Balance – Episode 56: The Suffering Game: Chapter Six

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What's waiting for our heroes at the end of Wonderland? It's not a cool-ass weed-smoking caterpillar, I'll tell you that much! It's the Adventure Zone!

—The Announcer

"The Suffering Game: Chapter Six," as it appears on the MaximumFun website, is the 56th episode of The Adventure Zone: Balance.

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Full transcript available here.

Our heroes are forced to square off against their deadliest former foes -- but their real challenge comes in the form of a danger the likes of which they've never experienced. Taako gets primal. Merle gets disconnected. Magnus gets a couple of helping hands.

The Adventure Zone: The Suffering Game

New Game

> Load File

Delete File

Resume Fight

Hero's Turn!

Cam casts Maximillian's Earthen Grasp. A giant hand made up of mannequins comes out of the ground and makes a grab for "Meat Monster #2". He succeeds! "Meat Monster #2" takes 12 damage, and is squeezed into hamburger meat. Bonus Action! The giant hand opens up flat-palm and swats "Meat Monster #1" against a wall. It dead.

JUSTIN : I too am a Magic Boy and I’ve never had a bonus action in my fuckin’ life. Like, what’s the story with that?
GRIFFIN : Cam is uninhibited by a bunch of extra weight. What do you cast spells with? Your brain? He is just a streamlined spell casting machine.
JUSTIN : Okay.
CLINT : I can live with that.

Magnus attacks "Jenkins" with Phantom Fist. He succeeds! "Jenkins" takes 7 damage, and is pushed back towards the Hunger of Hadar sphere and Della Reese. Magnus throws the Chance Lance at "Jenkins". He succeeds! "Jenkins" takes 11 damage! "Jenkins" takes 3 cold damage from being near the Hunger of Hadar.

Della Reese rears back her angelic arm to stab her magic sword into "Jenkins". However, she freezes and starts flickering out of existence just as she's about to make contact!

GRIFFIN : Merle, you’ve cast this spell like countless times--
CLINT : Countless.
GRIFFIN : But you’ve never seen anything like this. In fact, all these hiccups that your holy powers have been going through all day, you haven’t experienced anything quite like it in all your days of cleric-dom.

"Jenkins" casts Dispel Magic on the Hunger of Hadar sphere. The field of milky white tentacles disappears!

Pause Fight

In the far edge of the room they're in, the boys notice a dresser appear out of nowhere and then be replaced with a bookshelf, and then a fireplace, and then a lamp, and, finally, nothing. With his True Sight, Magnus is able to see that this is the doing of the Red Robe, who is using the black smoke in an attempt to conjure something.

Resume Fight

Hero's Turn!

Taako casts Scorching Ray. Three rays of fire are hurled towards "Jenkins". First ray hits! Second ray hits! Third ray hits! "Jenkins" takes 17 damage! "Jenkins" turns back into a mannequin. The Umbra Staff absorbs "Jenkins" wand. Taako recovers some health and all his spell slots.

Pause Fight

"Jenkins" is sent flying back into the pile of mannequins. The black smoke dissipates from "Jenkins" and moves to the pile where it transforms the entire pile into the shark tank that Maarvey drove during the Battle Wagon Race, and the screen walls and ceilings change into the badlands surrounding Goldcliff.

Resume Fight

Hero's Turn!

Merle casts Divination. Merle asks his God, Pan, what the problem with his powers is.

GRIFFIN : Pan’s not answering. He’s just not there! And he’s not there supporting you with a holy power. He’s just– he’s just gone! And this is fuckin’ terrifying. Like you, this spell that you’re casting is essentially like a telephone call of a prayer, and Pan has always answered… but not this time. He is not there. And it’s not like you’re getting bad reception on your prayer. You feel it going through, he's just not pickin’ up.
CLINT : He’s not there, or he’s not answering?
GRIFFIN : You don’t know the answer to that. The reason that your spells aren’t working is because they are powered by Pan and right now, Pan is not there for you.

