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The Bird’s Eye View S3|25: Double Your Treasure, Double Your Fun

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S4|01: Would You Like the Rest on a Gift Certificate?.

This week’s episode is really two episodes in one, but I can understand Steve combining them to squeeze a full show out of it. In particular, the shopping piece isn’t QUITE long enough to carry an episode on its own. But then if you put the shopping and the WHOLE combat together, we’re breaking that two-hour mark that you listeners have said you’re not crazy about.

So half-shopping, half-fighting it shall be.

Interestingly, the shopping half generated some interesting discussions on our Discord channel because we made a few mistakes along the way.

The first was an incorrect interpretation of the rules. Steve was actually incorrect when he said you have to have the same tier of potency and striking (or potency and resilience for armor) before you can go to the next tier of potency. There’s a table that IMPLIES that that’s the natural order of things, but it’s not actually required. It’s just that the costs and level restrictions of the various runes (and presumably the runes being given out as loot) drive it that direction pretty strongly. If you think about it, the jump from a +1 weapon to a +2 weapon is 900 gold, but that striking rune is only 65g. So there’s a pretty strong “why not take an extra die of damage while you’re waiting?” vibe going on there. (It’s similar with armor and resilience runes, though the price points are different.) But if you somehow make it to 900 gold and the right level (10) for a +2 potency rune, and don’t have your striking rune yet, you can still apply the +2 and you just have a +2 weapon that might not do enough damage to get past the damage resistance all the creatures at this level seem to have. Good luck with that.

The other error was not a rules interpretation, but more of a mental lapse on our part. As a couple of our listeners pointed out, Dougie basically wasted 900g by bumping both his weapons to +2 because we still have the doubling rings. If you remember, doubling rings take the fundamental runes from one weapon and copy them to a second weapon: perfect for a dual-wielder. Dougie didn’t bother with it at the time we got it because both his weapons were already +1 striking, but we did keep it and put it in storage. So now that he’s graduating to +2 potency and greater striking, he really should’ve just saved his money and started equipping the doubling rings instead.

(Note: there’s two versions of the doubling rings. The lesser version that we have just duplicates the fundamental runes. The more expensive/higher-level version also transfers the property runes as well. That’s if they’re appropriate: for example, wounding is slashing/piercing only, so you can’t transfer it to a bludgeoning weapon.)

So… definite mistake on Dougie’s part for not remembering he had those. Is it a mistake on Steve’s part, though? On one hand, it’s not his job to remember everything about our characters for us. On the other hand, everything is so tight in PF2 that 900g is a lot of money to waste; maybe a hint would’ve been in order. But back on the first hand… it also wasn’t Steve’s job to stop Gomez from buying every feather token or Lo Mang to invest in consumables. Sometimes you gotta just let people do what they’re gonna do. If one forced me to play arbiter in this situation, I’d say it’s not Steve’s responsibility to know what’s in Dougie’s inventory. Having said that, it’s the sort of thing that individual GMs might choose a path of forgiveness on to avoid tension or hurt feelings later when the player eventually figures it out.

Of course, the even hotter take is that Dougie wasting 900g is just karma coming back at him for cheating at the casino. The universe decided to reclaim ill-gotten gains.

And OK, there’s a third mistake I made, but I caught mine in real-time and it was fairly easy to fix. In my eagerness to deploy my +2 rune, I decided to put it on my bow, since I’ve been using that more often lately. However, when it came time to add ghost touch, I forgot that a) that I’d put the +2 on the bow and the sword-cane already has a wounding rune, as well as b) ghost touch also can’t go on a ranged weapon. So my two choices were either to move the +2 to the sword-cane or just tuck the ghost touch rune into the backpack for now and wait until I can afford another +2. Or another one drops, of course. In the short term, I believe I moved the +2 to the sword-cane to resolve the issue.

I noticed we didn’t really talk about our Level 12 builds, and I guess that’s OK. My memory is we never really came back to it, so I’ll do a quick version of it now. One big change, two small ones for Basil.

The big one is that as an archetype caster, Expert Spellcasting gives me my first Level 4 spells — well… “spell” since I only get one slot — and gain an additional Level 2 slot from Arcane Breadth. My starting choices for Level 4 were Stoneskin (protect the melees) and Blink (protect myself): remember that as an archetype caster with fewer slots to work with, I tend to choose spells that offer multi-round bang for the buck rather than big splashy damage spells. While we’re talking magic, I also went back and got scrolls so I could learn air bubble and Chris Beemer’s favorite, mirror image.

For the smaller changes, first we have the Quick Unlock feat, so I can pick locks with a single action instead of two. I feel like it might come in handy. The class feat I took is Foresee Danger, which lets me use my Perception DC instead of my AC as a reaction to an attack – it’s an edge case, but I think the big benefit would be to nullify the -2 for flanking (though it doesn’t nullify the flat-footed condition itself, just the -2 for that attack). It’s kinda like Assurance that way: it’s more for mitigating a bad situation by defusing a minus than a positive benefit.

So with all of that accomplished, we start book four… with a COLD OPEN. Surprise. Welcome to the session, roll for initiative. OK, there’s a LITTLE bit of a backstory. This was an informant who was going to point us toward the next member of the Twilight Four, Father Infector, until he caught a crossbow bolt in the neck. Was this guy followed? Did someone infiltrate the Starwatch? Both good questions… but right now, we fight.

