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Talking Tales: Tale 6, Chapter 6, The Black Lodge Triumphant

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 6, Chapter 6: Castle Crashers.

This is one of those columns that’s weird to write because it sits at a bit of a crossroads.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that it’s a bit of a farewell (for now) to Black Lodge, but I don’t really want to outkick the coverage and say too much about that until Steve decides what direction he’s going with things. But the simple fact is that this is the last brand-new episode we recorded for now. If Steve has episodes in the can, I suspect it’s the GenCon special event with Luis Loza – maybe he’s going to run those to give us a couple more weeks to record more of the Edgewatch show.

But I also don’t want to start talking too much about Edgewatch yet – even though I could say TONS and I’m pretty excited about it – because I want to give it its own space. I will say we’ve had two “real” sessions and a Session Zero where we generally strategized about the adventure path and our character choices, and it’s shaping up really well so far. But as much as I want to talk about it… one thing at a time.

Meanwhile, we have the rest of an undead army to take care of. As we left off last week, I was a little nervous because we had zombies burst up through the dungeon, putting me on the front lines of the assault. And because the skeleton captain was hanging back outside the fort, I didn’t really want to blow any spells other than cantrips – I had one heal/burst damage left and one cast of Shillelagh, having used the first of those in the first wave. (On the healing side, I did have some potions and scrolls, so that was a little less urgent.)

Round One was a bit of a mixed bag. The bad news was they broke through our pseudo-defensive line – there was a moment where Thorgrim and I had them pretty well blocked at the bottom of the map, but once the zombie shoved Chris out of the way, they had a free path up to the rest of the group. But that’s also the good news; instead of attacking one or two of us en masse, a lot of the zombies decided to spread out and attack different people, so no one person was in imminent danger.

Also, can I say here’s where I was missing First Edition’s attack of opportunity rules? If this was First Edition, Chris and I would’ve had a chance to pummel a few of those zombies as they were sprinting… shambling… whatever… past us, and maybe even take one or two out if we got lucky on rolls. Instead, we pretty much just got turnstiled.

The better news – if only for a moment – was that the spread of zombies made blowing my Heal spell an optimal choice, as FIVE of the zombies ended up in range for me. Keeping in mind that the channel takes three actions (so you can’t move to set it up), you take that opportunity when it arises because you don’t know when you’ll get it again. Of course, I only did two damage per zombie, rendering the whole thing a little anti-climactic, but still.

While we’re at it, I SWEAR that at least during the playtest channeling healed party members AND damaged undead. I know, I know… playtest is not the final released product… still. (Then again, my main memory of the playtest was from GenCon, so that also might be the Amstel talking.)

After my heal spell, things briefly threatened to turn a little ugly – at least for me – as the zombies decided to swarm and I had three of them attacking me at once. Most of them missed their attacks, but the possibility of being grabbed conjured up unpleasant images for the following round. But then Ducker came in and bailed me out on that one, critting the one that had grabbed me into next week. Bullet dodged!

Speaking of bullets dodged: I hesitate to tell anyone else how to play their character because I hate when people do that to me, but John… dude… put the sling away and go stab something. On the other hand, he ended up landing a crit on the boss, so I guess I don’t have any room to complain. Can’t argue with results.

The rest of the zombie fight went reasonably well for us, and then it was time for the boss and his sidekick minions. And OK… it was kinda funny to watch the Big Bad basically get double-critted by Peepers and Ducker. Granted, I was a little disappointed it meant my cast of Shillelagh was probably going to go to waste – damnit, I wanted to be the one to one-shot the boss! – but then I got to do the same to the undead horse, so that’s not a bad consolation prize. But wait… what if the horse was really the boss, and he was just letting a regular skeleton ride him to throw people off? OK, that’s my official story, and I’m sticking with it. I killed the Boss Horse.

So the townspeople are saved, we’ve proven the Pathfinders’ collective mettle, and logistically we fulfilled all the objectives for the adventure… time to roll credits, right? Noooope… time for one more humiliation at the hands of Earn Income! Nella rolls another single-digit check, and it’s another 8 days of duct-taping tree branches to the head of local dogs to pass them off as antlers. Sigh. For one brief shining moment, I was good at Earn Income, but nothing lasts. (Cue sad string music.) At least that time, misery loves company as everyone else failed too.

And that’s the end, but this time with a bit of uncertainty what comes next. I mean, big picture, we’re still here recording shows so don’t worry about that… I just don’t know what – if anything – you’ll be getting next week. It might be a replay of the GenCon live special with Luis Loza, maybe it’ll be Episode Zero of Edgewatch if everything comes together, or maybe we’ll go down to one show for a week or two…. If the last of those is the route we go, which case maybe I’ll try to “fill the silence” either with an official wrap-up on Black Lodge, or do a mini-review of the magus and summoner playtest classes or something. Or maybe I’ll take a week or two off writing two columns to go build new Zendikar decks in MTG Arena or see what sort of weird Game Of Thrones craziness Crusader Kings 3 can throw at me. THE WORLD’S A BLANK PAGE!

So we’ll be back… just not exactly sure when or what we’ll be Talking about when we re-convene. In the meantime, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you… pretty soon.

Talking Tales: Tale 6, Chapter 5, Uninvited Guests

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 6, Chapter 5: Army of Dorkness.

Good news! (Well, I think so, anyway…) We’re actually fighting stuff again!

Don’t read too much into that statement. I didn’t DIS-like the fort-building mini-game. I actually think it’s kinda cool when the writers at Paizo get a little weird with the system and take it in directions you didn’t necessarily think you were going to go. Home renovation… did not see that coming. Having said that, I think you could’ve trimmed a couple of days off the task list and still gotten the gist of the thing.

All of that is in the past now. Here and now, Mask Narcen returns from his walkabout to report that there’s a decent-sized army of undead about to descend upon the town, and boy wouldn’t a recently-renovated fort be the best place to hide out from something like that. And again, I feel like the “month” that Narcen was gone was really just meant to be an outer limit and the inner limit was “a few days after you finish the task list”.

So now we know the shape of the endgame, and it’s pretty much what we were speculating about when Steve got called away for his work emergency… we’re going to have abstracted combat preparation, followed by real combat. We have a day to prepare additional defenses – traps and/or training townspeople to fight, and our preparations will… I guess determine how many undead make it through the defenses and have to be fought in the final battle. (I’m feeling like they didn’t prepare a combat map of the courtyard for nothing.)

