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The Sideshow S1|36: Give Peace A Chance

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|36: Wolves Can’t Do Math!

I have to start this week’s column by reporting that I might be banned from the local Sheetz near my house thanks to this podcast. Turns out they don’t take kindly to people who start cackling maniacally at the check-out when they see a bin of hand-warmers sold under the brand “Hothands”. Did I further confound the cashier by whipping out my cellphone and taking a picture of the item so I could send it to everyone? Of course I did!

I’d also like to start with a really quick tease at Steve’s expense from the show notes. All meant in good fun, but… did he really say “taste” when discussing incorporating the other senses into dungeon exploration? Now I have this image of Darius licking the dungeon walls: “Tastes orc-y. Think some orcs went through here. Maybe a hint of… (takes another lick)… ogre as well?”

It feels like the embedded message of this week’s show is two-fold: a reminder that you don’t have to rampage through a dungeon killing everything you see, as well as an admonition to not neglect the soft skills when building your characters.

To the first point, between the invisible stalker and the dinosaur pen, there were a whole lot of potential experience points that the party may have missed out on by not just Murder-Hobo-ing their way through things. But on the other hand, neither encounter stood out as evil or even all that necessary. There’s a general sense that you don’t want to leave fires untended in your rear, but neither of these seemed like they’d be giving the party any problems: the invisible stalker couldn’t even leave the room it was in, and the dinos might be a threat if their trainers ever return; if not, they’re Just Vibin’, as the Young People say. The dinos, in particular, might be able to be rehabilitated if they can clear the complex and come back with a proper druid.

I will point out that as a GM, Steve tends to be fair about this sort of thing, and finds ways to reward us so we don’t get punished too much for skipping potential encounters. After all, the danger of bypassing is you miss experience and/or treasure, and you reach some future encounter under-prepared because you didn’t take earlier fights. Maybe there was a treasure cache behind the wall the invisible stalker was aggravated by. Steve tends to take that into account, PARTICULARLY if you avoided the encounter in a creative manner, but he’ll do what he can if you just decide to be lazy and duck a fight.

As an aside, when Steve described the invisible stalker, I thought of the monster from the “Darmok” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where you could momentarily see an outline of it right when it attacked. I therefore nominate “DARIUS, HIS PLATE FULL OF BACON” as the first addition to this form of communication.

The other theme of this week’s events is a reminder not to neglect one’s soft skills. Particularly at low levels, combat survivability takes on such a magnified sense of importance that sometimes we’re optimizing solely for combat. It’s not like we ignore the soft skills entirely as players, but I do think we sometimes kick the can down the road a few levels because we HAVE to: the thinking being let’s survive until level 5 or 6 and THEN we can start doing cool stuff. Here that’s reflected in the fact that the party doesn’t have the language skills for dealing with the invisible stalker, nor do they have the animal handling skills to deal with the dino pen.

Now, some of that is just luck of the draw on party mix. Add a druid or a ranger, and one of those problems goes away entirely.

The language issue is a little harder to unravel because languages are harder to come by in Second Edition than they were in First Edition and Starfinder. In prior editions, an Intelligence-based skill monkey character was basically getting new languages at every level. If you listened to our Dead Suns show, by the end, I was actually considering having Tuttle invent his own language because I’d pretty much exhausted the Pact Worlds’ languages entirely. Here, you mostly have to rely on the Multilingual feat to get extra skills, which is a tough ask. I’m starting to think that kind of like healing scrolls and potions are pretty standard, some sort of magical source of Comprehend Languages might be the sort of thing you’d want to build into party loot – it seems like it will come up enough to be a problem and there’s not an easy solution.

So that’s the other thing: “paying attention to soft skills” doesn’t necessarily have to be the character build, it can also be gathering enough equipment to cover these contingencies. And on THAT front, there isn’t that much the players can even do – their circus is kind of out in the boonies, so even if they WANTED to buy equipment, their options are limited. (Compare that to our Edgewatch show where we’re in the heart of Absalom and can run to the corner store for anything we need.) So none of this is really meant to bag on the party or suggest they screwed up: more “what can we learn from their cautionary tale when we go back to our home games?”.

