Let’s start this one off with a question – why do we read? Why do YOU read? For me, when it comes to fiction, it takes the form of be entertained, pure and simple. Add in some super-compelling story telling, and well, you’ve got me hooked. Podcasts are certainly a way you can do this, as they’re (well, some of them) are not that far removed from an audio book. One of the more recent ones I’ve become hooked on as been The Adventure Zone.
The Adventure Zone is what is known as a live-play role-playing ‘cast. What this means, generally, is that you’ve got a group of folks around the table playing through a game, and we come along for the ride. I’ve listened to quite a few, and they can certainly be of wildly varying quality. I’m willing to look past some production values if the story is good, but there are a good wealth of slickly-produced ones out there. On the flip side, all the polish and shine in the world isn’t going to do you much if the storyline(s) are not memorable. Sure, the cover art is really cool, but the story just doesn’t live up to the promise, right?
Fortunately for you and me (and everyone who’s a fan of the #TheZoneCast) you’ve got all of the above. While more recent arcs have gone into other systems, The Adventure Zone started off with good ol’ Dungeons and Dragons. For this, Griffin McElroy pulled together his brothers Justin and Travis, and their father Clint, for some story-driven dice-rolling fun. For this, you’ve got your relatively-standard party mix of a fighter, cleric, and a mage. Not that different from many fantasy stories, right? Well, where this shines is in the world that McElroy builds over the course of the campaign, and then how the players really come into their own mythology.
Sure, things start off a little bumpy at the start (n00b players, amirite?) but by the end, I was supremely hooked. There is a lot of good-natured humor coming through, and it just felt like a fun group that was getting together to play a game. You get to expect Merle (played by Clint) to forget what it is, exactly, he can do precisely, Magnus (played by Travis) to bash the ever-loving snot of out things, and then Taako (played by Justin) to do that amazing magic goodness – both culinary and arcane.
I was along for the ride, and absolutely binging on the the episodes that are available of The Adventure Zone. By the end of the first arc/campaign came, things had wrapped up to an amazing end, and these were flawed heroes that came through and in to their own. And I won’t spoil it, but Taako’s catch phrase (a variation of abracadabra) because one of my absolute favorite things that came out. Under Griffin’s guidance, they created a super-compelling world and story line, and I was sad to see those characters come to an end.
Fortunately, the McElroy family is keeping on with it. They’ve cycled through a couple of different campaigns and approaches, with each taking a turn at running the game. Since I’m so far behind in listening to these, I can see that the Amnesty arc (which is a monster-of-the-week thing) is the one that won out for the second season. Frankly, I don’t care what system or game world it is (though, I would not be sad to have Taako show back up at some point), as I am really digging the stories they guys come up with, and how they all work together. So, yeah, I’mma keep on listening here, for sure.
Oh, and if you like the idea of what they’ve built here, but want to actually, you know, read, instead of listen? There is a graphic novel out now based on the first arc, Here there be Gerblins, which I can only imagine would be a fun ride as well. And for you podcast listeners? Let me know in the comments, or over on Twitter, what other shows I should be checking out. The Adventure Zone