The Adventure Zone: Dust - Episode 3
March 19, 2018 12:56 PM - Subscribe

The Graysons find an unexpected collaborator in their investigation of Jeremiah Blackwell's murder, but with slivers of sunrise shining down on the streets of Dry River, has their newfound luck come a moment too late? Gandy parts the veil. Augustus summons a snack. Errol meets the folks pulling the strings.
posted by Tevin (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
13 minutes in and so far this is my favourite episode in ages. Is one of Errol's neighbours a Brummy?
posted by howfar at 2:21 PM on March 19, 2018

Also I was so proud of Travis for just saying "OK!" when Griffin decided he didn't want to go down the "meet the Banshee" route. I love Griffin, but I hope he's taking notice.
posted by howfar at 2:23 PM on March 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

This episode was just so good. Every episode in this arc is better than the last. They’re really getting their acting on.
posted by bleep at 9:29 PM on March 19, 2018

Is one of Errol's neighbours a Brummy?

Derek of Carrion St. does appear to have immigrated. The Carrion St. posse that emerged from the houses gave me a good belly laugh while I was driving home. I'm not finished yet, but I also loved Griffin saying, "Fuck you, business card." I'm stealing that for work.
posted by gladly at 6:15 AM on March 20, 2018

Just hours earlier, I was saying how I can't understand how some people struggle telling their voices apart... And then I listened to this and, for the life of me, can't tell if Travis was doing all the neighbor voices or if they were all getting in on it.
posted by meese at 7:03 AM on March 20, 2018

That neighborhood bit was a "magical Brian" moment for me when the mechanical bits of the game and improve came together for something funny, unexpected, and memorable. This has been a good arc and some of the best TAZ stuff since ... like, the train arc during balance.
posted by Tevin at 7:30 AM on March 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

"We're just ringing the bell all higgledy-piggledy now!"

Yeah, this episode really clicked - that opening bit with the neighbourhood coming alive was hysterically funny (I think all of them were chiming in, meese - that's part of what made it awesome; they all just played off each other, with Griffin in the middle). I don't think I've laughed that hard at TAZ since Magic Brian made his first appearance. Travis making the henchman sincerely apologetic for coming across as threatening was brilliant. Ghost cashews. "Remember to bring something gluten free for Derek."

I didn't think I'd say this, but I'm kinda hoping this is the one they pick for the next big arc. Really digging how Travis is so much more laid-back with the storytelling aspects, in terms of letting things happen and emerge, instead of worrying about making sure there are big dramatic moments...and it just works (which is my experience at the table too; don't try to force it, let it happen. Sometimes it falls flat, but most of the time something wonderful and organic and unexpected emerges, and that's what people remember - that's where the joy is).
posted by nubs at 3:03 PM on March 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think that Travis has, all along, had a very strong sense of what can really make a role-playing game a unique storytelling experience. In particular, the moment in the Balance arc, when Magnus went rogue to locate Pringles deep in the heart of the Bureau, stood out as the first moment when someone did something in the Adventure Zone which made me feel that pure RPG electricity.

All of my own great RPG memories are of times when my players came up with a crazy idea and I just rolled with the punches. Like the time they decided that the best way to deal with frontier small-town corruption was to have the seedy gambler played by our friend Ralph elected mayor, or the elaborate plan they constructed to create kompromat on the island governor hunting down their pirate crew. It feels like Travis is most interested in creating a space for that sort of thing to happen, and it's paying off because his family are fantastic improvisers. It's also, arguably, a better reflection of his role in MBMBAM. Travis is so often the person who spots the possibility of something in a topic under discussion, throws out the creative spark, and then lets Justin or Griffin run with it.

It's easy to overlook or underestimate Travis, and think of him as just the dopey one who gets criticised for his bad jokes, forgetting exactly how clever and hard working he really is under that slacker disguise.
posted by howfar at 7:09 PM on March 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah this arc is really giving me a newfound appreciation of Travis.
I hope people don’t forget that in Balance Griffin created and rolled with opportunities for improvising and greatness as well, and I don’t think it would have gotten big if he didn’t. I think it was just in the last one that we didn’t see as much of that. I feel like in these threads we’re so like blown away by what Travis is doing as if Griffin never did this or will never do it in the future which doesn’t seem fair.
posted by bleep at 7:17 PM on March 21, 2018

I think that Griffin's difficulty, for a while has been the simple pressure to keep consistently delivering everything that the broad audience for the Adventure Zone wants, which has tended to exacerbate his tendency to need to get things right. All of the McElroy brothers are fairly open about being hyperconscientious to the point of mental ill-health, in their own ways, and both Justin and Griffin have talked about seeking treatment for anxiety disorders in the last couple of years. It's incredibly difficult to keep on lightheartedly playing a silly wizard game with your family when you know that people have invested in your characters and setting to such an extent that they're getting tattoos and going to conventions in full TaZ cosplay. The tendency to want to ensure delivery of a consistent, engaging, enjoyable product will always kick in.

However, it's sort of a nightmare to try to deliver that product, because what people want from the McElroys is spontaneous silliness and world-spinning; family riffing their way to greatness, apparently effortlessly. Part of doing that is sometimes having a swing and a miss. There have been whole months of MBMBAM that have been merely pleasant background noise, and then, every time, they come back with multiple weeks of stellar jokes. It's OK for the Adventure Zone to be the same, and have periods of time when it doesn't quite work. The only problem is if it's stressing them out to try to do it. Partly that's because no-one should be spending their lives stressing about D&D or goofing on Arby's, and partly because us listening to them have fun enjoying each other's company is fundamental to what the McElroys do.

TL;DR its really unfair that the McElroys are under huge pressure to have no pressure fun, and the fact that they somehow keep managing to do it is a testament to how brilliant they all are at their craft.
posted by howfar at 7:44 PM on March 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

I hope people don’t forget that in Balance Griffin created and rolled with opportunities for improvising and greatness as well, and I don’t think it would have gotten big if he didn’t.

No, he definitely did, and I think there were a lot of moments early on where Griffin was the one at the table working the hardest to make TAZ what it was. And then his anxiety crept in, as TAZ became something that created a community around it, and he felt a huge need to deliver the big beats and satisfying climax that he thought the audience wants/demands - that lead to some heavy scripting of moments and scenes, and Griffin doing monologuing (which can happen to a DM, but sometimes the biggest skill is shutting up and letting the players roll. I consider my best moments as a DM as those when I haven't spoken for several minutes; the players are doing their thing and I get to watch). Looking back at the Balance arc, and his mini-arc now, I can see it - he's trying so hard to deliver the big moments that he's running the risk of not having the little moments that turn into the big ones. The opening of this episode is a great example - throwing his gun at the bell is such a small thing; this is a low stakes confrontation that his character is kind of over-reacting to (and for understandable, in character reasons) and it turned into a highlight of the episode, because nothing was forced and the table is open to seeing what happens and rolling with it.
posted by nubs at 8:02 PM on March 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

We’ve been having this same conversation word for word in every adventure zone thread since the stolen century.
posted by bleep at 8:15 PM on March 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

If I could point at one thing that has diminished the show in my eyes, it's Griffin's relatively new love for splitting the party. He did a lot of it in the latter half of Balance, and Amnesty was almost nothing BUT solo scenes. The show is just less entertaining when the player characters are separated. I loved the moment in this episode when he suggested the party split up, and Clint and Justin were both like "No, I don't think so."
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 6:03 AM on March 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

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