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

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Agents of Edgewatch S3|06: The Main-Gauche Gambit

It’s time for the Agents to go back to school and learn the intricacies of the game of chess.

Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch, and the third book, All or Nothing.

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 Sideshow S3|15: But Doctor, I am Pugliacci

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S3|15: Candlefingers!

I figured I’d give Steve a little surprise for the last Talking of 2021 and do it on time this week. HE’LL NEVER SEE IT COMING.

It is a bit of a short episode this week, so I may have to do a little tap-dancing to come up with a full column. I’m also a little thrown because I feel like a little bait-and-switch was perpetrated on us listeners. The episode writeup was all about a new performer joining the circus… and “auditions”, plural… but then Candlefingers was the title, so here I was thinking Candlefingers was going to be a new recruit. But nope… just Shoony Bennett. BOOOOOO.

So, our episode begins with the Candlefingers fight – or, as I’ve dubbed him, “Liber-ouchie”. (A third of you will get this reference, the rest… Google “Liberace” and meet me on the other side.) Not that I don’t appreciate Rob P’s rather apt Lumiere reference as well, but I gotta be true to myself. This has the classic markings of a “stretch your legs” fight. The team has recently leveled, so let’s give them an easy fight against a single opponent just to work through how their characters work at the new, more powerful level. I don’t know if that’s something Paizo AP authors explicitly include, or it just works out that way, but it does seem to be a pretty frequent occurrence.

Then again, as Ateran points out halfway through the fight… was it really attacking at all? The creature’s first move was to cast darkness, which was more of a defensive/escape spell, and then the whole party started whomping on it. I’ll grant, if you look at the picture it doesn’t LOOK very pleasant, but the truth of the matter is it never actually performed an aggressive move until the party did first. Then again, there’s probably some sort of golden rule that if you’re gonna jump out at people in a cemetery at night, you’re probably gonna catch some hands, whatever your intentions might have been. I’m sure once or twice a year a Halloween “scare house” employee gets knocked out, and that’s even when the guests know it’s fake.

So Liber-ouchie takes a quick beating and dimension doors out of the fight. We’ve dealt with this before back at the first aeon tower – it seems like the common monster build is to have the level 4 version of the spell for battlefield movement (often as an innate power it can use any time), but then have the heightened Level 5 spell as an escape hatch: you can teleport up to a mile away, but it has an hour-long cooldown. So… it’s potentially nearby, but it’s neutralized as a threat and certainly not likely to return until its escape spell is refreshed. (And let’s be honest, it’s probably not coming back at all; it served its purpose to the plot.)

When we get back, it’s time to add a new member to the circus, as the team gives Frank Shoonatra the sales pitch. Which lasts all of five seconds and he basically says yes.

There’s a little piece of me that thinks this whole thing is a little weird. If I’m doing my day job fixing computers, and some group of randos waltzes into my office and says “hey do you want to just leave your life behind and join a circus?”… I’m probably going to have questions and not just immediately say yes. Do you have dental? 401K? What’s the room-and-board situation: a trailer… a tent… sleeping on the ground? WHAT’S THE SALARY? And look… I know we don’t want this to degenerate into Roll For Human Resources, but it’s still a little strange that people just accept on the spot.

OK, I suppose it was a little less weird when they were recruiting Mistress Dusklight’s people because they were already circus performers and their current employer was a) torturing them and b) closing because she was embroiled in a scheme to kill their customers. So, if another circus offers you a gig doing what you’re already doing, in THAT situation I could see it being an easy “yes”. But if you’ve already got a day job, I’m not sure “circus performer” is really the upward career move it’s being portrayed as.

Then again, I think about all these reality shows like “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent” and they always show these LINES of people coming to the auditions because a) they want to be famous and b) performing for a living is more fun than whatever their day job is. So why would that dynamic be that different in the world of Pathfinder? Especially when your day job is burying corpses.