You don’t see a lot of this, and I wouldn’t want to start EVERY session this way, but I have to admit it was a welcome change. You get into patterns with this stuff, so when you start a new book, you’re thinking either “low-stakes warm-up encounter designed to refresh your memory on how to play your character” or “20 minutes of background before you do anything of consequence”.

With this, we avoid both those pitfalls. We’re jumping right into the action; and it’s a real, legit fight, not some warm-up. The grunts are grunts, but their use of poison makes them at least somewhat formidable and they seem to have a frustratingly large supply of hit points. And flying demons that shoot bees out of their mouths are self-explanatory in their awesomeness. (Don’t come at me with your “they’re flies, not bees”… I’m adding an extra pinch of awesome in my head-canon.)

Having said that, the episode winds down right when things are starting to get good. So I suspect we’ll talk more about the fight when we’re back here 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 S3|24: Bad To The Last Drop

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|24: Are You Not Entertained?.

Well, we made it to the finish line in one piece, even if it got a little hairy there for a minute.

As I go back and listen, the boss was never a huge worry to me once he went down the first time. He’s easy to hit, and even if he’s got fast healing, we can PROBABLY outdamage it. To borrow from Chumbawumba (remember them?) “I get knocked down… but I get up again… until I reach Dying 4”. I felt pretty confident we would ultimately get him down in a way where he’d stay down. Just might take a few tries.

It was all the other stuff that worried me. The two adds. Whatever amount of time it would take to destroy or disable the device. The cloud growing every turn (soon rendering it impossible to avoid). Even Brave Buckshuck was a bit of a wildcard: yeah, he was running away, but if the confusion component of the poison triggered, we could find ourselves getting thumped by a giant. It’s like… we can SEE the finish line, but getting there may be a bit of a challenge.

However, Oggvurm’s regeneration briefly threw a wrench into the plans. That’s right, regeneration is not just fast healing, but it literally means you can’t go past Dying 3 while it’s active. I still trust our ability to put him down every round (going back and looking at the stat block, the healing component was 20 points, which we can power through), but the real cost is in actions spent. (And OK, he can still hit hard if he’s up long enough to get an attack off.)

Fortunately however, fire is pretty much the great regeneration disabler, and it works in this case, and Oggvurm stays down the second time we knock him out. That’s one problem dealt with. And with Oggvurm dealt with, the sidekicks aren’t even that difficult. Their biggest utility was creating flanking; with Oggvurm gone, they’re no worse than the guys we made quick work of in the bathhouse. A few timely crits, and they’re off the board too.

I do feel a LITTLE bad that Brave Buckshuck came to an unfortunate end, but there are limits to that. At the point he died, he had already run halfway across the arena to get away from the cloud, and ignored all our attempts to work together. So… yes, I wish it had gone differently, but how far to you go to save one person compared to saving hundreds or thousands? Staying on the device was the right call… sorry buddy.

So we (though primarily Dougie) go to work on the device. The good news is that a couple of rounds into that, we finally get the thing turned off. If you think about it, that’s the point at which The Day Is Saved and whoever survives gets to go onto Book 4. The bad news is that three out of the four of us are now poisoned with Blackfinger Blight. I’ll fully admit Basil is in the least danger of the three: I took almost no damage during the fight itself, so honestly, I probably could’ve powered through even if I’d failed some saves. And sure enough, I make both my saves and get rid of it before it’s much of an issue.

Dougie and Lo Mang are in a bit of danger, though. They’ve both taken a beating, and Dougie in particular has already dropped once. So if he drops again, he starts at Dying 2… and I think he was out of hero points, so if he gets to Dying 4, there’s no escape hatch waiting. This puts us into a position where we can’t just hand-wave the aftermath like we sometimes do, we really have to get into it round-by-round. (Also keep in mind, I listen to both shows, so what happened to Darius was fairly fresh in my mind when this was happening.)

So I spring into action and it’s one of those things where I made the right choice, but not necessarily for the right reasons. I was mostly responding to Dougie being further on the wounded/dying track, but the real special sauce is that Lo Mang has a BIG advantage in this situation. His monkish fortitude bonus makes it so that all successes on fortitude saves automatically become critical successes. In other words, the whole virulent thing isn’t NEARLY as big an issue for him because any successful save will drop the severity of the poison by a step. So Dougie was definitely the right person to give assistance to, even though I didn’t quite put two and two together in the moment.

That certainly doesn’t make the situation easy, though. It’s a situation where we have to try and help treat the poison (the item bonus from the antidote and the circumstance bonus from Treat Poison stack, so we can get a +6 or even +8 total), but we also can’t let up on healing him because one set of “good” damage rolls could put him down again. And we’re also out of our big heals for the day, so we’re reduced to chaining together little heals and hoping it’s enough. I know there was an easy-going vibe to the whole thing because we’d basically won, but still… scratch the surface just a little bit, and there’s some real danger there.

But then the one thing we didn’t count on bails us out: the poison hits its six-round duration and expires. Dougie is saved, and we can OFFICIALLY declare victory. Granted, Pendantic Me wonders why the poison didn’t expire on the zoo animals back in the first encounter, but you can create a rationale for that if you need to: maybe the ingested form was more concentrated than the airborne version, or the zoo animals had been eating it for a longer period of time and were more deeply affected.

