Balance – Episode 29: The Crystal Kingdom: Chapter One

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Where is our campaign going next? Off to an amusement park? A haunted... candy factory? I don't know! It's the Adventure Zone!

—The Announcer

"The Crystal Kingdom: Chapter One," as it appears on the MaximumFun website, is the 29th episode of The Adventure Zone: Balance.

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Full transcript available here.

A new adventure begins! Join our heroes as they host a relatively successful office holiday party, and mourn as that party gets totally sidelined by a potential apocalypse. Magnus puts his carpentry to good use. Taako perfects his macaroon recipe. Merle does some re-gifting.

The episode begins with a Quick Dad Health Check: Clint thanks the listeners for the outpouring of love, and also a little bit of hatred. Griffin thinks Clint sounds like two big piles of garbage rubbing together, but Travis thinks he has an interesting jazz-blues voice. They then exclaim “content” several times before moving on to the plot.

The DM asks the trio what they got each other… because it’s Candlenights! Griffin, Justin, and Travis catch up their dad on Candlenights and describe it as a new holiday that is not only better than Christmas, but has absorbed Christmas, and Hanukkah, and every other holiday. Across the panreligious Faerun, Candlenights is a combination of the world’s numerous seasonal holidays. It involves gift-giving and some kind of lush plant.

It’s two or three months after their promotion, and the three reclaimers are in their new dorm suite, located on the bottom floor of the moon base. They now each have their own bedroom, attached to a shared living room, on the floor of which is a large window with a view of the world below. Travis has a real, physical reaction to this concept, so Justin has Taako throw a rug over it. They’ve thrown a Candlenights party, and invited many of the essential personnel: The Director, a tipsy Avi, Killian, and Johann. Angus wasn’t invited, but as a sleuth, he deduced that they were having a party and came anyway.

Johann approaches and gives each of them gifts. Magnus has carved a small wooden figure of Johann, and when asked where he got the wood, he reveals it was from Johann’s favorite rosewood violin. Johann is rightfully angry at all three of them. Merle argues that he only stole the violin from Johann’s room, and Taako says he had nothing to do with the whole thing, and has made some macarons, which are “actually really good”, according to Johann. Magnus finally admits he was joking and gives him back his violin. Johann gives them each a small bronze music box. It’s his mixtape, and it’s fire. Taako says that if they meet Fantasy Rick Ross they’ll give one to him.

Killian comes over and gives them each hand-carved personalized whetstones in the shape of ducks, as ducks are her favorite. Magnus gives her a carved wooden duck, eventually revealing that he read her diary to find this out. Taako gives her a macaron, and her reaction is “damn”. Merle tells Killian that they know she like like LIKES Johann. Griffin intervenes and says they can’t put that into the slashiverse, but Killian blushes.

Avi gives the three small bottles of brandywine, and Magnus gives him a board for beer tasting. Taako offers macarons, but Avi says he’s on the Atkins diet. Taako informs him that it’s fine, he replaced the ground almonds with chicharrones, or pork rinds, and the castor sugar with Splenda. Avi says he can taste the “artificially-sweetened pork accidents”. Merle gives him a “trick tract”.

Angus is next, and gives them books, to their dismay. They’re different installments in the young adult mystery series, Caleb Cleveland: Kid Cop. It’s a very important series to Angus, and taught him a lot about “checking things out, solving crimes, and cracking clues”. Magnus's gift to Angus is to stop playing keepaway with his things, although he does stick a Kick Me sign on his back. Merle kicks him. Taako gives him three spoons from his grandfather’s lost stolen collection. (“It took me a while to buy these back… from where we lost ‘em. Don’t think about that too much.”) Angus declares his personal quest to recover the remaining 44 knives, forks, and pieces of flatware, and possibly uncover a dark secret about the universe in the process. Merle gives him the duck whetstone, and we find out Angus also likes ducks. As he walks away, Taako chucks a macaron at his head.

