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The Bird’s Eye View S1|13: Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|13: I’m Attacking the Darkness!

Well, let’s start this week with a discussion of shield, since Steve called me out by name. You know what… I’m willing to accept the criticism as valid. I’ll throw myself on the mercy of the court since I just got my wizard abilities this level and I’m using the spell for the first time, but he’s right… I should know what my spells do. Especially since I have so few of them.

I think I got a little turned around because there’s casting the shield, which is an action, but then there’s blocking a blow, which is a REaction. I think one of two things happened; either I momentarily got those two tangled up in my brain, or maybe I figured since shield was only a one-action spell, it made a little sense to have to raise it to be the separate (second) action that almost every other spell seems to have. So… fine. Learning curve.

Of course, there’s a second smaller mistake we made that I just noticed on re-listening. There’s a place where I take like 5 attacks in a row, and I use the shield spell to block the fourth attack because I was pretty low on hit points. Well if you want to get technical, that block should’ve expended the shield since it only has a hardness of 5, so the shield should not have been available for the final attack. I don’t think it would’ve made a difference, but still… we’ll get this right as we go forward. Promise.

Moving on… I’m getting worried that this “secret” underground passage is turning out to be so well-trafficked. We’ve got a gelatinous cube, ghouls, and now not one but two different groups of humanoids just loitering about. I mean, I don’t want to put on my metagame hat, but I’m starting to worry that we’ll have to expend all our resources just getting to the club, but then if we face a combat encounter IN the club, we’re gonna be so screwed. I figured MAYBE one fight, just to keep us on our toes. But this is turning out to be a full day dungeon crawl, isn’t it?

We actually start slow this week, with some healing and then a non-combat interaction with a group of ysoki produce merchants. Excuse me? I mean, I know the existence of the undercity is supposed to be a thing, but it’s still a little weird that you’ve got produce merchants just hanging out down here. And they just HAPPENED to stumble upon the ghouls? Something seems off about this whole interaction. But this gets into the whole “are we adventurers or are we on a mission” vibe? Lacking any real crime to investigate, we probably ought to just move on and get to the party right?

Well… maybe not, as we stumble on our next combat encounter (#3 for this part of the adventure, for those of you scoring at home). I don’t get a sense of exactly what creatures these guys are supposed to be – smallish feathery humanoids… but not fellow tengu because I suspect Steve would’ve made a bigger deal of me being attacked by my fellow countrymen.

And they can cast darkness… or maybe they have it as an innate ancestry ability. Oh, crap.

Darkness is one of those things that’s either hit or miss. If you’re playing an ancestry with darkvision, the base version of the spell is almost trivial, and even the heightened version of the spell just grants concealment. But if you didn’t take that darkvision, the real sizzle to the steak is that darkness overpowers ALL non-magical light sources and even magical ones of the same level or lower. Adding insult to injury, this seems to be the one party where we haven’t taken light as a spell. Technically, I have access to it, but I didn’t equip it because I didn’t have time to take a long rest and change out my spells. So yeah… we’re TOTALLY in the dark now.

As an aside, I’m usually paranoid about darkness because of a bad Emerald Spire experience. There’s an entire level of that dungeon that was both shrouded in magical darkness as well as almost entirely difficult terrain, and it was awful. Ever since that game (also playing a tengu, coincidentally), I usually either take some sort of darkvision or at least Blind Fight. Somehow this is the ONE character where I didn’t bother doing that because I expected most of our adventures to be above-ground. Sigh.

Looking at the battlefield, you have the map in front of you, we came south down a staircase to a T intersection; at least two of the bad guys were to the east, but one went to the west, and the darkness seemed like it was centered at the bottom of the stairs. Based on what parts of the map we’d already come from, the east seemed like it was mostly a dead end, and the west would be the way we’d want to go to proceed further. I thought about going west and trying to get out of the darkness, but once Dougie and Lo Mang went east, I decided I’d rather stay with the group, even if it meant piling into the darkness even further.

Now… at the risk of giving Steve ideas, I thought there were a couple of places where he could’ve actually made this more challenging by throwing in the risk of friendly fire. There were a couple of times where we were maneuvering past each other, and it’s questionable whether we would’ve known if it was a good guy or a bad guy who was standing next to us. Lo Mang was off by himself in the corner of the room so he was fairly safe, but Dougie and I crisscrossed more than once. I suppose you can hand-wave that and say we were able to know friend from foe by sound or that we knew their relative position by responding to where the attacks came from. But if Steve wanted to be cruel, he probably could’ve had us start attacking each other a few times by accident.

The other thing that was a little nasty was that “flashbang” effect when they died. I mean, having them do damage when they died would’ve been worse, but still – the blindness effect meant that even if you managed to stumble out of the darkness, you STILL had all the same penalties. That came into play toward the end when the last enemy was outside the darkness, but I couldn’t see him anyway.

We finally get the fight under control and finish them off, when we get our first hint that things weren’t quite what they seemed. One of the people we’re fighting asks if we’re with them… implying that the rat-folk and these guys had some sort of business deal that went sour, and maybe the ysoki weren’t the innocent produce vendors they pretended to be. But again… is that something we should really be looking into right now when we’ve got something like 20 missing persons to investigate?

As we end the episode, I think the vibe within the group is to at least figure out how much more dungeon we have left to explore. I think once we get a sense of how close to the finish line we are, maybe we could go back and deal with the ysoki, or maybe we just let them slide and continue our mission. So for now… back to work. And that’s where we leave things for this week.

I don’t really have much to say about the potential return of Bob Markee, except to confirm – in the words of Seinfeld – “it’s real and it’s fabulous!” I don’t want to say much: first because it would involve spoilers, but also because if you’re NOT on the Patreon, it might be a little while before you get to hear him. So we’ll talk more about it when it gets closer to happening. That said, I don’t know how long he or the character he’s playing is going to be with us, but it is nice to have him back… Bob adds an interesting dimension to the group and is a lot of fun to play with.

At any rate, next week, we resume our journey and HOPEFULLY finally get to join the party. (But maybe not… always fuzzy how Steve cuts these episodes.) Feel free to drop by Discord 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 S1|12: The Tengu Plays Chicken

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|12: Taking A Bite Out Of Crimefighters.

It’s Gelatinous Cube Week here at Roll For Combat. Part 2, if you listen to both shows.

About a month ago, the Extinction Curse crew fought not one, but TWO gelatinous cubes. To be fair, they were also higher-level than we are at this point in the story, but it was kind of funny having to pretend it was my first time ever seeing a GelCube in Second Edition when reviewing that episode. “Paralysis? I didn’t know it could do that!” In fact, at the point I wrote up that episode, it was probably only a week or two after we had fought ours, so I was chuckling the entire encounter.

Aside from the fact that there were two instead of one, the main difference between the two encounters is that their group noticed the immaculately clean walls and floors and decided to be cautious. They started throwing rocks and other loose debris down the hall until it stuck in “midair”. We were not nearly as observant. “Oh how lucky that the floors are so clean here! Oh look… treasure!” The one thing they missed is that GelCube #2 was down a side hall, so their back-line casters got hit from behind by the second one mid-fight.

