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The Sideshow S3|28: The Clan With the Plan

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S3|28: Be Vewy Vewy Quiet, I’m Hunting Xulgaths!!.

As I sit down to write about this week’s episode, it dawns on me that “they know we’re coming” is  a much more common trope in movies and TV than in the TTRPG world. There’s like… a whole John Wick movie about it. But in the TTRPG world, the normal mode of operation is that NPCs exist in suspended animation until the party stumbles into the room they’re in, at which point they spring to life and it’s time to fight. Even when the story positions them as guards, their “guard duty” tends to be physically occupying space the players need to move through, waiting for an initiative roll to kick them into gear.

For comparison’s sake, we just recently dealt with a similar situation in our Edgewatch game, where we were infiltrating a alchemical lab. There were guards around the exterior, but not patrolling: just enough of an inconvenience to require a Stealth roll, but no more than that. Once we got into the building, there were two NPCs who were playing chess in the room next to where we entered, but they didn’t notice our entry because they were playing chess.

So this week creates an interesting bit of strategy because our xulgath foes really do “know they’re coming”, in that they’re actively aware of the party’s efforts and have gone from passive protectors of the MacGuffin to an active security force.

But we’ll get there in a second. First up… Level 11 characters, though it’ll be brief because Level 11 tends to be one of those boring ones, at least for melees (casters at least get their level 6 spells). Well, maybe not boring, but 11’s biggest changes tend to be baked-in class abilities, so it’s a bit of a down level for player choice. That’s not meant as a criticism: there’s 20 levels, they can’t all be gems, and your character does get more powerful at the end of the day. But it is true that the part of the leveling where you get to pick out cool new stuff is… a skill feat, and a skill increase at a time where some classes don’t have a lot of skills to invest it in.

I do like the skill feat Loren took for Hap where she’s now a minor celebrity and can tap into that in any city the circus visits. It’s a neat little way to jump start information gathering in a new location, so it should fit the traveling circus theme well. I’m not sure how word of mouth gets around in a pre-technological world, but I’m sure magic will provide a way. I seem to recall that Starfinder has something similar, because I had a rolled a kasatha assassin/celebrity chef for Society play who either took or was thinking about taking the same feat. But it’s also been a while since I played him, so I might be remembering things wrong.

(As an aside, it’s kind of a shame I haven’t gone back to that character. Imagine Guy Fieri as a six-limbed contract killer who uses his equivalent of “Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins” as his cover story for traveling the galaxy murdering people, and you’ve got the gist. Really wanted to do more with him.)

We also had an interesting interlude about death, sparked by the realization that Ateran is close to being able to bring players back from the dead. That is interesting on its own merits, but doubly so when learning about Loren’s firm rule about, essentially, permadeath. That’s right: it turns out Hap has a DNR in place.

We’ve discussed this elsewhere, particularly back when Darius should’ve died, but when characters die, Steve tends to leave options unless you did something REALLY foolish to end up that way. And he tends to make the final choice of whether to come back or re-roll the player’s. So Loren’s saying she won’t take that off-ramp if it ever happens to Hap. Interesting.

I’m not sure I could ever be that absolute about things. I will admit I have some general sympathy for the position that if you die, you die, and pulling some rabbit out of the hat to stay alive feels a little too consequence-light. But I can’t QUITE bring myself to be as absolutist as Loren about it. If the worst should happen to one of my characters, it would honestly depend on how I felt about the character at the time. Part of it would be tactical, just because after playing a character for a year or two, sometimes it starts to get a little stale, and maybe trying something else would be liberating. But it’s also important how I’m feeling about my character’s journey at that point. We don’t roleplay AS heavily as the circus group does, but I do care about where my character’s overall journey ends up. There have been places in our story where I’ve felt “if we died here, I could live with it” and other places where I’d take ANY escape hatch because it didn’t feel like the right way to finish Basil’s story.

Anyhow, back to our story at hand. The group journeys forth to the last tower, and Ateran does a little Kirkland-brand Eye of Kilrogg scouting, and… this is going to be a challenge because the xulgaths really are prepared this time. They have a good defensive position with basically ONE point of entry, and the guards are actively patrolling. Specifically, they have to get up to a pair of raised platforms and then cross a bridge with no hand-rail, all of which is actively guarded. They probably can’t even do the bag of holding trick because the xulgaths will see it land and just… pick it up and toss it in a fire or something. (At that point, do they just wink out of existence immediately, or does their EXIT disappear, and they suffocate to death? ENQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW.)

