involvement in the new show. As Steve said, I’m currently planning to write a… Talking Circus?… which will be interesting because I’ll be writing completely from the listener’s perspective for the first time. (I listened to the Pathfinder one-shot where everyone died, but never got around to doing a write-up because that’s around the same time all the hardcovers came out.) I also wouldn’t rule out showing up as an NPC at some point. Heck, if life circumstances change, maybe I’ll pull a Seth and jump in halfway. But for now, I’ll be watching from the sidelines.

OK, enough about the game we haven’t started yet. We still have this one to finish. And this week, we do the initial planning for the assault on Spite’s Cradle.

First thing: I didn’t do all the math, so this might be wishful thinking, but I find myself wishing Prue had taken a stab at reverse-engineering potency crystals so we could make more. If you remember, you can figure out how to make a magic item by breaking it down into its components. I didn’t run the math to determine how hard it would be; I don’t know if we have access to the proper ingredients to make more, but a few more One-Round Superhero Crystals would rock right about now.

We also split up all the bombs and potions. The only real footnote here is that bombs are considered martial weapons, so Brixley is actually the most effective bomb-thrower in the party. But that also goes against the idea that he’s supposed to be up front being a meat shield. So I don’t want to just take ALL the bombs, in case I’m stuck in melee and can’t use them, but I do grab a few, just in case. If the battlefield unfolds in such a way that it’s effective for me to be artillery, I’m totally willing to not get punched repeatedly.

When we reach Spite’s Cradle, we start with reconnaissance. I’m smiling internally because this is something our Dead Suns group is absolutely not known for, unless you think John getting impatient and throwing a door open counts as “reconnaissance”. I have to admit as I was re-listening to this, I didn’t really appreciate the full gravity of the situation – there was a scenario where Cade might’ve gotten caught, and been stuck fighting multiple orcs behind a barred gate the rest of us couldn’t get through. (And then once they’d filled Cade up with stabby-holes, could’ve climbed up on the palisade and started shooting arrows at the rest of us from relative safety.) So this could’ve been the shortest ride to the finish ever if Cade had screwed up a roll or two. Somehow I didn’t really appreciate that in the moment and was mostly just impatient to get on with the fight.

Fortunately Cade did not screw up his rolls (at least not the most important ones), and we got a decent picture of the enemy complex. Only two visible orcs in the courtyard, but there are two structures flanking the valley behind the wall – a true building on the northwest side, more of a thrown-together hut to the southeast. At this point, I’m feeling like the hut may just be a guard shack (maybe just for the two in the courtyard, or maybe there are more guards inside) and the structure is the actual villain lair.

Though this is Paizo we’re talking about… definitely more than two orcs.

So now we have to figure out how to get in. Very generally, we’re going to go with “Forest Moon of Endor” gambit – hide our true numbers, do something to get the guards to open the gates, and then rush it. Minus the AT-ST, of course. (Could Prue reverse engineer one of THOSE?)

At first, I was a little disappointed the group didn’t go with my plan of using Ember as bait, but thinking back on it, it was actually kind of a weak plan. If the orcs were under strict orders to hold their posts, a random fire-kitty prancing around outside their perimeter might not have been enough to get them to investigate. Especially not when Vilree’s been parading weird beasties past them for months, if not years. They’d probably be like “Yeah, yeah… fire cat. Third one this week. Hey Gorth, remember the one that ate your favorite boots?”

So I guess we’re going with that old standby: “I Have A Prisoner”. If it was good enough for Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, it’s good enough for us. The classics never truly go out of style. On the plus side, we do have a partially maimed, menacing-looking half-orc, so we’ve got a natural advantage in the guard department. I’m just not thrilled that Brixley has to be the prisoner. Even faking it, my pride is wounded by the idea of being fake-captured. But I can’t stealth into position like Cade, we don’t want a plan that puts our squishy caster (Celes) up front, so… A Prisoner Is You. Deal with it.

I don’t know if it worked exactly. They didn’t exactly seem to be buying what she was selling, but it got them to open the door open enough for Prue to rush it the rest of the way. It felt kind of like the scene from the second (lesser) Conan movie where the bad guy is doing his little speech and Conan yells “ENOUGH TALK” and just throws a dagger into the belly of a dude wearing some of the most improbable minion armor in movie villain history. Vision obscuring mask, skirts that could tangle my lower-body movement without providing any protection, absolutely no center mass protection? WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

(Then again, Conan is basically nekkid, so maybe I should just leave such complaints at the door.)

