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Talking Tales: Tale 3, Chapter 6, The Floor is Lava

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 3, Chapter 6: Deal With The Devil.

We win!

Heck with that… we survive! And we’re finally gonna be Level 2!

I honestly thought our collective goose was cooked in this fight, especially when the devil basically obliterated Thorgrim on his first attack. I don’t think the Three-Ring crew had reached their devil encounter yet, so I didn’t KNOW-know, but I strongly suspected it would get ugly. It’s always unnerving when you’re fighting something that you KNOW could end your day with one crit. At the same time, I didn’t want to back down before we at least got a chance to test our offensive capabilities – sometimes these brute types that do big attacks are also fairly easy to hit and damage, so… five of us, one of him… let’s at least see how it goes, maybe he’ll miss and we’ll get lucky.

Speaking of Three-Ring, I did find it mildly amusing that Vanessa kinda-sorta played Millicent like Alhara there for a second, doing a bunch of nimble leaps to get into position to fight. NO, YOU DON’T GET PANACHE, MILLICENT. And OK… for all that hype, the fire spout from the floor doing one point of damage was pretty hilarious.

I was a little surprised that John tried to re-open negotiations once the fight started. I guess I can sort of see the argument that Thorgrim getting one-shotted changed the tone of the fight and created a window for a new round of negotiation. On the other hand, it seemed pretty unlikely to work, and then Mama Millicent decided to pull the plug on it by attacking.

I suppose the next thing I have to comment on is Seth starting to go into Analyze Mode and deciding that the best course of action was for me to heal Chris instead of casting Shillelagh. Set aside I had already cast the spell – to use chess terminology, I took my hand off the piece. But more to the point… I have to admit I don’t like being flat-out TOLD what to do during battle. A helpful reminder, if there’s something obvious I’m missing? Sure. A suggestion if I’m sitting there “hmmm”-ing for 20 seconds because I don’t know what to do? Bring it. But combat is My Time. It’s the part of the game I enjoy most, I know what my character does, just let me do my thing.

And OK, maybe a touch of my frustration was pride about the default assumption that Chris would deal more damage than I would. Honestly, the extra damage dice on Shillelagh make me a fairly effective fighter in this particular scenario… at least for as many rounds as I remain standing. I think Thorgrim’s advantage in this situation would have been the higher armor class and larger hit point pool.

It’s also kind of immersion-breaking because we’re supposed to be in combat; stuff is supposed to be happening in quasi-real-time. I don’t mind going deep on the strategizing when we’re in downtime, but when combat is happening… you oughta respect that and keep things moving. You shouldn’t have to LITERALLY take your turn in six seconds, but I think you should respect that and make your move FAIRLY quickly, and with minimal input from other party members. Fog of war, and all that. Sure, you can still measure a distance or double-check what a spell does because it’s still a game at heart, but holding a 10-minute Zoom conference to script out what is supposed to be less than 20 seconds of game reality seems like it goes against the spirit of the thing.

The other small logistical thing is I was thinking of healing Thorgrim the following round anyway if no one else got around to it. So really we agreed on the actions and were just hung up on the sequence; I just wanted to have the magic stick ready to go if the opportunity to use it came early.

I notice this was a rough fight for status effects. The scythe had a bleed effect, the Wriggling Beard (great power name, BTW) dispensed poison, and the floor created fire damage pretty much anywhere you would want to stand in order to melee. So not only did this guy hit hard on his own, but there was a lot of “extra” damage piling up around the edges. Personally, I lucked out on saving throws and didn’t have to face too much of it, but there was ugliness in abundance.

The other thing that struck me as amusing was our first instance of a player being saved by the vox populi… literally… as live listener “ActionJackson” caught a rule clarification that saved Peepers from death. Just in case you were having trouble following that exchange (because EVERYONE was talking at the same time), let me break it down for you. As background, Chris had applied Glimpse of Redemption to the Big Bad, which applies Enfeebled 2… Steve had assumed it ticked down each round (most statuses do) and changed it to Enfeebled 1, but it’s supposed to stay at Enfeebled 2 until the end of the NEXT round. So Steve rolled a critical with Enfeebled 1 applied, and the full crit damage would’ve been enough to kill Peepers on the massive damage (twice your max HP) rule. But ActionJackson caught the Enfeebled error, and the difference between Enfeebled 2 and Enfeebled 1 was the difference between a crit and a normal hit – still enough to take Peepers to zero HP and Dying 1, but not an instakill.

So, hey… donate to the Patreon, and you might just get a chance to save a life!

The battle continues, and fortunately, Millicent proves once again to be the advantage we need, and we dispatch the Big Bad. Probably JUST before things got really bad. Peepers down, Thorgrim back up but still working on stopping his bleeding; Millicent and I were both in single-digit hit points… I guess Nixnox was still fairly fresh, but could he have finished the devil off himself? Probably depends on what its fire resistance was. But Millicent came through and we live to fight another day.

So in the aftermath, we use Diggen Thrune to banish the devil, and there’s a little bit of “did we do the right thing” second-guessing as he departs with an ominous laugh. I know the story drops a few hints that Thrune isn’t the stand-up guy the official history books say he is, but a) we made a deal and at some point, it’s more about honoring your own word, and b) that devil really does represent the Greater Evil in the situation. So… OK, maybe we didn’t min-max the treasure bundles or whatever we would’ve got for keeping him trapped, but I still feel like honoring the bargain and letting him go was the right call.

Lastly, we have the aftermath. (In a bit of clever editing, this actually took place a different day – the fight went right to 11 pm, so we did Vanessa’s downtime and then called it a day and did the rest of the party later.) I suppose the big thing here was Nella running her losing streak to 3 on earning income. Sigh. At least this time I “just” missed instead of whiffing in the single digits… progress I guess?

And since that’s the end of the third adventure, that means next time, we’ll be introducing the Level 2 party. Obviously, I’ll leave those details for that episode, but I’m glad to get that little bit of survivability bump. Level 2 isn’t a huge leap in class powers, but the extra hit points alone make it something to look forward to.

And we’ll look at that next week with a new adventure and a new special guest. 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.