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Talking Plaguestone 24: The GM Giveth, The GM Taketh Away

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 24: Medieval Regression Search.

I have to start with an admission – I didn’t actually remember big chunks of this episode as I was listening to it. I remembered the broad strokes that Celes had to go scrounging through Uncle Targie’s basement. I remember spending a surprisingly large amount of handwringing about the ethics of stealing the everburning torch. But the chest with the scroll with the evil writing (abyssal, I’m guessing?)… I remembered none of that. I’d ask if the rest of the group reconvened at a later date and recorded more material without me, but I can even hear my voice in there a few times, so… nope… I was there. Chalk it up to some combination of “we recorded this a month or two ago” and “I’m in three different games at the moment”.

I have to admit, Celes’ side quest is shaping up as my favorite of the four, and here’s why I think that is. Unless Vanessa and Steve got together and wrote this on the side, she gets to learn something she didn’t know about her own character and done right, that’s a pretty awesome idea. If I’ve got one pet peeve about these games in general, it’s that the path is pretty much laid out for you from 1-20; there are never truly any surprises. (So much so that you can literally map out what your character will look like at every level along the way if you want to.) Yeah, you might take some feats in different orders or the rebels amongst us might multiclass, but even those choices operate within the guard rails of the what the rulebook dictates – you just bolt a few new pieces on the chassis and move on. You’ve always been the wood elf ranger at the Overlook, Mister Torrance.

But consider this quest Celes is on. It manages to provide rich material for storytelling – every spell Celes casts commits her to more servitude after death – while mostly staying out of the way of the gameplay in the here-and-now. The curse isn’t so drastic as to stop her from tossing out a heal if one of us is going to drop, but it certainly tweaks her motivations and make her choices more interesting – both in combat and in the sorts of things she wants to investigate and what she chooses to do with her time between adventures. Contrast that with something like arbitrarily making her blind or severing her connection to magic, which would just make the character unworkable without necessarily creating a better story.

That actually dovetails with something Steve talked about in the intro – this idea of “taking toys away” from players if they unbalance the game. And I’d place that in contrast to GIVING players “freebies” to reward out-of-the-box thinking (Brixley basically getting free fire resistance for his mount). And I think to see the whole picture, you have to pull out and widen the focus on the storytelling rather than just the combat game.

One thing that’s important to remember is that when it comes to the rules, they aren’t just rules, they also represent part of the world-building of the environment the story takes place in. Take the idea that casters can’t wear heavy armor. OK, at a simple level, that creates a game mechanic that explains why you can’t just roll a party of TankMages, but it also creates some of the understanding of how magic interacts with the world, so OK… it’s hard to access the arcane forces while wearing heavy armor. So it follows that allowing things that undermine or break the rules (or are even just too powerful) also have the potential to undermine the world-building and damage the integrity of the story itself.

(You know… like the Force going from an energy field that exists to all things to some virus you catch on Spring Break at Panama City. Freakin’ midichlorians, man…)

That’s not to say you can’t reward creative thinking. If people think of a way to use something you thought was harmless in an unorthodox way that’s genuinely clever and makes for a good storytelling moment, go for it. One of the sneaky things about the Harry Potter series is how much use he gets out of what would be his Level 1 and Level 2 spells. If someone does something genuinely clever in the moment, reward away! But if your characters find a way to use something that becomes an I WIN button and makes the story boring? Yank it, and feel no shame or guilt in doing so. At some point, the story comes first. (Be particularly heavy-handed if they come prepared with enough rules citations to argue before the Supreme Court; at that point, even THEY know they’re trying some shady shit.)

If it’s the scenario Steve described where you already gave them something and have to roll it back, I would suggest you try to do it during downtime to avoid creating ill will – pulling tools away from a party in the middle of a dungeon slog when they’ve already committed some of their resources based on having something available would be frustrating as a player. As a player, I probably know that nuclear bomb I crafted from a potato isn’t REALLY gonna fly, but if you let me burn through all my Level 3-5 spells and THEN tell me, I’m still gonna be a little annoyed. If you tell me at the tavern between dungeon slogs, I can adjust to the new normal.

At the end of the day, the key thing to remember is that the worst thing for any table is an adversarial relationship between a GM and his or her players. I know the mechanics of the combat system sometimes drive things that way – we players are killing their monsters, so we’re “against” each other – but the important thing to remember is, as an act of collaborative storytelling, we really are in this together. As it pertains to this concept of “taking toys away”, that does sometimes mean putting a muzzle on the internal rules-lawyer and remembering a GM has reasons for things they do. They are the ones that see the whole picture, and if they think something’s going to unbalance and ruin weeks or months of gaming, they have an obligation to do something about it.

Of course, the caveat is that the GM should have a good reason for doing it, and not just “I’m pissed because they’re winning too easily”. And you build that trust by using the other side of the coin – if your players come up with something genuinely good, reward them even if it’s not quite rules as written. That’s one of the reasons I’ve come to trust Steve over the years – yes, he’ll occasionally overrule (cough-Chris-cough) people when they try to do something unbalancing, but he’ll also give out the occasional freebie as he did with the fire resistance. I was prepared to exist for a level or two with a firecat I couldn’t ride, but I think Steve appreciated that was a better story development than a boring old magic sword, so he gave me a freebie to help out with it. See? It all evens out.

Well, that’s all I’ve got this week. I realize I didn’t write about the episode itself very much, but such are the winds of inspiration. Especially when it’s a Celes episode and I’m still trying to get back into the routine after the new year. Next week, I believe we begin the final (or so we think) assault on Vilree’s hideout at Spite’s Cradle. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 23: Technicolor Drizzt

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 23: The Legend of Ol’ Woody.

With Steve on vacation, I get to be the first to welcome you to… “RFC2020” (assuming I’m doing jazz hands). I hope you rang in the new year well, whether that’s partying up or… say… binge-watching the entire first season of The Witcher. You know… as I’ve heard people do.

This is one of those episodes I’ve been waiting for. This is my Dead Poets Society moment where Ethan Hawke has to freeform the “sweaty-toothed madman” poem about Walt Whitman. I knew where I wanted it to go, but didn’t know how I’d get there, and it was a little bit of an unnerving whirlwind of roleplay. But I think it turned out well in the end.

