Web Video: Acquisitions Incorporated
Always be branding, people.Acquisitions Incorporated
is a Dungeons & Dragons
party starring in a series of online adventures since 2008, originally in podcast format but nowadays mainly published on YouTube
. A collaboration between Penny Arcade
and Wizards of the Coast
, the series was originally created to showcase the then-new 4th Edition of D&D
, but soon evolved into something of an improvisational Comic Fantasy
thanks to the fun dynamics between the players and excellent Dungeon Mastering by WOTC producer Chris Perkins.
The plot centers on the (mis)adventures of the eponymous Acquisitions Inc., a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
banded together in a pseudo-corporate formation on a quest for fame and wealth
. Originally consisting of The Leader
Omin Dran (Jerry Holkins
), The Big Guy
Binwin Bronzebottom (Scott Kurtz
), and The Smart Guy
Jim Darkmagic (Mike Krahulik
), they were later (temporarily
) joined by a number of corporate "interns"
, a full list of whom and their associated tropes can be found on the characters page
The series began as podcasts, available through the official WOTC website
, before transitioning to live events at Penny Arcade Expo events around the United States, which can be viewed here
, and here
(as well as on YouTube
). All adventures to date are listed on the recap page
(now with a Best Episode crowner
). Another podcast was produced to showcase the newly-resurrected Dark Sun
campaign setting, but did not feature the characters of Acquisitions Incorporated. Wil didn't appear in it, with Kris Straub subbing in, and Jerry served as the DM in place of Chris.
- Accidental Innuendo: Invoked in a couple of PAX live games:
- Season 4:
Omin: So go bang on her!
Aeofel: Wait, what?
Omin: I mean with your sword.
Omin: No, I mean with a weapon!
- Season 5:
Chris: It's been several years since you had to "mount" Cronk.
Jim: Well, I have a girlfriend now...
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Season 7 gave us the gem "You bluntly bash her bark-covered body".
- Aliens Speaking English: In season 6, the Drow girl speaks in French. Blocked by the DM when the players translate her French.
Wil: So, she said she wants our help to steal the eye?
Chris: You have no idea.
- All There in the Manual: The official Wizards of the Coast podcast did a few episodes about converting the Acquisitions Incorporated characters to D&D Next, which helps explain why everyone's abilities have changed so drastically between seasons 5 and 6. Among other things, the mechanics for Wizards were still in early beta, the new Fighter mechanics were very different, and Aeofel is technically a Cleric because an Avenger class/build hadn't been designed yet.
- Arc Welding: Chris took the story of Omin's sister, which Jerry probably invented on the spot in season 4, and actually introduced his sister into the plot in the end of season 8.
- Arm Cannon: The eponymous Ark of the Mad Mage from season 7 has a bright green gemstone set into its right hand. Said gemstone, when activated, fires a ray of green flame that does massive damage. Which turns out to be useful since the climax of the adventure involves the Tarrasque.
- Audience Participation:
- In the very first live game in season 4, the DM asked the audience to vote via phone messages to determine what the party had to do to activate the portal to Hell, whom the fire ballistas fired at (thrice), and which monster would be the final boss of the game.
- As the party descended into Halaster's labyrinth in season 7, Chris came up with a way for the audience to participate in live events: whenever someone at the table said "green flame" or mention fire of said color in any way or form, the entire crowd was supposed to echo it. By season 8, it seems to have become a meme, since every fire in the Forgotten Realms is now apparently colored green—to the delight of the cheering (and diligently participating) audience.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: At the end of "Ark of the Mad Mage", Omin is made a Masked Lord of Waterdeep.
- Backup Bluff: Taking advantage of Percy's inability to perceive fey, Jim tries to do this in season 5. It doesn't work.
- Badass Boast:
- Aeofel, all alone in hell, facing Cetrine Ambershard and a Devil lording over a fortress full of minions and artillery, makes numerous claims of how he will extract a price in blood from all of them.
Cetrine: Acquisitions Incorporated will be a footnote in the pages of history!
Aeofel: Acquisitions Incorporated will not be a footnote, Acquisitions Incorporated will write the book!
- Jerry/Omin is pretty good at these.
