July 2020 - Page 2 of 2 - Roll For Combat: Paizo's Official Pathfinder & Starfinder Actual Play Podcasts

Make sure to follow our upcoming RPG Superstar Battlezoo Bestiary Kickstarter!

The Black Lodge Tale 4, Chapter 3: New Spell Who Dis?

The Black Lodge crew quickly finds out that are they terrible at bar brawls, but fantastic at crawling (and hiding)!

Roll For Combat, Tales from the Black Lodge Tale #4 is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Society Quest #4 Port Peril Pub Crawl.  Our guest-star is Paizo’s Erik Mona.

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!

Become a supporter of the podcast our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat 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!

The Sideshow S1|19: Albatross Lacrosse

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|19: He Slimed Me.

I wanted to start this week’s column with a quick product plug, though a fairly non-controversial one given the likely audience for this podcast. If you hadn’t heard, Paizo has a pretty great Second Edition Humble Bundle going on at the moment. Even at the entry-level of $5, you get a PDF of the Core Rulebook, the Plaguestone module, a couple of Quests, and a few other goodies – a pretty good starter package if you’ve been thinking about taking the plunge on 2E and haven’t done so yet. At the top end of $30, you can get a physical copy of the Core Rulebook for less than it goes for in stores, along with all the other toys from the lower levels. (No, I don’t get a commission. Just figured I’d mention it.)

OK, my days as a pitch-man are over for now. On to this week’s episode.

I wanted to start with a little discussion of our old friend, the Dungeon Crawl. I don’t think that dungeon crawls are inherently good or bad; they have their place in the world. Where things break down a little is that long dungeon crawls don’t always play nice with the storytelling aspect of the game, ESPECIALLY if there’s a time constraint built into the story. The mechanics of the game demand long rests if you want to keep adventuring, but sometimes the idea of just shutting down and toasting S’mores while surrounded by hostiles can feel a bit… what’s the word?… ridiculous. Look at the final assault on Vilree’s hideout in Plaguestone – I think we ended up taking two long rests during that exploration, which is kind of silly when the captain had already turned on THE TOWN IS ABOUT TO BE DESTROYED sign.

That said, if you’re willing to just suspend disbelief or go into low-story mode, dungeon crawls can be a lot of fun though, since it distills the RPG experience down essentials. You explore, you fight, you loot, maybe you level. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sometimes rolling dice and bashing heads is just plain fun to do. My pre-pandemic home game was working on a run of the Rappan Athuk mega-dungeon, and our GM handwaved the logistics by building a town within a day’s walk of the dungeon. So basically the dungeon was just turned into Disneyworld, and you went back to your hotel at night after visiting the park during the day. Problem solved.

I do think, as Steve says, a little of that goes a long way. At some point, it’s more fun to have a reason for what you’re doing. To choose an example from the computer gaming world, that’s why I never got into the Diablo series all that much. Compared to something like the Neverwinter Nights or Baldur’s Gate games, there just wasn’t enough story to make it interesting… go down in the dungeon and kill stuff, to get better gear and more powers, so you can kill more stuff. Yay.

As we get into the story itself, the first thing that jumped out… which actually caught me off guard but is fortuitous timing… is the release of real live Advanced Player’s Guide material and the formal updating of Ateran and Alhara’s characters from the Playtest to the live version. I’m not going to regurgitate the changes exhaustively – and at least in Alhara’s case, it’s a fairly minor moving-around of some feats – but it’s generally exciting to finally see this stuff set loose in the wild. More selfishly, it also means the Advanced Player’s Guide review that’s been percolating in my documents folder will be headed your way soon.

So our team is done with circus life and sets off to the druid hermitage to search for the mayor, and the first challenge is attempting to get the frog-creatures guarding the entrance to go somewhere else. Not only was the party’s attempt to resolve the issue without combat pretty clever (Bird Lore? Where in the hell did that come from?), but I’d like to petition to have Alhara’s Albatross Toss added as a demonstration sport at the next Olympic games. TBD whether it should be for distance, accuracy, or both. Or did she just introduce Golarion to a precursor to lacrosse?

