The Sideshow S2|22: So, Your Parent Is An Elemental Being - Roll For Combat

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The Sideshow S2|22: So, Your Parent Is An Elemental Being

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|22: Geniealogy.

I’d like to start with a quick re-visit of last week’s episode. In last week’s column, I mentioned how impressed I was that Vanessa was so calm in the face of Alhara’s possible demise. Well… turns out I spoke a little too soon. Vanessa actually reached out and burst my bubble a bit: it turns out her demeanor was not so much “cool and collected”, but rather that she’d resigned herself to dying, and was chatting with our Patreon live listeners about what kind of character she might make if she had to re-roll. Well… calm is still calm, no matter what kind of calm it is.

Steve then asked how he sounded, and my glib answer was “disturbingly gleeful”, but I thought about that, and felt like clarifying a little bit. Sometimes we grumble about Steve being a little too excited during combat episodes, but having played with him for well over a decade, I don’t think his excitement is malicious as much as he appreciates a good story moment. If he lands two crits in a row, OK, maybe there’s an initial excitement that he got such good die rolls, but I think his REAL excitement is to see how this changes the dynamic of the fight, and how the party responds to it. If anything, I think it’s a backwards way of believing in us players and wanting to see how we’re going to pull the situation out of the fire.

Believe me, I’ve played with adversarial GMs who just wanted to “beat” the party. You can tell the difference.

As a player, none of this means it’s not INFURIATING in the moment when Steve gets two crits in a row and he starts cackling like a maniac. But if you take a moment to understand where it’s coming from, you can usually get through it. Or… that’s why we have push-to-talk. Take a few seconds to get the profanity out of the system and move on.

This week, the main storyline and discussion topic is the revelation of Hap’s ancestry. Those of you who had “ifrit” can stop by the window and pick up your winnings.

I have to admit, the minute I saw the Lost Omens Ancestry Guide, I assumed this is the way Steve was going to go with it. At the risk of oversimplifying, heritages are a way of injecting “half-X” into a character, so the ifrit as “half-fire-elemental” really fit Hap like a glove. I just didn’t know how complete of a retcon it was going to be – whether Steve was going to rebuild Hap from Level 1 as an ifrit to clean things up and make her RAW-compliant, or whether he was just going to drop Ifrit in moving forward.

There’s also the general question of whether you’d be willing to surrender control of your character to the GM like that. I have to admit, my attitude toward that has traditionally been one of reluctance. It’s not that I have some great master plan for most of my characters or that I plan them out from Level 1 through Level 20 in advance. But I do like the flexibility and control to write my own story. Look at Plaguestone: I was pretty much locked in on the Blade Ally as Brixley’s champion boon, and the story dropped the coolest steed in the world into my lap. If I had Steve controlling part of my character, would I have had the flexibility to make that choice?

That said, I have to admit Hap’s development has opened my eyes to the possibilities a little bit. Now I find myself at least a little intrigued about the idea of having things you don’t know about your own character and may give it a try in a future campaign. If nothing else, it’s more. We all start out wanting to be star athletes or astronauts, and then life has a way of telling you what you’d actually be good at. Why wouldn’t it be that way in a fantasy world as well?

Now, I do think this ought to have some boundaries. I think core class abilities ought to always be chosen by the player. I think it’s one thing to add “flavor” to a character; I think it’s another to just give someone else control of how your character functions in the core game. (By which I mean combat, mostly.) When it comes to feats… maybe. Ancestry feats are a solid choice because those are things you got from your parents and it really isn’t under your control. General and skill feats are more hit-and-miss because a lot of feats are learned as you go, and it would be weird to add a feat you LITERALLY never worked on or thought about taking. “We’ve literally NEVER been near a body of water, but I decided your character became an Olympic swimmer”.

On the other hand, you CAN throw it all to the wind. Let me briefly tell you about Nim, Bob Markee’s character in the Iron Gods campaign (pre-podcast days). Nim was some sort of techno-magical construct – humanoid in appearance, but an empty vessel when we found him. When Chris and I found his… pod, I guess… NIM decided our characters were his “parents” so he literally took his cues for developing his character – feats, spells, EVERYTHING – from things Chris and I expressed as we played. It started with alignment, choice of god, etc., and just snowballed from there. So if we said we needed more healing, he’d take a healing spell at his next level. If we expressed concern about his social skills, he’d train in Diplomacy. He pretty much let the party drive almost his ENTIRE character build and played the character that resulted. He chose the class (Sorcerer) and there were a few times where if we didn’t express a preference, he chose something for himself, but it was one of the more impressive displays of “committing to the bit” I’ve ever seen.

Now, I realize the Hap reveal kinda dominated the episode this week, but I did want to briefly tip the cap to Vanessa’s roleplaying of Alhara’s confidence crisis. We’re so used to Alhara as the ultra-competitive “oh yeah, not if I kill him first!” attitude that it was an interesting change of pace to hear her sound discouraged and even aware of her mortality. It’ll be interesting to see if this is going to be “short-term pep talk” territory or if Vanessa will play around with that and make Alhara more cautious in future battles.

Also, I’d like to go on record as being with Team “Hat Or No Hat, Gibzip Can Die In A Fire”. There’s NO circus act that’s worth continuing to put up with that whiny little…

Sorry, where was I?

Next week… it feels like confronting Mistress Dusklight before the Celestial Menagerie skips town might be the next thing to do, especially now that we know all these new truths about Hap. Although there is still that one room in the temple they didn’t go into. Do we go back for one more round?  Or is it time to get back to circus-ing? I guess we’ll find out next week. While you wait, feel free to drop by our Discord channel and let us know what you think of the show. As always, thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.