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“When I was a kid growing up, I used to hate the city guard. We and the other kids in the neighborhood were always getting into trouble – fights, gang fights, petty theft – always getting harassed by the cops. Parents never seemed to care, we were punks, and we liked it.

But as you grow a little older, you begin to realize what city guard is all about. They’re just doing a job, enforcing the law, and raising families. If you break the law, you get busted and booked. That’s about all there is to it. I learned to respect that. I even began to realize that the only people I knew who stood for something were the city guard.

So when I got old enough, I joined up. I joined the city guard. I joined the Edgewatch.

I have this dream of one day breaking that big case. Maybe one day, that dream will come true.”

Gomez is played by Seth Lipton.

Lo Mang

Lo Mang is a towering hulk of an Orc. 6’5” with greenish skin and black hair in a ponytail from the center of his head.  Tattooed and scarred over his body, one tattoo is prominent on his chest, a crane with red eyes and a bloody beak.  Other features include cloven hooves below his knees, a tail, and what look to be vestigial wings on his back.  He is an impressive, if not somewhat off-putting sight to some.

Lo Mank is fairly soft-spoken, preferring to speak with his fists.  He does have an affinity to the natural world, but city life suits him just as well.  He spends much of his off time in physical training and meditation.

Lo Mang is played by Chris Beemer.

Cadet Dougie McDougal

Cadet Dougie McDougal is the product of a sheltered childhood and only knows what he’s memorized from dated recruit manuals. He holds himself to odd, contrived standards, equipping himself only with earned trophies, and will spend his money only on magic items. Dougie misreads social interactions and survives by the providence of a strength that seemingly comes from nowhere.

He is cheerful and possesses a positive outlook on life. He doesn’t seem to have a care in the world, aside from his self-imposed battle against lawbreakers. Unfortunately for his companions, he speaks his mind and doesn’t filter his opinions, which are often wrong.

Cadet Dougie McDougal is played by John Staats.

Three Ring Adventure S1|28: Dinosaur Fort

Other than the library completely destroyed, animals corrupted, and nearly all the priests devoured by demons, the hermitage is saved! Time to go back to the circus for another show!

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!

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Talking Tales: Tale 6, Chapter 6, The Black Lodge Triumphant

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 6, Chapter 6: Castle Crashers.

This is one of those columns that’s weird to write because it sits at a bit of a crossroads.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that it’s a bit of a farewell (for now) to Black Lodge, but I don’t really want to outkick the coverage and say too much about that until Steve decides what direction he’s going with things. But the simple fact is that this is the last brand-new episode we recorded for now. If Steve has episodes in the can, I suspect it’s the GenCon special event with Luis Loza – maybe he’s going to run those to give us a couple more weeks to record more of the Edgewatch show.

But I also don’t want to start talking too much about Edgewatch yet – even though I could say TONS and I’m pretty excited about it – because I want to give it its own space. I will say we’ve had two “real” sessions and a Session Zero where we generally strategized about the adventure path and our character choices, and it’s shaping up really well so far. But as much as I want to talk about it… one thing at a time.

Meanwhile, we have the rest of an undead army to take care of. As we left off last week, I was a little nervous because we had zombies burst up through the dungeon, putting me on the front lines of the assault. And because the skeleton captain was hanging back outside the fort, I didn’t really want to blow any spells other than cantrips – I had one heal/burst damage left and one cast of Shillelagh, having used the first of those in the first wave. (On the healing side, I did have some potions and scrolls, so that was a little less urgent.)

Round One was a bit of a mixed bag. The bad news was they broke through our pseudo-defensive line – there was a moment where Thorgrim and I had them pretty well blocked at the bottom of the map, but once the zombie shoved Chris out of the way, they had a free path up to the rest of the group. But that’s also the good news; instead of attacking one or two of us en masse, a lot of the zombies decided to spread out and attack different people, so no one person was in imminent danger.

Also, can I say here’s where I was missing First Edition’s attack of opportunity rules? If this was First Edition, Chris and I would’ve had a chance to pummel a few of those zombies as they were sprinting… shambling… whatever… past us, and maybe even take one or two out if we got lucky on rolls. Instead, we pretty much just got turnstiled.