But come on. We can’t NOT have combat. IT’S RIGHT THERE IN THE TITLE OF THE SHOW. It’s not Roll For Clever Conflict Avoidance. Sure enough, we eventually get a fight, not just with the beasties, but with an environmental hazard of slimy rocks to navigate. The fight doesn’t end up being too burdensome, but it did present us with an interesting bit of roleplay at the end when Hap decides to not finish off the fleeing critter.

I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, it’s kind of fun when characters have little quirks that take combat outside the box a little. Combat can get a little rote sometimes, and injecting some of your character’s personality is a good way to spice it up a little. “I won’t kill creature XYZ”. “I want to see my enemy die up close, so I’ll always want to melee even when a ranged attack would make more sense”. The whole “once I draw my blade, it has to taste blood.” Stuff like that.

On the other hand, it’s still a team effort, and there’s a point at which the team’s survival should take priority over roleplaying moments. (See also: just about everything Mister Peepers does in the Black Lodge game.) To be clear, Hap refusing to kill one fleeing critter doesn’t qualify because the battle was basically won. Unless the fleeing critter came back with reinforcements, it wasn’t going to endanger the party to let it go. But if Hap drops her guard in the middle of a boss fight and the party wipes… not sure how I’d feel about something like that. At the very least, THAT level of commitment to roleplay is something everyone should be on the same page about before you do it.

Speaking of roleplay, we got a LITTLE more development on Ateran’s mistrust of druids, and on Darius’ weird brand on his arm. Which… full disclosure… I had kinda forgotten about the latter. Taken in conjunction with Rob’s comments about finding an archetype he was interested in, I wonder if the brand is going to pay off with a dip into some sort of magic class at Level 4. Barbarian? Champion? Really beefy sorcerer? I guess we’ll see eventually.

I have to admit it’s a little hard to envision how big the hermitage is, but it sounds like it’s a larger main building with maybe one or two smaller buildings (sounded like a storage shed was mentioned?). Things look kind of abandoned – does that mean the druids are waiting for an attack, or does that mean something worse attacked them? The party decides to just knock on the front door and is met by a big brute of a guard working the front door. Despite Hap’s attempts to be friendly and convey the secret handshake, looks like next week’s episode will start with another fight.

As usual, while waiting for the next episode, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Three Ring Adventure S1|19: He Slimed Me

After another successful show, it’s back to the adventuring life and slime. Lots of horrible slime.

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse starting with the first book, The Show Must Go On.

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!

Become a supporter of the podcast on 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 Tales: Tale 4, Chapter 2, The Beer Barrel Poke-Ya

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 4, Chapter 2: Potent Potables.

When doing these columns, sometimes there is a Big Overarching Theme that manages to suck up 1000 words all on its own. Other times, it’s more of a grab-bag of loose thoughts… I’d be showing my age to compare it to Larry King, but there you have it. This week’s column is more the latter – lots of little things struck me as kinda-sorta interesting, but nothing really jumped out as urgent business.

First things first: I swear I didn’t give Voltaris a gold piece to suck up to the Paizo Muckety-Muck. Promise. Though that’s not to say it was a move without cynicism… just a different brand of cynicism. I was more worried that if the negotiations bogged down with the harbormaster, our usual brand of paralysis by analysis might kick in and we might spend 20 minutes debating how to NOT pay the harbormaster. You already saw hints of it with John debating whether to steal our money back. So… screw it, I decided to cough up a gold to keep the game moving along. And OK, roleplaying-wise, maybe a little benevolence at hitting Level 2 and feeling sorry for the character on his very first adventure. Now, if Erik Mona happens to remember this kindness at some later date, well, that’s just an added bonus.

So we find the pirate captain without much trouble, and we get our first special surprise of the evening: the return of Old Woody! Yeah, OId Woody is part alcoholic beverage, part potion, part Class 6 and/or 8 hazardous material that’s been part of our game since the pre-podcast days, and usually I am its most willing victim. In its pure form, it has medium-duration (a few days) or even permanent effects, but I assume that probably wouldn’t fly for a Society game, so we’re dealing with some black market knock-off version that just knocks you on your ass a little if you crit-fail… which of course I do. In one of those “I forgot I said it the first time, and actually laughed at my own joke listening to the second time”, I was highly amused at the idea that Nella would briefly turn back into a duck before passing out. “IT’S GOLD, JERRY. GOLD.”