The gelatinous cube continues to be a fan favorite here in RFC-land. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think a large part of its appeal is just how weird and outside the box it is compared to standard fantasy tropes like dragons and orcs. Tolkien definitely missed the boat by not including a big geometric Jell-O cube that wanders dungeons and melts stuff with acid. Cool!

But as fun as the IDEA of a gelatinous cube is, it’s surprisingly challenging to fight one. Especially with this party composition. The good news is that it’s a big squishy bag of hit points, which is so big and (other than its enveloping attack) slow-moving you almost can’t help but hit it with every attack. It’s meant to fill a corridor in a dungeon, so it’s LITERALLY like attacking a wall. On the other hand, you pretty much lose EVERY source of “extra” damage: no crits, no precision damage (which both Basil and Dougie rely on to boost their output), and it’s got a few elemental resistances as well. Add into the mix the fact that Gomez ran right into the thing and put himself in survival mode right off the bat, and we were fighting this fight at a disadvantage.

So in general, it seems you have two choices with something like this. Either EVERYONE jumps in and goes toe-to-toe and you try to grind it down as fast as possible. Three attacks per round, pedal to the metal. OR, you go the other way, spread out so it can’t hit more than one person at a time, hopefully keeping most of the party standing and avoiding the paralysis effect for as long as possible.

Now, I have to take a bit of a self-serving detour here. Some of this fight makes it sound like I’m some big coward, but I was actually trying to employ some tactics. In the southeast part of the overall chamber, there was a blocked-out area of the map that was almost like a 20×20 “pillar”, and the access points on the sides were only 5’ openings. I wasn’t sure if the GelCube could squeeze himself or not, but I was thinking that if Devise A Stratagem was basically going to be useless anyway*, I would use the narrow openings as cover and attack from relative safety: either pop out, melee, and pop back in, or if I could do a ranged attack, cast Ray of Frost and then reposition to safety. So… OK, maybe I WAS a coward, but a TACTICAL coward. Big difference.

*=As far as Devise A Strategem, being “useless”, here’s my thinking on that: you lose the precision damage because it’s part of the ooze family, but it’s so big that a +2 probably isn’t going to make any difference in terms of hitting or missing. And even using the +2 to get a crit doesn’t really matter because you lose crit damage too. So basically, you’d be burning an action for roleplay flavor. To borrow from Galaxy Quest:It’s a cube of Jell-O, it doesn’t have a weakness!”.

So that’s my defense of my tactical brilliance. What it didn’t really account for was how long Gomez could hold his breath on the inside. As it turns out, the inside of a gelatinous cube is a pretty nasty place to be. Ongoing acid damage, suffocation… who knew? Bringing it down with one attack per round wasn’t really an option once Gomez was fighting for his life. So, after trying to be Fancy Tactical Man for one round, I pretty much abandoned that and went back to slugfest tactics. Which worked out with just enough time to spare… I think the following round, Gomez would’ve run out of air and taken whatever effects suffocation carries with it.

So we’re already dealing with a bit of a punch in the face from that battle when sounds of approaching battle hint at another encounter to come. I’m with Seth… I thought we were just going to waltz to the party, maybe there’d be a social encounter to get in, and that would be that. I did not expect ONE fight, let alone two. Steve charitably gives is a moment to down potions, and then we’ve got ghouls incoming. A paralysis double feature! Yay!

Fortunately, the fight with the ghouls seems to go a little easier, and we’re able to make quick work of them. But still… it’s going to be really awkward if the first thing we have to do upon arrival at the party is to beg for some healing. And I don’t want to even get into the possibility that we burn all our resources down in this mini-dungeon and then have to get into a fight at the party.

But that’ll be an adventure for another time. For this week, we survive to continue our investigation. Can we get where we’re going without further incident? Will Dougie know how to conduct himself in the underbelly of high society? You’ll have to come back next week to 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 S1|11: Who’d Like To Share Something With The Group?

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|11: The More You Know.

Time to throw off the glorious lethargy of a long holiday weekend and write up a review for this week’s show. This week’s episode is a bit of an oddity – it’s not TOTALLY a downtime episode, but we do kind of drop out of character and go into book-keeping mode for a chunk of it. We also TRY to do a little roleplaying, but it doesn’t really go very far. And I think there’s a couple of different reasons for that.

The first is what Steve mentioned in his show notes: the stylistic question of whether you consider yourself the character, or whether you consider yourself the narrator of your character’s actions. Our group – and I generally include myself in this – has traditionally played more from the narrator standpoint. I don’t think either’s wrong exactly, but I think the narrator method DOES tend to move things along a little faster because it’s easier to drop in and out of character to navigate game information that you’d have to “act your way through” in more of a traditional roleplay game. Add up 20 or 30 moments where we just say The Thing and the Extinction Curse group performs The Thing, and it’s not hard to see how our game might move a little more briskly.

The other way to look at it is internal vs. external. I find our group is just as willing to act out interactions with external entities: NPCs and such. Seth in particular really gets into character when it comes to verbally jousting with Steve, but all of us do to some extent. But it’s almost entirely outward-focused. To use an IT analogy, think of the GM screen as a firewall. We roleplay when we’re going through the firewall and interacting with one of the game challenges Steve is presenting. If we’re just talking amongst ourselves, that’s inside the firewall, and we don’t really roleplay that.

(And yes, I’m fully aware that I just took an already-nerdy topic and explained it in terms that are even nerdier. “Tune in next week when I explain Lay On Hands in terms of hard drive defragmentation!”)

So why did I decide to zig when everyone else was zagging this time around? Why did I stay more in character while everyone else was going RP-lite? I’m not nominating myself for any prizes here, but I think part of what’s going on is that listening to the Extinction Curse shows as our designated blogger has me inspired to try and bring a little bit of that energy over to this side of the fence. They sound like they’re having a lot of fun with it, so what the heck – let’s dip into their bag of tricks. I wrote a decent amount of backstory for Basil, let’s see if we can use some of it. Besides, if they’re gonna start dropping pop culture references like “flameo, hotman” into their show, turnabout is fair play.

Well… back to the show, where we’re dealing with a bit of a mixed message. On one hand, we have to go infiltrate a fancy after-hours club, which argues that we should largely stow our weapons and dress for high society. On the other hand, to get there, we have to sneak in through an underground back entrance that basically amounts to a dungeon crawl. I suppose we could have it both ways: wear our fighting gear until we get close and then change into party garb. Times like these, I’m glad to have a sword-cane… works in BOTH settings. I guess if there’s a silver lining to our squishy party composition, it’s that we’re not especially armor-and-weapon-dependent: Gomez is a caster, Lo Mang punches things, I have an innately concealable weapon. Really the only one who might struggle is Dougie: they probably make you check your maul and chainmail at the door of parties like these. But then again, since he’s a rogue, maybe he should be using his dagger anyway.