I have two fairly minor logistical grumbles about this portion of the adventure, though one is more of a question of GM style.

First, there’s no real way to ascertain which tasks are the most valuable use of your time. Is training 8 people more useful than setting up a trap or vice versa? Is there a sliding scale where getting at least 8 people trained is vital to success, but going from 16 to 24 doesn’t really get you that much more because at that point you’re training the elderly and children to fight? I suspect under the hood, the answer is that all the tasks are equal and it’s just X successes; they just wanted to have a couple of different task choices to appeal to characters with different skillsets.

The second more stylistic suggestion is that there might have been a benefit to breaking the day down by “shift” and reassessing our tasks after each shift. We had a pretty even mix of successes and failures, so I don’t know that we would made any changes, but what if you had a different party where they failed ALL the “training townsfolk” checks? If you go by a person, there’s no chance to fix that and you have no townspeople helping you in the final battle; if you go by “shift”, you see that all those checks failed for Shift 1, and maybe someone who was going to sleep for Shift 2 trains fighters instead. Then again, maybe this is rubbing up against “it’s a quickie for conventions, don’t overthink it” territory. And I’m not saying it’s wrong to run it the way Steve did, it just might be more effective to do it the other way.

So it’s a mixed bag with our preparations. If you peel away all the extra shenanigans and song parodies, pretty much everyone had one good roll and one bad roll. And then the fight begins. We’ve got some abstracted “traps taking out undead” moments, and then the first group of skeletons breaches the castle gate, and it’s time to fight.

The real trick here is resource management. Skeletons and zombies… even if there’s maybe going to be some sort of “commander” entity at the end (Steve dropped a hint of that with the idea that they’re marching in organized formations), none of that sounds all that threatening. However, if we run out of spells and other resources, even cannon-fodder enemies can wear us down if there’s enough of them. Now I don’t know if this is metagaming or not, but if we’re going to assume a boss at the end, I’m going to try and preserve at least one cast of Shillelagh for when that dude shows its face (assuming it somehow stands out as the leader). So that leaves me with two “real” spells plus cantrips. I never actually specify this, but I’m assuming my loadout is two casts of Shillelagh and one Heal spell – Feather Fall doesn’t seem like it would be any good in this situation, and I have scrolls, potions, and healer’s tools to cover some additional heals, so a second cast of Shillelagh seems like the best use of resources. (I did want to have one “real” cast of Heal, just in case I’m in a situation where pulling out a scroll or potion would take too much time.)

And cantrips. I don’t know the specific mix of undead we’ll be facing, but fire is usually pretty reliable against the undead, so Good Ol’ Produce Flame should get a workout.

So the fight begins. Skeletons, but with a couple (I honestly forget if it was two or three… just two I think) slightly stronger lieutenant types. The front-line minions are nothing – one decent hit pretty much drops them. The lieutenant types are both a little tougher and seem to have some amount of regeneration. It’s still a fairly easy fight, but it’s not trivial, and Seth blows a three-action heal, which was a little surprising this early in what might be a long fight. Then again, I blew a cast of Shillelagh so I suppose I can’t really criticize.

After Round 1, we have a brief rest. To be clear, not a “Short Rest” because that has specific implications. But it’s long enough for Shillelagh to expire, so… yay? And then Round 2 opens. We see what could be the boss outside the front gate, but then there’s a bit of a surprise, as the next wave of enemies comes up through the dungeon. And, there’s 8 of them. Nixnox and Peepers are on the upper level; Thorgrim and Ducker are facing the front gate. So guess who that leaves first in the path of the oncoming bad guys, and probably can’t cast Shillelagh just yet? Yours truly. Won’t this be fun?

Annnnnd that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. As usual, 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 Tales: Tale 6, Chapter 4, When The GM’s Away

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 6, Chapter 4: This is Ducker Tap.

I have to admit I enter this week in a bit of a gloomy mood, so I apologize if I don’t have my usual level of verve and good humor. Without getting overtly political, the state of things has been pretty discouraging lately, and then the death of Chadwick Boseman over the weekend was a huge cherry on the shit sundae. Even beyond the Marvel movies, the dude was a talented actor and it would’ve been fun to watch his career develop – I loved him as Jackie Robinson in “42” almost as much as T’Challa. Though… yeah, I’m a huge Marvel fan and couldn’t wait for Black Panther 2. That too.

Of course, part of it was just how sudden it appeared to be from the outside: he did such a good job preserving his privacy that I spent a good 5 or 10 minutes waiting for the retraction, assuming the first reports were a mistake and some intern had put the wrong name in the story. But nope. Here we are. (And actually, going back with 20/20 hindsight, you start to see stories of him looking thin and people assuming it was just for a role or something.)

So yeah. I’m not here to overdramatize my level of grief – I don’t know the man personally, and I don’t have that same connection to the importance of his portrayal that black fans might have – but I’m a little bummed out. Seems like 2020 just keeps coming up with ways to keep kicking us when we’re down. So apologies in advance if this column ends up being a bit on the dry side.

Returning to live-action, the first thing I’d like to share is a public service announcement that I discovered in the car this afternoon: if you put the show on 1.5x speed to try and listen to it quicker, Ducker gets a LITTLE scary. Perram’s “up the holler” accent at normal speed… you get used to it. Perram’s accent coming at you at Daveed Diggs “Guns and Ships” velocity? Yikes.

As we get back to the repair of the fortress, there’s both good news and bad news. The good news is the finish line for repairing the fortress is in clear sight and our chances of making it are pretty good; the bad news is both that we’re running low on funds, and that we’re starting to struggle to keep everyone busy. When we had four full “trees” available, it was pretty easy to find something for everyone to do. At this point, I think we really only had two trees open to us, and they both had a mason dependency somewhere on their path. So keeping 2 or 3 crews busy could be achieved through a little forethought, but keeping all five party members involved sometimes proved to be difficult, if not impossible.

I continue to be a little frustrated that I have the wrong character for this particular adventure, but this week I managed to find ways to make myself useful. The heavy-use skills in this mission are Crafting and the social skills (Diplomacy, Society… Intimidate if you’re feeling bold). Which are pretty much the opposite of what Nella does well. If we had more of a backwoods crawl where Nature and Survival were the key skills, I’d be running circles the rest of the party (or perhaps not, given my history of Earn Income rolls), but here we are.

