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The Bird’s Eye View S1|13: Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|13: I’m Attacking the Darkness!

Well, let’s start this week with a discussion of shield, since Steve called me out by name. You know what… I’m willing to accept the criticism as valid. I’ll throw myself on the mercy of the court since I just got my wizard abilities this level and I’m using the spell for the first time, but he’s right… I should know what my spells do. Especially since I have so few of them.

I think I got a little turned around because there’s casting the shield, which is an action, but then there’s blocking a blow, which is a REaction. I think one of two things happened; either I momentarily got those two tangled up in my brain, or maybe I figured since shield was only a one-action spell, it made a little sense to have to raise it to be the separate (second) action that almost every other spell seems to have. So… fine. Learning curve.

Of course, there’s a second smaller mistake we made that I just noticed on re-listening. There’s a place where I take like 5 attacks in a row, and I use the shield spell to block the fourth attack because I was pretty low on hit points. Well if you want to get technical, that block should’ve expended the shield since it only has a hardness of 5, so the shield should not have been available for the final attack. I don’t think it would’ve made a difference, but still… we’ll get this right as we go forward. Promise.

Moving on… I’m getting worried that this “secret” underground passage is turning out to be so well-trafficked. We’ve got a gelatinous cube, ghouls, and now not one but two different groups of humanoids just loitering about. I mean, I don’t want to put on my metagame hat, but I’m starting to worry that we’ll have to expend all our resources just getting to the club, but then if we face a combat encounter IN the club, we’re gonna be so screwed. I figured MAYBE one fight, just to keep us on our toes. But this is turning out to be a full day dungeon crawl, isn’t it?

We actually start slow this week, with some healing and then a non-combat interaction with a group of ysoki produce merchants. Excuse me? I mean, I know the existence of the undercity is supposed to be a thing, but it’s still a little weird that you’ve got produce merchants just hanging out down here. And they just HAPPENED to stumble upon the ghouls? Something seems off about this whole interaction. But this gets into the whole “are we adventurers or are we on a mission” vibe? Lacking any real crime to investigate, we probably ought to just move on and get to the party right?

Well… maybe not, as we stumble on our next combat encounter (#3 for this part of the adventure, for those of you scoring at home). I don’t get a sense of exactly what creatures these guys are supposed to be – smallish feathery humanoids… but not fellow tengu because I suspect Steve would’ve made a bigger deal of me being attacked by my fellow countrymen.

And they can cast darkness… or maybe they have it as an innate ancestry ability. Oh, crap.

Darkness is one of those things that’s either hit or miss. If you’re playing an ancestry with darkvision, the base version of the spell is almost trivial, and even the heightened version of the spell just grants concealment. But if you didn’t take that darkvision, the real sizzle to the steak is that darkness overpowers ALL non-magical light sources and even magical ones of the same level or lower. Adding insult to injury, this seems to be the one party where we haven’t taken light as a spell. Technically, I have access to it, but I didn’t equip it because I didn’t have time to take a long rest and change out my spells. So yeah… we’re TOTALLY in the dark now.

As an aside, I’m usually paranoid about darkness because of a bad Emerald Spire experience. There’s an entire level of that dungeon that was both shrouded in magical darkness as well as almost entirely difficult terrain, and it was awful. Ever since that game (also playing a tengu, coincidentally), I usually either take some sort of darkvision or at least Blind Fight. Somehow this is the ONE character where I didn’t bother doing that because I expected most of our adventures to be above-ground. Sigh.

Looking at the battlefield, you have the map in front of you, we came south down a staircase to a T intersection; at least two of the bad guys were to the east, but one went to the west, and the darkness seemed like it was centered at the bottom of the stairs. Based on what parts of the map we’d already come from, the east seemed like it was mostly a dead end, and the west would be the way we’d want to go to proceed further. I thought about going west and trying to get out of the darkness, but once Dougie and Lo Mang went east, I decided I’d rather stay with the group, even if it meant piling into the darkness even further.

Now… at the risk of giving Steve ideas, I thought there were a couple of places where he could’ve actually made this more challenging by throwing in the risk of friendly fire. There were a couple of times where we were maneuvering past each other, and it’s questionable whether we would’ve known if it was a good guy or a bad guy who was standing next to us. Lo Mang was off by himself in the corner of the room so he was fairly safe, but Dougie and I crisscrossed more than once. I suppose you can hand-wave that and say we were able to know friend from foe by sound or that we knew their relative position by responding to where the attacks came from. But if Steve wanted to be cruel, he probably could’ve had us start attacking each other a few times by accident.

