April 2021 - Page 2 of 2 - Roll For Combat: Paizo's Official Pathfinder & Starfinder Actual Play Podcasts

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Three Ring Adventure S2|18: Ateran’s Pantheon

This week it’s storytime for our heroes as they get an Aroden history lesson and experience a vision of the past.

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!

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The Bird’s Eye View S2|02: Three-Bank Monte

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|02: The Game’s Afoot!

My first reaction to this week’s episode is one of logistical amusement: specifically, at my off-hand remark that this was the first session of 2021. I was thinking about it, and this may be the furthest ahead we’ve ever gotten in terms of the difference between the record date and air date. For most of Dead Suns, and pretty much all of Black Lodge, it felt like 4-6 weeks was the sweet spot but here we are three… almost FOUR… months ahead. (I cheated and looked in my email, and I sent my Level 5 Basil to Steve on the 18th of January. Yes, that’s late in the month to be a “first” session, but to be fair, Steve and Seth both took vacations one right after the other).

Were we better about playing regularly because COVID took other options off the table? Has Steve gotten better on the post-production side in terms of turning raw footage into usable show content? Or is it just one of these “you flip a coin sometimes, every once in a while you still get 8 heads” coincidences?  Still… I knew we were out ahead a little ways, but I didn’t realize the gap had grown this large.

I suppose that explains why I’ve started to forget some pieces of these shows. Including the fact that Steve just gave us Level 5 for free. He doesn’t say this in his show notes, but I think it came down to re-establishing the flow of the show after the holidays. If you think about it, we were coming back off an almost month-long break from recording. We were PROBABLY only one or two encounters from leveling anyway, and when we level, it sometimes means we have to end that session early so we can do our N+1 characters. So I assume Steve probably decided that getting back into the rhythm was worth the “freebie” of making the next one or two encounters a little easier than they were originally going to be.

So we get Level 5, which is a big level… depending on how you define “big”. If you’re into major changes that redefine how your character plays, it’s actually not that dramatic – I’m looking at Basil, and his changes were an “only” skill feat and an ancestry feat. On the other hand, the cool thing about Level 5 is that the fundamentals all get stronger: you get your first set of ability score bumps, I think it’s the level at which you can start taking skills to Expert, and in Basil’s case, he gets an extra die of precision damage on Devise A Stratagem. (Also, casters get access to third-level spells, but since Basil is an archetype caster instead of it being his base class, his spells come later.) So everything still plays roughly the same; you’re just generally better at doing stuff across the board.

(Speaking of which, if there’s one thing I’ve been secretly excited for, it’s that a 12 Strength lets Basil wear better armor. When crits are so important to determining battle outcomes, every little bit of AC helps. Though on a fashion level, it’s a little disappointing to leave Pratchett’s tailored leather armor behind in favor of the Kirkland brand Chain Shirt.)

So we begin the detective work that’s going to shape the next several episodes. This is one of those things that – getting back to Steve’s show notes – I’m interested to see how it’s going to unfold. The Dreaming Palace was MOSTLY linear: Clue A led to Clue B which led to the hotel, which was a dungeon crawl. This mystery is a lot more open-ended and it’s more on us to choose which way to go and what questions to ask. Now… on a meta-level, there’s a sense that the game can’t afford to have us miss the clues entirely, so my Meta-Game Spidey-Sense thinks “all roads lead to Rome” eventually. On the other hand, when the whole backbone of the adventure path is an investigation, you can’t just hand-feed the answers to the party either because that’s an unsatisfying outcome. (Especially for me personally, as the Investigator… this is what my character was built for.)

Lacking any real sense that one clue was more important than the other, we decide to visit the banks in the order suggested by our boss. (If nothing else, it makes it easier to remember where we are across session breaks… just keep moving down the list.) So first we have Orvington Moneychangers, which is currently besieged by giant bees when we arrive. (AKA The encounter that might have leveled us up anyway.) This has all the feel of a classic warm-up fight. New book? Potentially new level? Start with a warm-up fight so you can get used to the new versions of your characters.