I would observe that if the roll was a little closer, maybe my newfound poison resistance might have made a difference, but when you miss by THAT much… nope. I don’t think it was a Nat 1, but I don’t remember the base die roll being more than a 4.

As far as trying to cheat during the darts game by casting Guidance, I figured that was a calculated risk, but worth a shot. I somehow didn’t envision her trying to kill us or refusing to sign the treaty just because we fooled around on the final shot, and if she had, I would’ve been willing to do the groveling apology to keep the Pathfinders in the good graces. That said, I did get Survival (+8) and Stealth (+0) confused, so I wasn’t NEARLY as sneaky as I thought. So that’s an “oops” on my part. Fortunately, I gauged her (or Steve’s) response correctly, and she was basically cool with it.

But then, just to mess with us, she goes and starts a bar-room brawl… the meat of the scenario… and disappears, leaving us to fend for ourselves in the world’s worst rendition of Margaritaville. Yay!

It’s an interesting fight for multiple reasons, but the main reason is the fairly malleable definition of “non-lethal” combat. I mean, when you’ve got pirates pulling knives in round 1 and using 3d6 Hydraulic Push spells… that’s a pretty creative definition of “non-lethal”. Now, for my personal roleplay, I decide (at least to start the fight) that I’m going to still play it by the rules and formally attack with non-lethal damage, incurring the -2 penalty to hit – it just feels like the right thing to do. But after the second straight time where the -2 costs me a hit… at the risk of spoiling next week’s episode, I think I do eventually say “screw it” and hit for full effect at some point.

I’d also like to say Hydraulic Push may have to be added to my arsenal at some future point – if not for Nella, then at least for the next caster class I create. I have to go back and refresh my memory on how swapping out spells works, but that’s pretty powerful for a Level 1 spell. I WANT! Then again, at Level 3, I get access to second-level spells, and there’s probably something even cooler than Hydraulic Push on that list. But there was a moment where I sat in grim silence staring daggers at the words “Feather Fall” on my character sheet. Not gonna lie.

Looking briefly at the rest of the party, Chris’ problem is one of logistics – the good news is he decided to be brave and Champion-y; the bad news is he ran away from the exit and some of the other pirates filled in his escape route, so he’s going to have a bit of a struggle getting out again. (There’s a theoretical exit on the other side, but it opens on the water, so you probably don’t want a plate-clad dwarf jumping overboard.) Peepers ran the right way; he’s just feeling generally aggrieved at being attacked at all. Meanwhile, Nixnox and Vortaris are conducting their own two-person hide-and-seek competition. They’re both getting involved here and there – Nixnox manages to successfully intimidate one of the “general throng” areas into submission, and Vortaris casts that Agony spell – but the fact that they’re in hiding means it will probably be three of us soaking up most of the hits in the short term.

And then there’s the dynamics of the “battlefield” itself. First, the bar is basically broken into six sections; some of the section boundaries are open and you can move freely between sections, but a few are actually hard walls with specific doorways between the areas. I should also mention that if we’re JUST focused on getting to the exit, the door is in the southeast corner, meaning there are two sections to the furthest north we should be able to avoid entirely unless we specifically need to choose a new escape route or unless fighter reinforcements show up from there. Each section has “general mayhem” going on, except in the section Nixnox pacified. The general mayhem takes the form of a single “attack” if you’re in the area – being hit by a bottle or a stray punch or something – and later in the episode, we get a keg spilled which creates slippery conditions. In some ways, that might end up being more of a challenge than the actual melee, since you either have to five-foot step (aka Step) your way through or risk falling prone if you try to move through at normal speed.

So that’s what we’re facing as we end the first episode. We’re mostly doing OK, though Thorgrim managed to box himself into a bit of a corner, and even with his high armor class, they’re still landing a few hits on him. At some point, we’ll have to decide if we need to switch from everyone for themselves to “rescue the dwarf”. But that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. As always, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

The Black Lodge Tale 4, Chapter 2: Potent Potables

While the gang looks for their pirate contact, they get swept up in contests of skill and fortitude. And punching, lots of punching.