Omin: Percival, let me save you a lot of time. We're better than you. Each of us, individually, are better than you. If we all hit you at once, you will explode.
- Bag of Holding: The party acquire one in season 1, although it doesn't feature in later campaigns.
- Base on Wheels: The Darkmagic family manor (which isn't actually on wheels; it "merely" teleports).
- Big Damn Heroes:
- Splug, the temporarily foe-turned friend goblin employee, pulls one at the climax of season 1 where he saves the party from another defeat.
- Done epically in season 4, where right after the bad guy has taunted Aeofel about his friends having abandoned him, the party appears on a hell beast to rescue him.
- Finally outdone in season 8, when Viari, of all people, rejoins the party, who were trapped inside Dragonspear Castle, and brings a Cool Airship with him.
- A Birthday, Not a Break: The entire season 6 misadventure in the lizardmen temple takes place on Aeofel's 142nd birthday.
- Blatant Lies: After hiring Viari as their new intern, the guys try not to mention what happened to their last one.
Binwin: We will always, always... protect our friends.
Jim: Don't worry. Your safety is our number one priority.
Omin: It has been zero days since our last intern death.
- Black Comedy: Shows up from time to time. Some of the side-effects of the party's ride in the Halaster statue conveniently gets swept under the rug, as an example.
"Those orphans didn't have any parents anyway."
- Bolivian Army Ending: Never used in-game, but Jerry believes that all adventures should conclude with...
"You look up. It is a mouth."
- Borrowed Catchphrase: Mike's Catch Phrase is "Jim winks", but Wil occasionally borrows it for Aeofel, usually directed at Jim himself.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: In Episode 6, Wil deliberately mugs to the audience after pointing out a new feature in D&D Next, in mock shill. And is then disappointed when the DM won't reward him with a bonus on his next roll.
- Brief Accent Imitation: Omin, when yelling for the French-speaking Danielle to find the switch that controls the acid trap in Ep 6.
Omin: S'il vous plait!
- The Cameo: Paul and Storm (a.k.a. the Minstrels from season 5) make a brief appearance in season 8, helping to remove the Dragonspear Castle diorama. Then Paul comes back to take a group selfie with Morgan, Jerry, and Pat.
- Chekhov's Skill: Soon after his return in season 8, Viari gains Inspiration, allowing him or any party member reroll a single d20 later on. It ends up saving Omin's life during the final confrontation.
- City with No Name: It is never explained where exactly season 6 (a.k.a. "The Lost Episode") takes place. In the end of season 5, the party travels from their home plane (the Points of Light, as established very early in season 1) to the Forgotten Realms, but something goes wrong and they wake up in a strange temple. Season 7 explains that the Darkmagic Estate crash landed near Waterdeep, so it can be presumed that the lizardmen found it while the party was out cold and dragged them to their temple. On the other hand, Omin's divine spells still work as if they were on their home plane (Avandra has no presence in the Realms, causing him to briefly lose his powers in season 7), while Danielle the Drow somehow speaks actual French, additionally implying a connection of the place to Real Life...
- Cliffhanger: "Dragons Over Easy" ends with the party attempting to sneak out of Dragonspear Castle with a clutch of eggs, past a green dragon and its minions... only to run head-on into a second green dragon. This was a result of the event running fifteen minutes over before the party had reached the final encounter.
- Content Warnings: Most published recordings of the AI's sessions are prefaced by a warning along the lines of "This podcast features adults, using adult language. You Have Been Warned." The only ones that aren't are the very first three podcasts of season 1.
- Cool Airship: The Acquisitions Incorporated Battle Balloon from season 8.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The idiotic Surfer Dude, Rad Longhammer, is able to defeat a couple of guards while unarmed and shackled.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: In "Dragons Over Easy", thanks to a combination of the DM's amazing rolls and the party's poor ones, the villain ambushes the party, kills Jim, and downs Binwin and Môrgænnote ... before any of them can take a single action.
- Death by Irony: Citrine Ambershard dies in an acid pit just like Aeofel did in her manor, much to his amusement.
- Defeat Means Friendship: After defeating Irontooth and his lackeys, the only surviving goblin, Splug, pledges his loyalty to the party, if only so they won't kill him. He proves his worth later in the campaign.
Jim: Have we room for a new hire?
