The Bird’s Eye View Archives - Roll For Combat: Paizo's Official Pathfinder & Starfinder Actual Play Podcasts

Check out our review of the Pathfinder Society Guide and the Pathfinder Bestiary 3!

The Bird’s Eye View S2|17: Catch And Release

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|17: A Tomb of Horrors.

So I started this week by taking on a little challenge. Steve was trying to figure out what the logic is behind making a roper so powerful, so I took a little bit of a deep dive into the stat block, and I think I figured things out. So let’s play “What Were The Designers Thinking?”

First, it turns out the tentacles are kinda weak. I know Dougie hit for something like 50 points of damage which makes them sound impressive, but that doesn’t mean they actually require 50 damage to destroy… it’s actually more like 18. So at the level we’re at, we should be able to take those out in one or two hits each. What’s worse. A boss beast with six minions that have 40 or 50 hit points, or a boss beast with six minions you might be able to one-shot?

And that gets us to the second part of the equation. The roper only has a movement speed of 10 feet. Meaning, once you get those tentacles down, kiting it becomes a trivial task if you’ve got ANY sort of open room for maneuverability.

And I suppose that’s the one thing complicating this battle… the fact that it’s hanging from the ceiling above a large drop. It would be one thing to kite this in a fairly open space where it was on the ground. But if you’ve got to fight it perilously close to a drop that could both inflict life-threatening damage and also split the party… that’s a bit more complicated. And frankly, if I was the roper and those annoying adventurers cut off two or three of my tentacles, I’d say screw it to collecting souvenirs and just start chucking them right into the chasm. Go down and collect trinkets from their corpses at your leisure.

Though… ALL of this could be wrong, because it’s possible this roper has a different stat block than the generic ones online. The reason I say this: generic ropers are vulnerable to electricity, not fire… so maybe this one’s a special Aroden-tainted roper or something. In which case, all of the above could be wrong. Maybe it’s also a really fast one with really strong tentacles and we’re just screwed if we try and fight it.

As far as the ruling that damaging roper tentacles don’t damage the creature. I have to admit that seems wrong to me in an “Anatomy 101” way, just based on how reality works. I mean, if you chop off one of my hands, yeah, I might be able to continue to function but I would suffer some pretty serious negative effects – shock, blood loss, you know the drill. Seems like the same should hold for roper tentacles. UNLESS you’re going to argue they’re dead cells, like sentient hair or something. Or unless the roper is like those lizards who just let their tail fall off and grow a new one if they’re caught. At the end of the day, it’s a fantasy environment so you can come up with a rationalization in either direction.

Now… I suppose I should mention that this “research” unintentionally makes me a very mild cheater. I got so interested in the academic puzzle of it that I didn’t connect the wiring in my head: as of where we CURRENTLY are, we haven’t beaten the roper yet. I don’t think it’s any great spoiler to say this, but there’s like 3 or 4 ways into the lower levels of this dungeon and we took a different way in, so we haven’t been back to visit our buddy. So… I guess technically I’ve looked at the stat block of a creature we haven’t reached a final resolution with yet. Bad Me… I hereby administer myself one slap on the wrist.

As for the “battle” itself, once again I end up in the back and am mocked for it. Sigh. I don’t know what to tell people… now that Basil has that bow, I’ve been feeling more comfortable hanging out in the rear with the gear. Seems like the smart play to take that first round and assess the situation before rushing in. If that makes me a coward, OK, though I’d also point out that at least I’m not running AWAY like Lo Mang.

I have to admit I’m a little surprised Steve let us talk our way out of this fight – especially with the language barrier – but I tend to forget how good Gomez is at the social skills, so maybe it’s legit. Or maybe the roper just doesn’t get a lot of visitors these days, and it’s lonely. Who knows? Though I like to think throwing a little fire near it helped out. I know that drew a skeptical reaction from my teammates, but that felt like the equivalent of firing a shot in the air. Think of it like the scene from Aliens where Ripley blasts the flamethrower NEAR the eggs just to let the alien queen what’s up. Gomez was the good cop; I wasn’t really a BAD cop… more of a neutral cop who just happened to have a source of fire on him… and wanted to remind the roper of that to ensure its cooperation.

Whether influence finally convinced the roper to let us go, we actually get out of the situation mostly unscathed… we lose a few trinkets from the lower end of our character sheets, but nothing that will harm us long-term. That said, I was a little miffed toward the end when we’d mostly extracted ourselves and Seth still wanted to lead it to the treasure room so it could grab a bunch of treasure that should otherwise be ours. WHY? THERE’S MONEY IN THE BANANA STAND, SETH.

So, OK… the path with the roper is closed off for now – even if we come back and fight it, we don’t have the key for the stairwell that lies beyond, and even though Dougie is re-embracing his status as a rogue, I’m not sure I trust him to pick that lock. But no big deal… that still leaves at least 3 or 4 unexplored pathways yet to explore. Granted the easiest choice would be to follow where all the tracks go, but our collective compulsive behavior means we’re going to clean out this level first and then explore elsewhere. It’s a thing we do.

We set off one more trap – cool, creepy hands coming out of the floor! – but it’s fairly easily dealt with, and that’s where we’ll leave things for next time. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S2|16: Gotta See a Man About a Horseman

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|16: He’s Kind Of A Big Deal.

We join this week’s episode just in time for the first real fight of the dungeon. The skeletons were more of a warmup, and the encounter with the temple guards was almost more of a trap: as long as you weren’t dumb enough to stay in the room with them, combat could be pretty much avoided entirely.

This time, though, we’ve got Christopher Walken’s character from Sleepy Hollow to deal with. The initial read of the fight is that the guy on the horse is the heavy hitter, but the horse itself isn’t that formidable – it just adds that smoke debuff and gives the guy more mobility than he’d have on foot. Halfway through the fight, Steve mentions that it does have some sort of trample ability that might make it a more powerful foe, but we never actually get to see that.

Now, I’m at the back when the fight starts, and if I’m being honest, half of that was by design – now that I use a bow, I like hanging back a little until I can assess the fight – and if I’m being honest, the other half was that I was being a little slow in moving my piece. John pretty much ran halfway across the map, and I was moving along in 30, 40-foot chunks. As one of Bob Ross’ “happy little accidents”, this did mean I was too far away to get the fear effect from the rider or the sickness from the smoke. So maybe “tactical cowardice” has its place in the world.

The opening act strikes me as “good radio” from an action standpoint, but highly implausible from a physics standpoint. First, critical hit or not, I’m not sure I see a gust of wind blowing over a horse that’s capable of carrying an armored rider. There really probably ought to be some size restriction on that. But the rules say what they say, so itty-bitty mephit huffs and puffs and blows the horse down.

Also, there’s the matter of the steed saving its master from the fall. I’m not going to break out my old college physics text and do the math, but even with everyone’s turns theoretically happening simultaneously, I’m not sure 6 seconds (one round) would be enough time to re-summon a steed and stop the fall in a way SAFELY slows down the rider. DON’T THESE PEOPLE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO GWEN STACEY IN SPIDER-MAN? It’s far more likely the rider’s momentum would just pancake the horse and they’d both be dead. But whatever. Good radio. Moving on.

