The Sideshow S3|06: The Dogs and Pony Show - Roll For Combat

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The Sideshow S3|06: The Dogs and Pony Show

Jason recaps the events from Three Ring Adventure S3|06: Golarion Ninja Warrior.

OK, so it’s circus week. Did NOT expect that.

I thought “check in on the circus” was going to be a simple “stop by, give Marcel some orders, go back out on the road for a few days” thing. I didn’t realize we were actually going to put a performance together. And a performance under new rules, at that.

First, Steve said that going in, two people really wanted to do the circus and two wanted to move on. I am ABSOLUTELY 100% certain Loren was one of the ones who wanted to do it – she LOVES stuff like that — and I’m about 85% sure Rob T. was one of the move-ons. I just don’t know who the second enthusiastic one is. I feel like it might be Vanessa going in, but Rob P. kind of has a “still waters run deep” thing going on where it’s hard to get a read on what he’ll decide to dig deep on.

So let’s talk about the circus subsystem a little bit. Now I should caveat here: normally, I’m VERY much a “you shouldn’t complain unless you’re also going to offer a solution” person, but I don’t really have an answer here. But what I do have is a deadline and a word count, so I’m gonna wade in anyway.

It always struck me that there were two major issues with the existing system. First, the “secondary” activities tended to feel like busy-work and didn’t add a lot to the gaming experience – Roll… For… Buying A Larger Tent! The act of putting on the show has always been the sizzle on the steak. The second was that the system incentivized going all-out until you hit a certain point, at which point shifting gears and playing it safe became the smart play. Once you got the Anticipation and Excitement needles lined up where you wanted them, you were almost just better off just ending the show there than trying to do anything else. It seems to me that the ideal system should have you going all-out for the best performance possible; if you weren’t doing so, something was off about the incentives.

So I think Steve’s choices are a good first-pass at addressing those two concerns. No more secondary tasks was an easy obvious fix, and the circus performance is now basically pass-fail. The second problem could still be an issue if you have really good rolls for the first few acts and “run up the score”, but it’s a first attempt. Time will tell if those are the RIGHT fixes, but they do address those areas.

So we begin. First of all, I chuckled at Steve dropping them on the same map from the Escadar camp. In my brain, I started imagining a scenario where Kalkek snuck aboard their ship and followed them to Cortos. Wouldn’t that be entertaining?

I also love that Mistdancer turns out to be such a freakin’ diva and the whole back and forth with Darius. If you think about it, it was probably a little unrealistic that you could grab 4 or 5 acts from the other circus, drop them into the existing lineup, and NO ONE would have a problem with their stage time. So it seems fitting that somebody would’ve complained. That it was the FLYING HORSE is just the cherry on the sundae.

So we begin the show with a tent full of shoonies, and first up is Alhara’s obstacle course. (OK, this seems well-thought-out, maybe she’s the other one who wanted to go all-out.) Now, I realize Golarion is a world without ambulance chasers or medical waivers, but should we really be risking audience lives on this venture? Couldn’t the clowns do it or something? Or hell… send in The Artist Formerly Known As Jellico Bounce-Bounce: Vanessa’s looking for a reason to kill him off anyway.

And as the performance moves along, none of the audience members die, but we begin to establish the theme of the evening – good performance, weak finish. Not enough to ruin the whole show, but enough to be annoying.

Rob T. takes the helm as Matchstick Flynn, and manages to ad-lib a pretty good show, though again… botches the ending. And then Mistdancer ups the ante by failing entirely. Man, she’s going through a whole character arc, isn’t she? Will she experience growth and come back stronger next time? Will she have a Top Gun moment where she has to grip Goose’s dog-tags before she tries to perform again? Will Darius lift her spirits by proclaiming that he’d fly with her anytime?

So, the circus is beginning to come off the rails a little, and Hap’s up. Hap’s performance is a fun little thing where she starts to pull in some of her original bardic inspirations (haven’t seen that in a while), and it starts to lift the overall score up. We’re finally moving in a positive direction, just in time for the big finale.

Mammoth Lady actually seems to do pretty well. Dude. She can lift her mammoth. Who doesn’t want to see that?

Vanessa plays Namor and does pretty well also. As an aside, I think Vanessa should’ve had Fish-Boy perform Hap’s act IN ITS ENTIRETY, but using water. That would’ve been hilarious.

And now it’s Ateran’s turn, and OK… Rob P. is clearly the other person who was loaded for bear because he’s got a whole thing written out. NOBODY JUST AD-LIBS “CARDAMOM” OFF THE TOP OF THEIR HEAD. I love the visuals of his performance, with a smoky rendition of their adventures so far. Very imaginative. And then… again, botched ending… not enough for the audience to know it, but enough to Ateran off internally.

But when the smoke clears (literally and figuratively), it’s a successful performance. The mostly-shoony crowd leaves happy, our team will make some money, and their reputation will grow for next time. Good job!

Meanwhile, not much happens with the main storylines. The entity that’s been haunting Vandy doesn’t return, and we learn that maybe there’s a MILD connection to people who got in trouble with the law or people who were generally assholes, but it’s not really enough to call a lead. (Do we have a version of the Punisher that’s turned off by bad manners instead of crime?) So I guess we’ll get back to that next week after the tents are packed up for the next town.

(Also as an aside: during the part where they were talking about visiting four different cities, I proposed that the merch site needs a “Circus of Wayward Wonders” tour shirt with different cities and dates. Always loved tour shirts just because they were artifacts of THAT particular show; you could even point to it on the back of the shirt and say “yeah, I was at that one”. But we probably need to wait for a few more dates, because right now it would only have like, 3 or 4 entries.)

So next week, we’ll get back to our main mysteries. Maybe Vandy’s stalker will show, or maybe our team will head up to Matten Cleave and check out the first tower. Maybe both! I’ve given up trying to guess at this point. 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 see you next week.