March 2021 - Roll For Combat: Paizo's Official Pathfinder & Starfinder Actual Play Podcasts

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Three Ring Adventure S2|16: This is Fine

Just remember kids, when you have an invisible demon hunting your party it’s always a good idea to kick in random doors and bleed encounters!

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|28: I Believe I Can Fry

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|28: Food Glorious Food!

I have to admit, I was honestly surprised this week’s episode managed to be an entire episode. On one hand, the Adventures of Seth and Vanessa (primarily) richly deserved the spotlight, but the rest of the surrounding episode was just so weird and random, I didn’t think there was enough meat on those bones to put a full episode together.

Speaking of which, I fully expect this to be the first episode of our show ever to be banned by PETA, given our obvious delight in the eating of animals. Even fictional ones. Coincidentally, I nominate “It’s not cannibalism if you sell it to other people instead of eating it yourself.” for our next T-shirt quote.

But let’s rewind. We start with a very short bit of real business, as we have to retrieve the remaining loot. And… OK, let’s be honest, Steve ends up just giving us a mulligan on this one by having the ochre jelly spit the remains out on the floor outside the pit.

And sure enough, despite the ribbing from John and Chris, it’s upgrade time for Basil. MY SWORD-CANE!

First, there’s getting the striking rune for free; that’s almost good enough right there. Saves me, what… 130 gold or so? But then there’s the fact that it also has a poison reservoir. Granted, I took a look at the poison table and poisons can get pretty pricy – the more you spend the more damage you do AND the higher the DC to save against the poison – so it’ll probably have to be a trick for special occasions, but added damages and status bonuses could come in handy. The ability to strike with the scabbard is nice, but without the extra feats to use multi-attack without penalty, that’s mostly going to be good for mixing up damage types. And just as a point of pride… it’s a unique weapon. No one else in this multiverse version of Golarion will ever have this particular weapon. OK, it’s not an artifact on the level of the Hand of Vecna or Baba Yaga’s Hut, but it’s still kinda neat that it’s the only one of its kind.

For the record… I was sincere that I wanted to be fair about the issue. I did also get the +1 healer’s kit AND Pratchett’s spellbook, so I didn’t want to be greedy. But let’s draw some boundaries around that: my offer was more “what do I have to give up to make sure I get this?” rather than “one of you guys can have it”. I was absolutely going to walk out with that sword-cane. Fortunately though, despite their early razzing, the rest of the team was cool about the fact that it was my signature weapon, and therefore I had dibs.

Though… gotta say, I wouldn’t mind having the suit as well, though that’s more for aesthetics than practical value. Just seems useful to be able to hide the fact that you’re wearing armor and blend in, given our adventures so far. Having said that, whenever we hit Level 5, I’m going to bump my STR, which will give me access to heavier armor anyway, so I wouldn’t have it for very long anyway. So maybe it’s not that important.

After we get done with the official business… well, the show basically just jumps the rails for the duration. That’s not meant as a complaint; actually, it was kind of fun. There are times where I feel like our group is a little TOO goal-oriented and it would do us some good to let our collective hair down a little. It was also the closest we’ve come to capturing the spirit of the Three-Ring show, which isn’t surprising considering Vanessa (along with Seth) was one of the two ringleaders of the merriment.

Now, you’ll note I was kinda quiet for this part. Part of it was that when people first started talking about food, I got hungry and got up to get a snack. You’ll note there’s a part where Steve asks for my help coming up with names and I don’t respond: I’m pretty sure I was in the kitchen making a PB&J sandwich at the time (aka The Snack of the Gods). For the rest of it, I think Steve kinda pegged it in the intro: this dungeon had been so mentally taxing that once we were done, I just kinda crashed mentally, put it on auto-pilot, and was content to “bask in our victory” or whatever. (Ignore those scurrilous rumors that I was selfishly thinking up names for my new blade!)

Also, sometimes discretion is the better part of valor with roleplay. Sometimes, if someone else is really feeling it and you don’t necessarily know what you’d add to the scene, sometimes you just sit back and let them go off and appreciate the performance. Some of my passivity was that too – Seth and Vanessa were on such a roll I became a listener in real-time.