Roll For Combat, Tales from the Black Lodge Tale #4 is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Society Quest #4 Port Peril Pub Crawl.  Our guest-star is Paizo’s Erik Mona.

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!

Become a supporter of the podcast our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat 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!

The Sideshow S1|18: Run Through The Finish Line

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|18: Knowing Is Half The Battle.

I’d like to start this week with a totally personal note of congratulations. Two of the members of my childhood gaming group both turn 50 this week – Chris, the member of our party had a knack for getting killed, rolled the odometer today, and our long-standing GM Dmitri hits the big 5-0 tomorrow. A big part of the reason I’m here writing this column and doing this podcast today is because I lived on the same two-street area with those two guys who were wired for the same sort of weirdness over 40 years ago. (Including a willingness to go on the 2-3 mile walks or bike rides to our local gaming store.) So… congrats, boys!

Back under the big top, we’re getting ready for the second official show of the circus, which means we have to wrestle with the elephant in the room – a slightly suboptimal situation that encourages metagaming. As Steve mentions in the pre-game and the players discuss at a few points, the true optimal outcome of a circus performance is that the anticipation and excitement match EXACTLY, in which case you get double the revenue – I guess the crowd starts tipping or buys more souvenirs or something. In the first performance, I think this happened because both numbers maxed out and stopped there, but this time, since they were both below the cap, there was some question of how much to optimize for hitting the number. This even led to a “joking but not joking” speculation about forcing an act to tank to keep the numbers in line. It felt like the last scene in The Incredibles, where Bob and Helen were cheering Dash on to victory, but wait, not by so much… slow down a little… there you go!

I don’t want to be overly critical of Paizo’s decisions here – I’m not a game designer, and I’m sure coming up with these mini-game systems to fit within the existing structure isn’t easy and has a lot of moving parts. I feel like it’s more “unintended consequences” than outright bad design. And I do actually think there’s a valid “showmanship” case to be made against just getting excitement as high as you possibly can. If you think about a music show or a play or something, they don’t just go the same tempo the whole time, they dial it back for a few slow numbers here and there for the audience to catch their breath. The ebb and flow of a performance is a real thing.

But at the same time… when the rubber meets the road, and you’ve got the party coming up on their big finale and they’re thinking of how they can ease off on the performance to keep the needle where they want it… that feels like it might be in need of a house-rule tweak. I think you want a system that encourages the party to “run through the finish line”.

So how might you do that? Maybe the sweet spot can be a little wider and the party can be off by one or two and still get the payday. Or, maybe being over on excitement can be better than being lower, but not double – “you get more money, but the fans got too excited and broke some stuff, so some of the gate goes to repairs” or something. Maybe if they go over by one or two, they can cash that in for some other reward other than money – maybe experience for the NPC acts or bonus prestige or something. Or maybe once the excitement hits the same mark as the anticipation, it doesn’t keep going up… it just stays there unless you fail or unless the anticipation goes up again.

Or, as Loren suggests, maybe they can just use the system as it is, and Steve can just find other ways to make it even out. He has traditionally been pretty good at that over the years. So… keep the rules the way they are, but as long as the party plays the performance straight-up, they get more opportunities to earn hero points or they receive better/more appropriate treasure drops or something.

The performance itself was pretty great. This is another one of those places where I really appreciate the amount of detail they’ve put into scripting their performances. We finally get to see Ateran and their cauldron do their thing! Darius has an action figure! Even the NPC performances were fun and flavorful… after doing all that work on one’s own performance, I’m not sure I would’ve faulted them from punting and just saying the NPCs “do dwarf stuff”.

Though I have one little nitpick… my suspension of disbelief took a little bit of a hit at the idea that the bear would be totally cool with having Hap chuck fire inches from its face. Don’t get me wrong… it made for a great act and Loren described it wonderfully, but still. I kept thinking “yeah, that bear would be gnawing her face off by now”. Does she secretly have a level in Druid and didn’t tell us? If so, nobody tell Ateran.

