The Adventure Zone: Ep. 63. The Stolen Century - Chapter Four
May 18, 2017 10:11 AM - Subscribe

We're fairly deep into our trip down memory lane, but our heroes are no closer to figuring out how to stop the ever-evolving force that's pursuing them. With few other options, they'll have to adopt a new, remarkably costly strategy. Magnus helps out some Losers. Taako eats a fateful meal. Merle makes a powerful new friend.
posted by Tevin (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I turned this off about twenty minutes through. I just don't care.
posted by Tevin at 12:14 PM on May 18


They're just drawing it out so we'll be ready to say goodbye.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:27 PM on May 18


I am ready! I've been ready since the beginning of The Eleventh Hour! I've had a great time with THB but I'm ready for a new world, a new adventure, and a new story.
posted by Tevin at 12:37 PM on May 18


I turned this off about twenty minutes through. I just don't care.

Wow, really? That surprises me. I've got some issues with this arc, but Griffin has changed it up for other arcs (though, admittedly, far less radical changes) when the story required it. I'm probably enjoying this arc more than Suffering Game, which seemed so bleak and dark.

I'm in it for the good good goofs, and the unexpected zags by THB, but I'm also in it for the story. I liked this episode way more than the last one, which felt like filler. Considering that this all started as a one-off special episode, and has turned into this improvised D&D humor fantasy fest with a rich story, and Griffin has never done anything like this before, I'll cut him some slack.
posted by booksherpa at 12:40 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


I don't want to harsh any buzz; if you like it chase your bliss! I'm just grumpy there's a change I don't like but I don't want to spoil the stew for anyone else.

I'm actually really bummed that I dislike it so much because I really like this podcast but today they were talking about the coaching of this one-off sport on a one-off planet and Griffin asked Travis "how do you feel that all these kids and this city are going to be gone?"

And I thought about it and realized "I don't care. I don't care about this planet that's completely unrelated to anything that's come before, I don't care about these side quests, I do care about these characters but not enough to hang with these stories that just feel like so much padding."

Of course all credit due to Griffin for taking this and making it what it is, but I can't just turn off my critical eye and pretend like this is working for me when it isn't.
posted by Tevin at 12:59 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Magnus's whole sports movie made this episode for me. I'm not as keen on this John character as a storytelling choice - he seems very tropey? Kinda wish Merle had declined to meet the Hunger to see how Griffin would roll with that. Still, lots of bright spots this episode, like Marlo revealing this beautiful, mystical creative force that unites a whole planet through shared experience and immediately using that for trash-talk.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 3:08 PM on May 18


I haven't listened to it yet - it's my afternoon commute fix - but I'm not all that worried about spoilers in this arc...because it can't be spoiled. There's no emotional stakes here that I can see, despite Griffin's best attempts to make everyone care about these fictional worlds they visit; the purpose of this section is to give us a chance to learn what the Hunger is and set up the final solution for stopping it. They can do a bit of character development, but given the coming mind wipe, all the characters essentially can have whatever differences between this arc and the reality we know them from and there's no problem with differences appearing. I mean, Taako forgot his sister, so...yeah...there's no lasting impact to be had here in terms of carryover.

It's fun listening to them goof, because they are funny, wonderful performers...but from a narrative perspective, this is the time for an exposition dump and then a move back to where the stakes are real.
posted by nubs at 3:15 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


Hey, no worries, that's fair. I think I'm in that place where I'm so totally hyped about the revelation of bits of this long, involved story that I can't imagine anyone who has listened this long as well feels any differently.

I reread your comment, and saw that you were ready for the end around the beginning of The Eleventh Hour. I'm on my 3rd relisten, listening along with my husband who is on his first listen. We're in the middle of Crystal Kingdom right now, which seems to be the turning point of the grand arc getting more story focused, and that shows in the smaller arcs. Maybe that's the thing? Like, your preference is for the individual stories, and mine is for the grand arc, or yours is for the D&D and humor, and mine is for the storytelling?

