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The Sideshow S2|03: The Barghest Bargain

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|03: Hungry Like the Wolf.

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, so I’m going to try and bang this week’s Sideshow out early so we can all do whatever we’re going to be doing at midnight. I mean… unless you really WANT this column to be your way to usher in 2021, in which case… have at it.

Now, Steve has his extended Show Notes/State Of The Union/GM Blood Feud piece at the end, but I’m not really going to get into that too much here. Not that it’s not an interesting debate, but I already put some pretty extensive thoughts in my other column, and while I don’t mind repeating one or two sentences for both audiences, repeating half the column reaches a point of limiting returns. So if you want my thoughts on Steve’s thoughts on that dude Cody’s thoughts… I’d direct you to this week’s Bird’s Eye View.

Besides, I really want to dig into this barghest situation. Here I was thinking we were going to get a crunchy combat episode, and we instead ended up in a diplomatic negotiation with interesting dynamics all around, and a cliffhanger situation that may hang over the circus’ entire tenure in Escodar.

Jumping ahead a bit, I absolutely LOVE that a decision made a month or two earlier (saving and befriending Riley) turned out to be the thing upon which the negotiation hinged. So time to dispense some credit – first to Loren for having Hap come up with the idea. A different player might have missed it entirely or dismissed it as a “nah it’ll never work” plan. But that’s where I have to give Steve credit as well. One of the things I appreciate about Steve as a GM is if you are willing to put the story first, so will he. If you do something outside the box to make your character and the story more interesting – even if it’s suboptimal for your character in the short term – he will find a way to make it pay off in the long term. Loren taking an animal companion was probably suboptimal compared to another way to make things blow up, but it made for a more interesting character, and now it might have just averted a TPK. And in a way that was totally organic to the story. Well done on both sides of the GM screen.

I was also amused/honored that they thought to bring me in to play Riley, but that would have been kind of weird. I have to admit I like hearing these shows with a relatively fresh set of ears, and knowing what was going to be happening several weeks in advance might have had downsides. If you match up the timelines, as they were recording this, I’m guessing Riley would have been introduced, but Hap wouldn’t have taken him on as an animal companion yet. So there would’ve been some mild spoilers about Hap’s future build if I’d jumped in then. For whatever that’s worth. On the other hand, I don’t want to get TOO precious about spoilers, because I end up getting a few spoilers anyway just through general bullshitting in our group chat or when we play Among Us or whatever.

So… OK, we have a temporarily pacified greater barghest. Now what?

The first question is: would it REALLY have been a TPK if they’d tried to fight it? Looking at the stat block, I can sort of see a path to victory, but it would’ve been rough. It isn’t TOTALLY impervious to physical damage, but DR 10 is pretty significant, and a DR 10 against fire might not be a problem for other parties, but when your main cannon is almost entirely fire-oriented as a roleplay choice… oof. The other case in favor is that it actually doesn’t have a TON of hit points once you get past the DR… only about 100. But there are still other factors to consider. First, the cave made for a tough combat environment where it might have been tough to get people into their best positions or get sightlines for attacks. And there’s the barghest’s special abilities which we only started to explore toward the end: several at-will spell abilities and they tend to have a mutation (poison fangs, poison breath, WINGS) that we hadn’t really seen yet. So, especially having already been beaten up a little by the more conventional wolves, I think negotiation was the right call in the short term.

Long term? Hooooooo… boy. There we’ve got some issues.

First, there’s the matter of getting past inspection. THAT’S the part I actually think I have an answer for. Theoretically, they could have the barghest just turn into goblin form, blend in with THEIR circus for a day (what’s one more goblin in a circus camp full of weird outsider folks?) while the town guard inspects the cave. They’ll see the dead wolf carcasses, and declare it clean; once the town signs off on it, the barghest could quietly move back into the cave. There’s still a long-term issue there, but it would get over the short term hump of securing the site.

How do you get rid of the barghest entirely? That part’s a little tricker.