Merle casts Bless on the party. The party can now roll a d4 and add the number rolled to every attack or saving throw they make for 10 turns.

Enemy's Turn!

"Shark Tank" opens up its mouth and shoots a barbed spear at Magnus. It misses! The barbed spear is reeled back into the "Shark Tank's" mouth.

Hero's Turn!

Cam casts Lightning Bolt. A streak of lightning shoots down from above. "Shark Tank" saves! "Shark Tank" takes 15 damage!

Pause Fight

Some of the LED screens in the room start to spark and turn off due to Cam's spell. Meanwhile, right where the same sort of collection of stuff appeared before, the boys see a potted plant appear, and then a guillotine, and then a marble column, and then a coat rack, and then nothing.

Resume Fight

Magnus succesfully recounts to his Shield of Heroic Memories of the time he fought the Shark Tank before. Magnus now has plus 1 AC. Magnus uses Disengage to run past the "Shark Tank" and get to the pile of mannequins. Magnus starts throwing these mannequins into the mouth of the "Shark Tank", which get caught in the encircling rows of saw-blade teeth forcing the "Shark Tank" to close its mouth. Magnus takes out a tinderbox and lights the mannequin pile on fire.

Pause Fight

The boys see the Red Robe create, using that black smog, an oven, and then a pile of crates, and then a tall portrait of a woman, and then, nothing.

Resume Fight

Taako casts Polymorph on himself. Taako’s arms sink into his chest and become smaller, and his head gets really big and really long and his teeth get very sharp and he grows a tail. Taako is now a Tyrannosaurus Rex.


Dupree takes a bite out of the top of the "Shark Tank". He crit succeeds! "Shark Tank" takes 63 damage! The now destroyed "Shark Tank" topples over. All that's left of its driver, "Maarvey", is a pair of legs.

Pause Fight

The "Shark Tank" turns into a big sub-pile of mannequins covered in black smog that congregate back all together into the now flaming pile. The smog then sucks all the mannequins in the room and forms into what is not just a purple worm, but a purple worm that is on fire and also bigger than Dupree.

CAM : Holy shit, you guys killed a purple worm?!
MAGNUS : Uh... yeah?? Did we?
DUPREE : Dupreeeee.
MERLE : I didn’t think we killed one!

Resume Fight

Hero's Turn!

Dupree swings his tail at "Purple Worm". He succeeds! "Purple Worm" takes 12 damage.

Enemy's Turn!

"Purple Worm" opens up its mouth and shoots a beam of fire at the Cam, Dupree, and Merle. Cam saves! Dupree fails to save! Merle saves! Dupree and Merle take 16 damage. The "Purple Worm's" wounds close up and it recovers some health!

Pause Fight

The boys see, in the corner: a tall rectangular crate appear, and then they see a window, and then, finally, they see a door. As soon as it forms, the Red Robe looks over at them, and, with its non-conjuring hand, waves enthusiastically.

MERLE : Sauté!
MAGNUS : Time to sauté, boys!

The party flees... Magnus manages to make it to the door safely due to being behind the worm, and Dupree safely and gingerly scoops Cam and Merle into his mouth, but also takes 21 damage from the "Purple Worm" in the process. Once they're at the door, Taako turns back into an elf, but, unfortunately for him, gets a little bit of Merle’s hand is in his mouth as he transforms back.

GRIFFIN : You all clear the door and as you do the purple worm kinda rears its body up to come smashing down and you just barely clear the door as it comes down behind you. And then the door… disappears. And Magnus, you saw the Red Robe move through too, so everybody has moved out of the room!