As a circus act, I do think Dog Dylan will have some good synergy with Hap… Hap can do some dancing and some fire violin and Pug McCartney can sing along… it’ll work well. Perhaps Ateran can even throw in some mojo from beyond the grave since he seems to be tweaking his build in that general direction.

Also, as a complete aside, I think we need a bottle episode where the NPC circus acts have their own little one-shot adventure. Even if it’s just so Gigi the mammoth can stomp some people.

Once the recruitment of Elvis Pugsley is complete, our party resumes the journey to Castinlee. After a little more walking, they find a bit of a gruesome sight… a satyr nailed to a tree with its pituitary gland having been pulled out of its head. Now… my first reaction was that maybe we’ve crossed the streams and the Skinsaw Cult from Edgewatch has opened a branch down here. But after that impulse subsided… I’m not sure what this represents. It doesn’t fit with anything the xulgaths have been doing before (and we’re still fairly far from the aeon tower anyway), and the Night Lady seems like her thing is more subtle, focused on fear and bad dreams. So is this just some sort of secondary road hazard like Kalkek? Or does it have larger ties that are yet to be revealed?

All of this we’ll dig into next week, in… (gulp)… 2022. I do hope you have a happy New Year if you’re into celebrating it; if not, lots of good stuff on various streaming services to fall asleep to on Friday. As always, feel free to stop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show (though it’s a little quiet over the holidays). Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you both next week AND next year.

Three Ring Adventure S3|15: Candlefingers!

It’s been a long time since the RFC Crew recruited a new act, time for some open auditions!

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 S3|05: Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|05: Lawful Stupid Is My Alignment.

Welcome to the last Edgewatch summary of 2021. There should still be another Talking for Three-Ring, but the one wrinkle there is my brother is coming to town later in the week, and the final phase of my merrymaking may be in full swing by then.

I see Steve called me out a little in the show notes, and… eh, he’s right. I suppose the one biggest change is my son starting a new job, but not having a) well-defined hours or b) a driver’s license. So there are nights when it’s hard to get working on Talking because I have to go pick up The Boy, and that process can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half. Plays havoc with my ability to stay on a consistent schedule. Check back next week: maybe I’ll make it a New Year’s resolution to get back on schedule in 2022.

This week, we have one of our classic Paralysis By Analysis episodes where we spend a LOT of time going back and forth on the questions of whether to accept the meeting and whether to actually bring Gord or leave him behind as an insurance policy. The first one ends up being the easy one – what we REALLY need out of this is a face-to-face with Maurrisa Jonne, and this gets us that. It was the whole reason to snatch up Gord in the first place. If we turn around and refuse the meeting outright, we don’t really have a Plan B. So we quickly come around to the fact that we have to make some sort of appearance.

The real crux of the matter lies in the second question: the truly logical thing to do would be to leave Gord behind because if we bring him to the meeting, one possible outcome is her attacking us as revenge for going after her brother. Gord not being there would be our one piece of leverage because harming us doesn’t get him out of a Starwatch jail cell in another district where she has no base of power. If anything, it seals Gord’s fate AND makes her a higher priority target for law enforcement, if she graduates to openly attacking cops. Having said all that, it does seem like the easy/metagame storytelling answer is to just bring him and resolve this in one meeting because this is the resolution of the side-quest and we want to get on with finding the Twilight Four.

For me, it comes down to “do the right thing for your character, and let the GM tell you if it’s going to work or not”. As players, we should do what makes sense, and leaving Gord behind is what makes the most sense. If Steve doesn’t want it that way, he has the power to pull strings and create a scenario where Gord HAS to be there.

And OK… I was a little frustrated at Seth in this moment, because I felt like we’d come to a pretty strong agreement that we WEREN’T going to bring Gord, and then we’re on the way to the meeting and he just casually starts with the “well, I’m talking to Gord because I went ahead and brought him anyway”… despite the conclusion we’d reached as a group. I wasn’t going to interrupt the session at that point because we’d just spent 30-40 minutes on the “bringing Gord” question, and even I didn’t want to re-open that can of worms, much less do it to the listeners. Especially not for something that would be more out-of-character arguing than playing. But internally… I’ll admit I was a little annoyed.

