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The Sideshow S2|09: Making Kids Cry On Their Birthday

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|09: A Little Bird Told Me.

Sorry, Steve. You can disclaimer it all you want, but we the listeners have taken a vote, and you’re a monster for ruining Hap’s birthday. AND FOR HAVING THE PROFESSOR YELL AT HER! You’re just lucky there’s still a pandemic, which limits our ability to assemble a proper torch-wielding mob.

And it was off to such a good start, too.

Before we get into the birthday stuff, we started with a little more investigation into the lost compass, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. All we really learn is that it’s probably even older than originally thought, and the bag of holding likely preserved it. That said, I got a little kick out of how excited Ateran seemed to be about digging through historical resources… they’re such a blank slate in some ways, it’s nice to see a little side of their personality that’s not usually on display. Now… I’d criticize Rob T. for saying the wrong circus’ name, but didn’t Rob T. just do that a week or two ago as well? Does ANYONE know the name of their circus here?

Now… on to birthday merriment.

First, we had our second appearance of the Roll For Combat Birthday… ummm… Song? It’s just so gloriously bad that it becomes great. It’s almost like the scene in Elf where Buddy free-forms the “I Love You” song for his dad, but even less melodic. I’d challenge Steve to have some birthday music commissioned, but I think our composer would probably resign in frustration.

For the second birthday in a row, we have gifts that are thoughtful and touching. Matching outfits for Hap and Riley, accessories crafted from fallen opponents, a birthday wish… Though, OK… Cynical Me wants to quibble a little bit about the likelihood of two people assembling 1000 paper cranes in the span of a few hours. SHOULDN’T YOU HAVE TO ROLL FOR THAT? Then again, Cynical Me also wants to suggest that maybe you don’t give benevolent pyromaniac paper products as a present. I mean, that’s basically throwing a big pile of kindling into her trailer. But the Hap liked her presents, especially the origami cranes, and that’s what’s important.

I am curious what the “deeper level” is on which Alhara’s gift resonated. Is it something about Hap’s backstory that we don’t know, or is it from outside the game, and it’s something that resonated with Loren herself? Part of me wants to know, part of me worries it might be something more personal than she really wants to reveal, so it’s probably OK if that’s just her little secret.

Of course, that moment of sentimentality was quickly balanced out by Steve’s “oh, yeah, your heart-warming friendship is nice, but I have the power to give out magic items” present from the Professor. “Friendship is magical, but what’s REALLY magical is a Necklace of Fireballs.” (I’m pretty sure that’s what My Little Pony was trying to say…) It’s a complete power move: it’s like the dad swooping in to buy her an iPhone when everyone else kept it to 50 bucks or less. Having made fun of it, it’s practical as hell, and there’s NO chance it’ll go to waste. Heck, once the party has more money, check back in a few years and Hap will be getting Necklaces of Fireballs like other people get socks.

As far as a birthday every week… ehhhhh… no. I like the birthdays for the party members themselves, but I’m not sure I can sit through a birthday party for some random clown we’ve never spoken of before. And I DEFINITELY can’t sit through the Birthday Song too many more times.

But then we have The Twist. The moment that redefined the back half of the episode.

Should’ve known that chaotic evil wouldn’t stay quiet forever. However he pulled it off, Kalkek managed to summon Riley to his cave and is now holding him as a soft hostage. Riley’s unharmed, and Kalkek seems (for the moment) to be using him more as an insurance policy than anything else, but still… it completely ruins Hap for the rest of the episode. Kalkek’s deal… Riley is willing to vouch for you, but just in case you were getting any ideas, he’s gonna hang out with me until the performance is over.

And ohbytheway, Kalkek also embiggens himself, just to flex on our team a little more in a “shoulda killed me when you had the chance” way.