Sorry… I digress. (See, this is why I can’t be in Extinction Curse. I’m telling you…) The doors are open, we have a foothold, and now we have to fight our way in… and that’s where we’re going to leave it for the week. Come back next time and find out how many secret orc reinforcements were hiding in wait for us, and see if we survive. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media, and join the ongoing festivities. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Plaguestone 25: Have Fun Storming the Castle!

The time has finally come for the RFC Gang to find and confront Vilree once and for all! Of course, they first need to find her hideout … it’s time for adventure!

Also this week, learn all about our several new upcoming podcasts!

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Talking Combat 118: Hack The Planet!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 118: Undead of Unusual Size.

This week’s column is going to be a bit of a rush job, as I had an unexpected childhood friend come to town and lost more of my weekend to frivolity than I planned. Also, I may or may not be in self-imposed shame exile because “Undead of Unusual Size” was originally my joke (from last week’s Talking) and I forgot that ellicoths aren’t actually undead, thus nullifying the entire premise. SHAME! SHAME! (rings bell)

The battle itself turns out to not be that big of a deal… and that’s kind of been a recurring theme for Starfinder. Things that JUST have a lot of hit points and nothing else going for them have not traditionally been that hard for us. Mo lands a crit or two, Bob’s Get ‘Em usually means we can do full attacks against them and still stand a chance of hitting both attacks, and we can usually chop ‘em down fairly quickly. The fact that they had reach was a little bit of a nuisance at first, but once the first one dropped we pretty much had enough room to move safely. Either that or Mo could afford to eat the first attack of opportunity and let the rest of us move freely.

The radiation could have been a problem in a different setting. If we’d run across an ellicoth on Castrovel, when we were sometimes not wearing our armor to save on the total days of cooling, that could’ve gotten messy fast. (Or if someone had gotten behind the upgrade curve and still had level 5 or 6 armor.) But in a scenario where you’re already wearing a de facto Hazmat suit… it’s kind of shrugworthy. I don’t know if this was bad creature design, or just pairing them with an encounter where people are already going to be geared for it is the issue.

I kinda retroactively liked Steve’s idea of having a couple of support troops with them. Not only might have that been a way to spice up the encounter a little and mix in some different dynamics, but it does seem kind of odd you’d leave (essentially) farm animals to guard a train station with no humanoid supervision. But whatever… big beasties it is. I guess I leave my dogs to guard the house when I go to the grocery store; maybe this is the same concept. Except I apparently need to make stilts for my dogs to get the full ellicoth effect.

I’ll have to admit I got a little frustrated toward the end when Seth was trying to lawyer Steve into a roll on re-routing the guards once they had already been called. I have some sympathy that on a storytelling/improv level you want to say yes to players rather than just shutting them down cold – it’s that whole “spirit of cooperation” vibe. But at the same time, there are limits to that. Some things in life are just flat “no”s, and I’m not sure the GM is required to give out a roll on an impossibility just to humor the party. I mean, where does that logic end… if I proclaim that Tuttle learned how to breathe fire, how many Nat-20s do I have to roll before Steve has to let me do that? Or is it on us as players to SOMETIMES accept that X, Y, and Z are just impossible in this story and work with that?

I’m gonna stick with this for a second and go a little more granular. I’m an IT guy, and this scenario is mostly a computer problem, so it’s kind of in my wheelhouse. I would say there are probably five broad classifications of things I run across in my day job. I would call it easy, easy with dependencies, hard, long-term projects, and impossible.

The first three are a kind of classic problem resolution with increasing levels of difficulty. You know what you have to do, you might even have all the knowledge and tools you need to fix it, but it will take some non-zero amount of time to accomplish. And in the middle case, it’s a conceptually easy fix, but there are binary failure conditions where if you don’t have the right password/cable/tool, it becomes a harder or impossible problem. The long-term project stuff is something where articulating the problem on a theoretical level is easy, you might even have a sense of what you have to do to fix it, but there’s no realistic way you could do that quickly – it’s an hours/days/weeks effort. And then there’s impossible, like getting an air-gapped computer to talk on the Internet or retrieving usable data from a single disk pulled out of a RAID array. You can want to solve those problems all you want, but you’re not going to succeed.

