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The Sideshow S2|15: Alhara Knows Which Way The Wind Blows

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|15: Bad Moon Rising.

Welcome back to Roll For Combat: Now With 30 Percent More Combat! No circus acts, no birthday parties… just a good ol’ fashioned dungeon crawl, the way Pappy used to make ‘em.

There’s something interesting I noticed this week about my listening habits. Fair or not, correct or not, Vanessa tends to serve as something of a “canary in the coal mine” for this group. When she’s calm, I’m calm. When she’s worried, I’m worried.

If I had to hazard a guess, I think it probably has to do with thinking – or at least assuming – she has a better grasp of the rules and of various Pathfinder lore than the other players. That’s no disrespect to Loren and the Robs… I tend to assume they have the knowledge an average long-time player has. But Vanessa has actually written Second Edition content for Paizo, so when she says “oh crap”, my ears perk up because I feel like she’s got reasons. At least that’s what I assume my brain is subconsciously processing in the moment.

Steve? Don’t measure anything by Steve’s reaction. He’s playing to the crowd. EVERYTHING that’s about to happen is the worst news ever. It could be Zon Kuthon himself or a lone Level 1 kobold; either one will get the same “Ohhhhh boy… are you guys ready for this? (cackle) You’re not ready for this.”

As far as my Vanessa Concern Barometer: we had two examples of that in this week’s episode: one positive and one negative.

The first was Hap (very temporarily) getting turned to stone-but-not-really-stone. (And really… nobody came up with “Hapsicle”? COME ON PEOPLE.) At first, I was surprised at how nonchalant everyone was being about it. You do know one of your party members suffered The Thing That’s Basically One Step Short Of Permadeath, right? But then I found the calm – at least Vanessa’s – kinda reassuring, at least partly thinking that she knows enough about basilisks to justify such confidence. If she’s not worried, it’s probably not THAT hard to unfreeze Hap.

Granted, the whole “douse yourself in the blood of the vanquished thing” is a little creepy, but even that got defused by Rob T. describing it as “we’re gonna tauntaun this”. And sure enough, a few minutes later, Hap is up and running again, none the worse for wear. It’s a little surprising, but Hap somehow emerged in better shape from having ACTUALLY been petrified than Darius did from having NOT been petrified by a cockatrice at Level 1. How does THAT work? I guess it’s those Level 6 anti-bodies.

Once Hap is up and running again, the exploration of the shrine continues. Things actually seem like they’re going to settle down a little bit as the group pretty much runs roughshod over a pair of xulgaths like they were a speed bump. The most drama we got out of that fight was whether Alhara was going to turn busting through stained-glass windows into a running bit like Cabbage Man from Avatar. (If nothing else, Alhara crashing through a stained-glass window would make a GREAT T-shirt.)

But then came the revelation of the babau, and the other side of the Vanessa Concern Barometer went off.

No, not a baobab… that’s a tree, or the fruit that grows on it.

No, not Babar. Cartoon elephant. Wears human clothes.


It was that rollercoaster NO that goes up in the middle that drew my attention: “Oh nooooOOOOOooooo”. You got the sense Vanessa recognized it and identified it as bad news. Which consequently made my brain go on high alert for the rest of the fight. Again, maybe this isn’t fair to Vanessa to put that on her, but it’s kind of how my mind is wired.

And as I cheat and look at the statblock… she’s right to be concerned. A babau has got all the offensive tricks of a stealthier, including sneak attack damage; there’s that trick where it sprays acid on you if you hit it (technically it’s a coating of acid on its skin), and the whole at-will dimension door that it’s already used multiple times. They also have a signature move called “Grievous Strike” which basically consists of loading up two attacks into a single two-action attack that does extra damage and can also inflict Frightened.

Also, now that I have the statblock in front of me, let me re-explain the healing thing with fog of war turned off. As alluded to, if you heal someone who was the target of the babau’s attacks, it does 4d6 mental damage to the babau. He HATES to see his nasty wounds undone. BUT… two caveats. First, it has to be an attack that caused some sort of bonus damage – a crit, sneak attack damage, bonus damage from Grievous Strike – healing damage from a regular attack won’t do anything. (So in this case, healing Ateran wouldn’t trigger the mental damage because that was just a normal strike.) Also, the heal has to be performed within one round: if you heal two or three rounds later, you lose the window. (Also, the effect can only be triggered once per round.)

As scary as it looks – and the initial attack on Darius hinted at a much worse outcome – I feel like the party got a little lucky here, as the babau rolls a “2” at least twice, keeping them in the game. Given the thing’s attack bonus is clearly north of +15, things could’ve been SO much worse. On the other hand, the dimension door ability is proving to be a bit of an annoyance, especially since it also defies attacks of opportunity.

Speaking of dimension door, you may remember we dealt with this back during the succubus encounter back in the temple, but we’ll review it since it may still be in play next week. The regular 4th-level version of dimension door is just a line-of-sight thing: essentially, battlefield repositioning or crossing a chasm or something. The 5th-level heightened spell can take you up to a mile, as long as it’s somewhere you’ve been before, but then you’re also immune for the next hour.

And that gets into the big cliffhanger decision Vanessa makes to go throw open the doors to the next area. And… confession time, I was fully prepared to mock her. But as I’m thinking about how dimension door works, there MAY be some method to her madness. The Level 5 DD spell feels like it’s meant for last-ditch ESCAPE. Going one room over seems like the worst of both worlds – you’re not far enough away to be “safe”, but you can’t actually do it again to GET safe for another hour and you might not be able to do the 4th-level “bounce around the battlefield” thing anymore either, depending on whether the immunity is JUST for the 5th-level spell or for ANY version of the spell. So you can talk yourself into the idea that the babau went somewhere else entirely and we’re done with it for the time being.

That said, I can’t totally let her off the hook. There’s SO many unknowns that it still feels pretty risky to just rush into the next room. Obviously first and foremost, the babau might actually be in there; maybe “safety in numbers” is all the escape it wanted. Also, we still don’t know ANYTHING about that weird pool of purple liquid. Is that going to become a factor at some point? And of course, a new door very likely means new bad guys to fight. So I don’t want to sugarcoat the risk: it was PROBABLY worth slowing down a round or two and making sure everyone was ready to move forward.

So what’s behind those doors? I guess we’ll have to see 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.