At first, I thought this might have been a gambit to force a decision on Hap performing – if she can’t control Riley and do an animal act from the wings, she has to perform, doesn’t she? Except Hap takes a different direction and decides that if Riley’s in danger she can’t do anything at all and locks herself in her trailer. Don’t get me wrong… that’s a very human reaction from a roleplay standpoint. But it adds to the problems this first performance is going to be facing.

And then things go from bad to worse. Not only do we have a hostile takeover effort from the Celestial Menagerie, attempting to use both carrot (double your pay) and stick (unspecified bad things will happen) against the Wayward Wonders folk, but someone snuck in and made the animals sick. AND the clowns are out after coming down with Clown Lung. (As a nod to our Edgewatch show, someone needs to check and see if any of them have a build-up of black goo at the mouth. Maybe there’s the connection that lets our cops show up to investigate!)

If that wasn’t bad enough, the cherry on the shit sundae comes in the form of the Professor losing his temper at Hap and yelling at her for neglecting the animals. I’m not criticizing Steve – it’s a TOTALLY valid roleplaying choice. It’s their first show in Escadar, the Celestial Menagerie is screwing with the Professor’s business… I have ZERO trouble believing he’d be incredibly stressed in that situation and might snap. But it just makes Hap’s bad day even worse, and I felt genuinely sad for Hap at that moment. Poor kid.

Look, I know I’m making a lot of jokes about how mean Steve is, but I’ll also say it’s pretty inspired insofar as it subverts people’s expectations. We’ve had almost three straight weeks of LA-DI-DAH niceness; it was a good idea to break that up a little. And somehow I never thought it would be Hap’s celebration he’d mess with. The flip side argument to “Steve is mean” is that nothing TRULY bad has happened, but it shocked everyone out of their complacency a little. In that sense, I do give Steve credit for zigging when we thought he would zag.

So as we end the episode, we’re about an hour from showtime and almost everything’s in meltdown mode. The only GOOD news is that Fidget is available (and in a real-world show note, it sounds like Loren will play her with Hap sulking on the sideline). But everything else… I guess we’ll just have to see, won’t we? But that’ll be next week. For now, 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.

Three Ring Adventure S2|09: A Little Bird Told Me

The show must go on, but before the show, it’s time for another birthday party! This time it’s Hap’s birthday and everyone brought a present, including an unexpected guest.

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse, and the second book, Legacy of the Lost God.

Don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

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The Bird’s Eye View S1|21: A Redcap In The Hat

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|21: You No Take Candle!

It’s the Murder Hotel, Week… oh jeez, I don’t know. 23? 24? Seems like we’ve been here forever.

We start the episode with a bit of a bait-and-switch, as all signs pointed toward us tackling the basement this week, only for most of us (cough-not-me-cough) to bail out at the last minute. There’s a LITTLE bit of added context that either got left on the cutting room floor or that maybe we discussed offline later. I think the thinking within the group was that the basement would be a single room. The Mad Scientist’s Torture Den or something like that. Once we went down there and realized there was going to be a whole additional floor, we decided – and maybe this is a little meta-gamey – that a floor that ends in “a few more rooms” is better than a floor that very likely ends in the Big Bad of the entire first book.

The other part related to escape routes, or lack thereof. If there’s an escape route in the basement, then Pratchett and Ralso can basically leave when they want. They may even be already gone. If there’s no escape route in the basement, they’d pretty much have to come back up this staircase… through us… to get out again. Meanwhile, if we go investigate the basement, anyone still on the 2nd floor has free rein to escape or attack us from behind. So one way or the other, the threat on the second floor began to feel like the more urgent threat, while the basement is either contained, or they’ve already escaped.

So… back to exploring the second floor it is.

First, I’ll note – as a continuation of last week’s discussion – we start the episode getting Devise A Stratagem wrong and using it (incorrectly) with spell attacks, but have a better feel for it by the end of the episode. I HOPE we finally have this down for good.

