The Sideshow S1|40: The Clown From Downtown - Roll For Combat

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The Sideshow S1|40: The Clown From Downtown

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S1|40: Tasty, Tasty, Beautiful Fear.

So, we’ve finally reached the end of Book 1 of the adventure path, and we end on a kind of silly note, with a bit of housekeeping, and an unconventional circus performance, capped off by a call-to-adventure cliffhanger.

I suppose the most notable place to start would be to unpack Hap’s decision to officially take on Riley as an animal companion. On an emotional and roleplaying level, it was inevitable. Hap (and Loren, for that matter) has always been a sucker for the critters, sometimes even to the detriment of the party’s safety. As a fellow alum of RFC’s “adopt a shelter pet” program (Brixley and Ember from the Plaguestone game) I certainly support Loren’s choice on a character level.

I would also like to point out for those of you worried about the snub of Bardolph the Bear, it’s still possible Hap could take a feat to take on a second companion. (The “Additional Companion” feat can be taken multiple times… up to a maximum of four creatures.) So if Loren really WANTS to add Bardolph as a member of Team Hap… it’s still an option. Just Sayin’.

On a nuts-and-bolts rules level, however, I’m a little worried how practical this is going to turn out to be. Setting aside that it’s great roleplaying, my experience in the Plaguestone suggests it’s a little unwieldy in a gameplay sense… at least until you get a few more feats under your belt. As they allude to during the show, the basic mechanic for animal companions is to give up one of your actions to give the animal companion two. That was sometimes difficult to manage even as a melee; as a caster where most of your spells are two actions… oof. There’s also the general balancing act you take with ANY archetype – the balancing act between archetype feats and core class feats.

I realize this isn’t really related to this show, but as a side exercise, I find myself wishing the Advanced Player’s Guide had been released when we were doing Plaguestone because this got me thinking… there are ways in which it might have almost been better to take Divine Weapon as my Champion boon and take Ember through the Beastmaster archetype. Then I’d have a magic rapier AND a fire kitty! Also, a lot of the Divine Steed features are related to riding, and you don’t really saddle up and ride in a dungeon setting. On the other hand, a high-level Champion steed gets crazy stuff like magical wings and training in the Religion skill. YEAH, LET’S SEE YOUR STUPID WOLF PERFORM A RESURRECTION RITUAL, LOREN!

What? No, I’m not defensive at all… why do you ask?

Then we get to the main thrust of this week’s show… the final circus performance before moving on to bigger stages. Certainly, the main story is our new… ummm… “friend” Jellico Bounce-Bounce bringing the house down, but we’ll get to him in a minute. I love the juxtaposition between Alhara, who is completely unwilling to work with Jellico in any way shape or form, alongside Hap, who’s completely unphased by the whole thing. “Yeah, whatever… cool knives.”

Before we get to the show itself, we should refresh our collective memory on the new scoring mechanic Steve came up with. As you may remember, the circus rules as written are a little goofy because you’re supposed to MATCH the excitement and anticipation numbers. Which means if you get them to align properly two-thirds of the way through the show, the system creates an incentive to stop trying to keep the numbers where they are. And that completely flies in the face of good show business: you want things building to a big finale. So basically, though I didn’t totally understand the scoring, Steve decoupled the numbers, so there’s still a win condition available even when swinging for the fences.

As the show starts, I feel kind of bad for Ateran – they perform so rarely, they FINALLY get a chance to do their performance, and immediately gets shouted down by the hecklers. Adding insult to injury, Ateran misses the roll on the big finale by ONE digit. Oof. Though OK… these guys saved the town AND sprung for free beer. WHY ARE THEY BEING HECKLED?

Next, we have Alhara’s ongoing battle against Darius the Troll and Darius the Troll’s intensely awkward salute to the liberating powers of free-market capitalism. I also like the bail-out mechanic of sending in the clowns, so you can turn a failed roll into a “yeah, we meant to screw that up” comedy routine. Next up, we have Hap’s fire antics, which end with Hap showering the crowd with flaming hot (fake) money, and earning the endorsement of Ayn Rand in the process. And then it’s time for the main event. Let’s see what The Clown From Downtown’s got going for him.

Now, I know Steve put all sorts of disclaimers on this week’s episode, but I gotta admit I found Jellico’s show kinda funny, more than anything else. Maybe that makes me some sort of psychopath or something, but I did. And let’s give credit where due – a LOT of that was Rob T.’s performance. For Rob to ad-lib a routine on the spot (I asked; he didn’t have any advance preparation) is pretty damn impressive. I mean, “horror-themed, but entertaining, but also not actual assault, murder, or mutilation of farm animals” is a pretty narrow needle to thread. But somehow he did it. And it brought the house down.

The circus finishes its performance… they don’t totally max out because of the hecklers and the general slow start, but it’s still a pretty solid performance and the religious faction war is averted. And at the end, we have the cliffhanger… a note from Papa Varus, with the cryptic summons: “COME HOME”.

And next week… we shall. Book 2, coming up. 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.