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Talking Plaguestone 22: Orcs Must Die!

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat: The Fall of Plaguestone, Episode 22: Prince of the Forest.

I’d like to start this week by registering a protest – this is NOT a proper holiday episode. There are no lessons about the value of friendship, we’re not retiring from the fast-paced adventurer’s life to live in a small town and wear flannel (Brixley should definitely consider it, given his fashion choices), nor does Bea Arthur show up for a musical number. Releasing it on Life Day… err… Christmas… doesn’t change that.

I don’t know how far we got with it, but the idea of doing a holiday episode was at least briefly kicked around at one point. It might have been neat to whip up a one-shot with members of the RFC cast(s), a few special guests, Santa as a lich or some such thing. But it almost certainly fell apart in the scheduling – we already shut down our games for the holidays as it is because folks have stuff going on, so trying to wrangle a bunch of schedules at the busiest time of the year wasn’t happening. And that doesn’t even get into the lifting on Steve’s end, who would have to write the scenario, load it into D20Pro, run it, and edit the show on an even shorter timeline than usual. So… ‘twas not to be.

Meanwhile, back in the land of the actual game, it’s a cleanup episode, and not just because of the nefarious Poop Dagger. Loot, level, and lore dump! We get some questions answered but other new ones open up. It sounds like Vilree’s original plan was to create an army of beast minions, but it also sounds like they were too hard to control and she moved on to something else while these goblins continued down that alley. We know she definitely didn’t have a wholesale change of heart, since she still had Bort murdered, but what might have changed? Something to ask the townsfolk, I guess. On the positive side, we got our next breadcrumb, with directions to a place called Spite’s Cradle, where Vilree set up her headquarters.

There were a couple odd MacGuffins in this episode where I thought they were going to be important, but they ended up not really mattering much. The first was the big acid lake in the outer courtyard – I thought there would be a creature living in it, or we’d have to do something to purify it, but… nope, pretty much just there for atmosphere. The second was that boiling cauldron that Prue put out with Ray of Frost. Was that a hazard that we happened to pick the right way of neutralizing? Was that potential loot we could’ve received if we had stopped and investigated it earlier instead of just moving on to the next room? It did seem like there was meant to be some significance to “The Only Piece Of Alchemical Debris To Survive Combat”, but I guess we’ll never know since it overcooked and burned to a crisp.

Speaking of loot, this adventure continues to be a cornucopia for alchemists and kinda meh for everyone else. Lots of potions and bombs, goggles for crafting, and of course, the aforementioned Poop Dagger. Having said that, the Poop Dagger has been a treasure for us all on a conversational level: I kinda love that we’re now having a spirited debate over whether Prestidigitation has an anti-bacterial component to it. (Maybe that’s an added effect at Level 2 – hand sanitizer, plus a hint of aloe.)

So let’s talk about Brixley’s level-up. First… yeah, I continue to get Lay On Hands wrong. Covered that extensively last week. It does go up from 6 to 12 this level, so the delta of the mistake stays at 6, but I’m still going to be making the mistake for a while longer. I took Nature as a skill because it seemed to fit with the theme of the campaign; I thought about taking Crafting for the sole purpose of repairing my shield, but I figured Prue could handle most of those duties for me for now. As far as general feats, nothing was leaping out at me, but then I saw that I could take an ancestry feat, and being able to cast a cantrip seemed to be a sensible way to go. (It was something I considered back at Level 1, but went with darkvision instead.) With magic weapons being rarer in this game, having a source of magic and/or ranged damage would be very useful. Might not scale well, but let’s survive this adventure before we worry what Brixley might look like at Level 20, OK?

As far as Divine Ally, I wanted to think about that a little more. I will say that in general, Blade Ally seems like the most obviously useful one: it makes your weapon magical by default, you can give it one property per day (given my general paranoia about incorporeal creatures, it would almost always be set to ghost touch), and you gain the critical specialization for your weapon. The Shield Ally basically gives you a more powerful shield that’s harder to destroy (+2 Hardness and 50% additional hitpoints for the shield) – it’s certainly not useless, but if I’m being honest? For a class-defining ability, it lacks flair and it still feels like it only extends the life of the shield by one or two more hits. Steed Ally seems like a mixed bag. Mounted combat is kinda clunky at low levels, and I’m not sure how realistic it is to be riding a horse around inside a dungeon, but it does seem like it gets more powerful at higher levels if you’re willing to pump feats into it. But is it better than an always-on semi-customizable magical sword? Ehhhhhhh… let me think about that one.

Finally at the end of the episode we reunite with Noala, who’s still been off “setting traps on the perimeter” again. Could you BE a little more useless, lady? I’m still not ruling out the 2% possibility she’s working with Vilree and trying to get us killed, especially now that we know the orcs and Vilree don’t REALLY work together anymore. To add a few more strings to my mental murder-board, maybe this was tying up loose ends – either we kill the orcs or the orcs kill us, but either way, it keeps us busy with something else and SOMEONE ends up removed from the picture.

(Deep down, I don’t quite cross the threshold of believing this, but it’s nagging at my brain JUST enough that I’m gonna crack up if it turns out to be true.)

Well, that’s it for this week (and at least for this show, for calendar year 2019). We’ll see you back here next week, when we return to Plaguestone and do another round of tying up loose ends before heading to Spite’s Cradle. Hope you’re having a good holiday, thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week AND next year!