So… we win. The gamesmaster gives us our own little Star Wars medal ceremony, we hear some vague promises about Starwatch doing some interrogations which will presumably set up Book 4, and we’re officially putting this chapter of the adventure to bed. And oh yeah, we’ll also get to level up to 12 for next time.

WERE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

So next week, I guess we see what our fellow lawmen turn up for our next lead, and we meet the new Level 12 versions of the party. 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 S3|23: Cloudy With a Chance of Lethal

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|23: The Bomb Squad.

OK, so welcome to the REAL final boss fight. We thought that was what the last two weeks were, but nope… it’s Oggvurm The Merciless.

This is an interesting fight because it absolutely earns its difficulty rating in some respects, and is atypical in other ways.

The boss himself is tough, and the fact that melees have to enter a really nasty poison cloud to engage with him is certainly tough on its own. The poison being virulent doesn’t help matters either – two saves to reduce the level is rough. The boss also has two supports, but those guys weren’t that bad in prior combats: they feel like they’re there mostly to enable flanking opportunities. I don’t know if the overall challenge rating also includes the fact that we’re hitting this encounter at the end of a full day when our resources are somewhat depleted, but that’s also going to make this fight tricky.

And above and beyond all of that, there’s still the device to disable. Do you try and destroy it? Disable it? And whichever direction you go with it, do you do that WHILE fighting, or get the boss down first and THEN do it while he’s still pounding on us?

On the other hand, we’ve got a few things in our favor as well. First and foremost is the boss’ armor class: after feeling it out for a round or two, it looks like 24 is the magic number. Which means we ALMOST can’t miss (beyond the concealment flat check) and even have a decent chance to crit. (I don’t know the whole party’s attack bonuses, but just to throw a number at it, a +20 would mean we can crit on a 14 or higher). We’re also a lot faster than him in terms of base foot speed, and we have vertical mobility (flight) that he lacks.

The X-factor here is the giant, Brave Buckshuck. He’s supposed to be Oggvurm’s opponent, so on paper he could be an ally. And immediately, I’m seeing him as an opportunity to attack the device, if we can get him on our side. Bet he could smash through a lot of hardness. However, he may also think this is just some three-way fight and think we’re another set of opponents that got thrown in at the last minute. Especially since our whole cover is that we’re a fellow team of gladiatiors.

So all of that sets the stage as combat kicks off.

My first impression is that air bubble, or something like it, would’ve been enormously useful. I will admit, I was thinking it was more of a contact poison than a breathable, but maybe we should’ve seen this one coming a little better than we did.

I also wanted to mention: the spray isn’t a constant thing where it leaves a trail; it actually ticks at the end of each round so there’s a cloud at the first place he stops, a cloud at the second place he stops, etc. Now, when Oggvurm stays in one place for a full round, the diameter of the current cloud gets bigger, but in the early rounds, there are gaps in the cloud… it’s not a continuous wall of poison. Thought I should mention that.

Round 1 is mostly about positioning, though we get our first hints that Oggvurm isn’t that hard to hit, as I think I land a 26 or 27. I don’t know about the rest of the party, but that immediately adjusts my personal tactics. I’m already not likely to do much damage to the device itself (since I lose crits and precision) so I might as well try to slow the big guy down. Best case, if I can land a crit with Devise a Stratagem, that could be 50, 60 damage in one hit, and if I get a crit, I can add mental damage too.

On the other hand, I make a mistake here which is infuriating on re-listen: I forget to do my reaction to share my stratagem. It’s forgivable this round because nobody was really in melee range anyway, but I do it next round too when I don’t have that excuse to fall back on. Can’t afford unforced errors at a time like this.

Things start to get a little more serious in round 2, as everyone gets within melee range. At this point, Oggvurm is still going for the crowd and ignoring us, so we just pile on another batch of damage. On the other hand, Tree Boy decides to be a pain in the ass and swing indiscriminately at everyone, so he’s not going to be the easy ally we hoped he’d be, and we may have to fight him down to unconsciousness.

But then things get really messy, as we do enough damage for Oggvurm to take notice of us, and he immediately unloads both barrels on Dougie, knocking him out in one round. Damn! As Steve would say, “that’s not good”. We’ve halted his progress toward the crowd, but one round of attacks took out a quarter of our party. And as I said earlier, staying in one place means the cloud in that area starts to grow.

And here’s why that’s a problem. It dawns on me that one way to approach this fight would be hit-and-run tactics. It’s a bit meta-gamey, but if the cloud is still small, you can run in and take one shot (maybe two with haste or other special abilities), and then get back out of the cloud and not be affected by the poison at all. But if the cloud keeps growing, it will eventually reach a point where stick-and-move won’t work anymore and the melees will HAVE to stay in the cloud to fight him. AND to stop the device, when we get to that point.

And oh by the way, Oggvurm also heals for an unknown amount. So however many hit points he has… he’s getting some of them back. Possibly each turn if it’s a constant effect and not a one-off.

The fight continues. Oggvurm takes it easy on us by moving for a round, during which Lo Mang and I load damage on him while Gomez gets Dougie back in the fight. (Oddly… over his protests.) Another round ticks, and we FINALLY get him down, though the giant fails his save and gets poisoned while all that is going on.

So now all we have to do is clear the adds, maybe deal with the giant, and disable the device, and we’ve saved the city again. Should be easy, right? Right?

I guess we’ll find out how easy 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 back here next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S3|22: Catch Me If You Can

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|22: Flurry of Misses.