OK, so how does all of this tie back to Seth’s request? Well, going back in time a few episodes, installing and using TombRobber was probably an “easy with dependencies” situation. Once Tuttle got access to the right computer system, running TombRobber was just like running any other program. The idea Seth had in the previous episode with re-routing the trains or crashing them on purpose was more like a long-term project – if Tuttle could’ve studied the system for a few hours or days, he might have been able to re-write the system, but it hardly seems like the sort of thing he could’ve done in five minutes. But the fact that the captain or the admiral (I presume) saw their ellicoths dying and had already called troops to come back… I mean, that’s not really even a computer problem anymore. The message already went out. That’s a “the captain of the ship has ordered guys to Hangar Bay 23, we’re in Hangar Bay 23, we need to not be here when they get here” problem. I’m no military expert, but I don’t even think recalling the order would work as a matter of protocol: if your captain orders you to return to the bridge and then some computer says “never mind”, you probably still come to the bridge.

At any rate, we win the battle, we’ve got a foothold on the command level, but the clock is running. Whoever is on the bridge is at least generally aware we’re on our way even if they can’t see us on the security scans, and reinforcements are on the way. The sprint to the finish begins now.

And that’s where we’ll pick it up. Feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you think of the action and join in the ongoing merry-making. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week!

Dead Suns 118: Undead of Unusual Size

What’s better than an epic fight with a gargantuan magical beast? How about a fight with four gargantuan magical beasts!

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Talking Plaguestone 24: The GM Giveth, The GM Taketh Away

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 24: Medieval Regression Search.

I have to start with an admission – I didn’t actually remember big chunks of this episode as I was listening to it. I remembered the broad strokes that Celes had to go scrounging through Uncle Targie’s basement. I remember spending a surprisingly large amount of handwringing about the ethics of stealing the everburning torch. But the chest with the scroll with the evil writing (abyssal, I’m guessing?)… I remembered none of that. I’d ask if the rest of the group reconvened at a later date and recorded more material without me, but I can even hear my voice in there a few times, so… nope… I was there. Chalk it up to some combination of “we recorded this a month or two ago” and “I’m in three different games at the moment”.

I have to admit, Celes’ side quest is shaping up as my favorite of the four, and here’s why I think that is. Unless Vanessa and Steve got together and wrote this on the side, she gets to learn something she didn’t know about her own character and done right, that’s a pretty awesome idea. If I’ve got one pet peeve about these games in general, it’s that the path is pretty much laid out for you from 1-20; there are never truly any surprises. (So much so that you can literally map out what your character will look like at every level along the way if you want to.) Yeah, you might take some feats in different orders or the rebels amongst us might multiclass, but even those choices operate within the guard rails of the what the rulebook dictates – you just bolt a few new pieces on the chassis and move on. You’ve always been the wood elf ranger at the Overlook, Mister Torrance.

But consider this quest Celes is on. It manages to provide rich material for storytelling – every spell Celes casts commits her to more servitude after death – while mostly staying out of the way of the gameplay in the here-and-now. The curse isn’t so drastic as to stop her from tossing out a heal if one of us is going to drop, but it certainly tweaks her motivations and make her choices more interesting – both in combat and in the sorts of things she wants to investigate and what she chooses to do with her time between adventures. Contrast that with something like arbitrarily making her blind or severing her connection to magic, which would just make the character unworkable without necessarily creating a better story.

That actually dovetails with something Steve talked about in the intro – this idea of “taking toys away” from players if they unbalance the game. And I’d place that in contrast to GIVING players “freebies” to reward out-of-the-box thinking (Brixley basically getting free fire resistance for his mount). And I think to see the whole picture, you have to pull out and widen the focus on the storytelling rather than just the combat game.

One thing that’s important to remember is that when it comes to the rules, they aren’t just rules, they also represent part of the world-building of the environment the story takes place in. Take the idea that casters can’t wear heavy armor. OK, at a simple level, that creates a game mechanic that explains why you can’t just roll a party of TankMages, but it also creates some of the understanding of how magic interacts with the world, so OK… it’s hard to access the arcane forces while wearing heavy armor. So it follows that allowing things that undermine or break the rules (or are even just too powerful) also have the potential to undermine the world-building and damage the integrity of the story itself.