And look… I’m a practical person at heart. It’s not in my nature to get mad or complain. It’s a combination of seeing the big picture and knowing that the wheel will stop on me eventually (my Edgewatch character is going to have TONS of stuff to do) and the sense that my goal as a gamer is to keep the story moving forward, so yes, let the person with the best chance of succeeding make the roll. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes meant a few too many “and Nella… you… alphabetize the spice rack” moments.

But this week at least, there’s a nefarious shrine to be cleared, and I’m actually pretty good at religion. So let’s do that! Unfortunately, that ran Thorgrim and I smack into our next hurdle, as we were hit with our first out-of-pocket costs for materials – we need 40 gold to pay for incense and other spiritual-cleansing stuff. I always felt like we were going to run into this at some point, and now it’s here. Fortunately, we have some offsetting loot to defray the costs a little, so it’s not a complete disaster. But it is going to make things a little tighter coming down the stretch.

I also get a chance to schmooze in town a little as the session goes on. I don’t know if Steve’s making rolls for me, or if I’m just finishing off people who are already “done”, but whatever. I did get to use my Druid-y abilities to keep the apothecary on our side – sometimes you just gotta talk shop about rats with someone who gets it.

In the middle of all of this, we had a bit of a lull, as Steve had a work emergency. The funny “behind the scenes” thing I wanted to mention about that is that Steve left his camera on (and for part of it, his mic too), so we had a pretty good sense that things were going sideways for him (lots of annoyed typing and pained faces while talking on his cell phone) and we knew it wasn’t going to be the “five or ten minutes” he originally asked for. So we strategized on the endgame a little, but also just BS’ed about various other things for a while.

The one thing worth covering here are the endgame possibilities. To clarify what I was thinking, I feel like we’re going to get attacked at some point, and I think there’s going to be some sort of abstracted “chase-rules” version of combat – I don’t think they’d design a battle with 20 or 30 combatants (I’m potentially including townspeople on our side) for a 4-hour scenario. But I do think “what’s the point of fixing up a fort if you don’t fight something?”. So maybe the condition of the fort helps us and the townspeople that we made friendly help us defend it or something.

But I suspect we’ll find out… well, in a week or two, depending on how Steve cuts the episodes. While you’re waiting, 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 Tales: Tale 6, Chapter 3, Lizards And Laborers

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 6, Chapter 3: Ducker The Slayer.

This is a weird week in real life, so apologies in advance if I seem a bit distracted.

First, I’ve been a little under the weather recently. Don’t worry, not COVID – though it got rough enough that I took the test and everything. Just garden-variety Seasonal Snot Factory. I’m coming down the back end of it, but still, feel a little ragged around the edges.

Second, it’s back-to-school time. Both as someone who works in higher-ed and as the parent of a school-age kid, things have been a little extra hectic this week. Swear to God, if I hear the word “Zoom” one more time, my eye is going to start permanently twitching like Scrat from Ice Age.

The other thing is I turned 50 this week. I’m not particularly mentioning it to get a free round of virtual applause, but to mention that we TRIED to put together an impromptu gaming session with my very first gaming group – my brother (Jon) and two guys (Chris and Dmitri) that lived on the same street. It didn’t quite come together because of the reasons I mentioned above, but it was still fun to get together on Zoom (OK, I’ll let it slide for this) and share some of the stories of those good old days. Thinking back, I notice that Chris’s character dying in non-heroic circumstances was an alarmingly common thread.

Incidentally, these are also the reasons why my review of the Starfinder Starship Operations Manual isn’t ready yet. I do hope to have it done soon, but it had to push back a little further. Apologies for that.

Meanwhile, back in the world of this game, we have a bit of an inversion of our usual Roll For Combat dynamic. Usually, our shows feature a bunch of combat broken up with the occasional social interaction or mini-game. (See also: Three-Ring Adventure… sometimes it seems like they do nothing but fight on that show.) This time around, it’s all mini-game and social interactions, but this week we have actual combat to break things up a little bit.

Well, the rest of the group had combat. As for me? Between weak enemies, good rolls by everyone else, and being at the tail end of the initiative order, there wasn’t really much left for me to do by the time it was my turn. Truth told I spent most of the combat Photoshopping the GEICO Gecko’s face onto the Lionel Richie “Dancing On the Ceiling” album cover to get a cheap laugh out of our Patreon live listeners. I wear many hats, people. I’m a multimedia experience!

So we defeat the geckos, but surprisingly, they don’t have any loot (well… I mean, there’s Thorgrim’s trident… but that doesn’t really count). That’s actually a little troubling. As I discussed last week, we have about a 30-gold hole in the budget, and I’d been assuming the dungeon was going to hold some treasure that might close that gap. But… nothing.

But then work on the keep resumes and we catch a couple of breaks.

First, a little re-reading of the rules reveals that Nixnox (in particular) can use his Crafting to serve as a carpenter. It’s not a HUGE game-changer – the town does have two carpenters – but it does mean that we can potentially tackle three carpenter projects at once. At least for a few more cycles, that might be necessary as there are carpenter requirements on multiple paths. Now, the real benefit would’ve been if Nixnox could have served as a second mason, but we didn’t get that lucky. Mason remains a critical point of failure… though we did finally finish the rebuilding of the gate, which was the single longest mason task on the board.

The next break came when we finished the gate and put the mason to work on fixing the well, where we found something that might be the treasure bundle we didn’t get from the dungeon. Though… maybe it won’t. It’s a map to gold, but if it’s in Ustalav, it’s not like we can just go take a field trip and grab it. Among other things, that would mean going north into Tar Baphon’s territory. Probably a bad idea. But it’s still worth treasure bundles. So… it’s something good overall, but maybe still not the budget-fixer we’re looking for in the short term.

Meanwhile, Thorgrim continues to have mixed results attempting to convince the townspeople the Pathfinder Society are the good guys. OK, the guys at the forge get along fine with him, and Snake Plissken likes us, but the rest of the residents are mostly giving us the stinkeye. It may be time to put someone else on that duty. Maybe… just spitballing here… someone who isn’t constantly brandishing an opposite-aligned holy symbol in their faces?

And that’s where we leave it this week. Kinda short episode this week. Don’t worry, I do think business picks up again next time. (I know there are interesting things about to happen – it just depends on where Steve cuts the episodes whether it’s next week or two weeks down the road.) So in the meantime, feel free to duck into 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 Tales: Tale 6, Chapter 2, World of Chorecraft

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 6, Chapter 2: Keys to the Castle.