The first choice is to just be oathbreakers. Take a night’s rest to get all your resources back and hit it at full strength. Heck, go buy some (non-fire) alchemical bombs to “magic up” the fight. Quick and to the point, and frankly, if they fight JUST the barghest with all their resources, I feel like they could pull it off. As far as breaking the oath: they don’t have any Lawful Stupid party members and the thing is chaotic evil, so… (shrug)… do it to them before they do it to us?

The second choice is to maintain the truce based on mutual hatred of the Celestial Menagerie. “The enemy of my enemy still lives in a cave near my camp and might decide to chew my face off”… UNLESS I give it a compelling reason to let me stick around. You could argue that the barghest MIGHT be enticed by “our success will deal a significant blow to the people who imprisoned and tortured you, so let us be an instrument of your revenge”. Problem is, that would require a willingness on the part of the barghest to play the long game rather than indulge the instant gratification of face-eating.

And here’s where we get into the deep-dive idea. Barghests are not as pure evil as a dumb animal would be; they have a higher motivation. Once greater barghests mature, they usually want to try to get back to their home plane of the Abyss. Our new… friend?… doesn’t actually WANT to be here. So I don’t know what sorts of spells or rituals might be available, but if the party could help it get back HOME-home, that might be the one win-win scenario that lets everyone walk away with their faces intact. But that would require further research by the party to understand its motives, AND it would need access to the right magic to help get it back home. Both of which are question marks at this point.

Meanwhile… one accident with someone exploring its cave, and all hell might break loose, to say nothing what might happen if the CM finds “their” wayward pet. AND they still have a second path to clear before the land is ready to use. Just another day in the circus life, right?

And that’s where we’ll leave things for calendar year 2020. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord server or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you both next week AND next year.

Three Ring Adventure S2|03: Hungry Like the Wolf

Caltrops, spores, wolves … what else could go wrong? A pissed off greater barghest? Check, please!

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse, and the second book, Legacy of the Lost God.

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|15: The Afterlife Of The Party

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|15: Smoke ‘Em If You Got ’Em.

Welcome to the last Bird’s Eye View of 2020. Finally. (I hope we’re on the same page that I’m talking about the year and not my writing.)

I’m not going to get too far into Steve’s ongoing kerfuffle, and I sure as hell don’t want to kick off Edition Wars #3894. Though if you’ll indulge in one moment of snark, if your complaint about 2E is that you “do the same thing all the time,” feel free to Google “5E warlock memes” and get back to me. ELDRITCH BLAST! Having said that, I will offer a little player perspective on what I’ve noticed about Second Edition after having mucked about with it basically since release.

First, the meta-level. Maybe it’s just that I look at this activity differently. At a meta-level, this whole discussion comes at it from the standpoint of a “game” to be won or lost. At least within my adult life playing with friends, I have always looked at it as more of an exercise in collaborative storytelling. The game rules just happen to give it a little shape and maybe to prevent one player from dominating the action. And yes, the GM holds a little more power since they represent The Story and they arbitrate the rules, but at some level… if the rules are getting in the way of the story, that’s a conversation you need to have with your GM.

Don’t get me wrong, rules have their place. I’ve been at tables where the game ran on the rails of the GM’s whim to the point where the rules were arbitrary. You CAN go too far in the other direction. But when in doubt, put the story first and the dice-throwing second, and you’ll usually come up with the right answer.

I ABSOLUTELY echo Steve’s comments about party tactics playing a more vibrant role in Second Edition. The use of abilities is one part of it, but the one thing I didn’t see Steve mention is that this system favors movement and hit-and-run tactics. A lot of the older systems, including First Edition Pathfinder, were pretty “tank-and-spank”: your armored guys clogged up the front line, absorbed shots, and hit anything that tried to get by them with attacks of opportunity. Meanwhile, your squishies sat in the back and either healed or burned down enemies with direct damage. With attacks of opportunity being much less common and enemies commonly having a significant advantage in attack bonuses, it’s a real paradigm shift. Enemy third attacks are as viable as your second attack, so standing toe-to-toe trading three shots per round is a losing proposition, no matter how good your armor is. This was a hard-learned lesson playing the ostensibly tanky Champion class in our Plaguestone game. Marched out to meet a group of killer shrubs because that’s what the tank is supposed to do; got beat down in one round.