While the enemies are in freefall, we have to make a tactical decision, and for some reason, John wants to use this moment to run past the encounter and go further into the dungeon. I didn’t really get a chance to chime in as much as I wanted, but this struck me as a REALLY dumb idea. First, there’s bleeding encounters – what if we run into the next room, find another enemy who’s just as powerful, and then the headless horseman rejoins the fight as well. Even if that doesn’t happen… let’s say we go explore a while. Eventually – unless we find a PERMANENT base of operations – we’ll have to leave the dungeon to go rest up, and we’ll probably have to come back past this guy with far fewer resources to deal with him. So I was firmly of the mindset of “might as well take the fight now”.

Especially when you add in the POSSIBILITY of getting the temple guardians on our side. I have to admit I didn’t really think that would work, but it was worth a shot. I looked at it this way – if he’s a mindless “animal-instinct” level of undead, he probably wandered in there once before, got punched, and realized he shouldn’t go there again. If he’s got human-equivalent intelligence, he probably RECOGNIZES guardians of Aroden and knows to stay away from them. Either way, I do kinda doubt he’s going to charge right into the room. But it could still help us establish a defensive position, much the same way it helps to fight under your tower in League of Legends. If you stake out a position the enemy can’t or won’t enter, you can basically chip away with ranged attacks and then go in for the finishing blow on terms of your choosing.

That’s the theory anyway.

The one kinda-sorta problem was that Lo Mang and Dougie ran and hid behind pillars, which somewhat negated the purpose of trying to LURE the thing. For a lure to work, you gotta at least give the enemy some sort of target to chase, so unless it’s got supernatural radar of some sort, that means SOMEONE’s got to be in visible range. So that’s why I was standing out in the middle of the room like a dope at first – offering up a target. I’m not excessively brave, but I hadn’t taken any damage yet, so even if he’d gone full charge, I probably could’ve survived one round of attacks and then he’d be all the way into the killbox.

And wouldn’t you know it, once we start fighting with tactics instead of rushing blindly at things, it actually starts to go pretty well. We down the horse pretty easily, and while the boss is a little tougher, Gomez’s spells really make the difference here. One thing that was kind of exciting – though we really only got to SUCCESSFULLY use it once – was the Shared Strategem. Now that Dougie retrained into more of a traditional precision damage rogue, being able to use my bow to give Dougie flat-footed from anywhere in the room is going to be a big help.

So the horseman dies… but no cool loot, because he just disappears into mist. So I think there’s going to be some sort of “putting him to rest” side quest involved here. Given the theme of “corrupted catacombs”, I think maybe this guy was a former champion of Aroden, but either the Skinsaws activated him as a line of defense or the general corruption caused by Aroden’s absence turned him. Assuming that to be true, that sort of implies he’ll have his own burial chamber if he was a high-up muckety-muck, and maybe there’s where we’ll be able to figure out how to banish him permanently. And (cough) get his stuff (cough).

While searching around in the aftermath of the fight, we do find a tunnel leading to a different part of the dungeon, and there’s indications that this is how the Skinsaws are getting in and out. So if we want to go directly after them, that seems like the way to go. But between resolving the horseman issue and general “clear out the level” metagaming, we decide to investigate further along the horseman’s path to see if we can find clues about how to get rid of him permanently.

And OK.. we don’t find the horseman (unless his grave is behind that locked gate), but we do find another encounter. Which we’ll deal with next week. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S2|15: Long Time, No Melee

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|15: And That’s How Undead Are Made.

I know this is an odd sentiment, but it feels good to be fighting again.

Don’t get me wrong. I respect roleplay and peacefully resolving problems, and talking our way through the last section of the adventure was kinda fun, even if Seth did most of the heavy lifting. But I’m honestly glad to be hitting stuff again. (Or… given my rolls in this fight, not hitting stuff.)

The interesting thing here is that for the first time in a while, we’re not really on a schedule. Yes, in general, it would be good to get to the bottom of the Cult’s plans and rescue the Graycloaks. On the other hand, the cult doesn’t really know we’re coming, nor is there a SPECIFIC threat we’re trying to prevent. With the murder hotel, once it was kicked off, we had to go as fast as possible. With the bank heist, we had a specific deadline. Here… we can take our time a bit, and yes… even go back and rest up if we have to. It’s ALMOST like being a normal dungeon party for a change.

I have to admit I was a little surprised to find out about the restrictions about casting spells in animal form. First, as Steve pointed out, Erik Mona was running around our Black Lodge game casting spells right and left, and if HE’s getting rules wrong, what hope do the rest of us have? (Not to point fingers… just sayin’.)  But I think it’s also a vestige of First Edition, where I know druids (at least) could change into forms and pretty much retain all their abilities, including spellcasting and communication with party-mates. So much so that I had a druid nicknamed “Windy” because he spent almost his entire life in air elemental form.

That said, in a practical sense, it doesn’t REALLY impact things much – Seth and I spent most of the fight safe in the back row and only ever got attacked once or twice. Maybe he missed out on being targeted by an attack once, but doubt that would’ve been enough to change the shape of the fight. Or if you want to, you can just mentally retcon an action where Gomez turned back into humanoid form at the start of the fight. Really, he only needed to be a bug to get past the guardian, and besides, having that bug crawling around my feathers was really uncomfortable. (Basil’s secretly very ticklish.)

The real story here is the Dougie and Lo Mang Show. You skip an entire level, you do a little bit of retraining, and you come out the other side a badass, apparently. In Lo Mang’s case, it’s FINALLY having a party member with something that’s like an attack of opportunity – as the boys mention, being able to sneak damage in on the bad guy’s turn is pretty disruptive. In Dougie’s case, it’s finally becoming the rogue he was always meant to be, switching to lighter weapons, and embracing his inner mobile fighter, and adding both a “move-and-attack” and a double-attack to his bag of tricks. Not that he was doing BADLY with the maul – I mean, when that thing critted for 40 or 50 points, it was like Christmas morning – but he just felt so much more effective in this new configuration.

And though we don’t get to see it in THIS fight, I’m going to be able to help him with that… as soon as I start rolling better. As I mentioned last week, I grabbed Shared Stratagem, so I can give Dougie the flat-footed bonus remotely, without even having to physically set up flanking. It didn’t work out this time but once we can start getting that rolling… fun times ahead.

The one thing I’m wrestling with as we go through this first fight is how much of this is the work of the cult, and how much of this is the temple just going into a state of disrepair because of Aroden’s absence? On one hand, you leave a catacomb alone for 100 years, bad things are going to happen; especially if the patron deity’s influence and protective spells wane in the meantime. On the other hand, the Skinsaw Cult specifically works in undead abominations, so I assume they have someone on the payroll who can reanimate a few skeletons. I mean… part of the allure of hiding in catacombs for them is free reinforcements. But maybe I’m reading too much into that.

Overall, we make quick work of the skeletons and continue our exploration. We find a few possible ways to go deeper into the catacombs, but I feel like we want to clear the level we’re on first. Some of that’s metagaming, I suppose, but there’s also a sense of not leaving enemies in your rear. At the very least, we should figure out what those horse hooves are.

