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The Bird’s Eye View S3|10: Mission Improbable

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|10: The Plan Is, There Is No Plan!

I bring you greetings from Pittsburgh, the land of collapsing bridges. If you’d like the slimmest of gaming tie-ins between this column and tabletop role-playing games, my brother and I used to walk from our home community (Edgewood) to our local gaming store in Squirrel Hill and cross that bridge in both directions. I TRANSPORTED A FIEND FOLIO ACROSS THAT BRIDGE 35 YEARS AGO, DAMNIT!

(To indulge in the briefest of asides, even though the photos make the bridge look like it’s in the middle of nowhere, Forbes Avenue is actually a major traffic artery linking the east suburbs with the Oakland section of town where the universities are. So that bridge got a LOT of car traffic and several major bus routes daily. We’re lucky it collapsed at 6 am when no one was on it.)

Sorry. We don’t make the national news often. Gotta make the most of it.

We start this week with a show… not even note, really… more of a rumination. We’ve actually had a little bit of a difficult time getting the show going after the holidays. We took the time between Christmas and New Years’ off as a planned break. So far, so good… time with family and friends, wholesome stuff like that. But coming back from the break has been a scheduling minefield: Chris’ mic broke one week, I got tickets to the Steeler game another, John and Seth both came down sick… as such, until last night, we had conducted ONE session since mid-December.

The glass-half-full (particularly for our Patreon live listeners): we’re still here. We’ve had a run of bad luck in terms of scheduling, but this isn’t us disappearing into the witness protection program. But this IS the long-winded way of saying we’ve burned up some of our runway, and we might reach a point where we have to shorten up our shows to conserve material like the Three-Ring show did. Steve would know more as the person who edits things, but in terms of the break itself, we ended up being off longer than the circus crew was out last summer.

Getting into this week’s episode, it’s all about finishing up the prep work and getting ready for the big gala. I have to admit that I’m struggling with this whole premise. I’m not saying it’s BAD, but I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around it.

The first is kind of a petty point: I’m not crazy about the plot artifice that we have to do the heist on the day of the gala. There’s (theoretically) no time constraint on getting the bomb out of the box since the bad guys can’t get to it. In theory, there’s no reason we couldn’t develop a plan to steal the key and go into the box over days or even weeks. So why are we choosing to go in on the day when security is at its highest and people who don’t belong there will stand out like a sore thumb?

But I get it… that’s how a heist plot works: the stakes and challenges have to be high. Invisibility sphering into his room, stealing the key, making a copy, and then coming back days or weeks later as legit customers isn’t nearly as exciting. Objection withdrawn.

What makes me nervous is the overall lack of direction. Now, in gaming, we sometimes talk about bad games “running on rails” where the players don’t really have any agency and they’re just there to perform the actions they are presented with. If anything, this infiltration feels like it could actually use some rails.

One thing I noticed about the heist genre in general that’s absent here: the heroes in those stories always have pretty meticulous knowledge about what they need to do. Whether it’s Mission Impossible, Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job… the heroes always have enough knowledge to lay the puzzle out in advance, so the viewer knows exactly how insurmountable the task is.

There are pressure sensors in the floor tiles. The door to the vault is on a voiceprint scan so we have to get a recording of someone saying the code phrase. The laser grid can only be deactivated for three seconds and has to be performed at two separate terminals at the same time.

One thing I noticed, both as Dougie was taking his tour and as Gomez was going in as part of the cleaning crew, was that not only do we not have that knowledge; it was almost impossible to tell what we should be focusing on in terms of implementing our plan and what was just filler. As I was listening (then and now), I’d have these reactions of “oh, I wonder if that’s important”. Even now, two months after we played through this, I find myself wondering “oh should we have used that instead?”.

The guards don’t go into the bathrooms with the cleaning crew: can we use that? There’s a secret space in Carlyle’s office, but it doesn’t appear to be the vault itself: could that be where he keeps the key when he sleeps? Is the loud-mouth casino patron Gage seems to avoid plot-important or just obnoxious? Are the flying chairs truly something we can use, or just flavor to show how advanced and sophisticated the casino’s technology is? (And to make it easier for the head of security to come to kick our asses if we mess up.)

