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Heartwarming / The Adventure Zone: Balance

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  • The general camaraderie between the Mc Elroy brothers and their father. They tease and bust each others chops but also can make each other fall over laughing, and a listener can always tell that this family is having a great time playing Dungeons and Dragons together.
  • The fact that the show has inspired listeners who have never played DnD before to start playing.
  • Imagine being a listener on the show and hearing the boys admire an item that you designed and submitted.
  • Everything the Umbra Staff does to help Taako. Even when she's at her lowest and literally stuck in an umbrella, Lup does everything she can to protect her brother.
  • Any live show set after the main story is inherently heartwarming, as it shows that after everything they've been through, the gang is still together and going on adventures. They're never really gone.

     "Here There Be Gerblins" Arc 
  • While the party is under the influence of Zone of Truth, all three begin to blurt out whatever thoughts or confessions cross their minds. One of Magnus' confessions?
    I'm having a really great time and I think we're becoming closer as friends!

     "Petals to the Metal" Arc 
  • Justin interrupting Griffin at the start of Chapter Four to sing "Happy Birthday" to Clint.
  • It's as tragic as it is sweet, but Hurley saving Sloane through The Power of Love, and Sloane returning the gesture by turning both of them into a tree so they can be together forever, is incredibly beautiful.
    • Even after all the damage she's done, Hurley isn't mad at Sloane. She only jokes about her being in big trouble.

     "The Crystal Kingdom" Arc 
  • Angus ending a phone call to Magnus with "I love you!" is as cute as it is ridiculous.
  • As Merle's arm gets crystallized, Magnus' first reaction is to chop it off. Of course Merle gets angry at him for it, but Magnus knew it was the only thing to do to save his life. He aces the roll for it as well.
  • Though Kravitz has been a villain throughout the arc, when Magnus asks him to tell Julia he loves her, he agrees unhesitatingly.
  • Magnus lying to Lucretia to protect Lucas despite hating him.
  • Killian, normally a stoic Straight Man to the gang's antics, is so overjoyed to see Carey return from Lucas' lab that she grabs her in a giant hug that lifts Carey off the ground, and continues to hold her like that while talking to the boys. Doubles as Heartwarming in Hindsight thanks to the confirmation in later episodes that they're in a romantic relationship.

     "Rest & Relaxation" Interlude 
  • Magnus and Carey's friendship and training montage is positively adorable, with her teaching him to be a rogue and him teaching her to make a wooden duck-shaped puzzle box. When the montage is complete, they're close enough friends for Magnus to put an engagement ring in the puzzle box and tell Carey she can give it to Killian.
  • Despite the gang's normal childish bullying of Angus, Taako agrees to give him magic lessons and actually ends up seeming begrudgingly fond of him.
    • Angus' excitement at the beginning of his lessons is adorable.
    • Taako explains that he doesn't cook for people he cares about any more, causing Angus to get upset when he realises that Taako cooked macaroons for him at Candlenights. Taako is quick to shut this down and tells Angus that it was a "lapse in judgement", implicitly telling Angus that Taako does care about him.
  • Merle choosing to spend his break befriending Director Lucretia is an unexpectedly thoughtful move. Though his reasoning for wanting to spend time with her—because they're both middle-aged—becomes a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment after it's revealed that Lucretia is actually a relatively young woman who lost 20 years of her life in Wonderland.