- Deliberate Injury Gambit: It's a common tactic of the team for Binwin to charge in and get surrounded, whereupon Jim drops a fireball on all of them, Binwin included. Binwin is not always in on this plan but generally comes out of it looking better than the bad guys. This happened so often in Season 1 that the players joked it was an all-purpose plan: "When in doubt, set the dwarf on fire." In fact by Season 3, they've learned to use it to their advantage, where Binwin gets temp hit points when he gets wounded, and Jim gets better stats to hit enemies if his friends are in the field of attack.
- Disturbed Doves: Seeing how the dove trick is a staple of Jim's act, he also tends to summon them in droves at dramatic moments just for the Rule of Cool.
- Double Meaning Title: Part 2 of season 8 is titled "Five Heads are Better than None". At first, it was thought to be a reference to the Tyranny of Dragons metaplot (which revolves around the Cult of the Dragon trying to free Tiamat, the five-headed dragon goddess) that the game ties into, but it also foreshadowed the return of Viari, which bumped the party headcount up to five.
- Downer Ending: At the end of season three, the party hasn't helped Barton or Hammerfast, neither of the chief villains have been captured or defeated, and Aeofel is dead.
- Draco Lich: Towards the end of Ark of the Mad Mage, the party runs into a skeletal dragon, prompting Scott to ask Jerry "What is a dracolich, by the way?" Jerry's reaction: "That is a draco-fucking-lich, yes." It turns out to be just a reanimated dragon, not an actual D&D dracolich, however.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The original podcast series (a.k.a. season 1) was recorded to help teach players about 4th Edition rather than purely for entertainment value. Wil/Aeofel wasn't with the party yet, the others were still learning the rules and feeling out their characters, and the second half of the adventure is DMed by James Wyatt (one of the lead designers on 4E) instead of Chris Perkins.
- Elfeminate: The group makes the occasional joke revolving around this trope mentioning how Aeofel is fey, or how they have a "don't ask don't tell" policy or how Aeofel is a pretty boy. Wheaton (Aeofel's player) for his part embraces and defends the trope.
Wheaton: Listen, here's the thing about elves: Elves are the Eladrin's hillbilly cousins. So I'll take the Eladrin that looks like a girl, thank you very much, because we deserve to look and feel pretty.”
- Epic Fail:
- At the climax of season 2, Binwin and Jim are down, and Omin and Aeofel are in bad shape as well. Omin breaks out an encounter power, but rolls a 1. With some divine intervention from Aeofel, he gains a re-roll and tries again. And rolls another 1.
- In season 5:
Wil: Oh yeah, so I run down the thing, and I land on top of the bear, and I, like, flip in the air, and then, as I'm coming down, I sort of, like, barrel-roll a little bit, and then I flip again, and then I come down here so I land just like this, so I'm flanking this guy. Yeah, and it's super-cool! And there's rock music playing while I do it, and I'm gleaming cubes on my way there, and as I come down, I use my Avenging Echo against him... ohhh, I rolled a 1.
- In season 6, Omin rolls a 1 on his very first roll while the others roll well into the double digits. That roll being a Constitution save.
Wil: Is he dead?
Chris: No, he's just very, very unconscious. Possibly for the rest of the show.
- Fantastic Racism: Parodied when Viari's sword breaks.
Viara: Friend dwarf, do you have any forge tools? Not to be racist here, but your people carry, like, forge tools around, right?
- Film Noir: Parodied when Omin is aimlessly wandering through the city searching for a way to get his powers back.
- Five-Man Band: In season 8, the party size is bumped up to five for the first time.
- The Leader: Omin, of the mastermind variety.
- The Lancer: Viari, who is, in many ways, the opposite of Omin.
- The Smart Guy: Jim, Statistically Speaking.
- The Big Guy: Binwin, the token brawler.
- The Chick: Môrgæn, the Token Girl of the series, who, in a subversion, is a sociopath rather than The Face.
- Friendship Moment: In part two of "The Ark of the Mad Mage", a demon-slash-familiar tries to tempt Jim (a narcissist who isn't known for very sound judgements) with promises of power and treasure, to which Jim responds by grabbing it with both hands, reminding it of how it tried to kill his friends earlier, and casting Burning Hands at point blank range.