Or “clanking JELL-O”. Whatever that sounds like.

While we explore, we find a bit of a treasure trove. Here’s where things get a little weird, as YES, we’ve been given permission to “salvage” what we need, but it still feels a little like grave-robbing, and we’re still cops at the end of the day. But whatever… at some point, you stop overthinking and go with the fact that the GM gave it a green light.

In the process, we finally get to use our secondary skills a little. Dougie manages to figure out and disarm the trap on the “cages”, and then Gomez uses all his goofy little “trick plays” to get (half) the gear out. (And me, the theoretical skill monkey of the group, sitting on the sideline.) Just in case it was unclear what was happening, Gomez summoned the chest feather token (basically a bag of holding type thing) and a mephit on the “wrong” side of the bars, had the mephit load the chest up, and then shrunk the token down and handed it back to Gomez. The ONLY downside is we can’t access the treasure inside until later because dismissing the token ends it, and then we gotta deal with all that encumbrance. So for now, our new goodies are locked away.

After half the loot is retrieved, we continue to follow the sound of the horse… and for better or worse, we eventually find it – just your garden-variety headless horseman with a nightmare steed. I’m feeling like this might be a bit more of a challenge than a couple of skeletons, but I guess we’ll find out next week. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S2|14: Disengage Safety Protocols

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|14: The Orc with the Golden Arm.

If there’s one thing that cracks me up about this episode, it’s that peaceful resolutions to problems get about 20 minutes in the spotlight before getting shoved into a locker. Our episode starts with effusive praise for finding a non-combat resolution to the Copper Hand situation, and then before we know it, Captain Runewolf’s telling us “KILL EVERYTHING THAT MOVES, EVEN BACTERIA… HERE’S A MICROSCOPE”. Damn, man… switch to decaf.

I’m not going to spend much more time on the Copper Hand thing because I dissected it pretty thoroughly last week. The only thing I wanted to add is that I agree it can be a memorable addition to a game, as long as you only do it OCCASIONALLY. I think you want it to be rare enough that it’s still an event when it happens; if you let your players talk through EVERY problem, it starts to cheapen the achievement of it, and it ignores the essential nature of the game. There’s still a combat engine at the core of this thing, and I didn’t pour hundreds of gold pieces into my pointy stick so we could play “Feelings & Friendship”.

(As an aside, “Feelings & Friendship” sounds like some bad 80s counter-programming version of D&D where you beat monsters by quoting Bible verses at them, but it only has a six-sided die because polyhedral dice are the Devil’s work.)

The other very small thing I’d point out is that there was one “hook” we could’ve used on Captain Melipdra that I didn’t think of until later. We could have pointed out that recovering the hostage indirectly gives his guys an assist in the bank heist that’s on the front page of all the papers… he recovered the guy who was forced to design the machine that was used in that. So even though we didn’t make a direct splash, we created an angle for him to lay claim to a share of THOSE headlines, so he ought to be happy with that.

We also get our Level 7 characters. Ironically, my big news is Dougie’s big news – since he moved to a more traditional rogue build and started using regular-size weapons to take advantage of precision damage, the Shared Strategem I took LAST level (but never used because we never fought anything) is going to start to get really useful. And, OK, self-preservational… I can sit back outside melee range shooting arrows and STILL give Dougie flat-footed. It only works for the ally’s next attack, but it could still be pretty handy.

Becoming a master in Medicine is also nice. There’s one thing I mentioned during the show, but one thing I don’t actually figure out until later. The part I figured out now is that I can now make the DC20 Assurance automatically for 2d8 + 10 (I think my Medicine is +14), but being a Master lets me at least TRY the DC30 one for 2d8 + 30. It’s only got a 20% success chance for now, but there might be some situation where we want to go for it. The part I don’t figure out until later is that being a Master in Medicine also means my Ward Medic now works on up to four people. So when we’re doing out-of-combat healing, I can literally do the whole party in one 10-minute cycle for 2d8 + 10. The Handwave Heal: now more Handwavey AND more Healey.

So we get our first extended period of “normal” police work, do our shopping, and get our new orders to go head over to the Graycloaks. Turns out the force they sent into the catacombs hasn’t reported back. It continues to be interesting to me how all of these different police forces have their own specializations – the Token Guard is kinda lazy and corrupt because they’re dealing with the cushy financial district, the Sleepless Suns have a diverse flavor because they deal with the most international part of the city… and now we have Atheist Cops to break up all the fights between religious sects. Somehow I’ve been playing Pathfinder all these years and never really realized that the Graycloaks were supposed to be atheists, but in my defense, very few of our games took place in Absalom proper, so it’s not like we were running into Graycloaks all the time anyway.

Captain Runewolf was a bit of a trip, though. First, he yells at us for… ignoring jurisdiction… when HE called for us. Misplaced aggression, much? And then he volunteers us to be bodies to throw at the problem of his lost men; rather than lose more of HIS guys going into the catacombs, I guess we’re going to do it. I mean, that’s fine… we’re Red Squad, we’re badasses… but dude… show some gratitude. I know you have rank, but we’re the ones doing YOU a favor.

And then, we receive our Call To Violence, as Captain Runewolf “encourages” us to take the safeties off the weapons for this part of the adventure. And it’s weird… even though it’s going to work mechanically the same, and even though that’s the default gaming method for the years of adventures where we WEREN’T playing cops, I feel a little ambivalent about it. I kinda LIKED being a cop who bonked the bad guys on the head and tied them up; going back to “kill on sight” is going to be a little weird. Don’t get me wrong, though. If anyone deserves it, it’s the Skinsaw Cult. But it’s going to take a little bit of adjustment getting back into that headspace after spending the better part of a year doing the opposite.

So down into the catacombs we go… and the first puzzle is the one of the temple guardians. As I tried to explain (poorly), I think the problem here was that I thought the Aroden symbols were part of the actual statue the first time Steve described it… like they were literally carved into the marble. Once the guardians started attacking, that’s when I found myself wondering if we missed something about those and realized those were actually medallions that were just hanging on the statue. So we go back and get the symbols of Aroden, and… first crisis averted. Just show the guardians your Leeloo Dallas Multipass, and you’re good to go. (OK, we only have three right now, but we can probably find a fourth eventually… figure the cultists had to solve this same problem, so we can probably kill one of them and grab a fourth.)

Now here’s the rare case where we actually CAN’T use the Handwave Heal. When we’re tracking a finite resource (our Darkvision scrolls, in this case) we actually have to track the timing and how many heal cycles we use to get moving again. So even though we’ve been doing Handwave Heal 90% of the time, this time we have to go through the actual motions because we’re on the clock.

Once we dispense with the healing, Gomez turns into a bug to avoid the guardians, we begin to explore, and this is clearly a pretty straightforward burial chamber with a central lobby and multiple smaller rooms breaking off from that. We start looking through the smaller rooms and trigger our second encounter, as a half-dozen skeletons come to life… and they don’t seem to care that we’re wearing holy symbols. Is this something the Skinsaws did? Is the temple falling under some sort of more general corruption because of Aroden’s disappearance? Well, let’s deal with the problem punching us in the face first, and then we’ll figure all of that out.

