Balance – Episode 60: The Stolen Century: Chapter One

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Before the day The Hunger arrived, before this... crisis, before Wonderland, before the time-sick town, and the crystal lab, before races and trains and moon bases and gauntlets, before the beach, and the sizzling, and the roost... Before everything I've told you, there was a journey beyond imagination. Seven explorers lost their home to the same force that threatens us now. Their impossible trajectory carried them between wild, desolate, beautiful, deadly worlds, where they experienced terrible hardships, and experienced immeasurable joy.They lived and died and loved and, in the end, forgot. It's time to remember. It's time to go back to where our story truly starts, because only then can we truly prepare for how it ends. It's the Adventure Zone!

—The Announcer

"The Stolen Century: Chapter One," as it appears on the MaximumFun website, is the 60th episode of The Adventure Zone: Balance.

Synopsisedit | hide all | hide | edit source

Full transcript available here.

We're nearly at our journey's end -- but before we can understand what lies ahead, we must first return to this story's true beginning. What brought our heroes together to the crisis they face today? What happened to the memories of their dear, forgotten friends? And just how long have they been running away? Taako learns a new language. Merle eats some beans. Magnus trains under an unlikely teacher.

The episode starts with a promotional video explaining The Light of Creation, saying that it holds immense power, and was likely used in the creation of the universe. Somehow, this light ended up in the very world it helped shape and the Institute of Planar Research and Exploration found the Light a year ago. It has since used the Light to achieve immeasurable advancements in the fields of science and arcana, all culminating in tomorrow's unprecedented voyage. The video then asks everyone to give a warm welcome to their brave explorers.

The video ends and lights come up on a stage where the explorers are greeted with applause by the massive audience gathered in front of them. It is currently over a hundred years before The Hunger assaults the Bureau's moonbase and tomorrow the seven of them, Magnus, Merle, Taako, Lup, Barry, Davenport, and Lucretia, will set out on the mission that brings them to that world.

TRAVIS: I would like to state canonically that my character chooses to refer to him as Cap’n’port, kinda like Cap’n Crunch! Um—
GRIFFIN: That’s good flavor.
TRAVIS: Yes. Thank you. ‘Cause like me, Magnus loves portmanteau.

Griffin's Stolen Centuryedit | hide | edit source

This part of the story will not be based in D&D but a system of Griffin's own making aptly named The Stolen Century. It is partially modeled on the Powered by the Apocalypse system and the rules are far simpler than D&D's. The players have only three stats to keep track of, Body, used for fighting and any form of physical activity, Mind, used for intellectual pursuits like studying and spellcasting, and finally, Heart, used for anything interpersonal like persuasion. All rolls are made with two d6, a six or below results in failure, a seven to nine results in partial success and a ten or above is a total success.

CLINT: Shit, I just got good at Dungeons and Dragons!
GRIFFIN: Ah… debatable.
TRAVIS: Dad, you didn’t, no.

Throughout The Stolen Century, the players will also collect resources in the form of assets, bonds, and experience that will affect the finale of the campaign. Bonds are a measure of the interpersonal relationships established with the rest of the team and the people they meet during their journey and experience measures their personal growth throughout the Stolen Century.

Assets represent valuable objects accumulated during the game and can be used to upgrade anyone's roll one step, i.e. a failure to a mixed success and a mixed success to a complete success. Once acquired, assets are abstract in nature. For example, a player might gain an asset from finding valuable jewels but when they go to spend that asset it does not have to be in the form of jewels, they could say they're giving someone a magical item as a bribe or something else that would logically assist their roll.

Timelines and Backstoriesedit | hide | edit source

Before starting the adventure proper, Griffin clarifies the timeline of the Stolen Century. It takes place before the rest of the podcast and while the characters are all adults at this point, many events from their backstories have yet to take place. Merle is unmarried and has no children, Magnus has yet to meet Julia and Sizzle It Up With Taako has not happened.

