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

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Agents of Edgewatch S2|29: Violetta, You’re Turning Violet!

After what seems like months, the Agents have finally nearly cleared the first level of the catacombs. But there is one room left, and there’s something horrible is behind that door.

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!

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Three Ring Adventure S3|04: Stuck in the Middle With You

Three shoonies down, two to go. Just how far will our heroes go to protect their cute little dog friends?

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse, and the third book, Life’s Long Shadows.

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|28: Bring Me Everyone!

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|28: Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

It’s Week 3 of Fightageddon, and the big boys have finally come out to play. That’s right: the ceustodaemons and the golem from the front porch finally arrive.

It does dawn on me that in terms of time, we probably could’ve packed this fight into two episodes, but I do think in this case, the editing and the shorter episodes flow better. If you think about it, Steve managed to break this into three distinct phases – main room, reinforcements from the sleeping quarters, and now the guys from the porch. If he’d tried to make two longer episodes, it probably would’ve been hard to make the episode break fall at a convenient place. It probably would’ve dropped right in the middle of the round or something.

As always, when dealing with golems, you have to be careful with your magic. With all golems, one damage type is extra-effective, one damage type heals it, and a third usually slows it – it’s just a question of which is which for any particular golem. In this case, those are fire, electricity, and cold respectively. I’d also add to the pattern that there’s usually one other individual spell (in this case, flesh to stone) that can be used fairly normally as well. They’re immune to every other form of magic and highly resistant to most melee damage.

The ceustodaemons? They’re tough customers, but they’re built for offense; nothing special about their defenses, not even their armor class. Their big thing is a fire breath weapon, but it turns out (reading the stat block after the fact) that it has a recharge timer, so they can only use it every 1d4 rounds.

As for the fight, the first ceustodaemon busts in, but then… don’t look now, we’re doing tactics! Lo Mang moves forward and locks the door, and then I’m able to get a fortunate crit on the last remaining cultist who tries to open the door. The gist of it is that the locked door buys us a few rounds to work on the first guy before his buddies arrive. I have to admit, if we ever had a virtual highlight reel for this show, that shot would probably go on my personal one.

And here’s where the tactics kick into high gear. One thing I’ve noticed is that we don’t have a conventional attack of opportunity in our party, but we have stuff that’s almost as good. Lo Mang has his crane flutter (aka the Chicken Dance) where he can counter-attack when an enemy misses him. That’s pretty handy. But now Dougie has opportune backstab, which basically lets him add a free attack when one of us hits.

Now, if there’s a drawback to that opportune backstab ability, it’s that it doesn’t confer flat-footed on its own. This means Dougie doesn’t automatically get that bonus damage and that free attack isn’t quite as effective. BUT… everyone welcomes Basil’s shared stratagem to the party! Now I can give one person (cough-Dougie-cough) flat-footed for their next attack. Now, strictly speaking, the opportune backstab has to chain off a melee attack, so my bow attacks can’t directly chain into it, but I can either a) set it up with my sword-cane or b) I can at least prime the pump and then let Lo Mang’s attacks set it off at a later date or just let him use it on his own turn: it’s good until the start of MY next turn, not his.

Of course, there’s also the simple solution: Dougie and Lo Mang just stay together and “Parkour Pals” the creature down by staying in flanking as much as possible. That way they can both chain their abilities off each other and either any damage I add is just gravy, or I can concentrate on secondary targets.

Now we do briefly get in some hot water here, courtesy of the ceustodaemon’s at-will dimension door ability. We had a good defensive perimeter set up, and then the big boy just leaps behind them and hits me and Gomez with the breath weapon. It’s not terrible for me, but poor Gomez ends up with a slight pan-sear for his trouble.

On the other hand, we return the favor when it comes to the golem: we’ve got all our flame spells locked and loaded, so the minute he shows his ugly mug, we just KILL IT WITH FIRE. The classics never truly go out of style.

And finally, with both daemons and the golem dealt with… the end of combat sound is played. Whew.

One thing I noticed… everyone except Basil had a brush with death at SOME point during this fight, but we were able to spread it out enough to keep going. Lo Mang took an early beating, but retreated back to Gomez and healed while Dougie held the line. Then the second round opened up, and Dougie took some hits dealing with the remnants of the first wave while Lo Mang was holding off the reinforcements from the west. Eventually, Dougie was able to maneuver his way out of the fight for a bit and potion up. Even Gomez took some late hits when the ceustodaemons warped into the back-line, and OK, the fight was over before he healed, but he was able to get himself out of danger before it really reached emergency status. Basil didn’t escape unscathed, but I do think I only got down to about half health before badging up, so I’m not going to pretend I had an equally hairy time. The flower in my lapel might have been dislodged; that’s about it.

