The Suffering Game is the sixth story arc of The Balance Arc. It follows the Tres Horny Boys as they try to make it through the trials and tribulations of Wonderland, a deathtrap that promises to grant the deepest desires of anyone who can survive it.
Special thanks to Reddit user agrapeana for their synopsis
This arc opens with the group engaged in grueling physical training at the insistence of The Director. She calls them into her office and explains that their next mission will be to travel to Wonderland and retrieve the Animus Bell. She explains that she attempted to recover this relic prior to the creation of the Bureau, and that she just barely escaped, but not before losing 20 years of her life inside. Magnus again tries to ask about the Red Robes, but the Director insists that they are unfailingly evil. Before leaving for the mission, Magnus breaks into the brig to speak with Robbie. He knocks out two guards, who he puts in the Pocket Workshop, and is able to speak with Robbie about his imprisonment. Robbie explains that something possessed him and caused him to break into the Director's private quarters.
The boys are launched into the Felicity Wilds. Magnus straps the two unconscious men into their sphere after Merle and Taako exit, but the glass ball is destroyed on its way back up by a Chimera. After fighting the beast, the adventurers meet a party of travelers, also headed towards Wonderland, who are made up of Lord Artemis Sterling, the ruler of Neverwinter, and two mercenaries named Rowan and Antonia. They travel to Wonderland together despite Artemis's objection. They see signs advertising prizes within: The Animus Bell for the party, Miracle Milk for Artemis, Carmine's Collar for Rowan, and the Heart of the Forest for Antonia. Each group enters Wonderland through their own door.
Once inside Wonderland the group meets two highly fashionable elves. They explain that to win their prize the group must give up the things holding them back. They work their way through Wonderland, making sacrifices and being asked to trust or forsake other players. Whenever they express their suffering, black smoke rises from their mouths. They also meet Cam, a former player who is now a disembodied head, kept alive by Wonderland. He explains that they are stuck in a never ending loop and that Wonderland only exists to make them suffer. He asks the group if they have ever seen inexplicably strong magic as the result of strong emotion, which the party admits they have in the form of Hurley saving Sloane and Roswell's unnatural longevity. It is ultimately revealed that Cam was hired to escort The Director through Wonderland, and that she doomed him to an eternity of suffering in exchange for the ability to escape Wonderland. While inside, the group sacrifices:
Magnus: Pinky Finger*, 10 years of his life*, The memory of Governor Kalen, 20 Hit Points*, Bad Luck (and refuses to "lose" a fight)
Merle: Dark Vision, Left Eye, Wedding Ring/Adamant Spanner/Battle Ax Proficiency, Disadvantage on all throws for one fight (and refuses to give up the memory of the birth of his children)
Taako: Bad Luck, 15 Hit Points, Dexterity, Elven Beauty
*no longer applicable
After forsaking a group that chose to trust their party, the adventures are placed in a dating game. They begin to notice the smoke being siphoned away, and Magnus feels something making Thieves Cant symbols into his hand. Taako casts True Seeing on Magnus, who can now see that the Red Robe is the entity assisting them in the game. He also sees the elves as two black-cloaked liches. During their next battle, Magnus sees the Red Robe shaping the black smoke into items across the room. Merle attempts to commune with his God, who does not respond. Taako turns into Dupree the T-Rex, and shortly after the Red Robe is able to create a door. They exit through it and find that they have been in a single room for their entire duration in Wonderland, reshaped by the black smoke.
The group confronts the elves and they do battle after explaining that they became Necromancers in an attempt to save their younger brother, Keetz, from illness. They were unsuccessful, but grew to enjoy their new undead powers, finding that they were able to first maintain their sanity by the love of their brother, and then later by the suffering that they extracted from players in Wonderland. The female lich, Lydia, uses the Animus Bell to knock Magnus' soul from his body, and the male lich, Edward, inhabits him. Taako casts Magic Jar and rips his own soul from his body, diving into the ethereal plane to save Magnus. Through the rift to the astral plane that Magnus is drifting towards, they see that the astral plane has been consumed with the black tar from Paloma's prophecy, and that Kravitz is drowning in it. Merle uses Planar Ally to call both of them back to the Prime Material plane, where Taako's soul returns to his body and Magnus's is deposited into a mannequin.