We have a lot to unpack this week, but first, the absolute briefest of movie reviews.

Everything Everywhere All At Once. Go see it. That’s the review. (Among other reasons, because it’s really hard to review without spoilers.)

As we get into the action of this week’s episode, you can really sense the tone shift a new week brings – both for the party as a whole, and for me in particular. It’s almost like one of those Snickers commercials: toward the end of the previous session, I was ready to throw my computer out a window. This week, I’m much more my normal mostly-unflappable self.

Part of it was just starting fresh in a new week, but part of it was seeing the tactics start to come together. The thing is, last week, I had reached the conclusion that our melees (Dougie and Lo Mang) needed to start grappling to change the dynamics of the fight, but they hadn’t gotten there yet. And I didn’t want to come right out and TELL them to do that, because being told what to do is one of my pet peeves. As we get into this session, they’re finally starting to put it into effect and it’s starting to feel like progress.

In an unexpected turn of events, Gomez gets in on the action as well, summoning his arboreal reaper, which also goes after her Fortitude saves. If you find a weak spot, might as well make the most of it: Franca can dodge everything we throw at her, but she’s just not THAT strong, and the dice finally start to lock in on that advantage. So the reaper can drain her vitality every few rounds, and that proves to be remarkably effective for a summoned creature. PROGRESS IS BEING MADE.

The thing with the staff was a little weird. It almost feels like Steve wanted to give us some of the encounter loot so that we could use it against Franca, but then realized you can’t use staffs without attuning them first, so a staff drop would be useless in this fight anyway. Skipping ahead to the end, it does turn out to be the next level of fire staff, which was on my purchase list anyway, so that’s nice. But for this fight and the upcoming boss battle… we missed our chance.

So the fight continues on for a while, with the balance of things slowly shifting in our favor. At first, we’re landing the grapples but not the damage, which at least starts to restrict her offensive options a bit because she can’t do anything that involves movement. Once we’re landing grapples AND damage, the path to victory starts to emerge out of this mess… it just takes a little while to get there.

And then finally… she’s down. After a little bit of wound-licking, we do a brief interrogation, and she’s more than happy to tell us where the bomb is. I wasn’t surprised she didn’t have it on her, but I assumed it might be a search or chase mechanic to find it before it went off. CUT THE BLUE WIRE! But no. It’s actually much worse than that. Oggvurm, the gladiator champion is working with her, and has the device. So if we want it, we’ll have to (as the saying goes) pry it from his cold dead fingers.

So yeah, we’ve got one more fight in front of us, and it’s against someone who feels like he’s going to be even more powerful than Franca. I mean… I don’t have his statblock in front of me, but come on. A gladiator champion? That’s not going to be some Level 10 you roll over in three rounds.

And that’s why – let’s take a little bit of a swim in the deeper waters – I decided to put the Evil Nasty Poison in my sword cane.

We had a discussion about this on our Discord channel. Some people offered me the “out” that the badge would convert it to non-lethal damage, but I wasn’t even thinking about that. I’m willing to assume my actions were taken with the full knowledge that it could be lethal.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s a kind of morally ambiguous move, and I will say I’m a little disappointed my tone was so cavalier at the time. I kinda wish I wasn’t so happy-go-lucky about committing a potential war crime of my own in trying to stop this guy.

However, here’s my argument in favor of doing it.

The first argument is a little meta-gamey – I highly suspected the poison I had (DC 19 cytillesh oil) would’ve basically been useless against a boss-level foe. Basil might not know the specific numbers, but I feel like he’d know his tools well enough to realize that cytillesh oil wouldn’t be enough to bring this guy down. And the second related argument is that equipping it is not the same as using it; at this point, I’m just giving myself options in a situation where we’re already running low on resources. I don’t want to decide halfway through the fight that I need the bigger guns and try to put the poison in my cane up while this guy is actively whomping on me. Now, it’s ready to go, even if I get a bout of conscience and never use it.

And OK, it EVEN popped into my head that if there’s an antidote to this stuff, maybe us having it and using it as weapon might be a way to tease that out a bit. Maybe he’s not afraid of the poison when he’s in control of how it’s released, but maybe if he knows WE have some of it, that changes his tune.

But I think the big thing is exigent circumstances. This guy is going to try and set off a catastrophic event that will kill hundreds or even thousands of people. To my way of thinking, we’re in “you stop him, HOWEVER you have to do it” territory. The simple fact is the poison has a better chance of landing, and if it does, it’ll do some significant damage. So this one time, I’m telling the badge to shut it and going with the morally-gray choice. At the risk of being overly serious about a game, if they took Basil’s badge for this, he could live with it.

But as we’re summoned forth to the fight, I’m almost immediately realizing it may not get reach that point anyway. As we arrive back in the arena, we see a few things that ALL favor me hanging back and plonking with the bow anyway. First, the battlefield is a wide open area with clear sightlines. Second, Oggvurm has bodyguards, so it may be best to stay out of flanking situations. Lastly, and probably most importantly, it turns out the device is pumping out clouds of poison in aerosol form. SOMEONE will probably have to enter melee range at some point, but… “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first”. Add all of that together, and that poison may stay in its cane anyway if I never get close enough to use it.

So the table is set, next week we’ll see if we can save the city of Absalom yet again. 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 S3|21: Rage Against the RNG

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|21: Catch Me If You Can.