Now, I’ve made a few comments in this space in the past about teasing fellow players at the table, and here, we basically all crap on Chris for running away. So… does that make me a big hypocrite? And I’ll start by saying “maybe just a little”. But I’ll also offer a twofold partial defense. First, this is a long-running thing going back many campaigns and many characters – Chris has ALWAYS had a bit of a “self-preservation streak”, and we’ve ALWAYS teased him about it a little. I’d argue that a gaming group defines its own acceptable behavior over time, and Chris has had DECADES to say something if he’s bothered by it. (If anything, he usually laughs along with it and offers some variation of “of course I’m going to save myself”.) Second, I think it’s fair when it’s about Chris’ character actions, not about him as a person. Lo Mang is supposed to be this brave, tough monk, and Chris literally has him peace out mid-fight… I think that’s fair game for some gentle ribbing. I think if it crossed the line into attacks on Chris himself, that would be inappropriate, but commenting on the choices his character makes is just part of the game.

Having said all of that, I do think one still has to be careful… especially when bringing someone new into a group that might react differently than you expect… but I think in this case, given this is a group that’s been playing together a while and knows it’s all in jest, we’re on the safe side of whatever that line is.

Sorry… back to the bees. With the bees dealt with, we talk to the owner of the bank, and… it’s kinda hard to see this as the target of our investigation. The things going on here sound like petty vandalism, and if you were going to rob a bank, would you REALLY attract the attention of the authorities by vandalizing it first? It still might be worth further investigation to rule it out – or maybe the vandalism was a way of probing the bank’s defenses — but probably worth checking out the other two banks first.

Bank #2 is the Penny & Sphinx Trust, and here we stumble on something that seems like more of a clue, as they had a thwarted break-in fairly recently. Multiple people tried to break into the employee entrance, and a goblin named Quidley was even caught. I mean… THAT’S a lead worth following up on. If that’s not enough, there’s a ladder left lying around, which… OK, it could’ve been left by the gardener, but may have also been a way to get over the walls. Just eyeballing it, this feels like the stronger lead of the first two. On to the third.

The Stonesworn Savings And Loan seems pretty badass. In fact, you can almost talk yourself into the idea that the encounter with the spiders was designed to show off the magical wards and at least suggest this bank shouldn’t have any problem defending itself. However, just when we’re patting ourselves on the back for our ability to use a Comprehend Languages scroll well, we trip the second part of the encounter… an angry xill. I have vague memories of fighting a xill in one of our Starfinder Society games, and my recollection is that it wasn’t much fun.

How will the PF2 xill compare with the Starfinder one? Which bank should we focus our energy on? What about these other three leads? All good questions… but all questions we’ll have to come back to next week. While you wait, 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 S2|02: The Game’s Afoot!

With a handful of leads, it’s time to hit the streets and bend some ears to learn about the upcoming bank robbery.

Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch, and the second book, Sixty Feet Under.

Don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

Become a supporter of the podcast on our Patreon page where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

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The Sideshow S2|17: A Lunch of Fire and Ice

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|17: The Gift of Gab.

You know how much I loved the last 10-ish minutes of this week’s episode? Not only did I listen to it twice, to make sure I got as many details as possible, but I’m also gonna break chronological order and talk about it first.

The concept of the RFCCU (Roll For Combat Cinematic Universe) shouldn’t be a stranger to any of you by now – we’ve mentioned it a few times on the shows and in this column. It’s the little pieces of our universe that cross from game to game and show up where you least expect them. Old Woody was probably the first official invention, but others have since taken shape. The Circus crew, in particular, loves restaurants for some reason. And here I was, thinking the most I would get out of this was a joke about how them going out to lunch after almost getting killed felt reminiscent of the shawarma post-credits scene from the Avengers movie.

But no… they gave us SO much more.

First, I did want to give one tip of the cap to Loren for the double dose of Marvel-related sass to Steve. (Sorry, didn’t realize there would be such a Marvel-related theme to this…) Paraphrasing the exchange and condensing the cross-talk:

  • S: “You know how Marvel uses alliteration for all their names, right?”
  • L: “Yeah, like the Punisher.”
  • S: “Shut up, I mean their secret identity names.”
  • L: “Yeah, like Frank Castle.”

Gold star. Well played.

As I was listening to this a second time, I think the song is the key moment where things TOTALLY go off the rails. I don’t know if it’s “majority rules” or if it’s because Vanessa had been somewhat reluctantly participating and her jumping in changed the dynamic. But that’s the moment where EVERYONE commits to the bit. At first, you have Rob T. just riffing with Steve as Hamlin, but the rest of the gang is mostly still staying sort of in-character. Rob P. is still playing Ateran, and Loren – while clearly enjoying the mayhem – still attempts to move the game along on a more normal trajectory by having Hap go into Hamlin’s (in-character) to eat. Up to that point, it feels like roleplaying is still nominally in control of the session. But the point at which Vanessa busts out the song… to me, that’s the point at which the scales tip to weirdness for good.