Fortunately, the party has another tool up their sleeve: invisibility sphere. Basil’s had this spell for a little while now, so I’m familiar with it. The various rules for what happens when people leave the sphere or attack from within it get a little crunchy, but the short answer is, if you stay close together and party-move as one, you can stay invisible for 10 minutes.

Doesn’t help with sounds or the possibility that the xulgaths will see the ladder reacting to the party’s weight on it, and Steve could get nitpicky about situations where they have to switch to single-file movement… but it’s a plan for now. So the party begins to ascend, until the point where the xulgaths seem like they might have noticed the party’s presence.

OK, so… change of plans. The new plan will be that Darius will go up first and establish a beachhead, and hold the first platform while everyone else gets up to the platform. And the first part of the plan goes like clockwork. Not only does Darius get up to the platform, but Hap gives him a wall of fire to throw people through, and Darius chucks one xulgath over the side. So far, so good… right?

Except that’s when the alarm goes up and all hell breaks loose. Specifically, two things happen. First, the xulgaths drop a torch on the lower grounds, creating a nice little bonfire down below the platforms. And then, the party learns the hard way that the ladder isn’t as secure as they thought, as the remaining xulgath pulls a pin that releases the whole thing into freefall!

And that’s where we’ll leave things for 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.

Three Ring Adventure S3|28: Be Vewy Vewy Quiet, I’m Hunting Xulgaths!!

The end is in sight as the RFC Crew tackles the last tower! Okay, not actually the last tower, but the last tower in this book!

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|18: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|18: Backstage at the Big Show.

I’m gonna start this week with the briefest of tabletop-adjacent reviews. You are hereby ordered… OK, more of a suggestion, maybe… to check out Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands if you’re also a video gamer. It’s a D&D/Skyrim-type game set inside the world of the Borderlands series (basically the premise is Borderlands characters playing a TTRPG to kill time after crashing their ship), and it’s a cheeky-but-affectionate send-up of all of our favorite TTRPG tropes. The only “bad” news is that it’s still ultimately a shooter with guns as the primary combat mechanism, but they managed to replicate most of the other TTRPG trappings, with magic filling the role that consumables might otherwise have played. It was enough fun that it ate up a good chunk of my weekend, so… my suggestion is to pick it up or at least watch a more complete review and see if it’s something you might be interested in. If nothing else, it’s far less frustrating than dying over and over in Elden Ring.

OK, that’s over with. On with the show.

I’m not going to go back and rehash last week’s battle too much more, except to mention one thing Steve touched on in his show notes. Flight. Steve mentioned that this battle could end up a lot different if we fought from the air, and… I should mention that I did consider it. Taking the fight vertical and plunking away with the bow from 50 feet in the air was certainly an option, but I rejected it for a few reasons.

First, this is going to be a single-day scenario, so I only get to use flight once. I have a general vibe that I want to save my flight for the final bomb encounter, especially if we get in a situation where emergency evac – ourselves, the bomb, victims — is involved. As frustrating as this fight is, it’s supposed to be non-lethal combat so let’s not waste one of our best hole cards.

Second, I’m not going to fully math out the numbers, but it’s iffy how effective it would’ve been. I get 5 minutes of flight, so… 50 rounds. Each round, I’d have to save one of my three actions just to stay in the air, so I’d have two actions to work with. Meaning two attacks that would do fairly minimal damage, or one Strategic Strike attack that might get precision damage if it hits, and probably only crits on a Nat-20. So, if the rest of the party starts falling, would I really be able to grind down four of them all by myself? And that’s the best case, assuming they don’t have any attacks that work at range. Or that they wouldn’t be clever enough to threaten to kill the rest of the party if I didn’t come down and fight. If they’re smart, they might also be ruthless too.

Also, Steve did give us that warning about playing to the crowd, and I figured flying up high and shooting arrows would’ve come across as cowardly and made for poor spectacle. I don’t know HOW losing the crowd might have hurt us, but I didn’t want to take the chance.

But whatever. What’s done is done. We lost, but it’s only a temporary inconvenience and a mild bruising of our collective pride. Time to get back to the meat-and-potatoes of our investigation.

I should mention, you’ll notice that some of my actions carry the assumption that we’re dealing with an airborne release. I have no special inside knowledge here, it just seems logical given the physics of the thing. If you set off a bomb that worked based on direct contact or ingestion, it would only affect the small number of people fairly close to the detonation, so I assume the general mechanism is to make it airborne to infect as many people as possible. So when I’m looking for places to get up high and let the wind carry it, it’s not like I cheated and read ahead in the adventure; it’s just a product of growing up in post-9/11 world where speculating about “dirty bombs” became dinner-table conversation for a few months there.