- Full Boar Action: The Ambershard clan's doorkeeper keeps a gigantic dire boar as a pet. And a mount.
- Gag Penis: The whole penis conversation from season two. Apparently dwarven penises are shaped like tuna cans.
"When women see it, they say it's time for some more chicken of the sea."
- Graceful Loser: When the guys beat the Ambershards' gatekeeper, he willingly opens the only entrance to the manor and leaves.
- Gunship Rescue: Viari brings a gun-dirigible to the Dragonspear Castle just in time to save the rest of the party trapped there. Subverted, however, in that they (with Viari's help) then manage to defeat all enemies without actually using any of the ship's guns. They do come in handy later on, though.
- Has a Type: Môrgæn jokes about Brath the Dragon Cultist having a type after Vandal relates seeing him with a woman who looked slightly like Môrgæn shortly before he tried "courting" her. Of course, Brath was just trying to lure her away from the others and kill her, and the woman was his fellow dragon cultist.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Splug the Goblin comes to save the party towards the end of season 1 and goes down defending them. He bleeds out when Omin has to make a choice between saving him or Binwin.
- High-Altitude Battle: The final showdown against the Dragon Cult and their masters in season 8 takes place aboard the Acquisitions Incorporated Battle Balloon flying through the storm of the century amidst a massive battle between metallic and chromatic dragons.
- Honor Before Reason: Two uses combine in the third season. First, It's Personal for Binwin when the party is raiding the home of Clan Ambershard, which had ruined the Bronzebottoms. So while everyone else wants to get the treasure and leave, he leads them straight into a confrontation with Leer, the Big Bad. This leads to Aeofel swearing his Oath of Enmity on Leer, and once that happens, he pursues even when (both in and out of character) he realizes it means getting separated from the team. Which ends with Aeofel meeting his end in an acid pit.
- Hopeless Boss Fight: The first encounter with the dragon cultists in "Dragons Over Easy" is so blatantly rigged against the heroes that it was likely intended as one of these: the cultists wipe the floor with the party before they can even act, sparing only Omin, who happens to be both the leader (for whom their bloody message was intended) and party healer (who can quickly get his people back on their feet).
- Humongous Mecha: The Mechalaster—the eponymous Ark of the Mad Mage in season 7—is a giant humanoid combat robot designed by Halaster to defend Waterdeep from the Tarrasque.
- Hurricane of Puns: All the "fey" jokes in season 5.
Scott: This isn't the first time I have double-teamed someone with a fey.
- Insult Backfire : After Chris grants Viari Inspiration for an awesome performance, Scott quips "Now he can finally finish that novel!" Pat likes that joke so much, however, he doesn't take any offense.
- I Think You Broke Him: In season 6, when Scott starts singing the theme song of Binwin's greataxe, Chris cannot contain his laughter and takes two attempts to return to the table and resume DMing, prompting Mike to quip that Scott "broke the Dungeon Master". Something similar (sans the lampshade) happens in season 7, when Pat acts out a Man on Fire after Jim drops a fireball on Viari.
- It Is Pronounced Tro-PAY: For the Will and Testament of James Darkmagic I campaign, it is explained that Jim's family is not from New Hampshire, but rather the much more fantasy-sounding "Newhamp Shire".
- Kiss of Death: Jim instantly bites the dust when he brazenly kisses the succubus that the party encounters in "Ark of the Mad Mage".
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: After Jim summons a magmabeast, Aeofel becomes a beacon of Malora's might, and Omin declines to attack because he wants to save his abilities for stronger enemies, Scott complains that Binwin's daily powers are still just "hit things with hammer". He then goes on to finish off the boss they're fighting — with a hammer blow.
- Literal Metaphor: In season 6, the DM repeatedly describes Danielle's movements in terms normally used to describe Spiders. Wil even calls him out on this:
- Mundane Utility: The first time Jim, a mighty wizard capable of great magical feats, uses magic in season 3. What does he do? He closes a door dramatically.
Mike: I'm gonna turn that daily over.
- Never Split the Party: In season 3, Aeofel leaves the rest of the party behind and is promptly killed by an acid pit trap.