Similarly, with crits being easier to achieve, it’s quite often less about how you can squeeze out another die of damage and more about how you can make crits happen on offense or prevent them on defense, which has placed a new premium on status effects. One or two more dice of damage may make you feel good at the moment it hits, but giving a creature a -2 or taking away one of its actions every turn by slowing it… those are the things that win fights.

Part of what drove this lesson home for me was having Basil dip in the wizard archetype. With the wizard archetype, you get ONE spell slot per level at first (though there’s a feat to get a second slot at higher levels). And don’t get me wrong… that’s kinda frustrating. But a side effect of that is that it’s almost completely changed my thinking about how to pick Basil’s spells. If I get ONE spell, am I going to use that on ONE direct damage strike that basically gambles my entire casting reservoir on one roll of the die? Or am I going to use that on something that has a one-minute duration and can potentially impact the next 10 rounds of the fight?

Like I said, I’m not going to deep dive as much as Steve did, but those were a few thoughts that have occurred to me over the year-plus we’ve been playing 2E.

On with this week’s show… and we FINALLY make it to the party. And it’s a themed party, where the different rooms of the party are themed based on the alignment-based planes.

Now… I have to admit, I got a little flustered early on. I had concocted an entire cover based on my backstory… Basil studies law and his mom is a judge, so I thought of using a known shady lawyer who could’ve invited me so I’d have a reason to be there. I was loaded for bear, from a roleplaying standpoint. But I never really came up with a plan for the hostess, just flat-out not believing me. So that was kinda awkward.

(And OK, if the hostess wasn’t going to believe me anyway, might as well have used a fake name. On the one hand, I hope that won’t come back to bite us later; on the other, if one thinks about one’s own real-life experience with parties, do YOU take down every name you hear just in case it becomes relevant later?)

Early on, the “system” behind the party becomes apparent. Each room has a theme, a challenge (usually skill-based), and an NPC of some importance. You PROBABLY (but maybe not always) have to do the challenge to get the NPC interested in talking to you. And the description of the guards strongly suggests this shouldn’t end in combat – both for better (that wasn’t the author of the AP’s intent) and for worse (if we screw this up badly enough that it reaches combat, we WILL lose badly).

One thing I idly wonder about is the initial judging. Is there a method to the madness? Are the initial challenges assigned randomly? Could it be based on alignment? Does Steve pick them based on what would fit our skills or make for good storytelling? It did seem – whether pre-ordained or luck of the draw – that most of us got challenges that aligned reasonably well with our abilities. Gomez gets a riddle, Dougie a wrestling match… heck, even though I got chomped by the griffin, my problem was more the low rolls than that the challenge tested the wrong skills.

But I love the concept… an afterlife themed party with different rooms representing the different planes? It’s just so cool. Too bad the guest list is all thugs and gangsters.

The one other thing that stuck out about this episode was Dougie’s almost complete lack of guile while on this mission. I’m still trying to figure out what Dougie’s “deal” is, from a roleplaying standpoint. Is he Forrest Gump, but a cop? Is he Clark Kent, hiding a much more savvy form beneath a cloddish exterior? All I know is I half expected him to just come out and admit to the assassin that he was a cop, so… kudos to John for some solid roleplay there.

As we do our initial information-gathering, we don’t learn a lot (yet… still plenty more rooms), but there are a few interesting nuggets. First, there’s the hint about “people wanting to leave their old lives behind”. That may or may not apply to the stonemasons, but that fits the menagerie owner and the veterinarian who are having an affair to a T. Also… the ochre jelly. I know the cover story is “garbage disposal” but that IMMEDIATELY sounds like a way to dispose of bodies. And I feel like we’re going to be fighting it at some future point, as soon as we figure out who bought it and where it currently lives. But if you’re looking for “Colonel Mustard, in the study, with the lead pipe” levels of clarity… we’re not there yet.