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

The Bird’s Eye View S2|13: All Or Nothing At All

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|13: Bring Me a Shrubbery!

Surprise, guys! Frontal assault’s canceled!

Up until the last minute, I REALLY thought we were eventually going to have to slug our way through this mess. That’s pretty much the way it goes with these adventure paths. At its core, Pathfinder is best when it’s a combat simulator, so I figured simulating combat was going to be inevitable. And OK, the part of me that likes combat best of all feels just a LITTLE bit cheated that we’re not going to get to square off with all those enemies. I got fresh doses of poison for the sword-cane and everything!

On the other hand, when you step back and look at it through a lens of “work smarter, not harder” isn’t this solution EXACTLY the sort of way we should be handling problems? In the context of this story, stopping a handful of low-rent pickpockets is nothing compared to stopping a murder cult that’s harvesting citizens for body parts. In cop dramas on TV and in movies, throwing away a little fish to get the dirt on a bigger fish is a CLASSIC technique. And then you add on top a layer that the Skinsaws may decide to kill the Copper Hands for screwing up the bank heist, which makes the Skinsaws a danger to the Copper Hands… The conclusion is logical to a degree that would impress Mister Spock; of course, we cut them a deal to get their information on the Skinsaws.

If there’s ONE thing we didn’t do right here, it’s that MAYBE we should’ve gathered a little more evidence of a crime so we had a little more direct leverage going in. We never really caught them “in the act”, we don’t really have any sort of proof the mechanic is being held against his will (though we strongly suspect it), nor did we mark the goods we turned over, so we can’t even really hit Fayati with “handling of stolen property” or whatever. So maybe we should’ve let things played out a LITTLE further until we had witnessed a specific crime to hold over them. Right now, all we have is a couple of low-level grunts talking shit, claiming they’re big-time robbers. They could easily claim they were just joking.

I think that’s where grabbing the hostage first might have helped, but with 20/20 hindsight I think we made the right call there. Yes, it probably would’ve been pretty easy to get him. We could’ve come in for a general hangout session, I could’ve grabbed the mechanic and cast invisibility on him, and then jetted out the door. If you wanted to make it a little more foolproof, I could’ve brought a scroll with a second cast of invisibility so we BOTH could’ve left the hideout unseen. So yeah… grabbing him would’ve been pretty easy, and then we’d be able to go in with a confession. But then… once someone stole the mechanic out from under them, their base would’ve been on high alert and we probably never would’ve gotten in front of the boss to negotiate. Then we’re back to slugging our way through the building. So maybe it’s best we just went right to negotiation.

As an aside, I’m constantly amused by how much of my thinking is colored by “modern” ideas of police work that probably don’t really carry weight in a fantasy medieval setting. “Does the presence of undead constitute probable cause?” “Did you read him his Miranda rights in Common or Aklo?” “Does the department have a ‘Use of Fireball’ policy for caster officers?” It’s easy to forget that a lot of the nuance and layers of “doing the job right” just wouldn’t exist in a world like this. In a setting like this, it would be more like “see bad guy, drag him or her in, and cast some sort of truth spell on them to fill in the pieces you don’t have direct witnesses to”. But you have to have SOME model for thinking about all of this, so the one we live in day to day is at least a good starting point.

Back to the action. As we sit down to negotiate, the real question is “does the deal make sense to Fayati?” and I think the answer there is yes as well. On one hand, deep down, we absolutely don’t have anything concrete on her, and even what we have on the gang is kind of flimsy so far. But what are her choices here? EVERY cop in the district now knows where their hideout is, has a rough layout, and knows their strength (even down to the weretigers). If the worst should happen and she kills us, the Absalom equivalent of the SWAT team is coming next. We’re just four cadets and the city is FULL of cops. Even if she just refuses the deal and lets us walk out, we’re going to go into “clingy ex mode”… we’ll focus ONLY on her gang, making sure her people can’t earn a dime during the Radiant Festival. And then there’s the Skinsaws – now she’s got someone volunteering to take care of the Skinsaws for her… and they’ll be doing it as law enforcement so it can’t be traced back to her if it fails. If we win, they’re gone entirely; even if we lose, we’re keeping them busy and thinning their numbers to the point where maybe whoever’s left will be too busy to worry about them anymore. And what’s the price of all of this? Giving up some short-term earnings that she’ll have MOST of 90 days to make up, and the mechanic who had MOSTLY stopped being useful after the bank heist went sideways.

And I do think it’s a “tough but fair” position that we’d have to leave her enough to save face with the rest of her gang. Here’s why… and it’s something I don’t think we mentioned at the time. Yeah, Fayati will give us the information we want either way at this point, but if she loses control and it’s everyone for themselves… all it takes is ONE of her members deciding to save their hide by ratting us out to the Skinsaws. Then the psycho-murder cult knows we’re coming and either THAT battle gets a lot more deadly, or they pick up and move to a new hideout and we have to start over from square one. So yes, leaving her with enough of a functioning gang to keep her people in line makes a fair amount of sense.

Now if you want to get all fussy, it’s SUCH an obvious win for her that, I suppose there would’ve been nothing preventing the Copper Hand gang from anonymously tipping the law off to the location of the Skinsaws themselves before we were ever part of the story. But maybe that anonymous piece is what makes the logic of the story work – if that tip had just come in off the street, maybe it gets ignored; if it’s the head of the gang telling the now-famed Red Squad to our faces as part of a bargaining session, it’s pretty solid actionable intel.

Even with all that logic staring down at us from above, I have to admit I was still on pins and needles as we were going through it. It was probably the most we’d EVER had riding on a single social check, even dating back to the pre-podcast days. Succeed, and we basically solve an entire section of the adventure path without unsheathing a weapon; fail or crit fail, and we might be facing a multi-episode building crawl, STARTING with the Big Bad.

But success it is. We now know where the Skinsaws are hiding, we get back the money we borrowed to join the gang, we rescue the hostage, and ohbytheway we bypass an entire level. Oops. Granted, we still have to run all this past Captain Melipdra and make sure he’s OK with only getting a couple of hundred gold and a single hostage while the remnants of the Copper Hand continue running around stealing stuff. But I suspect if he’s smart he’ll go for it.

Next week, I guess you’ll meet our new characters, and we’ll start to take the fight directly to the Skinsaw Cult! Let’s do this! As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S2|12: The Enemy of My Enemy

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|12: Just Call Me Fancy Dan.

Welcome to Flying Without A Net, Week 3. The good news is we’re finally managing to make some progress infiltrating the Copper Hand Gang. The bad news is the path forward is still a little murky, but by the end of the episode, we’re starting to see some lights at the end of the tunnel.