Now, I remembered most of Seth and Vanessa’s main in-character riff on different foods and such, and the general emphasis on Frying All The Things. What I forgot was the side conversation. You know: the one that dabbled in bugbear cannibalism and ostensibly humane treatment of livestock that actually sounds WORSE than just killing animals for food. Yeah, we’ll just cut pieces off the animal and heal it; I’m sure that won’t be physically traumatic or emotionally scarring in any way. And hey, we even got our first bleeped word in – I don’t THINK “ever”; I feel like Steve might have done it once or twice back in Dead Suns – but it definitely hasn’t happened in a long time.

Once the Fryer-Fest has run its course, we head back to the station, and it’s time to get our final attaboy from the boss and say goodbye to Sharky – at least for now. Keep in mind, there was never a formal endgame for Sharky, so the idea to make Sharky a cook was all off the top of Vanessa’s head. SOLD! Sharky’s going to learn to cook. I’m not sure if we’ll be bringing Sharky back someday, but both Bob and Vanessa added a fun little dimension to the show while they stopped by.

So there it is… Book One is in the… well… books. We managed to hit Level 4 and should be well on our way to Level 5 and – as we’ve mentioned before – it only took like 3 or 4 days of in-game time. So we’re kind of badass. Next week, we’ll get started on a brand new chapter in the adventure, with new challenges that ought to get us to Level 10 by the middle of next week in-game. That’s how this works, right? 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|28: Food Glorious Food!

With both Pratchett and Ralso defeated and their crimes uncovered, it’s time for a little rest and relaxation, and food! Lots and lots of food!

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|15: Alhara Knows Which Way The Wind Blows

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|15: Bad Moon Rising.

Welcome back to Roll For Combat: Now With 30 Percent More Combat! No circus acts, no birthday parties… just a good ol’ fashioned dungeon crawl, the way Pappy used to make ‘em.

There’s something interesting I noticed this week about my listening habits. Fair or not, correct or not, Vanessa tends to serve as something of a “canary in the coal mine” for this group. When she’s calm, I’m calm. When she’s worried, I’m worried.

If I had to hazard a guess, I think it probably has to do with thinking – or at least assuming – she has a better grasp of the rules and of various Pathfinder lore than the other players. That’s no disrespect to Loren and the Robs… I tend to assume they have the knowledge an average long-time player has. But Vanessa has actually written Second Edition content for Paizo, so when she says “oh crap”, my ears perk up because I feel like she’s got reasons. At least that’s what I assume my brain is subconsciously processing in the moment.

Steve? Don’t measure anything by Steve’s reaction. He’s playing to the crowd. EVERYTHING that’s about to happen is the worst news ever. It could be Zon Kuthon himself or a lone Level 1 kobold; either one will get the same “Ohhhhh boy… are you guys ready for this? (cackle) You’re not ready for this.”

As far as my Vanessa Concern Barometer: we had two examples of that in this week’s episode: one positive and one negative.

The first was Hap (very temporarily) getting turned to stone-but-not-really-stone. (And really… nobody came up with “Hapsicle”? COME ON PEOPLE.) At first, I was surprised at how nonchalant everyone was being about it. You do know one of your party members suffered The Thing That’s Basically One Step Short Of Permadeath, right? But then I found the calm – at least Vanessa’s – kinda reassuring, at least partly thinking that she knows enough about basilisks to justify such confidence. If she’s not worried, it’s probably not THAT hard to unfreeze Hap.

Granted, the whole “douse yourself in the blood of the vanquished thing” is a little creepy, but even that got defused by Rob T. describing it as “we’re gonna tauntaun this”. And sure enough, a few minutes later, Hap is up and running again, none the worse for wear. It’s a little surprising, but Hap somehow emerged in better shape from having ACTUALLY been petrified than Darius did from having NOT been petrified by a cockatrice at Level 1. How does THAT work? I guess it’s those Level 6 anti-bodies.

Once Hap is up and running again, the exploration of the shrine continues. Things actually seem like they’re going to settle down a little bit as the group pretty much runs roughshod over a pair of xulgaths like they were a speed bump. The most drama we got out of that fight was whether Alhara was going to turn busting through stained-glass windows into a running bit like Cabbage Man from Avatar. (If nothing else, Alhara crashing through a stained-glass window would make a GREAT T-shirt.)

But then came the revelation of the babau, and the other side of the Vanessa Concern Barometer went off.

No, not a baobab… that’s a tree, or the fruit that grows on it.

No, not Babar. Cartoon elephant. Wears human clothes.

Babau.