This week, the Best Of Mobile Gaming comes to Pathfinder Second Edition!

I kid a little, but also not. To pick a mobile game I wouldn’t be TOO embarrassed to admit I’ve played, those whole scenario feels like something out of (let’s say) Clash of Clans. Oh, you want Fire Archers? Well, first you have to upgrade your Barracks and your Wizard Tower. And for some reason, we can’t quite explain, your city walls. THEN you can teach your archers to light their arrows on fire (which, if we’re being honest… fire arrows sound like something they could figure out through trial and error).

Thanks to John’s handy-dandy flow-chart (as opposed to the flat listing that comes with the adventure) we can break the work into four top-level tracks, not all of them are created equal in terms of tasks or time required. We’ll call them Exterior, Courtyard, Hall, and Barracks. Also, we don’t really start to get into this until halfway through the episode, but some of the tasks are restricted through the requirement of skilled laborers, of which the town has a limited number. (Specifically, two carpenters and only one mason. But oddly, LOTS of trappers, which we don’t seem to need at all… unless that comes later.)

So let’s start with a really quick summary:

  • Exterior: 4 tasks, 50 days, needs both mason and carpenter
  • Courtyard: 3 tasks, 20 days, mason
  • Hall: 8 tasks, 72 days, carpenter and sage (purifying the shrine)
  • Barracks: 2 tasks, 20 hours, carpenter

Skills-wise, the mason is going to be the big sticking point, because none of us have that skill and there’s only one in the town. Also, two of the mason tasks on the Exterior track – Repair Wall (18 days) and Repair Main Gate (12 days) – are some of the most time-consuming tasks on the entire board. Carpenter isn’t nearly as bad; both because the tasks tend to be shorter and the town has two of them. The sage tasks are buried several steps deep in the Hall path, so we won’t really need one until the late stages. Also, the requirement is only to be Trained in Religion, so I know Nella has that, and Thorgrim probably does as well. So we don’t really NEED a sage and could do it ourselves if we had to. Unless the town sage has a lot better roll, in which case we might want to use them to avoid releasing a bunch of demons on the fort.

Money-wise, if you add it all up, there are something like 170 or 180 person-days of labor to do all the tasks, and we have 147 gold, so we’re going to have to find some additional funding sources, or do some of the work ourselves. Or maybe both. It’s not an insurmountable gap, but it’s a gap. On the plus side, maybe there are other opportunities to unearth treasure – I mean, there’s a dungeon right in the keep. On the minus side, Steve has also mentioned that there might be costs for resources such as stone and lumber. So it’s in the ballpark of doable, but there are still some details left to flesh out.

We also get what sounds like a timeframe for completing our tasks. Our kinda-sorta ally Mask Narsen has to go on a mission back to the capital, and he’s going to be gone… a month-ish. Nobody actually comes out and says “be finished by the time I get back”. But it feels like that’s the intent here – that we should be wrapped up (or close to it) by the time he returns. (I feel like the “about” a month is meant so the GM can slice days off the end if the players finish early, so the players don’t end up spinning their wheels for two weeks if they have a party of skill monkeys and get lucky on their rolls.)

I feel like I should clarify one aspect of the mini-game which is explained both a little poorly and well after we get started. There is a provision to basically “take 10” (the First Edition term) and just assume a rate of work that assures proper completion. You can’t fail, but you also can’t critically succeed and speed things up. But here’s the thing — that “mode” can only be used on the tasks that have no skilled labor component: in essence, the four top-level tasks, plus a couple of other ones in the Great Hall track. If the job requires a skilled worker, you have to risk the roll. However, it does mean that moment where I was finishing off Thorgrim’s 2 hours and failed my roll twice, I should’ve been allowed to take the mulligan and just finish it the easy way.

(Which would also be my advice to any players who might end up playing this down the road. Always take the mulligan on the last day of work if it’s available. You don’t want to eat an entire extra day cleaning up 1-2 hours of the previous day’s failure, both in terms of planning the logistics, as well as the sheer psychological frustration of having to waste a day fishing for one hour of labor.)

We also have two secondary tasks, but they’re short, don’t cost money, and are fairly well-covered by our skills. They’re the definition of “fit them in when you can”. There’s planting the spy plants, but that’s basically a one-day task with Nature as a skill. So… that’s got Nella written all over it. (And in fact, skipping ahead, we end up knocking that one out in the first few days.) The other is befriending enough townsfolk to the point where we can recruit them as allies by giving them the coins. We’re also pretty well-positioned here as we’ve got a party full of faces – Thorgrim (champion) and Nixnox (sorcerer) should have decent Charisma scores, and isn’t Ducker a champion too? It should be easy to reach a point where if we have a workflow blocked, just send a face-off to town to work on the recruiting drive. (I thought the goal condition here was three recruits, but I honestly can’t remember if I actually heard that or am just imagining that.)

The first few days are fairly non-descript. We make most of our rolls, fail one or two, but are in pretty good shape overall. All the first-level tasks are knocked out, and we start working on specialized jobs. At this point, we start to hit the first hiccup in our strategy, which is that unlocking the dungeon freaks all of our workers out and they won’t come back to work until we clear it out.

So what are we dealing with here? Is it basically one room, or is it a three-session slog that’s going to cost us multiple lost days of labor? Putting on the meta-game hat, the fact that it’s a Society game means it’s PROBABLY on the shorter side, but you never know.

And that’s actually where we’ll leave off for next time. 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 time.

Talking Tales: Tale 6, Chapter 1, The Ultimate Fixer-Upper

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 6, Chapter 1: This Old Fort.

Well, the Erik Mona/Vortaris Live Episode Sojourn is over, and it’s back to “normal” episodes. Also, we return this week from Questing to full-length adventures.

This time out, our special guest is Jefferson Thacker (aka Perram) from Know Direction. I know Steve has done a lot of stuff with Perram in other venues – they did a live event that wasn’t recorded, Steve appeared on KD’s show, etc. – but I don’t think he’s ever been featured on one of our games before. And personally, my only first-hand interaction with Perram was when he served as the moderator/master-of-ceremonies for our PaizoCon live event back in 2018. So… been a while.

