The Stolen Century is the seventh story arc of The Balance Arc. It serves as a prequel to the events of The Balance Arc, and follows the adventures of the IPRE team as they travel to new planes of existence and flee from The Hunger.
Note: This arc does not use the traditional D&D fifth edition rule set, instead using a game of Griffin's own devising, also called The Stolen Century.
The arc opens with a crew of seven explorers within an organization called the Institute of Planar Research and Exploration (the IPRE, a.k.a. Red Robes). Members of the organization, including Magnus, Merle, and Taako, are interviewed by different news outlets on their home planet about the journey they are about to take across different planes of existence.
As the team takes off in their spaceship, The Starblaster, their world is consumed by what they would later call The Hunger, an extraplanar entity which consumes entire universes and makes them part of itself. At the moment The Hunger consumes their world, the Starblaster is able to break through the barrier between planes and into other realities. The Hunger pursues them to the next plane, but in each case they find that they cannot return to planes which they've already visited, and cannot leave their current plane until The Hunger shows up and the space between planes becomes "jiggly". In this way, the crew of The Starblaster remains one step ahead of The Hunger, always fleeing at the last possible moment before The Hunger snuffs out another universe and the lives of all of its inhabitants.
Shortly after each time the IPRE team arrives in a new plane of existence, that reality is also visited by a portion of The Light of Creation, a powerful energy/substance which enhances and uplifts the creative powers of beings who come into contact with it. Within a week or so of their arrival in a given reality, a portion of the Light of Creation also makes landfall in that world, followed shortly thereafter by The Hunger's spies which tell The Hunger which universe the Light of Creation has landed in. Approximately one year later, The Hunger invades and attacks that world, the IPRE escapes into the next reality, and the cycle begins anew.
Each time the Starblaster exits one reality and enters another, time seems to "reset" for the crew, leaving each of them standing in the exact place, and in the exact condition they were in when they left their home-plane for the first time (for example, Merle always has a small cut on his head and Magnus always has a black eye). Because of this resetting, none of the crew of the Starblaster age throughout the events of The Stolen Century arc. This resetting also prevents them from taking living creatures with them aboard the Starblaster, though somehow the Voidfish (Fisher) is able to travel with the IPRE without difficulty.
For the first few decades, the crew of the Starblaster simply spend their time searching for the Light of Creation and running from The Hunger; but as time goes on, they attempt to learn more about The Hunger and its motivations (e.g. Merle attempting to Parley with The Hunger), and to concoct ways of fighting and defeating it (e.g., Barry and Lup choosing to become liches).
Year after year, decade after decade, the crew of the Starblaster find themselves the sole survivors of every world, every universe they visit where they cannot obtain the Light of Creation. The Hunger does not entirely destroy the planes where the crew takes the Light, but they can never return to those planes after they escape. Slowly the weight of the unfairness and senseless destruction of it all begins to weigh on their consciences, and some of the crew begin to despair of ever finding a way to break the cycle they're trapped in. Eventually, Lucretia becomes convinced that the only way to break the cycle will be to enter a new world and sever that world's connections to the multiverse, effectively preventing The Hunger from reaching that world and stopping it in its tracks. The rest of the crew of the Starblaster unanimously opposes her idea, and decide instead to split the Light of Creation into seven equal parts, hoping that this will make the Light weak enough that The Hunger will no longer be able to sense it. They forge the seven parts into the Grand Relics and put them out into the world of Abeir-Toril (the world in which the rest of the Balance Arc takes place), so that they can be coveted and quested-after (the Light of Creation would lose its "craveability" if it were hidden away), but the sudden appearance of these powerful weapons results in a catastrophic war which devastates their adopted world, even though it seems to keep The Hunger from finding this plane for a time.
Wracked by guilt over the lives which their "plan" has destroyed, Lucretia makes the difficult and morally questionable decision of feeding her journals to the Voidfish, thereby erasing all mortal memories (except her own) of the events of the Stolen Century arc, in an attempt to stop people from fighting over the Grand Relics. One by one, the crew of the Starblaster lose their memories of their mission, The Hunger, and the familial bonds which they had forged with one another over the course of their hundred-year journey, believing themselves to be nothing more than ordinary inhabitants of Abeir-Toril.