The better news – if only for a moment – was that the spread of zombies made blowing my Heal spell an optimal choice, as FIVE of the zombies ended up in range for me. Keeping in mind that the channel takes three actions (so you can’t move to set it up), you take that opportunity when it arises because you don’t know when you’ll get it again. Of course, I only did two damage per zombie, rendering the whole thing a little anti-climactic, but still.

While we’re at it, I SWEAR that at least during the playtest channeling healed party members AND damaged undead. I know, I know… playtest is not the final released product… still. (Then again, my main memory of the playtest was from GenCon, so that also might be the Amstel talking.)

After my heal spell, things briefly threatened to turn a little ugly – at least for me – as the zombies decided to swarm and I had three of them attacking me at once. Most of them missed their attacks, but the possibility of being grabbed conjured up unpleasant images for the following round. But then Ducker came in and bailed me out on that one, critting the one that had grabbed me into next week. Bullet dodged!

Speaking of bullets dodged: I hesitate to tell anyone else how to play their character because I hate when people do that to me, but John… dude… put the sling away and go stab something. On the other hand, he ended up landing a crit on the boss, so I guess I don’t have any room to complain. Can’t argue with results.

The rest of the zombie fight went reasonably well for us, and then it was time for the boss and his sidekick minions. And OK… it was kinda funny to watch the Big Bad basically get double-critted by Peepers and Ducker. Granted, I was a little disappointed it meant my cast of Shillelagh was probably going to go to waste – damnit, I wanted to be the one to one-shot the boss! – but then I got to do the same to the undead horse, so that’s not a bad consolation prize. But wait… what if the horse was really the boss, and he was just letting a regular skeleton ride him to throw people off? OK, that’s my official story, and I’m sticking with it. I killed the Boss Horse.

So the townspeople are saved, we’ve proven the Pathfinders’ collective mettle, and logistically we fulfilled all the objectives for the adventure… time to roll credits, right? Noooope… time for one more humiliation at the hands of Earn Income! Nella rolls another single-digit check, and it’s another 8 days of duct-taping tree branches to the head of local dogs to pass them off as antlers. Sigh. For one brief shining moment, I was good at Earn Income, but nothing lasts. (Cue sad string music.) At least that time, misery loves company as everyone else failed too.

And that’s the end, but this time with a bit of uncertainty what comes next. I mean, big picture, we’re still here recording shows so don’t worry about that… I just don’t know what – if anything – you’ll be getting next week. It might be a replay of the GenCon live special with Luis Loza, maybe it’ll be Episode Zero of Edgewatch if everything comes together, or maybe we’ll go down to one show for a week or two…. If the last of those is the route we go, which case maybe I’ll try to “fill the silence” either with an official wrap-up on Black Lodge, or do a mini-review of the magus and summoner playtest classes or something. Or maybe I’ll take a week or two off writing two columns to go build new Zendikar decks in MTG Arena or see what sort of weird Game Of Thrones craziness Crusader Kings 3 can throw at me. THE WORLD’S A BLANK PAGE!

So we’ll be back… just not exactly sure when or what we’ll be Talking about when we re-convene. 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… pretty soon.

The Black Lodge Tale 6, Chapter 6: Castle Crashers

The undead army makes its final push into the fort and quickly discover several structural defects!

Roll For Combat, Tales from the Black Lodge Tale #6 is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Society Scenario #1-18 Lodge of the Living God. Our guest-star is Jefferson Jay Thacker (aka Perram).

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: 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|27: The Hosts With The Moats

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|27: Harlock, I Presume.

This week it’s Boss Battle Week on Roll For Combat and not just Boss Battle week, but it feels like we’re also on the final approach for wrapping up Book 1 of the adventure path. There might be some cleanup for a few weeks after, but with the hermitage cleared out and the circus side of things facing diminishing financial returns, it’ll probably be time to move on to a new town and a new mystery. And we should get to see some new Level 4 characters soon… Steve pretty much admitted as much in the show notes, and that’s also How It Usually Works when there’s a big boss fight. So we’re on the threshold of pretty big stuff.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves; first, our band of merry adventurers has to survive the fight in front of them. Two casters, pet lizards, environmental hazards… should be interesting.