Perram’s character is Ducker Nightshade… he’s definitely a halfling, I’m pretty sure I heard him say he was a champion, but of course, the thing that really sticks out is the accent Perram has chosen: he’s gone full “up the holler” Appalachian with him. Which is… unusual… for a fantasy setting, you have to admit. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I disliked it, but it did catch me off guard a little.

Now, I’m just going to come right out and say it: you’ll notice I don’t talk a lot this episode. There are two main reasons for that: one intentional, one not.

The intentional part is that when we have a new guest, particularly one we’ve never played with before, I usually like to give them some space to see how they’re going to play. I’m deferential that way. When it’s someone we already know like Vanessa Hoskins or Rob Trimarco… OK, jump right in. Since it was our first time playing with Perram, I was more inclined to let him have the floor.

The other reason is that I wasn’t feeling all that well when we recorded this session. Frankly, it was one of those things where I faded fast after dinner, but I didn’t want to call off at the last minute and screw up everyone’s schedules. So I tried to tough it out and probably shouldn’t have. 20-20 hindsight, I guess.

We start… yet again… on a ship, only this time it’s really just transportation from Point A to Point B. OK, there’s a little bit of interaction with the other passengers, but we don’t get attacked and no gambling mini-games. The refugees from Lastwall seem like really obvious candidates to be our first workers, but despite being chased out of their home by the Whispering Tyrant, they seem strangely reluctant to accept the offer of a job and a place to live. For the moment, we won’t worry about that.

Then we reach port and have to deal with the guards, and now we’re at a point where the situation with the family reaches critical mass and we have to do something. Unfortunately, the harbor guards are going to sell off the kid to the Razmiri priesthood unless we can vouch for them. Which leads to this week’s episode of Adventures in Crappy Skill Rolls! Chris fails Diplomacy. Perram fails an attempt to Intimidate. I fail TWICE, burning my hero point in the process. All this for two workers and two kids who aren’t likely to do us any good. But FINALLY, Seth gets a decent roll, and we’re able to get them past the guards and into town at a cost of three gold. Hard to say whether that’s going to be a little or a lot until we get a better sense of the overall budget. (And whether there will be opportunities to earn money elsewhere.)

Next up we get our mission briefing from Mask Narsen (all sorts of COVID jokes I’m just gonna leave on the table there), who actually seems to be a reasonable guy for a worshipper of an evil deity. It’s funny because I now understand some of this better having read the Lost Omens Legends book for my review. Razmir is a really powerful (evil) wizard who’s been masquerading as a god and has built up a following. However, Razmir views the Whispering Tyrant as probably the single biggest threat to his power, so at least on that specific front, he’s capable of cooperating with good people to preserve his power. So, not to guess too much into the motives of someone who calls themselves “the Living God”, but Razmir probably feels like having Pathfinders manning the fort would serve as a first line of defense if Tar-Baphon ever gets frisky and decides to attack.

(BTW, bonus points to Chris for his passive-aggressive pissing contest with Mask Narsen. I had forgotten about that, but it was a pretty funny moment.)

We also get an introduction to the town, but this seems like it’s going to mostly come into play later. I think the big takeaway, for now, is getting a sense of where the skilled craftsmen are when we get past grunt labor and need to hire specialists. For now, put a pin in it.

So now we go visit the fort, and we start to get an idea of the full scope of the project. Which is… basically… everything. The walls have holes in them. The main keep is in disrepair. The roof is shot, but you can’t even get up to the top level to fix the roof because there are no stairs. The well is damage, so there’s no supply of water. And ohbytheway, we also have an evil shrine to contend with and may have monsters living somewhere in or around the fort.

So the main thrust of this adventure looks like it’s going to be base-building rather than traditional combat. We have a certain amount of time (currently not specified), a finite amount of money, and we can either hire labor or do it ourselves in cases where we have the right skills. In addition to whatever labor we have to hire out, there are also potential costs for materials, and for lodging up to the point where we can get the fort into a livable condition. Unknown is whether there will be opportunities to add to our budget by… essentially… doing side quests.

At the very end of the episode, Steve presents us with a full task list. I mostly want to save that for next week because – mild spoiler – John taps into his Game Designer Kung-Fu and spends the week between sessions putting it into a more coherent “flowchart” format that makes it easier to discuss. For now, I can give you a first glance assessment: there are something like 180 or 190 work units, so we’re clearly going to have to do SOME of the work ourselves or find some alternate sources of income because our 147 gold isn’t going to totally cover it. And that’s even before any materials or lodging at the inn.

So that’s where we’ll pick it up next week – we’ll break the task list down in more detail and get to work. 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. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Tales: Tale 5, Chapter 2, Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 5, Chapter 2: Sea Monster Sushi.

Welcome to Part 2 of the PaizoCon special episode. There’s a certain serendipity – planned or not – in running our previous “convention” episode at the same time GenCon is also going on. Though it’s also a little confusing and I fully admit I started typing “GenCon” and changed it to “PaizoCon” as I was writing the intro.

For the record, I’m not ignoring Steve’s announcement about the new adventure… I just figured I’d wait until there’s more to report. Also, because of scheduling snafus, we haven’t actually started playing it yet, so there isn’t even much to drop vague hints about yet. To quote Mister Incredible: WE’LL GET THERE WHEN WE GET THERE.

We resume action in the aftermath of stepping on to the sunken ship and into the waiting pseudo-pods of the mold – though I managed to avoid that particular fiasco by hanging back. I knew SOMETHING was going to happen, but I assumed it would be a more conventional ambush, rather than mold. So everyone else gets to deal with the virtual ConCrud, while I gingerly clear the decks with fire. (Lest I be portrayed as a coward, I’m pretty sure one of either Vortaris or Nixnox didn’t go on the enemy ship at all, but I can’t remember which one.)

Once that’s all subsided, we do a little search of the ship looking for the gorget and figure out it’s below decks. Which are… (wait for it)… UNDER WATER. Of course they are. Needless to say, John is ecstatic that his underwater combat feat might prove to be useful, while Nixnox’s already-evident frustration at another water-based adventure escalates to full-fledged panic. Our strong swimmers investigate, and the corpse we need turns out to be wedged in the jaws of a sea beastie.

Again, here’s where I expected an ambush. Part of it is that Pathfinder Quests are short, so you expect something to happen quickly, but I fully expected that the creature was going to be the fight… that it was just taking a nap or had gotten stuck when the ship went down and was going to conveniently wake up when we started tugging the corpse loose. Well, it turns out the folks at Paizo aren’t QUITE that devious – it’s just a skill challenge to get the body out before you drown. But still, that’s an effective little challenge as is – Thorgrim is the only officially “strong” person in the party, and holding one’s breath underwater got a lot harder between editions.