Speaking of which… this ongoing debate about which weapon Dougie should use continues to vex us. On one hand, it FEELS like the dagger would be the better weapon (or at least SOME weapon with a crit specialization) for Dougie to use because then he gets precision damage AND crit specialization damage against most foes. But then again, thinking ahead to the end of this week when we run up against a gelatinous cube… you can’t always count on those “extra” sources of damage, whereas rolling a bigger die will really never totally fail you. You can either take this as a mild spoiler for next week, or a thing we learned over in Extinction Curse, but anything in the ooze family is immune to precision damage, and they also don’t have blood, so bleeding doesn’t really matter either. And OK, at the risk of providing a veiled critique of our tactics, you can’t get the most out of it if nobody is around to give you flanking, and neither Chris nor I are the most reliable in that regard. Having said all that, sometimes it feels like John is being stubborn for the sake of being contrary… “I’m going to keep using this maul because everyone keeps telling me not to”… or so Dougie can be more distinct from Mister Peepers. I don’t know.

As we reach the end of the episode, we begin to work our way toward the party, when Gomez’s greed gets the better of him and he goes running right down a hallway into a gelatinous cube. Still one of my favorite monsters of all time, by the way – there’s something about the contrast of being so unlike any sort of normal lifeform, but that it still has the wherewithal to form itself into a sensible geometric shape. I think what I like is that it was one of the first creatures that really got outside the Tolkien box of dragons and humanoid bad guys, and took things in a strange new direction.

So next week, we fight a gelatinous cube! Cool! If you want a sneak preview of how that might go, the Extinction Curse crew fought two of them a few weeks ago, so go listen to those episodes or read the right episode of The Sideshow. While you’re waiting for next week’s episode, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S1|10: The Art Of The Deal

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|10: We’re Sending Somebody In To Negotiate!

Since I don’t know how many people read one column or the other, or even both, so I wanted to start by wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving in advance. I know it’s likely to be a little rough and scaled-back this year because of all this COVID stuff happening, but I do hope you have some good things to celebrate and some good people in your life to celebrate it with. (And if you happen to read both columns, you’ll get a bonus dose of positivity on Thursday. Ain’t nothing wrong with sending out more good vibes into the world.)

Since we’re talking about the holidays, I wanted to also start this week with a general show note. This is the time of year where our recording schedule gets a little sporadic because of the holidays. Both episodes have plenty of material in the can, so the broadcasts will continue without interruption – no worries on that front. But for those of you who subscribe to the Patreon and listen live, things can sometimes get a little weird between now and the end of the year. Sometimes we move the shows around during the week; occasionally we even cancel entirely. Happens pretty much every year. It is known, Khaleesi.

This week, we finally resolve the hostage situation at the Dragonfly Pagoda, and rather than a big boss fight, it’s more of a chance to talk our way through the situation, with Gomez taking center stage for the first part, and Basil getting a little bit of work in the second half of the episode. We finally make our way to the non-crazy kobold (Shirek) the site manager mentioned when we started all of this.

Now, I haven’t really looked at Gomez’s character sheet, so I don’t know for certain, but it feels like Seth and I kind of split the “face of the party” duties depending on the context. As a sorcerer, I’m SURE he has a higher Charisma score than I do, so he’s likely to do better with the pure social skills like Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate. So I think in a GENERAL setting, Seth probably gets first crack at things. But I think there are a few contexts in which Basil would shine. First, Society is an INT-based skill and I also have the “Political Scion” background from the adventure path, so when it comes to mingling with fancy-folk, I might actually be able to do a little better than him. Also, if it’s an interrogation setting and we need to get specific information that’s being withheld, I have my Investigator’s “spider-sense”, which might let me notice a few things and offset a few points in Charisma. (And at higher levels, I can take feats that double-down on that.) If we really need someone to apply a little muscle, we’ve already got Lo Mang for that. Dougie… eh, he can go get the coffee.

So we get up to the top of the pagoda where the hostages are being held, and it’s Seth’s time to shine. And I have to admit, it’s nice to see this side of Seth as a neat little window to get to know him better as a person. I’ve gamed with him, I’ve gotten a sense of his taste in pop culture, but this was a chance to see him in a different context. I was really impressed by how quickly he came up with different angles and counter-arguments and navigated the negotiations. I mean, I never in a million years would have come up with “third-party mediation”.

That said, I do think the scenario as a whole teetered on the edge of “out of our pay grade”. We KIND of negotiated a plea bargain on the spot which would normally be the role of judges and lawyers and added a labor negotiation as a cherry on the sundae. Those don’t seem like normal “beat cops” tasks. But if the Lawbreaker Badge didn’t throw a tantrum, I guess we were allowed to do it. Also, if you’re totally rigid about what cadets fresh out of the academy should and shouldn’t be doing while unsupervised, this could run the risk of being the most boring adventure path ever. Sometimes you gotta bend “reality” for the sake of story.

As you hear in the episode, I got a little turned around – I thought the missing stonemasons WERE the hostages, and that rescuing them from the kobolds closed out this little chapter. But it turns out that we had to take care of the hostage crisis before we were even able to begin our investigation of the other situation. My bad there.

So, back at the station, we got to do more of an interrogation, and as I mentioned above, this turned out to be a better chance for Basil to take the lead. Though it actually turned out that my Society knowledge ended up being as useful as my investigative skills, as the next breadcrumb is a speakeasy-type establishment run by Jeremin Hoff, an influential but mildly shady character. So it sounds like our next stretch of adventure is going to be more of a social encounter, and one where Basil may be in clue-gathering mode. So I’m excited.

And we’re already getting close to Level 3! I’m a little surprised at how fast we’re managing to plow through the first two levels. Certainly in terms of game days – this is day TWO in-game time – but also in terms of show episodes. I went through my blog posts and tried to figure out how far along we were by Episode 9. We were Level 1 in Black Lodge, but that’s Society, so you level differently anyway. Not sure that’s a fair comparison. Plaguestone was also at the tail end of Level 1 – we fought Hallod in Episode 9, and would’ve leveled right after that. In Extinction Curse, I believe they had reached Level 2 – it was the battle against the demon that came down to Ateran’s last spell cast. I even went back to Dead Suns, and… OK, totally different game system, but Episode 9 was where we leveled up to Level 2. Yet, here we are, well past Level 2 and may hit 3 soon. Crazy.

The other exciting development is getting 50g apiece for the day’s work. I know Steve is abstracting a few things, but still… that’s a LOT of money for how low-level we are. Though… we’re also burning through consumables at a painful rate too, so it evens out. Not sure how well the “party full of squishies + no healer” party composition is going to work in the long haul, but for now, we live to fight another day.

And that’s just what we’ll do. Next week, we go undercover in the world of high-society dark-money social clubs. I have a strategy for how I’m going to approach this baked into Basil’s backstory, but I think I’ll save that and talk about it next week when we arrive there. 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 S1|09: Taking Friendly Ire

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|09: Double Secret Difficult Terrain.

This week’s theme actually plays off an off-hand comment that came up in the group chat during our Among Us session. We had Loren from the Extinction Curse show; Seth, John, and I from this show, and a few of our Patreon listeners just BSing while we waited for more people to join the game. We were discussing what we like about the various shows, and I said something – half-joking, half-serious – to the effect of “even though our group’s been together longer [Edgewatch], you guys sound like you guys actually like each other better [Three Ring Adventure]”.

