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Talking Plaguestone 21: Potency Crystals Are A Gnome’s Best Friend

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 21: Crystal Crushers.

It’s a fun week for me outside the game world. Work is slowing down (I work in academia, so when I slide off the brontosaurus on Friday I’m done for the year), there’s a new Star Wars movie coming (early review headlines are a little worrisome, but I’m still all in), I even got to say hi to Vanessa in person because she happened to be in town for business. It was all going so well.

And then our forums got a hold of this week’s episode and one of our listeners pointed out that apparently I’ve been doing Lay On Hands wrong. And sure enough, they’re right. Yes, Lay On Hands is six points per level… of the spell… but the spell is heightened to half the character level rounded up. So at Level 2, it should still be 6 points, not 12, and (since we let the cat out of the bag at the end of the episode) it should be 12 rather than 18 at 3rd level (1.5 rounds up to 2).

Now, I don’t want to get overly defensive… I screwed up. It’s on me to know my character better. And I do take that seriously – I HATE feeling like I got something I didn’t deserve. However, a few comments in my defense and/or mitigating factors.

First, I will say that I don’t think it impacts the action TOO much, just because I’m pretty cautious in my use of Lay On Hands to begin with. Some fights go quicker than expected and I don’t use it at all. And for downtime heals when we’re topping up, we can just hand-wave a few additional casts at 10 minutes a pop. I’m not going to promise there’s NEVER a fight where the mistake would have mattered – 50% “I’m not going to spoil anything”; 50% “I genuinely can’t remember the flow of things THAT well”. But as Steve points out, I also completely forgot it comes with a +2 AC bonus for a round. Good luck figuring out if any hits should’ve been misses because of that.

Here’s the other point in my defense. This is one of those places where maybe trying to template-ize Second Edition bit us in the ass a little: because Lay On Hands is genericized to a spell, the mechanics of Lay On Hands are spread out over THREE different locations within the Core Rulebook. You are told that Lay On Hands is a devotion spell that you get as a first-level Champion on page 106-107, but with no context what that means. On page 108, they get around to telling you what devotion spells are, and that they cast at half your character level rounded up. But the actual heightening effect (+6 per level or +1d6 damage to undead) is listed in the spell description on page 388. If I’m being honest, the old First Edition “you have Lay on Hands; here’s how it works” in a single block was a little more intuitive.

Beyond that, there’s also the usual confusion that comes from using the word “level” in multiple contexts, but that predates Second Edition – or even Paizo products. A lot of RPGs overuse “level”.

So, look… I feel like a bit of a schmuck about it, but I’m not Monty Python “dirty fork” levels of anguished about it either. (If I was, Rob Trimarco would have to play the John Cleese role of Mongo.) Part of the fun of this show is that we’re showcasing a fairly new system, warts at all, and maybe learning-curve mistakes are included under the subheading of “warts”. Hope you’re OK with that too.

So anyway… enough apology for one column. Back to the action. It’s a bit of an oddball episode that starts light – LOOOOTS of poop jokes, the side encounter with Fire Kitty – and then turns deadly with not just a boss fight, but a dark, gross boss fight to boot.

I don’t have a lot to add to the poop jokes, except to say it was one of those things that was fun because it was unexpectedly silly. We’re in the midst of this harrowing dungeon slog, and then all of a sudden, we’ve turned into a bunch of giggling pre-teens. No particular joke stands out, though, in 20/20 hindsight, I wish I’d suggested that Glamdring actually IS Elvish for “poop dagger” but Gandalf knew he’d never hear the end of it from the dwarves and changed it to “Foehammer” on the fly.

The Fire Kitty encounter… it’s one of those things where I just had a feeling and decided to run with it. I realized it was 50/50 on whether it would attack and we’d have another fight on our hands. I suppose I figured four of us could handle it if it did attack, and at the risk of being a little meta-gamey, if it was going to attack, it probably would’ve done so already. So I decided to eat a little damage and heal it. It seemed like the noble Cayden-friendly thing to do – freedom can also mean freedom for woodland critters! The one thing I didn’t think about: Noala is “setting traps” around the perimeter… it would be kinda awkward to heal Fire Kitty and set it free, only to have it captured and killed by our off-screen guide. Hope it’s OK.

Now we get back to exploring the cave complex, and we come across the Big (or at least Medium) Bad. Clearly it’s not Vilree because… you know… male orc… but he does seem to be the boss for this particular camp. At first glance, it’s not feeling like that hard a fight – if anything, I’m my own worst enemy since I keep forgetting attacks of opportunity are much rarer – and we’re on the cusp of winning when the Medium Bad moves the fight to Phase 2. BLOOD OOZE!

Now, it’s not captured very well… maybe Steve edited some of it out… but there was a little bit of “should we maybe run or at least strategically retreat to potion up” conversation that I kinda short-circuited by moving forward to attack. In fairness, I wasn’t trying to railroad the situation as much as I was trying to at least get the orc down so we’d only have one bad guy left to deal with rather than two. But that seemed to inspire everyone else to attack, and so the fight was on. STRATEGY – HUH – WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

As I go back and listen, I’m struck by two things about this combat. First… we got kinda lucky on rolls, between us critting and the blood ooze either whiffing entirely or rolling low damage a few times. I guess not so much on the crits, since it was immune anyway. But yeah… there’s a mirror universe where that fight goes a LOT worse if Steve rolls better.

The second: potency crystals are freakin’ AWESOME! I may even have to get the Dave Chappelle meme tattooed on my body somewhere (“YOU GOT ANY MORE OF THEM POTENCY CRYSTALS?”). I gotta be honest – I had been kinda down on single-use consumables as a concept when I was first looking at Second Edition. It might have been one of my least favorite aspects of the system. What can I say? I like my treasure to be things you get to keep. Just how I’m wired, I guess. But +1 to hit, an extra damage die, and (not sure if it was relevant here) magic weapon status – even for just a single round – can be a freakin’ game-changer. As witnessed by Prue not-critting for 20-some damage and me hitting three straight attacks to finish the ooze off… yeah, that was amazing.

So… we beat the sub-boss, we’re going to level up… I guess next week we’ll figure out where to go from here. I’m not too worried about that because there was a whole work area (where the orc was originally working) that we bypassed because the fight spilled into the next room – maybe we’ll find a breadcrumb there (diary, another note like Hallod had, whatever). Or maybe Noala can hook us up again. Either way, feel free to duck into our Discord channel or other social media and let us know what you think of the show – yes, even if it’s to point out other rules we’re not doing correctly. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.