But hey, with 20-20 hindsight, maybe it was the right call anyway. With Gomez working on Gord on the way to the meeting, we were actually able to get him kinda-sorta on our side, so he was willing to put in a good word with Maurrisa when the time came. So maybe Seth’s kinda crazy… crazy like a fox!

Once a working truce is established, we’re able to get some more information on the situation. Basically, Maurissa claims she was a reluctant participant in the Skinner’s schemes and didn’t REALLY want to help them. (That’s the second gang leader to make that claim if you’re scoring at home). So between Gomez’s charm and taking out the Skinner, we’ve actually earned enough goodwill points that she’s willing to overlook kidnapping her brother. The NEW deal she offers us is that if we disrupt the Diobel Sweepers’ operations and eliminate Bloody Berleth, she’ll give us some dirt on the Twilight Four. And she even knows where the Sweepers’ main alchemical lab is – she just doesn’t want to attack it directly because it could set off full-scale gang war, dragging in a bunch of other allied gangs we haven’t met yet. PLEASE LET THE BASEBALL FURIES BE INVOLVED IN SOME WAY!

I have to admit feeling a bit conflicted about this. On one level, I don’t like the idea that basically we’d be serving as a mercenary force for a gang leader. That doesn’t seem like something we should be doing as agents of the law. And OK, whatever she may say now, SHE’S the one who was cooperating with the Skinner – unless there’s a connection we haven’t seen yet, there’s no evidence the Sweepers were involved in that. REALLY the only thing that suggests the Sweepers are worse is that their boss is nicknamed “Bloody” Berleth: not a nickname you get for your formidable backgammon skills.

Misgivings aside, we’d still be disrupting the gang activities of another gang – it’s not like she’s hiring us to mug innocent civilians for her. So we’d still be reducing the overall crime level, AND we’d get a lead toward the Big Bad that threatens the whole city. So it’s a bit of a deal with the devil, but it’s JUST inside the envelope of “enforcing the law” so I guess we’ll be doing that.

One day later… that IS what we’re doing… but we’ll be doing it next episode. So come on back for the last episode of 2021 and see what happens. As always feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show (though we’re a little scarce around the holidays). Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next… well, for this column, next YEAR.

Agents of Edgewatch S3|05: Lawful Stupid Is My Alignment

The Agents have caught their fish, but now what to do with him? There are several options, and all are bad.

Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch, and the third book, All or Nothing.

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|14: Art Imitates Life

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S3|14: Are We the Bad Guys?

Hope everyone is having a good holiday season. Obviously, I took a few days off to make merry, but I haven’t forgotten my columnar duties entirely. Now that things are getting back toward normal, I’ll do my best to get caught up on the goings-on in RFCland.

As we return, it’s off to a new city… well… town. Well… hamlet? And a new set of abilities for our now Level 10 heroes. After dabbling in animal husbandry and new and interesting ways to light things on fire, Hap starts to get back to some of the original bardic flavor of her character with some performance abilities. Alhara gets another reaction-based feat, and as we’re coming to understand, reactions are really where it’s at in Second Edition: the more things you can do to disrupt opponents’ turns, the better. Darius gets a pretty cool monk ability, the One-Inch Punch, which lets him dial up the actions to dial up the damage. And Ateran… well, Ateran mostly just backs up a dump truck full of spells into Csillagos’ hungry beak. (Still my favorite way of learning new spells ever.)