First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: how to pronounce the lady druid’s name. I don’t usually get in Steve’s business about this stuff, because it’s not like Paizo gives you phonetic spellings to help you out, but this time it went through about 10 different iterations and Rob P. even made a joke about it, so… it kind of became A Thing. The spelling from the adventure is “Enkrisha”, so I would assume “En-KREE-sha” or maybe “En-KRISH-a” would be the right call. “Escargot”, “Anchorage”, and “Abracadabra” are not correct.

I have to admit to giving a silent mental cheer at Alhara’s opening move to start the combat. Pretty inspired, classic swashbuckler stuff. It was a little hard to visualize at first, but I guess there was a water moat on one side and an air moat on the other, and the druid and her pets were on the strip of land between the two. So Alhara swashbuckled her way right in between them and almost successfully pushed both of the lizards into the moats. (Technically her roll succeeded both times, but one caught an edge and avoided the fall.) For extra credit, it also incapacitated the druid in the process, since she was holding their leashes, and forced her to make a choice between saving her pets or getting dragged in herself. That was pretty badass, even if it took a Hero Point to get there.

Unfortunately, the moats turned out to not be the “I win” button the party was hoping for, as the lizard that falls in climbs back out the next round. So clearly they’re not “bottomless”. But that cuts both directions – it’s not a death sentence if one of our heroes gets pushed in either, which happens to Alhara the following round. At that point, we find out they’re not really THAT bad as long as you have semi-decent climbing skills. Now if one of the casters get pushed in with their low strength scores, that could be bad, but as long as it’s the fighters, it’s a survivable situation.

Speaking of which, two things. First, I was surprised the summon ended up being “just” a mephit. I thought the druid summon was going to be something nastier. Teeth, claws, whatever. Probably a bit of a missed opportunity. (Then again, it also wasn’t a squirrel swarm. I would’ve cracked up if Steve had done that.) I was also kind of amused by Vanessa’s annoyance at the mephit copying her tactics and pushing her in – it’s “Hipster Alhara”, pushing people into moats before it was cool!

The mephit was a symptom of a larger surprise related to this fight. I was actually surprised that there didn’t seem to be a big central enemy in this fight. Usually, Paizo is fond of one Big Bad Guy who is easily identifiable as such, and maybe a few minions helping it out. Here, it didn’t really seem to fit that model. The lizards were tough opponents, but summoning a mephit was kind of a wimpy choice, and the other druid cast Produce Flame. Cantrips? In a boss fight? Really? I guess if you have four different enemies (pre-mephit) and environmental complications, that’s still a challenging fight, but it’s not the usual way these things unfold.

That’s not to say it wasn’t challenging. While she didn’t take a lot of damage, Alhara basically lost an entire round escaping from the moat she fell in. Meanwhile, Darius did his job tanking and taking hits with Mountain Stance, but that ongoing acid damage was doing a number on him (didn’t help that Steve rolled pretty well for the ongoing damage every time – I distinctly remember both a 6 and a 5 coming up at various points). Hap and Aterian stayed pretty safe in the back, but things could’ve gotten bad quick if Darius had dropped.

The battle continues and there’s a distinct ebb and flow to the action. The players got off to a tremendous start in the first round. Then in the second round, it’s the bad guys getting the better of the action, with Alhara getting knocked into the trench and Rob taking a few big hits. But the players rebound from that point on, the casters basically focus on keeping Darius standing, and eventually, the team puts the fight to bed. Even better, nobody drops!

Unfortunately, we aren’t going to get any answers this episode – we do finally meet Harlock, the object of this whole search, but he’s too tired from his ordeal at the hands of the bad guys to explain much yet. So it seems like next week is when we’ll finally get an explanation of just what the heck’s been going on here. Harlock also drops a hint that he’ll be able to cure Hap’s ghoul fever, but when a man’s got to nap a man’s gotta nap. And Steve dropped the hint that we should see some leveling soon.

So that’s a lot to get into next time. For now, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think about the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Starfinder Starship Operations Manual Review: Set Phasers To “Incremental Improvement”

Make sure to read Jason’s review of the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook, as well as his review of the Pathfinder Lost Omens: World Guide, Character Guide, Gods & Magic, Gamemastery Guide, and Bestiary 2.