Anyway, sorry if I overly mellowed your harsh. ;)
posted by booksherpa at 3:16 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


I really liked this episode as I have liked all the episodes of this arc. Does every story need to have concrete forward-pointing stakes to be interesting? I think it's interesting to see the characters together esp Lup but Lucretia as well because even though their minds are going to be wiped, it's giving us a sense of what they lost and casting what we already knew in different lights, giving that new & different dimensions. Like knowing about that whole sweet moment between Barry and Taako talking about love and time projects a tremendous sense of loss and tragedy and depth on the moments in the past like where Taako finds the umbrella, or Lich-Barry searching for his friends. And now understanding LichBarry's whole deal of sustaining his lich form through love. It's not a traditional forward charging story like a video game where you set up bowling pins and knock them down but I think it's much better and more interesting. If anything I wish there was more of those little moments but that's a small quibble.
posted by bleep at 5:07 PM on May 18 [6 favorites]


I'm absolutely shocked that most of you seemed to hate this episode. This is the first of the arc that I was truly excited during. Taako/Justin getting pissy at Merle, Magnus's self-centered motivational speech, the wasted yearly meeting where John learns his name, getting ready for the voidfish! These were all great moments. I'm interested to see what Taako and Magnus do during their focus years. I'm interested to see if we will learn any more about the hunger. It's like Griffin said at the beginning of the last lunar interlude, we're getting very close now, and I'm on the edge of my seat feeling all the emotions.
posted by Night_owl at 7:58 PM on May 18 [4 favorites]


I don't think John wasted his turn by learning his name. I think Griffin was being a rusemaster by acting annoyed (half in-character, half out) at the awkwardness of drawing a distinction between John's individual and collective selves.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 8:28 PM on May 18


I'm a sucker for backstory so I'm loving this arc. Much more so than the Suffering Game which, true to its name, neither the players nor Griffin seemed to enjoy, or Petal to the Metal, where I completely lacked a sense of who was where the whole time. I like that the THB's are working to put in some things that come through later (The Truth Zone had me laughing, as did the not-quite-a-taco).

Am I understanding the plot bits correctly, that the Hunger is basically social media and the Light of Creation is basically memes?

And who DID release those dogs, anyways? Who? Who? WHO?
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:26 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Hmm... my interpretation of John was that he was basically a destructive nihilist?
posted by kmz at 7:43 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Ohhhh I was so hoping that perfect meal was going to be a taco or inspire the seemingly abandoned taco quest but Griffin kept using words like creamy and nutmeggy and I was just give the damn dude the taco boyyyyy....

But yeah this was better than previous eps in the arc. We're getting into it now.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:56 AM on May 19


If it was a taco, he wouldn't have been able to hear the word cheese or have the concept of grinding before he drank from the baby voidfish.
posted by Night_owl at 9:42 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was hoping for a tie-in back to tacos too; unfortunately, that may never get resolved.

Re my comments on stakes and the lack of them; I don't believe everything has to be "forward-pointing stakes" at all. But it is a difficulty that prequels/flashbacks, etc, are always going to grapple with - because we know how this ends. So the stakes need to be found elsewhere - in character details and in emotional investment (for the best, most recent example I can think of where a "prequel" story is being done really well, see Better Call Saul where even though I know the outcome of things for Jimmy, I remain fascinated to see how it happens because the show has made me care deeply about characters who are different in ways both subtle and large from how they appear later in Breaking Bad, in addition to bringing me characters who aren't in Breaking Bad so that I have no clue where their arc takes them).

Here, Merle, Magnus and Takko are largely just the same trio we've known and loved throughout the series. Give me a Merle who is a deeply devout man of the cloth whose faith erodes on the journey or a Magnus who is a rather careless person or someone unconcerned with the safety of others, and now we've got some emotional stakes because I want to see what causes the transformation into the character I've gotten to know throughout the rest of TAZ. If we're going to spend this much time on this journey, I want to see some meaningful developments for the characters and right now the most compelling character for me is Lup because her journey appears to involve the most change, in that she goes from being alive to being dead.

So what's left is getting the information about the Hunger and while the little conversations are fun, and getting some of the fun backfill about certain things is enjoyable, I'm looking for some deeper engagement.

Anyways, we all enjoy different things and if this arc is working for you, awesome. I'll go shut up now and wait for the story to really snag me again.
posted by nubs at 9:45 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I've been looking at this all wrong. Sure, if the light of creation and the voidfish can shape memories, that has tremendous implications in the hands of a gifted speaker, artist, or historian, and it gives power to things like names and narratives. But more importantly, it's a broadcast medium. This is how Taako from TV gets on TV.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 11:11 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I refuse to have my first comment on FanFare in two months be about shipping so I'm going to talk about larger Stolen Century shit first.

And then, in a separate comment, I'll talk about shipping.

Also: this may seem at first like it's a bummer comment but that's not actually where I'm headed in the end, just to be clear.

