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Talking Tales: Tale 6, Chapter 5, Uninvited Guests

Jason recaps the events from The Black Lodge Tale 6, Chapter 5: Army of Dorkness.

Good news! (Well, I think so, anyway…) We’re actually fighting stuff again!

Don’t read too much into that statement. I didn’t DIS-like the fort-building mini-game. I actually think it’s kinda cool when the writers at Paizo get a little weird with the system and take it in directions you didn’t necessarily think you were going to go. Home renovation… did not see that coming. Having said that, I think you could’ve trimmed a couple of days off the task list and still gotten the gist of the thing.

All of that is in the past now. Here and now, Mask Narcen returns from his walkabout to report that there’s a decent-sized army of undead about to descend upon the town, and boy wouldn’t a recently-renovated fort be the best place to hide out from something like that. And again, I feel like the “month” that Narcen was gone was really just meant to be an outer limit and the inner limit was “a few days after you finish the task list”.

So now we know the shape of the endgame, and it’s pretty much what we were speculating about when Steve got called away for his work emergency… we’re going to have abstracted combat preparation, followed by real combat. We have a day to prepare additional defenses – traps and/or training townspeople to fight, and our preparations will… I guess determine how many undead make it through the defenses and have to be fought in the final battle. (I’m feeling like they didn’t prepare a combat map of the courtyard for nothing.)

I have two fairly minor logistical grumbles about this portion of the adventure, though one is more of a question of GM style.

First, there’s no real way to ascertain which tasks are the most valuable use of your time. Is training 8 people more useful than setting up a trap or vice versa? Is there a sliding scale where getting at least 8 people trained is vital to success, but going from 16 to 24 doesn’t really get you that much more because at that point you’re training the elderly and children to fight? I suspect under the hood, the answer is that all the tasks are equal and it’s just X successes; they just wanted to have a couple of different task choices to appeal to characters with different skillsets.

The second more stylistic suggestion is that there might have been a benefit to breaking the day down by “shift” and reassessing our tasks after each shift. We had a pretty even mix of successes and failures, so I don’t know that we would made any changes, but what if you had a different party where they failed ALL the “training townsfolk” checks? If you go by a person, there’s no chance to fix that and you have no townspeople helping you in the final battle; if you go by “shift”, you see that all those checks failed for Shift 1, and maybe someone who was going to sleep for Shift 2 trains fighters instead. Then again, maybe this is rubbing up against “it’s a quickie for conventions, don’t overthink it” territory. And I’m not saying it’s wrong to run it the way Steve did, it just might be more effective to do it the other way.

So it’s a mixed bag with our preparations. If you peel away all the extra shenanigans and song parodies, pretty much everyone had one good roll and one bad roll. And then the fight begins. We’ve got some abstracted “traps taking out undead” moments, and then the first group of skeletons breaches the castle gate, and it’s time to fight.

The real trick here is resource management. Skeletons and zombies… even if there’s maybe going to be some sort of “commander” entity at the end (Steve dropped a hint of that with the idea that they’re marching in organized formations), none of that sounds all that threatening. However, if we run out of spells and other resources, even cannon-fodder enemies can wear us down if there’s enough of them. Now I don’t know if this is metagaming or not, but if we’re going to assume a boss at the end, I’m going to try and preserve at least one cast of Shillelagh for when that dude shows its face (assuming it somehow stands out as the leader). So that leaves me with two “real” spells plus cantrips. I never actually specify this, but I’m assuming my loadout is two casts of Shillelagh and one Heal spell – Feather Fall doesn’t seem like it would be any good in this situation, and I have scrolls, potions, and healer’s tools to cover some additional heals, so a second cast of Shillelagh seems like the best use of resources. (I did want to have one “real” cast of Heal, just in case I’m in a situation where pulling out a scroll or potion would take too much time.)

And cantrips. I don’t know the specific mix of undead we’ll be facing, but fire is usually pretty reliable against the undead, so Good Ol’ Produce Flame should get a workout.

So the fight begins. Skeletons, but with a couple (I honestly forget if it was two or three… just two I think) slightly stronger lieutenant types. The front-line minions are nothing – one decent hit pretty much drops them. The lieutenant types are both a little tougher and seem to have some amount of regeneration. It’s still a fairly easy fight, but it’s not trivial, and Seth blows a three-action heal, which was a little surprising this early in what might be a long fight. Then again, I blew a cast of Shillelagh so I suppose I can’t really criticize.

After Round 1, we have a brief rest. To be clear, not a “Short Rest” because that has specific implications. But it’s long enough for Shillelagh to expire, so… yay? And then Round 2 opens. We see what could be the boss outside the front gate, but then there’s a bit of a surprise, as the next wave of enemies comes up through the dungeon. And, there’s 8 of them. Nixnox and Peepers are on the upper level; Thorgrim and Ducker are facing the front gate. So guess who that leaves first in the path of the oncoming bad guys, and probably can’t cast Shillelagh just yet? Yours truly. Won’t this be fun?

Annnnnd that’s where we’ll pick it 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.