     "The Eleventh Hour" Arc 
  • In one of the loops, the boys hold hands as they die.
  • Istus' appearance to the team, where she tells them that they're unique, bestows gifts and blessings upon them, and exits with this:
    She just disappears for a couple of seconds, and when she reappears, she is wiping a tear from her eye. And she says, "You're going to be... amazing."
  • While Chapter 8 was primarily a massive Tearjerker, it wasn't without its moments of sweetness, too:
    • Magnus' devotion to his late wife Julia is so strong that he refuses the Temporal Chalice's offer to undo her death even though it's all he's ever wanted, purely because he knows that it's not what she would have wanted. Something that Griffin did not see coming at all.
    • When discussing the Chalice's offers, the boys more or less abandon their usual cynical, self-centered attitudes for a moment and tell the Chalice that whatever peace they might find by fixing their past mistakes is less important than the lives they've saved by joining the Bureau of Balance.
  • After Chapter 8, possibly the most emotionally wrenching episode of the entire podcast, the conclusion of the arc is impossibly heartwarming. The boys escape the bubble, reuniting the mother worm with her babies, then watch as Refuge rapidly catches up to the present day inside the bubble. The citizens of Refuge can see them watching from outside the bubble and build statues and signs for them as a sort of thanks. When the bubble finally bursts, everyone in Refuge rushes out to reunite with their saviors and excitedly ask questions of Avi, who they haven't met, while Taako, Merle, and Magnus go through town catching up with the friends they made through the various loops. Every story arc before this has had a Bittersweet Ending at best, but this time, Everybody Lives.

     "The Calm Before The Storm" Interlude 
  • Taako's date with Kravitz is beyond adorable. Though it's ostensibly meant to be a meeting to discuss the bizarre events threatening the very fabric of reality, they end up spending most of the time just talking honestly about their feelings and aspirations, showing a side to both characters that we haven't seen much of before. And at the end of the night, they happily agree to go out again soon.
  • Merle visiting his kids. Even though he's still not a great dad, it's clear that he's really trying to make up for abandoning them.
    • Even though its motivations are still unclear, the Red Robe saving Mavis and Mookie's lives is a pretty sweet move.
      • Made even more heartwarming when you learn that the Red Robe is Barry, saving his old friend's children.

     "The Suffering Game" Arc 
  • Magnus absolutely shines in this arc:
    • In every Prisoner's Dilemma that the group faces, he's always desperate to trust the other group even though forsaking them is always the safer option. He just can't bear leaving other people to suffer, and it's as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.
    • During one of the roulette wheel rounds, Magnus takes on three of the sacrifices required to move on to the next room to try to spare Taako and Merle the pain. Even though he's seen how these sacrifices almost killed them, even though he has to give up any chance he had at personally getting justice for Julia's murder, Magnus does not want to put his friends in danger.
    • When Taako is struggling with the decision over whether or not to sacrifice his beauty, Magnus and Merle don't dismiss his hesitation as shallow or weak, and instead assure him that they'll all understand if he has to say no. Magnus even offers to take a spin for him.
    • And, in a strange way, Taako and Merle agreeing to take up Magnus' revenge quest, with no explanation needed. These three are nothing if not loyal companions.
  • Merle gives up his wedding ring, his memories, and his eye at various points throughout Wonderland, but when Lydia and Edward ask him to sacrifice his memories of his children's births, he doesn't even let them finish the question before refusing.
  • For all of the ire and suffering that Tres Horny Boys have had to go through in this arc, the entire lead up to Episode Six's Cliffhanger is possibly the greatest testament to their friendship in the entire show. After Magnus gets body-jacked by Edward and has his soul start to float towards the Astral Plane since he is technically dead now, Taako immediately casts Magic Jar. The spell puts his soul into a little jar that he can then project out of, and he does this solely to try and pull Magnus away from the portal to the Astral Plane (a feat that he rolls a 20 on for good measure). Then Merle, despite having been recently told that his powers are waning due to Pan not being there for him anymore, burns a high level slot to cast Planar Ally. This spell lets him physically reach into another plane of existence to summon an ally, and he casts his arms to the Ethereal Plane to forcibly drag Magnus and Taako back to the Material Plane. Taako then drops back into his body while Magnus materializes into one of the mannequins in the room, drops a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner, and the boys square up to kill those liches and take Magnus' body back.