I can respect that the adventure is trying to give players choice and room to make their own plan, and there are probably some groups that are going to Ethan Hunt the crap out of this. But for my tastes, there’s almost too much choice. It almost cuts against the heist genre they’re trying to replicate, which is all about knowing EXACTLY what you have to do and just having to execute it – possibly by demonstrating skill, but also by handling curveballs when things don’t go as planned. And it makes me nervous because we get one shot at this, and if the plan we come up with is a blind alley, what do we do then? Let’s say we build our plan entirely around infiltrating Carlyle’s private quarters, but then he spends the entire gala down on the floor and we never see him or the key. What then?

The gossip about the disgruntled wizard made for an interesting addition that could play out in a couple of different ways. My first impulse was that this guy might BE the bread crumbs I was hoping to find, that he represents Help From Unlikely Places. That is, this wizard is pissed at Gage and has been thinking about how to get into the vault for a while now, so if we find the wizard we can piggyback onto whatever plans he might have. But then Seth suggested – and this is a bit more meta-gamey – that maybe he’s the “distraction” that will give us a window to get the key and/or visit the vault. That possibility got a lot more likely when our attempts to contact him hit a brick wall: if we can’t even get a sniff of him before the event, it’s more likely he’s an event that’s going to unfold on game day. A third possibility is that the wizard is in league with the Twilight Four and he’s going to give the whole thing urgency or we’re going to have to fight him for the bomb. But that feels like a remote possibility, insofar as it sounds like the wizard took out his loan a while ago and is unrelated to this. Also, based on what we know of the Twilight Four, they would probably have practiced better opsec and wouldn’t have a bunch of casino employees blab about their plans.

Within all of this, I got to go on a little in-person recon, checking out the vault itself. Between Dougie and Gomez, we had gotten access to pretty much every inch of the place EXCEPT the vault, so I figured it was worth getting a look, and it also gave us a chance to replicate the key. I suppose that means we’re committing to replacing the real key with a fake. That seems like a pretty tricky thing to accomplish, but hey, that’s what Edge Points are for, I guess.

So as we draw to a close, we’ve got… pieces of a plan. We’re going to go to the gala – Lo Mang working in the kitchen, the rest of us as guests. Dougie will look for an opportunity to swap keys, and then we’ll try to make our way down to the vault. (Not sure how we’re doing this yet.) Go into the box, get the device, get back out, and then swap the keys back so our subterfuge won’t be detected. There’s still a few pieces of that that are theoretical concepts more than an actual “plan” but it’s certainly enough to ride into battle with.

So join us next week when we put on our dancing shoes, rub elbows with polite society, and rob a fairly upstanding businessman to save the world. You know… as cops do. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S3|10: The Plan Is, There Is No Plan!

The Agents have two days left to plan the big casino heist, but they are quickly learning of the old adage, the house always wins.

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|19: The No-Pants Stance

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S3|19: Rat’s the Way I Like It.

Oh, damn! They’re coming for us this week!

I know it’s largely tongue-in-cheek but I was admittedly surprised that the money disparity between the Edgewatch and Three-Ring shows became such a topic of conversation this week, but hey… here we are.

On one hand, it doesn’t really seem like it should be possible. The math is so tight in Pathfinder, and gear contributes so much to that math, that I assumed that every person writing an adventure for Paizo has a laminated chart telling them exactly how much loot should go in every encounter. It’s always been my natural assumption that this is all carefully calculated down to the gold piece.

On the other hand, there’s certainly some anecdotal truth to it. I have a pretty solid recollection that we got our first round of striking runes around the same time they did, despite their group having a 3-4 month head start on us. So I think there’s SOME validity to the fact that we’re walking away with more cash.

Steve makes a good point about our adventure having some different contours to it. First, there’s the fact that we’re in the capital city, while they’re out in the boonies. I don’t know that Paizo formally takes cost-of-living into account, but jobs in New York City pay better than jobs in Boise, Idaho. There’s also the fact that we’re supposed to be cops, so I think some of the traditional opportunities for looting are just converted to cash payouts – either by the writers of the adventures, or it’s something Steve’s adjusting on the fly. Kill a bunch of xulgaths… yeah, you can take their stuff. “Arrest” a burglar and all the property has to either be held as evidence or returned to the people he stole it from.