(You know… like the Force going from an energy field that exists to all things to some virus you catch on Spring Break at Panama City. Freakin’ midichlorians, man…)

That’s not to say you can’t reward creative thinking. If people think of a way to use something you thought was harmless in an unorthodox way that’s genuinely clever and makes for a good storytelling moment, go for it. One of the sneaky things about the Harry Potter series is how much use he gets out of what would be his Level 1 and Level 2 spells. If someone does something genuinely clever in the moment, reward away! But if your characters find a way to use something that becomes an I WIN button and makes the story boring? Yank it, and feel no shame or guilt in doing so. At some point, the story comes first. (Be particularly heavy-handed if they come prepared with enough rules citations to argue before the Supreme Court; at that point, even THEY know they’re trying some shady shit.)

If it’s the scenario Steve described where you already gave them something and have to roll it back, I would suggest you try to do it during downtime to avoid creating ill will – pulling tools away from a party in the middle of a dungeon slog when they’ve already committed some of their resources based on having something available would be frustrating as a player. As a player, I probably know that nuclear bomb I crafted from a potato isn’t REALLY gonna fly, but if you let me burn through all my Level 3-5 spells and THEN tell me, I’m still gonna be a little annoyed. If you tell me at the tavern between dungeon slogs, I can adjust to the new normal.

At the end of the day, the key thing to remember is that the worst thing for any table is an adversarial relationship between a GM and his or her players. I know the mechanics of the combat system sometimes drive things that way – we players are killing their monsters, so we’re “against” each other – but the important thing to remember is, as an act of collaborative storytelling, we really are in this together. As it pertains to this concept of “taking toys away”, that does sometimes mean putting a muzzle on the internal rules-lawyer and remembering a GM has reasons for things they do. They are the ones that see the whole picture, and if they think something’s going to unbalance and ruin weeks or months of gaming, they have an obligation to do something about it.

Of course, the caveat is that the GM should have a good reason for doing it, and not just “I’m pissed because they’re winning too easily”. And you build that trust by using the other side of the coin – if your players come up with something genuinely good, reward them even if it’s not quite rules as written. That’s one of the reasons I’ve come to trust Steve over the years – yes, he’ll occasionally overrule (cough-Chris-cough) people when they try to do something unbalancing, but he’ll also give out the occasional freebie as he did with the fire resistance. I was prepared to exist for a level or two with a firecat I couldn’t ride, but I think Steve appreciated that was a better story development than a boring old magic sword, so he gave me a freebie to help out with it. See? It all evens out.

Well, that’s all I’ve got this week. I realize I didn’t write about the episode itself very much, but such are the winds of inspiration. Especially when it’s a Celes episode and I’m still trying to get back into the routine after the new year. Next week, I believe we begin the final (or so we think) assault on Vilree’s hideout at Spite’s Cradle. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Plaguestone 24: Medieval Regression Search

This week Celes decides to explore her past, and discovers that she comes from a long line of hoarders!

And don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

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Talking Combat 117: Jumping Someone Else’s Train

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 117: The Taking of Blackwind 123.

Welcome to a new year of the Dead Suns podcast, and we’re rolling toward the finish line of the adventure path. This week is mostly a transitional week, as we spend most of it riding the train to what we hope is the final destination. Oh, and we pause to level up, so that’s nice if a little anti-climactic.

First, turning to the world of pop culture, I have to confess, as the non-New Yorker, I don’t have the same affinity for The Taking Of Pelham 123 that the others do. Actually, I don’t even think I’ve seen it, so I guess I’ll have to join the rest of you in renting it. On the other hand, as a Pittsburgh native, the mall in the original 1978 Dawn Of The Dead was the one I used to go to all the time, so that’s pretty cool… (For the record, it still exists, but the skating rink is long gone.)

I’ve never played an extended session with Seth, so I’m on the dividing line between “crazy like a fox” and “needlessly overcomplicating things”. Maybe a little of both. I do kind of get where he’s coming from – if we only get one use of the Tomb Robber computer virus, maybe we could create ourselves a second distraction with the train car itself. So I get why he was pushing the Pelham 123 plan. On the other hand, this is one of those times where you could see the rails just a little – after a certain point, it really felt like the Tomb Robber was the MacGuffin to get to the train station on the command deck, at which point we’d have to fight it out the rest of the way. At least that’s the way it seemed to me.

As a brief aside, it’s always been a little fuzzy to me how much these trains are truly independent vehicles, and how much they’re point-to-point, like a glorified elevator, but on a massive scale. Sometimes it seems like we should have fairly granular control; other times, it seems like you just push a button and end up somewhere. At the end of the day… whatever gets us where the plot needs us to be.