It was that rollercoaster NO that goes up in the middle that drew my attention: “Oh nooooOOOOOooooo”. You got the sense Vanessa recognized it and identified it as bad news. Which consequently made my brain go on high alert for the rest of the fight. Again, maybe this isn’t fair to Vanessa to put that on her, but it’s kind of how my mind is wired.

And as I cheat and look at the statblock… she’s right to be concerned. A babau has got all the offensive tricks of a stealthier, including sneak attack damage; there’s that trick where it sprays acid on you if you hit it (technically it’s a coating of acid on its skin), and the whole at-will dimension door that it’s already used multiple times. They also have a signature move called “Grievous Strike” which basically consists of loading up two attacks into a single two-action attack that does extra damage and can also inflict Frightened.

Also, now that I have the statblock in front of me, let me re-explain the healing thing with fog of war turned off. As alluded to, if you heal someone who was the target of the babau’s attacks, it does 4d6 mental damage to the babau. He HATES to see his nasty wounds undone. BUT… two caveats. First, it has to be an attack that caused some sort of bonus damage – a crit, sneak attack damage, bonus damage from Grievous Strike – healing damage from a regular attack won’t do anything. (So in this case, healing Ateran wouldn’t trigger the mental damage because that was just a normal strike.) Also, the heal has to be performed within one round: if you heal two or three rounds later, you lose the window. (Also, the effect can only be triggered once per round.)

As scary as it looks – and the initial attack on Darius hinted at a much worse outcome – I feel like the party got a little lucky here, as the babau rolls a “2” at least twice, keeping them in the game. Given the thing’s attack bonus is clearly north of +15, things could’ve been SO much worse. On the other hand, the dimension door ability is proving to be a bit of an annoyance, especially since it also defies attacks of opportunity.

Speaking of dimension door, you may remember we dealt with this back during the succubus encounter back in the temple, but we’ll review it since it may still be in play next week. The regular 4th-level version of dimension door is just a line-of-sight thing: essentially, battlefield repositioning or crossing a chasm or something. The 5th-level heightened spell can take you up to a mile, as long as it’s somewhere you’ve been before, but then you’re also immune for the next hour.

And that gets into the big cliffhanger decision Vanessa makes to go throw open the doors to the next area. And… confession time, I was fully prepared to mock her. But as I’m thinking about how dimension door works, there MAY be some method to her madness. The Level 5 DD spell feels like it’s meant for last-ditch ESCAPE. Going one room over seems like the worst of both worlds – you’re not far enough away to be “safe”, but you can’t actually do it again to GET safe for another hour and you might not be able to do the 4th-level “bounce around the battlefield” thing anymore either, depending on whether the immunity is JUST for the 5th-level spell or for ANY version of the spell. So you can talk yourself into the idea that the babau went somewhere else entirely and we’re done with it for the time being.

That said, I can’t totally let her off the hook. There’s SO many unknowns that it still feels pretty risky to just rush into the next room. Obviously first and foremost, the babau might actually be in there; maybe “safety in numbers” is all the escape it wanted. Also, we still don’t know ANYTHING about that weird pool of purple liquid. Is that going to become a factor at some point? And of course, a new door very likely means new bad guys to fight. So I don’t want to sugarcoat the risk: it was PROBABLY worth slowing down a round or two and making sure everyone was ready to move forward.

So what’s behind those doors? I guess we’ll have to see next week. 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 S2|15: Bad Moon Rising

After a week of birthday parties, double dates, and dining out, it’s finally time to explore and fight some monsters!

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|27: Does The Punishment Fit The Slime?

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|27: Come up to the Lab and See What’s on the Slab.

It’s Big Bad Week on Roll For Combat, as we finally confront Hendrid Pratchett and put an end to his evil deeds! It’s rare that I really hate-hate-HATE an NPC – more often we’re fighting a guy because that’s what the story says we do – but the nature of this guy’s crimes got me there.