(Can we at least take a second to give Vanessa due credit for coming up with lyrics that both rhymed AND had culinary accuracy? If she’s stumbled, we might have ended up with “broiling milk” or something like that.)

So then Rob starts in with Caleb’s response. For a moment, I thought sanity was starting to re-assert itself. Caleb seemed a little more stoic. Pragmatic, even. He knew his clientele, he’s there for the businessman on the move. Simple no-nonsense food, right? Wrong.

“Go next door to my GARBAGE brother, and sit there with your lazy ass…” First, I should mention that while the phrase “laugh out loud” is generally overused, this actually made me laugh loudly and suddenly enough that it startled my dog. And you can see the remnants of the actual game session dissolve like victims of the Thanos Snap and float away on the wind in favor of the lunacy.

OF COURSE there’s going to be a Larry’s Lukewarms to complete the Trinity. And OF COURSE the one thing Hamlin and Caleb agree on is that they hate Larry. But at the same time… can we at least be honest that Larry’s Lukewarms sounds like the most pleasant restaurant of the three, given the completely wasteful use of magic to keep EVERYTHING room temperature? I’m not sure what FOODS would taste good at room temperature, but it sounds like it has the nicest ambiance. Much better than getting burned by your own plate or your cutlery giving you frostbite. Maybe that’s why Hamlin and Caleb hate him so much. And then the ante is upped again with the fact that Larry is also a disowned sibling of the first two. Simultaneous triplets? I know it’s a world of magic, but… ouch.

Things FINALLY start to peter out as they attempt to expand the Luke-Warm family tree to include sisters fizzles. (Probably for the best. Or at least save it until next time someone in the group needs an armor upgrade. ALWAYS LEAVE ‘EM WANTING MORE.) And then, one of our Patreon live listeners (“AJ”) puts the final cherry on the sundae with his… interesting… T-shirt design proposal. Two things there: first, I ABSOLUTELY believe Rob would wear that shirt, and second, if we meet up at GenCon, I may need to commission a “Caleb’s Colds” shirt with “You know what else is warm? Shit.” on the back.

Meanwhile… oh hey, we also had a fight this week. Ah… gibbering mouthers. For the discerning GM who decided that regular slimes were neither horrific nor difficult enough to fight. And not just one, because that might actually be a fair fight. Let’s do three.

As the party themselves remark at a few points, this fight was a rollercoaster. I don’t want to generalize too much, but a lot of combats in Second Edition tend to be either unidirectional squash matches where the party was ALWAYS going to win, or they tend to have a single inflection point where the party starts slow while they figure out the mechanics of the enemy and stage a comeback after they get their tactics in order.

This fight is one of those rarities that has true ebbs and flows. Right when you think the heroes are up against it, they’d get a really good outcome; then right when you think things were starting to look like they were going their way, things would swing back toward the mouthers. I forget who – Steve, maybe – but someone used the word “cinematic” and that’s probably the word I’d apply here. This was one of the more cinematic fights we’ve seen in a while.

You had Rob getting swallowed early, but you kinda felt like it was early enough in the fight that he’d escape before things got too bad. And sure enough, he did. You had Riley getting swallowed but receiving a Nat-20 bailout to escape at the last possible second. And then you had Ateran – without a Hero Point – getting engulfed and Alhara saving them just before perma-death found its way onto the table. (Even though Alhara herself didn’t have that many hit points left either.)

And OK, it was also a fight with at least one moment of levity – it cracked me up that Vanessa was rolling so much better under the influence of multiple status effects than she did at full strength. So the takeaway is that Alhara needs to keep a stash of poisons around and blind or confuse herself before each fight? That’ll make things more interesting.

So the party does eventually win, they take their lunch break, and we’re at the end of the episode. It doesn’t feel like the mystery of the temple has totally revealed itself, though it’s unclear whether that means a second trip back in, or just having someone more scholarly make sense of the information they already gathered. I guess that’s the part we’ll pick up with 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.

Also… be sure to stop by Lukewarm Larry’s, home of the endless room-temperature breadbasket.

Pathfinder Second Edition Bestiary 3 Review: Saves The Beast For Last

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

If you enjoyed this review make sure to check out our Pathfinder Adventure Path: Agents of Edgewatch Podcast and our Pathfinder Adventure Path: Three Ring Adventure.