The other thing that was a little nasty was that “flashbang” effect when they died. I mean, having them do damage when they died would’ve been worse, but still – the blindness effect meant that even if you managed to stumble out of the darkness, you STILL had all the same penalties. That came into play toward the end when the last enemy was outside the darkness, but I couldn’t see him anyway.

We finally get the fight under control and finish them off, when we get our first hint that things weren’t quite what they seemed. One of the people we’re fighting asks if we’re with them… implying that the rat-folk and these guys had some sort of business deal that went sour, and maybe the ysoki weren’t the innocent produce vendors they pretended to be. But again… is that something we should really be looking into right now when we’ve got something like 20 missing persons to investigate?

As we end the episode, I think the vibe within the group is to at least figure out how much more dungeon we have left to explore. I think once we get a sense of how close to the finish line we are, maybe we could go back and deal with the ysoki, or maybe we just let them slide and continue our mission. So for now… back to work. And that’s where we leave things for this week.

I don’t really have much to say about the potential return of Bob Markee, except to confirm – in the words of Seinfeld – “it’s real and it’s fabulous!” I don’t want to say much: first because it would involve spoilers, but also because if you’re NOT on the Patreon, it might be a little while before you get to hear him. So we’ll talk more about it when it gets closer to happening. That said, I don’t know how long he or the character he’s playing is going to be with us, but it is nice to have him back… Bob adds an interesting dimension to the group and is a lot of fun to play with.

At any rate, next week, we resume our journey and HOPEFULLY finally get to join the party. (But maybe not… always fuzzy how Steve cuts these episodes.) Feel free to drop by Discord and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S1|13: I’m Attacking the Darkness!

This week the Edgewatch crew gets to utter everyone’s favorite catchphrase as they are actually fighting the darkness!

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|40: The Clown From Downtown

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|40: Tasty, Tasty, Beautiful Fear.

So, we’ve finally reached the end of Book 1 of the adventure path, and we end on a kind of silly note, with a bit of housekeeping, and an unconventional circus performance, capped off by a call-to-adventure cliffhanger.

I suppose the most notable place to start would be to unpack Hap’s decision to officially take on Riley as an animal companion. On an emotional and roleplaying level, it was inevitable. Hap (and Loren, for that matter) has always been a sucker for the critters, sometimes even to the detriment of the party’s safety. As a fellow alum of RFC’s “adopt a shelter pet” program (Brixley and Ember from the Plaguestone game) I certainly support Loren’s choice on a character level.

I would also like to point out for those of you worried about the snub of Bardolph the Bear, it’s still possible Hap could take a feat to take on a second companion. (The “Additional Companion” feat can be taken multiple times… up to a maximum of four creatures.) So if Loren really WANTS to add Bardolph as a member of Team Hap… it’s still an option. Just Sayin’.

On a nuts-and-bolts rules level, however, I’m a little worried how practical this is going to turn out to be. Setting aside that it’s great roleplaying, my experience in the Plaguestone suggests it’s a little unwieldy in a gameplay sense… at least until you get a few more feats under your belt. As they allude to during the show, the basic mechanic for animal companions is to give up one of your actions to give the animal companion two. That was sometimes difficult to manage even as a melee; as a caster where most of your spells are two actions… oof. There’s also the general balancing act you take with ANY archetype – the balancing act between archetype feats and core class feats.

I realize this isn’t really related to this show, but as a side exercise, I find myself wishing the Advanced Player’s Guide had been released when we were doing Plaguestone because this got me thinking… there are ways in which it might have almost been better to take Divine Weapon as my Champion boon and take Ember through the Beastmaster archetype. Then I’d have a magic rapier AND a fire kitty! Also, a lot of the Divine Steed features are related to riding, and you don’t really saddle up and ride in a dungeon setting. On the other hand, a high-level Champion steed gets crazy stuff like magical wings and training in the Religion skill. YEAH, LET’S SEE YOUR STUPID WOLF PERFORM A RESURRECTION RITUAL, LOREN!

What? No, I’m not defensive at all… why do you ask?

Then we get to the main thrust of this week’s show… the final circus performance before moving on to bigger stages. Certainly, the main story is our new… ummm… “friend” Jellico Bounce-Bounce bringing the house down, but we’ll get to him in a minute. I love the juxtaposition between Alhara, who is completely unwilling to work with Jellico in any way shape or form, alongside Hap, who’s completely unphased by the whole thing. “Yeah, whatever… cool knives.”