I was traveling yesterday and re-listened to both parts of the most recent Lunar Interlude -- mostly because I wanted to see how my experience of them would change in light of what we've learned since. And I will admit that I was struck by the enormous difference in how those episodes feel, compared to the recent arc -- how much more ENERGY they have. At the end of the day, the players are more intuitive storytellers than Writers -- particularly Justin and Travis -- and trying to do interesting character work in disconnected bite-sized chunks isn't leaning into their strengths at all. A side-effect of this format is that Griffin is constantly killing their momentum -- there's no time to settle into a scene, no time to feel their way into a fun dynamic with an NPC, and not a ton of opportunities to play off of each other and take advantage of their chemistry. TAZ episodes are often a little rocky at the start while they all warm up, and during the SC arc it seems to have been much harder for them to ever find their footing. Griffin's doing about as good of a job as I think he possibly could be, and I think they've all gotten much better at wringing as much fun and energy out of this play style as they can, but of course it isn't the same. I'm not fed up, by any means, but I totally understand why some of you are.

All of that said, while this arc hasn't had the consistency or the energy of the rest of the show, gosh the high points have been EXTREMELY high.

And I really agree with what Liz has been saying on and off since this arc started: given what Griffin had already established by the end of their time in Refuge, I don't think he could have meaningfully changed the nature of this big plot reveal without seriously fucking up the story. Their "death counts," the umbrella, the red robes, the prophecies, MANY MANY THINGS are all tied up in this plan. And once he was committed to the three of them having been crewmates and friends for a literal century, then yeah, again, really agree with Liz. The players needed to be able to take some ownership of that time, even if only in very broad strokes. And everyone involved, listeners and players and Griffin himself, needed to fill in the gaps enough to understand the nature of their shared history with each other and with the NPCs on the crew.

And even though it's all so abbreviated, I'm honestly very glad to have had some time with those NPCs. I IMMEDIATELY took against Barry when he showed back up -- after all, he embodies all of my frustrations with Griffin trying to force me to care about things rather than winning my affection organically -- and these episodes have given me some time to warm up to him a little. Lucretia is my absolute favorite forever, and while I wish she had more to do I'm dying to get a better understanding of who she is and how she ended up becoming the kind of person who could make the drastic and ruthless decisions that're tied up in the founding of the BoB and the erasure of all of their memories.

And of course, maybe most importantly, there's Lup. For both textual and metatextual reasons I'm pretty sure that she'll somehow end up a meaningful participant in the final stretch of the show -- a proper NPC rather than a vague voice in Taako's head. And in order for that to work AT ALL without feeling incredibly weird and forced, Justin and Griffin needed to have some space to kind of figure out what their while Deal would be -- not only what kind of person Lup is but the nature of their dynamic with each other. I was initially resistant to the concept of such a drastic change to Taako's backstory (honestly, I'm still not thrilled with it conceptually) but in practice Lup has just charmed the fuck out of me? I feel like Justin immediately took her action figure and tucked her into his pocket next to Taako, and his genuine affection for her is just so NICE? It's NICE. And Griffin obviously adores her, which is a hallmark of all of my favorite TAZ NPCs. His enthusiasm adds energy to every scene that she's in, which has done A LOT to keep me going during this arc, ngl.

To kind of bring things back around to this episode specifically:

The Hunger is probably the aspect of the overall plot that I'm least interested in -- Unknowable Evil is boring! And as nihilism is even MORE boring, while parts of the conversation with John were fun and atmospheric and appropriately ominous, I'm pretty happy to just sort of sit back and let that shit figure itself out. I'm not going to spend a ton of time wondering about the precise nature of an insatiable interplaner monster dude who likes chess.

I'm also not especially curious about the origins of the voidfish, although I'm sure they'll be interesting enough and I'll be fine with (probably) spending the next episode watching (probably) Magnus navigate obtaining that particular resource.

I AM! VERY! Curious about exactly how far they're going to get in this arc, timeline-wise, before Griffin's cornered into taking the reigns entirely away from them again. It's hard to tell just how much wiggle room he's built into what happens between their arrival on the world the larger campaign has taken place in and the final rupturing of the Starblaster crew. Sometime between now and the end of this arc, presumably we're going to cover Barry and Lup hooking up, their arrival on the present-day world, the decision to split the light of creation into the relics, the distribution of those relics and the havoc their influence ends up causing, the disagreement over how best to solve this problem that ultimately splits the crew, Lucretia's drastic decision to erase all of their memories, and whatever it is that results in (what we've been assuming is) Lup's skeleton lying in a cave with a magic umbrella.