[Money Zone]

The group enters into a large, circular chamber. Behind from where they just stepped out of is a cylinder that's completely featureless except for a label on its exterior wall listing the boys' names. The boys look around the room and find that there are 38 more of these cylinders, all with their own labels on them, and all wrapping around a huge central staircase which climbs 20 feet up to a circular platform at the center of the chamber. Cam stops the boys as they make their way towards the staircase to tell them that he wishes to stay in Wonderland as he believes its magic is the only thing keeping him alive. The boys angrily chastise Cam for his decision as it renders all the extra sacrifices they took for him utterly pointless, but Cam still remains adamant about staying.

CAM: When you see Lucretia again, tell her… I dunno. Make up something… heroic for me, I guess.
MERLE: Nope!

Cam tosses Taako back the wand he gave him, and skulks around and behind the massive cylinder that the group all came out of. Now one less party member, the boys make they're way up the stair case, where Magnus notices half-way up that the cylinder they came out of is more or less the exact shape of all of the rooms that they've been in, confirming his suspicion that they've been going through the same cylinder over and over again. The boys make it atop the circular platform, where they see a few dozen seated mannequins, the same ones from Heart Attack, all positioned around a raised catwalk that vivisects the circle. All of them are dressed up in high fashions, and simultaneously they all point up to the catwalk where a spotlight is illuminating the catwalk.

TRAVIS: Is it time for us to do our sexy turn on the catwalk?
GRIFFIN: I think this would be a pretty good time for that.
TRAVIS: I look at Taako.
TAAKO: I don’t understand, no, I‘m kinda freaked out. What’s going on?
MAGNUS: I think you need to get up there and strut.
TAAKO: I’m not a piece of meat!
MAGNUS: This is what you were born to do, Taako!
TAAKO: No! I mean I’m not a model, I’m a wizard and a chef! I don’t understand what I’m being asked to do here.
MAGNUS: I think you need to… bootytootch--
TAAKO: Why?! The things you’re saying make no sense! I’m not just gonna strut across a catwalk for your delight!

Taako's stubbornness causes the mannequins to point even harder at the catwalk, all of them glaring at all three of the boys. Ready to accept his destiny, Taako casts on himself Prestidigitation, which makes sparks shoot out of his fingers, and Minor Illusion, which puts him in a dope outfit, and starts strutting down the catwalk with all the style and panache he can muster, which is, as Justin notes, a fuckin’ lot. Taako stops at a spotlight in the catwalk as the crowd around him collectively loses its shit. Merle saunters up to the catwalk next and he cunningly takes his hand and pulls his shirt down off one shoulder and gyrates seductively, and waddles across the catwalk to stand next to Taako. The crowd is not enthused. Finally its Magnus' turn to show his stuff, and he does a sick gun twirling exercise using his Chance Lance, which gets a pretty warm reception from the crowd. Once all three are at the end of the catwalk, they are greeted by the voices of Edward and Lydia, who admit they are surprised that the boys actually managed to make it through Wonderland.

LYDIA: Very few people have stood where you’re standing now, having conquered suffering itself to claim their prize. Give them a hand, folks!
GRIFFIN: And every mannequin just stands up and is, like, giving you a big standing ovation.
EDWARD: This resolve, this desire to do whatever it takes no matter the cost to save yourselves -- Do you know who you three remind me of?

Thus, the two liches recount to the boys the story of how it all began. Lifetimes ago, Lydia and Edward had a younger brother named Keats who, one day, contracted an incurable sickness. Desperate to save him, the two of them joined a necromantic circle, but, unfortunately, were still unable to save him. Having found joy in their new powers, the two of them became liches and tried to sustain themselves with their love for Keats and each other. In time this became insufficient, so they turned to using other people's emotion as sustenance, which led them to the discovery that suffering is a lot more effective than love. The two of them learned how channel suffering to create new garments for themselves, which eventually led to them figuring out how to summon entire rooms from the ether. All this culminated in the creation of Wonderland, the perfect centrifuge for extracting suffering from those who are fueled by greed. And, thanks to the Animus Bell, business is booming. As the liches explain this, the crowd of mannequins moves closer to the end of the catwalk and start reaching for the boys.