Quick rules digression, which we sort of explained but sort of didn’t: In First Edition, you could hold your breath underwater for a number of rounds equal to your Constitution SCORE. Now it’s 5 rounds plus your Con MODIFIER. So it went from something that’s likely to be well over a minute even for an average person to “over 30 seconds is pretty exceptional”. Arguably that’s more realistic: it’s actually pretty hard to hold your breath in deep water, especially if you’re thrashing around exerting yourself. But still, it’s a bit of an adjustment. It’ll especially be interesting to see how that plays out in underwater combat situations, if (when) those ever arise.

Who am I kidding? We’ve had water adventures almost every time. Of course, we’ll have to deal with that at some point.

Now here’s where being Level 3 would’ve been enormously useful. If I was Level 3, I’d have the upgrade to the Level 2 version of Wild Shape, which gives me “real” forms including a shark form. At that point, I could’ve Wild Shaped into a shark and either tugged at the corpse or eaten away at the creature (gross… yes… but possibly effective) until the sailor’s remains broke free. But since I’m still on the starter version, I can only turn into small creatures, which didn’t really offer much help here. Level 1 Wild Shape is mostly for roleplay flavor, maybe a little bit of recon work (though even that’s limited by the fairly short duration).

So Peepers and Thorgrim get the actual job of freeing our target, and Nella and her unimpressive strength are mostly there for moral support and casting Light. At first, it looks like we might end up with some drowning victims, but they finally get the body free and we’re able to drag it back to the dry part of the ship.

And then, as we’re bringing our spoils back… THAT’S when all hell breaks loose.

I have to admit, at first, I was still thinking it was going to be a BIG sea serpent – perhaps the one in the basement of the wreckage had a sibling. Or my other thought was kraken-esque tentacles – that we’d never see the actual creature, just fight off a few Grabby Boys Of The Deep. But I suppose either of those would’ve been creatures WAY outside our challenge level, so what we actually got were more ordinary-sized sea serpents. Now, they weren’t trivial – they had a charge attack, and they could also use the water to move around and attack from unexpected angles. Basically, as the front-line fighters charged all the way over to the port-side rail, one of the serpents went underneath the ship and came up in the middle of our back line. Oops. I suppose we could quibble about animal-level creatures using advanced tactics, but whatever. Made for a more exciting encounter.

Fortunately, the snakes were not that tough in terms of defenses – nothing special on armor class or hit points – and we were able to make fairly quick work of them and secure victory. And Vortaris even got the death blow and some sweet lovin’ from the captain of the ship. Good for you, Vortaris! Hope that doesn’t mean he just recruited an admiral for his eventual Fleet of the Damned when he goes full lich…

And hey, we finished on time! See we can do it when we put our minds to it.

So that’s our PaizoCon romp in a nutshell. As usual, Erik Mona was lots of fun to play with: Vortaris continues to crack me up as a character, and I hope we get to see him again down the road. But it’s also fun having the live audience to interact with – we get a little bit of that with our Patreon subscriber channel, but nowhere near to the scale of a convention appearance. It’s gratifying to see hundreds of people listening in and following along live… even if they do mostly vote for Mr. Peepers and continue to encourage his impulsive streaks. Makes for good listening, I suppose.

Next week, we return with a new adventure (back in “the studio”) with a new special guest, so I hope you’ll join us for that. I won’t spoiler anything, except to say it’s going to be an actual adventure and not a quest, so expect it to unfold on more of a 4-6 episode timeline. As always, while you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you back here next week.

Talking Tales: Tale 5, Chapter 1, The People Have Spoken

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 5, Chapter 1: Water Water Everywhere.

This week’s Talking (and probably next’s) is going to be a bit weird just because of the circumstances… it’s a review of a live show some of you have already heard live, so I’m more self-conscious than usual about telling you things you might already know.

I suppose I’ll start by pulling back the curtain a little on the pre-game, and get into what, if anything, is different about doing a totally live show like this? I think there are two major things, and they’re both fairly positive changes.

First, when you’re in a live setting like this, you’re very aware of being “on the clock”. You’ve got a window you’re supposed to fit the show into (even if there was no one on after us, you still have to expect that some people planned for three hours and might need to bail when the clock hits 3:01), and you also know in the back of your head that Steve can’t go back and take out the dead spots and make you sound more interesting than you are. (Take a starting-to-be-tedious 15 minutes of discussion and boil it down to a tolerable 8 or 9). So some of the Paralysis By Analysis and 10-minute rulebook digressions tend to fall by the wayside. For our group, that’s huge.

The other is: I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I see comments flying by in the chat and other indications of a live audience, I’m much more aware of the need to “entertain” with my character choices. In a normal session, where maybe we have a couple of people on the Patreon chat, it’s not like I don’t care AT ALL, but I do tend to play tactically first and foremost. Fairly by-the-book, make the “right” decision whether it makes for good podcasting or not. In a setting like this, I tend to open things up a little more and do the thing that will make things happen – good, bad, or indifferent.

I have to admit Erik Mona gave a fantastic summary of the previous adventure… we probably do need to hire him to recap all our adventurers as Vortaris. That said, I ended up finding the chronology a little hard to keep straight in my brain – at the time we recorded this, we had played the first Vortaris adventure, but it hadn’t “aired” yet. So he had to summarize that one, but without actually spoiling anything major. So we’re talking about that one in the future tense, but also in the past tense, and frankly, my brain started to overheat trying to figure it all out. It was like that one scene in Spaceballs when they were watching the VHS tape of their own movie. “So when’s it going to be now?

I know it’s probably unrealistic given Erik’s busy schedule, but I find myself hoping we get to see more of Vortaris down the road. I find there’s “different” in a way that’s interesting and “different” in a way that’s just annoying or contrarian – “I’m just going to mess with other people in the name of ‘roleplaying’ my character” – and I think Erik has a good feel for where that line is.  Or… I was only half kidding: maybe Vortaris can be the villain of an adventure down the road once he assembles his undead army.