I wanted to start by briefly ducking into Steve’s pre-show notes to talk about other boss encounters, and suggest you check out the last… 4-ish episodes of the Dead Suns show if you want to see a boss fight with stages in action. If you somehow joined for Pathfinder and missed that show, the setup is that we’re infiltrating the bridge of an enemy flagship to stop the doomsday device. The BBEG boss is the captain of the ship: as a tactical note, I’ll mention he’s a caster who threw down greater invisibility while we were messing around in the antechamber. For the first “stage” he throws fairly passive spells that don’t give away his presence and lets his minions (and meat-shield second-in-command) do most of the work. Then when we start whittling away his minions, he becomes a more active participant and starts attacking us directly. Then in a third stage, gravity goes haywire in the ship, and we have to deal with changing gravity conditions each round while still managing combat. The in the fourth stage, we had to participate in a starship battle with the rest of the undead fleet. And then the final part is “get off the ship before it blows” where we aren’t worrying about combat at all anymore.

So… on to our CURRENT show and our first item of business: a new performer for Sharky this week. I didn’t mention Bob would be leaving because I wanted to keep things a surprise, but this week the Wonder-Mimic powers take the form of… VANESSA HOSKINS! Since Vanessa probably has the most airtime of anyone outside the original Dead Suns group (Celes in Plaguestone, Alhara in Three-Ring, Mama Millcent in Black Lodge) I assume a full introduction is superfluous. Heck, within the parameters of our show, she’s well on her way to one-name status like Prince and Madonna. She’s Vanessa!

As an aside, this was pretty much always the plan with Sharky. We figured it’s a mimic. If the creature itself can change, why can’t the person playing it? As a side benefit, it lets us capture some of that “special guest” energy from the Black Lodge show that we’d been missing a bit. (If you want to be cynical and a spoilsport, one could also argue that it was around the holidays and it was tough getting anyone to commit to multiple episodes.)

The thing you’ll immediately notice… and we’ve used this framing before… is the difference between first-person and third-person roleplay. Vanessa is very much a first-person roleplayer… she IS the character from the minute the mic goes hot and will only break character sparingly. Meanwhile, the rest of us… except maybe Seth, sometimes… are more third-person roleplayers: “Basil does X”, “Dougie says Y”. The character is its own thing, and the player is just piloting the mech. Seth is a bit more in the middle: sometimes he goes third-person, but other times he gets on a roll and goes completely into Gomez Mode and acts things out. Neither style is wrong… just different.

Vanessa’s take on Sharky is a bit more upbeat and friendly than Bob’s, a bit more filled with joie de vivre. Bob’s take felt like it always wanted to remind us that it was still an adversary to be taken seriously; Bob’s portrayal felt like there was a little resentment at being forced to fight, so his Sharky was a little passive-aggressive about things. Vanessa’s version wants to get out of this dungeon and go experience the world, and if fighting her former boss/owner is something she has to do to reach that goal, so be it. I don’t know how much of that is intentional choice versus how much was just their different personalities, but it’s fun to see two different takes on the same basic material… which is why we did it this way in the first place.

Meanwhile… Pratchett. The episode starts with a few revelations that make the fight a bit more of a dangerous proposition. First, he’s soaked the whole room with oil, which means it’s possible we could be roasting in a bonfire on short notice. It doesn’t hold us back on offense because no one in our group is all that reliant on fire attacks, but we’ll need to watch for it on defense. The other is the last (as far as I remember*) “oh shit” moment, as the experiment with the two twin children (alluded to in the room with the papers and the spellbooks) was successful, and he’s got an undead version of them serving him. (Numbly adds “infanticide” to the list of charges.)

*=I honestly don’t remember: it’s possible we discover one more horrific thing while cleaning up the aftermath next week, but I don’t THINK so. I think the fate of the twins is the last of the awfulness.

And that doesn’t even get into the fact that Pratchett himself is a tough customer. As a melee, he hits hard with his sword cane, doesn’t seem to get a penalty for multi-attacks, and also seems to be able to apply poison with it. He also has some sort of True Strike effect that he was able to use multiple times to reroll misses, though I don’t know if it’s an innate ability or just multiple casts of the spell. (The spell is one-and-done; you re-roll once and it’s gone.) Add in a full caster’s complement of spells, and we’re dealing with a tough customer.

I’m also at least briefly struck that selfishly, this guy is Evil Basil in terms of loot. Already have his spellbook, so I can learn all his spells. Now he has a sword-cane that’s better than mine? And maybe light armor too? I know we have the whole “cop vs. adventurer” thing to square away, but when the dust settles, I feel like Basil’s getting a major gear upgrade out of this fight.