     "Reunion Tour" Interlude 
  • Taako hears an unidentified voice that nevertheless "makes his heart swell" (in Griffin's words). Justin's response?
    Justin: Is it Kravitz?
  • A cutscene reveals that Kravitz is safe, and that the first thing he did after reaching safety was try to reach the Material Plane, most likely to check on Taako. He also apparently sees the Raven Queen as a comforting, guiding, almost motherly figure, and thinks of Tres Horny Boys as "lovable doofuses".
  • A twofer for Taako; In order to get back Magnus' blood from Garfield so they could use Barry's regeneration pod to make him a new body, Taako trades him back the Flaming Poisoning Raging Sword Of Doom. Garfield was on the verge of despair and decided to close up the Fantasy Costco due to how bad that transaction went, so he is absolutely delighted to get the sword back and hands over the keys to the back room. However, Taako cast a spell upon it that will allow him to recall it any time he wants by shattering a sapphire and saying the sword's name. So what does he do when they realize that Garfield beat them to the body-cloning punch? In preparation for Magnus regaining his body (and losing a lot of memories along with it), Taako leaves the sapphire and a note explicitly stating what the sapphire is for and how to fulfill the spell. While it'll be a kick in the balls to Garfield to lose the sword again, Taako relinquishing a sword he had no use for other than as an accessory to Magnus who had desperately wanted it is a true testament to their friendship.
  • Angus confronting Merle and Taako while they try to break into Lucretia's vault is full of heartwarming moments.
    • Taako willingly puts himself under the influence of Zone of Truth to tell Angus that he absolutely trusts him, even though only an episode ago he claimed to trust nobody and nothing.
    • Angus states that he doubts Lucretia's evil because she's done so much for him, including giving him a home, but that he doesn't think Taako, Merle, and Barry are evil either, because "the ones looking for the truth—well, they're never the bad guys." And better yet, he's right on all counts!
    • Taako and Merle actually being nice to Angus for once is pretty damn heartwarming.
  • Carey and Magnus' Reunion. after she decks him in the face she hugs him, just happy he's alive.
  • The Reveal that Lup is Taako's sister. Sure, there's also the Tear Jerker that it seems to be too late to save her, but learning that Taako's lonely childhood wasn't lonely at all provides some sweetness.
    • Also makes several other things retroactively heartwarming: namely, the Umbra Staff apparently being possessed by Lup and its constant attempts to protect and stay close to Taako, up to and including eating Edward, and the voice Taako heard saying "trust Barry" implicitly also being Lup—and the fact that Taako, even mind-wiped of her existence, is overjoyed to hear her voice.