But like I said, plenty more rooms to search; we’ll just have to do it in 2021.

As this is the last column of the year, I just wanted to give a special thanks for listening to our show this year. One thing 2020 has done is made me more philosophical about things. It’s been such a rough year for so many, and we all search for little moments of normalcy however we can get them. If Roll For Combat has provided a little bit of that for you… I’m truly touched that we can do our small part to make a weird year a little more pleasant around the edges.

As always, 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 both next week AND next year.

Agents of Edgewatch S1|15: Smoke ‘Em If You Got ’Em

The agents finally infiltrate the underground speakeasy, but little did they realize it would be filled with a who’s who of criminal clientele, and deadly trials!

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 S2|02: You Dropped A Bomb On Me

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|02: Welcome to Dariusland.

Merry Christmas (Eve), Happy Holidays, or maybe COVID’s thrown a wrench in your plans and you’re just riding out the 51st Thursday of 2020. We’re now squarely into the time of the year where I have lots of extra time on my hands, both for better and for worse. For better, Steve may be able to squeeze a few product reviews out of me since I have three weeks off work; the bad is that this is traditionally when I catch up on my yearly quota of naps and work on my backlog of unplayed or underplayed video games.

I’m going to start, as I often do with a couple of comments on Steve’s show notes.

His point about “what you say” vs. “what you do” is well taken. Maybe it’s a function of playing with him longer and developing a sense of what he’s looking for, but our Edgewatch group MOSTLY has figured that part out. Every once in a while we’ll get our descriptions ahead of our actions and get a “put your character where you’re going to be” admonishment, but we’ve developed a decent feel for it overall. Heck, the whole idea of “Greyhawking” an area comes from having a pretty good sense of when an area is “done”.

If our group has a sticking point, it’s the difference between four (or five) people moving individually vs. moving as a group, but in our case, I honestly think it’s more communication on the player end than anything Steve’s doing. We’ll be exploring an area and someone (lately John, given that he’s been playing characters that are impulsive by design) will just go move his character into a new room just to make something happen. This triggers whatever trap or encounter lies within, but the party as a whole will be spread out over several rooms and lose a turn or two of combat just getting everyone back into the same room. But again, that’s mostly party communication on our end; not Steve’s fault. We’ve SOMEWHAT mitigated that by specifically coming up with the “move as a party” mode where we put ourselves in formation and Steve assumes we’re all moving together, but even then, we sometimes forget to do it.

We also sometimes run into a little combat issue with the whole “did you take your hand off the piece” mentality from chess. Sometimes in combat, we’ll talk through our actions and even move our characters on the map to sort of walk through the logic of what we’re about to do, but then sometimes decide the first plan isn’t going to work and do something else. Every once in a while, especially if that bumps into a trap or something, it can create a situation where we go around a few times with Steve about whether it’s a test move or our actual move. But those are pretty rare occurrences as well.

Speaking of traps, I also wanted to briefly address traps, though I also wrote about this in the last Bird’s Eye View and I don’t want to totally repeat myself. My position on traps is that I like CLEVER traps; dumb ones can go die in a fire. I like traps that make the party think and challenge them as characters, as opposed to a straight damage sink that drains healing resources without really adding anything to the larger story. Give me a trap that reroutes the party into a different part of the dungeon, or a riddle that has to be solved or something. Just “roll to see how many of your healing potions you have to burn through”… it just doesn’t really add anything memorable. Unless someone dies and it’s memorable for the wrong reasons.

Moving on to the show itself… let’s talk friendly fire. By far the most interesting moment of this week’s show was when Hap decided to nuke her own position (and Alhara) to get the dire wolf.

