Balance – Episode 55: The Suffering Game: Chapter Five

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Fret not, dear listener! It's always darkest before dawn. Unless, of course, you're locked in some sort of pain dungeon. It's the Adventure Zone!

—The Announcer

"The Suffering Game: Chapter Five," as it appears on the MaximumFun website, is the 55th episode of The Adventure Zone: Balance.

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Full transcript available here.

Strange things are afoot in Wonderland as our heroes find themselves aided by an invisible accomplice -- but will their secret plan pop off before the boys lose something precious to the Wheel? Merle does some costly healing. Taako gets into cosmetics. Magnus forgets.

The Tres Horny Boys are getting some assistance from the unlikeliest of sources, a Red Robe, who Magnus can see clear as day now thanks to Taako casting True Sight on him. The two liches give Magnus the same prompt from the last episode, "Magnus, what does it mean to be a true hero?" Magnus blinks a few times and the True Sight begins to fad-

JUSTIN : I don’t wanna be a rules guy, but he does have True Sight for an hour. So I do not know why that vision would be fading so quickly, uh- when I cast—I cast correct!
CLINT : [laughs]
JUSTIN : Woo ha, woo ha. I’ve got you all in check.
CLINT : I’m gonna re—retweet that.
JUSTIN : We don’t know what dope shit we’re gonna be doing in the next hour, I’m not gonna burn a level 6 spell for your narrative! I’m sorry!

Magnus keeps his True Sight for the next hour, and the Red Robe continues to float expectedly in front of him. Magnus answers the liches question-

MAGNUS : Y'know, if you’d asked me in my younger days, back ten years ago—
CLINT : Or 15 seconds ago.
TRAVIS : Yes, that was the joke, thank you Dad for filling in the punch line!
CLINT : You’re welcome!
MAGNUS : I would’ve told you that what makes a hero is someone who acts, someone who leaps into the fray without thinking. But, y’know, I’ve had some time to think now, and I would say that I’ve grown a little wiser, and I would say that a hero is someone who acts when it counts. Acts at the right moment, acts when it’s needed.

-and the bell rings, signaling the end of this game of "Heart Attack"! The audience applauds Magnus' answer, and a little stinger plays him out as the liches get ready to announce the winner. The screen obscuring the "contestant" drops down to show that it is now collapsed on the floor, still laughing maniacally from Taako's spell. Even the liches are freaked out by this, and decide to call the game a draw. As they begin to leave the room, Edward remembers that they need to check up on the status of the other contestants, and a screen showing Rowan, Antonia, and Lord Artemis Sterling standing on a square labeled "Finish" appears and lights up behind them. Lord Sterling, who seems to have aged up since the last time they saw him, is loudly weeping into Antonia's, who has bandages wrapped around her eyes, lap, and Rowan, who looks completely withered up, merely stares at the boys and mouths the word, "Why?"

TRAVIS : I point at Taako.

The screen cuts off, and Griffin does a quick emoji check-in on the boys' mental and physical well-being. Taako feels bad, emotionally and physically, and is pretty much done with the liches. Magnus is doing pretty great physically, being the party's tank and all, but is pretty much psychologically done with this shit. Merle, in his own words, "Ah, I’m okay. How are you?” The liches notice that the guys are down in the dumps, and decide to give them a Bonus Round! Cam, who is strapped to Taako's shoulder, turns to him and tells him that doing a Bonus Round is what turned him into a disembodied head in the first place, and that he wouldn't recommend it.

TAAKO : Yeah, like, no shit, head!
MAGNUS : Yeah, dog. You’re not like, tellin’ us Oh, what? It might be bad?
TAAKO : So it’s the first part of this game to be unpleasant? Excellent.
GRIFFIN : Edward is kind of like um, awkwardly, like, tapping his fingers together.
EDWARD : It’s kind of– not optional, though.
MAGNUS : I also figured that! Okay!
TAAKO : Obviously.

