Binge Bytes: “The Adventure Zone”

“The Adventure Zone” is a Dungeons and Dragons podcast brought to you by the McElroy family, the same people who make “My Brother, My Brother and Me.” Originally a one-off episode released with MBMBaM, everyone decided it needed a little more. So, that’s how we got the 70 episode quest to find the grand relics and save the multiverse. Now that we’re going into a new season with all new characters, it’s a great time to recommend this to you. Don’t get turned off by the fact that it’s a D&D podcast, it’s more or less a comedy storytelling podcast that will, at times, make you cry, using the framework of the Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition.

Previous Season “Recap:”

None of the seasons are connected, so don’t worry if you just want to listen to the current season, “Amnesty” — you’re not missing anything by skipping the first season, “Balance.”

Season one is set in a fantasy setting like you would see with your average game of D&D, Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, just with a few more elevators, robots and battlewagons. The cast of main characters includes Magnus Burnsides, the fighter, played by Travis, Taako, the Wizard, played by Justin and Merle “Hightower” Highchurch, the Cleric, played by Clint. They are all led by their game master and youngest brother Griffin, who acts as everyone else.

After a tragic event wiped out an entire city, the three adventurers are inducted into the Bureau of Balance. Where — with the leadership of Lucretia, the director — they must save the world from itself, collecting the eight Grand Relics, which each have control over an aspect of magic. Trudging through the evils of Wonderland, competing in the Gold Cliff Battlewagon races, or stopping the apocalypse in an hour, the adventurers will find a way to save the day.

The second season, “Amnesty,” is set in the fictional town of Kepler, West Virginia, shying away from hard fantasy and bringing in more real-world aspects with underlying cryptid horror. Think “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” mixed with “Gravity Falls,” but instead of Dungeons and Dragons, the boys are playing a game called “Monster of the Week,” which is based on episodic hunter shows like “Supernatural.”

To Binge or not to Binge:

This is a heavily story-driven show that is essentially improv, which won’t be a huge surprise if you’ve played before. That being said, you’ll have to start with arc one, “Here There be Gerblins,” and trudge through the slight awkwardness of feeling it out, but it still has good moments that make it easy to get through. It begins to take off during “Petals to the Metal,” dips during “The Eleventh Hour,” then hits its highest quality at “Crystal Kingdom.”

The narrative is easy to spoil, though not extremely important. It makes the story stronger if you don’t know certain details.

“The Adventure Zone” has a fantastically artistic tone that invokes and deserves praise from its fans. The loose play with the rules leads to fantastic moments, and even outside of them playing the game, the narrative that is weaved throughout is touching and hilarious, whether it is Magnus’ love story, The Town of Tom Bodettes or Arms Outstretched, it’ll change the way you think of narrative and comedy. Beware, there is the chance you will cry or laugh in public. 

Music is also something you don’t usually think about when it comes to podcasts, but music plays a big role in “The Adventure Zone.” All of the tunes match the story arc. The music is written and produced by Griffin McElroy, with some tracks supplied by Mort Garson and his album, “Ataraxia: The Unexplained. The music can be heard on YouTube or on his SoundCloud. My personal favorite songs are “The Diary of Shariff Isaak,” “Robot Rematch,” and “Wonderland: Round Three.

This is definitely a commuter podcast. I usually listen to it during my walk to and from school or while doing mindless work. Like I mentioned before, since it’s Dungeons & Dragons, you don’t need to know how to play to enjoy it — but if you do play the game, you’ll appreciate it a little bit more.

On another note, “The Adventure Zone” promotes a great amount of diversity without praising itself in that regard, depicting two or more gay/lesbian relationships, one canonically trans character, as well as mixing real-life race and fantasy races. 

Best Episode:

Choosing a favorite episode is difficult for a show of this length, but my favorite arcs are the “Crystal Kingdom,” “The Suffering Game” and “Story and Song.” This is when the show really gets good, as the music and character building become the strongest around these arcs of the show.

Similar Shows:

“Hello from the Magic Tavern,” “Critical Role,” “Dungeons and Places.”

Trigger warnings:

Fantasy/Cartoon Violence, Mild Sexual Content, Profanities, Drug and Alcohol References.

Rating 4.75/5

“The Adventure Zone”

Available to stream on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Google Play, Soundcloud, and MaximumFun.org.

70+ Episodes, ~70 hours of content with a new episode coming out every other Tuesday.

m.falkner@dailyutahchronicle.com

@TheChrony

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