So the adventure begins with a mission debrief and then we’re off on the high seas (yet again – poor Nixnox). As with a lot of these Society adventurers, the game starts with a low-stakes social interaction, in the form of the card game. That tends to be a by-design feature. If you think about the role Society occupies, you figure these get played pretty often at conventions, sometimes with tables full of strangers. Jumping right into battle before you know who’s a grizzled veteran and who’s sitting down at a table for the first time might get people killed, so you give them a non-lethal activity to get to know each other first.

Two things – other than John’s supernaturally good luck — struck me about the dice game in hindsight. First, he figures it out right at the end, but Chris spent most of the game misunderstanding the rules – he was thinking you just had to get 12 or over when it had to be EXACTLY 12. So he was going aggressive and making bigger bets than the odds warranted because he thought any suitably high enough third roll would be a winner. Right at the end, he figures it out, but… oops. The second thing I noticed is that if you didn’t win on the opening roll, a 6 was the sweet spot for the first roll because it gives you two outs on the third die – a 1 gives you 7 and a 6 gives you 12. Any other roll would only leave you with 1 win condition – a 2-5 could go for 7 but not 12; a 7-11 could go for 12 but already overshot 7.

After the dice game, we get our first real test, and it’s a skills challenge. The bad news for Nella is that none of the things she could be doing are things she’s all that good at. A 14 DEX means a +2 for Acrobatics, but that’s canceled out by her armor penalty. Fortunately, though, Nat 20 saves the day!

The dynamic of having the crowd vote on things is something new we tried this time out, and it ended up being kind of fun way to introduce some randomness into the situation. I’m not sure I would want the vox populi deciding on anything that was truly life or death, but for something silly like the card game or even the storm, it adds a nice little dimension to things. It does tend to reward the players who play… flamboyantly?… so at least early on, I wasn’t getting many votes because Peepers and Vortaris were getting the lion’s share of the positive attention, but those are the breaks. File it away as a learning opportunity for next time. WIN THE CROWD, MAXIMUS!

As we end the first half of the adventure, we roll up to the shipwreck that’s the destination of our mission. I don’t know about anyone else, but I felt like it had “trap” written all over it, which is why I decided to hang back a little when the boarding party went aboard. And sure enough… MOLD. I was expecting something more humanoid, but that’s certainly an option.

And that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. Thanks for listening (potentially TWICE in this case) and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Tales: Tale 4, Chapter 3, Last-Call Free-For-All

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 4, Chapter 3: New Spell Who Dis?

I start this week with a bit of personal but game-related news.

Back when the pandemic hit, our Dads-N-Kids game pretty much went on hold, and (without putting other people’s business in the street) a couple of the people had bigger fish to fry in their quarantine situations, so we didn’t try and take it online or anything. It’s just on hiatus for now.

So… I’m intrigued to learn that thanks to COVID-induced isolation, my son and his friends from school decided to try their hand playing D&D online, completely unprompted by me. (Yes, D&D. They’re doing 5E because that’s the system the kid who’s GM-ing knows). I figured even though we’ve been doing the online gaming thing for years, I’d resist the urge to helicopter-parent and leave them to figure it out for themselves unless The Boy specifically asks how to do things. So in an interesting bit of happenstance, they’ll probably be conducting their Session Zero by the time you read this.

I’m very pleased to have raised a second-generation gamer; having said all of the above, if they start a competing podcast, I’m dropping his ass off at the bus station.

At any rate… back to the conclusion of this “short” adventure. (And yes, I love how that got the biggest laugh of the entire session.) As we begin, I think we have 3 or 4 “real” enemies, and then I think we’ve only pacified one section, so most sections also have “general mayhem” to deal with. Two of our party (Nixnox and Vortaris) have decided on the “run and hide” strategy, leaving three of us to handle most of the fighting. And they’ve been getting pretty lucky with their rolls on Thorgrim in particular, so despite their low levels, they’ve put some decent damage on us.

What Steve said about the party being split up was mostly true, except maybe for me and John – we were generally no more than 10 or 15 feet from each other at any given point. If you look at the bar as a clock (with two “extra” sections that we never entered sticking out the top of it), John and I were basically bunched up where the hands were at twelve o’clock, Thorgrim was off around 10 or 10:30, Nixnox was down around 8, and Vortaris bee-lined out of the bar along the 3:00 line.

The interesting dynamic for John and I is that we were fighting around the boundary of three different sections, so depending on where the flow of combat took us in any given round, we’d quite often be fighting in different sections. And tactics magnified that: Peepers just tended to get the nearest enemy’s face regardless of what the underlying section conditions were, whereas unless someone forced the issue, I tried to use ranged attacks and stay in the safe section(s) as long as possible. If I moved at all, it was generally in the direction of the door. Later, once the fight was a little more under control, I tried to start pacifying sections to create a way out for Thorgrim and Nixnox, but early on, I was content to play it safe.

Speaking of which, I know John got annoyed at me for using my heal on Chris and not him, but there was a method to my madness. First, Chris had taken more damage – he was in “one more good hit” territory, whereas John was only about halfway down. Second and more importantly, Thorgrim was deeper into the room, so if he dropped, we’d have to go further in to retrieve him, whereas if John dropped, I could battle medicine him the very next time my turn came up. Also, fog of war, I wasn’t sure whether Thorgrim or Nixnox had the document at that point, but if there was a chance Chris had it, I wanted to keep him on his feet.

Arguably the highlight of the session – and I have to admit I forgot it happened – was Vortaris pacifying one of the sections (the front door area, basically) while in rat form. I like to think all these drunken rough-and-tumble pirates were secretly terrified of rats, and the mere sight of one caused them to flee in panic like elephants anecdotally do. (At least that’s what happens in old Warner Brothers cartoons, and we know those are completely accurate, right?)

If you want to get technical, Steve probably shaved a few rounds off the end, but it would have been busy-work at best – there were no more active enemies, and there was a pacified path to the door for all five of us. It really would’ve amounted to us either crawling really slowly out the door three actions at a time, or making a bunch of Dex rolls to avoid slipping. Nixnox in particular would’ve faced a LONG slog over slippery floors to get out. I’m not sure that would’ve added much entertainment value to the show, so… moving along.

I suppose the big development of the postgame is FINALLY succeeding in an Earn Income check! Nella’s Nature Tours finally turns a profit! I went into the session fully intending to hold the line – I wasn’t going to let myself be humiliated again for 2 days’ worth of copper. But somewhere during the course of it, I figured it was a win-win from a show standpoint – either the running gag continues or I finally break the streak, whereas nothing happens if I just go to the bar and wait for the story to be over. So I decided to go ahead and roll, and there you go. I did it for you, the fans.