Our first room of the new (east) wing is the viper fight. Honestly, that fight was so quick and Basil’s role was so limited, that I pretty much forgot it happened at all. Not much to say about it. Hi, snake. Bye, snake.

Next, we FINALLY… and this feels like a big deal to me… get to rescue some live victims. I’ve been a little frustrated up to this point because while we’ve amassed TONS of evidence, we haven’t caught any bad guys and we haven’t rescued anyone. No thwarting of crimes, just documenting what happened. Yes, we evacuated a few customers, but it FEELS like those customers weren’t in danger anyway, for whatever reason. It feels like only certain guests were targeted and the old halfling lady and the dwarf family were never in real danger. But the list of 20ish people who are officially missing… it’s been a little demoralizing that we haven’t had a chance to prevent anything yet.

But now we have live prisoners… after we beat them up, non-lethally. The gnome is one from our “general” list: Lyrma Swampwalker. She’s a gnome from Vidrian who came to see the fair. The other is a blast from the past – Kemenels. He’s the mage who went missing back in Episode 2 – we never formally met him, but his ward (whose name I didn’t capture) was the kid who was trashing the alchemist’s booth at the fair. So we were aware of his existence and our story crossed his before, even if we never met him directly. Naturally, they’re a little freaked out and don’t trust us, so we have to subdue them, but that’s two live victims saved! I didn’t think I’d have this sort of reaction, but it honestly feels good to rescue someone from this hell.

We continue our search and are starting to narrow things down, and there’s only a few rooms left, but the next encounter proves to be one of the most challenging (as well as one of the most gruesome). The redcap. Not gonna lie: this encounter worries me.

I’ve mentally categorized things into four levels of encounter difficulty. “Should be easy unless luck REALLY abandons us”, “fair fight”, “challenging fight”, and “OK, this is a legit chance of party wipe”. I’m feeling like the redcap represents a legit Level 4 fight. The boot attack is about average for an encounter at this level, but the fact that he can attack while moving gives him efficiency with his three actions. The scythe, on the other hand, is nasty: over the course of the fight, it reveals itself to be a d10+10 base damage, and it also has another d10 of deadly damage on a crit. So even hitting with that is nasty, and if he crits, it starts getting into one-shot territory… certainly for me and Gomez, maybe for Dougie and Lo Mang as well. And oh, he’s also got an undetermined amount of fast healing as long as he’s wearing his little hat.

Fortunately, an Expeditious Inspection reveals the trick with the hat… if we can get the hat off his head, it at least cancels the fast healing, so that becomes the immediate focus. After a few tries, Lo Mang finally has the stats to get it done, and this fight becomes a little more tolerable.

And then we end the episode with an interesting bit of do-over, which ties into Steve’s pre-game point about trusting your GM. The redcap initially appears to roll enough damage to put Dougie down. So I use my turn to get him back on his feet – I figure we need to pour damage on while Lo Mang has his hat, and we need Dougie and his maul for that. But then Steve remembers that the redcap’s hat has a secondary property – without the hat, he also suffers a -4 on damage rolls. Take away those points, and Dougie should’ve lived, and I shouldn’t have had to spend my turn healing him. So Steve rewinds the tape and goes from there.

I think whether intended or not, this kinda reflects our group’s philosophy on GM mistakes. If a mistake occurs during a fairly easy fight, we might just blow past it and figure it out later. “Oh, remember two fights ago… turns out the bad guy WASN’T immune to fire, and that spell should’ve done more damage. Have a hero point!”. But when death, or even a dramatic shift in the balance of a battle, is on the line, we definitely make sure to get it right, and Steve’s not even opposed to rewinding the game to get those moments right. This time, since we’re talking about the party’s main damage dealer dropping, this is one of those ones Steve needs to get right, and he did so. And that’s pretty much what we players have reached a peace with as well…

Now that’s not to say we never argue with Steve. Actually, to tie it back to Steve’s pre-game point, I think we’re more likely to argue the matter of “opinion” cases when we have a pet idea we want to sneak through. We tend to operate in the gray areas of “well, the rules don’t really say anything about using the spell in this way… what do you think?”. In his pre-game, Steve says that as a GM, your opinion is never wrong, and on some pass-fail level that’s true – at some point, the GM is the final arbiter of the rules. But that also carries with it the assumption that you at least let your players make a case to convince you otherwise, and maybe you sometimes change your mind if they’re compelling enough. And as always, the Rule of Cool applies: sometimes you should say yes if it creates a memorable story moment, rules be damned.