OK, that got a little dark there.

So we wander around… not having a lot of luck at first… until we get a possible sighting over at the animal pens. We arrive on the scene, and my first impression is “OK, something’s gonna break out of a cage and we’re going to have to fight some of these”. But fortunately that doesn’t happen.

What DOES happen is a big pile of poop. Because of course it does. It’s more evident on the circus side where they deal with animals more regularly, but this show has a track record: if Steve can make us interact with poop in some way, he will. This time, Gomez draws the short straw and has to help the head game-keeper dig through a bunch of dung to help her. But the payoff is a further lead: that Franca likes to hang out with a bunch of lizardfolk gladiators.

So we go look for those dudes. There’s another “OK, these cages are going to bust open” interaction with the trollhounds, but it’s another false alarm, and Basil finds a sorta-secret door that leads into the lower infrastructure of the stadium. And a Norgerber mark to give us a bread-crumb that we’re on the right trail. (I suppose that also firms up the theory that Franca is in league with them and not some rando who happened to stumble on the device.)

So we explore what amounts to the prehistoric locker rooms. For a long time there was little of note, though the various references to running water and hydraulics made me briefly consider that the device was going to involve a water-based release. But nope… it’s just part of the ambience; the pipes are old and out of service. Finally we stumble on a room with a standing pool of water, with a ring in the center. John briefly forgets he’s not playing Mister Peepers anymore and charges out into the middle of the room, and the proximity alarm goes off. Lizardfolk off the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow.

And that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Agents of Edgewatch S3|18: Backstage at the Big Show

The Agents entered the Blood City Games, and promptly got destroyed in the first round. Hopefully, their detective skills are better than their gladiatorial skills.

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|27: Slay It With Flowers

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S3|27: Flower Power.

I have to admit that my inner child is disappointed in this week’s episode.

Carnivorous plants were always such a cool thing to me growing up. Particularly the Venus flytrap – here’s this plant sitting around, minding its own business, a fly lands on it and CHOMP. Also just the fact that most plants make do with chlorophyl, but not this one. Why have SUN JUICE when you can have sweet tasty dissolved bug paste?

So I was really looking forward to seeing a Pathfinder take on a carnivorous plant, and you give me one that’s already dead? What the hell, Paizo!

At first, I was also a little angry on the party’s behalf because it seems like Audrey II being dead would’ve been something the party should’ve noticed… maybe even something that should’ve been obvious. But then I thought about it and I guess that’s the difference between starting with a Recall Knowledge instead of a Perception or Medicine roll. Now that I think about it (though it’s going back to last week’s episode), Ateran chose to lead off with a Recall Knowledge, so they got all the Encyclopedia Britannica info on the plant, but didn’t actually check for a pulse. And at the risk of being snotty with my backseat driving, they weren’t in rounds yet, so they would’ve had time to do both.

(We have an editorial clarification: we were talking about this later in group chat, and Steve mentioned that when Alhara was walking the perimeter, she did get a secret Nature check to notice whether the plant was dead, but she failed it.)

Nevertheless, the decision having been made, the party started sneaking around the dead plant in the middle of the clearing and ended up walking right into the real threat: the countefloras. Which, to my surprise, is not an Italian salad, but a form of evil dandelion. The interesting thing about these guys is that they basically have two modes: in their normal mode, their spore-spewing almost makes them the equivalent of a caster, or they can draw in their… petals, fronds, whatever… and it hardens up both their defenses and offense and turns them into more brute-like mode.

Among other things, their spores re-introduce us to the fascinate condition, which… unless I’m missing something… feels like the most useless status effect in the game. Basically, you just have to focus your attention on the creature that fascinated you. It doesn’t prevent you from attacking, so it’s almost totally useless against melee. It’s not even a berserk-like thing that prevents you from casting spells – it just makes it so that you can ONLY do so against the creature that fascinated you. And it’s broken if a creature takes a hostile action against the fascinated target OR its party-mates.

Really, thinking about it, there’s only a couple useful aspects to it. First, I suppose it can create a short-term lockout for attacks of opportunity or other reactions: if you’re fascinated by Creature #1, Creatures 2 through 4 can do whatever they want and you won’t be able to react to it. The other use case would be disrupting a party healer if there is one, since their utility relies primarily on being able to target other people. But even then… it only lasts until the next enemy attack.