So we make it through a good two-thirds of the episode with fairly little combat, unless you can count Darius’ one-sided beating as “combat”. And we even get a little roleplaying interlude where Ateran and Alhara get some alone time to develop their… whatever’s going on between them. I mean, OK, it’s the opening stages of a “relationship” but it’s still the awkward feeling-out phase. It’s like a meet-cute going on its 4th month.

Finally, we get a good proper fight toward the end. This one’s more of a “numbers” fight – combat in Second Edition tends to be either “single boss or mini-boss creature that’s over the party’s level”, “2-4 creatures around the same level that almost amounts to party vs. party”, or a whole bunch of weaker enemies that probably only cause problems if they either get lucky on their rolls or they gang up on the same party member. This fight FEELS like the latter, but they do kinda get lucky and start pushing Darius to his limit.

And uh oh… it’s Dark Mark time. (OK, I know he’s not a Death Eater, and I don’t want J.K. Rowling to sue us, but… it’s a source of kinda-scary power that we don’t fully understand. “Morally Gray Mark”… better?) The last time Darius used it, he pretty much punched a hole in a guy; what’s going to happen this time?

Alas, the answer to that question lies down the road a 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.

Three Ring Adventure S1|36: Wolves Can’t Do Math!

Wolves have many great properties. They’re excellent companions, have fluffy coats, and excel in battle. However, they aren’t known for their quantitative abilities.

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!

The Bird’s Eye View S1|08: The Near Death Experience

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|08: Traps ”R” Us.

Ah yes, the week of the 1-in-8000 pain.

It’s funny because if you listen to both our shows, the same thing – three natural 20s in a row — happened (with slightly lower damage) to Vanessa in the Extinction Curse show a few weeks ago. I did the math, that is in fact a 1-in-8000 chance, and it’s happened twice within the same month-ish window. The first one, we were mathematically due after three years of shows; this time, I think we used up our allotment of luck until 2023.

Now, this trap was quite a bit nastier than the enemy Vanessa ran into because it was either 3d6 or 4d6, doubled, which made for a tense few moments for myself and Seth. (But more for Seth as he had fewer hit points to start with.) But fortunately, the Massive Damage rules say “twice your hit points from any one blow”. So three darts later mean we just barely survive.

And then I go and do something stupid. When I get healed with John’s Battle Medicine, instead of being smart and crawling off the trap mechanism, I just stand up like a moron and trigger another round of attacks. But that’s OK because the second time around, we learn how Steve lucky got the first time – it ends up being only a +4 or +5 to attack and it misses most of its attacks the second time. Whew.

Overall, I’m sticking by my original position. Between Lo Mang running across the seal and my passive Investigator ability, I thought we were safe. Even when I stood up, I guess maybe I thought it only had one shot and would either be done entirely or need some time to reset. But the fact of the matter is these traps are just kicking our butts between last week’s fight and this week’s continuation. The frustrating thing is kobolds are pretty weak overall, so if we can avoid stepping on rakes like Sideshow Bob, we should be able to handle this encounter and free the hostages.

The pursuit continues… sorta. Well, Lo Mang heads off, and I follow him, but Dougie and Gomez trail behind a little while Gomez gets back on his feet. And that leads us to the next kinda-sorta trap – I don’t know if the walkways are explicitly sabotaged or they’re just dangerous because they’re not finished yet but several of the walkway edges give way if you step on them, and it’s a 20-foot drop to the ground below. Lo Mang lucks out and plows right through to the stairs to the upper part of the complex, but I have a little more trouble and fall through, not once but twice, and the second time I miss my Grab An Edge save.

But here’s where I get to use the ace in my pocket for the first time – my Skyborn Tengu heritage! It’s not full flight (though you can take Soaring Flight at Level 9 to get that), but it’s the equivalent of Feather Fall – you can fall any distance safely without taking damage. So OK, I step on the wrong plank and fall 20 feet. For another character, that would be the point at which you wad up your character sheet and retire from Pathfinder for a while, but for Basil, it’s a minor inconvenience. I’m just down at ground level with no immediate way back up. Running all the way back to the front entrance at the “tail” of the dragonfly is an option, but eyeballing it, it looks like AT LEAST 5 or 6 rounds of doing nothing but full-round movement. So I decide to climb back up. The bad news is it’s ultimately strength-based, and my strength is 10. The good news is that the DC isn’t that hard, and the worst that can happen is I can suffer the low-grade humiliation of another zero-damage fall. Or MAYBE suffer the indignity of the rest of the guys having to lower a rope and pull me up.

