The Adventure Zone

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Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy from My Brother, My Brother and Me have recruited their dad Clint for a campaign of high adventure. Join the McElroys as they find their fortune and slay an unconscionable number of ... you know, kobolds or whatever in ... The Adventure Zone.

—The Adventure Zone official Maximum Fun blurb

The Adventure Zone is an actual-play TTRPG podcast (and to a lesser extent, graphic novel series) run by the McElroy brothers and their dad. It is hosted on the Maximum Fun Network, and released fortnightly.

Historyedit | hide all | hide | edit source

Podcastedit | hide | edit source

Initially a one-off My Brother, My Brother and Me filler episode, popular request led The Adventure Zone to become a full-time podcast. It ended up eclipsing the original in popularity, but that didn't happen until later.Template:Citation needed

Balanceedit | hide | edit source

Main article: Campaign 1: Balance

Originally simply called "The Adventure Zone," the Campaign 1: The Balance Arc campaign kicked off the show. Balance centers around the three-player party of Magnus Burnsides, Merle Highchurch, and Taako, as well as some of their friends, and their quest to find, capture, and destroy the immensely powerful Grand Relics to prevent them from being used for evil. But beware: not all is as it seems.

The campaign consisted of seven arcs.

  • The first arc, Story 1: Here There Be Gerblins, began as a game of Dungeons & Dragons running the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure, but quickly diverged from the path of the module and became its own story serving to lead into the larger picture of the Balance arc.
  • The second arc, Story 2: Murder on the Rockport Limited, was the first of entirely original material on Griffin's part (if you don't count Moonlighting), an Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery.
  • The third arc, Story 3: Petals to the Metal, did double duty as a bank heist and an illegal wagon race as the boys attempted to wrest a powerful relic from the hands of a self-made supervillain.
  • The fourth arc, Story 4: The Crystal Kingdom, had the boys fighting to recover the ubiquitous Philosopher's Stone from a floating laboratory before a science experiment gone wrong could cause it to crash into the ocean and transform all of Faerun into crystal.
  • The fifth arc, Story 5: The Eleventh Hour, sent the party into a Wild West inspired town, with the mission of solving its history mystery and freeing it from a 24-hour time loop.
  • The sixth arc, Story 6: The Suffering Game, trapped the party in a twisted amusement park of pain with the promise of their wildest dreams gated behind it.
  • The seventh arc, Story 7: The Stolen Century, looked into the boys' long-forgotten past to find the secrets that were there all along.
  • The eighth arc, Story 8: Story and Song, consisted of the final battle to save their universe.

Experimental eraedit | hide | edit source

Main articles: Campaign 2: Commitment, Campaign 3: Amnesty, and Campaign 4: Dust

After Balance concluded, in order to find their footing in the process of reformatting The Adventure Zone from just Balance into a multi-season show with Balance as its first, the McElroys tried out several new miniature campaigns with the goal of seeing what stuck. However, it soon became apparent that what didn't stick was the format in general, and they abandoned the experimental arcs early due to losing listeners.

  • The first experimental arc, Campaign 2: Commitment, DMed by Clint McElroy, was done through the Fate system and took place in present-day America, centering around the first mission of neophyte superheroes to rescue a slightly more experienced one from herself.
  • The second experimental arc, Campaign 3: Amnesty, DMed once again by Griffin McElroy, was done through the Powered by the Apocalypse system and centered around a haphazardly assembled group teaming up to defeat a monster from another world. After the cessation of the experimental era, this arc was chosen to be adapted into the next full-length campaign.
  • The third experimental arc, Campaign 4: Dust, DMed by Travis McElroy, was also done through Powered by the Apocalypse and had three detectives trying to solve a murder in a Western setting.

During this era, the show adopted a new general-purpose logo image (the prior one only representing Balance), a six-segment art piece adapted from the Bureau of Balance logo.

Amnestyedit | hide | edit source

Main article: Campaign 3: Amnesty

The second of three experimental arcs, expanded into a full campaign for The Adventure Zone's second season. Duck Newton the park ranger, Aubrey Little the stage magician, and Ned Chicane the tourist trap owner become unlikely heroes defending the town of Kepler, West Virginia from abominable invaders. Amnesty follows a story structure similar to Balance, with distinct arcs separated by interlude episodes.

  • The first arc, told during the experimental period, features the three protagonists' call to adventure after an unlikely series of events drew them all towards a mysterious archway in the woods. With help from newfound allies in the Pine Guard, they embrace their respective destinies (or random luck) and hunt their first abomination, the Beast.
  • The second arc resumes with the Pine Guard learning of the next abomination to besiege Kepler, the Water. On their mission to conquer this elemental foe, they become acquainted with the planet of Sylvain, which is connected to their world by the archway.
  • In the third arc, the Pine Guard investigate a series of accidents around Kepler, and make a surprising new friend who leads them to the next abomination, the Calamity.
  • In the fourth arc, with their complicated pasts and future visions all coming back to bite them, our heroes come face to face with the Countenance.
  • The story concludes in the seven-episode finale arc, with a fight for the fate of Earth and Sylvain alike.