Another black door leading to the next chamber opens up behind the two liches as they disappear. The boys take a moment to look around the room they're currently in, and find that the audience is also made up of now stationary mannequins. Magnus removes an arm from one of the mannequins, the first step in rebuilding his collection, which he uses to slap the still laughing "contestant" back to its senses, finally causing it to stop laughing. With that out the way, the boys head through the door, where they find themselves in another large circular room. Magnus, with his True Sight, is able to see that this room was formed with the smoke from the previous room in a way that resembles a video game rendering a new level. In front of them are three large platforms, each about a foot and a half off the ground, and each having one huge multicolored neon sign hanging above it. One says, “Escape Game,” one says, “Healing Game,” and one says, “Recovery Game.”

Lydia points out that one of them has already done the "Escape Game", and the pedestal for that game dissipates into black smoke. Taako asks which game Cam chose that made him the way he is now. Cam tells them the story of how he was hired to guide a woman named Lucretia through Wonderland, only to be betrayed by her in the "Escape Game" bonus round when it was certain that their attempt to retrieve the Animus Bell was doomed to failure. Because she betrayed him, Lucretia was allowed to walk free while Cam was doomed to suffer in Wonderland for all eternity. Taako explains that they work for Lucretia, and that they're on a rescue mish to save him. This is a lie. Cam believes him, however, and starts to tear up.

MAGNUS : You should probably stay hydrated because I don’t think you can drink water.

After some careful deciding, the group decides to go through the "Healing Game". As they're on the platform leading to the game itself, Taako has a realization that there’s a possibility that this room could test the healing abilities of the party and is hit with a sudden, deep existential dread that causes him to try and make a dash off the pedestal. He doesn't make it in time, unfortunately, and the group finds themselves standing in front of a little pedestal with two buttons on it. These buttons are labeled with the other names of the people in your party. For example, Taako is standing in front of one that says “Magnus” and “Merle,” and so on. Lydia explains that this game will allow each party member to transfer some of their vitality to another party member, but, in doing so, they will experience a bit of energy degradation during the transfer, so the other person will only receive half the vitality that they send in their direction. Cam abstains from the challenge, as he's only a head.

  • Merle sends 20 HP to Taako.
  • Magnus sends 5 HP to Taako.

Magnus and Merle have an argument about who did the most healing, and a bit of a black smoke comes out of their mouths. Magnus sees the Red Robe float into the middle of the boys and feast on this black smoke.

GRIFFIN : [lip smacking] Tasty, tasty.
TRAVIS : [laughs] What a dirty bird.

While heading into the next room, Magnus watches as the smoke from the last room disappears and forms another Wheel of Sacrifice room.

EDWARD : [rushed, almost slurred] It’s the Wheel of Sacrifice! You guys know the score. Just really spin it around, fill up the dots.
LYDIA : Edward, can you— take this seriously, please? This round, uh, as you might expect, the sacrifices will be a little bit more intense than they have been, but I know that the thr— well, the four of you, have it in you!
CLINT : I didn’t expect it to get worse!
JUSTIN : Ugh! I kinda did.

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.

  • Magnus:Swords

Edward explains that if Magnus chooses to accept this sacrifice, he will lose a fight. Literally, he will have a fight taken from him. The fight itself will be lost. It will be just gone, it will never exist. Magnus will have the glory of an important battle, just stripped away, as that battle simply won’t exist. Magnus takes the penalty, just to spite the liches. A fifth dot appears above the exit door.

  • Merle:Mind

Lydia explains that if Merle accepts this sacrifice he'll lose the memory of the birth of his children.

MERLE : [instantly] Take the penalty.
MAGNUS : Merle’s gots kids!?
TAAKO : Imagine my shock: Merle’s a dead-beat dad! Agag! Agog! I’m aghast!
MERLE : I’ll take the penalty!
TAAKO : As nurturing as he is, y’know, as unw— Oh I guess I can’t talk yay about him anymore; he gave me a bunch of hit points. Yeah, it’s real bad. Can’t believe it.

And with that, a sixth dot appears above the door.