So here’s where we get into the dilemma that turns into a freeform discussion. Lo Mang is fine and definitely wants to continue the chase, but the rest of us definitely need to heal – both to recover hit points, but also to remove the dying condition from people. We’ve all got the Dying condition, and Gomez (I think) also used his Hero Point. But from a story/roleplay standpoint, it strains credibility that we would break off a hot pursuit when there are hostages whose lives might be at risk. Also, some of our reasons border on meta-gamey; our characters shouldn’t know what the Dying condition is, nor would they know about Hero Points. So making choices based on those game mechanics is also kind of immersion-breaking.

Taking out the metagame stuff, I can see justifications in both directions. If you let the kobolds run, they could at worst just start killing hostages; even the “best”-case scenario is that it gives them time to fortify a defensive position and maybe meet up with reinforcements, which will make the next battle against them more difficult. The counter-argument is much simpler: you can’t rescue hostages if you’re dead yourselves. But they are just kobolds, and there’s also a sentiment that MAYBE the power dynamic will shift a little once we removed the battle leader. Remember that there’s supposed to be a “reasonable” kobold somewhere in here that the foreman actually liked. Maybe if we find her, we can still defuse things. So I think as we end the episode we’re leaning toward a 10-minute rest, but I’ll admit it feels just a little “off” around the edges.

And that’s where we’ll pick things 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.

Agents of Edgewatch S1|08: Traps ”R” Us

So it turns out that if you simply run through a trap-filled dungeon you don’t need to bother disarming anything!

Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch starting with the first book, Devil at the Dreaming Palace.

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!

The Sideshow S1|35: Darius’ Disgusting Destructions

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|35: Slumber Party Massacre.

Despite my best efforts, tonight’s column comes to you from the land of distracting myself from refreshing election coverage sites to see where things stand. As with Monday’s column, don’t worry… I’m not going to get all strident about politics, except to note that I’m ready for the thing to be done. And OK, as a resident of Pennsylvania, it’s a little weird to have my state be one of the epicenters of things this time around. (I’m western PA which hasn’t really borne any of the controversies, but still…)

I wanted to start with Steve’s whole idea of the family unit from the show notes. It’s been kicking around my brain – the idea of playing a character that’s closely linked to another character on a roleplay level. I have to admit, going back through all the different characters I’ve played over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever played a character like that. Some of that is just the fact that our group is roleplay-light, but I also think it’s not traditionally been something I’d be interested in. I suspect it comes down to autonomy and wanting to control my own character’s story: if you’re playing someone’s father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate, you’re handing over part of your character’s identity to the other person in whatever relationship you create and hoping they make choices you’re going to enjoy playing through. I’m not a selfish player in terms of making party decisions or sharing loot or whatever, but when it comes to the story of who my character is, I kinda like to be the captain of my own ship. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

Having said that, this Extinction Curse crew is doing such a good job of playing out their connected stories that I find myself wanting to give it a try someday. I’m starting to feel like it would be kind of neat to play siblings or a father-son thing or even just a longtime adventuring pair who had a pre-existing relationship before meeting the rest of the party. I’ll be honest that the whole “romantic relationship” angle isn’t something I’d want to try, but other than that, I will admit this show has expanded my roleplaying horizons a bit. You know… two years from now when we finish this adventure path and start the next one.

At any rate, back to the show action.

First, Loren gets the gold star (and a Hero Point) for working an Old Woody reference into the show early on. I’m OK with making “Old Woody contains liquefied gelatinous cube” canonical moving forward. Then again, that’s kind of the beauty of Old Woody: it’s so open-ended you can pretty much put ANYTHING in that cup if you want to. The only thing I’m worried about is that people don’t start to try milking this to get Hero Points and Old Woody becomes as played-out as the Budweiser “WHAZZAP?!?!” commercials. All things in moderation.

We also get another hint early in the episode that maybe something is environmentally unstable about this place, as the area the party is resting in starts heating up to the point where it damages everyone. (Except Hap, who considers it sweater weather.) Add that to the earthquake in the middle of the fight, and the booming noise later in the episode, and you get the feeling this whole thing is resting on top of an active volcano or something. If this ends in the mining-car chase from Temple of Doom, I am DOWN with it.