Now… don’t read too much into that statement. It was mostly meant to be a commentary on their roleplaying ability – that they really sound like a family unit that’s known each other for years, while there are episodes where we sound like a table thrown together at a convention. But there’s also some truth buried in there when it comes to the competitive dice-rolling side of the game. We tend to be a competitive bunch looking to squeeze every last advantage out of our characters, and SOMETIMES that creeps into evaluating (and giving the stink-eye to) choices our teammates make. That doesn’t translate into personal animosity outside the game: we’re totally different people bullshitting about movies for the 20 minutes before the “cameras” roll. But in-game? Yeah, it can get a little salty at times, and this episode felt like one of those times.

First, there was the whole back-and-forth with Seth’s readied action. I don’t know if you could tell, but I was actually kinda low-key pissed at that. Because if Seth stepped out of the way, guess who was going to be the next most logical attack target? Yours truly. I deflected with humor, as I often do, but it’s like… your “tactical brilliance” is to basically let me eat the attack for you. GREEEEEEAT. And then John did a similar thing which might have been harder to visualize on the map: I moved into the room to potentially give him flanking with the spider, and instead of taking advantage of that, he backed off to crossbow range and shot at the spider. Again, leaving me hung out to dry as the only person in melee range. No major harm done, but it was a little frustrating.

Going back to the ready-action thing, John speculated a little to the effect of “why you wouldn’t just do that all the time?”. And at first glance, it does seem handy to have a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card for a single attack. I can think of a few downsides, though. First, the battlefield might not be conducive to it tactically; it pre-supposes walls, doors, or other cover that you could move behind to avoid the attack entirely. To pick a counter-example, if you’re fighting in a wide-open meadow, there’s nowhere to hide and at best maybe you can add a -2 range increment.  Second, paying two actions for one action you may or may not use is a pretty steep trade. But most importantly, the enemy still gets three actions on their turn. Even if you do that fancy avoidance maneuver on its first action, it still has two more and can still adapt to your new position and pummel you in other ways. So maybe that tactic isn’t the big I WIN button it might seem like at first glance.

The fight with the spider-lady unfolded in a reasonably straightforward fashion – again, kobolds themselves have NOT that much of a problem whenever we can take traps out of the equation. But then at the end of the fight, we had another little squabble about whether to leave rounds, with Seth… rage-drinking?… a potion just to assert ownership over his turn. This was also the thing Steve mentioned in the show notes: I feel like maybe Steve cut some bickering because three of us REALLY wanted to drop out of rounds and heal, while Seth REALLY wanted to stay in rounds for some reason and I recall the debate lasting longer than that. But… no harm done, I suppose. I just didn’t want him to waste the potion until after we’d burned up our free resources first.

FINALLY we get to take our short rest, and I get to test out Ward Medic for the first time. Reminder: that’s the one that lets you heal two different people in the same 10-minute interval. It’s a nice little feature, and (sneak preview) it’ll get even better down the road when I can pair it with the Continual Recovery feat that lets you drop the cooldown from an hour to 10 minutes. In the here-and-now, I managed to fail on one (me) and succeed on one (Gomez), but I wasn’t down all that far, so it wasn’t the end of the world. Especially if it’s still just kobolds the rest of the way. I figure if there’s another boss-level kobold in the final fight, I’ll pop a potion or use my badge ability.

Speaking of “the rest of the way”: as I listen to this episode, the one thing I wrestle with was whether we were supposed to deal with the bloodseekers to the south or not. This is one of those places where adventurers would have different priorities than officers of the law with a specific task to accomplish. Adventurers would do it in a heartbeat. Experience is experience, loot is loot. As a member of the local constabulary, it’s a little more muddy. On one hand, they’re still a threat to the general public safety and should be dealt with; on the other hand, the hostage situation is still the higher priority and I’d hate to lose hostages because we “wasted” resources on what amounts to a side encounter. The bloodseekers seem like the sort of thing you could call in the reserves on later – whatever the Absalom equivalent of Animal Control is. (Of course, based on the menagerie battle, WE might be Animal Control.)

Lastly, I’d like to go all the way back to the show notes and mention that whichever one of our listeners came up with the John McClane/Die Hard analogy to justify taking a short rest… you’re my new favorite. The real question is did you know I have a soft spot for Die Hard references, or did you get lucky? I mean… you can’t possibly have missed three years of me saying “SEND IN THE CAR” every time I sent CHDRR forth into melee on the Dead Suns show.

So finally, as the episode draws to a close, we’re finally sorted out and ready to make our final “assault” on the kobolds holed up in the head of the dragonfly structure. I’m still holding out hope we might get through this with negotiation – that once the battle leader is dead, cooler heads will prevail. On the other hand, if the kobolds still want to get jumpy, we can handle that too… just need to do a better job checking for traps.

So that’s where we’ll leave things for 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 S1|08: The Near Death Experience

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|08: Traps ”R” Us.

Ah yes, the week of the 1-in-8000 pain.

It’s funny because if you listen to both our shows, the same thing – three natural 20s in a row — happened (with slightly lower damage) to Vanessa in the Extinction Curse show a few weeks ago. I did the math, that is in fact a 1-in-8000 chance, and it’s happened twice within the same month-ish window. The first one, we were mathematically due after three years of shows; this time, I think we used up our allotment of luck until 2023.

Now, this trap was quite a bit nastier than the enemy Vanessa ran into because it was either 3d6 or 4d6, doubled, which made for a tense few moments for myself and Seth. (But more for Seth as he had fewer hit points to start with.) But fortunately, the Massive Damage rules say “twice your hit points from any one blow”. So three darts later mean we just barely survive.

And then I go and do something stupid. When I get healed with John’s Battle Medicine, instead of being smart and crawling off the trap mechanism, I just stand up like a moron and trigger another round of attacks. But that’s OK because the second time around, we learn how Steve lucky got the first time – it ends up being only a +4 or +5 to attack and it misses most of its attacks the second time. Whew.

Overall, I’m sticking by my original position. Between Lo Mang running across the seal and my passive Investigator ability, I thought we were safe. Even when I stood up, I guess maybe I thought it only had one shot and would either be done entirely or need some time to reset. But the fact of the matter is these traps are just kicking our butts between last week’s fight and this week’s continuation. The frustrating thing is kobolds are pretty weak overall, so if we can avoid stepping on rakes like Sideshow Bob, we should be able to handle this encounter and free the hostages.

The pursuit continues… sorta. Well, Lo Mang heads off, and I follow him, but Dougie and Gomez trail behind a little while Gomez gets back on his feet. And that leads us to the next kinda-sorta trap – I don’t know if the walkways are explicitly sabotaged or they’re just dangerous because they’re not finished yet but several of the walkway edges give way if you step on them, and it’s a 20-foot drop to the ground below. Lo Mang lucks out and plows right through to the stairs to the upper part of the complex, but I have a little more trouble and fall through, not once but twice, and the second time I miss my Grab An Edge save.