I think Steve captured the essence of this well in his show notes. In a way, this whole part of the story is a negotiation between the party and the GM. We have the broad strokes of what we want to do, but since it’s not combat, it’s a little unclear how that fits under the umbrella of the rule: both the Paizo rulebook and the rules of being an Edgewatch officer. On a rulebook level, a lot of it comes down to when do you use actual skill rolls vs. when is it just a couple of people talking. On the Edgewatch side, the most relevant question seems to be how far we’re allowed to go astray from being law enforcement officers to get into the gang. It all comes down to throwing ideas at Steve (in character) and seeing what things he’ll let us do, and what other places we’ll have to find a different way to come at the problem.

Before we get into all of that, we do get a nice little moment of levity when Gomez uses Intimidate (successfully) against our boss. At first, I thought this was a little cheesy, but the more I thought about it, not every social context is built the same, and not every Intimidate roll has to be making someone run away in terror. I suppose getting a person in a superior position to soften their tone a little could also be a legit use of the skill. Still, at the moment it was happening, I thought Seth was out of his damn mind, and I was just hoping we wouldn’t get dragged into latrine duty along with him.

Speaking of moments of levity, let me talk about “Fancy Dan” for just a moment. I’m willing to admit that’s about 30% me just screwing around and being silly. Confession time: me entertaining you listeners starts with me entertaining myself first. It got an internal laugh in my brain, so I rolled with it. Having said that, I also felt like a) Basil would’ve learned his lesson about using his real name when we went to the party Jeremin Hoff was throwing (especially if his name got into the papers because of the bank heist), and b) the best lies contain just enough to make it easier to stay in character. Basil comes from money, so playing a pretentious elitist thief is easier to pull off than playing a down-on-his-luck ragamuffin type. Hence, “Fancy Dan”.

So we’ve been recruited to steal or otherwise procure 50 gp worth of loot. Just to put that in perspective, 1 g was the day-labor rate in that one Society game where we rebuilt the keep, and can also be a good day of Earn Income. So using $10/hour (to work in round numbers), they’re basically asking us to swipe about $4000 each. That actually seems like a reasonable amount in the context of a big tourist event. If I were to try to steal $4000 in some random shopping mall, that would be one thing, but if I were to try and steal $4000 during Mardi Gras or Super Bowl weekend, or in Times Square… there’s a lot of full wallets to grab in a setting like that.

Still, we’d rather not ACTUALLY steal citizens’ real money, so we ask the department for help. The good news is they’re willing to “loan” us the funds from the fantasy equivalent of the evidence locker; the bad news is we’re on the hook for it, so we’re technically operating at a loss for the moment unless we can recover it later. But hey, it’s good enough to get us into the gang, and that sheds some light on a few things.

First and foremost, a frontal assault is going to be VERY dangerous. The first level, it’s just grunts. But that second level, we’ve got a basilisk, weretigers, and elite guards, and a high probability to bleed encounters. We could end up in a running fight where we don’t even have time to take a 10-minute rest, much less a full rest. And then if we get to the top level, that’s a total unknown: who knows WHAT sort of threat the boss poses or how many bodyguards she has? So what we’ve learned so far is that “frontal assault” looks like an even worse idea than we originally thought.

Second, we gain further information about the hostage that explains the clockwork resources used in the bank heist. The hostage they mentioned earlier turns out to be some sort of tinkerer who makes mechanical devices and presumably made the construct with the drill and the keys. One major question resolved. The good news there is he’s near the door, so he’s actually fairly low-hanging fruit if we want to get an easy win. If we could create a distraction, I could slip in there, hit him with invisibility, and walk him right out the door. Of course, if the hostage disappears, security tightens and we might blow our cover, so we have to pick our spot to do it.

Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, we uncover a rift between the Copper Hand and the Skinsaw Cult. It turns out the Copper Hand is almost as scared of the Skinsaws as they are of the police at this point. (Among other things, that’s why they’ve hired extra were-tiger muscle.) The alliance has always been an uneasy one, and now that the bank robbery went sideways, it’s possible the Skinsaws may get rid of the Copper Hand as allies and turn them into parts for more of their undead creations.

But this may be the opportunity that we were looking for. If they’re afraid of the Skinsaws, get in good with the gang by offering to take on the Skinsaws for them. Think about it. As… Ollo, I think said… the gang is the little fish here; we want the murderous cult, and I’m sure the gang wouldn’t mind throwing a few disposable newcomers who just joined at the problem. So maybe we offer to deal with the Skinsaws for them – it feels like a win-win. We get their intel on the cult (location, numbers, etc.) and curry favor with them; they get someone who’s willing to take on the fight for them without losing any more people, and they can even deny we were members if we lose.

And as an added bonus, we get to stay on the right side of the law because we’re attacking the cultists rather than robbing innocent civilians.

Well, I think that’s what we’re going to be selling anyway. The trick now will be getting it in front of the boss and selling it, and that’s what we’ll look at doing next week. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S2|11: Smooth Criminals

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|11: Ol’ Jack Always Says… What the Hell?

Welcome to Week 2 of fumbling around in the dark for the plot hook here on Roll For Combat. We know WHERE the bad guys are and we know the rough shape of what we need to do. But our favorite option – kicking in doors and killing stuff – has been removed from the menu (for now), so we need to find a new way to crack this nut. And that puts us in kind of an unfamiliar place where we have to roleplay our way to a solution.

I think Steve makes a good point in his show notes. It’s not that anyone in this game CAN’T roleplay. I just think the group as a whole is very goal-oriented, and if we can’t see how something ties directly to moving the story forward, we don’t have much patience for it. I think that’s a fair assessment of us as players. There would probably be no room for an extended “Hamlin’s Hots” segment on our show.

The one exception here is Seth. I feel like Seth doesn’t mind jumping the tracks and going for a roleplay wander. Look at the food-festival escapades with Sharky, just to pick an example. Since I mentioned Hamlin’s Hots, if you traded one of us to the Extinction Curse cast, I suspect Seth would probably fit in best as a roleplayer because he embraces the weird a little better than the rest of us do.

And while we’re at it… I know sometimes I oversimplify the circus people as “the roleplaying show”. But that’s not to imply the Extinction Curse people are better at the combat/tactics side – at most, we’re just more efficient. Loren has a show where she talks in-depth about the rules with Luis Loza of Paizo. Vanessa’s written content for Paizo. Push comes to shove, they can math with the best of them. So if I ever sounded like I was suggesting otherwise, consider this a formal acknowledgment to the contrary.

So here we are, swimming in the deep end of the roleplay pool, and investigating the flophouse. The front desk clerk is surprisingly straightforward that the Copper Hand gang uses his establishment as a base of operations, but this isn’t like the murder hotel – he doesn’t seem to be an active participant in their schemes. He just takes whatever they pay him in rent and keeps his mouth shut. (Sorta… he did come right out and tell us they own the upper floors.)

It seems like our cover story waffles back and forth a little on being adventurers vs. potential recruits, although Seth drops Percen Droan’s name, which seems to commit us to the recruiting path – random adventurers wouldn’t know to drop that name. But after going back and forth, Seth settles on being, basically, Jack Burton from Big Trouble In Little China. Not metaphorically… literally, right down to lines from the movie. Despite the presence of a sentry presumably warning people upstairs that we’re coming, Gomez plows his way toward the upstairs to get in on “the action”. Whatever that is.