The main focus of this week’s episode was the Great Gross-Out Fight. Since we were just dealing with a new flavor of xulgath and it was the first fight after a long rest, it still wasn’t that difficult of a battle, but give Steve credit for pulling out all the stops on stomach-churning special effects. And here I was thinking Darius punching through a guy’s chest a few shows back was pretty hardcore.

We did reach a bit of a dilemma for Ateran: what to do when there’s no handy ammo for Telekinetic Projectile? You wouldn’t think this would come up too often; fantasy settings in general and dungeons, in particular, are usually dirty, run-down places with lots of handy debris scattered about. Not too many fights take place in NIH-compliant clean rooms. But thanks to the gel cube buddies, there’s not much to throw in this particular room. It does suggest if you’re going to use that spell as your damage cantrip, you should probably buy a few sling bullets or caltrops or something that can be chucked in a pinch.

(Also, Rules Lawyer time: can you Telekinetic Projectile an alchemist bomb that someone makes for you? Just thinking out loud here.)

Truth told I’m going to wrap up there for the week. I’m a little fried, and a one-fight episode against easy enemies is a little bit of a challenge to write about. That’s alright. They can’t all be epic sagas. Maybe I’ll give you some extra words next week. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Three Ring Adventure S1|35: Slumber Party Massacre

It’s time to rest and relax before the circus folk explore the second floor of the tower. That is if they can survive the tower itself.

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!

The Bird’s Eye View S1|07: Yer A Wizard, Basil!

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|07: Enough Talk!

As requested by the Pop Culture Desk of Roll For Combat, we start this week’s Talking Combat with a brief virtual moment of silence for the passing of Sean Connery. Yeah, he’d stopped making movies a while ago, but he was a big part of our collective upbringings. The iconic James Bond… Indiana Jones’ dad… Captain Raimius… possibly even “Ramirez” from Highlander if you want to go with a deep cut. I probably won’t follow through, but when I first heard the news, I threatened to record this week’s show entirely in my Sean Connery accent as a tribute.

First things first, we had a good chuckle in group chat about the “podcast wars” comment. Steve, ever the provocateur, pulled the sound-byte while editing this episode and shared it with a combined chat group that included both teams. Shit was talked back and forth, good times were had by all. Me, I’m sticking by my idea that this would be fertile material for PaizoCon next year.

This week’s show is a little weird insofar as we leveled up, but we didn’t really talk about our changes. Usually, when we level, we send it around the horn and each person talks about what they took (except for Bob in the Dead Suns days, who liked to be all secretive about that stuff for roleplaying reasons). This time, we kind of just jumped right into the action. I don’t remember why – maybe we got a late start or the episode broke in a weird place. (I even kinda remember having such a conversation, but either it took place before Steve started recording, or maybe it’s in a later episode.)

So the big news of Level 2 is that I decided to have Basil do a multi-class dip into wizard. I pretty much knew I wanted to mix some magic into my build to make Basil a little more dynamic, but I considered going a couple of different directions to get there. One choice was a multi-class dip into alchemist, but that felt a little like I would be invalidating my Level 1 build: if I wanted an alchemist investigator, I should’ve just gone with the Alchemist build and taken That’s Odd as my Level 1 feat instead of the one that finds traps. I also thought about the Scroll Trickster archetype from the Advanced Player Guide – basically, that archetype lets you duct-tape together fragments of scrolls to make temporary scrolls at each long rest, and you also get Trick Magic Item with an added +2 bonus for scrolls. But I think it was Level 6 before you got even ONE Level 1 spell; in the meantime, ALL you got was Trick Magic Item, which I can get in other ways. Though I will admit Scroll Trickster is WONDERFUL on the roleplay flavor front, and it’s also neat that you can choose ANY spell of the appropriate level from the Core Rulebook at the time you make the scroll, as long as you’re trained in the right skill (and Basil has all four now). I looked at the witch for like, five seconds, but I didn’t want to be too duplicative of Ateran from the other show, and on a roleplay level, the flavor didn’t feel like it fit: I didn’t see an upper-crusty kid like Basil forging pacts with mysterious forces, and a familiar showing up out of nowhere would’ve been weird.