They all grew up on this purple skied, two-sunned planet and eventually ended up joining the Institute of Planar Research and Exploration. Merle grew up in a druidic enclave by the beach but eventually left it as he felt they were too inclusive insular and weren't contributing enough to the good of mankind. Magnus was a rebellious kid and a Johnny Storm kind of character when joining the Institute. Taako had a rough childhood alongside his twin sister Lup, they were passed between different relatives and worked in caravans together. We also learn that Lup was assigned male at birth but identified as female and transitioned at a fairly young age. Both of them would later graduate high in their class at the academy to get into the IPRE. They were all selected for this exploration mission from a pool of hundreds of candidates because of their unique skill sets.

Cycle Zeroedit | hide | edit source

We return to the IPRE's press conference and Captain Davenport, Cap'n'port, is addressing the crowd. He explains that the mission is going to last two months and they will be exploring the outer reaches of the planar system. They will be doing this in an extraordinary ship that Griffin asks the others to name. Several names are suggested, including Boaty McBoatface, Spinnaker, Lightbringer, Skyweaver, and Stardancer but they eventually settle on The Starblaster. The Starblaster has a brilliant silver hull with the rough dimensions of a medium-sized yacht. Most notable about this ship is the large, shimmering white ring about 12 feet in diameter that is suspended and tethered to the back of the deck by some unseen force, which serves as its engine. Davenport explains that, instead of running on any kind of fuel, the ring powers the ship using what they call Bonds, a phenomenon that the IPRE discovered while studying the Light of Creation. According to Davenport, Bonds are what connects every two things in existence; magnetism and gravity, electro and covalent bonds, even emotions such as sympathy. Bottom line, these Bonds are what help power and propel The Starblaster.

CLOMP HOOFMAN: Uh, Captain Davenport? Clomp Hoofman, Minotaur Monthly, um, quick question: what’s your end—? What are you hoping to discover out on the reaches of this, uh, planar— what’d you call it?
DAVENPORT: Uh, just, outskirts of our planar system and that’s a great question, I’m gonna go to let our sort of science expert Barry Bluejeans up here to answer that question, Barry?

Barry, wearing his red uniform and his crisp blue jeans, steps up to the mic explains that they hope to find new forms of matter, new forms of energy, new worlds they could potentially inhabit.

BARRY: From a scientific perspective, the possibilities are theoretically limitless and I’m just really—
LUP: [clears throat] Nerd alert!
BARRY: [embarrassed] Um. I’m just excited about the opportunity to get out there and find the new things to— to study it’s just really exciting.

Barry sits back down and Cliff Cleveland, Boston Messenger[1], asks if he can ask Merle a question. Merle, the IPRE's head physician and biologist for this mission, heads up to the mic.

CLIFF CLEVELAND: It’s really obvious you are probably the most attractive member of the crew! Uh, you have a rugged physique, your face is chiseled! I want to know is there anybody gonna be waiting back home for you on this mission?
MERLE: Well, no I’m kind of a free agent right now and besides they said we couldn’t have any kind of connections with anybody back here on the planet just in case we d— uh, were delayed.
MAGNUS: Nobody told us that.
MERLE: They told me.

Jeff Jeffins, The Jeff Report, asks how Merle, a man of the cloth, ended up embarking on an interplanar science expedition, to which Merle explains that he's going because there are more forces out there than they know to deal with. Whisp Blinkman, theeyeofthebeholder\, asks Davenport what kind of weapons The Starblaster has, and Davenport tells them that, while it is not equipped with any blasters, they do however have Magnus, their security officer.

DAVENPORT: Maybe you could answer this one.
MAGNUS: [flips his cool guy fantasy shades] Uh, yeah, I’m the only weapon we need, alright, next question.

Jamie Green, Bugbear Times, asks what Lucretia's job on the Starblaster is. Davenport reveals that she will be serving as the ship's Chronicler, and he calls Lucretia up to the mic so she can explain what that is.

LUCRETIA: Well, uh, hi, my name is Lucretia. I will be the chronicler on this journey which means I’m going to write down everything that happens up there.
JAMIE GREEN: That’s it?
LUCRETIA: [shrugs] I’m a biographer by trade. You wouldn’t know my name but I’ve almost certainly ghost-written something that you’ve read and this [motions to the crew and ship] This seems like a story worth telling well.

