Balance – Episode 54: The Suffering Game: Chapter Four

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I don't think our boys are having much fun playing The Suffering Game. Maybe their luck will improve in Round Two! But probably not! It's the Adventure Zone!

—The Announcer

"The Suffering Game: Chapter Four," as it appears on the MaximumFun website, is the 54th episode of The Adventure Zone: Balance.

Synopsisedit | hide all | hide | edit source

Full transcript available here.

After Round One of The Suffering Game, our heroes aren't doing too great -- and with another turn of the Wheel ahead, the future's not especially bright, either. Can they keep their heads up (and on) to power through? Magnus makes an invisible friend. Merle charms the crowd. Taako makes 'em laugh.

The Tres Horny Boys have just gotten out of a kerfuffle with some dire bears and slimes. With them now is their new bodyless friend, Cam, who they'll have to cover for during the next few sacrifices. In order to get to the next room, the boys must, once again, sacrifice something to the Wheel of Sacrifice.

Rules: The boys must sacrifice things to the Wheel of Sacrifice until all the lights above the exit door light up. If they refuse a sacrifice, they'll get a penalty.

  • Merle:Eye

The male elf explains that the penalty for this round is that Merle will have to give up one of his eyeballs. Merle asks if he'll at least get a cool eyepatch if he does so, which the elves feel is only fair. Merle gives up his left eye, and with a poof it's gone. A white ball containing an diamond-shaped eyepatch stylized to look like an owl appears in front of him. Merle puts on the eyepatch.

  • Magnus:Clock

The female elf explains to Magnus that he will have to sacrifice 10 years of his life. Griffin asks what Magnus' age is, and Travis tells him that he's 32. Magnus says yes to the sacrifice, and he ages to 42 years old. His muscles become slightly lankier, and his hair becomes somewhat grayer, including, according to Travis, his pubes.

  • Taako:Body

For this, the male elf explains, Taako will have to give up some of his vitality. Taako allows the two liches to take some of his life, and 15 is subtracted from his max HP. Looking on the bright side, Justin figures that, if Taako dies during this arc, at least he'll get his Tuesday afternoons back. Still not caring what happens to him, Taako tries to spin the wheel again. Merle stops him before he can, however, and goes to spin the wheel instead.

While Merle attempts to maneuver the Wheel, Magnus feels something poke the palm of his hand, and as he reflexively pull his hand away, he feels it again, only some sort of force is like pressing down into his hand and moving in sort of deliberate strokes. Magnus allows this strange force to continue stroking the palm of his hand, and, after a dozen or more repetitions, is able to decipher that this is Thieves' Cant, the secret written language of symbols that thieves use to communicate with each other that Carey taught him during his thief training. Right now the force is making two symbols that mean silence, which warns potential burglars of nearby listening marks, and confirm, which thieves use to ensure that other thieves have seen their message. Magnus, using his left hand, moves his finger in the shape of confirm. The force responds with a secret symbol-

GRIFFIN : -which thieves use to sort of like- Well I mean it’s a very thief-like- the symbol that they are trying to remain, you know, incognito.
JUSTIN : We know what secrets are, Griffin, thank you so much for this.

The force marks confirm a second time, and Magnus makes the same shape back. The force marks on Magnus' palm the number one and then the shape for room, which means one room (obviously). It then makes a symbol that means that magic forces are afoot, and then the symbol for room again, and then the symbol for transformation. Which means 'magic room transformation' (obviously). The mysterious force sends one last message to Magnus, marking a symbol that thieves use to let each other know that they should wait for some sort of signal before they proceed with whatever job they're about to do, and then confirm. Magnus confirms back, and Merle finally manages to spin the wheel.

  • Merle:Chance

The female elf explains that, for Chance, Merle will have to sacrifice to the Wheel a certain number of things that the two liches believe are sufficient enough to sacrifice. Merle first lays down his Adamant Spanner, which is the only item that's worked for him for the last couple arcs.