Reviewing the Pathfinder Bestiary 3 is a surprisingly challenging task because it’s like a trip to the zoo. You never know which animals people are going to find interesting. You can arm yourself with all sorts of interesting facts about giraffes and anteaters and then your nephew wants to do nothing but stare at the meerkats all day because they’re “cute”. And then when you insist on moving on, he starts crying and then you have to buy him Dippin’ Dots to restore the peace, and that’s like… six bucks for half a scoop of ice cream when you take all the air out. Complete ripoff if you ask me. And it’s not like otters and red pandas aren’t ALSO cute, so would you just trust me on this?…

Sorry… what was I talking about?

Oh right. Pathfinder’s Bestiary 3.

In a previous review, I likened the flow of the Bestiary books to choosing classes in college. Bestiary 1 was the equivalent of freshman year, where everyone’s job is to knock out as many required classes as possible. In game system terms, it contained the creatures you really HAD to have in a roleplaying game system rooted in Tolkien and/or Gygax. You’re getting a centaur because your father had a centaur, and his father before him. Bestiary 2 was junior year… a nice mix of shoring up your required material, but a little bit of leeway around the edges. Your advisor said you need a few more elementals to graduate, but if you want to sneak in that clockwork soldier that looks like a refugee from a Final Fantasy game, we can fit it in. Bestiary 3 firmly plants us in senior year now, kids. MAYBE we have one or two required classes we forgot to pick up along the way, but at this point, it’s mostly about what’s fun and what lets us sleep in the latest. And no class on Fridays. In monster terms… it’s time to let the freak flag fly.

On a stylistic level, Bestiary 3 follows the blueprint laid down by its predecessors. Almost all of the entries are self-contained within a single page; the exception tends to be the entries for “families” of creatures (giants, nymphs, etc.) where they’ll give the family a certain number of pages but the page breaks might not line up evenly with the individual creatures. As before, additional information is presented in sidebars on each page: sometimes it’s general world-building, sometimes there’s an explanation on how to run the creature in battle or information on the treasure a creature may have in its lair. As always, almost every creature gets individual artwork, and it’s beautiful stuff. (Well the artwork is beautifully executed… let’s be honest that some of the creatures themselves are kinda horrific to look at.)

One of the first things I do when looking at a book like this is look for themes. Now, there’s always going to be a desire to spread things around and offer variety – that each book contains monsters of different levels, and of different types. But within that, you can usually pick up one or two areas that got a little extra attention.

I sense at least three themes, two of which are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum.

The first is giving some love to the Tian Xia region. There’s a LOT of material in this book that’s either EXPLICITLY tied to the Tian Xia region, or at least bears east Asian influences and flavor in its design. All of the dragons are explicitly of Tian Xia, as is a multi-page entry on kami, divine nature spirits that guard places of importance. But you also see it in something like the terra-cotta warrior – not explicitly defined as being of Tian Xia (by definition, it’s “just” a stone soldier), but certainly bears the influences design-wise. Or the locathah… a humanoid that bears the visual stylings of a lionfish, which are indigenous to the Indo-Pacific in real life.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have mundane creatures. You’ve got moose and squirrels (“hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!”), multiple pages of crabs… camels, for goodness’ sake. I think this gets more into how Paizo views their books – they consider Bestiary 3 to be the end of the “core” rulebooks, so it feels like they’re tying up loose ends. You can also see this thinking in sections that flesh out a few more hags, giants, and titans.

If there’s a third theme to be found, I noticed there’s some synergy with the material contained in the Lost Omens Ancestry Guide. A lot of the ancestries and heritages that were added in the Ancestry Guide are also given “monster” treatment in Bestiary 3. That doesn’t feel like a coincidence and it makes a certain sense – if you’re going to add a bunch of new “good guy” options, you probably want GMs to have the option to have “bad guy” versions of them as well.

There is also one new-to-Second-Edition game mechanic introduced in Bestiary 3 (as far as I can tell, unless it was introduced in an adventure path or something) – troop creatures. This existed in First Edition (Bestiary 6) and is finally making its appearance in Second Edition. There are certain “creatures” that are actually a group of weaker creatures: you can almost think of them as a swarm of humanoids. So instead of keeping track of hit points and attacks for 20 or 30 individual creatures (as well as having a round of combat take 8 years), the troop takes up a certain number of squares (starts at 16), has ONE set of hit points and one set of abilities for the troop. As the troop is damaged, it breaks up and takes fewer squares and its abilities decrease, and “killing” the troop causes its remaining members to disperse. And like regular swarms, most troop creatures are more vulnerable to splash and area damage.