Of course, one thing we had to deal with here that we haven’t really encountered before is the idea of scarcity, as the party has to wait three weeks to get their new toys. (That’s right: the supply chain crisis has even reached into the world of tabletop roleplaying games.) Second Edition brought forth the idea that magic items are organized by rarity, and that not all towns will have all rarities available. It’s always been part of the rules, but it’s not especially relevant at the low levels, because anything one could afford at low levels is fairly common anyway. Heck, in the Edgewatch game, we don’t deal with it at all: we’re right in the heart of Absalom, so it’s like living in Manhattan – you can DoorDash yourself a Hand of Vecna at 3 am, basically. But here, trying to get magic items out in the boonies… that’s more like, say, forgetting to buy dog food on your last grocery run, running out on Christmas Day, and having to find a Walgreen’s because that’s all that’s open so you can buy an overpriced bag of Rachel Ray dog food because that’s all they had available.

Hypothetically. I mean… that’s how I IMAGINE it would be if such a thing had ever happened to me. MOVING ON.

Darius’ One-Inch Punch, and the discussion about when to use it… one thing I’ve noticed about 2E is they have several abilities that work only on the next attack you make. I specifically thought of this in the context of Basil’s Shared Stratagem, which lets me give out flat-footed to an ally for one attack, but I dimly remember seeing a couple of other examples as well. I feel like it’s meant to put the brakes on some of these 1E scenarios where you’d get five or six attacks with a huge bonus on each one: now you can get the bonus, but it’s a one-shot. So I’m thinking One-Inch Punch would be great to pair with one of those one-attack abilities – if you get the buff, pour all three actions into a single attack; if you don’t have the buff, just attack as normal, or at least hedge your bets with a two-action punch and leave an action for something else.

We also speculate whether it’s a good or bad thing that Darius hasn’t had any new visions of Achakaek lately and whether he’s turning into a forebearer of Cave Johnson’s army of mantis-men. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the lawful evil god of assassination, who is also a giant bug, is probably NOT someone you want on the Christmas card list. But that’s just me.

On the other hand, speaking of visions, and things going on in people’s heads… we have the beginnings of a disconcerting situation arise as most of the party (except Ateran) is starting to have the sorts of bad dreams that presage the mysterious deaths. So take away one is that Opper Vandy’s little side problem may now have a clock on it, and may impact the party more directly. Heck, maybe it’s even tied to the overall xulgath problem. Takeaway two is a bit more metagamey, since to the party, Darius making his save and Ateran not even having to attempt one would be indistinguishable to the characters. But we as listeners have the mystery of trying to figure out why Ateran seems to be the only one unaffected. Are their studies of Aroden or their witchy abilities protecting them? Did their role in uncovering Vandy’s deception protect them? Did the rest of the party inhale vaporized skeletal horse dust while they were at the Currew farm? I will admit, I’m probably not going to go deep-dive the last 4-5 episodes to try and figure out what Ateran did differently that the others didn’t, but it would be an interesting exercise.

(As an aside, now we’ve got supply chain headaches AND we’re doing contact tracing. I thought this game was supposed to be escapism. I eagerly await a future loot cache that includes a +1 N95 mask.)

As the episode draws to a close, our party – full circus in tow – begins to make its way to the next town, and we meet our next possible circus addition, Booralu the Gravedigger, the singing shoony. First, I’ve already nicknamed him “Shoony Bennett” in my head, so deal with it. Second, I assume – as our players do – this will be another opportunity to add an act to the circus, once they resolve his boggle. Which appears to be imminent, as it’s combat time as the episode comes to a close.

And that’s where we’ll leave it for next time. I’m sure a shoony that digs graves and sings to the dead can’t POSSIBLY have disturbed some undead power… that’s just crazy talk! 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|14: Are We the Bad Guys?

The RFC Crew have an epiphany this week and wonder… are they the bad guys in this story?

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 S3|04: Daemons And Detainees

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|04: You Don’t Understand Superior Tactics.