First things first: should friendly fire even exist? I would say, unless it’s literally someone’s first game and you’re teaching them the basics of how to play, yes. Precision and learning to control your combat tools are part of the game. Part of the reason a fireball is “only” a 3rd level spell is that the caster can blow themselves up if they’re not careful with it. Take that away, and you’re getting a much powerful spell at a discount.

(Oddly, I DON’T feel this way playing video games. When I’m playing Dragon Age or Neverwinter… I can’t be bothered. Friendly fire: OFF. Don’t ask me to explain the logical inconsistency… I can’t.)

What’s more interesting is the question of whether you should be allowed to blow up your party-mates as a question of player agency. It’s one thing to do the heroic sacrifice and blow yourself up to save the team: that can create some pretty great story moments. Tuttle did that once in Dead Suns… set off a grenade at his own feet because he was pretty likely to survive but the 2-3 already-damaged foes nearby would not. But when you’re talking about making that choice for someone else and putting damage on a teammate, the question gets a little dicier. Personally, I think it should be an option, but I’d say… and sorry if I sound like an HR manager here… this is one of those things the gaming group needs to have a conversation about and agree on what their policy (I know, I know… groan) is. If not, it has the potential to lead to bad blood if the group finds out about a difference of opinion the hard way. Heck, it almost sounded like it was headed that way here; people seemed a little testy with Loren there for a minute.

I also just think it’s a more dangerous strategy in Second Edition because the combat is already so punishing compared to First Edition. You’ve already got party members fighting on the brink of death on a regular basis as is. Now you’re gonna add in damage from your own teammates? Ow.

Speaking of the brink of death… poor Darius this week, having to deal with the double whammy of being the meat shield AND fighting off poison damage in the same fight. And, other than maybe the cockatrice all the way back at Level 1, this is the first time in a while we’ve really seen poison have some teeth. Luckily for Darius, this was one of those poisons that has a short duration, but it could’ve been much much worse.

One funny moment: I did crack up when Hap suggested clearing the grove by just blasting everything with fireballs. Cool. Then the circus’ first show can be a benefit performance to raise money to rebuild all the townspeople’s burned-down houses!

As we end the episode, the team is just getting over the hump against the wolves, and it turns out they’re not the BIG threat; there’s a bigger, nastier entity controlling them. Ruh-roh! But I guess we’ll learn more about that creature and see how the party fares next week. For now, time to enjoy some Christmas cheer or the nearest facsimile thereof. 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 S2|02: Welcome to Dariusland

After securing a plot of land it’s up to the heroes to clear the nearby forest of any nasty critters, what could possibly go wrong?

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse, and the second book, Legacy of the Lost God.

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|14: Fight For Your Fight To Party

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|14: Kiss of Death.

I wanted to start with a brief plug which I mentioned in The Sideshow but wanted to also mention here because I don’t know who reads one column or the other (or both). RFC’s own Vanessa Hoskins has a new show debuting called “Super SmashFinder”, and the first episode is dropping tonight at 9 pm. My understanding is it’s what you would expect from the title: Second Edition Pathfinder in an arena-style combat setting. So if you enjoy our shenanigans, or even just if you’re curious about seeing Second Edition in a slightly different, more bloodthirsty context… you might want to check it out.

On to this week’s show, and my first point is to give the player perspective of Steve’s GM notes. Especially since he’s talking about things “players hate”.

First, let’s talk about traps. Overall, I like traps. I’ll do one better… I LOVE traps. Heck, I bought all of the Grimtooth’s Traps compendiums as a kid, just because the coolest traps in those were diabolically fun. (A little too fixated on killing people on the toilet, but we’ll unpack that some other time.) Done well, a trap is a nice way to break up monster fight after monster fight and test the party’s ability to do something other than swing swords and huck fireballs.

However, I do ask two things from my traps.

First, I ask that they be used sparingly enough to still be a surprise. WAY back in my teenage years, I played a dungeon where every room was a trap, and that just reached a point of over-saturation. The game reduced to a boring slog, as we poked every surface with 10-foot poles, double-checked every door handle and lock for traps… ugh. Some people got WAY too fixated on Tomb Of Horrors as a kid and it shows.

