The Adventure Zone: Ep. 55. The Suffering Game - Chapter Five
January 26, 2017 10:23 AM - Subscribe

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.
posted by Tevin (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have to say, this arc is really not doing it for me. I was insanely excited when Magnus got True Seeing and saw the red robe at the end of the last episode, but it... basically went nowhere since Griffin seems kind of hellbent on railroading them through a bunch of seemingly pointless confrontations before they confront the liches.

Griffin also talks about why the Suffering Game is set up as it is here, and it sounds like a big part of the reason is to nerf the characters back down to a reasonable level so they can actually be challenged by combat and other roll-based mechanisms. Which, I totally get, but his way of doing it feels very repetitive and inconsequential: none of the players have actually seemed especially upset by their sacrifices yet, and if Griffin needed to nerf some stuff, I wish he'd either done it in one huge climactic moment that made a real impact or quietly off-screen so we never knew. Or start presenting Tres Horny Boys with problems that are real challenges that aren't just stats-based. I love the Red Robe stuff and the hints at what Cam is capable of but I just can't be bothered with Wonderland.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:05 PM on January 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm liking it personally! Given all the theories about the guys possibly becoming liches, and the fact that the campaign is gonna end soon, the lack of healing makes it feel like there are actual stakes- like somebody might really die and we can't know who. I was legit terrified for Taako the last couple episodes. It's like the exact opposite of the last arc.

I WOULD like to know what would have supposedly happened to Four Hitpoints Cam if he hadn't dodged that fireball though, jeez
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:09 PM on January 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

(Also, I really enjoy the idea that taking away Taako's hotness was some sort of challenge to the legions of fanartists out there who are super thirsty for him)
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:11 PM on January 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I know this makes me a bad storytelling person but my face lit up so much at the phrase "boss rush" that you could read a book by it
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:23 PM on January 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm kind of with WidgetAlley - this is definitely my least favorite arc so far. I actually love the idea of the Wheel of Suffering, especially when the sacrifices are narrative rather than mechanical. Magnus having to choose to lose the memory of either Julia or the man who killed her was riveting, and I screamed with laughter at the exchange:
GRIFFIN: That was great, Magnus.
TRAVIS: Thanks. [perfect comedic pause] Wait, what was?
But the execution of Wonderland as a repetitive game show (complete with LCD screens and neon signs) is not doing it for me.

That little editorial by Griffin was really interesting, and assuaged some of my fears about the arc, but I feel like he could be increasing the difficulty of the party's opponents a bit more before dragging them through this nerfing rigamarole. They are what, level 10+? They should probably be fighting dragons and demigods and high level NPCs with multiple attacks per round and high level spell effects of their own. They could also be facing foes who are actively using grand relics against them (like The Raven did, which I think was one of their most dramatic battles so far).
posted by Rock Steady at 4:43 AM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

They could also be facing foes who are actively using grand relics against them (like The Raven did, which I think was one of their most dramatic battles so far).

Huh, and I actually wasn't a fan of that final battle - to me THAT seemed like railroading, because 1. the whole premise of the arc ('we have to beat her to stop her') didn't work, which made me think Griffin was always going to have her go nuts at the end no matter what happened; and 2. the guys did literally nothing to stop her - the entire final boss battle was just them being 100% ineffectual until an NPC saved them. There might as well not have been any player characters there at all, for all the difference it made in the final outcome.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:49 AM on January 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

It'll be interesting to go back through and listen to this arc once it's over, because without those two month-long gaps I don't know if it would feel as draggy.

Ultimately I think this one'll be remembered and judged based on how it ends, which at this point could be basically anything. That's why I'm finding it interesting, I think - I don't know where it's going at all.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:52 AM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

2. the guys did literally nothing to stop her - the entire final boss battle was just them being 100% ineffectual until an NPC saved them. There might as well not have been any player characters there at all, for all the difference it made in the final outcome.

Right, but if they had to fight The Raven now, without Hurley swooping in to rescue them, I think it would be a fair fight.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:53 AM on January 27, 2017

> Without giving too much away, things are very much going to come to a head on the next episode, so to those folks: hang in there!
> come to a head
> head

I see you Griffey. I see you, and I see what you did there.

I'm excited for Cam to get into the mix next episode. Cam Unbound mixed with the Lich-Magnus' spell (or whatever) about to pop off I think we're up for the shit hitting the fan. And speaking of the boys being demi-gods, it feels like fighting dual liches would be appropriate to their power levels, no?

As a side note, this was the first episode where the Suffering Game concept started to work for me, especially Taako's decision to lose his beauty. Justin really role-played that and it was all the better for it.
posted by Tevin at 5:14 AM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm glad Griffin made that post, because yeah - this is exhausting. You can hear it in the players, they've had enough but they are hanging in.

I have no problem with character suffering being a part of a D&D story arc; in fact, some of the best games I've played in have involved that - characters making painful sacrifices, characters suffering through something because of the end goal or a character goal, etc. It's awesome and powerful when it comes from a place of the game/story and the character story and identity coming together in a moment of choice for the players to have something happen.

This isn't that; there's no choice here. Well, there is, but it's about the type of suffering, not about the existence of suffering. I was thinking about it last night and wondering about the conflict of the intentions of D&D the game and the needs of this being a radio drama (which I really saw with the ending of Petals to the Metal, where the characters are essentially sidelined so that an NPC can resolve the arc), and I see Griffin has acknowledged that conflict in the post. And yeah, power creep is an issue in D&D, but I guess I also feel there are ways to address that without this type of structure, and also that there is nothing wrong with the characters being powerful - so often we get wrapped up in making a challenging encounter/dungeon for the players, when the players also have as much fun plowing through ranks of enemies and destroying their foes - it's ok to let them have that and also give them a challenge (in fact, when I first started wrapping my head around D&D 5e, I figured that the PCs would be overpowered pretty quickly, and that one of the solutions to that is to have the bad guys also rolled up basically as PCs to give them those moments of incredible challenge and to also not be afraid of having an endgame that scales up into fights with godlike beings).

Anyways, I really felt that how the last episode ended - with the True Seeing spell and the group getting a clue as to what was really going on - should've prompted a faster move toward things coming to a head in this episode. Griffin has a plan, but sometimes the players short-circuit your plan and cut to the chase really quickly - I don't think that should be punished, but rewarded.
posted by nubs at 9:55 AM on January 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm interested to know more about Cam's relationship with Lucretia. I get the feeling he's going to be important for the Boys to move forward in the overarching storyline.
posted by Night_owl at 1:01 PM on January 29, 2017

New episode!
posted by Iridic at 11:42 AM on February 9, 2017

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