Let’s pull back the curtain a little bit. I’ll admit that Steve and I coordinated the broadest of strokes – that I would take Divine Steed if we could work out a way that Fire Kitty could be my steed. I’ll admit I briefly considered just surprising Steve at the table to see how he handled it, but realistically, it had to be that way because I had rules questions I needed him to answer before committing. If I misunderstood the rules and saddled myself with a steed I couldn’t use (or if Fire Kitty couldn’t work and I just ended up with a boring old horse), that would suck. So it couldn’t be a surprise to EVERYONE. Beyond that, everything else was ad-libbed, and I specifically didn’t let the rest of the group know because I wanted somebody to be surprised.

As an aside, this was also why I trained in Nature – figured it would be useful in handling the pet. At the time I chose to play it off as story-telling… “Brixley immersed himself in nature, it was helpful for the campaign, blahblahblah”… but it was All Part Of The Plan. For similar reasons, I thought about taking Ride as my general feat, but that would’ve given the game away, and I can always take it later.

The first question I had for Steve was a fairly specific rules-lawyer: do ALL the rules for animal companions apply to mounts or is it just a mount? The dirty little secret is that mounted combat – at least at low levels – doesn’t really get you that much. You don’t get extra actions, the mount shares your penalty for multiple attacks… other than the fact that your mount gives your attacks a special property (for cats, I think it’s a trip effect or something), there’s really not much point. Again, this is at low levels: at higher levels, there are feats that can make it more efficient. But at low levels, it’s tactically underwhelming.

But here’s where it gets interesting… a champion’s steed is also described as an “animal companion”, and Paizo is usually pretty intentional when it comes to using keywords. An animal companion can be given commands that serve as a 2-for-1 action trade – you use one action to give your animal companion two. (If you’re listening to our Dead Suns Starfinder show, it’s not dissimilar to the Tuttle-CHDRR dynamic.) If you can use a divine steed THAT way, it starts to become more useful. Though also a little ranger-y. Like Technicolor Drizzt.

The second question as more obvious and high-level: how would I be allowed to ride a cat that’s on fire all the time? I had been thinking that maybe Steve could arrange to put a ring of fire resistance in a future treasure haul, or perhaps that Metamon could help craft a saddle that has fire resistance or something. But that was one of those things where if Steve agreed we’d at least solve it at SOME point, I was willing to play the long game and defer to Steve as to how, and even WHEN, we’d deal with it. If I could use it as a non-rideable pet in the short term, I was willing to let the fire issue be something we’d solve over a longer timeframe. It turns out Steve decided to hand-wave it and just give it to me, so… yay me, I guess!

So figuring out those rules questions was the extent of the coordination. Everything else was whipped up in the moment. From my standpoint, my thinking on using the church was twofold. First, it would just generally preserve the element of surprise until the last possible minute rather than just saying “oh, by the way, Fire Kitty is my pet now” when we leveled up. Second, I was thinking that conducting my Divine Ally ritual at the church would be a way to give Steve a window to maybe fold the reward from that side quest into this or include Metamon in the logistical side of things. The specifics of the ritual, including dragging Old Woody into it, having to make a toast, throwing open the doors, going on the victory ride… that was all just me and Steve figuring out where to take it in the moment.

I have to admit there was one moment I laughed out loud at while re-listening: when I describe drinking Old Woody as being a “good role model”, and Rob deadpans “yes, gather the children”. I don’t know if I was too locked in on how I was going to roleplay the ritual to appreciate that the first time, but something about the way he delivered that line killed me.

In moments of calm, I do wonder if I’m making the right call here. The elephant in the room is that the Divine Weapon boon would’ve probably still been the tactically wiser choice. A pet might give you an extra attack and set up some flanking if you use it right, but it’s still a little situational and you have to give up one of your own actions to use it. Magic weapon? That’s handy every time you swing it, especially if you apply the right effect (ghost touch alone is SO worth it). But storytelling won the day — it just seemed like such a good way to weave the Plaguestone story and my character’s arc together… it felt too good to pass up.

You will probably notice I pretty much disappear for the rest of the episode. It’s kind of a three-fold thing. First, I’m not a natural roleplayer, so that took a surprising amount of “effort” (yeah, I know it’s not busting rocks or anything) and once it was over, I needed to mentally recharge. Second, I felt just a twinge of guilt for hogging the spotlight and I wanted to step back and let other people have the floor for a while. But also, if I’m being honest, part of it was as basic as coming up with a suitable name. I hope you guys find “Ember” fitting. At some point, all those “FireSomething” names started sounding like discount-rack members of the X-Men, while Ember sounded more simple and elegant.

Sorry we couldn’t make a contest work, but then again, I’m not sure I relish the idea of having my beautiful new pet saddled with the name “Firecat McFirecatface” if you guys had wanted to be troublemakers. So Ember it is.

So the rest of the episode passes uneventfully. Cade helps set Pari up with an internship with the caravan, more turnips are consumed, and we’ll probably be hitting the road again next week. Once you’re done enjoying your remaining holidays (me, I’m back at work today), feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you thought of the show. Heck, you can still vote on what you WOULD have named the cat if we’d actually subjected it to the democratic process. Thanks for listening, happy new year, and we’ll see you back here next week!

Talking Plaguestone 22: Orcs Must Die!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 22: Prince of the Forest.

I’d like to start this week by registering a protest – this is NOT a proper holiday episode. There are no lessons about the value of friendship, we’re not retiring from the fast-paced adventurer’s life to live in a small town and wear flannel (Brixley should definitely consider it, given his fashion choices), nor does Bea Arthur show up for a musical number. Releasing it on Life Day… err… Christmas… doesn’t change that.

I don’t know how far we got with it, but the idea of doing a holiday episode was at least briefly kicked around at one point. It might have been neat to whip up a one-shot with members of the RFC cast(s), a few special guests, Santa as a lich or some such thing. But it almost certainly fell apart in the scheduling – we already shut down our games for the holidays as it is because folks have stuff going on, so trying to wrangle a bunch of schedules at the busiest time of the year wasn’t happening. And that doesn’t even get into the lifting on Steve’s end, who would have to write the scenario, load it into D20Pro, run it, and edit the show on an even shorter timeline than usual. So… ‘twas not to be.

Meanwhile, back in the land of the actual game, it’s a cleanup episode, and not just because of the nefarious Poop Dagger. Loot, level, and lore dump! We get some questions answered but other new ones open up. It sounds like Vilree’s original plan was to create an army of beast minions, but it also sounds like they were too hard to control and she moved on to something else while these goblins continued down that alley. We know she definitely didn’t have a wholesale change of heart, since she still had Bort murdered, but what might have changed? Something to ask the townsfolk, I guess. On the positive side, we got our next breadcrumb, with directions to a place called Spite’s Cradle, where Vilree set up her headquarters.