     "The Stolen Century" Arc 
  • For some, the casual reveal that Lup is a trans woman. None of the players make a big deal of it or think less of Lup for it.
    • On that note, the fact that despite Griffin insisting that he doesn't intend to force Lup into Taako's roleplaying, Justin took a shine to her almost instantly making sure to make Taako and Lup act almost as a singular brother/sister unit.
    • In a meta sense, Griffin's insistence that Taako and Lup's difficult childhood has nothing to do with their identities. That would be the easy route that almost all media tends to take, but Griffin makes it clear that their identities are accepted and a non-issue, simply being part of who they are.
  • Merle leading a church congregation for a whole town as the Hunger descends on the planet, looking for the Light of Creation. The town lives, and Merle ascends to the fleeing Starblaster as strings of light as the ship leaves the plane.
    • During this scene, Merle, who's usually very irreverent about his religion, gives a genuinely beautiful speech about faith to comfort the congregation as the Hunger attacks:
      Brothers and sisters, dearly beloveds, we are gathered here as one. Facing the future as one, whether that future be darkness or light. We do not know, just like we do not know in our lives, if we are going to head into darkness or light. But that’s what faith is all about. Even though we don’t know what we’re headed into, we believe that we are headed into something. And so we share that today. And this is the only place I would like to be—is here with you. Pan bless you.
    • The sheer positive impact Merle brings to the people of the Fungus World is this mixed with a happy Tear Jerker. He did so much for them and gave them the will to go on despite how difficult their lives are.
  • During the year spent in the post-apocalyptic remains of the world of TAZ: Nights, Merle decides to enlist Lucretia's help and try to record as much of the culture and history of this world as possible, ensuring that its legacy will live on in some way.
  • The crew agreeing at the end of the second episode to never again get to a point where they're willing to sacrifice an entire people or an entire plane in the fight against the Hunger.
    • Relatedly, Travis is notably excited when he realizes the new world is the Nights universe. Even Justin pokes fun at Griffin destroying his brother's own world, Travis makes it clear that he doesn't mind and trusts where his brother is taking the story.
  • Taako's reaction to finding out that Barry has feelings for Lup is positively adorable:
    You know, we've lost a lot, and there's a lot more we might lose, but the one thing we do have is the thing that people in love rarely ever have enough of, and it's time. Barry, you've got all the time in the world, my man.
  • Additionally, the end of the Beach Episode where Lucretia brings out the portrait of the seven of them she's been working on.
    Griffin: All of you look so happy.
  • Merle's parlay sessions with John/The Hunger can be seen as this from a certain angle. After so long spent dreading the coming apocalypse and the multiple worlds they've seen ravaged by The Hunger, the fact that The Hunger started out from a man digging too deep and Merle's appreciation for what drove John to turn his plane into the Hunger helps humanize a completely inhuman enemy in a way that most Eldritch Abomination Omnicidal Maniacs typically aren't in fiction. They're still decidedly on opposite sides, but the extension of the olive branch is a very nice touch.
    • On a related note, the fact that Merle is more interested in befriending and redeeming John than he is in gathering tactical information on him. In their final meeting, Merle even asks John if they're friends, and seems genuinely hurt when John dismisses the question. It also goes to show that Merle took Lup's speech from Chapter 2 to heart—he's not just trying to defeat the Hunger, he's hoping to save them.
  • Merle's meetings with John lead to a lot of philosophical discussions, which ultimately produces an absolutely lovely speech from Merle about the importance of happiness:
    What brings me joy is... life. I think you can find joy anywhere in life. I think it's a conscious choice. I think you choose joy in life... I don't always do things right, and I don't always do things smart, I don't always do a character voice, but whatever I do, I find joy in it, because at the end of the day that's all you've got—is looking back on the joy you had and the joy you found and the joy you gave other people.
  • Griffin's description of Barry and Lup's musical duet for the Voidfish competition, and how they fell in love.
  • The entire description of Magnus coming back for the Voidfish as the Hunger decimates its home plane is this. From offering it a carved duck to placate it, humming to it to keep it calm, and the description of how the Voidfish delights in Magnus' company and loves his carvings as they keep traveling together is sure to melt the heart.
  • Taako and Lup's relationship receives some beautiful examination in Chapter Six, with Lup saying that Taako is her heart and that the bond between them is one that can never be broken.
    • Tying into this is a brief moment during the "Best Day Ever" where Lup and Taako attempt to surprise attack Davenport with a supersoaker. Davenport has been working on his illusion magic and ends up ambushing them, complete with leaping on Taako's back and whispering "Illusion!" in his ear before engaging in a huge water fight with the twins. He's come a long way from the gnome too concerned about being taken seriously to show a friendly side.
  • Barry and Lup becoming liches is surprisingly heartwarming, mainly due to their incredible faith in The Power of Love and the tender moment they share just beforehand:
    They hug for a long time in front of this pillar, and they kiss, and Lup takes Barry's face in her hands, and she says, "You ready? Are you sure you're going to be able to keep it together once you turn?"
    And Barry smiles, and he looks back at the—the love of his life, and he says, "Yeah, I got this."
  • At the end Magnus, worried about one of his friends hiding alone for weeks, decides to bring her a carved duck he made to look like them. Various characters are rattled or uncertain or callous after the creation and distribution of the Relics, but they still care about each other.
  • Lucretia's profound love for her friends manages to shine through even when erasing their memories—she tells Magnus to lie down so he doesn't hurt himself falling, promises that she loves them all and that this is only temporary, finds Merle the home on the beach he'd always wanted, sets Magnus up with the best carpentry opportunities around, and gets Taako his start with his cooking show because she wants the whole world to love him like he deserves. Afterwards, she takes comfort in the knowledge that the mind wipe at least means her friends are no longer suffering, even though it means she has to suffer all of that guilt and loss alone. Not to mention her joy at being reunited with the boys, even when they didn't know her or were actively working against her.