As I said in a joking-but-not-joking fashion on our Discord channel: you know this fight is rough when I’m the one who gets angry.

I was kidding, but not really. After all, if you’ve been listening to our exploits for any amount of time, you’d probably recognize that I’m usually the calm one who just lets the game wash over me. In fact, you sometimes have to double-check to make sure I’m still awake. (A truer statement than you think: in our pre-podcast days I actually dozed off during a session once.) So when I say this Franca Laurentz fight was annoying enough for me to lose my temper, I feel like that’s saying something.

Please don’t get me wrong. Challenging fights don’t bother me as long as they’re also interesting. In fact, I LOVE it when a new enemy emerges halfway through the fight, or when the boss rolls out some ability you’ve never seen before and it completely disrupts the flow of the fight. Challenging and interesting is fine. I’ve got as much a sense of the theatrical as anyone else. Challenging in ways that are just tedious and annoying, on the other hand, is where I start to lose interest and question my dedication to the game.

And that’s largely what this fight was: mostly a tedious war of attrition. Franca wasn’t doing a LOT of damage to us, though we’ll come back to that either later in this session, or next week when the fight continues. But the fact is she was frustratingly hard to hit, and it got even worse when she backed herself into a corner and removed flanking from the equation. So while she wasn’t doing much damage to us, we were doing almost ZERO damage to her.

I suppose I will amend that statement a little bit. I thought Franca’s reaction that allowed her to redirect attacks was a pretty cool ability. My reference was that it felt like something out of a Jackie Chan movie; I could see Jackie grabbing a guy’s jacket and spinning him around, redirecting Thug #1’s attack so it hits Thug #2. In lighter moments, it would’ve probably been a fun little quirk of the fight. I just found it hard to find the joy in it when I was the one who kept getting hit by it. But if they ever offer it as a character feat, I am there.

And OK, let’s also acknowledge that I got the double-whammy this session, because my dice luck was just crap all night. So this was already a difficult opponent, but the added turn of the screws was that prior to my final attack of the night that finally hit, my high roll of the night had been a 10 or 11. Part of the reason I was getting so aggravated was that Steve was dropping hints about changing our tactics, and I’m thinking “there’s not a tactic in the world that lets you hit when you roll a 3 on-die”.

And… I think we WERE thinking about changing our tactics, we just hadn’t gotten there yet. I think there’s a natural “calibration” period in most fights where you just do your usual thing – particularly in ways that don’t consume resources – until you figure out how strong or weak the opponent is. Then once you have a sense of the level of the threat, then you start taking tactics to the next level. So some of our reluctance to changing tactics was the natural flow of feeling her out and figuring out what we were dealing with. I think that in particular, once Franca moved into the corner and there was NO way we could get flanking the old-fashioned way, that was kind of the big wake-up call that we needed to try something different than we’d been doing for the previous 2.9 books of the AP.

I think that “something” needs to be strength-based, so… pushes, grapples, something like that. If you reverse-engineer saving throws, you get a three-legged stool model where an enemy can be quick and elusive (Reflex), strong and hard-hitting (Fort), or resistant to magic (Will), and it usually only gets two of the three at most (and for easier fights, only one of the three). So I feel like if Franca is strong in Reflex, it MAY be possible to just overpower her with Strength. Granted, Basil is not the one to do it, but that’s right up Lo Mang and Dougie’s collective alley.

I do want to quibble with Steve’s interpretation of the grapple rules. He’s KINDA right in that you have to re-do your grapple check every round, and you can increase an existing grapple to restrained through repeated success. But I’m also kinda right that if you critically succeed on your grapple, it goes right to restrained, the worse of the two conditions. For the record, both generate flat-footed and immobilized; the main difference between the two is that you can’t attack or manipulate items while restrained (except to try and escape), while you can attack without penalty and can manipulate items with a DC 5 flat check while grappled. For the sports-nerd crowd, grappled has the quarterback’s legs, but he can still throw the ball; restrained has his throwing arm wrapped up as well. So bringing it back to this fight… if we could get her restrained, that would be a game-changer, and even grappled would be pretty good.

Or… we could just shove her ass into the furnace. It’s not a very “cop” move, but it’d work.

Now, I’m going to give you a little spoiler, as it may come into play next week. Remember when I said she wasn’t doing much damage? Once the fight was over, I went back and looked at her stat block, and there’s some sneaky-serious stuff baked in there that you wouldn’t catch at first glance. Remember the bleed ability? If that CRITS, it also imparts flat-footed, and she gets additional precision damage until the start of her next turn. So that CAN be extra nasty as a setup attack; it’s just that she hasn’t had a chance to use it that way yet.

That’s not meant as a cliff-hanger: I honestly forget whether she lands one of those later in the fight or not. But I figured I’d throw it out there as a teaser for next time. Can we turn this fight around and land some hits? Will I roll double-digits? Come back next week and find out. 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 S3|20: Splish, Splash, Lo Mang’s Taking a Bath

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|20: Cone of Coal.

I apologize that this week’s column is arriving late: it’s been one of those weeks, both good (Steve actually visiting Pittsburgh along with several other long-time friends, kids’ birthdays falling this week) and bad (procrastinating on doing my taxes because I knew I owed for the first time in years, getting a little too obsessive about assembling my initial Diamond Dynasty squad in MLB The Show). But I finally added Jack Leiter last night as my missing fifth starter, and I knocked out my taxes this morning (grumble grumble), so I’m good to return to the world of Pathfinder minutiae.