Let’s use the “City Guard Squadron” as a real example. A city guard squad starts with 75 hit points and takes up 16 squares (20’x20’). They can do a group crossbow volley that does 3d8 damage in a 10-foot burst up to 120 feet away, or they can do a massed halberd attack at a closer range where the damage is dictated by how many actions they use. When they’re reduced to 50 HP, they shrink to 15’x15’, and at 25 HP not only do they shrink to 10’x’10’, but the radius of their crossbow volley is reduced to a 5’ burst.

Personally, I LOVE the idea of the troop creature. One thing that Second Edition has been missing is that certain “cinematic” niche in fantasy battles – in most books and movies, there’s almost always a scene where our heroes fight waves of faceless grunts to demonstrate their heroic awesomeness. Helm’s Deep is probably the gold standard here. Representing that as individual tokens would pose two problems. First, just by the law of large numbers, the mob would eventually generate enough crits to overwhelm our heroes: if you roll 100 individual attacks, and even only 10 or 15 get through, that still might be enough to kill a PC. Second (and perhaps more importantly), even if our heroes won, it would take FOREVER to run a combat like that and be a nightmare to administrate, leaving our GM with the age-old philosopher’s question of how many angels can fit in a 5-foot square. Representing a mob of weaker creatures as a single token solves both those issues quite nicely, and lets you bring those more “epic” battles to your table. I’m looking forward to fighting one of these.

So at one end, we’ve got bundling up a bunch of weaklings into a single unit. At the polar opposite end, what are the most powerful creatures in this book? For some reason, that’s ALWAYS one of the things I’m curious about. What’s waiting out there to give even the most seasoned Level 20 PC nightmares? Fortunately, thanks to one of the multiple indexes in the back (creatures sorted by level), we can get an easy answer.

One choice is the Green Men, checking in at Level 24. The good news is they’re guardians of nature, so most of them are neutral (though you can have good or evil-aligned ones). The bad news is… just about everything else. Including the “Green Caress” ability which slows you each time you fail a save, and if you’re ever slowed to zero actions, you turn into a plant. Permanently.

We also have the Ouroboros. It is what you’d expect it to be – a snake that eats its own tail, though technically it’s a giant snake made up of slightly-smaller snakes. Let’s start with the math: it has a regeneration of 50, which is enough to offset the damage of its own bite, so its bite has to average 50 to break even. If you wound it, it drops its smaller snakes all over the place, causing difficult terrain that also bites at you. And ohbytheway, its blood is fun too. On first contact, it’s “just” a really powerful acid. Then it turns around and starts regenerating you (which is actually nice) but inflicting other status ailments while it does so. And then at the end, it turns you into a pile of snakes.

And hey, if you’re running a holiday-themed campaign, you can fight Krampus! In addition to being a generally nasty warrior and getting general bonuses against anyone he’s deemed to be “naughty”, Krampus can grab someone and stuff them into his basket, at which point that character starts regressing to childhood – they get smaller physically, their skills regress, etc. Oh, and Krampus is immortal and holds grudges, so even if you “kill” him one Christmas season, watch your back next year.

And OK… it’s not Level 20, but it’s got enough other cool features I have to mention it: the Level 18 Bone Ship. It’s an undead pirate ship, basically. It’s made entirely of bones, can spawn skeletal “sailors” from its own bones to defend the vessel if people try to board, and it’s got a blood-red wake that drives people mad if they fall in the water. And if you get killed by it, your soul is absorbed into the “crew”. The cool part is if you manage to beat it and bend it to your will, you can use it as a vehicle. ARRRRRR!

Now that we’ve covered the heavy hitters, I usually like to go through a bit of a grab bag and just point out a few monsters I found to be cool/interesting/whatever adjective you want to use. Sometimes it’s the concept, sometimes it’s the artwork, whatever happens to stand out about it.