So where do we go from here? As Steve said, we have two in the can, but one of those is the live show from PaizoCon. On one hand, it would seamlessly continue the Vortaris Chronicles and it might be nice to present a cleaned-up, properly-edited version of that one; on the other hand, I assume some of you listened to that one live already so it would be a couple of weeks of already know what’s going to happen. Or we could go with the NEW-new show, but that’s a full adventure, not a quest, so that’s another 4-6 episodes.

I’ll leave you all to think on that until next week. While you’re thinking, feel free to duck into Discord and check out the ongoing general mayhem. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

Talking Tales: Tale 4, Chapter 2, The Beer Barrel Poke-Ya

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 4, Chapter 2: Potent Potables.

When doing these columns, sometimes there is a Big Overarching Theme that manages to suck up 1000 words all on its own. Other times, it’s more of a grab-bag of loose thoughts… I’d be showing my age to compare it to Larry King, but there you have it. This week’s column is more the latter – lots of little things struck me as kinda-sorta interesting, but nothing really jumped out as urgent business.

First things first: I swear I didn’t give Voltaris a gold piece to suck up to the Paizo Muckety-Muck. Promise. Though that’s not to say it was a move without cynicism… just a different brand of cynicism. I was more worried that if the negotiations bogged down with the harbormaster, our usual brand of paralysis by analysis might kick in and we might spend 20 minutes debating how to NOT pay the harbormaster. You already saw hints of it with John debating whether to steal our money back. So… screw it, I decided to cough up a gold to keep the game moving along. And OK, roleplaying-wise, maybe a little benevolence at hitting Level 2 and feeling sorry for the character on his very first adventure. Now, if Erik Mona happens to remember this kindness at some later date, well, that’s just an added bonus.

So we find the pirate captain without much trouble, and we get our first special surprise of the evening: the return of Old Woody! Yeah, OId Woody is part alcoholic beverage, part potion, part Class 6 and/or 8 hazardous material that’s been part of our game since the pre-podcast days, and usually I am its most willing victim. In its pure form, it has medium-duration (a few days) or even permanent effects, but I assume that probably wouldn’t fly for a Society game, so we’re dealing with some black market knock-off version that just knocks you on your ass a little if you crit-fail… which of course I do. In one of those “I forgot I said it the first time, and actually laughed at my own joke listening to the second time”, I was highly amused at the idea that Nella would briefly turn back into a duck before passing out. “IT’S GOLD, JERRY. GOLD.”

I would observe that if the roll was a little closer, maybe my newfound poison resistance might have made a difference, but when you miss by THAT much… nope. I don’t think it was a Nat 1, but I don’t remember the base die roll being more than a 4.

As far as trying to cheat during the darts game by casting Guidance, I figured that was a calculated risk, but worth a shot. I somehow didn’t envision her trying to kill us or refusing to sign the treaty just because we fooled around on the final shot, and if she had, I would’ve been willing to do the groveling apology to keep the Pathfinders in the good graces. That said, I did get Survival (+8) and Stealth (+0) confused, so I wasn’t NEARLY as sneaky as I thought. So that’s an “oops” on my part. Fortunately, I gauged her (or Steve’s) response correctly, and she was basically cool with it.

But then, just to mess with us, she goes and starts a bar-room brawl… the meat of the scenario… and disappears, leaving us to fend for ourselves in the world’s worst rendition of Margaritaville. Yay!

It’s an interesting fight for multiple reasons, but the main reason is the fairly malleable definition of “non-lethal” combat. I mean, when you’ve got pirates pulling knives in round 1 and using 3d6 Hydraulic Push spells… that’s a pretty creative definition of “non-lethal”. Now, for my personal roleplay, I decide (at least to start the fight) that I’m going to still play it by the rules and formally attack with non-lethal damage, incurring the -2 penalty to hit – it just feels like the right thing to do. But after the second straight time where the -2 costs me a hit… at the risk of spoiling next week’s episode, I think I do eventually say “screw it” and hit for full effect at some point.

I’d also like to say Hydraulic Push may have to be added to my arsenal at some future point – if not for Nella, then at least for the next caster class I create. I have to go back and refresh my memory on how swapping out spells works, but that’s pretty powerful for a Level 1 spell. I WANT! Then again, at Level 3, I get access to second-level spells, and there’s probably something even cooler than Hydraulic Push on that list. But there was a moment where I sat in grim silence staring daggers at the words “Feather Fall” on my character sheet. Not gonna lie.

Looking briefly at the rest of the party, Chris’ problem is one of logistics – the good news is he decided to be brave and Champion-y; the bad news is he ran away from the exit and some of the other pirates filled in his escape route, so he’s going to have a bit of a struggle getting out again. (There’s a theoretical exit on the other side, but it opens on the water, so you probably don’t want a plate-clad dwarf jumping overboard.) Peepers ran the right way; he’s just feeling generally aggrieved at being attacked at all. Meanwhile, Nixnox and Vortaris are conducting their own two-person hide-and-seek competition. They’re both getting involved here and there – Nixnox manages to successfully intimidate one of the “general throng” areas into submission, and Vortaris casts that Agony spell – but the fact that they’re in hiding means it will probably be three of us soaking up most of the hits in the short term.

And then there’s the dynamics of the “battlefield” itself. First, the bar is basically broken into six sections; some of the section boundaries are open and you can move freely between sections, but a few are actually hard walls with specific doorways between the areas. I should also mention that if we’re JUST focused on getting to the exit, the door is in the southeast corner, meaning there are two sections to the furthest north we should be able to avoid entirely unless we specifically need to choose a new escape route or unless fighter reinforcements show up from there. Each section has “general mayhem” going on, except in the section Nixnox pacified. The general mayhem takes the form of a single “attack” if you’re in the area – being hit by a bottle or a stray punch or something – and later in the episode, we get a keg spilled which creates slippery conditions. In some ways, that might end up being more of a challenge than the actual melee, since you either have to five-foot step (aka Step) your way through or risk falling prone if you try to move through at normal speed.

So that’s what we’re facing as we end the first episode. We’re mostly doing OK, though Thorgrim managed to box himself into a bit of a corner, and even with his high armor class, they’re still landing a few hits on him. At some point, we’ll have to decide if we need to switch from everyone for themselves to “rescue the dwarf”. But that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. As always, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.