(And yes, I know I lost some non-zero portion of you with the baseball talk, but I gotta be me. Can I win you back by pointing out that my team is the “Countryside Burninators” and I used the logo editor to make my team logo a picture of Trogdor? YES, I USED CONSUMMATE V’S.)

As an aside, Steve brought a copy of the Battlezoo Bestiary book with him on his trip into town because he figured I’d like to see it, and it’s BEAUTIFUL. I won’t be doing a formal review because that’s all sorts of conflict of interests, but it turned out really well.

This episode is a little weird because it’s almost like an episode of the circus show, as I’m ALMOST a spectator to the action. I talked about this a little last week, but it’s really on display this week: I was so busy shooting arrows from a safe distance last week, that the whole fight took a left turn and ran off to the north and left me all by myself back in the central bath chamber. Therefore, at least within the flow of this episode, I’m not doing a lot – I basically have to burn two whole rounds just to get back into a position where I’m even able to fight, and by that point, John and Chris have done most of the hard work. The first move got me onto a straight line with the fight, but there was an elevation change that prevented me from getting line of sight, so the second round was moving up to a point where I could see into the room to shoot. (But at that point I had to just move into the room and use my sword-cane anyway.)

I console myself by saying that it’s not cowardice, it’s just editing. This whole sequence is a running fight that spans the next 3 or 4 episodes (depending on whether the Franca fight becomes one big episode or two smaller ones). I was busy last week, I’ll be busy next week, but based on where Steve cut the action, this week I happen to just be along for the ride.

Meanwhile, Chris starts the action this week by providing us with some broad physical comedy, blowing through not one but TWO acid traps in his pursuit of the remaining lizardfolk. Now… part of me just wants to make fun of him for his hubris, but let’s be fair that some of that is built into his character. When you’ve got a metric ton of hit points and take feats that can turn saves into critical saves, maybe blowing through traps without a care in the world is just playing to the strengths of your build. Though let’s be honest, the comedic effect is still akin to the Cape Fear parody episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on rakes over and over.

For a good chunk of the episode, the battle remains a matter of cleanup. Yes, there’s a room where the lizardfolk are keeping more FBI Guys, but our melees are better than their melees, and we should be able to make fairly quick work of them. And then…

CONE OF COAL. And yes, I’m envious of John for coming up with that line. Yes, I tried to keep up with “Revenge is a dish best served coal”, but no… too wordy. John nailed it on the first take. Sometimes you take the L with grace and move on.

Turns out the cone of coal isn’t the real problem, though. It was a nasty little surprise — and made for a heck of an entrance — but the real danger is the EXPLODING crossbow bolts Franca is firing. A one-shot of area damage… eh, you can power through it. Multiple bursts of area damage every round? That’s going to be an issue.

Though don’t think Basil isn’t taking notes. Down the line, if Basil can put some area damage on his arrows… yeah, that’ll be a good time. But that’s an item for the Christmas list; for the moment, we gotta stop her and separate her from the bomb.

As an aside, I suspect the bomb isn’t down here directly – if it’s gotta disperse, setting it off underground BELOW all your victims doesn’t seem to make any sense. So I assume it’s more like we defeat her and she TELLS us where the bomb is.

So the boss fight is engaged. We don’t get very far into it before the episode break, but we start to at least do some feeling out. There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that once we close to within melee range, she drops the crossbow, so no more area damage. And her base melee attacks don’t hit especially hard. She may have other special abilities, so I’m not declaring victory just yet, but it’s a promising sign. The bad news is that she’s shaping up as hard to hit – I think it took a mid-30s roll to hit, and our attack bonuses are in the +20 neighborhood, so that’s looking like a 15, 16 on-die to hit, maybe even higher for some things like spell DCs and saving throws. So while it looks like we can survive whatever she’s going to throw at us, it may also be a little tough for us to score damage on her, and we’re pretty much only critting on a Nat-20. And it’s also picking at the back of my brain that I’m a little worried if she runs for it and this turns into a pursuit situation – she seems kind of rouge-ish in her build, so a bunch of chase mechanics may not favor us.

But that will be next week (and maybe the week after). For this week, we’ve found our target and it’s time to bring her to justice. 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 S3|19: Attack the Darkness!

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|19: Danger Close.

It’s going to be a short column this week. It’s already a pretty short episode (under an hour) and it’s also one of those episodes where it’s all kinda up there on the “screen” – there’s not a lot of extra insight I can provide beyond pointing out that yes, three crits in a row is pretty dang cool. And unlikely to ever happen again. And yes, I did burn a hero point to try for a fourth, but at that point the session was ending in 5 or 10 minutes and I was going to lose it anyway.

I suppose that does mean I have time to take a brief detour into deeper RPG waters (and the show notes/discussions on the Battlezoo side of the house) and give my own thoughts on Paizo publishing a 5E conversion of Abomination Vaults.

Despite the fact that we’ve been doing this podcast for almost five years and part of that has involved rubbing elbows with Paizo types on occasion, I don’t consider myself any sort of “industry insider”. At best I’m like the “honorary captain” they send out for the coin toss at the start of a football game: you can put a jersey on me, but I’m not tackling Gronk in the open field. So all of this is just the perspective of a long-time player who has played and enjoyed both systems. (But if you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose one, I’d probably pick PF2E.)

