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Talking Combat 124: Head Like A HAL9000

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 124: More Machine Than Man

As promised for a few weeks, this is the episode where things start to get a little shaky. And while John may be totally cool with a party-wipe to end this thing, I want Tuttle to live. I’m stubborn that way.

The very mild good news of this episode is that we finally beat down the remaining adds, and I got the other door locked so either no more adds will show up at ALL, or they at least have to take the long way around to get to the bridge. So now it’s just us and the Big Bad.

Unfortunately, that’s going wrong in just about every way imaginable. And the hidden reason is the boss doesn’t have to beat the whole party to put us in an unwinnable situation, he just has to beat our top two guys. It’s like losing the queen in chess – the game’s not OVER if the other side takes your queen, but it gets a lot tougher to win.

Right now Akiro is the only one who can see the boss, and he just got hit with that Rewire Flesh spell, which is proving to be NASTY, for reasons I mostly went into last week (Cliff’s Notes: no action needed to sustain + save only does half rather than removes it). As this episode ends, I think he’s out of stamina and into meat. And also running low on spells. Mo, who is our best overall damage-dealer, is chugging potions to stay up because he took the brunt of the damage from tanking the adds. He’s also flat-footed and mute, adding an extra layer of difficulty. And now we find out the boss has some sort of fast-heal. Lovely.

To return to that chess analogy, Mo and Akiro are the queen and a rook. If they go down, we gotta find a way to win with a knight (Hirogi – can do big damage situationally, but the boss is likely to save against his trick attack) and a couple of pawns (Tuttle and Rusty). So THAT’S the urgency – in a few rounds, we might “still” have three guys up, but it’s likely to be the wrong three guys.

I wanted to address some of Steve’s commentary about retreating and waiting for the spells to run out. I can only speak for myself, but I felt like we were doing a lesser version of that. Maybe not a full run-and-hide, but if we could get the adds down and just make it us vs. the boss, we could maybe spread out around the room, try to get some people healed up, and wait until the invisibility broke. If there’s one saving grace about fighting this boss, it feels like it’s not wired for big bursty damage. It’s not some melee who’s going to run in and full-attack for 50 points; it’s just going to bounce around the room lobbing fireballs (several of us have DR vs. fire) and chip away at us, and wait for that DoT to take Akiro down. The DoT doesn’t seem to be going anywhere whether we flee or not. And those corrosive hazes move slowly, so they should be easy to avoid. So the real trick is to not bunch together and give up 2-3 characters’ worth of explosive blast damage at a time. Admittedly, that’s a little more difficult when we’re trying to pass potions between us, but it’s not unworkable.

So it’s not a full tactical retreat, exactly. But it is a strategy of trying to minimize the boss’ strengths long enough for the battlefield to equalize a little. To metagame a little, we’re on round 9 or 10, and a boss is going to be at or above the level of the party, so 13-15th level, maybe? Maybe with all of these adds, the boss might be a little lower? Optimistically, we only have to wait it out a couple more rounds.

The thing we don’t know is whether it has a second cast of greater invisibility… if that happens, I don’t know WHAT we do. Die gruesome deaths, probably.

While we’re talking about invisibility, I did want to offer a mild rules-lawyer on that invisibility, in particular how it interacts with the corrosive haze. Even if you’re invisible, your interactions with objects in the world are not. If you open a door while invisible, people see the door opening. If you threw a sheet on top of yourself while invisible, people would see the sheet just fine. So I feel like there ought to have at least been a CHANCE to see the outline of a person in the corrosive haze – even if it was a really high-DC Perception roll or something. Think the Predator effect from the movie. Then again, to give Steve’s interpretation a fair hearing, a fine mist isn’t walking through a waterfall or even rain; it’s microscopic. If it’s a foggy day, can you really see individual droplets of fog displace when someone moves through them? We’re not living in the Matrix here…

So that’s where we end this. I feel like there are still possibilities for pulling this out, but we gotta come up with something that at least changes the nature of the fight. And for me personally, I should be trying to make Tuttle as inviting a target as possible. I don’t have a taunt ability, but honestly, for these next few rounds… I’m wracking my brain for a way to get the boss to focus its attention on me. I’m probably the least useful offensive character, I haven’t taken much (any?) damage, and I even have DR10 to fire if I have to eat a fireball. I don’t want to die exactly, but if it helps the team regroup, I should be wearing a sign that says “HIT THIS MOUSE, WIN A STEAK DINNER!” or something.

And guess what. I have an “or something”. But you’ll have to wait until next week to hear what I come up with. While you’re waiting, feel free to drop by Discord or other social media, let us know what you think of the show, and join the ongoing merriment. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.