One way to fix fascinate MIGHT be to make it so the target doesn’t become unfascinated until the creature that attacked it takes a hostile action. That is, if you’re SO fixated on Creature #1, you might not even notice Creatures 2 through 4 attacking your friends. Then maybe you could have the fascinator lock out the fascinatee (yep, I’m making up words now) while its allies work on the rest of the party. But even that doesn’t slow things down much because the fascinate target can still come over and start whomping on you with impunity, and if you fight back, the condition ends.

As the fight begins, we get another surprise… at least one of the distillery workers is still alive. I’d been assuming all of them were wiped out, but in a little touch of irony, the worker who fell closest to the carnivorous plant corpse is just hanging on. Interestingly enough, our party decides to stage an impromptu rescue mission, grabbing the downed worker and retreating from the grove. Residual guilt over the earlier incident at the distillery, maybe?

At first glance, it seems like it might be a full-blown retreat, but then the team regroups and decides to go back and fight. And once the initial surprise wears off, the killer flowers turn out to be not SO tough. The good news is that they’re vulnerable to both cold and fire; the bad news is Hap is trying to conserve spells, so she’s more in Poke-Trainer mode than spellslinger mode. Even so, the party is able to rally and dispose of the killer flowers fairly easily.

After the battle, the team revives the lone survivor of the distillery party and get a little more detail on the overall situation. It turns out the distillery workers had been skirmishing against the xulgaths for a while, and had learned a few interesting facts before the killer flowers got them. First, they’re aware of the players’ activities and are fortifying the last tower for an attack. Yeah, that’s not good. Second, we find out that the xulgath leader has some mechanism for transporting between the towers. (At a meta-game level, I suspect this was a way to handle it so that the players could tackle the towers in any order, and the boss would still be at the third one.)

The party considers doing an initial reconnaissance mission up to the tower, but between general depletion of resources and the fact that the xulgaths know they’re coming, the party decides to call it a day and take their survivor back to the distillery. Their return kicks off another round of shaming over Hap’s errant fireball, but good news arrives at the end of the session, as they’ll be levelling up before they take on the final tower next time.

And that’s where we’ll leave it for next time. Our heroes will be more powerful, and – unless some other side mission crops up – they’ll be heading out for the last of the three towers. (And possibly closing in on the end of the book? We’re nearing the upper 20s on episode count, and that’s traditionally about how long a book takes….) Join us next time and find out, I guess. 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.

Three Ring Adventure S3|27: Flower Power

Forget about dragons or demons or titans, this week the RFC Crew faces the most terrifying monster found in Pathfinder — plants!

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|17: They Put the Fear of Dog Into Us

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|17: The Wayward Warriors.

It may surprise some of you to know this, but I have a soft spot in my heart for wrestling. I wouldn’t call it a “guilty pleasure” – I don’t go out of my way to hide it — but I’ll admit it kinda plateaued at a certain level. I never went to a show or ordered a PPV, but when I was travelling for my job it was always guaranteed to be on TV in whatever hotel I was in. I’d say I admired it in the same way one would admire stunt-work in movies: I never took the storylines all that seriously, but some of the athleticism required was (and still is, I suppose) pretty remarkable.

So we’re going to take a detour into wrestling terminology this week. Don’t worry… it’ll all come full circle and be relevant eventually.

First, there’s the concept of the “jobber”. The jobber is the wrestler you barely recognize who loses to the more famous wrestlers because they can’t have ALL the best wrestlers go head-to-head in a given show. The term came about from the days when wrestling was a smaller, more regional business: jobbers were LITERALLY local talent hired to augment the roster and lose to the stars brought in from out-of-town.

Related is the concept of the “squash match”. A squash match is a one-sided mismatch that ends really quickly, usually to establish the winner as a force to be reckoned with in future matches. These concepts are related because you usually want the loser of a squash match to be a jobber, or you’re wasting one performer’s credibility to enhance another’s.

So in this week’s episode, we’re entered into the Blood Games. And it turns out that we were ABSOLUTELY positioned as jobbers, and though it didn’t start out that way, we also got booked into what ended up being a squash match.

The central question of this episode is: were we always supposed to lose this fight, or was it just a case where some things went badly? I feel like it’s the former, and I’m not just trying to protect my own ego here.