Griffin's mentioned before that their decisions during the Stolen Century will have a meaningful impact on how the endgame plays out. He's also made use of NPCs as vehicles for presenting two different approaches to a problem, Davenport and Lup's moral disagreement being the most obvious example. I'm beginning to wonder if he's going to present the players with a similar choice regarding the relics, with Lucretia representing one side and Davenport or Lup or Barry another.

But how would that work, logistically? If the boys side with Lucretia, why would she have erased their memories? Is it something they'll end up volunteering for? WHY would they? And it seems like Lucretia was the only one of them to know what happened with Lup -- did the two of them split off? Did Lup side with Lucretia against the others?

I don't care much about the Hunger but I VERY much care about difficult moral decisions and ruptured friendships and my dear best beloved Lucretia, the director of my heart.

....all right wow I could go on but this comment is already enormous!!!!!!

Time to post it so I can talk about shipping.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:33 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]


ALL RIGHT SO.

That whole Destiny Moment in the restaurant was ABSOLUTELY a shipping thing, right?

Like I'm not hallucinating that Griffin has set in motion some literal red-string bullshit here???

Here's what he actually said, for those of you who haven't gone back and listened to this section an embarrassing number of times (thanks, TAZ Transcribed)
I don't know how to describe this, but as you eat this dish, you feel this-- you feel a pulling at something inside of you. And you don’t know what it is, because in a way it’s intangible, but at the same time, it’s real, because you can feel it. The moment you eat this meal, the moment your mind starts reeling with all of these new culinary possibilities, a bond is created. And imagine a long thread with one end tied around you and another tied around a person, a moment. When people talk about destiny, this is the kind of thing that they talk about. And you feel it now, because there’s so much power in it, Taako. And whatever’s on the other end, whoever, they feel it too.
Like.

Okay.

When I first listened to the episode, the beginning of this scene felt so "Yes yes Griffin go ahead and tie this back into Justin's taco quest that I don't care about" that what he ACTUALLY said didn't entirely sink in until later?

And even now....look, I'm old. I've been burned a lot of times. The harsh realities of serial fiction have taught me to keep my expectations REAL LOW regarding romance, particularly in stories made by straight men. Like not a diss on Griffin and the others, here, I've just been through the wringer.

I was trying to describe where I'm at right now to a friend this morning, and I settled on the nerdiest possible analogy: I feel like someone has fed the canonical details of Taako's romantic life to a voidfish, and I haven't been inoculated. So I'm looking RIGHT AT what is almost definitely some over-the-top THEIR HEARTS CALL OUT ACROSS THE MULTIVERSE content and I can't internalize it at all.

And look, I don't even LIKE this kind of setup particularly? I'm a grown-ass adult, I want people to just go on normal dates and get to know each other and make their romantic decisions based on chemistry and kindness and not Literal Destiny.

But let's not kid ourselves here, if Griffin and Justin have decided that what they want for Taako is a rose-tinted fairytail ending I will love every second of it and also probably cry.

....

Shit, it HAS to be Kravitz, right? And oh my god, friends and I were joking about this on Twitter and I don't actually think this is likely, but if we meet tiny Krav on Music Nerd Planet next week I'm going to absolutely lose my shit.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:00 PM on May 20 [7 favorites]


I like when you comment here. Please do that more.
posted by Night_owl at 8:21 PM on May 20 [5 favorites]


I'm usually a day or three behind on these as I save them for my every-other-week walk to work, so a few thoughts:

- I like that Griffin is trying something new and encourage experimentation, but yeah, this is sort of boring to listen to. Part of the issue, as said above, is that there are No Stakes which normally would be only a slight detriment, but it's coming out after an arc that was Nothing But Stakes.

- Justin is bored. You can hear it and it's contagious.

- I like Nihilist Joel Osteen, but agree the meeting room stuff is a little trite.

- I'm enjoying the content, but not the delivery. The low dice system is... okay, but a lot of the fun of the podcast is the boys coming up with some crazy rules interpretation and Griffin rolling with it.

- So, I dunno. They're moving the story along, but this could all be a coda or something. Maybe if it had been shown how the different Bonds, Assets, and Experience would help the endgame, then we'd care more?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:42 AM on May 23


Y'all, I genuinely enjoyed this episode most of this whole arc so far. Clint's roleplaying has been good and interesting through the Stolen Century, but where he decided to take the parlay actually meant a lot to me personally. (THANKS, depression, for giving me way too much experience with rumination and anhedonia. Actual thanks, beach dad, for calling out the bullshit.)

And from a story POV, I think what happened in this episode could have really interesting repercussions for the final showdown (or whatever it ends up being).
posted by epersonae at 5:19 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


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