Steve does have a point about players needlessly complicating situations sometimes. Over the holiday break, we had just such an occasion in my home game. One of our characters… OK, fine, me; low-level monks are squishy… died and the party didn’t have enough money for the raise dead ritual. The church offered the remaining party a reduced rate if they’d steal a rival evil cult’s holy symbol from their temple. The cult HQ had an alleyway with a window and a locked door… so, have the stealthiest character sneak in and steal the symbol. Easy enough, right? Instead, we had the most morally ambiguous party member (my son) decide to use Charisma, tell the evil cult the plan and suggest they make us a fake holy symbol to let us use instead. (This was after our supposedly good-aligned characters floated the idea of paying town drunks a few silver to have a bum fight in front of the cult’s hideout to serve as a distraction.) My son’s plan got surprisingly further than I thought it would because he rolled a nat 20 on his initial persuasion check, but UN-surprisingly, the plan unraveled and ended in combat, and just short of a TPK.

Luckily, we have no such problems with our computer and engineering checks, and it’s fairly smooth sailing. Though, to be fair, part of that smooth sailing was Steve taking out a fight that was supposed to happen on the moving trains. Which… not gonna lie, as a spectacle, it sounds GREAT – particularly if there would be jumping back and forth between the trains – but I’m just as happy to not do it because of the resource crunch we’re up against. It feels like we have either zero or MAYBE one long rest left (depends how much command deck there is), so burning a bunch of resources before we even reach the command deck would’ve been a little frustrating.

In between, we level up to 12, and I think this is one of those places where it’s underwhelming because the metagame tends to restrict choices. The thing is: we know we’re getting toward the end and that a final battle is coming, so optimizing for combat tends to dominate the conversation at this point. It’s hard to imagine a non-combat ability that would be much of a game-changer, but a lot of the combat options are underwhelming. Energy Shield, which was my selection, is basically worth about one hit, and that was probably the best choice I could make. Now, if the campaign was continuing, Energy Shield would lead to Improved Energy Shield, and that would at least be something, but I don’t see there being another two levels of progression either. So… one free hit it shall be, I suppose.

So we reach the destination station. The good news is that Tomb Robber did its work and most of the enemy forces have left. The bad news is they didn’t leave the place totally undefended. Which… OK, doing so would be pretty stupid, if we’re being honest. Instead, it’s not one but four of… well… something. Larger than humanoid, that’s all I’ll say for now.

I’m going to wrap things up for now – it’s been a little bit of a hectic week, getting back into the post-holiday routine. Hopefully, you’ll join us next week when we begin our assault on the command deck and fight the Undead of Unusual Size… after all, if you’ve been with us for two years, might as well stick around and see how it all turns out. In the meantime, feel free to stop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show; we’ve been a little absent over the holidays, but we’re starting to find our collective way back. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you back here next week.

Dead Suns 117: The Taking of Blackwind 123

This week the RFC Crew reach a new level and get a crash course on grav-train maintenance. As a bonus, we go over the history of the classic heist movie The Taking of Pelham 123.

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Talking Plaguestone 23: Technicolor Drizzt

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 23: The Legend of Ol’ Woody.

With Steve on vacation, I get to be the first to welcome you to… “RFC2020” (assuming I’m doing jazz hands). I hope you rang in the new year well, whether that’s partying up or… say… binge-watching the entire first season of The Witcher. You know… as I’ve heard people do.

This is one of those episodes I’ve been waiting for. This is my Dead Poets Society moment where Ethan Hawke has to freeform the “sweaty-toothed madman” poem about Walt Whitman. I knew where I wanted it to go, but didn’t know how I’d get there, and it was a little bit of an unnerving whirlwind of roleplay. But I think it turned out well in the end.

Let’s pull back the curtain a little bit. I’ll admit that Steve and I coordinated the broadest of strokes – that I would take Divine Steed if we could work out a way that Fire Kitty could be my steed. I’ll admit I briefly considered just surprising Steve at the table to see how he handled it, but realistically, it had to be that way because I had rules questions I needed him to answer before committing. If I misunderstood the rules and saddled myself with a steed I couldn’t use (or if Fire Kitty couldn’t work and I just ended up with a boring old horse), that would suck. So it couldn’t be a surprise to EVERYONE. Beyond that, everything else was ad-libbed, and I specifically didn’t let the rest of the group know because I wanted somebody to be surprised.