     "Story and Song" Finale 
  • Lup's return and subsequent reunion with Taako and Barry. She and Taako immediately start teasing each other like no time at all has passed and Barry is ecstatic to the point where he says he's going to blow himself up so he can be a lich and hold her again. Equally adorable and heartwarming is Lup's reply.
    Lup : Don't blow yourself up, babe. I'm sure your beautiful body's gonna get killed by the Hunger soon enough.
    • Really, all of Barry and Lup's interactions are incredibly adorable.
    • Taako and Lup's good-natured name calling of eachother.
      Lup: Well why didn’t you let me out sooner, dingus?
      Taako: Well I didn’t remember you existed, goofus.
  • All of Episode 2 qualifies as it is a Crisis Crossover between every character from every arc that's alive doing their level best to aid the Bureau and fight the Hunger, and now that they know what the Red Robes and the party have done to aid the Omniverse and their reality over their century-long journey they've come to see them as legends.
    • Alive, nothing — Hurley and Sloane, revived as dryads, and Legion get to save Mavis and fight off one of the Hunger-corrupted Judges, respectively!
    • The return of Hurley and Sloane is a meta Heartwarming moment. Their deaths were a much-criticised moment because of the Bury Your Gays trope it invoked, so Griffin fixed his mistake and gave them their happy ending together.
    • Johann got his wish; not only will he not be erased, but he will be forever remembered by every living being in the entire Planar System. For as our heroes prepare to take the fight to the Hunger and those who stayed behind prepare to fight for their world, his composition "March of the Forgotten" plays in all of their heads at once and his voice echoes in all of their minds, filling them with his Bardic Inspiration.
    Johann: You're going to have to fight, and... you're gonna win!
  • Taako reuniting with Kravitz was utterly adorable.
    Kravitz: How... how did you do that?
    Justin, narrating for Taako: I run over, I'm already kissing him. This is ridiculous, we've been apart for too long. This is stupid.
    Griffin: You approach him really quick, and as he sees you're about to kiss him, he puts his hands up over his mouth and "HUFF HUFF HUFF" and he's like blowing, and he's like:
    Kravitz: Hold on, I-I wanna warm up my face. I don't want it to be cold and weird!
    Griffin: And then he starts kissing you... and it's SO nice.
    • Immediately after the above, Taako removes his Disguise Self spell, revealing the loss of his beauty, and says that he doesn't want to catfish Kravitz. Kravitz's response to this is nothing short of adorable.
      Kravitz: Taako, I... was crazy about you before some weird light told me a story about your 100-year journey through existence, where you were fighting for a century to save the world. I love you, Taako, and at this point I think everyone in reality is going to love you after hearing your story, and... nothing's gonna change that.
  • The potential future our heroes saw in Paloma's prophecy. Taako is spending time with Lup who has her body back, Merle is playing with his kids on the beach, Magnus is watching Angus play frisbee with a dog, Lucretia is supervising the construction of a library in Neverwinter, and Carey and Killian are curled up in a cabin together, reading the same book. After the emotional strain of the last few episodes, the knowledge that such a happy ending could be in store for them is extremely touching. It seems to hit Lucretia particularly hard.
    Lucretia: (on the verge of tears) What is this? What does this mean?
  • In the middle of apologizing for her actions, Magnus interrupts Lucretia with a hug that reduces her to tears.
    Magnus: It's okay.
  • When Pan finally returns to aid Merle, one of the first things the god does is apologize...and hug the cleric.
    Pan: Technically, I'm not your Pan. But you will always be my Merle.
  • In the middle of the final battle, Merle pulls out his phone-a-friend scrying bones, which allow Clint to ask Griffin one question, and get an honest answer. Clint asks if Griffin has enjoyed the adventure. Griffin's answer is an emphatic yes.
  • After the whole party goes down during the Final Battle, Merle feels something off about the Bond Engine. He calls out to Pan and Pan answers, healing the boys. Now they fight using the Bond Engine to call on their friends and allies to help. And they never fail a even a single summon.