  • First up, there’s the Amalgamite, which is a mage who’s become warped through a mistake involving teleportation magic. It’s BrundleFly without the fly – humanoid, with lots of body-horror vibes.
  • The Swordkeeper is a self-protecting magic safe that feels like a fantasy-world version of General Grievous. It has a central sword that it keeps housed in its body, which it can create copies of in its (four) arms. If you can disable all the locks, you can steal the sword which neutralizes most of its powers, but good luck doing that while it’s stabbing you repeatedly.
  • The Hyakume feels like something out of Doctor Who. Visually, they have hundreds of eyes and a very “alien humanoid” appearance. In terms of concept, they’re hoarders of knowledge: they gather rare knowledge and then destroy any copies of it so they’re the only ones who possess it. This includes the power to erase people’s memories.
  • Mostly for the benefit of John Staats, our resident otter-lover, I present the Kushtaka. On the surface, they’re otter-humanoids, but they’ve actually been separated from their souls, so anything involving the undead world (ghosts, haunts, etc.) mostly leaves them unaffected.
  • Just in terms of generally cool concepts, there’s Living Graffiti – a painting or drawing come to life. Yes, you’re allowed to make the mental connection to DoodleBob.

Now, I could probably name another 20 monsters and you’d like some of them and maybe have others you think I should’ve put higher on my list, but I think that gets you an idea of the feel of this book. It’s a little more exotic than the other two Bestiaries, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Familiarity is comfortable, but familiarity also runs the risk of becoming routine. Why settle for another 20 fights against orcs when you can tussle with something you’ve never seen before?

Is it a must-buy? Well, I personally would put the Lost Omens Ancestry Guide a little higher on my personal list, but I’m a player, so I’m all about giving myself options for that next re-roll. On the GM side of the screen, the core monster selection is a little “out there” but I think there’s still good stuff here. The troop creature mechanic is a good tool and something that looks like it could be easily extended by the imaginative GM to other creatures not initially covered by the book.

As I said, it’s something that could bring a more cinematic feel to your campaign, if that’s something you’re looking for. Also, if you’re going to be exploring Tian Xia in your campaign, there’s a lot of new options for that part of the map. OR… let’s be blunt. At some point, it’s like Pokemon… gotta catch ‘em all. You play long enough, you’re going to need all the monsters. If any of that sounds compelling and you want to give your campaign a few fresh faces, absolutely drag yourself to your local gaming store and grab a copy of this book. Maybe even grab some Dippin’ Dots while you’re out.

Three Ring Adventure S2|17: The Gift of Gab

This week we start with a near-impossible monster battle and end the episode with a visit to the most unusual eateries in history!

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 S2|01: Birds of a Blackfeather

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|01: The Unusual Suspects.

This week’s episode is either kind of a boring one or one of the most interesting we’ve done. Maybe a little bit of both.

On the boring side, we’ve been operating at SUCH a break-neck pace since this game started. We’ve joked about the fact that we’re already Level 4 after less than a week on the job, but even within the sessions, it’s been almost non-stop action, except for the interlude during Jeremin Hoff’s party. So really, an episode where we just walk our beat and do paperwork really is kind of the slow lane for this show. Heck, we don’t even get to level!

To be fair, it’s not COMPLETELY devoid of story content. It does appear that the tip about the bank robbery, salvaged from Ralso’s journal, is going to be the next target of our investigations, even if other nameless Edgewatch officers are taking the lead this week. If you remember, Ralso was the second-in-command at the Murder Hotel; in her journal, we found that the Copper Hand Gang tried to recruit her (a former thief herself) to help with a bank job scheduled for the Radiant Parade, but she turned them down.

So that narrows down the location (the Coins District) and a time (about a week from now). And toward the end of the episode, we finally get our marching orders (literally) for next week and maybe beyond – a list of three banks that are most likely to get hit, and three “other” leads to check out. Two of the “others” are underworld contacts that might point us toward the Copper Hand, but the third seems almost totally unrelated: some random fire at a stable. In fact, Captain Ollo got out the fantasy RPG equivalent of a yellow highlighter and wrote “waste of time” right on the paper. Though… metagaming a little, I agree with Seth: Paizo doesn’t really go in for red herrings; if something’s in there, it probably has SOME use.

Though, as I’ve been thinking about it, it doesn’t necessarily have to be directly related to the bank robbery. One thing I’m noticing about this adventure path is that it’s not necessarily a straight line from A to Z. Sometimes they plant things and leave them hanging for later use. For instance, the building that went missing while we were dealing with the chaos at the menagerie. We’ve never really accounted for that. Or, for that matter, the fact that the veterinarian is still TECHNICALLY a loose end: don’t think we ever found proof that she was a victim at the Motel 666. So maybe “waste of time” is something that won’t be DIRECTLY relevant to the robbery, but might be a seed for later. Obviously, not worth over-analyzing until we get more information, but still… I’m DEFINITELY in the camp that that clue is going to turn out to be something more interesting that it’s being sold as.

