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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 a real-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.

History[]

Podcast[]

Initially a one-off MBMBAM 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.

Balance[]

Main article: Campaign 1: The Balance Arc

Originally simply called "The Adventure Zone", the Balance 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, The Stolen Century, looked into the boys' long-forgotten past to find the secrets that were there all along.
  • The eighth arc, Story and Song, consisted of the final battle to save their universe.

Experimental era[]

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, 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, 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, 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.

Amnesty[]

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.

Graduation[]

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.

Ethersea[]

Main article: Campaign 6: Ethersea

Griffin returns as the DM for this undersea campaign which tells the story of three inhabitants of Founders' Wake. It began with 5 prologue episodes focused on world building using the game The Quiet Year. After the prologues, the campaign moved back to Dungeons & Dragons. The ex-psychic shark warrior Amber Gris, previously cloistered parishioner Devo la Main, and coral-bodied cartographer Zoox Anthellae work for the Bluespan Brokerage, completing tasks aboard their ship, The Coriolis. Ethersea is the podcast's current season.

Graphic novel[]

Teaming up with illustrator Carey Pietsch, the McElroys are in the process of publishing graphic novel adaptations of The Balance Arc. These graphic novels follow the same overall story as the first campaign, but there are several differences, such as the changing of trademarked names from the Phandelver module, and the tweaking of minor plot details to improve continuity.

Campaigns[]

Primary campaigns[]

Experimental arcs[]

Maximum Fun Drive[]

Liveshow one-shots[]

Trivia[]

  • 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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