EDWARD: This place has always thrived because of, well, what else? Advertising! We’ve got a few consistent channels. Surely you received a brochure in the mail, or saw our billboards or met someone drawn here by a beam of magical light? Those are just a few tools of the trade, and they served us well during our residency here. But do you all know the most successful type of advertising?
EVERYONE AT ONCE: Word of mouth?
EDWARD: Magnus, you landed on skull in the last round, didn’t you?
EDWARD: Bad luck.

Suddenly, Magnus hears the chime of the Animus Bell. From Taako and Merle's perspective, they see Magnus reel backwards you and a light cast out of the back of his body for a brief moment as he falls. They then watch as he spasms, and comes to, and steadies himself back up onto his feet on Rail-Splitter. "Magnus" turns the face the others and says:

EDWARD AS MAGNUS: You know, boys, I don’t think Wonderland’s that bad. You know, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself here, and I feel like our friendship has grown even more powerful, don’t you think?
MAGNUS: Ahem. I didn’t say that.
GRIFFIN: Nobody hears you say that, Magnus, because you’ve just had the singular sensation of having your soul knocked out of your still-living body.

Magnus' vision and the world around him goes gray as he sees that he is now floating backwards into the ethereal plane. As he watches the scene of Edward in his body picking himself back up unfold in front of him, Magnus sees some small, white, humanoid figures hiding behind the mannequins and clinging to the ceiling, which scurry away after they notice his presence. Also relevant to the situation is the fact that Magnus is drifting into a rift to the Astral Plane. Because he's dying, y'see. Meanwhile, back in the living world, Merle and Taako watch as Lydia, now wearing a black-and-white elegant Victorian-era dress, steps out from behind from behind "Magnus". Noticing something's not right, Merle reminds "Magnus" that they still need to retrieve the Animus Bell, but "Magnus" thinks that a better idea would be to let "Magnus" keep the bell and the two of them can go back into Wonderland for another round.

TAAKO: I got a fuckin’ idea for ya.

And as soon as he says that, Taako's eyes go blank and his soul is now in a Magic Jar. Meaning his soul is now being projected up to a hundred feet above the container. Taako's soul steps into the ethereal plane, and he goes to grab for Magnus who is about to be sucked into the rift. As Taako makes his way towards him, Magnus looks into the Astral plane where he sees that the seas, originally tranquil and full of lights, are now violent, dark, and covered in a oil-like substance. While Magnus does this, Taako grabs onto his hand, and just as his feet were about to be pulled into the astral plane, successfully manages to pull him away from the rift.

GRIFFIN: And just as you pull Magnus back, Taako, you see a hand splash up from the choppy waters. You see Kravitz, and he’s struggling to sort of pull himself up to the surface of the water. This black oil on the surface of the water just twists around him and pulls him back under. And you feel that oil calling for both of you as well.

Fortunately, Magnus and Taako are able to resist the oil's call. As they begin to be pulled into the rift once again, Merle turns his back against the liches, outstretches his arms, and casts Planar Ally in an attempt to summon them back into the Material Plane. Taako and Magnus watch as spectral versions of Merle's soul-wood arm reach out and rips both of them towards himself.

GRIFFIN: Taako, you are back in your body, and you’re back and you are conscious again. And Magnus, you’re conscious, too. You still feel numb but you’re back. But you’re on the ground. And you’re surrounded by the mannequin audience and you see your friends just above you on the catwalk. What do you do?
TRAVIS: I rush in to my friends! I wanna get back in the—I’m back—I rush in! I rush in, Griffin!
GRIFFIN: Alright. You jump back up onto the catwalk, and as you do, you hear fake Magnus go:
GRIFFIN: And Merle and Taako, you see, standing beside you, wearing a plate of very very very fashionable elven scale-mail, you see one of the mannequins standing right next to you.
TRAVIS: I’ll be having my body back, you undead fuck.

[Theme Tune Plays]

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