On a pure math level, I’ll concede that there MAY have been a path to win. As I pointed out during the show, if you go by pure math, we were probably facing 1100 or so hit points, and the circus folk had just done an episode where they faced over 1400 hit points worth of baddies (though spread out over more, weaker creatures) and survived. And when I see Lo Mang putting up almost 100 points in a single round, it’s impossible for me to rule out that MAYBE there was a path to victory there.

And OK, it was a little point of personal joy to stymie the eberarks’ concealment by rolling out blind fight. I’ve had it for a few sessions now, but it’s never been relevant until now. As I said, I picked it up when we added free archetypes at Level 10; that opened up a few feats, and that was always one of my favorites in First Edition.

On the other hand, it did seem like things were stacked against us, like maybe we were supposed to lose just to get the games behind us and get on with the investigation.

The first guiding principle is the overall scope of our mission. We’ve been told we have one day to find Franca and the bomb. So that means no long rest, no going shopping mid-session… we’ve gotta make it through entirely on what resources we have, and I there’s an expectation that there’s PROBABLY going to be some sort of boss fight at the end when we find Franca. Meaning that if this OPENING fight consumes too many resources, you’re playing the whole scenario with one hand tied behind your back. At a meta level, it doesn’t seem like Paizo would do that to you.

The second reason I say that is the tactical analysis. One bruiser beast as part of a more well-rounded creature “party” could have been manageable. An entire group of bruisers feels like it’s meant to be overwhelming by design. Especially when one considers the battlefield: the fact that we’re fighting in an open arena means there’s no terrain we can use to manage movement, create choke points, etc. If anything, it’s even worse because the eberarks can use their fire trails to create defensive features (they’re immune to fire, we’d take 6d6 fire damage if we walk through it), but we don’t have anything like that unless we brought it with us.

And then there’s that fear effect. That basically steered the whole fight into a ditch we were never truly able to get back out of. Paralysis is one of the worst status effects in the game – you pretty much lose your whole turn except for mental skills like Recall Knowledge — and ALL FOUR of them conceivably had the ability to inflict it. The one saving grace (going back and reading the stat block later) is that once you get hit with this particular ability (Arrogant Taunts) once, you’re immune for 10 minutes. So it’s not like Steve could keep chain-paralyzing us; he basically got one shot at it. But for those of us who failed the save, that was really all he needed. Especially since Gomez – you know… the healer – was one of the ones who got it worst.

As a matter of technicality, I think Gomez could’ve sustained the mephit if he’d wanted. Yes, sustaining a spell takes an action, but it appears to be a mental-only action (no use of the manipulate trait), which would’ve been allowed even while paralyzed. Of course the mephit also failed its save would also have been paralyzed anyway, so sustaining a mephit that just lies there doing nothing would’ve been a pyrrhic victory at best. But it feels worth mentioning in case it’s relevant in some future fight down the road…

So it pretty much takes two rounds for the fight to completely go over a cliff, the party is half-dead, and our contact invokes the mercy rule and stops the fight. I could be petty and say Basil was mostly fine, but let’s be honest that once all four beasties turned their attention to me, that wasn’t going to last. If there’s a bit of silver lining to this cloud, it’s that we got our clocks cleaned SO thoroughly we really didn’t have time to waste any of our big guns. Better resource management through pummeling! So although the whole experience was a little humiliating, we ended up in a decent place tactically. At least it gives us credibility to hang out backstage and look for Franca and the bomb.

One idle thought I was thinking: it would have been interesting to see the Extinction Curse party play through this encounter. Heck, maybe that’s why “Wayward Warriors” popped into my head as a potential group name. When the game master talked about winning the crowd, I’d have been interested in seeing what that gang came up with, since they’ve been working performance into their characters from Day One. Also, more “rubber meets the road”, Hap’s inspire courage skill would’ve given them a slightly better shot of blowing through the paralysis and hanging in the fight a little longer. As it is, our big play to the crowd was Lo Mang somehow dodging an attack while basically out on his feet. Not the stuff of legend, exactly.

So next week, after we heal up and absorb the needling of our fellow gladiators, we get on with the reason we’re here, finding Franca and the bomb. Hope the rest of the fights won’t be as tough as this one was. 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|17: The Wayward Warriors

The Agents have finally tracked down the bomb to the largest arena in the world but they only have 12 hours to find and defuse the bomb, and they have to fight in the Blood City Games!

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|26: Hapocalypse Now

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S3|26: Let’s Not Bicker and Argue Over Who Killed Who.