One last reporter asks for a quote from Lup on whether or not she feels comfortable leaving her world behind. Lup replies that, well, she did this one already and crushed it and is excited to expand her brand by getting off this stink-planet and seeing what’s out there. Lup walks back to her seat and gives Magnus a high-five before running back to the mic and dragging it close to her face.

LUP: ALSO! Greg Grimaldis: You owe me fifteen dollars and I aim to collect! You better believe, Greg Grimaldis! [picks up the mic and extends her arm]
DAVENPORT: Please don’t drop the—
LUP: [drops the mic]

Davenport puts the mic back up and dismisses the audience. The crew has a quick debriefing where they talk about the mission, which will start at 0800 the following morning, giving them enough time to spend one last evening getting fucked up at the meanest, dirtiest, nastiest biker bar their home planet has to offer.

A fight breaks out in the bar and Magnus, looking for a fight to step into so he can kick a bad person's butt, gets involved and attempts to break up the fight.

  • Magnus Roll: 8 (Moderate Success)

Magnus successfully breaks up the fight, but his aggressor also manages to give Magnus a black eye, which, luckily, is exactly what he wanted.

  • Magnus
    • EXP: 1
    • ASSETS: 0
    • BONDS: 0

Meanwhile, Taako and Lup are busy hustling some chumps at pool.

  • Taako Roll: 8 (Moderate Success)

Taako and Lup successfully hustle two folks in a game of nine ball. Having no use for money, the twins force the two of them to give up their shoes as a way of punishing them.

  • Taako
    • EXP: 0
    • ASSETS: 1
    • BONDS: 0

As for the cause of the fight, Lucretia was off in the corner chronicling everything around her, and when one of the bikers saw her doing this it somehow led to the aforementioned bar fight. Anyways, Merle tries to protect Lucretia by taking her and hiding her behind the bar while he stands atop it and attempts to diffuse the situation. Lucretia, not deterred in the slightest, continues to write in her journal as bottles fly and crash around her.

  • Merle Roll: 9 (Moderate Success)

Merle successfully protects Lucretia, but in doing so gets nicked across the forehead by a stray battle. By helping Lucretia, the two of them become a little bit closer.

  • Merle
    • EXP: 0
    • ASSETS: 0
    • BONDS: 1

The next morning the crew gets into their IPRE uniforms, each one having the emblem with twelve planes surrounding the IPRE logo sewn into the left breast pocket, as they prepare to disembark. The boys have two options: a red robe or a red jacket. Merle wears a jacket, Magnus wears a jacket but no shirt, and Taako wears a jacket on top of a robe.

GRIFFIN: Stylish, very stylish.
CLINT: By the way, I am cosplaying this in the next time we do a live show.
GRIFFIN: Yeah, for sure.

The Red Robes climb aboard The Starblaster, waving and smiling for the crowd around them, with none of them noticing, due their focus and nervousness about the mission, the completely motionless storm hanging overhead and the color draining from the world around them. It is only after Davenport pulls the ship into the stars and past the Prime Material plane that they see The Hunger and its dark tendrils reaching down and around their ship and into their world below them. Davenport attempts to contact the Institute but is met with no response. Faced with no other alternatives, Davenport makes the call to escape and return back when it's safer, and he dodges the tendrils and flies the Starblaster far, far away from The Hunger and the other planes, landing him and the crew in the void between planes.

As The Starblaster passes through this threshold and time comes to a stop, the crew feels themselves being torn apart as a thousand projections of themselves, all frozen in place on the deck of the Starblaster and all firing outward from them in all directions. With a flash, these projections are pulled back in as time also becomes unstuck and the crew finds themselves flying back to the planes, minus the Thirteenth plane. After a few hours of careful observation, Davenport pulls the ship down into the Prime Material Plane.

GRIFFIN: But it doesn’t take long for the seven of you to realise that this is not the world you left, this is not the reality you left. This is a different reality altogether, the first of many you are going to encounter during this mission. And now, we’re on Year One.