To me, this is only a bad thing if you’re hard wired to view the edition wars as a zero-sum game where somebody has to win and someone has to lose. Look, whether it’s serendipity, the silky-smooth voice of Matt Mercer, or wheelbarrows of Hasbro marketing dollars, the reality is that D&D has reclaimed its place as the top dog in TTRPGs. If we’re being honest, they probably never really lost it, though 4E was enough of a misstep that it opened the door for Pathfinder’s existence in the first place. But it’s equally true that Paizo probably isn’t going anywhere even if the brand never penetrates like D&D does. The bigger positive for the industry as a whole is that the D&D nerds of the 70s and 80s a) aged into a demographic where we have disposable income and b) some of us became creatives that were able to go out into film and TV and sell the general public on the POSITIVES of our hobby instead of presenting it as the punchline of a joke. I mean, hell, if Henry Cavill can make videos of himself painting Warhammer minis and not lose his career, we’re living in the salad days. Overall, that’s the proverbial rising tide that raises all ships.

So rather than worry about a competition they can likely never really “win”, it strikes me that Paizo is trying to use their strengths to their advantage. They’ve done a lot of good work building out their Golarion setting, and as Steve has discussed on the Battlezoo side, going from comparatively rules-heavy (Pathfinder) to comparatively rules-light (5E) is an easier conversion than the other way around. So why not repurpose something you already made – I assume it’s cheaper and quicker-to-market than doing new content — and tap into a piece of that larger player base? At worst, it’s a little extra revenue stream coming in to keep funding Pathfinder and Starfinder; at best, maybe a few players become curious enough to give PF2 a try on its own merits.

Even just thinking about my 5E home game, I’m not sure there’s a lot of enthusiasm for learning a whole new system… YET. But if I can put Abomination Vaults in front of them and they like it, THEN you can sell that next step. Well, if you liked that… take the red pill, let me show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes, and you still have two actions left. So it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out; whether it’s a one-off or whether they keep releasing 5E conversions. But for now, I think it’s a generally positive move.

So anyway… I suppose I should say SOMETHING about the episode, shouldn’t I?

I guess I’ll talk about blind-fight a little bit. On one hand, I absolutely love blind-fight as a concept, and particularly in First Edition, blindness penalties sucked. But I have to admit, I also feel like it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure.

First, it feels like sometimes I’m fudging the distinction between a specific combat skill and generally ignoring conditions that should still create perception issues and Steve lets me get away with it. Like… yes, the rules say I don’t have to take the penalty for concealment, but if I walk into a room, the underlying environmental conditions still exist. Darkness, for example. If I walk into a pitch-black room, it’s one thing to say I can sense an attack and respond; it’s another thing to say “I know there are three enemies and I know exactly where in the room they are”. Feels like I ought to still make some sort of perception check to even know there’s an enemy there, but then be able to make the attack without penalty.

And that brings me to my more specific point. I feel like blind-fight maybe ought to apply only to melee attacks. I’ve read the rule, and it just says “attacks”, but I feel like the spirit of blind-fight is that you use your other senses to compensate, kinda like the comic-book character Daredevil. You can fight an opponent because you can hear their footsteps, feel wind currents when they move, smell their scent… all that jazz. But how do you use your other senses to compensate when you’re firing a bow from 50 or 100 feet away and they’re in a different room? (Speaking of which, how does Daredevil hear a freakin’ laser beam coming at him? IT’S LIGHT. LIGHT DOESN’T MAKE NOISE.) So, I’m not going to aggressively lobby Paizo to nerf my character, but if it ever DID happen, I’d probably be forced to admit it was a fair change.

The other thing I briefly wanted to touch on was the “cheat” at the end, where Chris moved into the next room, revealing more enemies, but then realized he didn’t have enough actions to move there and had to rescind his move. So now on some level, we know we’re going to run into a trap, but we still have to pretend we don’t know that.

I’m not really going to talk about that specifically – mistakes happen – but the more general question of how you deal with “spoilers” like that because they do come up from time to time. In my case, one of the major causes ends up being the circus show. Sometimes the circus crew will fight a monster, I’ll hear all the nasty abilities it has, and then we’ll fight that same monster a few weeks later, and I have knowledge I probably shouldn’t have. One example… not a monster, but a spell… was dimension door. The circus folks fought a succubus that had dimension door in its power-set, so as part of writing my piece, I looked up the spell and found out there’s two different version. The low-level one just moves it anywhere the caster can see within 120 feet… combat repositioning. The higher-level version is an escape spell: anywhere within a mile, but can’t be cast for an hour. So then WE fought a creature with dimension door, and it teleported out, and Jason the person knows that means the fight is likely over but Basil the character isn’t supposed to know that yet.

In general, this is going to sound corny, but the biggest thing is to remind yourself that you don’t want to win THAT way. Yes, you want to win the fights and follow the story to completion, but there’s a right way to do it, and do you want the story you tell about it later to be “well, I cheated because the GM slipped up and told us about the ambush and we went a different way”?

At least in the case of creatures and spells, it also makes a good case for solid note-taking. If you play this game enough, especially if you also GM, you’re going to reach a point where you know all the creatures and their abilities anyway. So it’s not the worst idea of making a list of the creatures and abilities your character has already seen, so you can be fair about how they would react in a given situation. A “fair” reaction would be like we had with oozes: the first time we fought one, we didn’t know they split when hit with slashing; the second time we fought them, we not only knew it, but used it to our advantage. (Split them, and then hit them with area damage.)