Welcome to the Great Holiday Slowdown! We’re done recording shows for the year, though Steve’s already got the episodes edited and they’ll still be posting regularly. I don’t know about the other guys, but I work at a university, so my work’s done for the year… so I’ll be pulling myself away from my streaming and videogame backlog to write these wrapups. (Caught up on Wheel of Time, but Season 2 of The Witcher got temporarily delayed by a spur-of-the-moment desire to re-watch some Tennant-era Doctor Who.)

I don’t really have a lot to add to Steve’s show notes, but I’ll toss a few observations.

I mostly agree with Steve’s point about “scheduling your fun” with one slippery-slope admonition. You never want something you’re doing for fun to become TOO much of an obligation, to the point where it becomes more like a job. That hasn’t happened with this, but that spirit literally KILLED World of Warcraft for me. If you wanted to do anything in WoW, you had to commit to 3-4 hours, 2-3 specific nights a week, or you’d either (shitty guild) get kicked out of your guild entirely, or (good guild) fall way behind your friends and be unable to play with them until their alts were ready to do the dungeons. At that point, just keeping up the pace necessary to participate felt like having a second job instead of a way to enjoy downtime. So schedule your fun, yes, but if you’re so scheduled that your hobbies are starting to feel like work, you’re doing it wrong. Again, I don’t think we have that problem here – we’re good about taking the occasional week off if people need to recharge.

Ironically – and our live listeners know this – we almost have the opposite problem. Since ours is a group of friends who have known each other for years (in some cases, decades), we have an issue with getting sidetracked. We sometimes get too far into the “weeds” of the overall friendship, BSing about movies, fantasy football, and other stuff. Officially we start at 8 pm. I think our unofficial record for the latest start was something like 9:15 or 9:20, though that’s from memory… I don’t sit around with a logbook tracking this stuff.

Mondays became our day mostly by process of elimination. Even going back to pre-podcast, there’s never been much enthusiasm for playing on weekends, Chris traditionally raided in WoW two or three nights a week, I had a home game on Fridays, and I think (at least pre-COVID) John was going to an in-person board game night at his local gaming store, so Monday was just the day that worked for everyone. (I actually think it was Wednesdays for a while, and then Chris switched guilds and his raids were on different nights.) In the COVID era where everyone’s forced to be a hermit — and also now that Chris got tired of WoW — we have a bit more flexibility, but that usually only applies to short-notice re-schedules: we pretty much try to keep to the same day if at all possible.

So that’s it for Steve’s show notes; on to this week’s show.

Going in, it is interesting to watch Seth and I (in particular) wrestling with the issue of how to apply modern morality to a fantasy-themed police force, insofar as we don’t have any actual charges on Gord. Yeah, his sister’s a known criminal, and he may be indirectly involved if his sister is bankrolling his antiques fetish. But technically we don’t know he’s done anything wrong: in modern parlance, we don’t even have a WHIFF of probable cause on the guy. So it’s one thing to go ask Gord a few questions, but literally grabbing him and holding him in a cell to get his sister to come talk to us… that’s kinda like kidnapping, isn’t it? You can hand-wave it and just say “they didn’t have probable cause in the Dark Ages either” and I’m sure a lot of gaming groups do. But it’s also naïve to think that stuff like that might not still be happening in the real world, whether it’s parts of the US or in other countries. If the notion of the law snatching up someone’s relative to use as leverage is considered “the Dark Ages”… it’s not entirely clear that we’re not still there.

And this is why I felt like Paizo made the right call continuing to release this adventure path, even after the calls to cancel it, so close upon the real-world events regarding George Floyd. Taking a pause was a good call in the moment. Taking a second look at the content to make sure you weren’t glamorizing police excesses… totally a good call. But art and entertainment can illuminate and spark conversation and that can be constructive rather than destructive. Here we are talking about what constitutes justified detainment of civilians by law enforcement in between dice rolls to see if my made-up bird-person stabs stuff with his sword-cane. You don’t get that with backgammon.