There were a couple odd MacGuffins in this episode where I thought they were going to be important, but they ended up not really mattering much. The first was the big acid lake in the outer courtyard – I thought there would be a creature living in it, or we’d have to do something to purify it, but… nope, pretty much just there for atmosphere. The second was that boiling cauldron that Prue put out with Ray of Frost. Was that a hazard that we happened to pick the right way of neutralizing? Was that potential loot we could’ve received if we had stopped and investigated it earlier instead of just moving on to the next room? It did seem like there was meant to be some significance to “The Only Piece Of Alchemical Debris To Survive Combat”, but I guess we’ll never know since it overcooked and burned to a crisp.

Speaking of loot, this adventure continues to be a cornucopia for alchemists and kinda meh for everyone else. Lots of potions and bombs, goggles for crafting, and of course, the aforementioned Poop Dagger. Having said that, the Poop Dagger has been a treasure for us all on a conversational level: I kinda love that we’re now having a spirited debate over whether Prestidigitation has an anti-bacterial component to it. (Maybe that’s an added effect at Level 2 – hand sanitizer, plus a hint of aloe.)

So let’s talk about Brixley’s level-up. First… yeah, I continue to get Lay On Hands wrong. Covered that extensively last week. It does go up from 6 to 12 this level, so the delta of the mistake stays at 6, but I’m still going to be making the mistake for a while longer. I took Nature as a skill because it seemed to fit with the theme of the campaign; I thought about taking Crafting for the sole purpose of repairing my shield, but I figured Prue could handle most of those duties for me for now. As far as general feats, nothing was leaping out at me, but then I saw that I could take an ancestry feat, and being able to cast a cantrip seemed to be a sensible way to go. (It was something I considered back at Level 1, but went with darkvision instead.) With magic weapons being rarer in this game, having a source of magic and/or ranged damage would be very useful. Might not scale well, but let’s survive this adventure before we worry what Brixley might look like at Level 20, OK?

As far as Divine Ally, I wanted to think about that a little more. I will say that in general, Blade Ally seems like the most obviously useful one: it makes your weapon magical by default, you can give it one property per day (given my general paranoia about incorporeal creatures, it would almost always be set to ghost touch), and you gain the critical specialization for your weapon. The Shield Ally basically gives you a more powerful shield that’s harder to destroy (+2 Hardness and 50% additional hitpoints for the shield) – it’s certainly not useless, but if I’m being honest? For a class-defining ability, it lacks flair and it still feels like it only extends the life of the shield by one or two more hits. Steed Ally seems like a mixed bag. Mounted combat is kinda clunky at low levels, and I’m not sure how realistic it is to be riding a horse around inside a dungeon, but it does seem like it gets more powerful at higher levels if you’re willing to pump feats into it. But is it better than an always-on semi-customizable magical sword? Ehhhhhhh… let me think about that one.

Finally at the end of the episode we reunite with Noala, who’s still been off “setting traps on the perimeter” again. Could you BE a little more useless, lady? I’m still not ruling out the 2% possibility she’s working with Vilree and trying to get us killed, especially now that we know the orcs and Vilree don’t REALLY work together anymore. To add a few more strings to my mental murder-board, maybe this was tying up loose ends – either we kill the orcs or the orcs kill us, but either way, it keeps us busy with something else and SOMEONE ends up removed from the picture.

(Deep down, I don’t quite cross the threshold of believing this, but it’s nagging at my brain JUST enough that I’m gonna crack up if it turns out to be true.)

Well, that’s it for this week (and at least for this show, for calendar year 2019). We’ll see you back here next week, when we return to Plaguestone and do another round of tying up loose ends before heading to Spite’s Cradle. Hope you’re having a good holiday, thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week AND next year!

Talking Plaguestone 21: Potency Crystals Are A Gnome’s Best Friend

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 21: Crystal Crushers.

It’s a fun week for me outside the game world. Work is slowing down (I work in academia, so when I slide off the brontosaurus on Friday I’m done for the year), there’s a new Star Wars movie coming (early review headlines are a little worrisome, but I’m still all in), I even got to say hi to Vanessa in person because she happened to be in town for business. It was all going so well.

And then our forums got a hold of this week’s episode and one of our listeners pointed out that apparently I’ve been doing Lay On Hands wrong. And sure enough, they’re right. Yes, Lay On Hands is six points per level… of the spell… but the spell is heightened to half the character level rounded up. So at Level 2, it should still be 6 points, not 12, and (since we let the cat out of the bag at the end of the episode) it should be 12 rather than 18 at 3rd level (1.5 rounds up to 2).

Now, I don’t want to get overly defensive… I screwed up. It’s on me to know my character better. And I do take that seriously – I HATE feeling like I got something I didn’t deserve. However, a few comments in my defense and/or mitigating factors.

First, I will say that I don’t think it impacts the action TOO much, just because I’m pretty cautious in my use of Lay On Hands to begin with. Some fights go quicker than expected and I don’t use it at all. And for downtime heals when we’re topping up, we can just hand-wave a few additional casts at 10 minutes a pop. I’m not going to promise there’s NEVER a fight where the mistake would have mattered – 50% “I’m not going to spoil anything”; 50% “I genuinely can’t remember the flow of things THAT well”. But as Steve points out, I also completely forgot it comes with a +2 AC bonus for a round. Good luck figuring out if any hits should’ve been misses because of that.

Here’s the other point in my defense. This is one of those places where maybe trying to template-ize Second Edition bit us in the ass a little: because Lay On Hands is genericized to a spell, the mechanics of Lay On Hands are spread out over THREE different locations within the Core Rulebook. You are told that Lay On Hands is a devotion spell that you get as a first-level Champion on page 106-107, but with no context what that means. On page 108, they get around to telling you what devotion spells are, and that they cast at half your character level rounded up. But the actual heightening effect (+6 per level or +1d6 damage to undead) is listed in the spell description on page 388. If I’m being honest, the old First Edition “you have Lay on Hands; here’s how it works” in a single block was a little more intuitive.

Beyond that, there’s also the usual confusion that comes from using the word “level” in multiple contexts, but that predates Second Edition – or even Paizo products. A lot of RPGs overuse “level”.