But here’s where I get to use the ace in my pocket for the first time – my Skyborn Tengu heritage! It’s not full flight (though you can take Soaring Flight at Level 9 to get that), but it’s the equivalent of Feather Fall – you can fall any distance safely without taking damage. So OK, I step on the wrong plank and fall 20 feet. For another character, that would be the point at which you wad up your character sheet and retire from Pathfinder for a while, but for Basil, it’s a minor inconvenience. I’m just down at ground level with no immediate way back up. Running all the way back to the front entrance at the “tail” of the dragonfly is an option, but eyeballing it, it looks like AT LEAST 5 or 6 rounds of doing nothing but full-round movement. So I decide to climb back up. The bad news is it’s ultimately strength-based, and my strength is 10. The good news is that the DC isn’t that hard, and the worst that can happen is I can suffer the low-grade humiliation of another zero-damage fall. Or MAYBE suffer the indignity of the rest of the guys having to lower a rope and pull me up.

So here’s where we get into the dilemma that turns into a freeform discussion. Lo Mang is fine and definitely wants to continue the chase, but the rest of us definitely need to heal – both to recover hit points, but also to remove the dying condition from people. We’ve all got the Dying condition, and Gomez (I think) also used his Hero Point. But from a story/roleplay standpoint, it strains credibility that we would break off a hot pursuit when there are hostages whose lives might be at risk. Also, some of our reasons border on meta-gamey; our characters shouldn’t know what the Dying condition is, nor would they know about Hero Points. So making choices based on those game mechanics is also kind of immersion-breaking.

Taking out the metagame stuff, I can see justifications in both directions. If you let the kobolds run, they could at worst just start killing hostages; even the “best”-case scenario is that it gives them time to fortify a defensive position and maybe meet up with reinforcements, which will make the next battle against them more difficult. The counter-argument is much simpler: you can’t rescue hostages if you’re dead yourselves. But they are just kobolds, and there’s also a sentiment that MAYBE the power dynamic will shift a little once we removed the battle leader. Remember that there’s supposed to be a “reasonable” kobold somewhere in here that the foreman actually liked. Maybe if we find her, we can still defuse things. So I think as we end the episode we’re leaning toward a 10-minute rest, but I’ll admit it feels just a little “off” around the edges.

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

The Bird’s Eye View S1|07: Yer A Wizard, Basil!

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|07: Enough Talk!

As requested by the Pop Culture Desk of Roll For Combat, we start this week’s Talking Combat with a brief virtual moment of silence for the passing of Sean Connery. Yeah, he’d stopped making movies a while ago, but he was a big part of our collective upbringings. The iconic James Bond… Indiana Jones’ dad… Captain Raimius… possibly even “Ramirez” from Highlander if you want to go with a deep cut. I probably won’t follow through, but when I first heard the news, I threatened to record this week’s show entirely in my Sean Connery accent as a tribute.

First things first, we had a good chuckle in group chat about the “podcast wars” comment. Steve, ever the provocateur, pulled the sound-byte while editing this episode and shared it with a combined chat group that included both teams. Shit was talked back and forth, good times were had by all. Me, I’m sticking by my idea that this would be fertile material for PaizoCon next year.

This week’s show is a little weird insofar as we leveled up, but we didn’t really talk about our changes. Usually, when we level, we send it around the horn and each person talks about what they took (except for Bob in the Dead Suns days, who liked to be all secretive about that stuff for roleplaying reasons). This time, we kind of just jumped right into the action. I don’t remember why – maybe we got a late start or the episode broke in a weird place. (I even kinda remember having such a conversation, but either it took place before Steve started recording, or maybe it’s in a later episode.)

So the big news of Level 2 is that I decided to have Basil do a multi-class dip into wizard. I pretty much knew I wanted to mix some magic into my build to make Basil a little more dynamic, but I considered going a couple of different directions to get there. One choice was a multi-class dip into alchemist, but that felt a little like I would be invalidating my Level 1 build: if I wanted an alchemist investigator, I should’ve just gone with the Alchemist build and taken That’s Odd as my Level 1 feat instead of the one that finds traps. I also thought about the Scroll Trickster archetype from the Advanced Player Guide – basically, that archetype lets you duct-tape together fragments of scrolls to make temporary scrolls at each long rest, and you also get Trick Magic Item with an added +2 bonus for scrolls. But I think it was Level 6 before you got even ONE Level 1 spell; in the meantime, ALL you got was Trick Magic Item, which I can get in other ways. Though I will admit Scroll Trickster is WONDERFUL on the roleplay flavor front, and it’s also neat that you can choose ANY spell of the appropriate level from the Core Rulebook at the time you make the scroll, as long as you’re trained in the right skill (and Basil has all four now). I looked at the witch for like, five seconds, but I didn’t want to be too duplicative of Ateran from the other show, and on a roleplay level, the flavor didn’t feel like it fit: I didn’t see an upper-crusty kid like Basil forging pacts with mysterious forces, and a familiar showing up out of nowhere would’ve been weird.

So I settled on wizard. In the immediate short term, there’s combat survivability. Just adding a few cantrips gives me a +1 bump to armor class as a single action and damage mitigation (shield) and another ranged damage source (ray of frost) for creatures that might be immune to my ancestral electrical ability. Also, I can swap in light if we’re doing anything more explicitly dungeon-delvish. The spell slots on a multi-class wizard aren’t great – one slot per level, though I think there’s a feat you can take in the mid-teens to get a second slot at each level – but I like the wizard’s big-picture flexibility of being able to add spells to your spellbook by transcribing them. In a game where we seem to be getting a lot of money and stores are everywhere, I feel like there will be a lot of chances to tweak my spell arsenal as we go. I also feel like it gives me roleplay flexibility as the game progresses: sure, a bunch of combat spells are probably the path of least resistance, but I have the option to choose some spells which will magically augment my core investigation skills. Comprehend languages? Knock?

So… wizard it is! If you care, I also took Nature as my skill, so now I’m trained in all four caster skills, and I took the Ward Medic feat, which lets me use Treat Wounds on two people at the same time. Still no Battle Medicine, so I’m still useless as a mid-fight healer. Leave that to Gomez and consumables, I guess.

Of course, tying this back into game action… in my excitement to unveil my new-found wizard abilities in dramatic fashion, I made a bit of a tactical mistake and forgot to call out the traps I saw when I entered the room with the kobolds. Oops. Which came back to bite us when Dougie went charging in and stepped on not one, but two, traps. Followed by an appearance of Mildly Pouty John, complaining about how he doesn’t get any help and we can just fight without him.

I’m willing to split responsibility for this down the middle. John stepping on the first trap is totally my fault for not calling it out… yeah, I screwed up. But maybe once you hit the first trap, stop and do a Perception check instead of just keep walking? Moving forward onto the second one… that’s on you man. And, OK, I’ll say it: in the moment, it almost seemed like he wanted to take the additional damage so he could add it to the list of grievances. “Fine, you’re not going to tell me where the traps are? Well, I’ll just step on ALL of them!” Contrast that with Seth having Gomez just kinda downplay getting hit by the trap and continuing to negotiate as if nothing had happened. Squeeze the water out of your robes and move on. Something about that just cracked me up.