Afterward, we get a brief discussion of where the circus might go from here. First, the fact that the take diminishes each show suggests that eventually, they’ll have to move on to a new town to keep the money coming in. Not sure if it’ll be a flat 25% per performance, but it’ll definitely be less. We also get a little discussion about how to improve the acts – both their own and the NPC acts. The upshot of both conversations seems to be that they’ll need new blood at some point, between the fact that a) the players can’t grow new traits in a vacuum; they have to learn from someone, and b) the NPC acts won’t level, so eventually, they won’t be effective enough to provide any benefit as the crowds get bigger and more demanding. The good news is it sounds like there will be quite a few chances to add new acts, and we’ll know them when we see them. Now I find myself wondering if the members of the rival circus will eventually be recruitable. (Though if they hire the clown, I am D-O-N-E, DONE with this show.)

I do wonder what happens to the old acts, though. Do they just hang around the circus, getting paid to do nothing, hoping they get one more shot? Do they get to cut loose into the unforgiving world? Can we have a third podcast where the cast-off acts start their own adventuring party? It could be the Clone Wars of the Roll For Combat Extended Universe!

Finally, at the end of the episode, it looks like we’re going to return to adventuring mode for the next few episodes. Turns out the mayor hasn’t returned from his visit to the Hermitage, and the Hermitage’s regular resupply wagon also hasn’t shown up. So clearly something fishy is going on in DruidLand – either the druids have gone bad, or something there’s worse than druids causing trouble. Either way, sounds the Hermitage will be next week’s destination, much to Ateran’s considerable dismay.

As always, while you’re waiting for next week’s episode, 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.

Three Ring Adventure S1|18: Knowing Is Half The Battle

This week the PCs get back to the circus and put on their second show. But what happens when the show goes too well?

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse starting with the first book, The Show Must Go On.

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!

Become a supporter of the podcast on 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 Tales: Tale 4, Chapter 1, The Old Man And The Sea

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 4, Chapter 1: Call Me Old Man.

We’re breaking new ground on Black Lodge this week!

First and foremost, the core group finally makes it to Level 2. To be fair, you generally don’t get a lot of big changes at Level 2 – a class feat, a skill feat, an extra spell slot if you’re a caster – but the extra hit points alone make you a little less squishy and it feels a little safer out there.

In Nella’s case, I was not kidding when I said I took Poison Resistance largely because of the Three-Ring Adventure show. One thing we’re learning about Second Edition, in general, is that status effects have the potential to be MUCH more painful than they were in First Edition, so I’ll take that over… going back and getting a leshy familiar or something like that. (The other choices were nothing special.) Specifically, Poison Resistance gives +1 to my save against all poison effects, and DR equal to half my level against poisons. For the skill feat, I went with Battle Medicine… all the cool kids are doing it, but in particular, I wanted to beef up my healing skills since that seems to be the role I’m headed toward. And for my spell slot, I went with Feather Fall just because I wanted to grab some utility spells and not just be all damage, all the time. I would like to eventually add a second damage TYPE because some things are immune to fire, or maybe some AoE damage, but I’m willing to wait on that until next Level when Level 2 spells open up.

(The full endgame plan? Turn into an elemental. ALL THE TIME. My First Edition druid was nicknamed “Windy” because he spent just about EVERY fight in Air Elemental form.)

The other new ground is that this is this group’s first exposure to Quests. (John did a Quest with Mister Peepers WAAAAAAAY back when 2E first released, and I think Chris MAY have played that one as a different character.) If you think of a normal Society scenario as a 3-4 hour session, a quest should be able to be knocked out in an hour or so. Which… because we’re a living embodiment of the Mattress Salesman sketch from Monty Python… means we take 9-10 hours to do a full Scenario and 3-4 hours to do a Quest. Can we at least get credit for being predictable in our slowness?