- Once per Episode: For a while after season 3, every session has had someone fall in (and in several cases die from) a pit of acid.
- One-Hit Kill: In the "Ark of the Mad Mage" podcast, the party encounter a succubus, who kills Jim Darkmagic with a single attack. Mind you, she was only able to do it because Jim kissed her.
- One-Liner Echo: During the battle with the Ambershard's gatekeeper both sides go all out with taunts and one-liners, especially between Jim and their foe.
- Then later on when the guardian's beloved mount has bitten the dust.
Jim: How's your death scene?
- Organ Theft: Jokingly used when Omin gets saved by a temple priest.
"We had to remove your liver."
- Packaged As Other Medium: The intro to the second half of season 8 is presented In the Style of... SNES-era Final Fantasy games, complete with 16-bit pixel graphics, white-on-blue menus, Overworld Not to Scale, 2D side view battles, and even a Kill Screen towards the end.
- Passed-Over Inheritance: Most of the Darkmagic clan in season 5.
- Player Punch: In-universe, in a meta way. The near-Total Party Kill in "Dragons Over Easy" was obviously intended as this for Jerry — and it connected real good, because the first thing he said afterwards amounted to "We are taking those bastards down — and hard."
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner:
- Used by Binwin after the villain pulls a Who Are You? before the final encounter of the second season.
Binwin: We are Acquisitions Incorporated and we are here to acquire your ass!
- Also, in season eight, Jim gets one (subverted in that he gets killed after saying it but before making any actions):
Jim: (to Omin) Let me off the chain, boss. This dog's gotta hunt.
- Psychic Static: Used by Vandal in season 8 to conceal the fact that he is a dragon in disguise when Jim attempts to read his thoughts — all Jim hears are some silly songs a not-too-bright halfling in awe of the upcoming adventure would sing.
- Pun: As befits a role-playing table, puns comprise about a third of this show's humor. Perhaps the best one comes courtesy of Pat in season 7:
: I'm gonna part the illusory fronds [and peer out of the room]. [some time later, while the party is still exploring the illusory forest] Viari
(to Omin): You called me an "illusionary frond" before, and it kinda hurt my feelings. Omin
: Well, no... Viari
: I thought we were real fronds. Omin
: This is about frondship
? Frondship is magic
- Red Herring: The intro to season 8 part 2 drops a hint or two at a possible return of Aeofel. However, it's Viari who re-joins the party to save the day.
- Running Gag:
- Plenty of examples. Jerry rolling ones, Binwin getting caught by traps, no one being able to pronounce Aeofel's name, Jim setting Binwin on fire, and Scott getting his teammates killed. In season 5, every time Jim Darkmagic's cousin Olivia makes a comment, Mike mutters "Shut up Olivia."
- Everything to do with Aeofel's fatal encounter with an acid trap and the lingering trauma from that encounter. Chris Perkins makes a point to include more acid in subsequent adventures.
- Sadistic Choice: In The Lost Episode, when Aeofel is dangling from a rope above an acid pool where Jim is stranded, both of them almost botch a roll to grab each other's hands, so the DM rules that they grab hands but Aeofel has to decide whether to let go or to fall into the acid himself. His phobia of acid ultimately wins over the Power of Friendship. Wil and Mike actually play this entire scene out over the gaming table.
- Sequel Hook: Set up early in season 8, even before the season's actual adventure is set up. Omin receives a letter from the Baldur's Gate chapter of Acquisitions Inc. asking him to mediate with the local authorities, so that season's adventure is essentially a detour on the party's trip to Baldur's Gate, where season 9 will presumably take place.
- Shaped Like Itself: When Jim is trying to describe the artifact that they're after in season 3.
Zethir: Magic coat?
Jim: Yeah, it's like a coat, but it's magical.
- Shout-Out: It's a table-full of geeks, remember?
- Simple Score of Sadness: Starts playing when the season 8 preview explains how the party has lost Viari.
- Sound Effect Bleep: Only once during the entire series, which is otherwise uncensored. It was in Season 1, and it was from Scott. What was bleeped is up to debate, but it was likely a case of Country Matters.
- Surfer Dude: Rad Longhammer. You can't really tell from his accent that he was adopted and raised by dwarven nobles.
