Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|04: Crit-O-Matic.
I suppose I have to start this week with a mild apology for the delays of the last few weeks. Last week was a bit of a technical glitch – I thought I had sent the column in but something went haywire and it didn’t send. So I spent all day thinking I sent it, and Steve was too polite to nag me. This week, it’s vaccine-related: I got my second vaccine last Thursday which slapped me around for a couple of days and then spent Sunday and Monday playing catchup on multiple fronts. (Though I did think about antagonizing Steve by claiming I was at the Mets game.) So… unless I disturbed some ancient burial grounds and this is a permanent state of affairs, hopefully we’ll get things back to normal in the coming weeks.
This week’s episode is one of my favorites: the Chaotic Running Battle, and as I go back and listen to this, what strikes me about this fight is the way in which Second Edition shines as opposed to First Edition. Remember how much Attacks of Opportunity just DOMINATED the conversation in First Edition? You have this big battlefield… characters with mobility feats… and in First Edition it all goes to waste because neither side wants to give up free attacks. So the two teams line up face to face – melees up front, casters in the back – and plink away until someone drops. If you’re lucky, MAYBE one or two characters slowly make their way around the edges of the fight to threaten the flanks, but not too often.
Meanwhile, put this same fight into Second Edition it’s just… glorious chaos. Bad guys fleeing in and out of different exits as they start taking damage, Lo Mang using all his leaping feats… it’s both sides are operating in “find someone and punch ‘em” bar-room brawl mode. Even as I’m focusing on ranged damage in this fight, with (likely) no Attacks of Opportunity to disrupt me, I can wander the battlefield finding better firing positions in a way I wouldn’t previously have done. In First Edition, the golden rule would ALWAYS have been to keep a meat shield between me and the bad guys.
It’s true that, yes, we’re entering the levels where Attacks Of Opportunity are starting to come into play of our opponents, but I remember doing a skim of one of the Bestiary books, and AoOs seem to operate similarly for monsters as they do for player characters. At level 6, it becomes a LITTLE more common, but still mostly for characters that were “tanky” and melee-forward. So when it comes to humanoids (or putting it in terms of this fight), the boss or sub-boss might have access to an Attack of Opportunity, but an archer or caster humanoid probably still won’t have them.
As the fight unfolds, the good news there’s still a distinct power advantage over the grunts: they’re getting lucky with their damage (particularly on Dougie), but even that’s just letting them keep things close; they’re not really in any danger of winning. Eventually, the dice luck starts to even out, and we clear the first room in pretty good shape.
So we decide to go for the next, larger room, and things get more interesting as the boss and his bugbear bodyguard join the fray. If you’re following the action, Dougie is basically toe-to-toe with Overseer Kepse, Lo Mang is basically dealing with goblin adds, and the boss is off to the north… at first, not doing THAT much beyond the initial smokestick. Speaking of which, the other issue is that between that smokestick and the shape of the room (with extensions that go off to the east and north), Gomez and I have to manage sightline issues to stay relevant in the fight. It never takes us out of the fight entirely but there were rounds where we didn’t have a lot of choices in terms of how we could help out.
Results are mixed at first. On the good side, Lo Mang is taking care of the adds pretty easily, and they’re not putting much damage on him. On the flip side, Dougie not only gets dropped, but then I arguably play it too cautious and fail a flat check to apply Battle Medicine to him. We’re at a point where things could go either way: if we can get Dougie up, it mostly becomes a 4-v-1 pinata party, but if the bugbear can get into us squishies, we may need to send someone running for the theoretical cavalry waiting outside.
And then, I finally get a big round where all my tricks come together, and it almost singlehandedly takes Kepse out of the fight. My first ever cast of Color Spray puts Kepse on her heels (stunned and blind), and then a successful fight and a dose of spider venom applies a d10 of damage every round.. above-and-beyond making her flat-footed to everyone for the foreseeable future. Which is… however long it takes Dougie to get back onto his feet and smack her out of the fight for good.
At this point, the momentum swings for good. We go through another round of combat… and when the wheel comes back to me… I don’t know if it’s meta-gamey, or just acknowledging the swing in the action – consider that he just missed me three times and then I critted him — but since Kepse was described in our mission briefing as the “bodyguard”, I figured maybe this “boss” isn’t that great a fighter and might surrender if we offer him the chance. So… offer made… and after a final encouraging zap from Gomez, he accepts. Victory!
That doesn’t mean the overall is totally over. There are several rooms that haven’t been explored yet, and this guy isn’t the named boss (Pierson Droan) with the “interesting globe” in his office. Nor have we found any proof of the smuggling that’s going on… if you want to get technical. But this fight was at least taxing enough we’ll take a real short rest before tackling the rest of the complex. Gotta at least slap some duct tape on Dougie’s wounds.
And I guess that’s where we’ll pick it up next week. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.