The good news is although Pratchett hits hard, we’re actually holding our own against him by rotating out our melees and giving him a different target each time. I don’t think we planned it that way, I think that’s just the way it unfolded with Sharky charging in first, then retreating a little after taking some damage, followed by Lo Mang doing the same. We also make fairly quick work of the undead twins, so it’s down to us and Pratchett pretty quickly. The bad news is his base armor class is pretty high… it’s been a while, but I feel like it was taking something like a 23 or 25 to hit him, and we weren’t rolling that well.

Brief uncomfortable conversation time: I have to admit I didn’t notice it during the fight – probably too preoccupied with planning my next move – but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and amplify Vanessa’s frustration with the term “man up and stop crying” (said once and then repeated by another person). Because she’s 100% right. I’ll put it this way: I don’t think joking about a teammate’s bravery (or lack thereof) is the issue – that’s about a player’s actions, which are fair game for criticism, even couched in jokes. I do think we need to push back at the notion that being stoic in the face of danger is an inherently male trait and (by implication) that women get emotional/hysterical in difficult situations. I mean, can’t we all acknowledge that there would have been no Thanos Snap if Star-Lord kept his shit together? Just Sayin’.

I’m deflecting with a joke, because the other alternative is to go even deeper and write an entire thesis that goes eight miles deep about how the only emotions our society finds acceptable out of men are the aggressive ones (lust, anger, etc.), and I’m pretty sure that would suck the life out of the room. So let’s put a pin in this and get back to kicking Pratchett’s ass, shall we? But Vanessa in particular, and our female listeners in general… I see you.

We reach a bit of a stalemate in the fight, which is where Steve’s concept of phases comes in. (Under the hood, I suspect Pratchett might have been running low on spells.) So to shake things up, Pratchett does two major things: first, he kicks over the brazier, lighting the room on fire; second, he escapes (or “yeets”, as the Young People say) out a secret door in the back of the room. (Follow-up question: could we have discovered that door from the other side and bypassed two or three rooms, or was it a one-way ticket?)

This is where I have to give Seth credit. The fun of playing with Seth is he’s NOT a min-maxer; he’s the sort of player that tries to predict the unpredictable and has something in his pocket for every situation. When it hits, as it did with “use a water mephit to put out the fire”… it’s an absolute thing of beauty. Now, I’m still a LITTLE skeptical that water would put out an oil-based fire, but whatever: chalk it up to “magical water” and give in to the Rule Of Cool. Seth had the perfect tool for the job: give him the win. (Much like in the Dead Suns campaign where I had a Teleportation Puck sit unused in my inventory for three levels until I used us to get out of a trap room with no exit.)

So while Seth is putting out the fire, the melees – myself, Lo Mang, and Dougie (plus Sharky as fast as her mimic feet could carry her) continue the pursuit. The good news is our dice luck is getting better and we’re starting to land some damage; the bad news is we’re leaving our primary source of healing behind. I think at this point, some of us still had badges and potions, but that’s about it.

And then Steve gives us an opportunity by having Pratchett retreat into the ochre jelly room. And Dougie did EXACTLY what I hoped he’d do – a bull rush attack. Remember that I could’ve gone and delayed: I was thinking of doing exactly that, but I have a Strength of 10 and if it failed, Pratchett might’ve moved away from the pit or braced himself against future attacks. So I took the chance that either Dougie or Lo Mang was on the same wavelength, and sure enough, he was. Pratchett catches the edge, and it’s my turn and…

This is where it gets interesting.

The “adventurer” answer is to stab him in the face and into the pit he goes. The only thing that makes you think twice is how you’re going to get the loot later.

But it’s a bit more cloudy as an officer of the law. In the moment, I absolutely did what I thought was the right thing, but I’ll admit; after the fact, I found myself second-guessing a little bit. Even though this guy’s crimes were heinous and he was irredeemable, should we have still tried to accept his surrender and save him? In real-world terms, this is Jeffrey Dahmer, this is Ted Bundy… don’t you still want to take him alive so he can see justice for his crimes? Or is being eaten by his own jelly justice in and of itself? But what if we pull him out of the pit and he goes on to kill one (or more) of us? Is it worth taking THAT risk?

Steaming toward 11 pm at the end of a long gaming session, and closing in on the end of a chapter of the Adventure Path, kicking him in and finishing the fight felt like a no-brainer. Later on… I still think it was a defensible decision, but it left STUFF rattling around my brain. And this is where I think Paizo did the right thing by not just knee-jerk canceling this adventure path. Because of moments like this. The value of art, even entertainment, is that it can hold up a mirror for examining your own values. Good, bad, or indifferent, roleplaying through something like this makes you pause and think.