I also like inventive traps or traps that fit the feel and setting of the dungeon more than generic “ohbytheyway, the floor is gone and there are spikes below” filler traps that are just filling the role of A Challenge That Is Not Combat. WHO BUILDS A CASTLE BALLROOM WITH COLLAPSIBLE FLOORS? PEOPLE DANCE THERE! Adjacent to that, I prefer traps that challenge the party rather than just try to kill them outright. It’s far more interesting to me when the trap represents a puzzle to be solved, rather than just dumping a bunch of damage on you and draining your healing resources.

Now… poison, disease, and such… I think what frustrates me about those is that the effects seem to be asymmetrical: whether true or just a matter of perception, it always feels like they’re less effective when the party uses them, compared to when the bad guys do. Part of it is that enemies generally have higher saves than the players, making it SO hard to get a poison or disease effect to really stick in the heat of combat. The other half of the equation is the “stickiness” of status effects – the party has to live through the long tail of getting rid of the thing, whereas the GM just gets to roll in a truckload of new monsters that don’t have it. Put those two together, and it’s a case where Your Poison and My Poison don’t seem to be equally matched, and THAT’s what I find frustrating. If my poison killed monsters as effectively as it kills us… cool!

Having dispensed with Steve’s pre-game for the week, let’s turn to live-action, and I have to start with a confession. I forgot entirely about the worm. I remembered the body in the pit, but I forgot we had to fight the worm to reach it; I thought it was just an abandoned corpse in a pool of water. I mean, it was a quick fight, so it’s sort of understandable, but still. Hey, at least Basil got the kill shot, so there’s that.

Now, there’s some debate over whether this mage is the one who went missing (Kemenelis? – the kid looking for his mentor… that guy), but my gut says no. First, it may not have been clear from how Steve phrased it, but it looks like this body has been dead longer than Kemenelis has been missing, so PROBABLY not him. Also, at a more meta-game level, Paizo tends to be a bit more obvious with their breadcrumbs; I feel like if this was the guy, there’d be a journal or a spellbook or he’d be wearing an “I’m An Important NPC” T-shirt. So most likely just another John Doe, fallin’ prey to the mean streets. (Feel free to imagine Basil lighting a cigarette and adjusting a non-existent fedora while saying that.)

The second fight is a bit more interesting and DEFINITELY more completely unnecessary. I guess I sort of agree with the prevailing rationale that we can’t leave bound prisoners behind when there may be a threat to their well-being, but still. Continuing to explore when we basically knew where the entrance to the party was bordered on “Adventurers Not Cops” mode for me and felt a little bit off. But I also didn’t want to sit and argue about it for 20 minutes, so… sometimes you go along with it.

So we go south when all the merriment is coming from the north, and we draw one more fight, this time against vargouilles. I can’t find a Second Edition reference for them (new in the adventure path, maybe?), but in First Edition, the book on them is they’re not very powerful (less than 20 hit points) but have a lot of special abilities that can make your life suck. A scream that causes paralysis, poison, and a disease that eventually turns the victim into a vargouille (hence all the jokes about Seth’s head detaching). And sure enough, the scream puts half the party out of action, but we’re still able to take care of business fairly efficiently, with Basil even getting the kill shot on one of them. (Between that and the worm, it was a good night for Basil’s Devise A Stratagem.) Granted, we still might have to worry about Gomez turning on us, but we can figure that out AFTER the party. In the meantime… in the words of gym teachers everywhere… walk it off.

So… a little prestidigitation, stash any gear that’s too obvious to hide, and it’s FINALLY time to rub elbows with the Who’s Who of Absalom’s underground element. As I’ve hinted before, this had better not end in actual combat, because we’ve burned through a lot of resources just getting here. I have a kinda-sorta plan for myself, but I’m not sure what the rest of the party is going to do. Particularly Dougie… never sure which way that wind is gonna blow. I guess we’ll find out what happens 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.