On the other hand, I think part of it is also how we spend the money we do get. I notice the Three-Ring group tends to go in a bit more with utility items and consumables, whereas in our group, everyone except Seth/Gomez pretty much just saves for the big combat expenditures – weapons, armor, the occasional healing potion. Gomez is the only one who’s going heavy on consumables, and guess what… he’s also broke compared to the rest of us. So maybe it’s not so much that we get more than they do, as much as it is that they spread it around a little more and we hold our coin for the “big” purchases. So when we can afford the big things quicker, it seems like we have more money.

It’s also kind of a sidebar, but I’d actually be interested in seeing the Battlezoo monster parts system in more detail. Full disclosure: we actually started using it in the not-yet-completed Malevolence show (follow-up to the Plaguestone game), so I already HAVE seen it a little bit. But since that’s still in scheduling limbo, maybe the circus show would be a good place to kick the tires. And it would be neat to experience it from the outside as a listener. From what experience I had with it, it seemed like it could be interesting.

I will say, that the monster parts system FITS the circus show a lot better than it would fit ours. The basic premise of the system is that you’re replacing gold and traditional loot with harvested critters that you can turn into upgrades. As a concept, that fits a lot better the further you are from civilization. When you’re a week out into the woods, the idea that there’s a conveniently-placed shop that can buy and sell hundreds or thousands of gold worth of loot is a little contrived. A system that lets that transfer from loot to usable weapons happen organically is a welcome addition. Conversely, if you’re in the big city, there’s lots of shops who can do that work for you. (And also, we’re officers of the law fighting a lot of humanoids… not sure we should be chopping those up for body parts.)

So… I don’t know how serious they are about it, but consider this to be me casting my vote to turn on the monster parts system at the next major milestone.

So, OK, all of that is behind-the-scenes stuff. This week, it’s kind of a short episode, as the team investigates what’s left of the aeon tower.

The first major encounter of the show is a shuln… and yes, if you’ve ever seen a naked mole-rat, that’s a pretty accurate description. (Which is amusing for me on a personal level because of my daughter. She loves almost all animals and wanted to be a vet at one point… but the naked mole-rat is the one animal that creeps her out.) In the context of the game, shuln’s kind of a pain in the ass because they destroy armor. Not quite as bad as a rust monster – which also messes up your metal WEAPONS – but it can be an added cost drain and inconvenience to have your armor damaged or ruined mid-adventure.

For most groups. But since this group is almost all clothies (except Alhara), it ends up not being that big a deal. Except for Darius prancing around in the nude, of course. IT’S THE STANCE WITH NO PANTS.

The negative effects of the shuln are ALSO mitigated by Hap hitting one of her biggest single-target spells ever: she’s done more damage against groups, but I think 104 damage is a new single-target record. It turns out to be about half the shuln’s hit points in one shot, and the team is able to take the rest of them down in a single round. So… so much for the shuln. Thought that was going to be a tougher fight than that.

So the exploration continues. The initial investigation of the aeon stone doesn’t really give any hints as to what’s going on. The machine that was draining the last one doesn’t seem to be here, so clearly something else is happening here. Our team’s investigation takes them into what appears to be a golem workshop, with a bunch of golem hands on a table. THAT CAN’T BE ANYTHING BAD, RIGHT?

And like clockwork, the golem hands start moving and making noise. (I can’t be the only one who thought they should’ve started snapping their fingers in unison like in West Side Story, can I? Stay cool, golems!) So… the captain turns on the “something bad is coming” light, and we’re momentarily given a sneak preview of next week’s fight… a pair of dwarven ghosts.

And that’s where we’ll leave it. Since they didn’t use much resources against the shuln, they end this week around the same place they ended last week: a little low on healing, but otherwise still fit to fight. I strongly suspect Ateran has some tricks up their sleeves for dealing with ghosts, but when in doubt, another of those 100-point blasts from Hap would work too. While you’re waiting for next week’s episode, 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.

The Bird’s Eye View S3|09: Gomez’s Four

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|09: Brother From Another Mother.