Again, I think I’ve said this before, but it’s not like we TRY to drag things out. At least not entirely. I will plead guilty (on the group’s behalf) to a tendency to over-analyze things, particularly in the planning stage. But I also think the online format slows things down a little over playing in person, and I’ve felt this since even before we started doing the podcast. I can’t say I’ve studied it in any formal way, but I think the tools impose a level of forced queuing that diminishes or disappears entirely when you have live people sitting at a table. It’s like… you take those pauses where Steve has to process the die roll and maybe make an adjustment, where in person, it would all be happening on the fly and the next player would already have the dice in their hand. That’s my theory anyway.

We also have a new special guest… Erik Mona… who we’ve never had at our table before! I’m excited, but it’s less about the fact that he’s a Paizo Bigwig™ (though it’s also nice when people from Paizo share their time with us), but more about having a fresh face in the mix. If you count the pre-podcast days, we’ve been playing together for over a decade; you start to know each other’s mannerisms a little too well and dynamics can become a little set in their ways. Though… OK, I’m at least a LITTLE impressed that his Society number is “2”. Mine’s somewhere north of 30,000.

We don’t really get too far into the adventure in this first session, so there’s not much plot to discuss. It’s more about meeting Vortaris and getting to the destination, with a little treasure hunting on the sandbar to pass the time in between. Vortaris’ backstory is pretty intriguing… someone who’s clearly had some trouble in life, and is just now deciding to become an adventurer in his 80s? It’s actually a bit of a shame we’re (probably) only going to have this one adventure to get to know him better. Also… I’m totally digging Erik’s Old Man Voice.

In getting out to the island, the one rules question I wanted to dig into a little is the Wild Shape rules. I think the thing that’s been confusing me a little bit is that aerial forms are explicitly called out as a separate skill that has to be unlocked separately, but swimming forms are not. But then again, at least for Pest Form, the example animals listed were all land creatures – “cat, insect, lizard, or rat”. I tend to be a “when in doubt, go by the text” person, so I interpreted that to mean aquatic forms weren’t allowed. But then again when you get to the regular Wild Shape, turning into a shark IS an option. So was I assuming too much and swim forms are cool or do you not get those until Level 3? I guess Steve’s interpretation is that they’re OK, so that’s what we’ll go with. But… I’d rather be a duck than a fish… mostly so I can ruin the mood with quacking noises.

I suppose the one brief development that popped up is when the dwarf operating our boat jumped overboard. At first, I very briefly thought this was part of a double-cross where they were going to have pirates attack us at sea or something. But then it turns out she’s just Manic Pixie Dream Dwarf and likes randomly jumping out of the boat to catch fish. Crisis averted!

So we cruise into Port Peril unscathed, and it’s time to get serious about our mission… Clearly, if the words “Pub Crawl” are right in the title, that probably means some drinking’s happening, which means that poison resistance will come in handy. But that’s basically where we’ll have to pick it up next week. 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.

The Black Lodge Tale 4, Chapter 1: Call Me Old Man

A new adventure begins with a mysterious special guest who seems to have whole lotta booksmarts, but not much else.

Roll For Combat, Tales from the Black Lodge Tale #4 is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Society Quest #4 Port Peril Pub Crawl.  Our guest-star is Paizo’s Erik Mona.

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!

Become a supporter of the podcast our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat 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!

The Sideshow S1|17: Beer and Circuses

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|17: Hapniss Everdeen.

“Yay! We’re going back to the circus!” That’s something you’ll NEVER catch me saying in real life – animal smells, clowns, animal cruelty, overpriced concessions… that’s a hard pass. But for the purposes of this game, I’m excited because the circus mechanic sounds interesting, and we haven’t really explored it since the first episode. (I guess they did send the sideshow people out once, but that didn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes.)

One kind of “meta” thing I noticed this week was the general sense of being at ease listening to this episode, knowing with a fair amount of certainty nothing was going to leap out and attack our party. Even in some of the low-combat episodes of the last few weeks, it was still always a possibility that danger was lurking behind the next corner. But since Steve said in the pre-game that this is basically going to be two episodes of circus… it was the first time in a while where we could legitimately just relax and enjoy ourselves.