Of the original crew of seven, only three retained their memories of their true natures, and the events of the Stolen Century arc: Lucretia (having been inoculated against both of the Voidfishes), Lup (who was trapped in lich form within the Umbra Staff), and Barry Bluejeans (who convinced Taako to kill him and reverted to lich form)(the undead are safe from the effects of the voidfish).
- Find out what The Hunger is.
- Prevent The Hunger from getting stronger.
- Learn how to stop The Hunger.
- Make yourselves strong enough to stop The Hunger.
- Gather resources in the form of bonds, assets, and experience.
- The Starblaster
- Cycle 0 - The IPRE Homeworld
- Cycle 1 - The Animal Kingdom
- Cycle 8 - The Mushroom Kingdom
- Cycle 17 - The Capital City of Jaden-Province
- Cycle 21 - The Beach World
- Cycle 30 - Tesseralia
- Cycle 47 - The Legato Conservatory
- Cycle 65 - The Judges' World
- Cycle 82 - The Empty World: the Prime Material plane bisected by the Plane of Magic
- Cycle 92 - The Hanging Arcaneum
- Cycle 99 and Onward - Faerun
Additionally, the following were presumably between Cycle 2 and 92:
- Cycle ?? - Jello Town
- Cycle ?? - Puppy Town
- Cycle ?? - The Hamster Civilization
As of episode 65 the party has the following resources:
- 3 Assets
- 6 Bonds
- 5 Experience
- 1 Assets
- 11 Bonds
- 3 Experience
- 5 Assets
- 3 Bonds
- 10 Experience
As of episode 66, the party's Assets have been expended to create new equipment. As of episode 67, their Experience has been expended on levels and other benefits. As of episode 69, their Bonds have been expended to summon allies from the bond engine in the Starblaster.
- Bonds - the connections between any two things in existence, including interpersonal connections - are revealed as a legitimate source of power. Griffin later explains in TTAZZ: Finale Edition that Bonds were behind various inexplicable phenomena in the universe such as Roswell's creation and Hurley and Sloane's transmutation.
- Taako's twin sister, Lup, and the origins of the Umbra Staff are revealed.
- The Hunger's origins are discovered.
- The circumstances that caused the Red Robes to lose their memories are revealed.
- How and why the Grand Relics were created is shown.
|Ep. 60: The Stolen Century - Chapter One||April 13, 2017||Listen||1:36:38|
|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.|
|Ep. 61: The Stolen Century - Chapter Two||April 27, 2017||Listen||1:27:56|
|Our heroes find themselves crossing between strange, deadly, beautiful worlds, pursued by a foe they cannot comprehend. Can they grow strong enough to defeat their cosmic enemy? Or will their journey take them down a road from which they can never return? Magnus leads an expedition. Taako is tempted. Merle leads his congregation.|
|Ep. 62: The Stolen Century - Chapter Three||May 4, 2017||Listen||39:25|
|Our heroes have earned a break, don't you think? Merle finds a place to settle down. Magnus keeps 'em on their toes. Taako dispenses some beach wisdom.|
|Ep. 63: The Stolen Century - Chapter Four||May 18, 2017||Listen||1:30:54|
|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.|
|Ep. 64: The Stolen Century - Chapter Five||June 1, 2017||Listen||1:05:57|
|Our heroes find themselves in a strange world where artists compete for national pride, submitting their works to a mountain that can make them known throughout the land. Can the team create satisfactory masterpieces before their year is up? Merle gets academic. Taako borrows some pearls of wisdom. Magnus meets a fateful friend.|
|Ep. 65: The Stolen Century - Chapter Six||June 15, 2017||Listen||1:25:36|
|The Hunger pursues, and our heroes escape. They’ve been keeping up the chase for decades now, evading without fail. But the Hunger’s getting faster. The journey’s getting harder. The team must take drastic steps, just to stay afloat. We’re nearly caught up, now. Merle writes his story. Magnus breaks his bonds. Taako plans a very good day.|
|Ep. 66: The Stolen Century - Chapter Seven||June 29, 2017||Listen||1:28:35|
|Our heroes' long, forgotten journey comes to an end.|