GRIFFIN : Okay. And that’s it?
CLINT : [long pause] And-

Merle sacrifices his wedding ring next, which he's apparently had around his neck this entire the entire campaign and possibly costs 5000 gold. Yes. Lastly, he throws in his battleaxe proficiency, which he hasn't needed to use since the first arc.

MALE ELF: And that’s uhhhh, that’s it huh? That’s all you're uh- That's all you’re gonna give up?
JUSTIN: Oh, he's fucking with you, dad, don’t let him push you around.
EDWARD: If that’s what you wanna give up, that’s fine, that might be enough I- hmm.
MERLE: Final answer.

Merle sets the Adamant Spanner and the wedding ring on the Wheel of Sacrifice, and they sink into the Wheel. Suddenly, Merle remembers his teen years in the wooded enclave that he and his Druidic, Pan-worshipping family lived in. One of the members of the enclave was attacked by a bear and just barely survived, sending a real scare through the community and causing teen Merle to start to struggle with his own mortality. And so teen Merle went to a woodsman who lived in the woods, who was not a part of the enclave, and for years and years this woodsman trained Merle to wield an axe so he could better protect himself.

GRIFFIN: He was sort of, one of the first sort of figures that sort of showed you what life was like outside of this sheltered enclave, and while you're thinking of this, you are having a hard time remembering what his face looked like, and then you can’t remember anything about him, and then you don’t remember any of that part of your life at all, and it’s just gone.
CLINT : I really hate this arc, I just wanted to pass along to you, Griffin.

[Money Zone]

The fourth green light above the door lights up and the big, heavy stone door opens up. Cam comes out of the Pocket Workshop so he can thank the boys for taking his sacrifice, but freaks out when he notices how much older Magnus looks.

MAGNUS : What do you mean?
CAM: You're grey, you're all old- You're an old man now.
MAGNUS : This is how I looked before!
CAM: I guess I just wasn’t paying attention.
MAGNUS : Yeah. Dick.
CLINT: Let me preemptively interrupt all the tweets that I will be sending– 42 is not old! Okay, go on.

Before they move on, Magnus makes the Thieves' Cant symbol for room, trap, and confirm. The unseen force confirms back. The boys walk through the door and into another huge, circular chamber with a single pedestal containing two buttons and a screen with the boys' faces on it wrapped around it. The male elf announces that its time for another round of Trust or Forsake. Taako quickly casts Mage Hand and smacks the Forsake button, but nothing happens as the buttons aren't turned on yet. Magnus asks the two elves if Wonderland is just an endless loop of "spin the wheel, choose a forsake or whatever, fight some monsters, spin a wheel, forsake". They explain that loop isn't really the right word as it implies there's no finish line, which they assure there is, and their prize is waiting at the end of it! Taako asks how many prizes they've passed out this year, and they tell him probably a good thirty prizes or so.

MAGNUS : Bullshit.
TAAKO : I don’t believe you.
MERLE : Lying lychee.

Taako rolls an insight check and discovers that, yeah, they're definitely lying. The screen lands on Taako, and Taako steps up to the pedestal. Cam tries to convince Taako to press forsake, but Taako's already hellbent on pressing forsake anyways, so he doesn't really need much convincing. Magnus tries to reason with him by stating that doing so will fuck over the other players, but Taako, remembering what happened the last time they picked Trust, throws back that he doesn't give a shit and presses Forsake. The LED screen shows that the other players chose... Trust!

TAAKO: Hell yeah!

Some confetti falls from the ceiling, and the display showing the results disappears. A large, black door appears in front of the group, and the boys and Cam head onwards. The boys step forward into the next chamber and as they enter the doorway they step foot onto a five foot square of white light that has the words 'start' printed on it. The door behind them disappears, and they hear a loud click as a blue square the same size illuminates in front of them, and then another, and then a green square, that has something written on it. This pattern continues with all these multicoloured squares just sort of appearing, forming a winding path around the group until they're standing in a board game. As the boys look down they realise this platform is slightly elevated in the air and the floor is covered in a bubbling green liquid. Above them, the ceiling is clouded with a swarm of bats that are all squealing, and some of the bats start to fly down in their direction, but then everything sort of freezes. 