If you enjoyed this review make sure to check out our Pathfinder Adventure Path: Three Ring Adventure and our Tales from the Black Lodge Podcast.

No, we haven’t forgotten about Starfinder here at Roll For Combat. We’ve been on a bit of a Second Edition Pathfinder kick lately, but Starfinder is still near and dear to our hearts and may make a comeback at some point when we can clone enough versions of Steve to run more than two or three shows at a time. In the meantime, we haven’t forgotten that there are still new Starfinder rulebooks to review, and we’ll be taking a look at the Starfinder Starship Operations Manual, which has crossed our desks.

I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with starship combat in Starfinder if we’re being perfectly honest. Certainly, starship combat is an iconic component of most science fiction – Scotty telling us how much more the Enterprise canna take, cap’n; the trench run from Star Wars; Vipers and Cylons duking it out in Battlestar Galactica, even more, rooted-in-reality ship combat like the fights in The Expanse. Other than maybe Doctor Who, where the TARDIS is not a traditional ship, ship combat is pretty much a staple of the genre.

Starfinder’s first pass at implementing starship combat was a mixed bag. It was about two-thirds of a good idea and definitely showed some promise, but it also had some issues that needed to be worked out. First and foremost, roles were uneven – certain roles gave players lots of interesting choices; other roles were kind of dull. The other side of that coin was that certain classes/builds weren’t very useful in ship combat – some player types had lots flexibility in the roles they could fill, other players (beefy fighter types) were mostly relegated to firing guns. Also, I noticed a lack of “disruptive” events in starship combat. One of the most fun moments of party-based combat tends to be when a boss busts out an ability you’ve never seen before and you have to adapt to that. There wasn’t really an equivalent of that with starship combat — no ships dropping out of cloak, no anomaly forming off the port bow… you basically just hammered away with guns until someone couldn’t go anymore. Mechanically, sometimes it almost felt more like the era of wooden sailing ships than sci-fi.

Now, the Character Operations Manual started to make some in-roads on this. They added two new roles – the Magic Officer and the Chief Mate – that emphasized different talents and created some new roles for people to fill, and they also introduced “open actions” as a sort of compromise – actions that weren’t as effective as formally filing a station, but better than standing around doing nothing for a round. But now we get an entire rulebook where starship combat is THE focus, so let’s take a look at what they did.

The first section emphasizes new ship upgrades, starting with weapons, armor, and propulsion systems. I’m not going to spend too much time on propulsion systems because it feels like those choices are more for storytelling flavor – in case the GM wants (or need) a way to get around that doesn’t involve the Drift. Lots of punching holes through the planes to arrive somewhere much quicker. (Did nobody see Event Horizon? This doesn’t end well!)

The weapons and armor were a little more interesting to me because you start to see an attempt to make combat more dynamic. It doesn’t really change the core equation of lining up and plonking shots at each other, but the book adds new weapon types with different effects, so combat can be more tactical and give you more options for how to deal with a situation.

To give one example, there’s the Buster weapon. It only does half damage when going against hull points, but is extra-effective against shields – when it depletes the shields on a quadrant, it does remaining damage to the adjacent sections. And if the defender tries to divert power to the shields on their next round, the DC of the Engineering check is more difficult. For another example, there’s a gravity-based weapon that generates an artificial gravity well that doesn’t do damage but saps the defender’s speed. There are also “embrace the weird” weapons like a teleport weapon that moves the enemy ship in space, or a low-fi harpoon, which basically tethers the two ships together so the defender can’t run away easily. They even have options for ramming weapons, just in case you want to play chicken with your enemies and see what happens.

The choices aren’t as robust on the defensive side, but there are a few new introductions. First, there’s ablative armor – why have shields when you can just have a stronger hull? Ablative armor serves as a source of additional Hull Points, but they come at the cost of maneuverability – your target lock goes down and your turning radius goes up the more ablative armor you add – and of course, they don’t regenerate like shields. Deflector shields serve as an either/or replacement for conventional shielding: they serve a similar function to damage resistance in party-based combat, so they reduce each hit by a certain amount, and the rest goes directly against the hull. But they offset that by raising AC and TL, making it a little harder for the enemies to hit you in the first place. There are also options to fortify the hull or reinforce bulkheads, which provide a higher critical threshold or a chance to negate the critical entirely, respectively.

