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The Sideshow S2|32: Nothing Brings a Family Together Like Murder

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|32: How I Met Your Mother.

It’s weird. I’m having a little trouble thinking of something to say about this week’s episode because compared to the last couple of weeks, it’s so… ordinary. We’re back to making up new restaurants (Livestock In Linens!) and engaging in scatological speculation about the mechanics of aeon stones: I certainly look forward to the official Paizo errata that explains whether you still have to poop when using an aeon stone.

I mean, yes, the shadow of what happened to Darius still hangs over everything, but at least for this week, it kinda receded into the background a little bit and felt like a more “normal” episode.

This week’s show notes amused me a little because Steve’s GM thoughts and my player thoughts (from last week) about cheating death were basically the same, from opposite sides of the GM screen. I swear we didn’t cheat off each other’s papers… though maybe when you play in the same group long enough, I suppose it’s possible you developed a shared sensibility about how the game “should” work.

I think if there’s one takeaway from all of this, it’s this: if you’re a player, always put something a little bit supernatural into your backstory, just to give your GM something to play around with if your character should happen to die. It doesn’t even have to be a big obvious glowing birthmark; even if it’s just something subtle like “well, there was an ancestor on my father’s side who was rumored to have become a lich”… just SOMETHING that gives your GM some wiggle room.

Confession time: in our Edgewatch game, I actually created something like this for Basil. I won’t tell you what it is, but I’ll just say there IS a supernatural hook in his backstory that Steve could use if he needs to save my life at some point down the road. The only minor problem is that Steve hasn’t really been able to introduce it in-story yet, so if Basil were to happen to die before that happens, it’ll lack the ample setup that Darius had with the mark and Steve will have to do some serious dancing to keep it from feeling too deus ex machina. But we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.

As far as to whether to come back from the dead or not… I can see both sides of that coin. On one hand, being able to go on this journey with a character and watch them change and sometimes become something you didn’t even expect is one of the best things about this game. You tend to remember the journey more than you remember any one particular roll of the dice. So you hate to walk away from a character you’ve put a lot into.

On the other hand… for a full adventure path, at the pace we play, that’s a 2-3 year commitment to playing the same character every week, and sometimes you get into a bit of a rut. Trying something new can be a bit tempting. I will say that Steve’s path forward, in this case, seems like a “best of both worlds” solution – Rob’s character will still be Mostly Darius but will do enough new things to give him a bit of a fresh coat of paint.

Back in the show, Darius naturally has questions when he returns to the land of the living, and Papa Varus is the most likely source of answers, so the gang sets up a meeting at Louder’s Chowder. We learn a few interesting things from this meeting. The first was not that unexpected – it turns out that Darius and Alhara’s mom wasn’t just “hanging around with pirates” or whatever story they were told last time; it turns out she was a full-fledged member of the Red Mantis Assassins, and when she was away from the family, she was off killing people. It’s interesting… in our group chat, the Circus Folk thought this was some big revelation; I just ASSUMED that was the case once Achakaek was in play. Second – and this might be the biggest revelation – the nature of the connection to Darius’ mark suggests that their mom might not actually be dead. And whether she is or not, Papa Varus just told the kids that to avoid uncomfortable questions. Lastly, there was a bit of a self-serving info dump about how their dad knew Mistress Dusklight was bad news and tried to rein her in a little bit over the years.

And here’s where I have to give Vanessa a lot of credit for her roleplaying choices. It’s tempting to play our characters as heroic, emotionally stoic people who kinda rise above it all and be the bigger person in all circumstances. “I’m a HERO, therefore nothing should phase me, even the betrayal of a parent.” But you know what… Vanessa played it REAL and I give her credit for that. She allowed Alhara to be mad at her father and call him on his bullshit. Because lying to your kids about their mother being dead is kinda crappy, and given what Mistress Dusklight has done JUST since they got to Escadar, his “reining her in” doesn’t seem like it accomplished anything, did it? (If this was him reining her in, how awful would she have been WITHOUT his influence?) It would’ve been so easy to just shove that all under the rug in the name of “family togetherness” and “let’s all rally around Darius in his hour of need”, and I applaud Vanessa for taking it to a place that’s a little rougher, but also a little more authentic.

For that matter, give I should give Rob T. a cap tip as well. It’s hard to put a finger on, but he’s playing “the same but different” really well so far. There are moments where he seems like Business As Usual Darius, and then he’ll throw in a moment where he’s cold and distant and he really conveys this sense that he’s not all the way there. I really felt it in his interactions with Hap, in particular.

So as we approach the end of the episode, it’s time to go back into the temple and clear out those last few rooms. (Loved Loren’s joke about punching the time clock. Sometimes it does feel that way, doesn’t it?) I guess next week we’ll get to see what the New and Improved(?) Darius can do in combat; hopefully, he won’t go full Suirad and start chopping heads off. 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.