And on that Deep Thoughts note, that’s where we’ll leave it. Next week, we clean up the aftermath (let’s be honest: recover Basil’s new sword-cane) and see where the adventure takes us next. I actually DON’T think we level because we only just leveled before coming to the basement, but you never know. As always, please 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|27: Come up to the Lab and See What’s on the Slab

With only one room left to explore it’s time to confront Hendrid Pratchett and bring him to justice once and for all!

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|14: Weird Science

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|14: Send In The Clowns.

It’s a return to normalcy… through the gateway of even greater silliness.

Our action begins with the big confrontation with the Madam Dusklight entourage, though it’s not much of a confrontation when the GM basically tells you upfront “yeah, don’t attack her, or she’ll kill all of you”. So more of a big shit-talking session with Madam Dusklight and her entourage. It turns out she’s on her way to the big city – figuratively and literally – so she’s giving her own stylish middle finger to our crew before she leaves town. We also receive an introduction to her boyfriend-slash-bodyguard, who I’m sure we’ll NEVER EVER HAVE TO FIGHT, RIGHT?

Steve makes an interesting point at the top of the show. It’s good to generate some real hate for the Big Bad, something Paizo doesn’t always do enough of. They tend to be more fond of the Man Behind The Curtain model, where the villain is a mystery to be solved and isn’t really revealed until you meet them at the end of the book. That model is good for generating suspense and holding curiosity, but it makes animosity or rivalry a tougher emotion to tap into.

In that sense, I do think the idea of giving a little teaser upfront is worth the effort. If the plot revolves around us disliking someone, remind us WHY we’re supposed to do so. I suppose if there’s a danger in doing so, it’s that you have to be careful you don’t accidentally write yourself into a situation that conflicts with something Paizo writes down later in the AP. To pick an obvious example, imagine if it turns out the Celestial Menagerie WASN’T going to the Radiant Festival. That’d turn into a pretty big OOPS.

The most interesting thing in this interaction, I think, was Madam Dusklight hinting that she knows about Kalkek, and Hap’s rather clever way of dealing with that situation. I actually thought MD was going to pull the pin on that grenade, telling the town there’s still a monster on the loose and getting our crew in trouble. And I guess she might still do so – they haven’t left town yet. But it was a slick move of Loren to use speak with animals to send Riley out on messenger duty. Quick thinking there. Honestly, Hap’s a teenager… I was still about 20% worried she was just gonna start chucking fire at her.

The second most interesting thing is the existence of Clownish Curse… just for the sheer randomness of it. I know magic takes all sorts of forms and you can theoretically do anything with it, but what mage was sitting in their little wizard tower, snapped their fingers, and said “I’ve got it… CLOWNS”. I know, I know… it fits the flavor of the AP well, but still…. I’m waiting for Book 6 when Madam Dusklight tries to take over Absalom with a force of hundreds of clown minions… a veritable Army of Dorkness.

And OK, the third most interesting thing was Vanessa giving absolutely ZERO… figs… about Jellico’s well-being during this whole ordeal. I love how Steve even tried to give her the off-ramp and she wasn’t having it. “You went from hating him to feeling a little sorry for him.” “No, not really.” Maybe I’m a bad person, but I laughed at that quite a bit. “This above all; to thine own clown-hating self be true.”

Fortunately, we have Hap here to do the heavy lifting in the empathy department this week – Hap really IS the protector of underdogs in this little group. She’s so moved by Jellico’s plight that she’s willing to let the weirdos in the library do their little experiments on her to get a free curse removal out of them. I mostly think this will amount to roleplay flavor, but I really hope nothing bad comes out of this. On the bright side, maybe we can look forward to months of fan speculation that Steve is setting Hap up as the vessel for the Phoenix Force and a pathway to introducing mutants into the RFC universe, followed by those same fans getting all butt-hurt when it doesn’t happen. EVERYTHING MUST HAVE LARGER IMPLICATIONS FOR THE MCU NOW.

Meanwhile, it appears science is somewhat of a theme this episode: while the mages are fussing over Hap and fixing up Jellico, Ateran is doing a little research into the Shackles to try and get more information about Alhara’s mom, and Darius is asking all the IMPORTANT questions about life with an aeon stone? How does it affect your ability to PARTY? We are seekers of knowledge… even if we don’t like where that knowledge might lead. Or that knowledge might be unnecessarily scatological.