There’s a brief section on starship materials – build your hull out of material X, you’re more resistant to radiation, but the next section is the one that interests me most… the one that covers new starship systems. Because here’s where we start to get into those “disruptive events” that will make combat a little more unpredictable. Consider the Ghost Drive – it lets you turn your ship insubstantial briefly, at the cost of a slower speed: the rubber-meets-the-road effect is that it allows you to move through a hex containing another ship without provoking an attack. Another interesting one is the Quantum Defender: if it’s active when you’re hit by an attack, the opponent has to roll the attack again and take the lower result. (Yep, you can potentially turn a hit into a miss… pretty cool.) They also have something called the Emergency Accelerator, which gives you a chance to avoid a fight entirely – your ship basically goes defenseless for a round because it has to draw power from the other systems to power the escape attempt; if you survive the round without taking critical damage, you engage the engines and move out of combat (officially 100 hexes).

But – maybe this is Tuttle speaking through me – arguably the coolest thing is the Consciousness Uplink Drive. It’s what it sounds like: if your character has a datajack, you can directly interface with the ship. The good thing about this is you get a lot of pluses on tasks, and some things become minor actions because of the more immediate interface. The bad news… when the ship takes damage, so does your character. Now THAT’S cool.

One more thing kinda sneaks in at the end of the upgrades section, but feels like an attempt to address the issue of different classes/builds being more useful than others: the Training Interface Module. Basically, it’s a starship mod that you add that can let you use a class skill or feat in a starship combat situation. For a class example, Healing Touch lets an Engineer with healing spells use a spell to heal the ship (once per combat, and there’s also a UPB cost). For a feat example, a gunner with the Deadly Aim feat can use it in starship combat: they get a -2 to hit but deal extra damage if they do hit.

The last couple of pages of the first chapter introduce the Supercolossal size category (think the ship from the finale of Dead Suns). It’s unlikely a player group is ever going to own such a ship, but a) you never know, and b) they still need to exist for larger storytelling reasons.

The next major chapter deals with starship combat itself. I would broadly characterize this as follows: they haven’t changed the core dynamic of starship combat, but a lot of the sub-topics in this chapter encourage GMs to reimagine how it fits into a story. At the end of the day, you’re probably still going to line up and plonk away at each other for a while, but this chapter offers different ways of looking at why you’re doing it – what are some other victory conditions than just reducing the opponent to zero hit points?

Think of some of the topics they cover here. First up is how to handle boarding parties – what if one side’s goal is to take the other side’s ship (or the people on board) instead of just destroying it? How should that be handled? Another example here is the set of rules for starship chases – what if one side’s goal is just to get away and they don’t even want to try and fight? It doesn’t necessarily change the core combat mechanics, but it creates different victory conditions and allows the party to approach the problem a different way than just lining up for “ion cannons at 10 parsecs”.

There are also a couple of sections that reframe starship combat for different styles of fights. Think of this as making the Starfinder system fit different classic sci-fi genres.

First, there’s squadron combat – the Death Star fight from Star Wars will always be the gold standard for this one, though Vipers and Cylons squaring off in Battlestar Galactica isn’t bad either. Instead of the players running one ship as a team, they’re each controlling a small single-person vessel as part of a squad. This creates some additional rules to handle that, like how much damage the player character takes if they lose their dogfight and get shot down, a few new actions to make the team-based system functional for a one-person crew, and so on. They even have a system called the Unification Matrix where the individual squad ships can combine into a larger ship that lets you return to the more conventional team-based single ship combat. (I’ll say it. VOLTRON. You can make freakin’ Voltron. AND I’LL FORM THE HEAD!)

On the other side of the coin, instead of zooming into the scale of a single fighter, you can zoom out to the scale of armada combat, where your characters are supervising fleets of vessels, and moving battle groups around Ender’s Game-style. This is a little more abstract – you’re still filling the roles like Captain, Engineer, etc. but instead of performing those actions on your one ship, you’re giving orders to the battle group under your control. And the attack rolls, instead of representing hull points on an individual ship, might represent how many vessels you lose in a given round.