MALE ELF: Oh dear, this shouldn't have– this shouldn’t have manifested this way, you won the last round; pardon our mess!

A cloud of black smog, the same smog that comes out the boys when they complain about things, lowers down from the ceiling like a curtain, and the boardgame is gone. Instead, the room is re-outfitted and instead of standing on the start square of a board game, the boys are standing behind podiums. Bright lights shine in their faces, and coming in the direction of these lights is the thunderous applause from a large studio audience. The boys around, and they realize they're standing on the garishly decorated set of a game show.

EDWARD: Live from the inescapable depths of Wonderland, it’s time for another round of Heart Attack, the heroic dating show. And here's your hosts, Lydia and Edward!

The crowd roars as the two elves, wearing crimson, and silver, and gold pantsuits alongside big sunglasses, appear in front of the boys and start vogueing. Lydia welcomes the group to Heart Attack, where the three boys will compete for their chance at love! Magnus tries to bail out, but Lydia tells him that's not an option. Taako tries to point out that the elves did just say that Wonderland is "inescapable", and a little bit of black comes out of his mouth as he says it. However, this time, instead of floating up into the ceiling and disappearing, the black smog jerks in a 90 degree angle and follows a different path, as if it's being siphoned off by something, and it disappears. The boys see, behind a screen, a human-shaped or elf-shaped silhouette that's clearly just a mannequin, which is being made to act all flirty like. Edward explains that the boys will be asked questions that test their compatibility with the show's hot new "contestant", aka. the mannequin. The silhouette blows the boys a kiss, and Magnus instantly starts refusing to play the game. The black smog comes out of Magnus' mouth as he rants, and he watches as it is siphoned off again by a mysterious force. The two elves look to see where Magnus is staring, and the force stops siphoning and makes the shape for another Thieves' Cant symbol in Magnus' palm that means that the time is not right. It makes the symbol for confirm, and Magnus confirms back. Magnus tells the liches that he's willing to play.

Question 1: What is your ideal first date?edit | hide | edit source

Contestant 1:

MAGNUS : Oh, gosh. Uh... let's see. I would say, I pick them up, you know, roundabout sundown, uh, and then we– catch fireflies. And then I take them home, and we don't see each other again, ‘cause I'm really not interested in dating.
AUDIENCE : [exaggerated] Ooooooooooh!~~ [cheers]
GRIFFIN : The silhouette is like, fanning itself.
LYDIA : Playing hard to get, huh? It seems like our contestant is into that.

Contestant 2:

MERLE : Alright, I let her pick me up. I mention to her that I- 'Uh, gosh I forgot my wallet at home,' even though we're in like the front yard. I volunteer to drive her vehicle, and tell her it's filthy, and so we go through the uh- drive through vehicle wash and she pays for that too. Um, and then I take her to have dinner with my family and-
TRAVIS : Wait, like your wife and stuff?
MERLE : She meets my ex-wife; it does not- it really kind of sucks, um, and then, uhh, she's having a miserable time and she's really mad, she can't wait to get outta there. I take her back to her house, and so I lean up against the door jam and say, 'Sure you don't want me to come in for a few minutes?' and she slams the door in my face.
AUDIENCE : [exaggerated] Ooooooooooh!~~ [applause]
TRAVIS : That's your ideal first date?
EDWARD : I love your honesty!