Agents of Edgewatch S1|14: Kiss of Death

Once again the Edgewatch crew stumble their way through the underground, fighting monstrosities, searching for this rumored party…

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 S2|01: The New Kids In Town

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|01: Love and Muscles.

I wanted to start with a brief plug within the RFC family that might be of interest to some of you. Vanessa Hoskins (Alhara) is starting a brand-new show of her own: “Super SmashFinder”. As you might be able to suss out from the title, it’s basically straight-up arena combat within the Second Edition system. Character development… social interaction? Screw that… let’s fight! The first episode should be airing this coming Monday at 9 pm: you can find more episodes here.

So anyway… this was kind of a goofy episode this week. I think the transition between Books 1 and 2 kinda threw the team out of their usual routine, but that’s not a bad thing because it became an interesting hybrid of the characters roleplaying and the players interacting as people. And a young Darius appearing in muscle magazines, apparently?

Plot-wise, the team takes the circus from the sleepy backwater of Abberton to the larger (seaside) town of Escadar. There’s also the intrigue of a reunion with Mistress Dusklight and the competing circus, which carries with it a potential reunion between the Varus siblings and their father. But that’s all in the future: this week it’s all about navigating bureaucracy and exploring the local dining scene.

I did want to dig in on one thing from the team’s Level 5 characters. We already talked about Hap taking the Beastmaster archetype last week; this week I wanted to talk about Darius taking Assurance. Those of you who played First Edition Pathfinder may have been wondering where the concept of “Take-10” went. Well… that’s sort of what Assurance is, but not totally. In some ways, it’s better, but in some ways, it’s worse.

First, the Assurance feat is taken per skill. Nobody comes out and says the words, but what Rob took is actually “Assurance in Medicine”, and Darius only gets that for Medicine checks. If you want Assurance in multiple skills, you have to take the feat multiple times.

Second, unlike Take-10, you can use it on ANY skill check within the skill Assurance is assigned to, even ones taken in combat. Take-10 was strictly a non-combat/downtime thing – you had to have time to go carefully to use Take-10; this doesn’t specify such a limitation.

But here’s where we get to a double-edged sword: Assurance ignores ALMOST all modifiers, positive and negative, including your attribute modifier. So that +4 for INT? You don’t get to use that for Assurance. But that also means if you’ve been debuffed, you don’t have to deal with those penalties either.

Put that in a blender, and it feels like there are two big use cases for Assurance. The first – the more typical case, and what Rob’s doing here – is as an “I WIN” button for flat checks. Medicine is PERFECT for this: since Treat Wounds will ALWAYS be at 15 and won’t ever get more difficult, the Assurance “roll” becomes an automatic success. So if never failing is worth giving up your chance at a critical success, Assurance is the way to go. The other is in situational cases where negative effects cancel out your positive modifiers anyway. So if you’re suffering from a status ailment, or there’s cover, or the multi-attack bonus (if it’s something like Athletics), maybe Assurance gives you a better chance of succeeding than a straight roll. Think of it as being cool under fire and having at least a chance to succeed under adverse conditions.

I have to admit nothing else really jumped out about the leveling process. Some of it is just how Level 5 is. The biggest change for a Level 5 character is the ability score bump – +2 to four stats, unless the stat is already 18, in which case it’s +1 – which just passively makes everything about your character better. You also get an ancestry feat, but those are usually fairly subtle effects. Alhara does get an extra damage die on her precision damage, which is kinda nice… as long as the enemies are vulnerable to precision damage. (That’s not meant as snark – Basil has the same basic issue.) The biggest change will be that Hap and Ateran get access to 3rd level spells, but I figure we’ll deal with that down the road when they start using those spells in combat situations.