So, look… I feel like a bit of a schmuck about it, but I’m not Monty Python “dirty fork” levels of anguished about it either. (If I was, Rob Trimarco would have to play the John Cleese role of Mongo.) Part of the fun of this show is that we’re showcasing a fairly new system, warts at all, and maybe learning-curve mistakes are included under the subheading of “warts”. Hope you’re OK with that too.

So anyway… enough apology for one column. Back to the action. It’s a bit of an oddball episode that starts light – LOOOOTS of poop jokes, the side encounter with Fire Kitty – and then turns deadly with not just a boss fight, but a dark, gross boss fight to boot.

I don’t have a lot to add to the poop jokes, except to say it was one of those things that was fun because it was unexpectedly silly. We’re in the midst of this harrowing dungeon slog, and then all of a sudden, we’ve turned into a bunch of giggling pre-teens. No particular joke stands out, though, in 20/20 hindsight, I wish I’d suggested that Glamdring actually IS Elvish for “poop dagger” but Gandalf knew he’d never hear the end of it from the dwarves and changed it to “Foehammer” on the fly.

The Fire Kitty encounter… it’s one of those things where I just had a feeling and decided to run with it. I realized it was 50/50 on whether it would attack and we’d have another fight on our hands. I suppose I figured four of us could handle it if it did attack, and at the risk of being a little meta-gamey, if it was going to attack, it probably would’ve done so already. So I decided to eat a little damage and heal it. It seemed like the noble Cayden-friendly thing to do – freedom can also mean freedom for woodland critters! The one thing I didn’t think about: Noala is “setting traps” around the perimeter… it would be kinda awkward to heal Fire Kitty and set it free, only to have it captured and killed by our off-screen guide. Hope it’s OK.

Now we get back to exploring the cave complex, and we come across the Big (or at least Medium) Bad. Clearly it’s not Vilree because… you know… male orc… but he does seem to be the boss for this particular camp. At first glance, it’s not feeling like that hard a fight – if anything, I’m my own worst enemy since I keep forgetting attacks of opportunity are much rarer – and we’re on the cusp of winning when the Medium Bad moves the fight to Phase 2. BLOOD OOZE!

Now, it’s not captured very well… maybe Steve edited some of it out… but there was a little bit of “should we maybe run or at least strategically retreat to potion up” conversation that I kinda short-circuited by moving forward to attack. In fairness, I wasn’t trying to railroad the situation as much as I was trying to at least get the orc down so we’d only have one bad guy left to deal with rather than two. But that seemed to inspire everyone else to attack, and so the fight was on. STRATEGY – HUH – WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

As I go back and listen, I’m struck by two things about this combat. First… we got kinda lucky on rolls, between us critting and the blood ooze either whiffing entirely or rolling low damage a few times. I guess not so much on the crits, since it was immune anyway. But yeah… there’s a mirror universe where that fight goes a LOT worse if Steve rolls better.

The second: potency crystals are freakin’ AWESOME! I may even have to get the Dave Chappelle meme tattooed on my body somewhere (“YOU GOT ANY MORE OF THEM POTENCY CRYSTALS?”). I gotta be honest – I had been kinda down on single-use consumables as a concept when I was first looking at Second Edition. It might have been one of my least favorite aspects of the system. What can I say? I like my treasure to be things you get to keep. Just how I’m wired, I guess. But +1 to hit, an extra damage die, and (not sure if it was relevant here) magic weapon status – even for just a single round – can be a freakin’ game-changer. As witnessed by Prue not-critting for 20-some damage and me hitting three straight attacks to finish the ooze off… yeah, that was amazing.

So… we beat the sub-boss, we’re going to level up… I guess next week we’ll figure out where to go from here. I’m not too worried about that because there was a whole work area (where the orc was originally working) that we bypassed because the fight spilled into the next room – maybe we’ll find a breadcrumb there (diary, another note like Hallod had, whatever). Or maybe Noala can hook us up again. Either way, feel free to duck into our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show – yes, even if it’s to point out other rules we’re not doing correctly. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 20: Hell’s Petting Zoo

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 20: Can’t Keep A Bad Orc Down.

Welcome back to Talking Plaguestone. This week we do battle in the midst of Hell’s Petting Zoo, and also fight orcs galore, who just… won’t… die already.

This week’s discovery is a little bit enlightening. I’d been assuming that the mutated animals were just a side effect of the bigger plan, sort of an accidental creation. I assumed poisoning the water table and killing off life was the main thrust of Vilree’s plan, and you just happen to get acid wolves and killer shrubs by doing that. But seeing all these cages and pens full of mutated creatures, it starts to look like weird beasties are a feature, not a bug.

I was initially alarmed when Steve described the ice rats as a “swarm” of rats because… you know… “swarm” is also a keyword and I’m not sure we’re set up that well for dealing with actual swarms. But then it turned out to just be two individual rats, and… whatever, they’re rats. More of an annoyance, even with the cold attack and the explode-y death. (And yes, I’m glad Steve let the chain reaction stand even though it should’ve been disallowed… it was a nice little moment to have Rat #1 accidentally kill and detonate Rat #2.)

On the other end of the spectrum, I thought the horse (“Stone Jerk Horse, Man”? “My Metal Pony”? “Brickretariat”?) was going to be more of a challenge than it was. It certainly SOUNDED formidable when Steve first described it. You hear “stone body” and you immediately assume some sort of resistance to piercing and/or slashing, which immediately drops me and Cade’s effectiveness. I was even half-expecting it to be immune or resistant to Celes’ fire as well. So yeah, I thought the horse was going to be the problematic piece of the encounter. But, as it turns out, Prue’s ghost flail made short work of… “Pony Stark”?

If there was an actual challenge to the fight, it was twofold. First was the openness of the battlefield and the number of combatants. When you get that many entities fighting and no real choke points, things get a little crazy – to wit, the joke about forming a Conga Line of Flankers. At least early in the fight, it was tough to find places to move to where you wouldn’t be showing your back to at least one enemy. Once the rats were gone, the numbers became more manageable, but for a while, it was interesting. (It also dawns on me that this is one of those classic fights that would’ve taken a bunch of extra rounds with First Edition because everyone would be five-foot stepping around to avoid attacks of opportunity.)

The other pain point of this fight, of course, was orc ferocity – even when orcs die, they don’t die, unless you have another attack waiting to finish them off (or if a friend can do it). It’s not a hugely unbalancing thing, but when you’re watching every hitpoint and hoarding every healing resource, it’s a little irritating to give a creature that “should” be dead an extra attack. Also just frustrating when it comes to “glory of the kill” moments; you do 20 damage and think you killed the enemy, but it stays up and the next person up lightly nudges them to get the death blow.

