The Sideshow S2|05: ’Ship Shape - Roll For Combat

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The Sideshow S2|05: ’Ship Shape

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|05: Ooze Your Own Adventure.

Well, that’s a surprise. I didn’t expect my writing style and schedule to come under such scrutiny in this week’s show notes, but here we are.

First, I’ll state for the record that I absolutely do half-ass it sometimes. You can usually correlate those blog entries to when there are new video game releases, or when the Pittsburgh Penguins are playing. Occasionally, it’ll be because nothing in the episode particularly grabs me (not singling this crew out, happens for the Edgewatch show too) and I just chase my own tail for a thousand words.

It is true I tried to make it my New Year’s resolution to get my columns in a little earlier. I moved my writing days to Sunday and Wednesday, but you may have noticed we’ve been having weekly Meltdown Of Democracy events on Wednesdays and I spend the rest of the day doom-scrolling, so… it hasn’t quite taken hold yet. Maybe see about democracy moving its shit to Tuesdays going forward?

This week, I guess the main topic to address is Steve putting all us listeners on the spot about the Alhara-Ateran romance. So I guess it would be a dereliction of duty if I didn’t wade in.

I’m not going to lie: part of me wants to duck the question. As someone who also does one of these shows and has felt that pressure to come up with the “right” interaction for 3 hours, it feels shitty even wading in and telling anyone what they “should” have done. So I’d start by acknowledging that this is THEIR gaming table and they can do what the hell they want. It feels a little pretentious to discuss playing a roleplaying game with the same language of Serious Art, but they as the players/actors/artists ultimately get to develop their characters as they wish, and they choose what they do with those moments. On some level, they have to go with what feels right to them, and we as listeners can just deal with it.

But that’s still a bit of a dodge, I suppose. So let me answer the (implied) question: what do I think of the relationship? I think my overall “top of a PowerPoint slide” answer would be that I like where they’re going with it, but there are some specific episodes where the “will they or won’t they?” has felt like it was spinning its wheels a little bit.

First, I do appreciate that Rob and Vanessa are both playing it with an honesty that’s admirable: the relationship between their characters certainly feels very authentic. Heck, maybe that’s part of the “problem” is that it’s TOO real. It takes steps forwards and backwards, and even sideways where nothing “major” happens because neither person is ready to put themselves out there and take that next step. Romance in the real world is like that too.

Also, I feel like I’d be a dick if I didn’t concede that improvising DRAMA is challenging. Comedy is comparatively easy: it’s easy to come up with a one-liner to say off the top of your head. (Especially if you just steal from pop culture references most of the time as I do.) It’s a little harder to come up with something that will resonate with the audience while being both sincere to your vision of your character and giving your scene partner something that will ring true to theirs. It’s almost like Pacific Rim where you have two parties who have to sync their brains in real-time to pilot the mech. I wouldn’t pretend for one minute that’s easy.

That said, as a listener, I think Steve’s comment hits it on the head: romance plots are most interesting when they come into conflict with other elements of the story and one or both characters have to decide what that relationship means to them in comparison to something else. And there have been moments where they get there. For a GREAT example, I’d point at Alhara and Ateran having a fight about Ateran killing the hostage back at the druid hermitage. That was compelling… not just on the ethics of the argument, but whether it would change the direction of the relationship and whether Alhara would re-evaluate her interest in them. I think if this road leads to more moments like that… cool, let’s see where it goes.

(Or, skipping to the end of the episode. I’m also ALL for more conflict with Csillagos as Grumpy Relationship Chaperone.)

So OK… onto this week’s episode. (I know, I know… finally.)

This week’s challenge is another fight with a black pudding! Specifically, another member of the ooze family, which is a little ironic, because over on our Edgewatch show, we have intel that we might have to fight an ochre jelly at some future point. (Our investigations revealed its existence, but we haven’t found it yet.) So in some ways, this is a fun little sneak preview.

Now, of course, with any member of the ooze family, you get the typical resistances to criticals, precision damage, flatfooted, and so on… coupled with the fact that they’re fairly easy to hit. Same drill as the fight against the two gelatinous cubes, right? But now we add in a new wrinkle… division. When you do slashing damage to (some) oozes, they split in half. The good news is that the remaining hit points are split between the two creatures, so what’s left is easier to kill. The bad news is that all of their combat effectiveness stats – to hit, armor class, damage – stay the same, so you’re facing two creatures that were as lethal as the original creature. (Personally, I’m mentally walking this out to its logical conclusion, envisioning a bunch of AoE slashing attacks and ending up with dozens of oozes that all have 3 or 4 hit points.). Fortunately for our group, they learn the lesson on the first split and don’t repeat their mistake, and are able to recover fairly quickly and defeat the oozes.

Despite Rob P.’s attempt to sneak items from the First Edition economy into a Second Edition game, the treasure is mostly consumables, and not that exciting. As a fan of aeon stones, I actually like a magic item that lets you slot more than one at a time, and the one that takes care of food and drink is useful indeed. (I had the Starfinder equivalent on Tuttle.) There’s also a journal that WOULD have served as a handy survival guide for the area if they had read it first but now serves mostly as plot exposition. We do learn that the protagonist of this area is a thief named Juniper Wynsell (remember the “JW” marked on the tree?) who used this area as a hideout, but her ultimate fate is unknown – was she caught, did she die, is this likely to become a future plot point? It also suggests that if they can find a permanent resolution to the Kalkek situation, there’s more of her treasure deeper in that cave.

But that – as well as the staircase Alhara thinks she saw -– will at least be for another day as they decide to make camp for the night and tackle the rest tomorrow. 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.