Before we get to the show itself, we should refresh our collective memory on the new scoring mechanic Steve came up with. As you may remember, the circus rules as written are a little goofy because you’re supposed to MATCH the excitement and anticipation numbers. Which means if you get them to align properly two-thirds of the way through the show, the system creates an incentive to stop trying to keep the numbers where they are. And that completely flies in the face of good show business: you want things building to a big finale. So basically, though I didn’t totally understand the scoring, Steve decoupled the numbers, so there’s still a win condition available even when swinging for the fences.

As the show starts, I feel kind of bad for Ateran – they perform so rarely, they FINALLY get a chance to do their performance, and immediately gets shouted down by the hecklers. Adding insult to injury, Ateran misses the roll on the big finale by ONE digit. Oof. Though OK… these guys saved the town AND sprung for free beer. WHY ARE THEY BEING HECKLED?

Next, we have Alhara’s ongoing battle against Darius the Troll and Darius the Troll’s intensely awkward salute to the liberating powers of free-market capitalism. I also like the bail-out mechanic of sending in the clowns, so you can turn a failed roll into a “yeah, we meant to screw that up” comedy routine. Next up, we have Hap’s fire antics, which end with Hap showering the crowd with flaming hot (fake) money, and earning the endorsement of Ayn Rand in the process. And then it’s time for the main event. Let’s see what The Clown From Downtown’s got going for him.

Now, I know Steve put all sorts of disclaimers on this week’s episode, but I gotta admit I found Jellico’s show kinda funny, more than anything else. Maybe that makes me some sort of psychopath or something, but I did. And let’s give credit where due – a LOT of that was Rob T.’s performance. For Rob to ad-lib a routine on the spot (I asked; he didn’t have any advance preparation) is pretty damn impressive. I mean, “horror-themed, but entertaining, but also not actual assault, murder, or mutilation of farm animals” is a pretty narrow needle to thread. But somehow he did it. And it brought the house down.

The circus finishes its performance… they don’t totally max out because of the hecklers and the general slow start, but it’s still a pretty solid performance and the religious faction war is averted. And at the end, we have the cliffhanger… a note from Papa Varus, with the cryptic summons: “COME HOME”.

And next week… we shall. Book 2, coming up. 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 next week.

Three Ring Adventure S1|40: Tasty, Tasty, Beautiful Fear

Our crew perform their final show for the town of Abberton, pack up the circus, and prepare to head to their next destination. Onto book 2 of the Extinction Curse Adventure Path!

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|12: The Tengu Plays Chicken

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|12: Taking A Bite Out Of Crimefighters.

It’s Gelatinous Cube Week here at Roll For Combat. Part 2, if you listen to both shows.

About a month ago, the Extinction Curse crew fought not one, but TWO gelatinous cubes. To be fair, they were also higher-level than we are at this point in the story, but it was kind of funny having to pretend it was my first time ever seeing a GelCube in Second Edition when reviewing that episode. “Paralysis? I didn’t know it could do that!” In fact, at the point I wrote up that episode, it was probably only a week or two after we had fought ours, so I was chuckling the entire encounter.

Aside from the fact that there were two instead of one, the main difference between the two encounters is that their group noticed the immaculately clean walls and floors and decided to be cautious. They started throwing rocks and other loose debris down the hall until it stuck in “midair”. We were not nearly as observant. “Oh how lucky that the floors are so clean here! Oh look… treasure!” The one thing they missed is that GelCube #2 was down a side hall, so their back-line casters got hit from behind by the second one mid-fight.

The gelatinous cube continues to be a fan favorite here in RFC-land. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think a large part of its appeal is just how weird and outside the box it is compared to standard fantasy tropes like dragons and orcs. Tolkien definitely missed the boat by not including a big geometric Jell-O cube that wanders dungeons and melts stuff with acid. Cool!

But as fun as the IDEA of a gelatinous cube is, it’s surprisingly challenging to fight one. Especially with this party composition. The good news is that it’s a big squishy bag of hit points, which is so big and (other than its enveloping attack) slow-moving you almost can’t help but hit it with every attack. It’s meant to fill a corridor in a dungeon, so it’s LITERALLY like attacking a wall. On the other hand, you pretty much lose EVERY source of “extra” damage: no crits, no precision damage (which both Basil and Dougie rely on to boost their output), and it’s got a few elemental resistances as well. Add into the mix the fact that Gomez ran right into the thing and put himself in survival mode right off the bat, and we were fighting this fight at a disadvantage.