First things first this week: I’d like to take a moment to welcome Mark Seifter to the extended Roll For Combat/Battlezoo family. OK, he’s doing actual WORK-work and we’re just the bozos screwing around in the basement, so it’s kinda like the guy who played Propeller Guy in Titanic congratulating James Cameron on his Oscar, but hey… I still wanted to give the guy a shout-out on his first day in the RFC treehouse. Besides… his presence means I can plant that “playable red panda ancestry” idea directly. INCEPTION!

This week we begin a new phase in the adventure… that’s right, it’s time for a good old-fashioned subsystem.

Subsystems arose out of the fact that older editions of D&D were really loose about how to handle… well… anything that wasn’t combat. You just kinda winged it, things happened, and either all worked out or people got mad at the GM and/or each other. So there was definitely some room for a system to put some structure to it, in order to tamp down on some of the bruised feelings that sometimes arose from getting too loosey-goosey with things.

That said, I tend to have a love-hate relationship with them. The problem is that some of these systems are really elegant and well done, but some of them just kinda flop around like a fish out of water. And specifically, some of these systems don’t really know what to do with non-skill-monkey characters, and leave some players with little to contribute. You even see a little of this unfold where Lo Mang doesn’t really have MUCH in the way of relevant skills. Similarly, if you go back to the Black Lodge episode where we rebuild the fort, my druid didn’t really have a lot to do because of the way the tasks were allocated. Only time will tell how this one goes.

I won’t regurgitate the whole setup, but basically, the players attempt to complete various skills challenges; if they succeed, they move closer to the goal; if they fail, they generate “awareness points” that increase the overall difficulty if you gain too many of them. And presumably, at some point, you fail entirely if you get too many awareness points.

This is further divided into a preparation phase and an execution phase, and the prepare phase lets you earn “Edge Points”. They’re basically hero points on steroids, because instead of a re-roll, they’re good for an automatic success. HOWEVER, two limitations. The first is that Edge Points are usually related to a specific activity, whereas hero points are generic. So in this first episode, Basil forges documents and gains an Edge Point, but that Edge Point can ONLY be used in a context where the documents would make a difference. The second is that if you fail, you don’t know you fail and might get a FAKE Edge Point. So then you go to use that Edge Point and it blows up in your face. Oops.

The other thing that’s picking at my brain as we start this phase of the adventure is the setup is so weird. Look, I think heist movies, as a genre, are a lot of fun and I’m intrigued to try and play through one. But I’m a little nervous about the execution.

First is that the heist movie has a central conceit that the protagonist(s) is the smartest person in the room and knows EVERYTHING he needs to know to be three steps ahead of the bad guy. It’s a little hard to replicate that dynamic when a) the players don’t know everything and b) even what they think they know, they have to roll to see if their CHARACTERS know it and can execute it properly. It seems like a heist movie tends to have REALLY tight story beats, and a system with a lot of randomnesses could cause issues.

And that’s not to say things can’t go wrong. In fact, in a lot of heist movies, that tends to be a feature: the plan is going smoothly up to a certain point when things go wrong, and our heroes have to adapt their meticulous plans on the fly. I’m not ruling it out as a plot device. I just worry if ANY gaming system is flexible enough to keep up with that.

The other problem I have is that the heist dynamic is chafing against the actual story beats. Put more simply: we’re COPS, robbing a CASINO. You’ll have to explain that one to me, Paizo.

Think about it. It’s stated that Gage Carlyle runs an honest business and doesn’t break any laws (that we know of; for all we know, he could actually turn out to be one of the Twilight Four). So you’re saying we can’t just go to him as officers of the law and say “look, someone may have stored a deadly WMD in your vault, and unless you want your casino to be Ground Zero of Absalom’s destruction, you’ll let us take a look”? He really wouldn’t go for that? That just seems goofy to me. Especially since we have a copy of the key that was legitimately given to us. I know the legal system of Absalom is not meant to be the legal system of 2022 America, but we can’t just go get a warrant?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m absolutely intrigued. It is certainly a scenario unlike anything else I’ve played in recent memory. On that basis alone, I’m willing to give it a shot. But going in, I’ve got this vibe that it’s gonna be a bit of a high-wire act and may just fall apart entirely.

In other news, we also reach Level 10, which among other things, means we get to add the free archetype variant rule. (The Three-Ring Adventure show did this a few months ago.) In my case, I’m doing a bit of a retcon: I’m making the free archetype the wizard multi-class archetype that I originally took at Level 2 anyway, which frees up my feat slots to take the Eldritch Archer archetype starting at Level 6, plus a few other extras to fill in the holes where the wizard feats used to be.