(Somewhere in here I’m also wondering how many individual traps I could effectively call out in the span of a six-second round while also taking actions of my own. The best comparison I can think of is those war movies where they call in grid coordinates for an airstrike, and it’s not an immediate process.)

Of course, the fight eventually started despite Seth’s best efforts as peacemaker. Clearly, the level-headed female kobold we were told about (Shirek or something like that?) is not the one in charge so we’ll have to fight our way to her. Overall, they’re kobolds, so I’m not that worried: we’ve faced them in a few of the Black Lodge games, and they’ve been pretty wimpy up to this point. The boss kobold is a little trickier than the others, but once we get past the traps and focus on straight combat, I suspect this won’t be too much trouble.

And indeed, we begin to whittle their numbers down, get the boss dealt with, and the last few escape down the hall. So it’s a chase, then. (Caught myself on the edge of yelling “the game’s afoot!”) Unfortunately, the chase will have to wait until next time, as we’re out of time for this week.

In lieu of my usual reminder to visit our Discord channel (though you should still check that out), I’m going to close with a few words about tomorrow’s election for the Americans in the crowd.

First, get out and vote if you haven’t done so, if for no other reason than to preserve your right to complain about the outcome for the next four years: if you didn’t vote, it’s hard for those of us who do care to listen to the opinions of someone who didn’t even bother to grab the lowest-hanging fruit of citizenship.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, though I can’t pretend to be neutral, and I feel like I’ve been generous about dropping hints over the last three-plus years which side I stand on. I’d love to bust out a passionate Sorkin monologue in defense of the things I believe in, but… at the end of the day, we’re not Roll For Political Commentary. I guess I’ll have to hope y’all are either already in agreement, or pick something up through osmosis.

If I’m going to offer a message, it’s this. The situation with the pandemic has made this election weird, and there’s going to be a lot more mail-in ballots than usual that are going to take extra time to count, and each state has its own rules about when they can start processing those. We might not have a clear winner tomorrow night. Whichever side you support, see that as normal and expected, not some sinister agenda to steal the election – regardless of who appears to be winning when polls close in California. If Trump’s leading at 11 pm, you should want everyone’s vote to count. If Biden’s winning at 11 pm, you should want everyone’s vote to count. That’s democracy. That’s America.

OK, that’s all I got. See you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S1|06: A First Day To Remember

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|06: Save the Penguin!

FINALLY! The Shift That Never Ends finally comes to a close, the zoo has been pacified, and we survive with enough experience to reach Level 2! And the final fight even ends up being a bit of a cake-walk, thanks to a couple of timely crits by Lo Mang.

This is a little weird. On one hand, this might have actually been our technically cleanest fight. I don’t think anyone even got hit. The three-action economy really seems to reward hit-and-run tactics when you can pull them off. On the other hand, it feels like if you pull back the curtain, we got there in spite of working as a team, rather than because of it.

Things started out a little rocky, with John basically “discussing” tactics by having Dougie walk out of the room the minute we opened the door. I mean, yes, his plan had merit overall: we probably didn’t want to line up in a straight line in front of a creature whose keeper just told us has a conical breath weapon that could one-shot us. So he wasn’t WRONG exactly, but there’s something a little stand-offish about waiting until the combat starts and then pulling a move that amounts to “we can either do things my way, or the three of you can fight it without me and probably die”.

It’s also another instance of “why did you decide to roll a front-line fighter and then get mad when people expect you to actually FIGHT things?”. I really don’t want to come across as telling anyone else how to play, but if you want to be in the back, maybe roll a character that belongs in the back?

Taking a bit of a detour into the show notes, I guess Steve let the cat out of the bag and you now know Dougie is a Ruffian Rogue. I had figured that out a few weeks ago, but in fairness, I also had another month’s worth of data points to work with than you guys did, so I don’t want to break my arm patting my own back here. I think Dougie showcases a key part of what I like about Second Edition. On paper, Mister Peepers and Dougie are both “rogues”, but they act and play completely differently. In First Edition or 5E, you’d end up with two characters that got most of the same tools at most of the same points in the character’s development. Here, they’re already distinct even at level 1: Peepers is more of the classic rogue archetype (albeit with a little bit of an impulse control problem); Dougie is almost closer to a barbarian, only without the rage mechanic. And that’s just at Level 1 – imagine how different they’re going to play once they get out toward Level 8 or 10 or something.

Getting back to the battle, my frustrations were probably more rooted in roleplay than tactics. Tactically, yes, charging this thing in its lair, with the kid in the middle of the likely battlefield, was probably a really stupid idea and would’ve gotten someone killed. But on a roleplay level, it presented two problems. First, as Seth mentioned, if we didn’t lure it effectively enough, it might just turn around, go back, and try to eat the kid. But there’s also a little disconnect that we have this thing confined to a building, but we’re gonna let it loose outside? I get luring it, but maybe lure it elsewhere INSIDE the building? I felt like luring it to the bend in the “L” would’ve given us options for spreading out and avoiding the breath weapon while still keeping it in the building if things went bad.

I guess that’s what I was thinking by using the desk as a barricade. Hit it a few times from behind the desk, retreat deeper into the building, set up a second ambush point, and do it again. But by the end of the round, I was the only one still there, so that plan went out the window fairly quickly. On one hand, I’m disappointed the desk turned out to be so ineffective as a barricade. I really thought it would be more useful than that. On the other hand, taken hand-in-hand with the three-action economy, that desk saved my personal bacon and basically bought us the time we needed to lure the ankhrav out of the building safely.

The other thing that’s generally frustrating was going 0-for-3 on the sleep darts. I thought being the one to wield those – especially with Devise A Stratagem – was the smart play. Lo Mang and Dougie were the melee types; Gomez had his own spells for ranged combat, so it seemed like a niche I could fill. But I just couldn’t get a roll to save my life, and either I had already used my Hero Point, or I wasn’t going to risk it when we had a foe that could one-shot us (I think I used it on the almiraj, but I don’t want to go back and listen to make sure).

So… it was a frustrating fight for me personally, but it was cleaned up nicely by Lo Mang doing back-to-back crits. Turns out it’s another critter with a powerful primary weapon but not a lot of hit points. Kid rescued, zoo officially under control, and we FINALLY get to go back to the barracks.

With one minor detour… to the site of one of the exhibits that’s mysteriously vanished. Just a building-sized attraction vanishing, no big deal. I’m already wondering if maybe setting the zoo animals free was part of the plot – create a distraction so that the authorities are dealing with that? It’s nothing we need to do anything about now, but it seems like the sort of thing that will come back into play later.