Still, the fight goes quicker than anticipated (thanks to a few timely crits), and we’re left to explore a cave complex to the north as the most obvious “next place to look”. (If I remember correctly, a session break actually fell between the two comments, but Steve made it sound like a pretty seamless transition.)

And there we stumble into fight number two, which is almost entirely “orcs chucking chemical bombs at us”. I’d have to go back and listen again, but did they EVER do a conventional weapon attack? I don’t think so. Maybe they punched sometimes when they ran out of chemicals? Again, this fight wasn’t THAT tough, but this time, in addition to orc ferocity, the Annoyance Du Jour was the infliction of persistent damage. The base damage on most of their attacks was actually pretty weak, but if you got that persistent damage – particularly from more than one effect at a time – it could start to add up. And as we discussed a little, your choices for getting rid of it are to hope to make flat checks or to spend actions trying to clean yourself up – actions you then can’t use to speed up the killing. It’s weird… no individual attack felt all that impressive, but it still started to reach a point where I was going to have to consider Lay On Hands.

The other frustration was a silly one. When I threw my alchemical fire into the enemy cauldron, I thought the results would be more… dramatic. OK, I was hoping for some fireworks. But nope, just an unsatisfying plunk as it goes into the cauldron with the 20 other chemicals already in there. Damn it, Steve! Give me my Michael Bay ‘Splosions!

For all that talk about different frustrations, though, it was a pretty successful combat. Nobody dropped, didn’t even take that much damage, multiple crits along the way. I don’t know if we just got lucky or if we’re actually learning some tactics, but things are looking up for us. Next time, we get to loot, and there’s still some of this cave complex left to be searched, so maybe we’ll find Vilree lurking somewhere in here.

But that’ll be for next time. While we’re all waiting, drop by Discord channel or our other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 19: Weed Whackers

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 19: Cade Kale Bane.

Sweet, sweet revenge!

Now I know it’s not very sporting to sit back and nuke a bunch of plants from afar when they can’t do anything about it, but after the almost-fatal butt-kicking I took a few episodes back, I’m not in a sporting mood. If anything, I just wish I got a chance to personally do more of the damage, but I don’t really have a good ranged option, and I wasn’t going to charge right into the spore cloud. Revenge makes a man stupid, but not THAT stupid.

Speaking of spore clouds: on the surface, this fight ended up being easy, but we were about one failed saving throw away from things getting a lot more interesting. The bushes themselves were physically weaker than the bloodbushes – not as many hit points, didn’t seem to hit that hard – but the mind-affecting spores had Prue right on the line between “mildly inconvenient” and “big trouble”. Disoriented? Eh, whatever… minuses to a couple of rolls. Confused? Then you’re either attacking your own party-mates or standing around letting plants punch you. Perhaps both at the same time. If Prue had turned on us, that could’ve been quite the fight. Pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the Face Full O’ Ghosts.

As we were en route to this week’s adventure, we start to get a clearer picture of Vilree’s plans. I had been thinking it was just generalized death and decay: starve out the town by making all life wither away. In that vein, I’d been thinking the various creatures we’d encountered up to this point were a side effect, rather than the plan itself – that they got sick or drank contaminated water accidentally. But as we get closer to the source, it starts to look more like full-blown mutation is the real plan, and the more general blight and decay was more of a buffer zone that happened to reach the town. And that if we leave it unchecked, eventually the town itself will start to look like this “Forest of the Damned” or whatever we’re dealing with. So… even more reason to put an end to it.

It continues to be weird to be that Noala bailed on us again to… save animals, scout the perimeter, “set traps”… whatever it is she’s doing. This is now the second time she’s done that: she heads off on a smoke break; we get attacked.

On a meta-game level, I know that you send her away because you don’t want to give an NPC first-team reps that are meant for the players. If your NPC shows up and kicks asses the players are supposed to be kicking, it starts to make the players feel like they’re just along for the ride and undermines their game experience. “If Noala can do all this, why did she need us anyway?” So I get her absence as an overall gaming mechanic.

But I have to confess it still makes my Spider-Sense tingle just a little bit. There’s a little piece of me that wonders if she’s actually in league with Vilree and is leading us into dangerous situations on purpose to try and get us killed. I draw the line at her actually BEING Vilree because the ages seem to be wrong and she hasn’t shown any aptitude for alchemy or magic (as a daughter of a witch might). But I’ll admit the thought briefly crossed my mind.

Then again, it’s still true that the townspeople (or at least Dalma) vouch for her, so this is probably just crazy-talk and I should probably switch to decaffeinated coffee. Or maybe the townspeople are stupid. That’s also a possibility.

There’s something else I should mention that’s half confession, half clarification. When Steve described the entrance to the inner sanctum as “like an eyeball” or an “iris”, I think there was some confusion on our part – I (definitely) and the rest of the team (from later/off-line conversation) thought he was describing an actual eyeball… like a magical sentry or mutated wildlife that was keeping watch. In retrospect, I think Steve was describing a door where instead of it swinging open or lifting like a portcullis, it’s more of a radial thing that expands and contracts. Think the inner gateway Spock flies through in Star Trek: The Motion Picture or the ventilation shafts Tom Skerritt was crawling through in Alien. But in the moment, we thought we were dealing with an actual eyeball that was keeping tabs on us. So if we seem like we handled that with an over-abundance of caution, that’s why. And OK, that means all that time we spent nuking the door was probably wasted effort. Probably could’ve just stepped on through.

When we finally do step on through, we find another hideout, though this one seems more like we’re on the right track. It’s got orcs, corrupted animals, and a big pool of toxic sludge right in the middle of the camp. (Is that pool the source of the corruption? LET’S DRINK SOME AND FIND OUT!) If it’s not THE source, it’s still some sort of testing ground or place where the nastiness is prepared or something. If it’s the source, does that mean Vilree is here? Guess we’ll have to fight our way through the orcs and rats and find out.

As a brief response to Steve’s show note, I will concede there’s still some learning curve we’re experiencing in Second Edition. I don’t think we’re making any GLARING mistakes, but there are times when we’re maybe not working every angle our characters have to offer. Just to pick one example, I have my Liberating Step ability which lets me protect a teammate from damage, but I hardly ever remember to use it. Now, part of the reason I don’t use it is that the protection isn’t very MUCH damage at low levels (2 + my level) and it uses up my reaction so I can’t use that AND block an attack with my shield. But another reason I don’t use it more is that, quite frankly, I forget. So…. getting better, but still learning. Guilty as charged.