The group does battle with the liches. Merle is knocked unconscious, but Cam works with the Red Robe to sacrifice his life to revive him. They ultimately defeat Magnus's body, and when Edward emerges in his Lich form, he is absorbed by the Umbra Staff. After a brief time rattling around inside, he is ejected from the staff and is reduced to ash. Lydia begins to lose her form, and, in her last furious act before dying, destroys Magnus’s body. The adventurers retrieve the Animus Bell and Wonderland disappears. Artemis Sterling pledges his power to Merle in apology for forsaking their group, and Antonia forgives Taako for forsaking theirs. They leave the clearing with the Red Robe, who destroys their Stones of Farspeech, and follow him through the wilds, finding that they are in the same area as their first adventure.
They eventually make their way to a cave, which contains a glowing pod and a map of the Bureau of Balance. The lich explains that they need to enter the Director's private quarters. He says he will help, but cannot enter the base in his lich form. However, he also knows that he will not remember the things he knows as a lich once he returns to his body, which is being regrown in the pod. As he enters, he asks Merle to retrieve his clothes for him. Merle pulls out a shirt, a leather belt, and a pair of pants: sturdy, denim and blue. Barry's back.
- Edward and Lydia
- Lord Artemis Sterling
- Barry Bluejeans (revealed to be one of the Red Robes)
- Felicity Wilds
Long-Term Significance Edit
- Lucretia is a lot younger than she looks and her portrait has illusion magic on it.
- "Barry's back."
- Magnus' body is destroyed and he's now a mannequin. Great.
|Ep. 51: The Suffering Game - Chapter One||October 20, 2016||Listen||1:07:14|
|After a summer spent tirelessly training, our heroes are finally prepared to take on their next, harrowing mission. What horrors -- or fortunes -- await them in Wonderland? I mean, this arc is literally titled "The Suffering Game," so you can probably piece it together yourself. Merle hangs ten. Taako's like a bird. Magnus drops in on an old friend.|
|Ep. 52: The Suffering Game - Chapter Two||November 17, 2016||Listen||1:06:36|
|Our boys survived their first encounter in The Felicity Wilds -- but will they survive the perils that await them inside of Wonderland? Or like, maybe it's not so bad in there? No, I'm just goofin'. It's pretty dang bad in there. Magnus makes a new BFF. Merle goes dark. Taako considers a job application.|
|Ep. 53: The Suffering Game - Chapter Three||December 15, 2016||Listen||1:18:50|
|Wonderland has revealed itself as a genuinely unsafe place for our heroes to be. Can they make forward progress in a cyclical game designed to extract raw anguish from them? Can they reach their distant goal before they've sacrificed too much? Magnus goes spear fishing. Merle is the MVP. Taako has a spot of bad luck.|
|Ep. 54: The Suffering Game - Chapter Four||January 12, 2016||Listen||1:04:58|
|After Round One of The Suffering Game, our heroes aren't doing too great -- and with another turn of the Wheel ahead, the future's not especially bright, either. Can they keep their heads up (and on) to power through? Magnus makes an invisible friend. Merle charms the crowd. Taako makes 'em laugh.|
|Ep. 55: The Suffering Game - Chapter Five||January 26, 2017||Listen||1:10:45|
|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.|
|Ep. 56: The Suffering Game - Chapter Six||February 09, 2017||Listen||1:04:22|
|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.|
|Ep. 57: The Suffering Game - Chapter Seven||February 23, 2017||Listen||1:14:40|
| Game over.
Taako makes some fashionable friends. Merle does some wordplay. Magnus remembers.