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The Bird’s Eye View S2|13: All Or Nothing At All

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S2|13: Bring Me a Shrubbery!

Surprise, guys! Frontal assault’s canceled!

Up until the last minute, I REALLY thought we were eventually going to have to slug our way through this mess. That’s pretty much the way it goes with these adventure paths. At its core, Pathfinder is best when it’s a combat simulator, so I figured simulating combat was going to be inevitable. And OK, the part of me that likes combat best of all feels just a LITTLE bit cheated that we’re not going to get to square off with all those enemies. I got fresh doses of poison for the sword-cane and everything!

On the other hand, when you step back and look at it through a lens of “work smarter, not harder” isn’t this solution EXACTLY the sort of way we should be handling problems? In the context of this story, stopping a handful of low-rent pickpockets is nothing compared to stopping a murder cult that’s harvesting citizens for body parts. In cop dramas on TV and in movies, throwing away a little fish to get the dirt on a bigger fish is a CLASSIC technique. And then you add on top a layer that the Skinsaws may decide to kill the Copper Hands for screwing up the bank heist, which makes the Skinsaws a danger to the Copper Hands… The conclusion is logical to a degree that would impress Mister Spock; of course, we cut them a deal to get their information on the Skinsaws.

If there’s ONE thing we didn’t do right here, it’s that MAYBE we should’ve gathered a little more evidence of a crime so we had a little more direct leverage going in. We never really caught them “in the act”, we don’t really have any sort of proof the mechanic is being held against his will (though we strongly suspect it), nor did we mark the goods we turned over, so we can’t even really hit Fayati with “handling of stolen property” or whatever. So maybe we should’ve let things played out a LITTLE further until we had witnessed a specific crime to hold over them. Right now, all we have is a couple of low-level grunts talking shit, claiming they’re big-time robbers. They could easily claim they were just joking.

I think that’s where grabbing the hostage first might have helped, but with 20/20 hindsight I think we made the right call there. Yes, it probably would’ve been pretty easy to get him. We could’ve come in for a general hangout session, I could’ve grabbed the mechanic and cast invisibility on him, and then jetted out the door. If you wanted to make it a little more foolproof, I could’ve brought a scroll with a second cast of invisibility so we BOTH could’ve left the hideout unseen. So yeah… grabbing him would’ve been pretty easy, and then we’d be able to go in with a confession. But then… once someone stole the mechanic out from under them, their base would’ve been on high alert and we probably never would’ve gotten in front of the boss to negotiate. Then we’re back to slugging our way through the building. So maybe it’s best we just went right to negotiation.

As an aside, I’m constantly amused by how much of my thinking is colored by “modern” ideas of police work that probably don’t really carry weight in a fantasy medieval setting. “Does the presence of undead constitute probable cause?” “Did you read him his Miranda rights in Common or Aklo?” “Does the department have a ‘Use of Fireball’ policy for caster officers?” It’s easy to forget that a lot of the nuance and layers of “doing the job right” just wouldn’t exist in a world like this. In a setting like this, it would be more like “see bad guy, drag him or her in, and cast some sort of truth spell on them to fill in the pieces you don’t have direct witnesses to”. But you have to have SOME model for thinking about all of this, so the one we live in day to day is at least a good starting point.

Back to the action. As we sit down to negotiate, the real question is “does the deal make sense to Fayati?” and I think the answer there is yes as well. On one hand, deep down, we absolutely don’t have anything concrete on her, and even what we have on the gang is kind of flimsy so far. But what are her choices here? EVERY cop in the district now knows where their hideout is, has a rough layout, and knows their strength (even down to the weretigers). If the worst should happen and she kills us, the Absalom equivalent of the SWAT team is coming next. We’re just four cadets and the city is FULL of cops. Even if she just refuses the deal and lets us walk out, we’re going to go into “clingy ex mode”… we’ll focus ONLY on her gang, making sure her people can’t earn a dime during the Radiant Festival. And then there’s the Skinsaws – now she’s got someone volunteering to take care of the Skinsaws for her… and they’ll be doing it as law enforcement so it can’t be traced back to her if it fails. If we win, they’re gone entirely; even if we lose, we’re keeping them busy and thinning their numbers to the point where maybe whoever’s left will be too busy to worry about them anymore. And what’s the price of all of this? Giving up some short-term earnings that she’ll have MOST of 90 days to make up, and the mechanic who had MOSTLY stopped being useful after the bank heist went sideways.

And I do think it’s a “tough but fair” position that we’d have to leave her enough to save face with the rest of her gang. Here’s why… and it’s something I don’t think we mentioned at the time. Yeah, Fayati will give us the information we want either way at this point, but if she loses control and it’s everyone for themselves… all it takes is ONE of her members deciding to save their hide by ratting us out to the Skinsaws. Then the psycho-murder cult knows we’re coming and either THAT battle gets a lot more deadly, or they pick up and move to a new hideout and we have to start over from square one. So yes, leaving her with enough of a functioning gang to keep her people in line makes a fair amount of sense.

Now if you want to get all fussy, it’s SUCH an obvious win for her that, I suppose there would’ve been nothing preventing the Copper Hand gang from anonymously tipping the law off to the location of the Skinsaws themselves before we were ever part of the story. But maybe that anonymous piece is what makes the logic of the story work – if that tip had just come in off the street, maybe it gets ignored; if it’s the head of the gang telling the now-famed Red Squad to our faces as part of a bargaining session, it’s pretty solid actionable intel.

Even with all that logic staring down at us from above, I have to admit I was still on pins and needles as we were going through it. It was probably the most we’d EVER had riding on a single social check, even dating back to the pre-podcast days. Succeed, and we basically solve an entire section of the adventure path without unsheathing a weapon; fail or crit fail, and we might be facing a multi-episode building crawl, STARTING with the Big Bad.

But success it is. We now know where the Skinsaws are hiding, we get back the money we borrowed to join the gang, we rescue the hostage, and ohbytheway we bypass an entire level. Oops. Granted, we still have to run all this past Captain Melipdra and make sure he’s OK with only getting a couple of hundred gold and a single hostage while the remnants of the Copper Hand continue running around stealing stuff. But I suspect if he’s smart he’ll go for it.

Next week, I guess you’ll meet our new characters, and we’ll start to take the fight directly to the Skinsaw Cult! Let’s do this! As always, 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.