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The Sideshow S2|26: The Charmed Arm Does Great Harm

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|26: Can You Smell What The Vrock Is Cooking?!

Sorry we’re running a little late here this week at Talking Combat. I’m getting ready to go on vacation Saturday, so between getting work tied down and packing, I’ve had a lot of stuff percolating.

As Steve mentioned in the show notes, I have an interesting relationship with spoilers on this show. I think I’ve mentioned before that I do TRY to avoid spoilers so I can have a close-to-pristine listening experience. I generally want to be as surprised as all of you. But that tends to be a goal that’s never going to be 100% reachable. For one thing, while each show has its own Discord channel for the game itself, the Patreon chat has a single channel that’s shared across all the shows. So sometimes I see the last few lines of what the Patreons were talking about the previous night: 90 percent of the time, it’s general chat, but every once in a while, there’ll be a plot point. Or, I’ll have to go look up an NPC name or reference a map, so I will duck my head into “their” channel. In which case, you try to put the blinders on and mind your business but it doesn’t always work. Or sometimes in a burst of general excitement stuff just slips out.

So I’ve known for a month or two that SOMETHING sinister and not-entirely-normal happens to Darius at some future point, and this incident feels like it might be the thing I heard about. The comments I saw basically hinted that Darius was going to end up turning evil and becoming the big bad of the whole story; I thought maybe he’d died and been brought back by some unnatural means (because there were also hints at a character death, but Steve teases that all the time). But this thing with Darius’ glowing rune certainly fits… it’s not Evil-With-A-Capital-E, but it certainly doesn’t seem as benevolent as it did before, did it? The vrock was DEFINITELY not afraid of Darius and Alhara’s mom; I’m pretty sure of that.

I will say that whole thing made for great radio, though. You’ve got this vrock which… I wouldn’t want to say it was a no-win, but it definitely felt like a fight that was going to push the party to its limits. Heck, you had Loren at least debating how soon it would be fair to run away without being meta-gamey. And then BOOM, the whole tone of the fight shifts as Darius breaks out a brand-new rune power. And the fear was a nice cherry on the sundae… Doubly impressive since the whole thing with the rune and Darius’ powers is stuff Steve’s adding on the side.

Loren’s question was an interesting one, by the way. On one hand, player characters shouldn’t be stupid or suicidal, and even a Level 1 adventurer has theoretically Seen Some Shit. They’d probably have SOME sense of how hard a fight is going to be, and even that if they misjudged and it’s harder, they should probably run away. On the other hand, when you start getting into things like “well, it’s +20 to hit so it’s going to crit something like 35 or 40 percent of the time”… that’s stuff your characters would have no way of knowing and you really shouldn’t be basing your “fight or run” decisions on.

Well, there is one exception: the equation becomes a little different if you’ve faced the creature before because in that case, the previous fight(s) become part of your standing knowledge of the creature. Over in the Edgewatch campaign we’ve run across multiple members of the ooze family – knowing that they’re resistant to precision damage, that some oozes split when hit with piercing or slashing, that they tend to be slow and really EASY to hit, but you lose almost every source of extra damage. Yeah, those are game mechanics, but if you’ve already seen them in action, they become the laws of the world you’re part of.

The other thing that stuck out for me is this: how is it they’re making WWE wrestling jokes and I’m not involved? As I texted to the group: “I expect this behavior from me. I don’t expect it from you.” Avatar The Last Airbender, yes. WWE, no. I’m not a huge wrestling fan or anything – never been to a live event or bought a pay-per-view, but I will admit I had phases where it was on my radar. Particularly when I was a road-warrior consultant during a different life and Monday nights were kinda dead anyway. I may have watched more of Hulk Hogan’s heel turn on WCW than I’m comfortable admitting publicly. (“Oh my God, it’s STING! Doing the same thing he’s done for the last seven weeks, but I’m still VERY SURPRISED BY THIS!”)

Sorry, where was I?

Ah yes, the vrock is eventually defeated, but not without the scare of Darius dropping and Hap eating an attack of opportunity getting her last spell off. I briefly thought this was going to be a two-episode fight because the thing seemed surprisingly healthy with 4 or 5 minutes left, until Hap came through with the finisher. Speaking of Darius dropping… we really need to refine our terminology for “party members dropping that represent a serious threat of a TPK” vs. “party members dropping where it’s just part of the cost of doing business”. Much like we came up with “Handwave Heal” to summarize using Treat Wounds and other out-of-combat healing; we need “Drop” and “Low-Calorie Drop” or something like that, to reflect those two different circumstances. “Drop” and “Drop Zero”?

And now we come to the “unanswered questions” portion of the show.

First, is that it or is there still more? The vrock feels like the big bad, and the caster xulgath that was with it was PROBABLY the person that summoned/controlled it, but is there still anyone else in here? What about Mistress Dusklight? When will the reckoning happen?

You kind of wonder what was the goal of the vrock? Was it to just run roughshod over the town? Was it designed to keep the players from learning about the role of the towers and Aroden’s mountain retreat? Was it just fairly random “these players are after us, let’s summon some muscle”? Though that one seems unlikely… it seems like the xulgaths have been here a lot longer than the players have been in town, so I don’t feel like the vrock was summoned JUST to deal with them. I could be wrong though.

Also, what’s with Darius and his uneasy feelings? Compared to rebooting the towers and saving the world, it’s probably small potatoes, but why does he feel like releasing the rune’s power the way he did make him feel disappointed and unworthy? You’d think a GOOD rune would be pleased as punch to smite a creature like the vrock, but evidently not. At some point we’ll have to unravel that as well.

For now, though, I’m off to do beachy things. 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.