Question 2: You and our contestant are on a date, and one of your fans recognises you on the street. How do you respond to that situation?edit | hide | edit source

Contestant 3:

TAAKO : Well you know I really- My fans come first, so I would definitely sign whatever, pose for fantasy pictures, not fantasy pictures but fantasy pic– you know, ‘cause there's not cameras? I don't mean fantastical pictures, I just mean like whatever passes for a camera in this reality-
CLINT : I think it’s drawing, isn’t it?
TAAKO : Drawing, yeah. If they wanna draw me like their French girls that’s fine. You know, I would just make sure the fan got what they were looking for, ‘cause they come first, I need everyone I can get at this point, honestly.
GRIFFIN : Uh, it's absolutely silent in the studio. [laughs] And you see the silhouette cross its shadowy arms and kind of tap its foot from behind the sheet.
EDWARD : Kind of an airball there, kind of a brick. That's okay, we'll get 'em on the next round.

Contestant 1:

MAGNUS : What does the fan want? Are they just like, 'Hey Magnus!'
EDWARD : The question seemed pretty clear.
MAGNUS : Well, but I mean, the interaction varies, ‘cause if they just want, like, a wave and “ah hey,” I keep going. If they want me to stop and, like, sign a chair or something, whittle them a small duck, um– that might be inconvenient based on my schedule. Do we have dinner reservations, are we trying to get somewhere in a certain amount of time? I need more- There's a lot of parameters in every social interaction!
AUDIENCE : [boos]
MAGNUS : Oh, okay. Um, I guess what I mean to say is.. Since I was with my date first, they would take priority.
GRIFFIN : The audience is now whistling, and clapping, and laughing for you. They're overjoyed, and the silhouette is fanning itself again, the silhouette is feeling Magnus.

Question 3: Why shouldn't the contestant choose your two competitors?edit | hide | edit source

Contestant 2:

MERLE : Well, because um, I mean look at Magnus. I mean, even though he's in his forties, he's kept himself up. He's in magnificent shape, and would– would not be a gentle lover-
GRIFFIN : Jeezy creezy.
JUSTIN : I regret this entire podcast.
MERLE : Taako is, he's too much into his work. Always chopping, always salt, always making sauces, um, and you know, when he's not cooking, he's studying about cooking, so there wouldn't be any time left for– for you. Whereas I am so old. I only got one arm. I don’t have a lot going on I'll do nothing but pay attention to ya.

Contestant 3:

TAAKO : Um... it’s me. [laughter] Hi, I'm Taako…? You know, from T.V.?

The crowd breaks out into uproarious applause, and a chair actually comes fucking flying out from the audience and slides across the set. However, the silhouette does not seem to be as impressed, so Taako casts Tasha's Hideous Laughter on it. The silhoutte fails its wisdom saving throw, and starts laughing so hard it falls from its chair and loses it head. Like' literally loses its head. The mannequin picks up its head and laughs at that, and the silhouette begins flailing around in maniacal laughter, in weird, inscrutable ways. The audience sees the silhouette doing all this and they too start laughing at the scene happening before them.

While the boys are busy being freaked out by this horrifying sight, the lights on the stage start to lower a bit, and the two elves turn to Magnus and they ask him, "What makes a true hero"? Without warning him, Taako casts True Seeing on Magnus. Magnus' vision changes and he sees that the audience is just a bunch of fairly intricately put together wooden marionette. As Magnus sees this, Taako shouts-

TAAKO : You know what? Fuck all of this. This fucking sucks- I'm done playing.

And a bit of black smoke comes out of his mouth. Magnus turns to the liches and sees that, instead of looking like beautiful elves, their true forms look like semi-skeletal figures in black robe with a faint red light coming out from where their faces would be. And standing just slightly in front of Magnus is the same Red Robe that Magnus and the others encountered in Goldcliff and at Lucas' Lab.

GRIFFIN : And he is standing there, and you see him sort of siphoning off that black cloud as Taako is sort of projecting it into the atmosphere, and the other two liches don't seem to see him; it seems like you are the only one that can see him with your truesight, and he looks over and realises that he can see you, and that you can see each other, and you just see this Red Robe put a single, skeletal finger, to its non-existent lips.

[Theme Tune Plays]

The Money Zoneedit | hide | edit source

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