Just a few days ago I wrote about the podcast Dice Funk that I recently caught up on–I burned through the first seventeen episodes of it in an attempt to make it to the good parts. I got it in my head that there would be something there to make it to. It was entertaining at times, but even in my last post talking about it I couldn’t stop recommending The Adventure Zone.
The Adventure Zone is a comedy-drama Dungeons and Dragons podcast starring three brothers, Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy, and their father, Clint McElroy. It started off as a one off episode that spun-off of their other podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me. Though most of them are inexperienced with the game, they’re totally comfortable with being themselves and with each other. Griffin, who runs the game, does different voices for characters, writes a fantastic story and (more recently) has started to make music and sound effects (which became the subject of a Pitchfork article).
There’s a huge fan following with a fan art community and even a full Reddit section and a Tumblr dedicated to the game. From a story telling standpoint, Dungeons and Dragons differs from other mediums because of the potential for improvisation. The person running the game can prepare before hand, but the players ultimately have the option of going the opposite direction, of choosing not to explore the main focus of things, or doing things in unorthodox ways.
Travis, Justin, and Clint tend toward being the comedic foil to a straight-man made up of the rest of the world. While they travel partake in typical adventure like fighting monsters and rescuing towns they also respond to situations in odd ways, like ridiculing the design of an arcane robot (“Did you put it together from a kit and forget to look at the front of the box”) or hitting that perfect one-liner when besting a superior foe (“Abraca-fuck-you).
Since the four of them aren’t veterans there’s no need to understand the game as they explain it all as they’re going along, but once the game is rolling things kind of morph into a radio drama where no one is quite sure what’s going to happen. There have been moments of brilliance where even Griffin didn’t realize one of them had learned a new spell or attack so he’s forced to act off the cuff and decide what this new piece of information does in the game.
The Adventure Zone is the best D&D podcast out there right now and I feel comfortable saying that as I have tried many others. So much effort goes into the whole thing on Griffin’s part and he’s the kind of storyteller you want at the helm of any project. You can tell he really cares about not just the fun they’re having, but the presentation. In an interview with the makers of D&D he went over how there are whole fights and sequences edited out that were just fun for them and wouldn’t have been very good to listen to for an audience (and you can’t tell, they effect the story so little that they just don’t even seem to be there).
I’d recommend this to just about anyone; those looking to find something to pass the time, someone looking for a good story, or someone looking for comedy. If you play or run Dungeons and Dragons games it could be just what you need to raise the bar–make you see what can be done with a product that people have tried to keep confined to this sort of European-Medieval-Fantasy bubble for too long.