I swear, I never even conceived of adding archery to my build; I was always going to be Sherlock Holmes, and my sword cane was pretty much going to be my bread and butter. But I’ve been coming around on the bow. It’s a little feast-or-famine, but when it lands – and particularly when it CRITS – it’s a thing of beauty. First, it protects me from my own squishiness, which is a positive thing. But I noticed that ranged attacks are a LITTLE more efficient when it comes to Devise a Stratagem. If DaS fails with a melee attack, sometimes I’m not in range of another opponent and have to switch to a spell, which costs me an extra action. With the bow, I can just switch the attack to a different target a lot easier and keep on trucking.

Among other things, I see Enchanting Arrow having some really nice interactions with Devise a Stratagem. Basically, Enchanting Arrow makes your attack cost an extra action, but adds 2d6 mental damage to the shot. I figure if DaS gives me a definite (or even probable) crit, I load as much damage as possible into that shot and double that 2d6 along with everything else. If I fail the DaS, I just plink away with single-action attacks.

The other change which is going to be fun is Suspect of Opportunity. Just to refresh, an Investigator gets to declare two leads that generate bonuses on skill checks related to investigating them, and Devise a Stratagem becomes a free action against that person. But once you set your target, you’re kinda stuck with it, so my leads have usually been the big boss characters. Suspect Of Opportunity lets me add another name to the queue once an hour, preserving the leads that are already there. So if we run into an unexpected challenge, I can put the free-action bonus on them for the duration of the fight and then switch it back to the main lead once we’re done.

Lastly, I wanted to give a brief shout-out to Steve for letting me make a little use of the background material I created for Basil. When we first started the show, I wrote a whole backstory for Basil under the assumption we might try to go a little deeper on the roleplay like the Three-Ring show does. That’s kinda fallen by the wayside a little – the one time we brought Basil’s brother along, half the party just seemed annoyed about it – but it was nice to dust that off and take it for a spin. Honestly, even I’ve kind of abandoned the FULL version of it anyway: if I was still using the whole thing, Basil never would’ve gone home to ask his dad for an invitation because he’s probably in a heap of trouble by now, between dropping out of school and… something else. But it’s nice to know it’s still there and we can dig into it on occasion. And hey… got me a hero point too!

So one day in, Gomez got some gossip, Lo Mang might have a job lined up, Dougie has assessed the building security and layout, and Basil may have created some fake identities that will pass muster. Next episode, we’ll have two more days of prep, and then we get serious about infiltratin’! 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|19: Rat’s the Way I Like It

The encounters continue to bleed and the RFC Crew learn all about the intricacies of the trip maneuver.

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!

Agents of Edgewatch S3|09: Brother From Another Mother

The Agents need to plan an old-fashioned casino heist, what could possibly go wrong?

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|18: Where the Magic Happens

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S3|18: The Commutative Property of Pizza.

Apologies for running late this week, but consider it the downside of my living in an older, slightly drafty house. My furnace can handle the 20s and even teens, but when the temperature gets down into single digits, my furnace struggles to keep up and I retreat into the pile of blankets and dogs known as Blanketopia and hibernate until it’s over. Now sure, I could take my laptop to Panera and write there, but again, that would involve leaving the house in single-digit temperatures, and that’s not happening.

We start this week with the continuation of the battle against the T-Rex, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s just the universal nature of dinosaurs. There are so few things in this world that EVERYONE seems to love – dogs, pizza (the concept itself, though the battle over toppings can get ugly), Tom Hanks… and dinosaurs. I just love how the idea of dinosaurs immediately connects to everyone’s inner five-year-old and brings that level of giddiness. Though let’s be honest: if a 50-foot long reptile came stomping into the local grocery store, most of our reactions would be QUITE different. And not just because it’s not wearing an N95 mask.

Unfortunately, the dinosaur doesn’t really get to stick around very long, as the party has done a pretty solid job spacing out the encounters and can pretty much focus all their attention on the beast. Yeah, it stomps Darius into the ground in an amusingly cartoonish fashion, but other than that, the KING OF THE DINOSAURS makes it 2, maybe 3 rounds before going down. The T-Rex reveal? Fantastic. The actual fight? Kinda underwhelming, if I’m being honest.