[Money Zone]

Cycle Oneedit | hide | edit source

Davenport descends and lands the Starblaster close to a large forested area just north of this planet’s equator. For the next few days, the group learns that there are no elves, humans, dwarves, etc. on this planet, and it is instead entirely populated by intelligent, herbivorous animals[2] with their own language, culture, and system of trade. After a couple more days of reconnaissance, the Red Robes see the Light of Creation streak down from the sky and plummet down to the west of the planet. Lup triangulates the location so they can find it later, and, several days after the light arrives, the sky turns dark and thousands of The Hunger's burning white eyes fill the sky, all of them looking down at the world below, before disappearing completely.

The group sets up camp in a secluded area in the woods and prepare themselves for a year living on this new, animal-run world. Taako, Lup, and Barry decide to spend their time decoding the animal's weird language, which is mostly grunts, so they can learn more about them. It takes awhile for them to find animals that don't run away from them in fear, but eventually, the group settles upon a family of mongooses who are willing to talk with them. After a while, the group manages to build a trust with the family through feeding and hanging out with them, some of them even taking a particular liking to Barry. The other animals see this and become less apprehensive towards the group.

  • Taako Roll: 7 (Moderate Success)

After many, many months, Taako, Lup, and Barry finally learn how to speak the weird, grunting language of the animals of this planet.

GRIFFIN: I think we actually have some scenes of you three grunting at each other over dinner while the other four folks on the journey go “What the fuck are you guys saying?”

The groups learn from this family of mongoose the history of the planet. According to these mongeese, there have never been any people on this plane, only animals. Eventually, the predatory instinct and bestial nature of these animals began to phase out and the animals learned to co-exist with each other. Ruling over this Animal Kingdom is the Royal Beasts, who each represent an aspect of bestial nature; The bear represents power, the snow owl represents wisdom, and the wolf represents instinct. However, the mongeese know nothing about the Light of Creation.

  • Taako
    • EXP: 0
    • ASSETS: 1
    • BONDS: 1

Meanwhile, Merle and Davenport head out on an expedition to locate the Light of Creation.

  • Merle Roll: 7 (Moderate Success)

While it takes them a long time, Merle and Davenport are able to locate the Light near the Royal Court, where the Royal Beasts reside. Unfortunately, they are denied access to the Royal Court and are forced to make the long trek back to camp without having secured the Light. However, the time spent hanging out with each other allows Davenport to let down some of his walls around Merle, and the two of them bond over the campfire while exchanging old war stories and eating beans from a pot.

CLINT: Can I have a Blazing Saddles scene with him?
GRIFFIN: Yeah, sure!
TRAVIS: No, he wants to fart a bunch, no—
DAVENPORT: Y’know, I’m having a lot of fun out here with you, Merle—
MERLE: [makes an extremely long, drawn out fart noise] Pffffffffffffffffff—
CLINT: hAH HAH HA AH [A giant, hearty pirate laugh] Okay, That’s out of my system.
  • Merle
    • EXP: 0
    • ASSETS: 0
    • BONDS: 2

While the others are off doing their own things, Magnus spends his time defending and training around the ship, all while eating some hard candy he brought with him for the trip. With Lucretia being the only one still left on the ship, Magnus also spends some time getting to know her better. Merle and Davenport eventually make it back to the ship, and Magnus, upon hearing that there exists a big cool powerful bear on this planet, ultimately makes it his new life goal to find and train with it.

The Red Robes regroup and Magnus tells the others about the Power Bear and his plan to fight it, which the others are really against. Magnus is determined, however, and he causes a scene so he and the others can get arrested and they are brought before the Royal Beasts. Magnus charges out from the entryway to the ship and towards the Royal Bear, only to stop in his tracks when he sees just how much larger it is than him.

TRAVIS: I just kinda look at [Lucretia], and, like, shake my head a little bit. Like, “I shouldn’t do this, right?” I’m looking at her for like, “You’re smarter than me.”
GRIFFIN: She looks up at the size of the bear, and sizes them up, and looks back at you, and like, “Uehhhh,” and grits her teeth like, “Eeeeh, no, probably not.

Instead, Magnus kneels before the Royal Beasts and the bear asks what they're doing and what their species is. Taako pipes up and claims that they are of the "Taakos" species, which the animals believe.