It’s a weird week on this week’s Roll For Combat. Normally, when an episode is combat-centric, that tends to drive the action: you want to see what sorts of cool things happen during the fight. In this episode, it was almost the complete opposite: you really wanted the combat to hurry up and end to see how the party would handle the can of worms opened up by Hap’s fireball misadventures last week.

It didn’t help that once the combat got going, it was pretty much a complete mismatch. I didn’t sit there and count, but I get a feeling the xulgaths were pretty low-level and navigating the hostage situation was supposed to be the big challenge of this encounter. Not only did they miss a surprising amount of attacks, but I don’t recall them landing a single crit the entire fight. As such, we ended up in a fight where you never got the sense our heroes were in much danger.

It wasn’t a total waste of a fight though, because we really got to see Alhara’s build shine this week, complete with a glorious dose of the “Attack of Opportunity” sound effect. (Note to self: if Alhara should ever die, Vanessa’s next character needs to be a sprite and Steve needs to figure out the audio tricks necessary to make that her full-time voice.) I’ve come to the conclusion that Alhara as a character gets hamstrung when she’s forced to fight defensively, and to get the most out of her, Vanessa needs to get her in situations where she can open up the throttle and go full offense. I feel like a lot of earlier fights followed a pattern where Alhara would leap in, take a bunch of damage as the first one into the breach, and then she’d spend the rest of the battle fighting defensively around that damage. In a fight like this, she’s really able to commit to the build and it’s something to behold.

Within a few rounds, the party has the battle mostly mopped up, and now it’s time for the moment of reckoning with the distillery workers. And… OK, it’s actually a bit anti-climactic. I was expecting anger and we got… mild peevishness, I guess? I sort of get it – this is one of those places where the adventure path probably forces you to color inside the lines, and there’s not a lot of room for the distillery workers to attack the party or flat-out refuse to help them. But their complaints about Hap barbequing their colleagues comes across at the same level of outrage as a restaurant telling a party of two they can’t be seated at a four-top.

On the other hand, Hap’s reaction made up the difference for being quite unexpected. Up until now, Loren has played Hap as not just a reluctant adventurer, but as someone who’s really been conflict-averse and doesn’t want to hurt anyone. But this time… Hap has snapped and it’s the emergence of Dark Hap. (A lot of people are already making the Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix comparison on our Discord channel.) It’s going to be interesting to see if this is just a short-term defense mechanism to having screwed up – that is, Hap knew she was wrong, but wasn’t going to admit it in the moment — or an actual new direction for Loren’s character.

This new version of Hap makes a good point that’s also a bad point. Her good point is that xulgaths aren’t known for taking prisoners, and probably would’ve just started killing the hostages as soon as the fight broke out anyway. And… she’s not wrong about that, up to a point.

But that raises the valid counter-point: WHY did these xulgaths go against type and take hostages? If it was to get the remaining distillery crew to come out… that implies they needed the distillery intact for some reason, doesn’t it? If they’d just wanted to go on a rampage, they could’ve just burnt it to the ground with the people inside. It feels like maybe there was some larger goal here, so what was that? This “larger goal theory” is also reinforced by the one xulgath having a crude map to the distillery… they didn’t just stumble on this place by accident; they were specifically sent here by someone.

Also, at a meta-game level, it raises the possibility that maybe there was a diplomatic solution to this encounter that got missed. I know the group has gotten in the habit of attacking on sight, but maybe there was a way to talk through this one.

Once the initial kerfuffle dies down, we learn a few interesting things from the townspeople. First, they’ve had a death similar to the ones back in Turpin Rowe – tied to a tree, bleeding from the nose, etc. We also learn that there are other members of the distillery crew missing in action. A messenger was sent to Turpin Rowe, and that person never arrived, which created some of the fog-of-war that led to the death of the hostages. But we also learn that a fairly large party of eight distillery workers left for the aeon tower – also unaccounted for.

Armed with that information, it seems like for the moment, all roads lead to the tower. However en route, our party gets a bit of a surprise, as they stumble upon the remains of the distillery force… apparently killed by killer plants. Did the xulgaths summon these plants? Is it related to the malevolent fey we’ve been seeing in these parts? Or was it just random bad luck that a killer venus flytrap happened to be on the route between the distillery and the tower?

Alhara begins to do a little recon of the situation, giving the flytrap a wide berth… but manages to stumble into range of a spore cloud, signalling the beginning of combat. And that’s where we’ll pick it up 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.

Three Ring Adventure S3|26: Let’s Not Bicker and Argue Over Who Killed Who

Hap was a little trigger happy last week with her Fireball spell, and this week she has to face the music.

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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