The Sideshow S2|35: Time To Pick A Side - Roll For Combat

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The Sideshow S2|35: Time To Pick A Side

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|35: Captive Wonders.

Last week I was a little frustrated because the “have fun storming the castle” episode turned into making sure all our paperwork was properly filled out. I get that I’s had to be dotted and T’s had to be crossed, but it felt like a letdown.

But this week we actually head on over to the Celestial Menagerie to collect Mistress Dusklight – either in her entirety, or just her head if she wants to be feisty about it. NOW we’re talking.

And talking.

And talking some more.

Look, I recognize our team has a goal to do this with minimal bloodshed. It’s probably tactically smart to lead with a conciliatory approach because some of Dusklight’s crew may be unenthusiastic about getting killed to protect her. Taking that a step further, I even recognize that there’s an opportunity to siphon off the leavings of the Celestial Menagerie to improve the Circus of Wayward Wonders. Nobody ever said you couldn’t take advantage of a business opportunity while saving the world. So on some level, yes, I understand while they’re proceeding with caution and giving everyone a chance to surrender.

And OK, at a gaming level, every fight you avoid along the way is resources you don’t have to consume. There’s that too.

But at the same time… come on. If this was Edgewatch, those guards would’ve been thumped on the head, and that satyr would’ve been doing something anatomically improbable with that flute faster than Steve could get the “ROLL… FOR… COMBAT” sound effect queued up. Just Sayin’, as the Young People say.

But that’s OK because, at the end of the day, their approach seems to be working. The guards at the front gate decide that dealing with a pissed-off Hap isn’t in their contract and walk away. Probably a smart move, challenge #1 avoided. The satyr is kinda-sorta helping Mistress Dusklight, but still wants to avoid a straight-up fight, so he mostly resigns himself to being an annoying asshat. So basically he’s the Gibzip of the Celestial Menagerie. DO NOT give this guy a job if there’s a circus merge at the end of this mess.

As an aside, I have to give Rob P. a virtual pat on the back for his command of French, as pertains to the concept of an oubliette. Strictly speaking, it’s ANY dungeon with an opening only at the top, but I think Steve was right that the classic oubliette is a small one that restricts the victim’s movements. You leave someone in there to be forgotten… get it, get it? (Sorry… I took all this French in high school; I get giddy when it actually comes in handy.)

So yeah, the Passive-Aggressive Seder Satyr tries to sow discord and lead our team into a trap by promising a secret back entrance, but after indulging him at first, our heroes decide against buying what he’s selling and return to the frontal assault. But I’m still keeping one eye on that dude; I think at some point when things get REALLY hairy, maybe he jumps in as an active combatant and they’re gonna have to fight him anyway.

After a little more reconnaissance, we finally get a small scrap but it’s nothing special… just a manticore that someone set loose. However, it’s severely under-leveled and represents nothing more than an amuse-bouche. I will say I’d mostly been thinking about this confrontation in terms of the sentient humanoids working for Dusklight, so if nothing else, this was a good reminder that “menagerie” does imply the potential of wild animals as well.

Speaking of which, the creature tent where the manticore was stored also contained a dryad and a (caged) pegasus. The lesson of this encounter is that it’s not just a binary choice between “people who will run away” and “people to fight”. There will also be people (and sentient critters) who need to be convinced our heroes are the good guys. After all, I’m sure Dusklight has been filling their heads with all sorts of nonsense… which, OK, I thought it was funny that Hap leaned into it at first and hinted at a proclivity for cannibalism. So you have this dynamic of people who need to be convinced to be rescued (or at least get out of Dodge before the shooting starts). In this case, the dryad is borderline catatonic, but fortunately, Mistdancer harbors dreams of being a social media influencer and as long as our team can give it a stage to perform on, it’ll go wherever the winds are blowing. Once Mistdancer is convinced, he/she/it convinces the dryad to leave as well, so… two more friendlies moved out of the line of fire.

And OK… I don’t want to piss off Loren by saying this, but even if the only thing that comes out of this encounter is that we upgrade from a smelly old bear to a freakin’ PEGASUS… I mean, that’s an absolute win right there. What… I’m the bad guy for pointing out the obvious? (And we haven’t even gotten into the possibility that someone could take feats to bond with it and eventually have it as a mount.)

As we continue to explore, we get our last reminder of the challenges to be faced… we’re gonna have traps too!  In this case, it takes the form of a giant prize wheel that’s been beefed up to lethal levels, casting random spells each time it spins. (And continuing to spin regardless of whether anyone touched it or not.) So there’s one more toy to be dealt with, though that one is where we’ll pick it up next time.

So, OK, on the downside, it’s a bit of a short episode. On the other hand, this episode did manage to give us a good cross-section of the things we’re going to be dealing with on the way to the final encounter. It’s almost like a tutorial episode for the main assault. We’ve got friendlies, hostiles, cowards who can be convinced to run away, skeptics who need to be convinced to let our team help, environmental hazards… there are a lot of moving parts, but we now have a feel for most of them.

And then at the end of all of it, a boss, potentially with multiple subordinates. I think the real success or failure of this mission will depend on whether you have to fight them all at once, or whether you can separate some of them off… MAYBE even turn them without fighting.

The other question mark I find myself thinking about as this starts to unfold: where is Marcel and what role might he play in all of this? On one hand, he’s probably known this day of reckoning was coming, so you’d hope he’d have been working on some plan to turn some people against Dusklight when the time was right. On the other hand, Dusklight would ALSO see Marcel as leverage over the Varus siblings and a wildcard she couldn’t control, so might she have already done something nefarious to Marcel as part of the attack she launched?

I guess we’ll find all of that out in the next week or two. While you’re waiting, 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.