So we go back, and the rest of the episode is shopping and leveling. The shopping is fairly straightforward: +1 RUNES FOR ALL!  The one wrinkle was re-casting my sword cane as silver – I don’t know how much of an advantage it’s going to be, but it’s just cool as a roleplaying thing to have a silver sword cane. Basil doesn’t have the same “Fancy Gene” Brixley had, but he’s not totally immune, since he is supposed to be something of a rich kid. So at the end of this, most of my money is spent, but I have a fancy entry-level magic weapon and I’m starting to feel a little more like John Steed from the Avengers. (The British one, not the Marvel one.)

Leveling? We’ll get into that next time. I’m leaning toward a multiclass dip into a caster class, but there’s a couple of different ways to go with it, and as of this episode, I haven’t totally decided yet. So we’ll leave it there and pick it up next time. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S1|05: You Had One Job

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|05: Pathfinders For The Ethical Treatment of Animals

I’m going to start this week in an odd place, with a note on spelling. At least of proper names. This mostly comes up in relation to the creatures we face this week – the almiraj and the ankhrav. As well as, to a lesser degree, the names of the zoo owner and the veterinarian.

I’m always a little torn between being an authoritative source, the “paper of record” for Roll For Combat, weighed against the idea that this is meant to be a fairly spontaneous capture of my thoughts as I’m re-listening. I think what I’ve settled on is this: if it’s the name of a creature or spell or rule mechanic, I go back and check it. To whatever extent we’re explaining rules and such, I strive for accuracy in the nuts-and-bolts discussion. When it comes to proper names (people, town names, etc.), it depends on how much I’m going to talk about them. If they’re one of the major focuses of the week’s article, or I know we’re going to continue talking a lot about that person in the coming weeks, I’ll shoot Steve a text and ask him to get me a spelling. If I’m just going to mention that person once and forget about them, I don’t mind just taking a stab at what their name sounds like and hoping for the best. (Or I turn it generic and make it “the shop owner”, “the mayor”, or some other more abstract identifier.

At any rate, we start this week with Basil in the spotlight, as it’s time to do some detective work. Specifically, Remy (I guess we DID get a name for him) shows us where the veterinary and the menagerie owner’s trailers are and we do a little digging. (Surprise, surprise… right next to each other). In addition to a trove of critter-specific magic, we get multiple confirmations that yes, they were having an affair, and yes the guy (Knight) was close enough to leaving his wife to write the letter, though he didn’t send it. But clearly, they’ve been gone for at least the week everyone thinks they were.

Here’s one of those places where I have to suspend my tendency to metagame a little. Jason The Player knows that Paizo doesn’t usually put a lot of extraneous information in these adventures. If they were having an affair that we found like… three or four different bread crumbs leading toward… I suspect that’s going to become important at some future point. But in character, we don’t KNOW it’s relevant, at which point we’re really just digging around in someone’s dirty laundry, which is a little wrong.

It also does seem to be more than a coincidence that the one person who might have been able to detect and stop the corruption of the animals conveniently disappeared. Still don’t know the motive – did the wife find out about the affair and take her revenge, or was there some other play going on here? But one does wonder if maybe the doc was removed to get her out of the way so the zoo could be sabotaged. Also, who the heck LEAVES town right before the start of the big festival that’s likely to make this place busier than it’s ever been?

After our pause to investigate, we begin our sweep of the main building. First, we round up a few more survivors, which gives us both a better picture of what’s going on, as well as a side quest. For the former, it turns out that if a rust monster escapes, all those metal cages you’re keeping the other animals in become tremendously overrated. For the latter, we have a father whose kid has gone missing in… of course… the most dangerous part of the building. FAN-tastic!

We get ready, throw open the doors, and our well-made plan kinda goes off the rails, as the almiraj (“bunnycorn” would’ve been so much easier) is pretty much waiting to attack us on the other side. You know… the thing with the horn that can paralyze us, and if we die that way, it’s perma-death. Oops.

And then… oh, who am I kidding… I screw up royally by bleeding encounters.

The goal of running deeper into the room was to get around the penalties for cover when shooting the sleep dart – it was double doors with Dougie and Lo Mang in the two front squares, but since the almiraj was small, there was a 5’ gap to get past it on the other side. So to get a clear shot, I decided to just run past the bunnycorn and shoot from the other side. Simple enough, right? But that alerted the beetle to our presence, so not only was the second encounter activated, but I had two creatures between me and the rest of the party. And I followed that up by missing with the dart, not once, but twice (via Hero Point). Not my best work. 20/20 hindsight, should’ve waited a round and used Devise a Stratagem, but I thought the rabbit would be a bit tougher than it turned out to be. That, however, was our saving grace, as both creatures ended up being surprisingly squishy and didn’t last long. I don’t think I even got a second attack before the fight was over.

As a side note, you might have noticed a few places where we sounded a little confused during this battle: specifically, John thinking he had the blowgun and sleep darts, and me loading it even after I said I loaded it before we opened the door. To let you in on a little secret, the previous session ended right before we opened the door, so we’re not stupid, we just had a week of real time pass between those two events.

At any rate, battle won… nobody paralyzed, we’re in pretty good shape to finish this up. Eventually, we have the map filled into one room, which almost has to contain the ankhrav. The big thing here is the acid attack that the keeper warned us of – it’s a cone effect, so it could hit all of us, and we’ve been warned it can do a lot of damage. (Out of character, I went and checked… 3d6. As level 1 characters, that’s lethal with a good roll.)

I got a little bit frustrated with John here, and it’s something we also saw in Dead Suns with Mo Dupinsky. He chooses to play melee-first characters – he’s said on multiple occasions he likes characters that play “simple” – but when it comes time to actually do that, he gets frustrated that he’s the one in the front taking the damage. Not sure what to tell you, man. I thought I had a nice little plan with using the desk as a makeshift barricade at the east entrance… I don’t know if it’ll work or not, but if we can hold the ankhrav off and maybe miss the acid for a round or two, maybe that’s a workable strategic advantage. You can also hear John talking about circling around to the west and using the outer doors at the other end of the ankhrav enclosure, but two problems with that. First, it feels like it would require a level of coordination we don’t really have; we’d need magical communication so we coordinate opening the doors at the same time. Second, the doors might be locked, which puts us in a situation where the east team has started the attack and the west team has to run back around the building to rejoin the fight. At which point… divide and conquer from the monster’s point of view.

We do eventually come up with a compromise, but you’re going to have to come back next week to hear what it is. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

The Bird’s Eye View S1|04: We’re Going To The Zoo

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|04: Lions and Tigers and Owlbears. Oh My!

First, I’d like to remind everyone that this week’s episode is STILL part of the same day as the last two. Just thought I’d mention that. Fights 3-5 in the zoo alone, probably the 6th or 7th distinct incident. I’m not saying that as a complaint… more like… marveling at it. It’s just a little odd how this system works, I guess.

This week we actually have the return of the GM Steve intro, and I actually learned something in the process. I guess I didn’t realize that part of how Steve was handling loot was converting gear drops into a larger fine. I’m OK with that, but I guess I’ll start bragging about how we’re already making more money than the Circus Folk if that’s the case. It just makes things more fun when we finally get around to going shopping.