And surprisingly, it works. Or maybe unsurprisingly. Some of this is my baggage because it’s still a little hard to process a goblin as the “face of the party”. But Gomez does have a high charisma and access to most of the social skills, so going off the printed page, he’s the best person for the job. (Basil has Diplomacy and Society on his side, but not Bluff and Intimidate.)

I will admit my one contribution was motivated by some combination of boredom and annoyance that my suggestions were mostly being ignored. When the guard looks at the paper and it’s about the bank heist, and I threw in that we were recruited for that and passed… yeah, that was just a fit of wanting to do SOMETHING. Though like I said, mentioning Percen Droan seemed to commit us to the “recruit” story, so I was trying to enhance that.

So we get in, and we play various games of chance for a while, and then it’s time to make a decision. Do we try to expand our foothold by snooping around, or do we take what we got and come back another day? We gained some basic trust from the gang members, and we know that the 2nd floor is for the troops and the upper floors are for the bosses and VIPs.

I was firmly in “don’t push our luck” territory on this one. There are SO many ways a stealth excursion could go sideways… even WITH invisibility. If you get another one of those guarded rooms and the door swings open on its own (because it was really invisible Dougie), that’s STILL going to attract attention. The worst-case here isn’t just “then a fight breaks out”, it’s “Dougie gets caught far enough away that we don’t know he gets caught. They outnumber Dougie, and then get the drop on us while we think he’s still safely stealthing around the place”. And either way, our cover is blown and we have to start from scratch.

Meanwhile, if we play the long game, we know they have to leave the hideout to earn, so there are a couple of ways we could exploit that. One is to go with them, help them (up to a point), and gain enough trust that they give us access to other parts of the building. The trick there is that we’d have to be careful what level of crimes we’d participate in: this whole thing comes undone if we get put in a position where they ask us to kill someone. Alternatively, if we watch the hideout and get a sense of when a large number of them are out, maybe we still attack, but we do it when we’ve got more of a numerical advantage. Maybe there’s a combination of the two strategies where we go with them to their jobs, arrest them to thin out their numbers, and then go with a frontal assault for the upper floors.

Ultimately it comes down to either screwing up and being forced to fight on whatever terms the dice give us, or choosing to fight on terms we dictate. And I think since time isn’t a HUGE factor here, I think we choose the latter. So I guess for the next few days, we get to be gangsters-in-training. Nobody tell the Lawgiver Badge. Or Basil’s mom, the judge. She already doesn’t know about law school; this would break her heart. So let’s let that be our little secret.

That’s all we have for this week; come back next week, and see how our efforts as hardened criminals turn out. In the meantime, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S2|10: Plan A and Plan… A?

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|10: Who is Doguieman?

We start this week with a recap of Steve’s announcement for the show as a whole, although since you’re reading this on Monday, it’s moved from the future tense to the present tense. The Plaguestone crew is indeed back. The Three-Ring Adventure show had some scheduling conflicts mostly centered around Rob P. – not to point a finger at the guy; more to explain how the show can have scheduling conflicts while three of the four players and the GM are still available for another game – so we decided to use that window to bring the Plaguestone Four out of semi-retirement. We even recorded our first episode(s) last night, so it’s formally moved from theoretical to actual! We’re just not yet sure when it will air, for a variety of reasons mostly on Steve’s side, so stay tuned for that.

I won’t bend your ear too much about a show that won’t even air for weeks, maybe months, except to say it was fun to slip Brixley’s boots back on, and I’m already excited to see where we go with it. The only thing I’ll mention is length, to set an expectation on that front – it’s a single-book adventure (we’re playing Malevolence, but with a few tweaks to incorporate Celes’ backstory), so it should be of a similar length to Plaguestone. Maybe shorter since it takes place in the middle of nowhere and there’s not as much “infrastructure” (NPCs, shopping, etc.) to interact with. No three-episode filler arc where the characters go on dates, and Hamlin’s Hots hasn’t opened a franchise there. As far as we know.

Turning back to THIS show, it’s a bit of a transition week, so not a lot actually happens. We get our next breadcrumb for tracking down the Copper Hand gang and spend an inordinately long amount of time planning our next move. And Gomez wants to pretend he’s Barack Obama, for some reason? Did I get that right?

First I briefly wanted to jump the fence and talk about an interesting set of Tweets from the Pathfinder Papa himself, Jason Bulmahn:

I wanted to jump in on this because it’s something I’d personally like to explore more in my characters going forward. Not necessarily loading your characters down with “flaws” exactly, but having a character’s backstory be more of an unfinished story than a destination. I think sometimes we see backstory as The Reason I Became A Level One Adventurer, and from there, it’s just time to start cracking whatever skulls the adventures put in front of us and forget about it. I really like the idea of having one’s characters continue an ongoing journey of personal development that pre-dates their life as an adventurer, and that they’ll fill in those blanks as well as leveling up and getting cooler spells.

Currently, I’m not as far along with this as Jason is, though I do like to have a broad personal motivation for my characters beyond getting rich and famous. Only the criminally insane engage in lethal combat against monsters for fun, and money only carries you so far as a motivation, so what’s driving the character when you peel that back? Sometimes I’ll share it with Steve; more often, I’ll just keep it under my hat, but use it as a compass to guide how my character would react in certain situations.

With Tuttle Blacktail (Dead Suns), it was discovering new knowledge that would get people to take him more seriously as a scientist. We only had one or two Starfinder Society games, but Nala Trienzi was a juvenile delinquent who recognized her current path was a dead-end, so she wanted to find a more productive path, but without sacrificing her sense of “fun”, and having the Starfinder Society pay her to explore sounded like a good option. In the case of Brixley Silverthorn (Plaguestone), I think there’s a sense that he KNOWS deep down he’s a bit of an “all hat, no cattle” lightweight going into Level 1, and wants to accomplish things that make him worthy of the external swagger he clothes himself in. Lastly, in the case of Basil Blackfeather, it’s finding the life that’s been laid out for him unsatisfying and wanting to do something that makes more of a direct difference in people’s lives. And heck, maybe that’s why I never really clicked with Nella Amberleaf (my druid from Pathfinder Society) – I never really got in her head and figured out WHY she was doing what she was doing. She was just… there because druid seemed like a cool class to try next.

Something to think about while we go over the plan for the THIRD time this episode, I guess.

Seriously. I got a little frustrated on this one, and I think the predominant issue is that Seth really sunk his teeth into the idea of using a disguise and just couldn’t let it go. The central choice was “pretend to be members of the Copper Hand” or “do initial recon as generic adventurers”, and I listened carefully… at some point, EVERY other member of the group says “let’s just be adventurers” and Seth just wouldn’t let it go.

And look… I get it. It’s fun when the planets align and that skill you never got to use before suddenly becomes useful. You want to Do The Thing because it may be your only chance ever. (See also: Tuttle saving the day with his teleportation puck in Dead Suns.) It’s human nature and I don’t really fault Seth for feeling that way. Especially when he built Gomez almost ENTIRELY around weird edge cases like that. (Let’s remember this is the same man who paid 50 gp for an anchor feather token on a dry-land adventure). I don’t even mind having the disguise kit as a plan B. If we fail to infiltrate as “adventurers”, our next step might have to be sending someone in as a member of the gang, and then… yeah, let’s do it. But he did get so locked in on it that it kind of sent the conversation around in circles a bit.