So next week… we fight, and it’s a real fight too… not glorified groundskeeping. While you’re waiting for next week’s episode, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show so far. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 18: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 18: Country Rogue, Take Me Home.

Well, it’s Thanksgiving here in the US, so I guess I’d better bang out a column before the turkey coma takes me for the day.

Here in Microbrewery Simulator… errr… Talking Plaguestone, we have another week of mostly working on side quests. At first, I was kind of impatient with the side quests and kind of wanted to get on with the main story, but I have to admit they’re growing on me. Especially now that Brixley gets to be a cult leader, AND gets another encounter with my nemesis, Old Woody.

Old Woody was a throwback to our (pre-podcast) Iron Gods campaign, though I don’t know if it’s something written into the adventure or something Steve made up. My recollection of the story is that we needed information from the townspeople and could only gain their trust by winning a drinking contest. In addition to having the best CON of the party, my character (Ezrik – I’ve talked about him before; the guy who became a mutant) had also permanently lost his sense of taste. So either the Fortitude save I was supposed to do was either nullified entirely or was at least made a lot easier. (I think I could still smell it and it looked disgusting, so I believe I still had to roll a save…)

See, that’s the thing. Steve makes it sound like I’m some kind of reckless thrill-seeker who will drink anything put in front of his character, but it’s really not like that. In the case of Ezrik, OK maybe a little, but there was still some roleplay method to my madness. The first time I did it as part of a religious ceremony, and then… OK, I kinda decided to keep doing it as a tribute to Gorum every time I leveled. So that was maybe a little reckless, but still within the confines of “thanking Gorum for my new abilities”. In the case of Tuttle becoming an aeon, that was a boss fight where I was struggling to even hit against the big bad’s armor class, so I decided to pop my Loot Box of Wonder to try to get something that would make me more effective. Here, let the record reflect that I passed when Steve wanted me to just start chugging the cave-water, but drinking Old Woody as a means of consecrating Brixley’s new church seems like a totally in-character and story-relevant thing to do.

So what I’m saying is that Steve needs to come up with flimsy STORY reasons to make me do these things.

Going back to the start of the episode, I thought the mechanic of training with Noala was interesting, but the actual skills she was going to teach us ended up not being worth the trouble for me. I thought I might get trained in Nature or at least get an additional Lore skill; instead, it’s a Ranger ability that I only get IF I multi-class into Ranger, which doesn’t seem like much of a fit with Brixley’s character. Works pretty well for Cade, though, so it’s nice to see him take it. In general, it’s a neat little mechanism to add new abilities to your character.

In Side-Quest Land, Prue’s quest seems to be pretty much done, but the rest of us get some development in.

In Brixley’s case, I actually have the beginnings of a functioning church-bar, and now have a chosen beverage supplier. When I opened up negotiations with Tamil, I just thought I’d be asking for the raw ingredients and we’d have to figure out how to brew ourselves. (Not me personally – I figured the dwarves would take the lead there). Instead, it turns out Tamil secretly dabbles in brewing, so she’s already got multiple drinks we can serve. I figure the main two will be the backbone of the operation, but we’ll save Old Woody for special occasions… ordaining new clerics, baptisms, stuff like that.

A couple of side notes on starting my own brew-pub. I do feel a little guilty in that we’re going into quasi-competition with the Feedmill, but then again, it’s more of a social club rather than a competing business. It’s not like we’re going to be inviting the entire town; just the people who want to join The Cayden Club! Also, the choice of “Betrayer’s Blood” as the brew name was meant to be defiant rather than ghoulish – going for the attitude of “this guy screwed over the town, so we’ll be toasting his defeat every time we hold services” (and soon, hopefully the restoration of the town). After the fact I thought about naming it something more genteel like “Bort’s Brew” – maybe that can be the purple one.

Lastly, we get to Celes’ interaction with the demon, and I have to give Steve credit… I had forgotten how creepy he played that. I didn’t expect to really have a strong reaction to it – especially since we’d already played it live – but I was legitimately impressed at the ambiance he created. The one thing that struck me as interesting is that it’s a side quest that could last for the life of her character if Steve wanted it to. It’s possible it’s a self-contained thing and we might find the way to break the curse in our travels. OR maybe it’s something Celes doesn’t figure out until Level 10 or even Level 20.

Though I suppose ALL of the quests contain a glimmer of such possibilities; Celes’ quest is just a little more self-contained and fundamental to her character. In Cade and Prue’s case, it’s the introduction of NPCs (Pari and Sir Kent) that we could encounter in future adventures. In mine, it’s the church itself – though perhaps one of the dwarves could eventually go out into the world as a new representative of Cayden. Really, any of these could leave lingering effects, now that I think about it. Then again, the rest of us don’t have to do a cost-benefit analysis on whether we can use our spells or not.

Next week, I think there might be a LITTLE more side-quest stuff to take care of, but probably not a full episode’s worth. I’m pretty sure we’re back in the field soon. I hope you’ll be back to join us; in the meantime, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and join the ongoing discussion of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 17: “GM” Stands For Gratuitous Mockery

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 17: The Dragon & The Thief.

After a couple of weeks of tough fights, things slow down… way down… this week.

First, the other rule “mistake” which I put in quotes because I don’t think Prue really had a chance to do it wrong anyway. At least not more than once or twice. I do think one common theme we’re seeing in our mistakes is that we’re sometimes assuming things work the way they did in First Edition, forgetting that the three-action economy necessitates some changes, and I think this is one of those. I have to admit I don’t KNOW because it’s been a long, long while since I’ve played a barbarian, but it does seem to be the recurring theme of our mistakes.

Main plot? Pretty much at a standstill. We find a tainted pool of water, but it’s not THE tainted pool of water, so we’re no closer to resolution. If only we had a modern-day geologist’s understanding of how the water table works. Instead, we’re going to turn the legwork over to Noala for a few days; in the meantime… back to town for a little more R&R.

I had a little bit of a “are we sure we trust Noala?” vibe creep through my brain this episode. On the surface she helps the town, Dalma vouches for her, so I guess she’s a good guy. On the other hand, you could argue she kinda led us right into a trap, and one that didn’t shed a LOT more light on the situation. And conveniently, she was off “searching the perimeter” while we were getting our asses kicked. Also, skipping ahead to later in the episode, Uncle Targy doesn’t trust her, even though Dalma does. I mean, I’m PROBABLY just being paranoid, but something to keep at least one eye on.