So in general, it seems you have two choices with something like this. Either EVERYONE jumps in and goes toe-to-toe and you try to grind it down as fast as possible. Three attacks per round, pedal to the metal. OR, you go the other way, spread out so it can’t hit more than one person at a time, hopefully keeping most of the party standing and avoiding the paralysis effect for as long as possible.

Now, I have to take a bit of a self-serving detour here. Some of this fight makes it sound like I’m some big coward, but I was actually trying to employ some tactics. In the southeast part of the overall chamber, there was a blocked-out area of the map that was almost like a 20×20 “pillar”, and the access points on the sides were only 5’ openings. I wasn’t sure if the GelCube could squeeze himself or not, but I was thinking that if Devise A Stratagem was basically going to be useless anyway*, I would use the narrow openings as cover and attack from relative safety: either pop out, melee, and pop back in, or if I could do a ranged attack, cast Ray of Frost and then reposition to safety. So… OK, maybe I WAS a coward, but a TACTICAL coward. Big difference.

*=As far as Devise A Strategem, being “useless”, here’s my thinking on that: you lose the precision damage because it’s part of the ooze family, but it’s so big that a +2 probably isn’t going to make any difference in terms of hitting or missing. And even using the +2 to get a crit doesn’t really matter because you lose crit damage too. So basically, you’d be burning an action for roleplay flavor. To borrow from Galaxy Quest:It’s a cube of Jell-O, it doesn’t have a weakness!”.

So that’s my defense of my tactical brilliance. What it didn’t really account for was how long Gomez could hold his breath on the inside. As it turns out, the inside of a gelatinous cube is a pretty nasty place to be. Ongoing acid damage, suffocation… who knew? Bringing it down with one attack per round wasn’t really an option once Gomez was fighting for his life. So, after trying to be Fancy Tactical Man for one round, I pretty much abandoned that and went back to slugfest tactics. Which worked out with just enough time to spare… I think the following round, Gomez would’ve run out of air and taken whatever effects suffocation carries with it.

So we’re already dealing with a bit of a punch in the face from that battle when sounds of approaching battle hint at another encounter to come. I’m with Seth… I thought we were just going to waltz to the party, maybe there’d be a social encounter to get in, and that would be that. I did not expect ONE fight, let alone two. Steve charitably gives is a moment to down potions, and then we’ve got ghouls incoming. A paralysis double feature! Yay!

Fortunately, the fight with the ghouls seems to go a little easier, and we’re able to make quick work of them. But still… it’s going to be really awkward if the first thing we have to do upon arrival at the party is to beg for some healing. And I don’t want to even get into the possibility that we burn all our resources down in this mini-dungeon and then have to get into a fight at the party.

But that’ll be an adventure for another time. For this week, we survive to continue our investigation. Can we get where we’re going without further incident? Will Dougie know how to conduct himself in the underbelly of high society? You’ll have to come back next week to find out. 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 next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S1|12: Taking A Bite Out Of Crimefighters

Gomez falls for the oldest trick in the book, the old “shiny treasure inside a gelatinous cube” trick!

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|39: Powered By The Tower

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|39: Xulgaths in the Tower.

I’m a little out of my routine today – work gave us an extra vacation day on Monday, so I spent a good chunk of the day thinking it was Wednesday, and now I’m playing catchup. Either that or time has lost meaning as I’ve moved on from election-related doomscrolling to repeatedly clicking REFRESH on a bunch of PS5 websites. It’s still a blur, just a blur of a different color.

In the meantime, we have a pretty fun episode this week, as we resolve the final boss of the temple, and even of Book 1 of the adventure path. However, I suppose I should start by taking a little run at the show notes. I found the discussion of Bartle’s Player Types to be interesting, though Pedantic Me feels compelled to mention those were developed in the context of computer-based MMORPGs. So it feels like there’s something social already baked into the decision to play a tabletop RPG with other live people instead of just loading up Neverwinter Nights or something. Playing make-believe with your friends is an inherently social act.