MAGNUS: We come from far away, we’ve really travelled a great distance to be here. I see the three of you, and I recognize proud, brave, strong, intelligent warriors. Warriors like myself.
POWER BEAR: [laughs] You’re nothing like us. You, you’re tiny, you’re not furry, you don’t have fangs or claws, I’m not—
MAGNUS: [interrupting] Fuck. Off.

A bear charges from the audience attending the trial and at Magnus in response to him disrespecting the Power Bear.

  • Magnus Roll: 11 (Complete Success)

Magnus does some "judo shit" and, by using the bear's strength and momentum against them to do a crouching throw on them, throws the bear over him. This causes the Power Bear to stand up in awe of Magnus's skill.

MAGNUS: Oh, are you next?

However, the bear still continues to attack and Magnus is forced to choke it out of submission. With that, the Royal Beasts become a little more impressed with the Red Robes and also their ability to speak their language. The group explains that they want the Light of Creation, but the Royal Beasts explain that they want a little bit of time to get to know them and whether or not they can be trusted with it.

Magnus spends the next few months training with the Power Bear, who has taken a particular fondness for him.

  • Magnus
    • EXP: 3
    • ASSETS: 0
    • BONDS: 0

A year passes and the Red Robes are once again brought before the Royal Court. The three beasts argue whether or not to give them the Light, and as they argue the sky goes dark, color drains from the land, and the group sees The Hunger looming above them, its shimmering tendrils descending down to the world below. The Royal Beasts notice this a little too late as a tendril smashes down into the Royal Court and onto them, consuming them and the Light of Creation, which was being held by the owl, in the process. Shadowy figures of different shapes and size begin to file out from this tendril and Davenport calls for a retreat back to the ship.

Taako and Lup are instantly gone-zo, with Lup taking potshots at The Hunger's minions whilst they flee, Merle enhances everyone's speed, and Barry stays close to the twins. Meanwhile, Magnus stays behind to get some cubs to safe cover.

  • Magnus Roll: 11 (Complete Success)

Everyone successfully makes it back to The Starblaster except Magnus, who is left behind and who continues to protect cubs and fight off the Hunger's forces before finally getting killed. Davenport flies The Starblaster out of the planar system and into the void of planes and, just like the first time, things get wobbly. Everyone on board is shifted back into different positions as white threads of light begin to encircle the ship. These threads get caught up in the ring bond engine in the back of the ship, where they start to interweave, before finally working their way to a position on the ship's deck, where they converge and stitch back together Magnus.

Everyone is returned to the exact positions and states they were in when they left their homeworld, and as they leave they watch The Hunger's tendrils pull the Animal Kingdom plane out of orbit and into itself.

GRIFFIN: And when it does, it disappears. And you see those colors, those kind of muted colors inside of the Hunger’s body, they flash, and there’s an explosion of light and reds and neon blues and yellows and greens as it is folded in. And the diameter of the Hunger, you see just ever so slightly, expands. The Hunger is stronger now, because that’s what happens when the Hunger feasts.

[Theme Tune Plays]

The Money Zoneedit | hide | edit source


Featured NPCsedit | hide | edit source

Featured Musicedit | hide | edit source

Featured Locationsedit | hide | edit source

Quotesedit | hide | edit source

Tossed salads and scrambled eggs~edit | hide | edit source

DR. FRAISER CRANE: Hello, I am Dr. Frasier Crane
GRIFFIN: Oh my god.
DR. FRAISER CRANE: —From The Fraiser Crane Show, question—
CLIFF: Fraiser! I haven’t seen you since the original show!
DR. FRAISER CRANE: Hello, such a pleasure, honestly Cliff, so good running into you. Uh, for the— Taako? I believe is what his T-shirt is identifying him as. [Travis laughs] Taako, are you—? Did Griffin say in the last episode what you do on the ship because “chef” makes the most sense but I, uh, don’t remember. Thank you, I’ll let Roz play this in the studio while I take my answer off the air.

Referencesedit | hide | edit source

  1. Voiced by Clint, of course
  2. Even wolves and bears are herbivores here.
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