Meanwhile, even though the main plot doesn’t really move forward in a meaningful way, it’s kind of an interesting episode this week because it’s our first real attempt at emulating our sibling show and doing a little bit of Three-Ring Adventure style roleplay. And specifically, it’s Basil’s backstory that we’re delving into, with an appearance by Basil’s younger brother Linus.

Now, I think this whole thing requires a bit of digression, because I think there’s an interesting dynamic at work because of my role as “Resident Blogger”. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that listens to 3RA regularly – the other guys may have checked out an episode here or there, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that listens every week. So there’s an asymmetrical information thing at work here – I know where Steve is likely to take the roleplay side of things, so I think I wrote my backstory to be more accommodating and leave Steve a little more room to doodle in the margins. I think the other guys wrote theirs more to be a closed-loop – they explained how they became to be, why they’re cops instead of adventurers, addressed any “why Indy is afraid of snakes” quirks, but not necessarily anything that could be used going forward. Meanwhile, I covered all those basics (why Basil left law school, etc.) but I also wrote several loose threads that Steve could pull on at his leisure, of which Linus is just one.

And I’ll also drop a bit of a spoiler: I did leave Steve one exotic/magical opening, just in case he wants to play around with anything weird like Darius’ mark or Hap’s surprise ancestry. I’m not going to say what it is in case Steve takes advantage of it later down the road, but I’ll warn you it’s out there.

Linus is meant to be the – maybe not black, but gray – sheep of the Blackfeather family. Not necessarily EVIL and even a bit charming/charismatic, but someone with poor judgment and impulse control, and the sort of person who could easily get drawn into the wrong crowd. The sketch I had when I created him was that either Basil might try to use Edgewatch as a positive example to steer him toward a better path, or that Linus might get LIGHTLY caught up in criminal activity… like as a lookout or something. Certainly NOT that he would be helping Pratchett load bodies into the wood-chipper or anything like that.

Given that general sketch, I think Steve actually did a really nice job portraying him. In fact, I kinda like that Steve’s version of Linus is self-aware of the trouble he’s causing and either doesn’t especially care or hides it well. I also didn’t even think of the ramifications of setting such a person loose into a 90-day street party, but that could be a really interesting combination. And OK, trying to scam a cop by going to work on Dougie was a pretty inspired touch at the end there.

Speaking of which, the reactions of my group-mates were interesting. Chris seemed like he wasn’t really into it that much; I honestly don’t know whether he was just PLAYING stoic, or if he just didn’t care strongly about the roleplay and just wanted to get back to the main story. (If I’m being honest, my recollection of his demeanor and body language during the session was more the latter.) Seth seemed like he was interested at first, but lost interest once the focus moved away from fried foods; meanwhile, right as Seth started to lose interest was when John found some common ground with the kid and ramped up. The idea of Dougie serving as a positive example to someone else really unlocked a new roleplay gear for John there, and he really seemed to get into it by the end. So it wasn’t perfect, but it was at least something to build on if we want to try to bring some of those roleplaying elements over to our show. I don’t know how often Steve plans to come back to the roleplaying corner, but it was fun to give it a try for the first time.

Well, it was nice while it lasted, but next week, we put the Blackfeather family drama back in its box and get back to police work. We’ve got banks to visit and leads to follow up on, and it’s been a whole DAY since we leveled, after all. 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. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S2|01: The Unusual Suspects

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!

Following their lead from the end of the last adventure, the Edgewatch agents must collect their bearings before investigating an upcoming bank robbery planned by the elusive gang of thieves known as the Copper Hand.

Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch, and the second book, Sixty Feet Under.

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The Sideshow S2|16: Xulgilocks And The Three Bares

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|16: This is Fine.

Oh hey, it’s April Fool’s Day.

We’ve all been through too much this past year to do any crappy pranks, so we’re not doing “X is leaving the show” or “we’re starting over and converting the show to 4E” shenanigans. I’m just too tired for that and I suspect some of you are too. Having said that, I start this week with a confession of a missed opportunity that would’ve been more on the fun side of the coin.

About a week ago, we very briefly kicked around (in our group chat) the idea of an April Fool’s joke: recording an “episode zero” of a new show where we would just use the weirdest character builds we could possibly come up with. The plan never quite achieved escape velocity – there was some enthusiasm, but I think we just came up with the idea too late and people were too busy to slap it together on short notice. (And the lack of artwork or its own theme song probably would’ve given the game away anyhow.) But one side effect of the idea is that in Hero Lab, I’ve now got a cigar-smoking sprite barbarian just waiting for an adventure to come calling. (Runner-up was an azerketi with ifrit heritage who would have a really conflicted relationship with water.)