The stone golem, on the other hand, not only took us provided much more of a challenge, but it also took us down an extensive rules rabbit-hole, figuring out what did and didn’t count as a magic attack. But before we get to that, let’s get to the reason why it was such a challenge: the golem’s ability to inflict paralyzed, which is… let’s be honest… right up there with doomed as one of the worst status effects in the game. It’s one thing to lose an action or take a -1 to rolls… but basically losing your whole turn (except mental-only actions like Recall Knowledge) and being flat-footed to all attacks? Well, that just sucks.

And of course, paralysis also managed to ruin what HAD been shaping up as one of Alhara’s best days in recent memory. She managed to one-shot a xulgath with a crit. She got a chance to showcase her Combat Reflexes ability that gives her a second attack-of-opportunity (much to Steve’s dismay). For a brief shining moment, this was Vanessa’s build finally running on all cylinders and it was a joy to behold. And then… paralysis followed by a full round of attacks by the golem, and she’s down again. (sigh).

But let’s talk about these magic rules for a bit, because we’ve got a few things worth clarifying there.

At the 30,000-foot “what were the game designers trying to do?” level, golems are designed to mess with casters who get into too much of a pattern and don’t diversify their spellbook enough. If you you’re a caster who doesn’t have a variety of ways to do damage, you’re kinda screwed. And… although Loren did it for roleplay reasons rather than min-maxing, Hap is particularly golem-unfriendly since most of her spells are fire-based.

But at least in this fight, she gets around it with the decanter of endless water, which gives her a water spell, albeit a Level 1 spell that’s got a lower DC. And she can turn into an elemental, which it turns out is a way of getting around the restriction.

Because here’s the thing: golem anti-magic is not the same thing as vulnerability and resistance. It’s kinda pedantic, but I’ve gotten into things with Second Edition where I fall back on keywords when I don’t understand how something’s supposed to work. Vulnerability and resistances are pretty much always spelled out, and if you look at the golem’s statblock, its only resistance is Physical 10, and it has NO vulnerabilities. Among other things, that implies that non-magical versions of those damage types don’t really apply against the anti-magic and should go through normally, right?

So, when it comes to Hap’s elemental form, her interpretation was correct. Yes, the spell that turned her into an elemental form was magical, but once she’s in that form, the attacks are her base attacks, not a “spell or magical ability” and the damage should be treated as non-magical fire. At that point, it would’ve still been relevant if the golem had fire resistance, but golem anti-magic would not factor in.

And OK, I probably would’ve given Ateran their telekinetic projectile as well. The magic doesn’t target the golem directly; they’re using magic to throw a rock – if they picked up the same rock off the ground and threw it, it would only be subject to physical damage reduction. Not sure why using magic to fling the rock makes it a spell attack, unless the idea is that the object does more damage that the same object would have done if flung non-magically.

On the other hand, these same interpretations would imply the party got away with one they shouldn’t have: Vanessa’s trick with the bag of holding and the lake water. The golem isn’t vulnerable to water, which would be the “Wicked Witch Of The West” thing where ANY water touching it would harm it. It’s part of the golem’s anti-magic, which means only magical water spells or effects would’ve triggered the extra damage. So take that away, and the water was just ordinary water. While I’m sure having 25 gallons of water dumped on your head is uncomfortable, it wouldn’t really damage you; it would just be a really awkward reenactment of the scene from Flashdance.

Going back to the last episode for a second, it’s also unlike that the Aroden boon to raise the water level in the area would’ve done anything either. In this case, it’s a spell, yes, but it’s not attacking the golem directly, it’s just raising the level of non-magical water in the area. The extended language on golem anti-magic’s Harmed/Healed/Slowed effects says “any magic that targets the golem” (emphasis mine). The Aroden boon doesn’t directly target the monster; it targets the surrounding water. Hence… no bonus damage, and therefore probably no damage at all – you don’t take damage from your bathtub filling either.