There are also a few more nuts-and-bolts sections that just fine-tune and fill gaps in the existing rules. One such section creates expanded options for critical successes. It always felt a little frustrating to have to those 20s go to waste – now you might get a slightly better result or some secondary benefit. Consider the Scan action: now a critical success on Scan reveals a vulnerability – the next time your shot gets through the shields and hits the hull points, it has a chance to crit, even if the damage doesn’t pass the crit threshold. Another section deals with starships in planetary atmospheres – we usually assume we’re just flying through deep space (ala most Star Trek shows) but what if you actually want to land or even go down into the atmosphere to get a closer look? What happens then? Well… now we have some rules for that.

The third main chapter – by far the largest by page count – is the section that introduces new starships. In terms of game mechanics, Paizo made sure to cover the entire spectrum of ship sizes and uses – from single-person racers to cargo haulers, warships, and massive supercolossal base ships. The ships are interesting and well-designed, but what I really appreciate here is the stealth world-building that you get from reading about different ships. Little details that flesh out the Pact Worlds and the folks that live in them. Like the Inheritorworks Javelin, a warship of the Knights of Golarion that keeps all its front weapons behind a ramming prow because running into other ships, boarding, and fighting hand-to-hand is pretty much their preferred battle tactic. Or the Sanjaval Redsun – a cargo ship that’s mostly popular with ysoki because almost the entire ship is dedicated to cargo space and the crew quarters are too small for just about every other race. And then there’s the Driftmaven… a supercolossal Level 20 ship that’s a vessel of Triune run almost entirely by AI, and pretty much has no amenities for biological types. You get a featureless alcove and you’ll like it. (On the other hand, its engine serves as a Drift beacon, so if you have the drive signature, you can always find it and travel to it, just like Absalom Station). Everyone’s going to have their own personal favorites, so there’s ironically not a lot to say, except that there’s plenty of fun stuff to check out.

The final major chapter heading is “Running Starship Campaigns”, and this is – to put it another way – GM Tips. The first half is fairly crunchy, and then it gets softer as it goes. The section kicks off with rules for creating starship creatures – very nuts-and-bolts – and even shows a few sample starship creatures to show you how it all fits together in a finished statblock. Next is a section on space hazards you could add to your battlefield to make combat a little more interesting – gravity wells, pockets of radiation, debris fields, and so on. But then it takes a softer turn, and the rest of the chapter is about how to work all of this into a campaign – a discussion on creating memorable villains, a section on alternate win conditions to think outside the pew-pew-pew box, and several pages of different sample story hooks. Some GMs will find these sections useful, others will probably “yeah-yeah-yeah” their way through it.

So that’s the Starship Operations Manual in a slightly-expanded nutshell. It’ll take playing with it in a game setting to be sure, but in general, I like what they’ve done here. It’s kind of a two-pronged approach – certainly, Core Rulebook starship combat had some areas that were in need of a freshen-up, and the changes here seem like they address those. But another major focus of the book helps GMs reflect on the role starship combat plays in a campaign, encouraging GMs to think of it less as just another type of encounter and explore its possibilities as a storytelling device a little more deeply. And it’s got all the wonderful world-building and artwork goodness Paizo always brings to the table. If you’ve got the room on the gaming bookshelf, I’d add this one to the collection. (And if not… you don’t really need all those non-gaming books. That’s what Netflix is for.)

Three Ring Adventure S1|27: Harlock, I Presume

With only one room left to explore means, it’s time for the final boss battle!

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 6, Chapter 5, Uninvited Guests

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 6, Chapter 5: Army of Dorkness.

Good news! (Well, I think so, anyway…) We’re actually fighting stuff again!

Don’t read too much into that statement. I didn’t DIS-like the fort-building mini-game. I actually think it’s kinda cool when the writers at Paizo get a little weird with the system and take it in directions you didn’t necessarily think you were going to go. Home renovation… did not see that coming. Having said that, I think you could’ve trimmed a couple of days off the task list and still gotten the gist of the thing.

All of that is in the past now. Here and now, Mask Narcen returns from his walkabout to report that there’s a decent-sized army of undead about to descend upon the town, and boy wouldn’t a recently-renovated fort be the best place to hide out from something like that. And again, I feel like the “month” that Narcen was gone was really just meant to be an outer limit and the inner limit was “a few days after you finish the task list”.

