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The Sideshow S2|37: Fascination Street

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S2|37: Irritable Alhara Syndrome.

Call back the search planes, take my face off the milk cartons… I’m still here. I just had a double-whammy back-to-school week (my job is in higher-ed, and I also have a high-school senior to deal with at home) that included being at work until midnight at least one night, so my brain turned to mush and I crashed hard when it was over. Sorry about that.

We pick things up at the oubliette with the big reveal… OK, maybe more of a medium reveal. It’s none of the big game-changers I hypothesized about at the end of last week’s column, but it is a potential new act for the show… Ufi the Aquakineticist. He’s an Azerketi with water-based powers, and he doesn’t even need any convincing to switch teams because… well… Mistress Dusklight keeps him locked in an oubliette and tortures him as part of the show. So yeah… he wants out. And just as an “ohbytheway” observation, he bears more than a passing resemblance from Namor from Marvel comics.

This also gives us our second entry in the Bizarro Party: Bizarro Hap. (I can’t be the only one thinking of the “Bizarro Jerry” episode of Seinfeld where Elaine meets a new group of friends who are more well-adjusted doppelgangers of Jerry, George, and Kramer… right?) Last week we met our replacement Darius (Evora the orc) and now we get more of a Reverse Hap. And that’s really the only problem: we haven’t established a consistent theme here. Our little team of hypothetical replacements can’t decide whether it wants to be Similar-But-With-A-Twist or polar opposites. We’re going to need to sort all this out so we can know whether to look for ANOTHER broody goth or a refugee from My Little Pony as our spare Ateran. (Waitasec… maybe when the dryad cheers up, she’ll have a festive floral thing going! Maybe we ALREADY met our Bizarro Ateran and just didn’t know it yet!)

Needless to say, Replacement Alhara will also be a swashbuckler, but an enormously cautious one who insists other people go through the door first. And doesn’t really like working out.

With the oubliette dealt with, it’s time to get back to the main search path. On our next stop, we find the Stockholm Syndrome Sideshow… it’s a collection of sideshow acts who want to leave but are also SO afraid of Mistress Dusklight they won’t even leave until our heroes prove Dusklight has been eliminated. At least Carmine has a semi-logical reason… she won’t leave until she gets her stuff back… but the rest are just dug in until this gets resolved one way or another. So… neutralize Dusklight and bring her whip back to free everyone. For now, put a pin in it.

Next up, we’re up for Round Two with the Wheel of Doom. After Steve steps all over Vanessa’s Daenerys Targaryen joke (twice), “Happenstance Margaret Johnson” (THIS IS CANON NOW) decides to take a new approach, coming at the wheel from above and behind. Not only does she dodge the wheel’s effects and retrieve a magic item, but she also teaches us a little something new about the rulebook. It turns out that although Mage Hand is the spell of choice for moving things around, you can also use Prestidigitation to lift items of light bulk. Learn something new every day.

With the wheel FORMALLY bypassed, it’s back to the “main” path toward Mistress Dusklight, which means passing through the cloud-filled tent. And here’s where we end up filling our combat quota for the session. We meet a creature that initially appears to be a lillend, which is a chaotic good celestial. But nope, she’s “just” a lamia matriarch with some fake wings stapled on her… and she’s got a buddy hiding in the clouds, and they go on the attack. Fun, fun, fun.

Now… I guess this is the “big argument” we were told to expect in the show notes, and I dunno… maybe it’s because I’m used to Edgewatch standards of disagreeing with the GM, but that felt a little underwhelming. I mean, where I come from, it’s not really a disagreement unless three or four curse words have been deployed and someone goes dark and walks away from the session for at least 10 minutes.

As to the meat of the debate… I think Steve may have misread the rule a little. The second stanza of the fascinated condition is:

You can’t use actions with the concentrate trait unless they or their intended consequences are related to the subject of your fascination (as determined by the GM).

Now at the end of the day, the “as determined by the GM” overrules everything else and makes Steve correct, because it was ultimately his interpretation. But just to be contrarian and go with a “plain-text” reading of the rules, the text of the condition contains no real value judgment about positive or negative actions, it JUST means the fascinated person locks their attention on the… fascinatee? I’ll grant that the word “fascinated” has a positive connotation in real life which IMPLIES you wouldn’t attack such a person, but by letter of the rule, the ONLY thing fascinated does is draw someone’s attention away from others and to that person.

I went looking for some additional references to try and understand the rule better, and stumbled on the creature statblock for the K’nonna, from The Mwangi Expanse. One of their quirks is that if you offer a K’nonna a gift of more than 50gp value, they can become fascinated until the end of the next turn and cannot attack while fascinated (emphasis mine). If the fascinated condition INNATELY ruled out hostile actions against the caster, there would be no reason to state that second part; it would be redundant. I think that means that fascinate is ONLY drawing attention – making the fascinated creature oblivious to other dangers in the area.

But like I said, that’s one where the GM literally gets the final call, so… continue.

What the lamia matriarchs DO with their free time is double down on concealment. First, they pull out the old Chris Beemer Special and cast Mirror Image. (He hasn’t played a caster in a while, but Mirror Image was almost always the first spell he cast in any combat.) Then they follow that up with Blur, which makes the concealment apply even when they’re not in the clouds.

However, Darius in particular has a trick up his sleeve. ACHAKAEK POWERS… ACTIVATE! He breaks out his first use of True Strike, which negates ALL vision-modifying effects, including seeing through the mirror images and hitting the authentic target. Piggyback that with ki strike, and “boom goes the dynamite”, as the Young People say.

So the one fighting Darius is almost completely removed from the fight with one shot and soon finished off by Riley getting another kill-shot – he does seem to have a bit of a knack for that. He’s turning into the Big Shot Bob of the group. (Sorry… sports reference. Robert Horry… aka “Big Shot Bob”… was a basketball player who had an uncanny knack for making clutch shots in the late seconds of playoff games.) The second lamia hangs around a little longer but eventually decides Mistress Dusklight isn’t worth getting killed over and gets out of Dodge.

And that’s where we’ll pick it up next time. NOW do we get to fight the big boss? Come back next week and find out. 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.