But in this case, we’re just rewinding a couple of turns of combat. And as we leave this week’s action… we’re hanging in there. Gomez is furiously trying to keep the heavy hitters on their feet, we at least took the redcap’s healing away, and hopefully things are taking a turn for the better. From my personal perspective, now that the redcap’s damage is a little less, I’m pretty close to full health, so I may have to go against my build and try to draw some fire so Chris and John don’t have to take the full beating. Or at least get in there and help set up flanking. When the redcap could easily one-shot me, I was a little leery. Now that it’s a fair(er) fight, an extra blade just might be the difference between victory and defeat.

But… we’ll find that out next week. 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.

Agents of Edgewatch S1|21: You No Take Candle!

As the agents enter the basement of the Murder Hotel they get a really bad feeling they are in over their heads.

Roll For Combat, Agents of Edgewatch Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Agents of Edgewatch starting with the first book, Devil at the Dreaming Palace.

Don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

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The Sideshow S2|08: A Birthday To Remember

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|08: The Frog Leg Incident.

Welcome to week two of the Great Silliness here at Three-Ring Adventure!

Of course, the real in-game reason for this is that nothing of game significance – literally NOTHING – can happen until the circus crew clears the plot of land they’ve been assigned. All the threats have been cleared except the barghest, and that’s kind of at a stalemate. They can’t even start building anticipation because that can only happen within a week of the performance. Presumably, if they started building anticipation too early, it would dissipate and go to waste… maybe the townspeople would even be pissed off. “SHADDAP ABOUT YER CIRCUS!”

In our Edgewatch show, we would literally just skip ahead. That’s how we do things in the big city of Absalom. Out here, these simple country folk do things differently, I guess. (Kidding. Mostly.)

Last week, Alhara and Ateran’s relationship and a heart-to-heart between Hap and the Professor took center stage for the most part. This week, Alhara’s birthday celebration kicks into high gear, and Hap’s concern about performing gets revisited in front of the whole team. Toward the end of the episode, we finally get back to business with a little excitement-drumming, but they actually do that a little TOO well, and it looks like we may have a few more days of merry-making yet to come. Especially now that we also have a birthday for Hap on the horizon.

To me, the gift choices for Alhara’s birthday were one of the highlights. In Darius’ case, I find myself wondering how intentional that choice was on Rob T’s part. Did Darius sense that Alhara is low-key jealous that he has this cosmic connection with their mother and she doesn’t, so that’s why he went with the earring? Was that a specific roleplaying choice by Rob, or just one of Bob Ross’ “Happy Little Accidents”? Hap’s choice… whimsical and practical, and yet in some ways, Alhara almost more pleased by her choice than by Darius’. And then Ateran… IS… A… PLAYER! WHO KNEW? Bone-carving with emotional significance? Given their awkwardness so far, I didn’t necessarily know they had it in them. Still, waters run deep, I guess. Really the only thing missing was the Professor giving Alhara something boring and practical like socks. (Which then suggests the possible existence of +2 flaming greater striking socks. Which I expect to see on the next artwork iteration of SOMEONE’S character.)