The real question is do we even DARE to press on? On one hand, those screams sound bad and sound like something we should deal with. I don’t know that any of the remaining prisoners are VIPs/quest targets (I guess maybe Gubs is still around here somewhere?), but we’re still the cops: rescuing citizens is part of the job description. And OK, looking at the map Dannicus gave us, cleaning out the scream room would PRETTY MUCH clear this floor… there would MAYBE be one or two more rooms after that. On the other hand, we did just have one HELL of a fight, and our resources are a little tapped. Let’s be honest: it would be a real shame if we got through the last three episodes and then dropped to something comparatively wimpy trying to stretch one room too far.

But it would make for quite a story.

I guess we’ll find out what decision we make 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. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S2|28: Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

The Agents finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that light wants to kill them.

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!

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 S3|03: Bulette Buffet

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S3|03: The Everlasting Fastball Special

There are certain episodes… and this one is one of them… where I feel like Talking Combat missed its calling and could’ve been a Rifftrax-esque live reaction thing. For every time I can bang out a thousand words of deep-dive, there are a dozen little jokes and comments that don’t get included here because they don’t amount to fully-formed thoughts, but I hate that they’re lost to the ether… and this was one of those episodes. For a fairly short episode where I didn’t think a lot was going to happen, this is one of those episodes where I was texting various smart-ass commentary to the group chat every few minutes.

Hell, maybe we steal some ideas from MST3K and make it a Thanksgiving special.

First of all, Steve really buried the lede here with the shoonies. We’re talking about PUG-PEOPLE, and they’re kind of adorable. It’s also worth mentioning that the adventure path actually supplies the data for a shoony ancestry in case you want to play one – some of their noted skills are being accomplished diggers (eventually even being able to move through earth) and being able to move around the battlefield without generating attacks of opportunity. And did I mention they’re freakin’ pugs? NEXT CHARACTER… DECIDED.

Now Steve’s pregame discussion takes on the prospect of groups taking fights lightly, with this week’s battle being an example. And yeah, you did kinda see that at the start of the fight, where our heroes just waded in with their usual tactics and basic attacks, until they realized they were in for a real battle. Hell, Darius didn’t even attack, just decided to play hero and move shoonies around the battle map.

I think one reason that’s a little metagamey is that these adventure paths USUALLY start with a low-stakes warm-up fight, and it can be easy to fall into the pattern of thinking that’ll always be the case. I don’t know if there’s a design assumption that the characters will have recently leveled, or thinking maybe there could be a real-world time gap between ending the previous book and starting the new one; whatever the reason, the authors tend to assume you need a fight to test new powers and possibly shake off the rust, and the first fight of each book is usually a cakewalk.

The captain has turned on the “let’s make sure you remember how to play your character” light. Here’s some orcs with clubs… knock yourselves (or preferably them) out.

It doesn’t apply here, but as Steve mentioned, it is kinda funny that there’s also this suspension of disbelief you have to work with when dealing with humanoid enemies. We’re dealing with that in the Edgewatch campaign right now as well. In our case, we’re fighting these “entry-level” gang members, but since it’s the “entry level” of Book Three, they’re probably like level 7 or 8 adversaries. So in their spare time when not killing adolescent dragons, they roll people in an alley for 3 silver. For that matter, they end up having better base stats than the BOSSES of book 1 or book 2. (Though granted, they lack all the special abilities and magical gear a boss comes with.) You don’t really have that same problem with monsters because no one really comes in with a predefined sense of how tough an ooze or an owlbear “should” be.

As we get into the battle, this is one of those fights where I have to admit Steve was having one of those “bit too gleeful” sessions. Maybe I’m just being oversensitive, but he seemed uncomfortably jolly when the bulettes one-shotted the first shoony: I’m still a little worried PETA is going to protest us for cruelty to virtual animals. But I’d also like to go on record that at some point, Steve is going to ask “Does a [IMPOSSIBLY LARGE NUMBER] hit?” once too often and someone’s gonna power-bomb him through a table WWE-style. YES STEVE, A 394 HITS. I KNOW THAT COMES AS A GREAT SURPRISE TO OUR LISTENERS (mutters strings of profanity under breath, squeezing the life out of a stress-relief ball).

