Three friends, adventurers, and self-proclaimed idiots stroll into a tavern one day and accept a quest from a dwarf who promises that they will never again have to accept another job. This is, of course, because of untold amounts of fortune and glory and most definitely not because of betrayal or violent death.
Thus begins The Adventure Zone, a comedy Dungeons and Dragons podcast that has completely won over the hearts of tabletoppers everywhere. The show started in 2014 with brothers Griffin, Justin, and Travis McElroy, and their father Clint, starting a new D&D campaign with the 5th Edition starter pack. Since then, it has surpassed every expectation that was set for it and has successfully created a world full of colorful cast members that you find yourself rooting for (and getting your heart broken by) every time you listen.
Griffin, Justin, and Travis are not new to the podcast game. The brothers are also the hosts of My Brother, My Brother, and Me, an “advicecast for the modern era,” which has grown in popularity rapidly since beginning in 2010. Having an already popular podcast, The Adventure Zone was able to be born from a scene set as “three dudes we already know and like have decided to play a D&D game with their dad while recording”. The McElroys play a looser style of D&D, obeying the basic rules of the game – checks for out of combat actions, stats for combat, roll for insert action here – but they are more interested in the game play, story, and having fun than following the rule-book step by step. More importantly, while our adventurers are more than happy to take jabs at each other and let their characters be jerks every once in a while, they respect the rules of the story from the beginning onward.
The first three story arcs include the initial quest (complete with an interaction with Bugbear Klarg that left this author’s sides in stitches), a moon-base conspiracy, and an Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery on a train. All three are solidly written, contribute likable NPCs (non-playable characters) and ominous bits of foreshadowing to the main story. However, “Petals to the Metal”, the fourth story arc, is where TAZ really hit the ground running and established itself as a can’t-miss show. “Petals” has a little bit of everything: a major threat for the adventurers to overcome (after bumbling through it for a minute), a glimpse into a larger world, a super-cool car chase, and an extended opportunity for Dungeon Master Griffin to show off his writing skills.
Since then, the show has continued to improve itself. Griffin’s skills as the writer and Dungeon Master come through palpably as the story goes on. The heroes of our story have warmed into who their characters are (especially Justin, who found not only a distinct character in Takko – yes, that’s pronounced taco – but also developed a memorable voice early on). What started out as “Justin, Travis, and Dad wandering around in a fantasy world” has grown and evolved into the adventures of Takko, Magnus, and Merle, in which many listeners are now emotionally invested. Definitely not a podcast for our little adventurers – the language is free-flowing and there are moments where the humor is for adult-only ears, but all in all, if you like D&D, if you’re curious about D&D, or if you just like funny podcasts, check out The Adventure Zone.
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