Monotony Monday #1 – Listen Like Now
The Adventure Zone: Humor and Heart in an Hour
The short of it: The Adventure Zone is more than just dragons in dungeons and whatnot. The podcast gently unfolds into a series of moving narratives that erase the line between crying laughing and crying; it oozes character. It’s got more heart in it than Zelda’s Pottery Barn.
A lot of my day is nothingness. Menial labor that doesn’t require a brain or thought; in fact, I’d advise against doing much thinking while on the job. It’s like realizing you’re in a nightmare, but you can’t wake up.
Thankfully, I discovered The Adventure Zone.
About a week and a half later, I ran out of episodes and hit replay on episode one.
The Adventure Zone is a Dungeons and Dragons adventure in the form of a podcast, hosted and dungeon master-ed by the brilliantly-named Griffin McElroy. Joining his virtual table are the other McElroy men, Justin, Travis, and their father, Clint. The McElroy family is a whirlwind of talent and personality, producing thousands of hours of brilliant content on multiple platforms. I don’t mean to gush, but it’s hard to oversell the boys.
Tangent for Myth-Based Named Individuals
There’s this panic-inducing thought I have every so often where I compare myself to people with my name, and Mr. McElroy is first on that list (besides that guy that jacked the @griffin twitter handle). I realize that I’m the equivalent of some jobber on the Griffin circuit; in RPG terms, I’m the mimic sitting next to the real final chest.
The beauty of The Adventure Zone isn’t in its cast though, it’s in its characters (technically speaking, they’re the same thing, but that’s not as descriptive). TAZ revolves around the, surprisingly enough, adventures of three part-time heroes and full-time goofs.
Taako Tacco, beautiful idiot of an elf wizard, played by Justin.
Magnus Burnsides, human fighter with sides of burn and heart of gold, played by Travis.
Merle Highchurch, dwarven cleric with as much healing capacity as a thornbush, played by Clint.
The boys find themselves wrapped up in a global conspiracy that takes them to the farthest reaches of their fantastic realm. The podcast’s format of adventure-filled arcs offers them plenty of opportunities to make jokes while exploring Griffin’s lovingly-crafted worlds.
Role-playing games try to be as immersive as possible to allow for the ease of actually playing the role of the characters. That’s generally where their concern ends– there isn’t much thought for an audience. Griffin, on the other hand, manages to weave a world so realized that it’s hard not to be drawn into the fantasy.
As the heroes move from typical goblin-infested woods to a murder-mystery-ified train to a carnival of existential terror, they grow into these complete, real characters. There’s genuine humanity in these heroes (even the non-human ones, har har) that are ultimately made up of a sheet of skills and dice rolls.
The show welcomes every listener and proceeds with genuine respect and care towards both the audience and the characters in the podcast. It encouraged me to read more on DMing games of DnD and ultimately served as a very stable base for me to learn how to do so.
It’s actually crazy difficult to adequately describe the show. There’s plenty of clichés I didn’t use that would fit: it’s an experience, it’s a journey, it’s an adventure all on its own, and so on. Trying to sum up their journeys and the value of the show is impossible. There’s more reasons than I can count to listen but few I can adequately describe.
The Adventure Zone is goofy. It’s silly and ridiculous, and it embraces its weirdness wholeheartedly. Role-playing is strange, but taking that one step off the ledge and into the world of fantasy is wondrous and worth the brief moment of discomfort. TAZ breezes past the restrictions of an audio-only medium, highlighting the strength and power that lies in genuine storytelling.