  • Taako:Hand

Lydia explains that they'll take away some of his ability to do sick flips and sweet tricks if he accepts this sacrifice. Layman's terms, he'll lose some points off of his dexterity modifier. Taako accepts, and his dexterity modifier goes down to +1.

  • Magnus:Body

Edward explains to Magnus that will lose some of his vitality if he accepts this sacrifice. Magnus accepts, and he loses 20 points off his max health, dropping him down to 91.

  • Magnus:Skull
EDWARD : With skull you’re gonna have a spot of bad luck in the future, um, if you accept skull.
MAGNUS : Well, I’m having plenty of bad luck now. I accept. Spin again.
GRIFFIN : Alright, Magnus is just goin’ beast mode.
  • Magnus:Mind

Edward tells Magnus that this sacrifice would require him to give up the memory of Governor Kalen, the man who killed his wife, Julia Burnsides, which would jeopardize his personal quest to avenge her. He'll remember what he did, but he'll forget who did it. Taako and Merle reason that this could be a good thing, as it could be the first step for Magnus to get on with his life. Magnus agrees, and, before accepting the sacrifice, he tells the other two that if, in their travels, they happen to meet a "slimy asshole" named Governor Kalen, to tell him "This is for Julia," and kill him on sight. 

GRIFFIN : And just like that, like, Magnus’s quest for vengeance just… ends.
CLINT : And ours begin!
  • Merle:Swords

Seeing as Merle isn't a very combative person, the liches figure that taking away a battle from Merle won't effect him very much. So instead, Merle's sacrifice is that he will be a real dunce during the next battle.

TRAVIS : No, but what’s his punishment?
JUSTIN : Yeah, no, but then what happens after, yeah?

In short, Merle will have disadvantage during the next round. Merle accepts but also makes the mistake of calling the liches pricks, causing black smoke, Red Robe eats it, etc.

  • Taako:Clock

The liches explain that Taako's sacrifice, instead of being age, will be a bit of his ethereal elf beauty. Not all of it mind you, just enough to make him look plain.

MAGNUS : I understand if this is too much, and I’ll take two spins if you need to say no.
TAAKO : Listen. I’ve thought about it a lot and uh, as near as I can figure, normal Taako is still head and shoulders above ninety percent of the population on this stupid planet. So let’s go ahead and go normal!

Taako's looks are instantly made less beautiful and more plain as soon as he accepts the sacrifice. Taako casts Disguise Self on himself, restoring his good looks.

GRIFFIN : That’s great, you have fucking arcane cosmetics now! This is the best game ever made!

The sixth dot turns green and the big stone door slides open, and the group heads through. The Red Robe makes the Thieves Cant symbol that lets other thieves know that it's gonna pop off soon into Magnus' palm as they make their way into another Trust or Forsake room. The pixelated faces of each party member on the screen spin and land on Magnus. After looking over at his allies for guidance as he mulls over which button to press, Magnus, true to form, picks Trust. The screen display shows that the other team... also picked Trust!

EDWARD : Awh… Okay. Sorry, this just like, never happens.

The group moves into another huge circular room, and as they walk in they realize that the walls and floors and ceiling of this room are all made out of this really detailed screen, almost like an LED screen, showing scenic vistas, almost like it’s in screensaver mode. As the boys scan the room the screen makes it look like they're standing in a big tropical beach, then a smoky forested mountain, and then it looks like they're standing next to a babbling brook. At the far end of this room is a pile of wooden marionettes, the same types they saw during the "Heart Attack" game show. Suddenly, the screen around them goes dark.

LYDIA : This challenge is gonna be fun to watch. Say, are any of you feeling particularly nostalgic?
MERLE : Yeah, I long for the time when we weren’t in this place.