- Surprise Incest: "The Last Will and Testament of Jim Darkmagic I", Jim's cousin Olivia wistfully reminisces about how they "used to kiss in [Jim's] bedroom closet". Later, Jim's aunt Wanda reveals that Olivia isn't his cousin — she's his sister. So technically it's "Surprise Even More Incest".
- Terrible Interviewees Montage: The Tryout videos preceding season 7, wherein Omin, Jim, and Binwin interview candidates to take Aeofel's place in the party in their next adventure. There's a few Expys of well-known characters.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: After Viari drops a chandelier onto the last batch of bad guys in season 7, Chris lets him roll all of his dice at once to determine the damage it does to them, knowing full well that they won't survive this. He probably did it because the game was running late and they still had the True Final Boss to beat...
- Thicker Than Water: The respective relatives of all three founding members have been the driving force behind some plot line: season 3 misadventure happens because Binwin's father stops drinking; Omin reveals in season 4 that the whole Acquisitions Inc. brand was started by him and his long-lost older sister who comes back as their enemy in the end of season 8; and Jim's own Big Screwed-Up Family basically is the plot of season 5.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: Aeofel's memories of Hell during the trip to the Darkmagic Estate in season 5.
Nam was hell. "Necromancers are dicks, you guys. Necromancers are dicks." Aeofel just stares off, the wings beating beneath him, his silvery hair blowing out behind him, a thousand-square
stare in his eyes. He feels nostalgia as a standard action. A single tear falls from his perfectly black, orbular eye, and turns into a diamond as the wind catches it and carries it away.
- To Hell and Back: The entire plot of season 4 involves going to a hell plane to bring back Aeofel from the dead.
- Too Awesome to Use: The magical scroll in season 2 ends up not getting used despite how useful it could have been.
- Torture for Fun and Information: In "Ark of the Mad Mage", a miniaturised wizard trapped in a cage is being uncooperative, so Jim holds his new pet raven up to the cage to scare the wizard into talking. The raven leaps out of Jim's hands and eats the wizard.
- Total Party Kill:
- Happens in season 1, when the party first encounters the Orcus cultists. Luckily, it proves to be a Hopeless Boss Fight rigged against them, as they soon wake up on an altar where the cultists plan to ritually sacrifice them, and the fight resumes with (slightly) evened odds.
- Narrowly averted in season 8, when another batch of cultists nearly wipes the party out in an attempt to scare them away from Dragonspear Castle (they fail). There are strong indications that that battle was also rigged against them from the start.
- Wandering Minstrel: In season 5, Paul and Storm, as "the Minstrels", performed the season's theme songs.
- Weapon of Choice: Omin wields a hammer that is simultaneously the holy symbol of his goddess, Binwin is a Multi-Melee Master who alternates between axes and mauls, Jim dual wields wands, Aeofel is the only one with a sword despite being as far removed from being The Leader as it gets, Viari has a swashbuckler rapier (or two, depending on the situation), and Môrgæn wields a longbow.
- Weapon Wields You: Briefly happens to Aeofel, when he picks up a cursed sword in season 6 and loses the battle of wills against it. Luckily, he manages to regain control and get rid of it before it causes any real damage.
- We Can Rule Together: Invoked by the raven in Ark of the Mad Mage.
When you say that you and I can have all the treasure, what do you mean? Invisible Fiendish Raven:
Halaster's treasure! It's in his ark! Need the orb! Jim:
(Takes the raven in his hands
) You and I could have all of the treasure. Invisible Fiendish Raven:
Yep! You and I! Jim:
'Kay. You almost killed my friends. Mike: ... and I cast Burning Hands
- Wham Episode: A double whammy in season 8 part 2. Not only does Viari come back from his bus trip to bump the party size up to five for the first time in the series, but Chris also does some Arc Welding to introduce Omin's long-lost older sister first mentioned in season 4 — as an evil cultist fighting the heroes.
- Wham Line:
- When the group finds the Ark in season 7, Omin asks Tymora for some spiritual guidance.
I need you, Omin Dran, to fight and slay the Kaiju... or as we call it upstairs, The Tarrasque
- "And on the deck of the ship, you see a familiar face..." And the entire theater falls silent.
Oh my God, you're horrible at this game!