If there’s a gray area in this whole business, it’s probably where it intersects with magical weapons, and specifically property runes. The fundamental runes integrate into the weapon itself and just increase the ability to hit and the PHYSICAL damage of the weapon. But the property rune? On one hand, it’s still part of the base attack; on the other hand, one could argue it’s a “magical ability” and therefore the extra typed damage should be subject to the golem anti-magic. If there’s a tiebreaker here, it would be the expanded text of the Harmed/Healed/Slowed sections of the golem anti-magic, where it says “magic of any type”… that makes it sound like property runes should DEFINITELY be treated as subject to golem anti-magic.

Also, I feel like the math in Pathfinder is SO tight that an effect that COMPLETELY negates magical weapons, coupled with physical damage reduction, would just screw melee characters over so completely that it would be game-breaking. The rune system is one of the KEY mechanisms to keep characters competitive with monsters; if you pull that rug out from under them, that’s halfway to sending them into battle as Level 1 characters.

So yeah… golems turn out to be a lot more complicated than we realized. Part of me feels like this is getting off into the weeds like this; another part of me feels like this sort of deep-dive is EXACTLY why we keep this column around.

The real question is: is anyone gonna send ME a pizza for grinding through all these different parts of the rulebook?

The good news is the party eventually gets the golem down, and the overall battle is over. (Love how we just kinda glossed over the xulgaths, for the most part.) So now the decision is whether to continue on and hope most/all of the resistance was outside the tower, or continue on. The main danger is that Ateran is mostly out of healing, though the party still has consumables and most of their battle medicine timers are up. I’d also observe more at the metagame level that the stone itself was unguarded at the last tower; it’s just that getting to it was the tough part. If that pattern holds (because among other things, this chapter of the adventure expects us to visit three towers), that makes me feel like this was the big resistance and the tower itself should be mostly unguarded.

Am I right? I guess we’ll find out 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 back here next week.

Three Ring Adventure S3|18: The Commutative Property of Pizza

The encounters continue to bleed and the RFC Crew learn all about the intricacies of the trip maneuver.

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.

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The Bird’s Eye View S3|08: Everybody Wants to Be My Frenemy

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|08: Parlay?

So, a funny thing happened on the way to the sub-boss fight…

We pick up this week with Bloody Berleth, leader of the Diobel Sweepers, inviting us upstairs to chat. Now, OK, this could all be a trap, but I suppose there’s no real harm in finding out. Also, there’s a little pragmatic fatalism – if he’s got 10 more guys upstairs, we’re gonna have to fight them sooner or later anyway, so might as well just get to it. If Berleth’s deal turns out to be legit, it’ll be a nice little bonus. So up we go to potentially make a deal, or potentially put our own necks in a noose.

So we head upstairs, first noticing that the stairs are trapped. Would’ve made things interesting if we’d just charged up after him. (Though I’d note it will also make things equally interesting if this is a trap and we have to retreat with the trap re-armed.)

We get up to Berleth’s office, light refreshments are served, and the lay of the land becomes a little more clear. Both he and Maurrisa have keys to a lockbox in the Lucky Nimbus casino: Maurrisa never explicitly mentioned that the “something” she was going to give us was her key, but it seems pretty heavily implied now. That lockbox probably contains a WMD, which – skipping around a little – is a larger bomb version of the substance that was set loose in the menagerie back in our first episode(s). For the moment the device is “safe” because neither leader can actually go into the casino – they’re both banned because of the war between the factions. But when you’re talking about an unattended WMD in the middle of the city, “safe” is a really relative term.

So Berleth’s offer is his copy of the key, and his price is pretty much the same as hers: destroying his rival. Only his is a little more palatable insofar as he just wants the location of her gang and he’ll do the dirty work himself.

Essentially, they’re both offering the same bargain with roughly the same ramifications – other than one leads to combat here and now – and it’s a matter of which horse we want to back. There are pluses and minuses to both sides, they’re both kinda scummy, but at the end of the day, neither faction is the big fish and at some point, we just have to hold our nose and pick one and get on with the main quest.

We KNOW Maurrisa Jonne is the one who worked with the Skinner, and that immediately makes her suspect. It’s easy to say you didn’t want to work with them once their boss is dead and your involvement is public knowledge. On the other hand, if she wanted us dead, she could’ve just killed us when we returned Gord. She had a fairly clean opportunity to be rid of us and passed. We also know – from the general background – that she had mellowed out a little after the bust that led to Berleth’s imprisonment. So maybe there’s SOME truth to her being a less-than-fully-willing participant.