So moral qualms aside, we’re gonna go grab Gord because that’s kinda what the story requires of us. Going into this encounter, I certainly expected we would face combat. I assumed either Gord’s sister would have assigned him some bodyguards, or the owner of the boat would turn out to be some sort of underworld tough… black-market antiques dealer or something. (Belloq from Raiders, perhaps?) Did not expect to have to fight a daemon, though.

The fight starts out tolerable at first… yeah, the daemon has greater mobility than we do, but it’s not that hard to hit, so we’re at least putting damage on it. But that fear effect really had the potential to alter the battlefield with two of us wasting multiple rounds running away and coming back, leaving Lo Mang and Gomez hung out to try. THAT could’ve gotten messy, but we caught some good luck on dice rolls and they were able to stay in the fight until Dougie and I returned.

But then I get turned aside again, as Basil notices Gord (presumably) trying to sneak away from the fight while invisible, in a boat. This left me with a quick decision to make: standard TTRPG logic suggests you never split the party, but we really HAVE to. If we leave the daemon to chase Gord, it’s either taking free shots at us while we chase him, or killing random dockworkers. If we let Gord run while we finish the daemon, it’s likely Gord gets away and this whole episode went for naught.

So I go after him. I’m a LITTLE worried a one-on-one encounter could get messy but then again, if this guy was a decent fighter, a) he’d probably be a more prominent member of his sister’s gang and b) he probably wouldn’t have felt a need to summon a daemon to cover for his escape. Also, at the risk of metagaming, we’ve had a few examples already of abstracted chase sequences, and this quickly began to feel like one of those.

So off we go, and it turns out I have the right skillset (including flight, to avoid ground-based obstacles) and luck (a natural 20) to end up capturing Gord. Now… full disclosure… I feel a little disappointed that I didn’t roleplay the encounter with the Cayden worshipers a little better. Hell, I PLAY a Cayden worshiper (Brixley) in our other game; I really should’ve just offered a free round to whoever captured Gord. Who at that point really WAS a wanted criminal, since… you know… setting a daemon loose on the docks is a crime and all.

With the daemon dealt with and Gord in custody, we retreat, but not to the Docks, but to Starwatch. We just got read chapter and verse about how corrupt the Docks district is and how they ignore everything that doesn’t directly impact commerce; we’re not holing up THERE with our prize prisoner. Better to retreat to relative safety and force Big Sis to come to us.

So OK… maybe the circumstances of his capture are a little suspect, but we’ve got Gord in custody and we’re safe back at the ranch. Next week, we either see if he himself can tell us anything or (even better) if holding him kicks over the rock his sister’s hiding under and we can get a sit-down with her. Hope you’ll be back here next week for that. 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.

Agents of Edgewatch S3|04: You Don’t Understand Superior Tactics

The Agents have a lead, but their prey proves to be an elusive fish to catch.

Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch, and the third book, All or Nothing.

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|13: Lean Mean Alchemical Machine

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S3|13: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.

I’ve got a bit of a challenge. I got both my COVID booster and my seasonal flu vaccination Thursday, so I was pretty much flat on my back all of yesterday. I’m back in the saddle today, but I’ve got tickets to Spider-Man in a couple of hours. So can I slam out a column in that time? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

As we pick up the action, our heroes had struggled in their first encounter with the alchemical golems. Some of it was bad luck with the dice; some of it was not really having a tactical plan and charging ahead with “Alhara leaps into the room, eats a bunch of attacks, and gets pummeled almost to death”.

So for round two, the gang has a plan. First, Darius is going to stand in the doorway – you know, a natural chokepoint – and keep the golems from getting at the rest of the party as much as possible. Second, Alhara will use her staff to generate sonic damage, which the golems are vulnerable to.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Well, the first part of that plan goes almost flawlessly. Darius does his job as an attack sponge, as a fair number of attacks miss against his AC anyway, and the healers can stay ahead of the damage from the attacks that land. And our team also catches a break insofar as the golems hadn’t healed their damage from the first encounter so ONE of the two went down the first time it was struck, leaving just one enemy to fight.