    • The first person Taako summons is Joaquin. They hug, so excited to meet each other in person.
    • When Magnus summons the Power Bear, he takes a moment to show off his bear-faced mask, like he's a kid showing off something he made to his dad.
  • Taako lands a powerful hit on John with a Whirlwind spell, but gets overwhelmed by the power of the winds and starts to lose his footing. Without hestitiation, Magnus grabs onto his shoulders to steady him, and Merle latches onto his legs to keep him on the ground. Taako then grabs the Immovable Rod out of his bag and activates it, firmly anchoring them ("I'm not going fuckin' anywhere!). As the three of them hang tight in the wind, thousands of bonds form between them, with scenes from their past flashing by, from their initiation at the IPRE, to their travels of the multiverse, to the adventures on this very podcast. This power flows into Taako's spell, and subsequently into John, finishing him off for good.
  • Merle sitting and watching the sunset with John, before John fades from existence. Despite everything that the Hunger has done, Merle still decides to stay with John, his friend, in his last moments.
  • After the adventure, Merle goes to spend more time with his children. They finally think of him as a hero.
    • Doubly heartwarming because Mavis and Merle telling each other how proud they are of each other and how much they love each other is really Griffin and Clint telling each other the same thing.
  • The story of the balance arc ends with Carey and Killian's wedding. It is described to be one of the happiest days of all of their lives.
    • Merle is the priest who marries them. As he goes to the lectern and looks at the audience, he sees all his friends happily and supportingly smiling at him. Angus looks like he's about to tear up, Mavis needs to hold down Mookie to keep him from jumping and cheering for his dad, Barry and Lup are goofing around, Lucretia just smiles proudly. Kravitz takes Taakos hand in his, and it's warm.
    • Carey is wearing her half of the "BFF"-necklace that Magnus gave to her as she gets married.
    • Carey is panicking before the wedding, but Magnus gives her a pep talk about how her life is going to change now, but it's going to change for the better now that she has Killian always by her side. The fact that this is probably Magnus speaking from experience with Julia back in his mind, and Travis talking about his own wife, makes it even more heartwarming.
  • The Distant Finale given for Magnus' offer, starting with a single question; "How does Magnus die?" What follows is Travis describing how his friends gave him something to live for after spending so long being a Death Seeker, and culminating in Magnus, now an old man on his deathbed, surrounded by his friends who are all going to outlive him due to their races preparing to say goodbye. Then Kravitz comes and takes Magnus' soul by the hand and guides him to a particular spot in the Astral Plane for Magnus and Julia to share, finally reunited in death. As the scene draws to a close, Julia leads Magnus into the cabin she built, and- as Griffin puts it- Magnus, for one last time, rushes in.
  • The narrative ends not with Griffin's music, but with another track from Mort Garson, who composed the show's theme song, "Deja Vu". Garson gets to bookend the show when "Music To Soothe The Savage Snake Plant" kicks on as Fisher and Junior head out into interplanar space to explore the universe.

     MaxFunCon East Live 
  • As the boys are about to be killed by a Descending Ceiling, Magnus uses his last words to tell the others that, even though he's lost a lot, he's glad that he's found a new family and is sad he's going to lose this one too. The trap turns out to be fake, but it's still a sweet moment.

     Live In San Francisco! 
  • Taako and Kravitz's relationship has now progressed to the point where they're living together in domestic bliss with a bunch of cats. They're overjoyed when they meet on the high seas, and even bicker about the neighbour who's looking after the aforementioned cats while they're on their respective adventures. The two have come a long way since the Crystal Kingdom.

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