In other news, we gain a new level, and the big news for me is that Basil gets his first level 2 spells. Hooray! Basically, the multiclass archetypes lag the actual classes by three levels; so if a “real” wizard gets Level 2 spells at character Level 3, a Pocket Wizard gets them at Level 6. And it’s still only one slot per level, though there are some ways to raise that.

And yes, I fully admit I looked at Loren’s test paper and copied what Hap did with regards to Longstrider. Look… I get ONE spell at each level, so it’s all about bang for the buck. I might as well get something that has some duration. A 10-foot bonus to movement that lasts 8 hours… especially now that I’m screwing around with archery and might need to tweak my range… seems more useful than a lot of other things I could take.

Though for the record, I took Comprehend Languages and Invisibility as my free spells. With Comprehend Languages, I actually took it more with an eye for the heightened Level 3 version that lets you converse in other languages. I suspect we can take writings back to the lair to decipher them, but I want to be able to TALK to nasty creatures if necessary. Invisibility is invisibility. Its uses are obvious.

I also took Snare Crafting as a skill feat, though I’m already getting a feeling that may have been a case of “spending resources to solve the previous problem”. Here’s the thing: when we were preparing for the bank robbery, snares seemed so useful, and it was something nobody else in the party could do. But as I’m thinking about it, snares are FAR more useful when defending a fixed position, and our role as police officers almost always puts us in the role of aggressor, kicking down doors and invading bad guys’ spaces. Guarding the bank was the exception, not the rule. So I’m already feeling like Snare Crafting MIGHT not have been a good choice, and I may yet retrain out of it later.

In terms of actual plot development, our next lead takes us to the Foreign Quarter, where Captain Melipdra of the Sleepless Suns has our next lead. He’s got a rowhouse that serves as Copper Hand base, but he can’t infiltrate it because the local gang members know his guards too well, so he needs some outsiders to do it. So we shut down the gang, funnel some of the collars to him (“collars”… LOOK AT ME USING COP LINGO), and it’s a win-win. And he teaches Lo Mang to be a better monk.

(Aside: this is one of the cooler things about 2E we see occasionally: NPCs that can teach feats or even, in this case, entire archetypes that aren’t otherwise available. We saw one or two of these in our Society games, but I’d like to see more of them included going forward. The idea of learning from wizened experts is a pretty cool one.)

So join us next week when we… pose as adventurers? Let Gomez do his disguise? Hell, I don’t know anymore. However, we go about it, we’ll be looking for the Copper Hand gang so we can put a stop to their shenanigans. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media, and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S2|09: The Safe is Safe

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|09: A Penny Saved.

Welcome back to the conclusion of the great bank heist on Roll For Combat. We spent at least a month running down leads, and it finally comes down to beating down a droid…. errrrr… construct.

The first question I ask myself when playing through, and when going back and listening, is… why did this feel so (comparatively) unsatisfying? It’s like… we spent over a month figuring out the logistics of the bank robbery, we finally shut it down, and I still felt like it was kind of anticlimactic.

To answer my own question, I have two reasons.

First, not to get all Bernie Sanders on y’all, but there’s something that hits different about defending a bank vs. stopping a completely demented serial killer operating a murder hotel. I will grant that the banks of Absalom are not FDIC-insured, so a robbery could literally ruin the Penny and Sphinx, but protecting people’s lives will always feel more heroic than protecting people’s money. And the only lives at risk were arguably the customers that we put in danger by attacking before fully assessing the situation. So the Heroism Needle for this particular engagement dropped from a good solid 8 or 9 to maybe a 4 or a 5? If that makes sense.

The other thing is, these guys had some tech that was above their paygrade that made them a tough fight, but they weren’t the masterminds. The Big Bads of the Copper Hand gang AND the Skinsaw Cult are still out there. Yes, the skinstitcher and the construct were formidable opponents, but they were in the hands of a relatively minor threat… a few minions on par with the guys we beat at the docks, and the banker’s stepson. So while we beat the threat in front of us, the larger threat remains, and knowing that makes the whole thing feel like unfinished business, even as this part of the adventure draws to a close. Say what you will about the Pratchett encounter; tossing a guy into an ochre jelly definitely provides closure.

One thing I found myself struck by as we began this episode is that we probably made a bigger deal out of the caltrops than we needed to. It’s a 5-foot penalty to movement and ONE whopping point of bleed damage. That’s not going to kill anyone. And yet, here we are at the top of the steps in Tactical Analysis mode for… well, FAR longer than the threat really dictated.

Though in my case, I also wanted to clarify the rule for future use. My ancestral ability essentially works like Feather Fall: I can use my wings to fall slowly, with no real restriction on the vertical distance. But it was worth knowing whether my ability worked with a horizontal component – could I glide or just drop, but slowly? Physics 101 would suggest I should get a little bit of horizontal movement as I fell. But in this case, the fact that it was a set of stairs imposed additional considerations on the vertical side: if I fell too fast, I’d still land in caltrops, but if I fell too slowly, I’d smack my head against the descending ceiling above the stairs. (Heck, if you want to get technical, would there be enough room to fully extend my wings in a staircase?) So all in all, I think Steve’s ruling was fair – give a reflex save to account for those shifting conditions, but otherwise, give me the horizontal movement I would’ve gotten from a leap (plus maybe a little extra for the glide path).

So we get everyone downstairs, and we reveal the construct in all its glory. As expected, it hits HARD, and the ability to hold people down and drill into them is a nice cherry on the sundae. On the other hand, I guess I was a little surprised its defenses weren’t more formidable. I’d expect a construct made of metal to have some damage resistances, but no resistances and fairly easy to hit as well. The two sidekick rogues were easy pickings, and even Kolo wasn’t that tough once we got rid of some of the “noise” and were able to focus on him.

With all of the combat resolved, a picture of the full heist emerges. The crew upstairs were mostly diversionary, designed to stall any Token Guard that showed up later. The Skinstitcher held the stairs to the vault, while the machine took care of opening the vault. You figure if we hadn’t been there, either help wouldn’t have arrived at all, or it at least would’ve taken a WHILE to get there – someone would have to escape the bank and go get the Token Guard, come back, navigating through the float wreckage in both directions, and dealing with the guys upstairs.

There are still unanswered questions. First, what role did Kolo play? Is he actually a cultist, or just someone’s greedy Useful Idiot? I think it’s the latter, but you never know. I do wonder which attackers were cultists and which were Copper Hand, though that’s mostly about vindicating our handling of the upstairs. If they were Copper Hand, maybe we could’ve negotiated with them. If they were Skinsaw Cultists, they would’ve started killing as soon as they had what they needed anyway, so we just cut to the chase. And of course, the big question… who’s behind it all, and how do we find them?