I’ll admit to a little bit of surprise that it took SO long to get back to the circus. For a show called “Three-Ring Adventure,” there’s been a whole lot more Adventure than… Three-Ring-ery. Going in, I knew there would be some weaving back and forth between the circus plotline and a more conventional adventure path, but I thought the circus would feature more prominently, especially early in the game. I actually figured they’d want to dig into the circus mechanics and get those down a little more before getting into the conventional dungeoneering part of the adventure.

I just didn’t expect the circus to recede into the background for as long as it did. I suppose some of that is player choice – there were a few forks in the road where they had a choice to do circus activities or pursue the mystery and they pretty much always followed the mystery. Still, a longer “detour” than I expected going in. I’m not disappointed exactly… “surprised” is probably the better word.  That said, here we are… it’s back in the spotlight, so let’s enjoy it.

Though, based on one of Steve’s comments, I would love to see an adventure path someday where the final boss fight is skipped entirely in favor of a crafting challenge or something. That would be sort of hilarious. Perhaps it could be cooking, which would make Loren’s one character very happy… the final boss could be Chairman Kaga from Iron Chef. The secret ingredient… UNICORN MEAT!

As the team’s initial attempts to promote the circus unfolded, I was a little surprised that the rolls to promote the show were SO high. Or, more accurately: “high roll + fairly narrow list of available skills”. Personally, if you’re going to have something that’s more of an open-ended problem, I’d prefer either “limited skills, but fairly makeable rolls” or “fairly open-ended how you apply your skills, but the DCs are a little higher”. This seemed like the worst of both worlds – they needed high rolls, but they also really only had one or two skill options; skills that most of the party weren’t very good at.

I do give Steve credit as a GM here. He is usually willing to indulge in creative problem-solving to keep players involved in the game. Without giving away too much in the way of spoilers, we were doing a Black Lodge adventure where there was a skills portion that was heavy on social skills and crafting, leaving almost nothing for my Nature/Survival/Religion druid to do. To his credit, Steve was willing to work with me on ways I could use my skills to help with the challenges, but he did make the DCs higher than they would be for using the “right” skills. So letting Hap do a performance seems like it’s cut from similar cloth.

Having said that, watching Hap screw up both her rolls and have her orchestrated show go for naught was kind of amusing. Sorry, Loren… schadenfreude… I’m an awful person. I wouldn’t be rooting for this in a combat situation; I think the lower stakes are part of what allowed it to be amusing. Though for some reason, I mentally inserted a completely anachronistic Hollywood type coming up to Hap when she’s finished: “Um… Hap… the guys upstairs have a few notes on your performance.”

Fortunately, when failed skill checks fail to accomplish the desired effect, BEER sweeps in to save the day. Saviors of the village? “Ehhh.” Impressive pyro display in the town square? “I’ll check my calendar.” Ateran kinda half-mumbling about the circus to random passers-by? “I think I’m washing my hair.” But BEER? “Oh hell yeah!” So now the troupe will be playing to a pretty pre-excited crowd, and the hard part of their job is done.

Or is it? After all, beer does have a downside – it generates a lot of excitement, but it also introduces the presence of potential rowdies disrupting the show. And if you remember, a fight broke out at the first show, so is there going to be more of the same? Also, we still have the Random Event… in this case, it’s that too many people show up, raising the cap on how much excitement can be generated. Now… this isn’t bad, exactly, but it does create some interesting risk-reward questions – do you go for bigger tricks and try to get more of a reaction, but with a greater chance of failing, or do you still play it relatively safe?

There’s also the question of choosing the acts, and it sounds as if as the game goes along, the players are going to have to shoulder more of the load on that front since it seems their tricks will advance at a faster rate than the NPC members of the circus. But at least Hap gets to perform with the bear, so that’ll be something to look forward to. And we’ll finally get to see Ateran in action; if you’ll remember, he drew the short straw and sat out the first show, running the backstage and doing a little mild pyrotechnics in support of the other acts.

And the real question is WHEN DO DARIUS AND THE SNAKE GET MATCHING TOP HATS? And more importantly, when will the T-shirt be on the website?

So there you have it. Next week, we’re finally going to have another show of the Circus Of Wayward Wonders. Will the show go well? Do the druids have any surprises in store? Will the rival circus put in an appearance? I guess we’ll find out next week. In the meantime, 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.