Art is by Justin Gray at http://burntobuild.com/
I have a new favorite thing, you guys. By that magic known as “checking out the things liked by people I like”, I stumbled across the fantastic and hilarious podcast, The Adventure Zone. And oh my word, I have fallen in love.
Here’s the quick rundown: podcast veterans the McElroy family decide to cross the great nerd threshold and try out D&D for (mostly) the first time. This is an example of a guy who has never GMed before, running a game for his two brothers and his dad, and discovering what an absolute joy it can be to tabletop it up. Or, well, computer it up, being they’re playing together over the internet. The wonders of technology, saving the day again. The McElroys are pretty chill about the whole thing, needing little more than some character sheets, some dice (and trust), and their tablets. What follows is an ever more epic and absolutely hilarious introduction to the wonders and terrors of My First Roleplaying Game, recorded for our pleasure.
The three heroes, Magnus (human fighter); Taako (elf wizard); and Merle (dwarf cleric) start off on a pretty standard adventure, though the characters themselves aren’t exactly standard, that runs right off the rails within an episode or two. This is not the podcast to listen to if you want serious, introspective roleplay– at least, at first. Tacos are a platonic ideal. There’s an NPC named “Barry Bluejeans”. Staying in character is obviously something really new for these guys, and silly character voices do happen. The 4th wall flickers in and out of existence, and there are a curious number of modern props for the joke-telling. It all works, though, blending together to create an experience both unique and eminently recognizable to veterans.
The real magic, though, is how the show evolves. Our ridiculous heroes start picking up interesting traits. The players really get into the world setting. No spoilers, of course, but what begins as a bunch of dudes fudging around with some dice grows into this massive, world changing campaign with some pretty awesome character moments.
The podcast format works really well for the show. Without the visual distraction of seeing people’s faces, it’s a lot easier to imagine the characters rather than the players. There’s also no dithering over maps or stats or sourcebooks, which means we’re getting all the fun parts, none of the rules arguments and breaks taken so people can look things up (and when they do happen, editing can take care of that without breaking the flow). Because they have so much experience with the medium, all the people on the show are clear, comfortable speakers who have got their tech down pat, and know how to improv the funny. It’s a good blend.
Mostly, it just makes me want to run a campaign. This is exactly the sort of thing that I am so excited to see, having new players fall down the rabbit hole. We all know roleplaying games have gotten a bad rep as a really fringe hobby; even as other nerd staples like superheros and vampires have exploded, tabletop RPG’s have had little real estate in the public consciousness. That’s started to change (thanks, Stranger Things!), but the stigma isn’t easy to shake. Getting a group together of some mainstream geeky guys, including their much older father, and throwing them into the deep end of the pool is a great way to re-experience the wonder of creating your own world for the first time. Storytelling isn’t a fringe thing, it’s at the core of our cultural psyche, a universal language. Collaborative storytelling is a treasure, and I get the warm fuzzies every time someone wakes up to just how awesome it can be.
I’m not all the way finished, so I cannot speak to the latest episodes, but with 50+ sessions to listen to, you’ll be entertained for quite a while. Listen over on their site, linked above, or on iTunes if that’s more your speed. They also have a Tumblr with all sorts of goodies, including character sheets and lots of great fan art.
Do you guys have anything you love that serves as a good intro to the RPG world, or replicates the fun of your first gaming sessions?