It’s a short interlude, but we do have a little forward progress on the barghest issue. The captain of the town guard stops by and, for now, declares the site fit for use. TBD whether we’re sweeping Kalkek under the table or dealing with it later (and what she and the Professor might have talked about), but for now, the circus gets the green light to perform. Longer-term, the Professor hints that HE might actually be able to talk the barghest into leaving since they have a prior relationship. (And OK, Steve kinda drops some breadcrumbs in the direction of helping get it back to its home plane.) Then again, there’s always Hap’s plan to make it docile with food. The Pacifying Power Of Bacon. (The title of Darius’ new TED Talk, by the way.) Just as long as Hap herself doesn’t become the main course, no harm in trying.

Next up, Hap mentions her concerns about performing and (given her past) attracting the attention of Madame Dusklight. Annnnd the team, as kindly as possible, votes in favor of “screw that, you’re performing”. Put me down on the side of letting her perform. They’re going to have to confront this issue at SOME point: why not just pull the Band-Aid off now and also put on the best possible show, rather than trying to hide Hap’s existence as long as possible? Though I did like Hap’s idea of staying undercover and trying to choreograph a miniature kaiju fight between Bardolf and Riley. WHY NOT BOTH?

We also dip briefly into the side mission of the lost engraved compass, as Hap takes it to the local jeweler to see if they recognize it. Nothing really comes of it except the merchant offering to buy it from her, but Steve drops a few hints that this mystery may take a little while to unlock, both between the general age of the locket, and hinting that the holder may not be the original owner and may even not be from around these parts.

After that, we finally roll the first (only?) dice of the episode, as the gang hits the town to go generate some excitement. The highlights here are twofold. The first is the general exasperation of Steve at a bunch of good dice rolls by the players. I’m mostly tongue-in-cheek when it comes to “competitiveness” with the GM, but not totally: Steve gets a little gleeful when he rolls well, so it’s nice to see that shoe on the other foot every so often. (Even better when it happens in combat.) The other is Loren’s imitation of Csillagos, and more generally, the fact that Csillagos can speak Common in a pinch. DO YOU REALIZE WHAT THIS MEANS? The public demands an expanded role for Csillagos! My personal vision for the role: Bad Relationship Advice Csillagos. We come to find out the bird is jealous of Alhara and tries to sabotage Ateran’s romantic efforts. “Yeah, the ladies really like it when you eat a whole onion right before a date!”

But then again… beware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Flash-forward six months and Ateran has fully embraced pickup artist culture, and their next artwork update sports 13 gold chains and a purple leopard-print Dr. Seuss hat. Ew. Never mind.

Of course, the good rolls for generating anticipation create an unexpected problem… the team actually generates enough anticipation that using the remaining days to generate more would probably go to waste. So it looks like there’s more downtime ahead, and a birthday for Hap to plan.

You know what that means? Week Three of Silliness… full steam ahead! Are we destined to complete an entire Silliness MONTH? Only time will tell. Just be prepared for the possibility of Graham Chapman returning from the afterlife in the role of The Colonel to shut the whole podcast down. You’ve been warned.

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.

Three Ring Adventure S2|08: The Frog Leg Incident

Who’s ready for a birthday party! It’s Alhara’s birthday and everyone is invited!

Roll For Combat, Three Ring Adventure Podcast is a playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Extinction Curse, and the second book, Legacy of the Lost God.

Don’t forget to join our Discord channel, where you can play games, talk with the cast, and hang out with other fans of the show!

Become a supporter of the podcast on our Patreon page where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. We would also love it if you would leave us a review on iTunes!

The Bird’s Eye View S1|20: Between A Rock And Hardness

Jason recaps the events from Agents of Edgewatch S1|20: Welcome to the Party, Pal!

I think I’m just gonna start this week’s episode by speaking my truth, and saying what I feel like Steve was sneaking up on but never quite got to.

Hardness is an EASY way to balance an encounter. But hardness is also a BORING way to balance an encounter.

There. I said it.