Of those personal measures, I would say I’m mostly the Achiever type, depending on where “story points” fall on the spectrum. Is revealing the story an achievement, or an exploration activity? Feels more like an achievement; exploration would be ignoring the story entirely and just spending the entire session talking to NPCs at the tavern or wandering off into the woods. I’m DEFINITELY not the Killer type – other than maybe Overwatch, I pretty much avoid PvP games entirely. And I’m pretty neutral on the Socializer type – I certainly don’t mind gaming with new people, but it’s also not the reason I pick this activity over any other. Nah, me, I’m about building out my character – new spells, better equipment, etc. – and unravelling the story the GM has put in front of us, which seems to be cut mostly from the Achiever cloth.

As far as Steve’s other point, about people playing characters kind of like themselves… I don’t know how other people do it, but I always build my character portrayals around guiding concept (occasionally a mix of two) and then fill in the blanks around it. But the “fill in the blanks” is probably usually just “me”. The guiding concept doesn’t necessarily have to be a true thing about me, but it’s usually someone I’ve met, or a fictional character I’m trying to emulate. Something I can use to frame the character I’m going for. Tuttle Blacktail was based off a former coworker who was a nice guy one-on-one but always had to establish himself as the smartest guy in the room, to the point of being really abrasive in some settings. Brixley was drawn a little bit from Gilderoy Lockhart from the Harry Potter books – a foppish guy whose real-world skills don’t line up with the version of himself that he puts out there — but with a bit more of a down-to-earth Seth Rogen streak when the adventuring day is done. Basil hews toward the Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes, but he’s got a warmer side Holmes lacks. In fact, one could suppose that’s why I never really found a “voice” for Nella in the Black Lodge game… I chose that character mostly on the class and powers; never really figured out the guiding concept for her.

But enough about me. On to this week’s action.

First, I love the open-ended speculation about gelatinous cube-powered outhouses. Someone at Paizo needs to go ahead and make that canon. It’s a win-win. Golarion gets its basic sanitation needs covered; gelatinous cubes find a purpose and a steady stream of… ahem… nutrition.

The episode breaks into two battles. The first is a flat-out squash match – the poor pteranodon was pretty much done in one round. Not much to write about there except that it would’ve been nice if they’d found a way to bring it back to the circus. A flying dinosaur might have made for an interesting act.

The boss fight, on the other hand, was also a fairly quick flight, but that felt like a bit of missed potential. This one feels like it could’ve been more, except that the boss just got kind of unlucky with its rolls and the party got lucky with theirs. First, you have the whole hazard of falling off the tower, which would pretty much mean instant death. (Or, for that matter, I was a little worried about Hap or Ateran suffering a critical fail climbing up.) There aren’t a lot of ways to invoke the catastrophic death rules, but a 100 foot fall… yeah, that would probably do it.

But then a key moment was when the boss xulgath charged up his hammer and missed Alhara by rolling a 2 (still a 19 with +17… oof). If he connects… much less crits… that had the potential to change the whole landscape of the fight. Alhara would’ve likely been knocked out, the focus of the other party members would’ve had to switch to healing her, and it goes from a fight where the party is dictating the pace of the fight to one where the enemy is. Luckily, he misses, and the party is able to stay on the offensive and make fairly quick work of the final boss. Similarly, Alhara landing the trip was also a big turning point; getting the guy prone – not just a failure but a critical failure — and getting a bunch of advantages to hit made it easier to get downstream crits against him.

(Though at the risk of diminishing the party’s achievement… he’s still a xulgath. Most of those guys have been fairly cannon-foddery. Maybe the succubus was really the Big Bad and this guy was just her tool. Speaking of which… I still half-expected to see her up here, but I guess she got out of Dodge instead of sticking around for the final fight. Will we see her again down the road?)

So after the fight, we get a bit of a lore dump – the xulgaths were attempting to corrupt/destroy the orb that powers the tower, and by virtue of saving the tower, the players get a perma-boon that doesn’t take up a magic slot. Even without knowing the specific benefit, that strikes me as a pretty powerful thing – it’s basically like getting a free feat. The team also claims some papers that might give additional insights, but we’ll probably address those back in town, because our intrepid adventurers still have a final circus show to do before moving on to the next town. This is still the PENULTIMATE episode after all.

And OK… I laughed at Hap just leaping off the tower and Feather Falling down. Another Very Hap thing to do…

So next week, I suppose we get newly-leveled characters, put on the last circus show in this town, and then figure out where the circus goes to next. As always, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Three Ring Adventure S1|39: Xulgaths in the Tower

Our crew has finally reached the tower’s zenith in this penultimate episode of Season 1!

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!