About Alhara busting them up with that sonic damage though… oh dear. Alhara just whiffs, whiffs, and whiffs some more, the large majority of her attacks being single-digit rolls on-die. I think we saw Vanessa re-enact the whole “five stages of grief” thing and add a sixth – giving in to the absurdity and finding the whole thing hilarious.

Which was assisted by Steve’s Shit-Talking Golem. Move over HK-47 and GLaDOS… we’ve got a sassy new sheriff in town. Of course, part of what I found amusing was imagining the hypothetical backstory of such a creation. I’m some sort of master alchemist, I’m building this golem to help me with my work, and at the very end, I think to myself… “I could make it a friendly companion to help me pass the time, or imbue it with the knowledge to have deep philosophical discussions while we work… but why don’t we just make it a sarcastic asshole instead?”

The good news is, with only one enemy to fight, the party is eventually able to pull together and win, even despite Alhara’s dice woes. Though credit due, she does eventually get ONE hit in, and it’s as impressive as hoped, generating 5d8 sonic damage. So… note to future self: bring lots of different damage types along for dealing with golems.

Now we have the core mystery of the tower to unravel. It’s easy enough to fly up the shaft in the golem room and into the main chamber, and we gain a greater understanding of what’s going on. It turns out the xulgaths have built some sort of machine to drain the energy of the aeon stone powering the tower, and it will eventually destroy the stone. I have to admit, I thought the xulgaths’ plan was to steal the stones and take them back to the underworld; I didn’t think they were going full-on nihilist and destroying them. But now we know.

(As an aside, when they found the instructions for the machine, that seemed like a perfect time for an IKEA joke, and I’d like to register my disappointment that nobody made one. Is the machine made entirely of particle-board? Do they need to go back to town for an Allen wrench to disassemble it? Does it have a Nordically-spelled name like “JEMDRAANIR”? COME ON PEOPLE. If you can make Waldorf and Statler references, you can get this one.)

So with assistance from the instructions and a couple of solid crafting rolls from Ateran, the machine is disabled, and almost immediately… LET THE HEALING OF THE LAND BEGIN. Water gushes forth (albeit into a now corpse-infested waterway), signs of life begin to return, and our party gets a new boon. Swim speed, water breathing, and a daily cast of the control water spell which feels like it’s fairly situational, letting you raise or lower the level of an existing body of water. Honestly, it feels like something out of a Lara Croft/Uncharted-style game where the room is flooded and you need to lower the water level in the room to access the passage that leads to the next area. Only instead of activating gems or finding pulleys, you just cast a spell.

We’re also posed with an interesting dilemma as Loren wants to reject the boon as anathema to Hap’s character concept. Or at least wants time to think about how she could make it work. Basically, her point is that Hap’s character is so defined by her use of fire, that water abilities are just totally against what she’s been building toward. Now, if you want to metagame, I feel like ALL of these boons are going to get used at some future point in the adventure, so refusing one of them might end up being a bad idea. On the other hand, if Hap REALLY wants to reject a boon from Aroden, I’d say you go ahead and let her. And if they need to go on an extended swim at some future point, throw Hap into the bag of holding for a change.

With the second aeon tower cleaned up, it’s time to head back to Ferny for a well-earned Ewok moment, partying up with the shoonies. After that… maybe a circus performance, or maybe straight on to the second tower. And I suppose it might be worth checking back on Opper Vandy and seeing if there have been any further developments with his situation. On one hand, I still feel like that dude kinda deserves what he’s getting – he’s not evil with a capital E, but he is kind of a weasel — but it’s also on the way to the other towers and solving the mystery still benefits the town as a whole. Lastly, it sounds like our heroes are going to level between sessions, so next week, we’ll be introduced to more powerful versions of our gang.

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.