Buds Worthy: The Adventure Zone

Where do you go for Adventure?

You go to The Adventure Zone, obviously.  Let me start by saying I LOVE this podcast.  It’s the podcast I play as soon as I see it’s been downloaded.  I never take a break from this pod, and I relish every episode.  So while you may be used to take down pieces from me, whether it be in the sports or podcasting world, this will be more of a love letter.

I found this podcast perusing shows on the Maximum Fun network.  At the time I had a 90 minute commute each way every day for work, so I was looking for long podcasts, and while nothing beats Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History for length, The Adventure Zone, a Dungeons and Dragons podcast, clocking in at close to 90 minutes fit the bill perfectly.  While I have never played Dungeon’s and Dragons, and only had rudimentary knowledge of the game, I figured anything that told a story would help me get lost in another world while I drove past dairy farms and apple orchards on my way to work.

The Adventure Zone is comprised of three brothers, Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy along with their father Clint McElroy.  They dynamic between the four is amazing and being related there’s history there that would be difficult to create artificially.  There’s just a rapport you develop between siblings that cannot be understated.  It also helps that they have another long running podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me, which I also love, but only discovered well into my Adventure Zone journey.

Let’s talk about Dungeons and Dragons.  Forget it.  Forget the stigma surrounding it.  Forget the idea of role playing that takes itself over the top serious.  Forget the 600 page rule book.  Forget the “Monsters Guide.” Just remember creativity, imagination and fun.  You don’t need to understand Dungeons and Dragons to listen to The Adventure Zone any more than you need to understand oncology to appreciate an episode of House. 

Griffin McElroy is the dungeon master, or narrator of the first story, or arc, that spans 69 episodes.  While the first few episodes follow a pre-fabricated arc for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, Griffin certainly puts his own twist on it.  From there, the youngest McElroy really sinks his teeth into crafting a clever and imaginative tale that has loose ends that get tied up months later, and minor characters that disappear and prove to be key players tens of episodes down the line.  Griffin McElroy has a true gift for story telling that makes his tales feel familiar yet they go beyond typical tropes used by television, cinema, and video games that are an obvious influence, but don’t directly guide Griffin’s hand.  Aside from creating and telling the story, Griffin also voices all of the non-player characters, which on this show, potentially reaches the hundreds.  He’s also the only person in the podcasting world that has me listening the ads just as closely as I listen to the show.  Just amazing.

The rest of the cast are the Dungeons and Dragons “players.”  They’ve all created really fascinating characters, that appear in the first few episodes to be classic archetypes.  Believe me when I say they are much much more than that.  They help Griffin by adding color to his commentary.  The tapestry that is woven over the first 69 episodes would seem pale and bland without the talents, creativity and savage wit of the rest of the cast.

The best part of this show is that it’s self-aware.  It has a resolution.  It knows when something has run its course.  It was time for this first story line to end and it did.  The McElroys are smart enough to know they can’t just start another story doing the same thing they have been the past few years, so now they are playing around with different types of games, trying different formats, and finding new ways to tell stories.  This is the perfect time to jump on before the next epic thing happens, but it’s always a great time to go back to episode one and begin the journey.  Say “Hi” to Barry Blue Jeans for me.

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