And OK, in the heat of the moment, I may have threatened to quit the show entirely if the bulettes ate Riley. Fortunately, Loren headed that one off at the pass (for now) by tucking our Goodboi-In-Chief in her extradimensional space.

Meanwhile, as agitated as I was getting, I could visibly hear Vanessa lose all interest in gaming in real-time every time she rolled a 27 (one less than the number she needed to hit). And I don’t know if Loren had a death wish or is just a comic artist for the ages, but “at least you didn’t roll a 27” after her crit fail was just PERFECT. (She also had a pretty good line in our group chat, folding Vanessa’s pain into the single best knock-knock joke of all time: “Orange you glad I didn’t roll a 27?”. WELL PLAYED.)

Ateran, on the other hand, got to erase their bad luck, going from a natural 1 to a natural 20 on a hero point. I mention it because it actually made me think of a possible house rule: if you get a Nat-20 on a Hero Point role, you should get to retain the hero point for free. So basically a 5% chance for a little bit of extra “luck of the gods”. I make no claims as to whether this rule is balanced or whether there’s any game rationale to pin it on… I just thought it might be neat. The other suggestion we had amongst the group was to create an equivalent of Assurance for Hero Points: that you could automatically take a 10 and see if that helped… maybe at least change a crit-fail to a fail.

The interesting thing is, this really isn’t THAT tough a fight if the party gets better dice luck. I wasn’t paying attention to exact hit point totals, but I remember being surprised how fast the first bulette went down once the team started landing some rolls and putting some real damage on it. So this may be a thing but they hit hard and are hard to hit when in the ground, but they make up for it by being soft if you ever get them out of the ground and into open space.

Lost in the shuffle, we had a couple of fun little X-Men references, though one of the two is solely in my head. The first – the Everlasting Fastball Special – you know about because it appeared in the show. (I realize there’s probably a good-sized overlap and most of you know this, but the original “Fastball Special” was Colossus throwing Wolverine at an enemy in the X-Men comics.) Not only do I think Darius and Alhara ought to try and do this during one of the circus performances and see how long they can stay in motion, but I think it should be a demonstration sport at the next Olympics. The other X-Men reference, the one kicking around my brain, is that Darius is now informally dubbed “Beefy Nightcrawler” when he uses his Abundant Step power. (Waitasec… didn’t Kurt Wagner escape from a circus?)

So as we end the episode, we’ve lost a few shoonies, one bulette is down, and hopefully, our party is starting to pull out of early doldrums and put on their ass-kicking shoes. I guess next week we’ll see how many shoonies they can save, and maybe make it to their destination(s) of the farm and the aeon tower. 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 S3|03: The Everlasting Fastball Special

Our heroes decide to take the scenic route to the farm… and almost end up buying the farm in the process.

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse, and the third book, Life’s Long Shadows.

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|27: They’re Everywhere, Man!

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|27: Whenever I Think of You I Touch Myself

Welcome to Dungeon Pull 2: The Gomez Show. I say that because the focus of this week’s portion of the battle seems to be our resident sorcerer: both getting some solid use out of his existing spells but also breaking out a new one that probably knocked a round or two off the fight all by itself.

Before we get into that, I wanted to revisit Steve’s show notes, and the idea of Steve “helping” us by managing the flow of the fight a little. I’ve probably at least touched on this in other columns, but I actually think this is the way GM’ing SHOULD be done, and that more GMs should view their role this way.

Sometimes I think the word “game” in “roleplaying game” should come with sarcastic finger quotes because it implies a more adversarial relationship between player and GM than should really exist. I know there’s inertia in that direction: the GM controls the bad guys, which pushes them into a position of opposition to the players at times, so it certainly can feel at times like the GM is “against us”. (And OK, Steve has a knack for leaning into that when he gets aggressively happy about critting us twice in a row. Just Sayin’.)

But if that’s the relationship you want… play RISK or something, I don’t know. Everyone turns into a bastard when they play RISK.