As an aside, this was also why I trained in Nature – figured it would be useful in handling the pet. At the time I chose to play it off as story-telling… “Brixley immersed himself in nature, it was helpful for the campaign, blahblahblah”… but it was All Part Of The Plan. For similar reasons, I thought about taking Ride as my general feat, but that would’ve given the game away, and I can always take it later.

The first question I had for Steve was a fairly specific rules-lawyer: do ALL the rules for animal companions apply to mounts or is it just a mount? The dirty little secret is that mounted combat – at least at low levels – doesn’t really get you that much. You don’t get extra actions, the mount shares your penalty for multiple attacks… other than the fact that your mount gives your attacks a special property (for cats, I think it’s a trip effect or something), there’s really not much point. Again, this is at low levels: at higher levels, there are feats that can make it more efficient. But at low levels, it’s tactically underwhelming.

But here’s where it gets interesting… a champion’s steed is also described as an “animal companion”, and Paizo is usually pretty intentional when it comes to using keywords. An animal companion can be given commands that serve as a 2-for-1 action trade – you use one action to give your animal companion two. (If you’re listening to our Dead Suns Starfinder show, it’s not dissimilar to the Tuttle-CHDRR dynamic.) If you can use a divine steed THAT way, it starts to become more useful. Though also a little ranger-y. Like Technicolor Drizzt.

The second question as more obvious and high-level: how would I be allowed to ride a cat that’s on fire all the time? I had been thinking that maybe Steve could arrange to put a ring of fire resistance in a future treasure haul, or perhaps that Metamon could help craft a saddle that has fire resistance or something. But that was one of those things where if Steve agreed we’d at least solve it at SOME point, I was willing to play the long game and defer to Steve as to how, and even WHEN, we’d deal with it. If I could use it as a non-rideable pet in the short term, I was willing to let the fire issue be something we’d solve over a longer timeframe. It turns out Steve decided to hand-wave it and just give it to me, so… yay me, I guess!

So figuring out those rules questions was the extent of the coordination. Everything else was whipped up in the moment. From my standpoint, my thinking on using the church was twofold. First, it would just generally preserve the element of surprise until the last possible minute rather than just saying “oh, by the way, Fire Kitty is my pet now” when we leveled up. Second, I was thinking that conducting my Divine Ally ritual at the church would be a way to give Steve a window to maybe fold the reward from that side quest into this or include Metamon in the logistical side of things. The specifics of the ritual, including dragging Old Woody into it, having to make a toast, throwing open the doors, going on the victory ride… that was all just me and Steve figuring out where to take it in the moment.

I have to admit there was one moment I laughed out loud at while re-listening: when I describe drinking Old Woody as being a “good role model”, and Rob deadpans “yes, gather the children”. I don’t know if I was too locked in on how I was going to roleplay the ritual to appreciate that the first time, but something about the way he delivered that line killed me.

In moments of calm, I do wonder if I’m making the right call here. The elephant in the room is that the Divine Weapon boon would’ve probably still been the tactically wiser choice. A pet might give you an extra attack and set up some flanking if you use it right, but it’s still a little situational and you have to give up one of your own actions to use it. Magic weapon? That’s handy every time you swing it, especially if you apply the right effect (ghost touch alone is SO worth it). But storytelling won the day — it just seemed like such a good way to weave the Plaguestone story and my character’s arc together… it felt too good to pass up.

You will probably notice I pretty much disappear for the rest of the episode. It’s kind of a three-fold thing. First, I’m not a natural roleplayer, so that took a surprising amount of “effort” (yeah, I know it’s not busting rocks or anything) and once it was over, I needed to mentally recharge. Second, I felt just a twinge of guilt for hogging the spotlight and I wanted to step back and let other people have the floor for a while. But also, if I’m being honest, part of it was as basic as coming up with a suitable name. I hope you guys find “Ember” fitting. At some point, all those “FireSomething” names started sounding like discount-rack members of the X-Men, while Ember sounded more simple and elegant.

Sorry we couldn’t make a contest work, but then again, I’m not sure I relish the idea of having my beautiful new pet saddled with the name “Firecat McFirecatface” if you guys had wanted to be troublemakers. So Ember it is.

So the rest of the episode passes uneventfully. Cade helps set Pari up with an internship with the caravan, more turnips are consumed, and we’ll probably be hitting the road again next week. Once you’re done enjoying your remaining holidays (me, I’m back at work today), feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you thought of the show. Heck, you can still vote on what you WOULD have named the cat if we’d actually subjected it to the democratic process. Thanks for listening, happy new year, and we’ll see you back here next week!