Alas… someday.

Back in our REAL story, I feel vaguely robbed. When Alhara decided to just throw open the doors to the main temple, I thought we were headed toward, if not TPK territory, at least a hairy fight along the lines of the demon fight in the church that went down to Ateran’s last hitpoint. Steve’s anticipatory glee certainly made it sound that way. But a funny thing happened on the way to the TPK, and we ended up with kind of a “squash match” episode.

Part of that is a built-in issue with “brute”-type monsters. They tend to be big and powerful and hit hard… but they also are easy to hit, and also can’t dodge for crap because Dexterity is something the writers dumped to make them a little more manageable. Easy to hit, easy to crit.

And that actually dove-tails with the second benefit: our heroes rolled into the best possible initiative. Any time your casters can put up almost 150 damage and your melees can set up a defensive position on a chokepoint before the bad guys have even laced up their shoes… that’s a recipe for victory. So now we’ve got half-dead enemies charging through Alhara and Darius to get at well-protected casters. Granted, “well-protected” only lasts until the babau re-appears, but to START the fight, it’s a good position to be in.

And that chokepoint… man. Let’s just dub that The Varus Family Killbox, shall we? Alhara gets to make use of her new attack of opportunity; Darius uses a readied flurry of blows almost as a second attack of opportunity, and it’s good night to the poor unsuspecting dope who decided to test them. This is definitely a tactic we’re going to need to see more of going forward.

So, in light of all of this, do we have to give Vanessa some “crazy like a fox” credit for throwing open the doors at the end of last episode? Thinking about it, if the babau managed to raise some sort of alarm about the party’s impending attack, the spinebreakers had a chance to finish their ceremony and get ready… they may have even gone first… could’ve been a whole different fight. So did Alhara’s impulsiveness last episode actually… (GULP)… help?

Not that the fight was entirely risk-free. The xulgath priestess had the potential to be a formidable opponent, and there’s also the re-emergence of the babau, who shows up behind the casters RIGHT when we were beginning to think it had just fled entirely. Oops. But a caster without meat-shield support isn’t long for the 2E world, and it turns out the babau pretty much only had one hit left in it.

I still wonder what the babau’s relationship was with the xulgaths. Was it there independently, or was it maybe a summoned creature? If it was a summon, that would explain why it used its “big” dimension door to retreat one room instead of getting out of Dodge entirely. But on the other hand, if it was a summoned minion, shouldn’t it have done more to raise an alarm to its master… in which case, shouldn’t the xulgaths have been more ready for the party? If it was independent… maybe it just hoped to hide out there and let the xulgaths take care of the party? Though if it was independent, why didn’t it attack the xulgaths on the way in? Or is it a generic “evil respects evil” thing? I dunno. No sense in over-thinking it. (And yes, I know some of you are already muttering “too late”.)

So the party actually makes quick work of the fight, and there’s this general sense of anti-climax about the whole thing. Yeah, there’s a little bit of loot, but there’s no big treasure trove, nor any bold revelation… what was the point of coming here again? Surely not the joke loot being shoved up people’s butts, I hope. I’m glad we spent two minutes on that, just in case your 93-year-old Aunt Agnes from Tucson didn’t get the joke the first time. “Did that young man just say he put money in his bottom? Gracious! Paul Harvey never used to talk that way on the wireless!

And JUST when we thought this whole visit to the temple was a waste of time, Alhara stirs the pot again, in a way that would even give Mister Peepers a run for his money. Remember that “crazy like a fox” stuff I was saying earlier? Yeah, forget I said all that. Did you not watch any of the Indiana Jones movies as a kid? Don’t touch anything, Short Round! (We’ll leave how poorly the stereotypes in that whole movie aged for another time.)

The pool starts to froth and bubble. Loren gives Vanessa an epic out-of-character scolding (“why are you like this?”). In character, even Ateran gives Alhara a bit of a side-eye (I’m imagining the pained expression Boromir gives when Pippen knocks the bucket down the well in Moria), and the setup is complete for our second straight Alhara-induced cliff-hanger. Not one. Not two. THREE gibbering mouthers emerge from the pool. If we don’t get our TPK, it certainly won’t be for a lack of trying.

But that’ll be next week. (And hell… maybe the week after that, the way Vanessa is going.) In the meantime, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.