I do also still wonder what role – if any – that empty pillar in the town square plays. Was there a rock there that keeps the plague at bay? Is that where the water to the town is getting corrupted? It feels like it might be significant in some way, but we haven’t really found any clues pointing that direction. Ah well, file it away for now.

Side quests? Not much better. I guess some of us make a little progress, but nothing really reaches a final resolution. In Brixley’s case, it means giving an impromptu TED Talk on Cayden Cailean. Now, I’d like to point out that I did try and study up a little between episodes – I went back to the First Edition books and read up on the Cayden Cailean lore, and then… oops, most of it went right out of my head the minute I actually had to do it in-character.

All of this is a little weird to me because I don’t tend to play high-religion characters, so my knowledge of the Pathfinder gods is kinda spotty in general. I know the names and the general themes (alignment, what they’re the gods of, etc.), but that’s usually about it. So having to do a book report mid-game is a bit of a double-whammy. But I got through it I suppose.

After a check-in with Cade and Celes, Prue’s sidequest takes us on a detour into the low-stakes world of game-within-a-game gambling. It’s the Thief and the Dragon! As Steve and I alluded to, our group did play this game back once in the pre-podcast days, but I have to admit I don’t remember it well. It’s basically a 5% chance of a big win, a 20% chance of a loss, and then the rest is situational depending on whether there’s already a coin there or not. I guess it’s fun to have games like that available because they add some flavor, but at some point, I’m compartmentalized in my entertainment. I’m here to play Pathfinder. If I want to gamble, I’ll go drive to the casino or something.

I suppose the highlight of the episode was the out-of-character ribbing – mostly at Steve’s expense – at the end. It’s not so much that the jokes were SO hilarious as much as it represented another step forward in our coming together as a group. The Dead Suns group has been together a while, so there’s always been a fairly easy rapport between us, and we talk smack freely. With this group, we’re getting there (witness the various jokes about Brixley’s fashion sense) but this week took it to a new level, which was kind of fun to listen to after the fact. It’s not like I’m overtly trying to turn that group into this one, but trying to meet in the middle is, to me, a welcome goal.

It’s also weird to consider that in the Dead Suns group, we’re all basically the same age (cough-old-cough), and I am (by a few months) the baby of the group. In this group, we’ve got Vanessa and Loren both representing the Young People. Each has its merits – on one hand, being in a group where everyone has the same cultural shorthand is nice; then again, we sometimes get in a rut where we make the same joke 18 times BECAUSE we’re all on that same page and have been on it for a while. Having some different perspectives in the group can be refreshing too – sometimes familiar can be a little TOO familiar in a long-running group.

Also, it’s good to get in some group abuse of the GM every now and then. The GM gets to hold so much power over the players that sometimes it’s good to take them down a peg or two to remind them of the power of democracy in action. You know… by making a bunch of jokes about how old they are. Tread lightly because they still have the power to throw wandering monsters at the party, but get your shots in when you can.

Anyhow, don’t hold me to it because I never know how Steve edits the episodes, but I think next week we return to the wild to further our investigations and hopefully get a little closer to finding Vilree and solving this mystery of what’s plaguing Plaguestone. While you’re waiting for that to arrive, 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.

Talking Plaguestone 16: Strike That. Reverse It.

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 16: The Killer Bs.

I realize Steve starts this week’s show with further rules discussion of the tremorsense “mistake-but-not-a-mistake” we made last week, but I kind of outkicked the coverage and went over a lot of that last week, so I’m not sure there’s a whole lot to add to that. Now it turns out he SHOULDN’T have given us freebies because he administered it right the first time. This stuff all evens out in the long haul, so… no big deal.

On the other hand, the bleeding issue got glossed over a little. If it really requires a full heal to stop bleeding, that probably meant Prue and I should’ve had to take a few more saves to try and get rid of the bleeding, and should’ve stayed in rounds until that happened. I still could’ve popped a Lay On Hands to give myself some margin for error, but it might not have been as tidy as it turned out to be.

Meanwhile, there’s a brand new rule discussion brewing on the Discord forums, but I’m gonna let that percolate because Steve said he’d probably tackle it next week and I don’t want to steal his thunder. (Also, it relates primarily to someone else’s character abilities, so at this point, it’s not really “my” issue.)

I would note that the recurring theme of all of this is that it’s easy to get overconfident with Second Edition and feel like it’s just First Edition with a new coat of paint. That the action economy is the big difference and most of the rest works the same as it used to. But there ARE differences… sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic… and sometimes we’re guilty of switching on the “it works just like it did in First Edition” autopilot and we get stuff wrong. Years of gaming inertia can be tough to shake off.

After last week’s near-death experience with the bloodbushes, this week’s battle was a definite improvement. I wouldn’t call it easy, exactly…. the dogs still landed a few solid hits, and that trick where they explode at the end was particularly nasty. Also, my personal offense was a little underwhelming – a lot of misses, and my few hits were for fairly low damage. But we all survived without dropping, at least got to handle the battle mostly on our terms and use a little bit of actual tactics.

Yeah, tactics! Remember those? It’s harder to come up with choke points when attacks of opportunity aren’t as common, but nature actually provided us with one, as long as we were able to force the beasties to come to us. Now… I’m not sure how we would’ve been able to light a bush on fire and then roll it into the cave without taking fire damage, but since Steve decided to be charitable on that front, we’ll take it. (For that matter, does a bush really “roll”?). Then again, I suppose the smoke it generated evened things out a little, ultimately costing Prue a crit. So maybe it wasn’t THAT charitable. Still better than fighting in a cave where half our party would have to be hunched over in difficult terrain.

It started out looking like it was going to be another long session when I took that first crit, though. Not gonna lie. Part of the reason that fight with the bloodbushes went so badly is that the first roll was a crit for half my health, and this started to look like “second verse, same as the first”. But then rolls started breaking our way, and I got that nice little bailout from Celes’ armor class boost, turning a hit into a miss. As I said, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t contribute more to the offense, but the team won, and that’s what’s important.

I thought the dogs’ bull rush attack would be more of a problem than it turned out to be. First, I was worried it would also do damage, but the only effect was the positioning, so that’s good. I was more worried the dogs were going to break out and either get flanking on us or attack the squishies in the back line. (Or both.) Fortunately, the breach was only temporary – we were able to polish off the one that broke out and then close the line up again before the second could find a way through the gap.