Moving forward, while Ateran runs off to the candy store to indulge their sweet tooth, Jellico gets run through the Declowninator and is fully himself again. Unfortunately, it looks like his performing skills went away with the departure of the Muse Phantom – definitely “for the time being”, maybe for good. Steve leaves JUST enough of an opening to suggest maybe he can figure out a new act down the road, but for now, he’s on the sidelines. Good thing the team picked up two new acts, I guess. And Vanessa? Still unmoved. I guess she even hates EX-clowns. Sorry, Jellico. No birthday party for you.

Finally, toward the end of the episode, it’s time to start adventuring again. It’s funny because I detected just a hint of “maybe we overdid this and we’re even kinda tired of our own shenanigans” creeping in around the edges of the conversation. Or maybe it was just a positive desire to get the story moving forward again and fight some stuff. Either way, our gang is ready to get back to pummeling bad guys, so let’s get to it.

I have a user question from someone I swear is not really me… if all of Hap’s spells have nicknames now, is Light now OFFICIALLY in the books as “Big D Energy”? This was asked by a Mr. “Someone I Swear Is Not Usually This Childish Oh Who Am I Kidding Of Course I Am”. Thanks for your question, listener.

Even as the party descends into the dungeon and encounters the first challenge – a pair of basilisks – the last throes of the silliness are still evident, as the party has an extended speculation about what they’re going to do with Darius’ statue when he’s inevitably turned to stone. And maybe that’s what’s going to happen, but I guess we find out next week. While you’re waiting, 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 time.

Three Ring Adventure S2|14: Send In The Clowns

The Circus of Wayward Wonders are celebrating another successful show, but Mistress Dusklight and her goons have decided to crash the party.

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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The Bird’s Eye View S1|26: Reading Painbow

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|26: Taking A Bite Out Of Crime.

First and foremost… 300 episodes. Wow. That’s pretty crazy. I mean, the math checks out, even just calculating it off the top of my head. Dead Suns ended in the 130s or 140s, and Plaguestone was about 45 episodes. Those both ended around the same time, were replaced by Three Ring and “Black Lodge + Edgewatch”, and these shows just hit the one-year mark, so 104 there. Add another few episodes of Starfinder Society and other one-offs, and that’s absolutely in the ballpark of 300. (And since Steve is the only one who appeared in ALL of them, I’ll trust his count.)

This is one of those episodes that’s a little weird for me because I forgot about chunks of it. I have to admit I thought last week’s episode was the entire session and forgot about this additional room/fight. That starts to happen the longer the lag gets between when the episode records and when it airs. I’ve never forgotten a boss encounter or major plot point, but every once in a while, a room or two will get lost in the shuffle.

If you’re curious – what we’re listening to now might have still been recorded in 2020 (I believe). Depends a little on how many sessions we missed over the holidays, but my email says I sent my L4 Basil to Steve around Thanksgiving. Just to give you some perspective on how fast we generate and burn through our content.

As far as Steve’s show note about the game forcing you to handle certain content at certain levels: the VAST majority of the time, I’m not too proud to take the rest when we need it. Sometimes I get my back up and want to see how close to “E” we can run our characters, but most of the time, I’d much rather survive the adventure and get a nice clean win with all our resources. The big thing this time was the story… breaking off a hot pursuit to regain resources… but that’s ultimately Steve’s call as GM/”director” of the show. If he didn’t think it spoiled things too badly, I’m willing to do it.

The funny thing is that my pre-COVID home game was very much the opposite. Our GM was basically using the Rappan Athuk mega-dungeon as an adventure tourism destination and built up a town specifically to serve adventurers’ needs. So going to the dungeon was ALMOST like clocking in at a 9-to-5 job for our characters in that one. We’d go explore the dungeon for a day… MAYBE stay overnight if we could find a safe spot to long-rest… and then come back at the end of the day. And the overarching story, such as it was, was more banging away at individual quests that sometimes linked into a larger story. With that group… you take the rest when you need the rest. Period, end of story.

Neither is wrong. Obviously, the latter model fits the game system better, but I do like having a slow-burn story that unfolds over the course of the game rather than an almost WoW-ish “bring back 10 skeleton bones”.