So now we know the shape of the endgame, and it’s pretty much what we were speculating about when Steve got called away for his work emergency… we’re going to have abstracted combat preparation, followed by real combat. We have a day to prepare additional defenses – traps and/or training townspeople to fight, and our preparations will… I guess determine how many undead make it through the defenses and have to be fought in the final battle. (I’m feeling like they didn’t prepare a combat map of the courtyard for nothing.)

I have two fairly minor logistical grumbles about this portion of the adventure, though one is more of a question of GM style.

First, there’s no real way to ascertain which tasks are the most valuable use of your time. Is training 8 people more useful than setting up a trap or vice versa? Is there a sliding scale where getting at least 8 people trained is vital to success, but going from 16 to 24 doesn’t really get you that much more because at that point you’re training the elderly and children to fight? I suspect under the hood, the answer is that all the tasks are equal and it’s just X successes; they just wanted to have a couple of different task choices to appeal to characters with different skillsets.

The second more stylistic suggestion is that there might have been a benefit to breaking the day down by “shift” and reassessing our tasks after each shift. We had a pretty even mix of successes and failures, so I don’t know that we would made any changes, but what if you had a different party where they failed ALL the “training townsfolk” checks? If you go by a person, there’s no chance to fix that and you have no townspeople helping you in the final battle; if you go by “shift”, you see that all those checks failed for Shift 1, and maybe someone who was going to sleep for Shift 2 trains fighters instead. Then again, maybe this is rubbing up against “it’s a quickie for conventions, don’t overthink it” territory. And I’m not saying it’s wrong to run it the way Steve did, it just might be more effective to do it the other way.

So it’s a mixed bag with our preparations. If you peel away all the extra shenanigans and song parodies, pretty much everyone had one good roll and one bad roll. And then the fight begins. We’ve got some abstracted “traps taking out undead” moments, and then the first group of skeletons breaches the castle gate, and it’s time to fight.

The real trick here is resource management. Skeletons and zombies… even if there’s maybe going to be some sort of “commander” entity at the end (Steve dropped a hint of that with the idea that they’re marching in organized formations), none of that sounds all that threatening. However, if we run out of spells and other resources, even cannon-fodder enemies can wear us down if there’s enough of them. Now I don’t know if this is metagaming or not, but if we’re going to assume a boss at the end, I’m going to try and preserve at least one cast of Shillelagh for when that dude shows its face (assuming it somehow stands out as the leader). So that leaves me with two “real” spells plus cantrips. I never actually specify this, but I’m assuming my loadout is two casts of Shillelagh and one Heal spell – Feather Fall doesn’t seem like it would be any good in this situation, and I have scrolls, potions, and healer’s tools to cover some additional heals, so a second cast of Shillelagh seems like the best use of resources. (I did want to have one “real” cast of Heal, just in case I’m in a situation where pulling out a scroll or potion would take too much time.)

And cantrips. I don’t know the specific mix of undead we’ll be facing, but fire is usually pretty reliable against the undead, so Good Ol’ Produce Flame should get a workout.

So the fight begins. Skeletons, but with a couple (I honestly forget if it was two or three… just two I think) slightly stronger lieutenant types. The front-line minions are nothing – one decent hit pretty much drops them. The lieutenant types are both a little tougher and seem to have some amount of regeneration. It’s still a fairly easy fight, but it’s not trivial, and Seth blows a three-action heal, which was a little surprising this early in what might be a long fight. Then again, I blew a cast of Shillelagh so I suppose I can’t really criticize.

After Round 1, we have a brief rest. To be clear, not a “Short Rest” because that has specific implications. But it’s long enough for Shillelagh to expire, so… yay? And then Round 2 opens. We see what could be the boss outside the front gate, but then there’s a bit of a surprise, as the next wave of enemies comes up through the dungeon. And, there’s 8 of them. Nixnox and Peepers are on the upper level; Thorgrim and Ducker are facing the front gate. So guess who that leaves first in the path of the oncoming bad guys, and probably can’t cast Shillelagh just yet? Yours truly. Won’t this be fun?

Annnnnd that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. As usual, 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.