As the post-game starts to unfold, one thing happens that I have to comment on: Seth paying 55 gp for a single feather token that PROBABLY has zero practical use… the anchor. It’s one thing to spend a little money trying out different gear (particularly consumables); I did so myself with a couple of magic arrows. But those were only 10 gp a pop, and you could immediately see how they’d be combat-relevant. To spend 55 gp on a boat anchor, when there’s absolutely NOTHING to suggest we’ll even be leaving Absalom, much less on a boat… I’m not sure whether he’s insane or just the most dedicated roleplayer I’ve ever seen. Maybe a bit of both.

Watch, I probably just reverse-jinxed it and the Skinsaw Cult has their own boat that they’ll use as a getaway craft. Make me eat my words.

So next week… it’s hard to say what happens. We level up, so that’s always nice, but in terms of the larger story, unless we can get something from the guys we captured during the heist, I’m not sure what the next move is. Maybe Kolo saw or heard something to point us in the right direction? Maybe the wreckage of the construct contains clues? (Do those things come with a “black box”?) I guess we’ll find out next time.

As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S2|08: You No Take Hostage!

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|08: All Right, Everybody Be Cool, This Is a Robbery!

Before we launch into the first part of the great bank heist, I figured I’d talk a little bit about the Role of the Mole.

So yeah, Steve will sometimes use one of us players to very lightly nudge things in the direction the plot needs things to go. He won’t give spoilers, and the FINAL decision is always up to us – if we WANT to dick around and waste three hours chasing things that don’t matter, he’d probably capitulate and let us. But we’re old and we want to be in our beds by midnight so we usually go along with it.

I think if there’s one thing that drives it more than anything, it’s that we’re all in our 50s and we can only get together for three hours once a week. If you’ve got the time to play an all-night session, bumbling around in the dark for an hour can be part of the merriment and make success all that much sweeter when you finally move forward. If you’ve only got three hours to play and have to get up for work the next morning, spending a third of it fumbling in the dark looking for the plot’s light switch sucks. I’d even add the online interface to the stew; it’s one thing to lose the plot a little when you’re at a table together BS-ing about other stuff while you do it; when you’re staring at a screen at people hundreds of miles away, that time starts to feel longer and yes… starts to feel a little wasted.

Anyhow, on to the bank heist. First, as a movie reference, this whole setup reminded me of the train station scene in The Untouchables. We know someone’s coming (in the case of the movie, they were trying to stop Al Capone’s bookkeeper from leaving town), but we don’t know when and we don’t know how many, and we have to stop them when they arrive. I mean, that, and the first five minutes of Speed where Dennis Hopper gets away because Keanu Reeves won’t shoot his partner in the leg. POP QUIZ, HOTSHOT.

We feel reasonably confident we have the right bank, we definitely know the day… so how do we deploy our forces?

First, let me set the stage using a clock face. Let’s put the main doors at 12. The employee entrance is at about 2 pm, but facing the front of the building. The “airlock” to the teller area is around 4:30 or 5, and the teller space goes across the bottom to about 7:30 or 8 where the stairs to the basement vault are.

One thought was to just wait in the vault room for them. “We know where they’re headed; wait for them there”. But that’s got a couple of problems. First, it ignores the potential risk to the rest of the bank and the innocent bystanders in the building. Working back from the solution, if these guys had taken hostages and started killing them while we sat in the basement playing cards, wouldn’t we have felt stupid? But it also negates the architecture of the bank as a tactical advantage… if we wait in the basement and confront them OK Corral-style when they come down the steps, that’s a BAD tactical situation for us. Imagine the initial band of robbers, the skinstitcher, and whoever’s in the basement drilling ALL coming at us at once, and they’re also between us and the only exit. That’s a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, by dispersing throughout the bank, we can use the features of the building to separate them and deal with them in pieces.

Which is roughly what happened, but it was a bit of a bumpy road getting there.

First, we get to see what happened to the missing lift that got stolen from the tannery. In this case, it elevates our “boarding party” so they can use the “accident” with the float to reach the door quickly, and in a manner that wouldn’t have attracted undue suspicion. If you think about it, if we weren’t there, any people outside would just assume it was an accident and make sure everyone in the courtyard was OK, and probably ignore the bank entirely.

Inside the bank, I have to admit, I thought we were going to take a round or two and assess our opponents before wading in – numbers, weaponry, etc. That’s actually why my first move was to retreat into the office I was using as a stakeout position. I didn’t think we’d immediately start attacking the minute they grabbed hostages, and frankly was a little caught off guard that we did so. Heck, maybe we the guys mixing in with the customers by lying on the ground wouldn’t have surprised us if we’d waited.

So now we attack and they respond by stabbing hostages and it’s on like Donkey Kong. And this is one of those fights where you can SAY “well, everyone lived” but it doesn’t feel like a huge success to me. I mean… three or four civilians got stabbed which I’m sure was really freakin’ traumatic even if they didn’t technically die. If this is an 80s cop movie, our protagonist’s captain will get called to the mayor’s office for a good chewing-out over that one.

But I say this fully admitting I don’t have a great idea what we should’ve done instead. It’s a month later, and I still can’t come up with a truly flawless Plan B. Also, I’m probably just frustrated because I was SO close to knocking that number down a couple if my sleep arrow had landed. I believe the one I shot was “the bloodthirsty one”, DC was 17, and that’s exactly what they rolled… So close. That’s where you need the reverse Hero Point where you can make an enemy re-roll, I suppose.

(Though, as I’m reading the spell, Level 1 sleep isn’t THAT great in combat, because the noise of combat allows the sleep-ee to make a Perception check to wake up, and it’s only at a -1 penalty. The Level 4 heightened version of sleep doesn’t allow for the Perception checks. So… maybe that’s kinda garbage.)

The good news is that Gomez does a FANTASTIC job keeping people alive. I give Seth a huge amount of credit for hanging in there and keeping civilians safe. The bad news is that to do so, he has to stand right out in the middle of the battlefield with a big neon STAB ME sign pointing right at him. And sure enough, the bandits take advantage of the situation and grind him down while we’re taking them out.

We finally get the first situation under control, when part two of the fight begins. We hear the drilling begin in the basement, start heading that way to investigate, and a Skinstitcher busts through the wall. Now, this feels ominous at first – it’s just a nasty looking undead abomination – but actually turns out to be a comparative pushover. First, it’s vulnerable to fire, so Gomez and I can just sit back and chuck fire at it and be fairly effective without burning (pun intended) any spell slots. Second, we generally get good dice luck, and being large, it’s fairly easy to hit, so we get a few crits to make it go down faster. So yes, it hits hard for the very brief time it exists, but we just pile the damage on and make quick work of it.

So now we’ve got noise in the basement, but we are a little roughed up, and Lo Mang discovers caltrops on the stairs. So as the session ends, we’re still in combat rounds and figuring out how we want to manage this. The good side is that the situation I described earlier has reversed itself – unless they have teleportation magic, we’re between them and the exit, so they gotta get through us to escape. But how much do we want to let them mess around down in the vault vs. getting down there and shutting this business down once and for all?

And that’s where we leave it. Next week we go down to the basement – though I’ll leave the specifics for then – and see if we can put a stop to this nonsense. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.