As I was listening to the fight with the statues… I have to admit I was getting a little bored, and that’s me speaking as someone who was an active participant. I think the problem is that damage resistance makes the fight take a few extra rounds, but it doesn’t add any “wrinkles”. A poison or a spell effect might make you readjust your tactics. A battlefield obstacle might create some interesting movement dynamics. But damage resistance… all it does is add a numeric drag. And what’s worse, it does so in a way that makes the heroes feel less heroic. You get these inflection points in character development where standard melee damage doesn’t keep up with hardness and you basically need to crit to do anything at all. That’s definitely the zone Basil was living in for this fight – unless I critted, I was AT BEST doing 2-3 points of damage per hit. Oof.

I mean, think about it. At one point, the LITERAL best thing I could do for the party was to go stand in melee range and give the statues someone else to swing at so they wouldn’t be hitting Dougie and Lo Mang as often. Basil, The Human Pinata! How fun is that?

Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m complaining a lot, but I do understand that EVERY campaign has certain ebbs and flows. There are moments where you’re the star of the show because you have the right tool for the job, and there are moments where your character is basically useless. I’m sure John and Chris probably get a little frustrated during the parts of the story where Basil is “That’s Odd”-ing everything in sight. Over the long haul of a full campaign, it absolutely evens out. But when you’re in the middle of one of those dry spells… boy, it’s a rough way to spend an almost hour-long combat.

Speaking of those ebbs and flows, it did give Lo Mang the chance to make the fullest use of Flurry of Blows. You see, one of the 2E benefits of Flurry of Blows is that if you hit with multiple hits, you get to combine their damage for the purposes of overcoming hardness. For this sort of fight, that’s absolutely perfect. Add it to Dougie’s always-effective maul, and we were able to grind our way through this fight and come out the other side in one piece.

While we were fighting, I did notice I made at least one rule mistake. At one point early in the fight, I cast Ray of Frost using Devise A Stratagem. That’s technically incorrect – DaS only works on melee and ranged attacks; and even then, an agile/finesse weapon is usually required. Spell attacks are NOT eligible for Strategizing. I’m pretty sure we get the rule right most of the time, but this one time, we kinda forgot. Chalk it up to picking up Wizard spells at Level 3 and not having as much practice with them. Oops.

So we drag ourselves through the statue fight and emerge victorious. As Steve alluded to, not DIFFICULT exactly… just tedious and resource-taxing. If you think about it, we got through the mimic and the guillotine blade MOSTLY with after-heals, so we were probably due for a tougher fight. From there, it’s time to continue our search. Keep in mind we’re basically going door-to-door on the left/west side of the hotel. After a few more rooms (including another murder-chute), we eventually stumble on what looks like a personal office and living quarters for the staff – it’s unclear whether it’s Ralso or Pratchett that lives there, but I’m not sure the distinction matters for the moment.

A thorough search of the room uncovers a few goodies, including that neat amulet that makes one conditionally invisible to the undead, but the biggest find is the secret staircase going down… presumably to the basement. I’m saying that based on architecture: we didn’t see these stairs on the first floor and there were a few structural dead spots that would be explained pretty well by secret stairs that bypass the first floor entirely. So it’s a guess, but a pretty solid one.

In a larger story sense, between the murder-chutes, the weird fireplace configuration, and the general lack of anywhere else to search, it just FEELS the answers we’re looking for are going to be down there. Big picture, that’s our destination. On the other hand, we still have the entire east/right wing of the second floor left to search – it’s a bit meta-gamey, but there’s that whole spirit of “clearing the rear” before you proceed to a new level. And thanks to the statue fight, resources are also starting to become a little bit of an issue. And if you REALLY want to get meta-gamey, we’re probably due to level soon, though I don’t know how you’d justify an 8-hour rest during an active pursuit.

So we’re at a bit of a crossroads as we come to the end of this week’s episode. The logical thing to do is go downstairs and see what’s what, but it may be worth thinking about a little further. As always, feel free to drop by our Discord server or other social media and let us know what you think of the show. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.