So we arrive in the circus’ new home for the next 40 episodes, and it’s time to get settled in (despite Rob’s willingness to jump ship at the lack of bacon). We have a brief character interlude between Alhara and Ateran where Ateran gives Alhara a magical charm of some sort. I’ll confess – I took a brief run through the rulebook to try and figure out if this was a crafting, a spell, or whatnot… and ran out of patience, so I asked Rob P. himself, and he confirmed it was the general feat Root Magic. Surprisingly not a class-specific Witch ability, though it has a very similar flavor. Basically, it’s a charm one can give to an ally that gives the user a bonus against their first save of the day against a spell or haunt. It was a nice touching little moment, especially since they’ve been having some ups and downs recently. And OK, I did like the personal touch of Ateran giving themselves a really awkward haircut to supply the raw materials; I just hope they don’t have to do that every time they prepare the charm because bald Ateran might give me nightmares.

Finally, the circus arrives at their new town, and the first step is convincing the local magistrate to let them perform, with the added wrinkle that Mistress Dusklight’s people have been spreading rumors in advance of their arrival to try and sandbag the competition. Setting aside the specifics, I kind of like the idea that an adventuring party acquires some notoriety and a reputation that follows them around the world… and sometimes even arrives in a new town before they do. It makes the whole world feel a little more connected and lived-in. Fortunately, a few strong social checks later, and the circus at least has permission to play, though I feel like they got a bit of a raw deal: they have to clear the land of critters themselves AND they have to kick back a portion of their gate. Seems like one or the other would’ve been fine. I mean, come on, the circus folk are basically doing a major public works project for free!

(Now, putting on my GM or adventure designer hat, I assume this serves as a low-stakes way to let the characters break in their Level 5 characters… fight a few battles against critters completely unrelated to the plot. And then they can set up the circus and get the actual story moving again.)

The finishing touch of this episode was the team’s group dinner at Lowder’s Chowder. I always like these little moments of connective tissue where Steve goes off-book and just wings it because it’s adding that little touch that’s uniquely ours. As an extension of “making the world feel lived in”, you also have “making the world feel like it’s uniquely yours and not just a product pulled off Paizo’s shelves”. And that’s absolutely NOT a complaint against the AP writers by any means: it’s just fun to have your own little personal touches that no other campaign has, especially when they grow and build on each other over time. It’s also a way to “honor” the games you’ve played before and the people you played them with… even if they’re no longer at the table… by keeping them in the collective memory.

To put it another way: EVERY group who plays Extinction Curse is going to have their story about how they beat the big bad boss. You can compare who played it better or worse, whose tactics were more optimal and such, but everyone will have had some version of that experience. Sometimes, it’s the moments where you throw out the book and go off-roading and have an experience nobody else could’ve had that are the things that stick in your brain best when you’re remembering the campaign months or years later. Behind the scenes, we’ve even jokingly started calling it the “RFCCU” – the “Roll For Combat Cinematic Universe”. Certainly “Old Woody” is one of the mainstays, but things like naming a robotic sidekick character CHDDR, Spirit’s Spirits… maybe Lowder’s Chowder can be one of those things too. Maybe it’s Golarion’s first franchise restaurant chain, and we just don’t know it yet!

So next week, we rejoin the game as our well-fed party of Level 5 adventurers will have to clear out a plot of land that I’m sure isn’t dangerous at all! 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 S2|01: Love and Muscles

ATTENTION NEW LISTENERS: We here at Roll For Combat recognize that jumping into an existing podcast can be a daunting task, especially one like this that involves an unfolding story. To help newer listeners out, we’ve prepared a brief synopsis at the start of this episode that will catch you up on the story so far. Give it a listen, and you’ll be ready to join us, all caught up ready to jump right into the podcast and start season two. Enjoy the show!

Having honed their acts in the small town of Abberton, the Circus of Wayward Wonders are ready for larger crowds, bigger payouts, and greater prestige, so it’s off to the coastal city of Escadar. But Escadar is not without risk, and it’s home to the rival circus the Celestial Menagerie. Circus fight!

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse, and the second book, Legacy of the Lost God.

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