Video games are great and all, but I’ve been in a kind of slump with them since I blasted through Marvel’s Spider-Man a few weeks back. Usually when I get into these kinds of ruts I’ll dive into a comfort food type of game, which for the past few months has been NBA 2k18. But for all the hours I’ve played of that game, not once have I had the in game audio turned up. Instead, I’ve been listening to what has quickly become my favorite podcast – The Adventure Zone.
The Adventure Zone is an actual play podcast where a group of individuals get together and play some sort of table-top game. In this case, The Adventure Zone‘s first campaign uses Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. While that may not sound like the most compelling sales pitch in history, The Adventure Zone stands head and shoulders above the other actual play podcasts I’ve listened to for a few reasons.
First of all, The Adventure Zone is a very personal show from its story, to its presentation, and even down to its hosts. The show stars the McElroy brothers, Griffin, Justin and Travis, as well as their father Clint. The McElroy brothers have an amazing back-and-forth that make for plenty of hilarious moments, while keeping the show moving at a brisk pace.
But it isn’t just the rapport between the actors that’s so engaging, the story itself quickly evolves from a basic D&D campaign, into one that goes in some truly ambitious directions. It isn’t just goblins and wizards with The Adventure Zone, it’s space stations, bank heists, and game show-esque nightmares that all play a part in weaving together the larger narrative that persists through the majority of a near 70 episode duration.
But the thing that really sealed the deal for me was the ambience and atmosphere that the DM, Griffin McElroy, was able to put into the show. As the show grew and the story progressed, Griffin started to produce unique soundtracks that he would layer into the show during pivotal moments that helped to underscore whatever was going on. It seems so small when you hear about it, but despite the fact that it added a unique personality to the show while putting great emphasis on pivotal moments, the music itself is really good.
The Adventure Zone plays fast and loose with the rules of D&D, focusing on telling a good story over fiendishly following the mechanics, which is something that greatly appealed to me. It was this loose style of gameplay, wonderful characters, and a truly engrossing story that fueled me to binge several episodes daily, eager to see what happened next in this phenomenal story.
I didn’t mean for this to be such a love-letter to The Adventure Zone, but it kind of turned into that didn’t it? I just wanted to express how much I enjoyed it and how much I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to hear a good story, regardless of their familiarity with D&D. The first few episodes are easily the weakest parts in the entire podcast (but still good in their own right), but once you’re through that it just keeps getting better. The Adventure Zone is the reason I got interested in Dungeons & Dragons as well as tabletop gaming in general, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.