The Director gives them each their Candlenights bonus, envelopes with 200 gold pieces inside. (“I didn’t really think about the delivery mechanism quite so much.”) She doesn’t expect gifts from them, as she is their employer, and that would be inappropriate. Magnus hands her a coupon for one free backrub, which she calls “the nightmare scenario”. Taako offers her elderflower macarons, and she responds “Hot diggity shit. That is a baller cookie.” and asks for his secret. (It’s to grind up the almonds really fine, and to get the filling thick enough so the macarons can stand on their sides while staying together.) Merle tries to give her his music box, but she’s already gotten a “fiery tape” from Johann and is onto him.

Magnus gives Taako and Merle chairs that can double as indoor toilets, which he carved from his own two hands. When the Director points out that it’s awkward that they didn’t get him anything, Merle tries to give him his copy of Caleb Cleveland, and when that doesn’t work, one of Taako’s macarons. Taako gives each of them macarons, and when Magnus eats his, he receives +2 AC (according to Travis).

There’s one present left underneath the Candlenights shrub, and it’s addressed to all three of them. Magnus opens it. It’s a small velvet-lined box, and inside are three iron-on badges. They feature dark blue circular emblems, and a word in the center in an unknown language. A note in the box reads “for your eyes only”. The Director, who is still there, asks them about it. First Merle claims it’s a James Bond movie, then Magnus says it’s pornography. Taako is the only honest one and tells her it says “for your eyes only”, and she is concerned about a possible security risk. Before she can do anything, however, the pendant on her necklace glows and a voice coming from it says “Lucretia”. The Director is mortified at having her first name revealed, and mutters questions into her necklace. She walks off, having a loud and intense conversation with whoever is speaking to her through the pendant. Johann, directed by Magnus, plays “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers in a minor key, which does not do much to lighten the mood. Eventually, the Director walks back and orders Avi to move the base to specific coordinates, south of their current location.

The Director explains that her necklace is a Stone of Far Speech. She’s speaking to Lucas, the Bureau’s scientific advisor, also known as the guy who was an asshole to the Voidfish. They all spend a moment complaining about him. Lucas has found a grand relic, the Philosopher’s Stone, and had been experimenting on it in secret. Lucas has been inoculated by the Voidfish, but is not a member of the Bureau of Balance and is not authorized to work with relics. Lucas tells them that something is possessing the stone, and has turned the exterior of his floating lab into pink tourmaline. The lab is slowly sinking due to its increased weight, and if it hits the Stillwater Sea, the crystal will spread and cover the entire planet. Lucas is trapped in his medbay, protected from the crystal by his lab’s many arcane airlocks. They have approximately 82 minutes until the lab hits the sea.

When Lucas is off the line, the Director informs the three that their mission falls under normal parameters, and orders them not to let Lucas near the relic. She tells Killian to get the regulators together to detain and extract Lucas. The Director emphasizes that they may have to kill Lucas to keep him from using the stone.

Davenport appears to provide comedic relief, and does a goofy holiday dance. The Director orders him to read the room, and Taako throws a “Davenport-flavored” macaron into his mouth. Davenport responds happily “mmmmmmmmDavenport!”

Taako, Magnus, and Merle head to Leon the Artificer, who shows them the null suits: inventions of Lucas that are basically space suits that can be made impervious to certain types of magic. The three deliberate over color choices, none of which are available options. They then meet Killian and the other members of her team: a dragonborn woman named Carey Fangbattle and a gruff, cigar-smoking dwarf named Boyland. The reclaimers spend a good amount of time making fun of both his name and his grizzled appearance.

Lucas, speaking again through the Director’s pendant, describes the layout of his lab and the location of the medbay. He asks the reclaimers to shut down the chambers they pass through, to save power that can be used to buy them more time. Angus speaks through their Stones of Far Speech, telling them to be careful. Taako asks Angus if he can “butch it up a little” and make his voice a little deeper, but this is not successful. The Director gives them her pendant so they can communicate, and Carey asks if they’re ready to get busy living or get busy dying. (Merle: “Wait… dying?”)

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  • Despite pronouncing macaron as "macaroon," the cooking process Taako describes is for macarons, which are almond-based sandwich cookies rather than coconut mounds. Ambient dialogue in a later episode reveals that Justin doesn't know the name difference between the two different cookies.
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