As we turn back to the “forgotten” fight at the heart of the episode, it was not devoid of interesting developments.

First, we get a reminder that Drained is a NASTY status effect, at least in part because it’s a slippery slope. There’s a status effect that just slaps on a negative and then moves on with its day, but then there’s a status effect that also lowers the saving-throw score, making it even harder to get rid of/easier to extend to higher levels of the affliction. So to summarize, Drained a) inflicts hit point damage which it b) gives to the enemy as healing and/or temporary hit points (sometimes), c) lowers the player’s max hit points by the same amount, so even if they have access to healing, they can only recover to the newly-lower ceiling, and d) lowers their CON so it’s harder to make additional saves. Ouch. The only saving grace here is that Paizo knows this is cruel and unusual punishment, so it usually caps the effect at Drained 2 or Drained 3… otherwise, it would just snowball into a bunch of corpses with Drained 8 or Drained 11 on them.

On the bright side, the Corpse Pendant gets a chance to prove its worth, with a pause for a brief rules lawyer moment. The thing is undead can’t perceive you unless you attack… but if you cast heals or other support magic, that doesn’t break the charm. So Gomez was pretty safe… EXCEPT. He’s still got object permanence. He still exists, so what happens if a wight tries to move through his space?

I think I would’ve been a bit more generous on my ruling than Steve was. I think I would’ve made moving out of the way a reaction that automatically succeeds in normal terrain, but requires a roll if it was difficult terrain. Putting it in other terms: if they’re in open space, it shouldn’t be hard to see the wight coming and step out of its path; if Gomez had to maneuver around a workbench or something to do it, then yes there’s a chance of not getting far enough away or making noise while doing it. Nevertheless, Gomez makes his roll, so we’re all good there.

The other big development of this room was finding the treasure trove of magical items. Now… I don’t think we’ll be able to make use of Kemenels’ stuff since he’s still alive. I am toying with the idea of visiting him later and asking him to TEACH me some spells, but he should get his stuff back. But Pratchett’s book? Oh, I’m calling dibs on that… assuming we survive. And it’s not all avarice: now we have a good handle on what he can cast, and it’s almost all necromancer spells.

Now we have a bit of a dilemma, but it’s of the more normal kind. Gomez has the bulk of 10 minutes where he’s basically invisible to undead, which would be really useful for scouting the remaining rooms. On the other hand, Dougie (in particular) took quite a pounding so we really need to heal, and unless Pratchett is secretly a vampire or something, there’s at least one NON-undead who will see Gomez just fine if he walks into the wrong room. This isn’t “long rest or not”; this is just normal allocation-of-resource questions every party has to deal with and eventually we decide to get Dougie back up because the value of knowing what the next room looks like is limited if we start the next fight with our biggest damage dealer at death’s door.

Sometimes I worry that I’ll touch off some blood feud between John and Chris when I say that. Truth told, I didn’t run the numbers and I don’t KNOW who deals more damage, but I feel like John’s maul gives him the edge at the top end. And note that I’m not saying “best fighter”… just “biggest damage dealer”: Lo Mang has mobility and more ability to spread his strikes out on multiple foes, which can be priceless in certain encounters. But in a single-target slugfest, there’s nothing like critting for 30 or 40 points in one shot.

So we finally enter the room… and in one of the day’s least surprising developments, it’s a shrine to Norgorber, and particularly the most bloodthirsty and vicious sub-cult of Norgorber. And over in one corner, we find the equivalent of a signed confession in the form of a diary of Pratchett’s crimes… written in (we can assume) the blood of his victims. Captain Crazypants it is!

And there’s one more door, which, just based on the layout of the level, Pratchett pretty much has to be hiding behind. The basement has ultimately taken the shape of a big “U”, so there’s a 40 or 50-foot hole in the map and then we’d be back in the room with the flying undead pork rinds. That sounds like an inner sanctum to me.

So next week, we kick down that door and see how much of a tough guy Pratchett is when faced with trained agents of the law and not helpless hotel guests. It’s funny… there are bosses where I fought them because it’s checking the box or moving the story forward. Given the awful shit we’ve seen in this dungeon, I really want to take this guy down. I don’t even want him running away and getting caught by the officers that are now theoretically outside. I wanna knock the smug right off his face. This whole ordeal of awfulness has actually provoked a genuine desire for some revenge and/or justice.

But… patience, dear readers. That’ll be next week. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. As always, thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.