That remark causes a little bit of black smoke to come out from Merle, and it joins a big cloud of black smog that lowers down from the ceiling. This cloud sucks up some of the mannequins from the pile, and then this cloud takes the form of a massive red dragon. The screens around the group begins displaying what looks like a dragon’s cave, and the can see some of the mannequin shapes floating in its semi-translucent skin. The dragon changes shape into a hill giant holding a massive club, and suddenly they're standing in the ruins of a castle on a hill. The shape dissipates again and reforms into a floating beholder, each eyestalk glowing with different colours. Things continue on like this for a while, and after a few more of these transformations all the mannequins fall to the floor, and the screen surrounding the boys lights up, and the boys are suddenly standing in a recreation of Wave Echo Cave. The black smog absorbs more mannequins, and it transforms into Spider Bryan. One of the mannequins also stands up and is covered by some more of this black smog, transforming it into Magic Brian.

CLINT : Brians!
GRIFFIN : And then those two figures come to life and start to march towards you, as three words appear on the ceiling on the screen, and they say ‘Boss Rush: Begin’.

[Money Zone]

WONDERLAND: ROUND TWO STARTedit | hide | edit source

Hero's Turn!

Taako casts Magic Missile. Four glowing darts of magical force shoot out towards "Magic Brian". "Magic Brian" takes 11 damage! "Magic Brian" turns back into a mannequin.

Merle casts Sanctuary on Magnus. Any creature who targets Magnus, with an attack or harmful spell, must now make a wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature must choose a new target or lose the attack or spell.

Enemy's Turn!

"Spider Bryan" attempts to bite Taako. It succeeds! Taako takes 14 damage!

Hero's Turn!

Magnus attacks "Spider Bryan" with Railsplitter. He succeeds! "Spider Bryan" takes 13 damage! Magnus uses Goading Attack on "Spider Bryan". He succeeds! "Spider Bryan" now has disadvantage on attacks not against Magnus. Of course that doesn't matter as "Spider Bryan" quickly turns back into a pile of mannequins due to Magnus' earlier attack.

Pause Fight

The cloud surrounding the mannequins dissipate and float back up to the ceiling, and the room changes into Phandalin. The smoke comes down and absorbs some of the marionettes from the pile, and starts taking on a humanoid shape, and, all of a sudden, standing in front of the group, is a post-Phoenix Fire Gauntlet Gundren Rockseeker. Magnus looks to see where the Red Robe is, and finds them in the far end of the room trying to channel some sort of spell. Taako rolls an arcana check, and discovers that something is scanning their minds and memories in order to create these copies of their past enemies.

Resume Fight

Taako casts Hunger of Hadar. A 20-foot-radius sphere of blackness and bitter cold, filled with milky white otherworldly tentacles, appears in front of "Gundren Rockseeker".

Merle casts Guardian of Faith. Della Reese is summoned from the heavens to assist the boys in battle. Although, for some strange reason, it takes her five seconds longer to appear than it normally does...

TRAVIS : I can’t wait ‘till it’s my turn to cast “Ax”.
GRIFFIN : [laughs] Okay.
TRAVIS : He’s summoning Della Reese. He’s summoning spheres of milky tentacles, and I swing a piece of metal on a stick!

Enemy's Turn

"Gundren Rockseeker" takes 9 cold damage from being near the Hunger of Hadar. "Gundren Rockseeker" is attacked by Della Reese. He saves! "Gundren Rockseeker" takes 10 damage. "Gundren Rockseeker" shoots a fireball at the boys, including Cam. Magnus fails to save! Taako fails to save! Merle fails to save! Cam crit succeeds! Cam rolls out of the blast radius as Magnus, Taako, and Merle take 11 damage.

Pause Fight

The smoke around the fake Gundren dissipates, and the room changes to the inside of the Rockport Limited. Three mannequins rise from the pile and the smoke turns them into Jenkins and his two meat monsters. Tired of being useless, Cam asks Taako if he has a spare wand. Luckily, Taako still has his training wand, which he tosses to Cam, who uses it to cast Levitate on himself

The Money Zoneedit | hide | edit source

Featured NPCsedit | hide | edit source

Featured Musicedit | hide | edit source

Featured Locationsedit | hide | edit source

Referencesedit | hide | edit source

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