Graduationedit | hide | edit source

Main article: Campaign 5: Graduation

With Travis as DM, the podcast returns to Dungeons & Dragons once more with a story following three roommates at Hieronymous Wiggenstaff's School for Heroism and Villainy, the preeminent learning institution for any aspiring hero or villain. The knight school dropout Sir Fitzroy Maplecourt, the affable rogue Argo Keene, and the nameless exile Master Firbolg are initially enrolled not as heroes or villains, but as sidekicks and henchpeople—though that doesn't stop them from discovering a secret society, memory-altering magic, and a whole bunch of demons.

Unlike Balance or Amnesty, Graduation's story structure does not lend itself towards distinct arcs.

Etherseaedit | hide | edit source

Main article: Campaign 6: Ethersea

Griffin returns as the DM for this undersea adventure. This campaign follows the adventures of the ex-psychic shark warrior Amber Gris, a previously cloistered parishioner Devo la Main, and a coral-bodied cartographer named Zoox Anthellae as they begin to take work for the Bluespan Brokerage via their ship, The Coriolis.

This season begins with five "prologue" episodes focusing on world-building using The Quiet Year game system, then returns to Dungeons & Dragons for the campaign proper.

  • The first arc, The Gallery Job, begins with Amber, Devo, and Zoox attempting to secure their contract with the Bluespan Brokerage; and in order to do so, they must first obtain a ship. This quest leads them to take a job with a Brinarr archaeologist named Guthrie, who hires the trio to help him scavenge long-lost art pieces from the wreckage of a surface installation.
  • The second arc, The Infinite Clam, follows the player characters' first official mission as "freelancers" aboard their new ship, the Coriolis. After reluctantly accepting a job from the Benevolent Parish, the trio ventures into the Ethersea to locate a missing church official Benefactor Orlean, whom they find trapped inside a large and unusually magical clam.
  • The third arc, The Abyssal Auction, follows Amber, Devo, and Zoox to a mysterious and illegal auction house, where they go must undercover to attempt to win a very valuable journal for Amber's mentor, Ol' Joshy.
  • The fourth arc, Cambria's Call, begins after the Coriolis accidentally carries a deadly virus known as the Sallow back to Founder's Wake. When the virus decimates the magical phytoplankton maintaining city's infrastructure, Amber, Devo, and Zoox team up with famous explorer Finneas Cawl to replace them; but even figuring out how to do so is easier said than done.
  • The fifth arc, The Menagerie, begins with the Coriolis crew taking a job from the Curator to find and retrieve the surface animals that have been stolen from the Conservatory. They journey to Crescendo, a secret society in the Ethersea whose members take pleasure in hunting rare species to extinction.
  • The sixth and final arc of Ethersea is called Benefactor's Folly, which begins with the sudden death of Devo's estranged mentor and mother-figure, the Hand of Guidance. The trio is compelled to investigate the circumstances of her demise and track down her suspected killer with the help of Amber's childhood friend, Ballaster Kodira. In doing so, Amber, Devo, and Zoox are forced to choose what matters to them most, and how far they're willing to go to get and/or save it.

Season One of Ethersea concluded after forty-four episodes on July 28th, 2022. The McElroys have stated that they would like to return to Ethersea for future season(s) of the podcast, although whether or not those seasons will feature Amber, Devo, and Zoox has yet to be decided.

Steeplechaseedit | hide | edit source

Justin takes over as a GM, throwing the others on the table into a dystopian futuristic Themepark setting named Steeplechase. The campaign uses the "Blades in the Dark" Game system, focussing on criminal activities in the underworld of theme park employees.

Graphic noveledit | hide | edit source

The McElroys are in the process of publishing graphic novel adaptations of The Balance Arc, illustrated by Carey Pietsch. These graphic novels follow the same overall story as the first campaign, but there are several differences including the changing of trademarked names from the Phandelver module, and the tweaking of minor plot details to improve continuity. The sixth book, based on the Suffering Game arc, is set to be released on July 16th, 2024.[1]

Campaignsedit | hide | edit source

Main page: Episode guide

Primary campaignsedit | hide | edit source

Experimental arcsedit | hide | edit source

Maximum Fun Driveedit | hide | edit source

Liveshow one-shotsedit | hide | edit source

Triviaedit | hide | edit source

  • The brothers and their father communicate through Skype to play audio-only games of tabletop RPGs. This is done due to the family's separation geographically, and helps make the podcast experience more genuine.
  • The show's arc names follow a jumbled alphabetical progression.
  • Despite their own blurb, no TAZ characters have ever slain a kobold (yet).

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