So I settled on wizard. In the immediate short term, there’s combat survivability. Just adding a few cantrips gives me a +1 bump to armor class as a single action and damage mitigation (shield) and another ranged damage source (ray of frost) for creatures that might be immune to my ancestral electrical ability. Also, I can swap in light if we’re doing anything more explicitly dungeon-delvish. The spell slots on a multi-class wizard aren’t great – one slot per level, though I think there’s a feat you can take in the mid-teens to get a second slot at each level – but I like the wizard’s big-picture flexibility of being able to add spells to your spellbook by transcribing them. In a game where we seem to be getting a lot of money and stores are everywhere, I feel like there will be a lot of chances to tweak my spell arsenal as we go. I also feel like it gives me roleplay flexibility as the game progresses: sure, a bunch of combat spells are probably the path of least resistance, but I have the option to choose some spells which will magically augment my core investigation skills. Comprehend languages? Knock?

So… wizard it is! If you care, I also took Nature as my skill, so now I’m trained in all four caster skills, and I took the Ward Medic feat, which lets me use Treat Wounds on two people at the same time. Still no Battle Medicine, so I’m still useless as a mid-fight healer. Leave that to Gomez and consumables, I guess.

Of course, tying this back into game action… in my excitement to unveil my new-found wizard abilities in dramatic fashion, I made a bit of a tactical mistake and forgot to call out the traps I saw when I entered the room with the kobolds. Oops. Which came back to bite us when Dougie went charging in and stepped on not one, but two, traps. Followed by an appearance of Mildly Pouty John, complaining about how he doesn’t get any help and we can just fight without him.

I’m willing to split responsibility for this down the middle. John stepping on the first trap is totally my fault for not calling it out… yeah, I screwed up. But maybe once you hit the first trap, stop and do a Perception check instead of just keep walking? Moving forward onto the second one… that’s on you man. And, OK, I’ll say it: in the moment, it almost seemed like he wanted to take the additional damage so he could add it to the list of grievances. “Fine, you’re not going to tell me where the traps are? Well, I’ll just step on ALL of them!” Contrast that with Seth having Gomez just kinda downplay getting hit by the trap and continuing to negotiate as if nothing had happened. Squeeze the water out of your robes and move on. Something about that just cracked me up.

(Somewhere in here I’m also wondering how many individual traps I could effectively call out in the span of a six-second round while also taking actions of my own. The best comparison I can think of is those war movies where they call in grid coordinates for an airstrike, and it’s not an immediate process.)

Of course, the fight eventually started despite Seth’s best efforts as peacemaker. Clearly, the level-headed female kobold we were told about (Shirek or something like that?) is not the one in charge so we’ll have to fight our way to her. Overall, they’re kobolds, so I’m not that worried: we’ve faced them in a few of the Black Lodge games, and they’ve been pretty wimpy up to this point. The boss kobold is a little trickier than the others, but once we get past the traps and focus on straight combat, I suspect this won’t be too much trouble.

And indeed, we begin to whittle their numbers down, get the boss dealt with, and the last few escape down the hall. So it’s a chase, then. (Caught myself on the edge of yelling “the game’s afoot!”) Unfortunately, the chase will have to wait until next time, as we’re out of time for this week.

In lieu of my usual reminder to visit our Discord channel (though you should still check that out), I’m going to close with a few words about tomorrow’s election for the Americans in the crowd.

First, get out and vote if you haven’t done so, if for no other reason than to preserve your right to complain about the outcome for the next four years: if you didn’t vote, it’s hard for those of us who do care to listen to the opinions of someone who didn’t even bother to grab the lowest-hanging fruit of citizenship.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, though I can’t pretend to be neutral, and I feel like I’ve been generous about dropping hints over the last three-plus years which side I stand on. I’d love to bust out a passionate Sorkin monologue in defense of the things I believe in, but… at the end of the day, we’re not Roll For Political Commentary. I guess I’ll have to hope y’all are either already in agreement, or pick something up through osmosis.

If I’m going to offer a message, it’s this. The situation with the pandemic has made this election weird, and there’s going to be a lot more mail-in ballots than usual that are going to take extra time to count, and each state has its own rules about when they can start processing those. We might not have a clear winner tomorrow night. Whichever side you support, see that as normal and expected, not some sinister agenda to steal the election – regardless of who appears to be winning when polls close in California. If Trump’s leading at 11 pm, you should want everyone’s vote to count. If Biden’s winning at 11 pm, you should want everyone’s vote to count. That’s democracy. That’s America.

OK, that’s all I got. See you next week.