Speaking of which, not sure how you listeners feel about letting Gomez run off to buy potions in the middle of all of this. I can see both sides of the equation. On one hand, the “NYC” comparison has a point… you really can get almost anything at any hour in a big city, and Absalom is as big as cities come in the Pathfinder world. On the other hand, it does seem like it might take more than 10 or 15 minutes, so Steve might have been a touch on the charitable side with the timing. It does seem like maybe you’d be waking someone’s ass up and forcing them to mix potions in their pajamas. (And did we really bring our entire life savings with us on patrol? That’s a little weird.) At the end of the day, I see this as a temporary problem – once we get a little money in our pockets, we’ll probably build up a stash of group healing and probably won’t ever TOTALLY run out again. This was mostly just a byproduct of Dem Level One Blues.

(Also, later on, there’s a class feat I can take as an Investigator to help with that, but I’d be getting several levels ahead of myself to say more.)

Nevertheless, we heal up. To quote from Harmontown, THAT HAPPENS. And since we can’t move the owlbear out of the store, we at least lock up all the produce so it can’t eat any more if it wakes up. It’s a little unsatisfying as a story element to just leave it lying there, but at some point, the story has to go forward. Not sure you guys want us to theorize for 20 minutes about proper rope-tying.

Then it’s off to face our first fight of the new session… Rusty the Rust Monster! And I’m not gonna lie… it is pretty funny that we accidentally created a party composition that could pretty much go all-out against this guy with no ill effects. Spellcaster, monk, melee type who’s going weapon and armorless for… “reasons”… and me, who… OK, I have my sword-cane, but I also have a sap or I could even use my beak in a pinch. No metal armor, minimal metal weapons. About halfway through the fight, I had the thought of using the sword-cane while still in the scabbard (would it do bludgeoning damage?) but the fight was going well enough that I didn’t bother. I have a suspicion rust monsters don’t do a whole lot of damage because they’re meant more to damage your equipment and cost you repair bills than to really kill you anyway.

Embedded here, we get a little bit of stealth knowledge dump. First, the mural on the side of the menagerie’s fencing seems to give us a hint at what we might face as we continue into the zoo itself. We’ve got the cockatrice, owlbear, and rust monster covered. The same sign also mentions a big snake of some sort (Big Bertha), a rabbit with a unicorn horn (cheating and using knowledge from other editions, the Al-Miraj?), and something described only as “That Bastard”. As well as some more conventional zoo animals of varying sizes and lethalities. It’s like the previews at the movie theater, only we get to see what’s going to try and kill us next!

I think we’re also zeroing in on John’s character. I’m starting to settle in on a Ruffian-build Rogue. (The real short version is rogues come in STR, CHA, or DEX varieties. They all still get Sneak Attack damage, but they achieve it in different ways and have different secondary specialties.) That would allow John to use Strength as his primary statistic, and it also lets him use a wider variety of weapons to get “kapow damage” (basically any simple weapon). Though just as an FYI, the maul he picked up during the rust monster fight wouldn’t be eligible for that because it’s a martial weapon. Keep in mind neither Steve nor John have actually confirmed this, but that’s where I’m putting my chips for now.

With the rust monster dealt with we finally enter the zoo grounds proper. A brief bit of exploration leads us to fight #2 of the session, against a pack of hyenas that are raiding a concession stand. This fight ends up being tolerable because FOR ONCE they’re enemies with fairly “normal” to-hit modifiers (I think I glanced at the dice and saw they were in the +5 range), and they end up missing a lot. WE JUST MIGHT SURVIVE THE NIGHT.

The snake, on the other hand, was not as forgiving. First, thanks to a little impatience on Seth’s part, it got the drop on us and put a lot of damage on Gomez early. (The rest of us were still up by the concession stand cleaning up the hyena fight and Seth just decided to go check out the lake which was a good 30 or 40 feet northeast. So it took a round of mostly movement and positioning just to get in the fight. But the other bad news is this thing actually COULD hit is. Pretty well in fact.

But then… CRITS TO THE RESCUE… as both Lo Mang and Basil come through with crits to salvage the fight in our favor. Granted, Chris’ crit was something north of 20 points and mine was like… 6 or 7 when you added the precision damage. But hey, I’m treating them as equally valuable contributions. It’s the old baseball adage of “a line drive in the box score”, applied to tabletop RPGs.

Speaking of which: on a personal note, my damage rolls were largely TERRIBLE this episode. The good news is that I was hitting pretty reliably, thanks to the (net) +2 from Devise a Stratagem. The bad news is I counted at least three times I hit for minimum damage. I think ONE time I got a 4 or 5 on one of the hyenas, but that was about it.

Also, speaking of Devise a Stratagem, you’ll notice I’m shamelessly stealing from our Circus brethren by trying to provide some “flavor” to my Devise a Stratagem attacks. That’s one thing I really like about that show – all of them really, but the casters in particular, really describe the flavor of what they’re doing. Hap has all sorts of pyromaniac bird effects, Ateran has their incantations. So it’s a two-fer: I wanted to try and come up with something like that for Basil because I appreciate what they’re doing, and it also captures some of that same vibe as the Downey and Cumberbatch versions of Sherlock Holmes where they show the intellect gears turning. We’ll see how it goes… I don’t think I’ll do it EVERY time I attack (maybe once per opponent or something). But if I find myself noticing the same two or three weaknesses all the time and it starts getting repetitive, I might ease back on it. They can’t ALL have missing scales like Smaug.

With three fights in the book, we resume our reconnaissance of the outlying buildings before tackling the main facility. And FINALLY, we make some headway on the investigative front, as we find one of the animal handlers hiding in the maintenance shed. (Somehow we never got around to asking his name. Oops. Maybe we’ll get it next episode. CUT US SOME SLACK! IT’S OUR SECOND DAY ON THE JOB!) There are two main takeaways from talking to this guy. First, it’s pretty apparent that someone poisoned the animals’ water supply to drive them crazy, and that’s the source of the black gunk – there’s no real security on the maintenance shed, and the water does seem to have been tampered with. The other is that the owner of the zoo (Archibald Knight) and the chief veterinarian (Minera Frum) were a) having an affair and b) have gone missing within the last week or so. Not sure if that’s related or just gossip, but it’s something else to investigate. Did the vet do this? Was the vet removed so she wouldn’t detect it? Did the circus owner’s ex-wife find out about the affair and decided to sabotage the circus? Or is it just coincidence that they’re not here? Certainly, both of these leads point toward the doctor as the next person to talk to, so I also slap a Pursue a Lead (another one of my main class skills) on her.

Pursue a Lead is pretty nice and has two major effects. First, it gives me a +1 to any Perception or skill check related to investigating that target. Pretty open-ended and very useful. The other thing is that if she turns out to be a bad guy and we have to fight her, my Devise a Stratagem would become a free action against her.

And hey, if we go to the vet’s trailer, there’s also a bunch of free stuff related to animal care and handling. We might not be able to use all of it – Gomez is our only caster, and he might not have access to the right traditions, but it sounds like there might be some tools worth grabbing.

And that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. Check out the doctor’s trailer to stock up and get more info, followed by tackling the main building. 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.