One thing I need to consider doing more of: my Liberating Step. When one of my teammates gets damaged, I can (as a reaction) give them DR (2 + level, so… 4) against the damage. It’s not a lot, but it’s also not nothing in a game where hit points are scarce. The problem is that it works off a reaction, so it ends up being a choice between that, raising my shield, or holding it in reserve to take a +2 on any save.

If there’s bad news about this week’s episode, it’s on the story front, where nothing really moves. All we had was the downtime after the first fight and the second fight, so we’re basically in the same place with that. Once the smoke clears, we can investigate the cave and see if there’s any usable information, but for this week… the plot is just as thick as it was. Hopefully, next week sheds a little more light on things.

That’s all I have for this week… we got through a fight without me dying or embarrassing myself, so I’m in a pretty good mood. Next week we’ll be back to investigate the cave and see if those two battles bought us any information worth learning. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Plaguestone 15: Nature 1, Brixley 0

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 15: Bushwhacked.

I’d been dreading writing this episode because let’s be honest… it was kind of humiliating. It’s “The Episode Where Brixley Gets His Ass Kicked By Shrubbery”. I joked about it a little in the moment because using gallows humor to deflect is kind of a thing for me, but inside I was seething.

Going back and listening, however, I had a much different reaction to it. Maybe it’s the 20-20 hindsight of having survived, maybe it’s just that it stings less with a little distance, but I was much more detached than I expected to be. You know… we caught a bad break or two. The whole fight started off on a tough note with the crit, and we (well, mostly me) never really got a chance to get our legs back under us. Heck… they hit five attacks out of six, and it was the last one that actually dropped me, so if even one of those had missed, I could’ve fired off Lay On Hands, and the whole fight might’ve unfolded differently for me.

I’ve already made this point in the Hallod fight, but I do think some of the… I won’t even say “problem”, but “challenge”… of Second Edition as a system is the fact that high attack bonuses can be lethal in this system. There’s two main dangers – crits and follow-up attacks – both of which we saw reflected in poor Brixley’s fate.

Let’s do some math. Steve mentions that those bloodbushes attack at +11; and my armor class is 18 without my shield, and 20 with the shield. And I’m theoretically the tankiest member of the party (Prue’s AC is 1-2 points lower, I believe). So their chance to crit can be as high as 20% (first attack, shield down would crit on a 17 or better), which happened first attack out of the gate. Granted, shield up, second attack, it’s basically back to “gotta roll a 20”, but still… that’s surprisingly high. What about follow-up attacks? Well, I’ll skip crunchy math and make the simple case – if I’ve got a +6 attack bonus and they’ve got a +11, their hit chance on a second attack is equal to my chance on a first attack. I will say it feels like they equalize this somewhat by giving monsters lower armor classes, but still… those second attacks can add up. Again, as they did for Brixley.

Vanessa has been lamenting that she didn’t cast Sanctuary on Brixley instead of Produce Flame, but I’m not going to fault her for it. It’s one of those things that looks like the right call with 20-20 hindsight. Once you know Brixley’s gonna eat five attacks, yeah, casting a defensive spell makes sense, but at the time… we got an early hint they’re vulnerable to fire, so might as well run with that. For all we knew, they had like 15 or 20 hit points and one good max-damage roll could’ve put one of them down before the fight even got going.

In one of his rare show notes for the Plaguestone show, Steve mentions making a rules mistake. We’re actually having a lively discussion about it on Discord, but I’m going to summarize some of that here. Basically, Steve THOUGHT he made two mistakes, but one of them turned out after further research to be done correctly.

The mistake that wasn’t really a mistake was this: Steve saw after the fight that the plants had imprecise tremorsense – tremorsense allows creatures to detect enemies through their motion and the vibrations they generate in the earth, but the fact that it’s imprecise makes it a 50 percent miss chance. Somewhere in Steve’s brain, he thought maybe the plants ONLY had the imprecise tremorsense (it’s not like plants have eyes), in which case EVERY attack should’ve had a 50% miss chance. That’s the mistake he THOUGHT he had made when he recorded the intro. But it turns out – he talked to Paizo and everything – that you can assume normal humanoid senses as a baseline unless the stat-block explicitly says one of those senses is missing. So the plants had normal senses AND imprecise tremorsense. So at least on that front, Steve actually administered the encounter correctly and all the attacks that were supposed to hit did so. It would’ve come into play if we’d had access to something like darkness or obscuring mist and tried to sneak by under magical cover.

The one he definitely made a mistake on is bleed damage. The crux of the matter can be found in the “Persistent Damage Rules” on Page 621 of the Core Rulebook, where it says that healing all the way to full would automatically cancel the bleeding condition. Now it DOES say this is all GM discretion and those are “guidelines”, but it did seem pretty specific that it has to be a full heal; especially since both Pathfinder First Edition and Starfinder explicitly state the opposite – that ANY healing effect stops bleeding.

I’m not going to bag on Steve too much for missing that. Heck, that’s what I thought the rule was. Like I said… First Edition and Starfinder both do it the opposite way, so that’s a decade’s worth of inertia over two Paizo systems telling us that any healing stops bleeding. And it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing mistake — since it’s GM discretion how well attempts to stop persistent damage work, that also implies that a lesser heal such as a potion could still knock the bleeding condition down a few steps even if it didn’t stop it entirely.

This would’ve been most relevant for Brixley, because Brix took damage on three different occasions, but healed on two – taking a potion on one occasion, getting a heal from Celes on the other. (I don’t know that the use of Hero Points counts as a heal since you still end at zero hit points.) At the time, Steve reset my bleed counter to zero both times, but it turns out it should’ve kept ticking upwards. It couldn’t have gone over bleeding 5, but it should’ve gotten up there and stayed there… which, once Brixley was down, would’ve then increased his dying counter each time it ticked.

I did some back-of-the-envelope math and I don’t think it would’ve meant the difference between Brixley living and dying. Basically, I got some sort of healing (or Hero Point use) for most of the rounds, which wouldn’t have fixed the bleed, but would’ve kept the dying from ticking, and then Celes bailed me out in the final round with the group heal.

Still, however it played out… a pretty close a call, but we all survived. And that wasn’t even the final source of the corruption! So next week we come back and do it all again; hopefully this time with better results. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and give us your thoughts on the show so far, or just join the ongoing merriment in the RFC community. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.