What we’re REALLY doing here is telling a story, and in some ways, the true purpose served by the game elements is to create a random influence on the story that NEITHER side can totally control. And that gets to one of the “dirty little secrets” of this hobby: most GMs (at least the good ones) like to deal with surprises just as much as players do. For a good GM, part of the fun is to have random things happen that they DIDN’T expect, and to have to figure out how to deal with them in real-time. Sometimes that’s the actions of the players; other times, it’s a lucky (or unlucky) roll of the dice that alters the trajectory the story was previously on.

Seen through that light, “killing the players” should not be the primary goal of the GM. Telling a story that sits right in that sweet spot between success and failure and makes the choices of BOTH “sides” interesting feels like the better goal to shoot for. If that means massaging the flow of a fight to make the action a little more “theatrical” and exciting, maybe that’s what it SHOULD be.

Having said that, I also don’t think it’s a GM’s job to keep players alive until the end of the story either. I think it’s one of those “partial credit for showing your work” things. If the players are being aggressively stupid or not communicating well as a party*, failure up to and including a TPK can be a price for that failure. But if the players are engaging with the story, they’re making reasonable decisions, and their actions are moving the story in a compelling direction, it’s not the worst thing in the world to use the GM’s powers to keep the good times rolling.

*I meant this statement at the encounter/tactical level. At an overall “gaming table” level, I do think a GM can mediate communication issues between party members who are at odds: in that case, they can serve as a neutral party who wants the game to succeed and wants both players to enjoy the game. But within the tactics of a session, if your players are getting their asses kicked because the players are playing dysfunctionally and not sharing toys with the other children… that’s not the GM’s job to fix, and a near-TPK ass-kicking can actually be a pretty good teacher in that respect.

And OK, Steve also makes a point which I’ll amplify. When it takes a full 2-3 hour session to run a combat, it’s easy to forget that a round is supposed to represent six seconds of fighting, so even a LONG combat is supposed to represent… a minute? two minutes?… of real-time. Applying that to this fight, it means that from the moment the cultist sets off the alarm, we’re actually talking about it taking 20 or 30 seconds for the cultists to get their shit together and launch Maverick on Alert-5. That actually doesn’t seem unreasonable. If anything, having reinforcements POUR into the room 12 seconds after the fight started would be the unrealistic play.

And that circles us back to this week’s live-action. To take up Steve’s point about ebb and flow… this week is the valley between the two peaks. Last week started fast – we didn’t look where we were throwing our fireballs and pulled six or seven bad guys on us, TWO of whom were the Skinstiches that were also full of bugs. (Can’t believe I forgot to give kudos to the Oogie Boogie reference!) So that came out of the gates flying.

As we enter this episode, we had gotten the cultists down to a manageable number and even had one of the two swarms dealt with. So… lull in the action. Among other things, we finally get to put Gomez’s touch-heal to use. It’s not the FIRST time we’ve ever taken advantage of it, but it’s arguably the BEST use we’ve made of it. Once we’ve done some healing, we’re left with a fairly straightforward fight (except for the remaining swarm) against a bunch of melees with no particular extra talents.

We’ve got this, right?

And then that’s when Steve deploys the next wave of baddies. Again, these guys aren’t tough, but there are a lot of them, and they’re also coming from a COMPLETELY different direction: if not for Lo Mang coming up at the right point in the initiative and “putting the cork in the bottle”, they could’ve easily swarmed me and Gomez in the back ranks. And that WOULD have made things pretty hairy. But even then, that leaves Dougie kind of out on an island against the remnants of the first wave because we’re all up top dealing with the new threat.

At least until Gomez deploys hydraulic torrent. Here we see a line-effect spell at its most beautiful. When enemies are able to come at you from multiple directions, it pales in comparison to a cone or area effect, which lets you be a little more loosey-goosey. Line effects require some precision to get full value. But when you get that rare moment where four guys are forced to charge at you through a straight corridor and funnel themselves into the killbox for you? DAAAAAAMMMN. (Even moreso when two of the four crit-fail their saves.)

So Gomez’s spell ALMOST singlehandedly rips apart Wave 2, and Lo Mang and Basil clean up the remnants.

NOW we’ve got this, right?

And then the door far to the southwest opens. At the risk of offering a mild spoiler, the door to the front porch where the big uglies were hanging out. Wave 3, locked and loaded for next week. If you’ve stuck around for the cannon fodder, I assume you’re gonna want to see how it goes against the big guns.

As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S2|27: Whenever I Think of You I Touch Myself

The Agents not only jumped from the frying pan and into the fire, but they are doing a little jig in the fire while fighting the Cultists!

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!

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!