But that’s really all I got for this week. Next week we are, one way or another, going to trip that ambush that’s (wink-wink) totally not waiting for us in the next room. Though at the risk of being self-serving, it won’t have to be Basil, because I stayed behind to shoot arrows: I’m still a full round of movement away from the fight. 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 S3|18: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, that got a little dark there.

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

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

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

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

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

The Bird’s Eye View S3|17: They Put the Fear of Dog Into Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So next week, after we heal up and absorb the needling of our fellow gladiators, we get on with the reason we’re here, finding Franca and the bomb. Hope the rest of the fights won’t be as tough as this one was. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S3|16: Your Mass Murderer Is In Another Castle

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S3|16: My Eyes! The Goggles Do Nothing!.

Things slow down a bit this week, as the heist is over and we have to regroup a little bit. You see… we succeeded… but we also failed, because while we accomplished all the goals of the infiltration, our reward was that the lockbox was empty and the bomb had already been stolen.

Before we get to that though, I actually found myself wondering: what if we had failed? What if something had gone wrong and we’d never made it to the vault or hadn’t discovered Franca Laurentz’s identity? Does the adventure just end? Do we wake up a few days later to hear about how hundreds or thousands of people were killed by the bomb we couldn’t find? How does the adventure path account for that, and/or how would Steve have handled that?

So I flat-out asked Steve. I figure the statute of limitations on spoilers had expired, so why not? It turns out this is one of those places where “the rest of the force” would’ve bailed you out with some sort of lead. They’re already locating Franca’s hideout; if we had failed the heist, they would’ve actually pulled some strings, gotten a warrant, and gotten ALL the information in other ways. I guess if you want to hand-wave an in-universe explanation, they always could have done that, but us doing a covert op got the information faster or something.

Now, on one hand, there’s a little piece of me that finds that unsatisfying, insofar as it suggests that the heist was ultimately a fail-proof scenario. Sounds like we could’ve done almost ANYTHING and still ended up with Franca Laurentz as our next lead after a suitable amount of time passed. On the other hand, that’s the whole point: the joy is still in the execution, and in the desire of discovering the information yourself, and the path you take to get there. And be honest: would you really want an adventure path you’ve been playing for months to just grind to a halt because a few dice rolls went sideways? No self-respecting player wants their content to be COMPLETELY spoon-fed, but I suspect a lot of players would take the occasional light-touch helping hand over throwing out months of gaming and starting over.

So here we are. We’re back from the raid, and “the force” gets us a lead, which we proceed to investigate. We roll up on her apartment, and it’s CLASSIC murder-board “plot against the city” stuff. Back when we played, the Always Sunny meme was the go-to, but now we’ve got the Riddler’s hideout from The Batman as an even more on-point reference.

The first takeaway is that Franca almost HAS to be working with the Twilight Four in some capacity, right? First there’s the general “too much coincidence” sense that there can’t possibly be TWO cult-like organizations looking to commit mass murder. She was hatching a mass murder plot, didn’t have a weapon for it, but lucky her… she happened to stumble on one at work! But there’s also a fairly specific reason for thinking they’re connected: all the planning on her murder-board looks like it would’ve taken weeks to set up (same for rigging her apartment, for that matter), but she must’ve taken the device fairly recently if we could still detect the scent of the chemicals. So… she had to know it was there, and what it does, and have been sent into retrieve it. If she’d stumbled on the bomb and taken it on an impulse and THEN started plotting uses for it, her plan wouldn’t be nearly as far along. So I’m assuming until further notice that she’s someone the Twilight Four put on the case after Maurrisa Jonne got herself banned from the Lucky Nimbus.

As for the planning, it’s an absolute treasure trove of information, and it should let us figure out her plans… if we can save it (and ourselves) from the acid. That’s right… the room is booby-trapped, and acid starts releasing from vents around the room. Now, I don’t think anyone’s worried about dying in this encounter; we have a full day of spells, and if we really have to, we can just grab as much evidence as we can and hope it’s enough. But it would be good to preserve as much of this as possible, so once we stumble on the location of the acid dispenser, it feels like trying to shut it off is the right move. Lo Mang does the heavy lifting on breaking the wall, and then we’re able to get the device turned off. We’re a little worse for wear, and we lost some of the evidence, but we have enough of a lead to keep moving forward.

After analyzing the material, we find that the target is going to be the Blood Games. That’s right… we’re off to the gladiator games! And it looks like we might have to enter as contestants to have a look around. I think the thing that immediately concerns me is the idea that it’s hinted at being a single-day event. That means no long rest once we start. We’ll have to fight one or more arena combats AND potentially fight Franca once we find her, which sounds like we’re REALLY going to have to manage our resources carefully. It would suck to waste all our good spells on fake fights and have nothing left for the real one. And presumably on top of that, there will also be some non-combat stuff to actually find the device and disable it, but that’s not as urgent because those resources shouldn’t be drained by the combat.

The good news? Level 11. So we’ll be a little more powerful for the fight to come. Thank heavens for milestone experience, because I’m really doubting that disabling one trap would’ve pushed us over the top on its own. We’ll get into the leveling next week – I know Seth started talking about his spell choices, but I’ll keep it all under one roof and discuss it when we have final characters to present. (Though at first glance, Level 11 seemed like kind of a boring one for Basil.)

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