On the other hand, there’s Bloody Berleth. We can certainly assume he’d say just about anything to get rid of Maurrisa to get revenge for turning him in. Also, we sorta know (or can assume) that 10 years ago, the police considered him the bigger threat, since they were willing to cut Maurrisa a deal to put him away. You throw away the little fish to get the big one; that’s LITERALLY what we’re doing now. There’s also the nickname “Bloody”: I don’t know if Steve just made a mistake, or he was having Berleth lie and we were supposed to catch it, but his nickname was “Blessed Berleth” while he and Maurrisa were working together; “Bloody” was a reinvention AFTER he got out of prison. So fancy clothes and fruity drinks aside, this guy isn’t totally on the up-and-up.

There’s also the nature of their specific crimes, which seemed to sway Chris the most out of us. The Dogs’ crimes are simple and obvious stuff, literally assaulting and robbing people, and running protection rackets. The Sweepers’ crimes are a little more ambiguous in that way. What do recreational drugs mean in this context? Should we treat them as the local weed-man, or the Mexican cartels? And OK, I never raised this point, but that bomb in the lockbox was an alchemical device: are we absolutely sure the Sweepers weren’t ALSO working for the Skinner? Or perhaps the Twilight Four are puppetmasters, and a different member of the Four was working with Berleth.

I’ll put it this way: at a meta-level I don’t THINK the choice has any broader implications – I think the point within the flow of the adventure was to choose one and move on. But as I’m re-listening to these episodes, we didn’t REALLY scrutinize Berleth as much as maybe we should’ve.

Certainly, expedience says we should side with Berleth. First, it means we don’t have to fight anyone else. Second, it means he puts his copy of the lockbox key into our hand NOW, rather than having to jump through any more hoops.

And OK, killer alchemists who dress fashionably are still a more respectable gang than killer newsies. Purely from a fashion standpoint, Absalom is better off with the Sweepers winning the war.

You do see Seth and I (in particular) wrestling with alternate plans that admittedly sound pretty silly on re-listen. Seth tries to singlehandedly broker peace between two people who have had a decade to hate each other (and, as we’re learning for the first time, ex’es too). Meanwhile, I come up with some weird-ass plan that involves faking Berleth’s death to get Maurrisa to show her cards. To be honest, this plan is so confusing and stupid that even I don’t know what I was thinking in offering it. I wouldn’t presume to speak for Seth, but for me, it was a matter of feeling conflicted about helping EITHER gang destroy the other, even if it would probably be a net positive for the war to be over. Much like James Tiberius Kirk, that was me wrestling with the no-win scenario and trying to come up with a Kobayashi Maru alternative that hadn’t been considered.

But I think at the end of the day, we decided to take Berleth’s deal because it was on the table now and moved us forward. If there are consequences to be dealt with later… well, it sounds like one side or the other will be removed from play, and we can always come back and thump the winner later when we’re at a higher level.

Speaking of which… Level 10 is here! Needless to say, I’m excited – not only is 10 a big level on its own, but Steve is going to let us go back and retroactively apply the free archetype variant rule as he did for the Three-Ring Adventure show a couple of months ago. I have to admit, though, that the flow of the show was weird because we STARTED to talk about how we were going to level our characters but then stopped halfway through because we weren’t all equally prepared to follow through. So there was some good information about what we were thinking, but there was also a bunch of complaining about Hero Lab’s cost structure and giving John the link to Pathbuilder like… three separate times. So the last 10 minutes or so was a tough listen: some of the information there was definitely worth keeping, but I also don’t envy whoever had to edit around some of the chaff.

I’m probably going to save our Level 10 builds for next time, just to start fresh. But next time out, it’s a new level AND the adventure moves into a new phase, as apparently, we are going to have to pull off a casino heist. Because cops stealing things from casino vaults is totally a thing that happens all the time.

Is this where we turn to a life of crime and the Edgewatch spends the next three books chasing us? I guess we’ll find out next time. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S3|08: Parlay?

The Agents face the big bad boss this week, and instead of a massive fight, they are invited to sit down for high tea?

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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