The Adventure Zone: Graduation Ep. 2 "It's (a) Familiar"
November 14, 2019 6:21 AM - Subscribe

Class is in session. The gang enjoys a nice breakfast. Argo takes the blame while the Firbolg struggles to keep it together. A friendly game goes off the rails. Fitzroy makes a new friend, literally.   Welcome back! Hope you enjoy TAZ:Graduation Episode 2!
posted by Tevin (27 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Had my first lol of the morning at the dirty, nasty, funky 23
posted by rather be jorting at 6:55 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]


I want the bonus content conversation off-mic with Justin’s asking them please to not make “Bud” canonical.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:26 AM on November 14 [3 favorites]


Festo very rapidly turned into Elmo and I'm here for it.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:41 AM on November 14 [4 favorites]


Also if every episode is going to cover one school day this show is gonna give Dumbing of Age a run for its money as slowest depiction of a fictional school.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:43 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]


Only about 30 minutes in, and this is great. Lots of laughs.

Dirty 23.

"Cat. Cat. Cat....I can see there is no reasoning with you."

"Derrrrrrrrrrrrrick. This name rots in my mouth."

C: "Is there an omelette bar?"
T: "Yes. Three of them."
G: "Is there a crepe master?"
T: "No."

I also loved the fact that the professor for BlameTaking started the class being the one apologizing.
posted by nubs at 8:40 AM on November 14 [10 favorites]


I feel like "it is a splitting." will be a useful phrase for many situations to come.
posted by rather be jorting at 10:33 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]


I want this to end with the Firbolg fomenting a communist revolution.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:04 PM on November 14 [9 favorites]


How long am I going to have to wait for the dread lord Mary Berry fanart? Does it already exist?
posted by dinty_moore at 12:47 PM on November 14 [4 favorites]


I am dying over the accounting class. Usually I can keep myself to some silent chuckles while at work, but this is too much. Festo is going to be great later, too.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:25 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


Thoughts:

•The 12 year old in me is a little frustrated that Ditto mentioned practicing a cantrip in his alone time, called "Mage Hand", and that he was going to use it to smack that ball, and none of the others jumped on that.

•Even before the end sequence here, I was loving Argo more and more as a character. Clint is finding a new voice for him and giving him so much humanity without really saying much about him that he's definitely my favorite PC so far, even though Master Firbolg (again, we seem to be done with "Bud" now, right?) has the most memorable moments. Clint's instinct to jump in front of Rhodes to take the thunderwave damage for her was a world apart from any of his previous characters, and I'm really getting a feeling for Argo as a guy not just with a troubled past, but who 1.) is really, really hoping that this school will be a great experience, 2.) is really, really hoping that it's going to be a meritocracy, and 3.) is really, really hoping that it being a meritocracy will work in his favor. Just gung-ho and scared but trying to stay as optimistic as possible.

•I'm loving Fitz, too (I know he hates "Fitz" but it's what we call my cat so "Fitz" it is) but his situation is a little harder for me to glom onto so far. For as much as he supposedly hates his magic, he's been excited to use it at least twice that we've seen, and psyched about how well it went off against the Skeleton Crew. But this fits if Griffin is really thinking of him as easily discouraged, which makes sense.

•Oh God Festo is the best NPC. He wishes to party.

•Accounting class was the best.

•I have no idea what was going on with the rolls in Blame-Taking class.

•I'm just luxuriating in these episodes. And the music remains incredible.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:41 PM on November 14 [4 favorites]


Also: that cat is totally related to Jackal's knowledge, yes?
posted by Navelgazer at 4:55 PM on November 14


It appears that Justin has decided that Bartholomeus will be his new Leon the Artificer, a decision that I fully endorse.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 6:37 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


Festo is maybe one-third-Elmo, and two-thirds- the Edward Snowden/Amelie character that Justin used to do on MBMBAM.

All the voices and characters were better dialed-in this week. I could understand Justin much better too. I think this has mostly to do with me listening on earphones.

> I'm loving Fitz, too (I know he hates "Fitz" but it's what we call my cat so "Fitz" it is) but his situation is a little harder for me to glom onto so far.

My assumption is that he really wants to be a good-guy knight but turns out to be better at magic than armed combat, but not good enough at magic to have a future as a great magician, so the school demoted his transfer to the sidekicks school and nobody in administration wants to be the one to break it to him as to why and Fitz can't read the situation well enough to draw his own conclusion. Or maybe he had already been told directly and he chose to ignore what he heard, so nobody in administration wants to get into another frustrating circular conversation about it.
posted by ardgedee at 6:25 AM on November 15 [2 favorites]


I was loving Argo more and more as a character. Clint is finding a new voice for him and giving him so much humanity without really saying much about him that he's definitely my favorite PC so far,

I really liked the fact that in the last episode, it really felt like everyone (NPC-wise) kind of overlooked Argo...and this week, he did stand out a bit more, but then got a special visit from the stealth teacher. I feel like Travis really wanted to set up that visit from Jackal in a way that made it clear that others aren't noticing/appreciating Argo, but the teacher who specializes in stealth is noticing him.
posted by nubs at 8:21 AM on November 15 [3 favorites]


His class is basically a barbarian that has some sort of magical link such that they have various instinctive magic effects and they get wild magic surges on rage.
I kinda think that would be more interesting without the Magic Initiate feat added on.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:21 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


I'm also 99% certain that Argo is basically Inigo Montoya hiding behind a happy-go-lucky façade and that The Commodore is his mark.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:33 AM on November 15 [3 favorites]


Like, originally I thought he just really wanted to be a sidekick and would end up on the henchperson track, but now I see that that's likely more part of Fitz's journey, and here he just really want's to be one specific hero's sidekick for probably ulterior motives.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:36 AM on November 15 [2 favorites]


Waiting two weeks for another episode is brutal. I just want to spend time in this world and with these characters so badly. The show feels so comforting and joyful. I ugly snorted/laughed at the "Festo likes to party" line and startled some poor fellow pedestrian while listening to this yesterday.

Just thinking about this episode is making me smile.
posted by slimepuppy at 10:13 AM on November 15 [4 favorites]


> it really felt like everyone (NPC-wise) kind of overlooked Argo...and this week, he did stand out a bit more, but then got a special visit from the stealth teacher.

Senpai noticed him!
posted by ardgedee at 11:07 AM on November 15 [2 favorites]


God, the firbolg accounting class scene. I want an entire television show of just the firbolg's increasingly annoyed arguments about accountancy.
posted by sciatrix at 12:56 PM on November 15 [5 favorites]


"Vhen do I get the acorns?"
posted by nubs at 1:13 PM on November 15 [4 favorites]


I'm wondering about the setup. Argo has a shady backstory that the game master knows about, right? The whole thing with him not being entirely what he's presenting as? So is that something they worked out ahead of time, or... how does it work?
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:01 PM on November 15


I'm wondering about the setup. Argo has a shady backstory that the game master knows about, right? The whole thing with him not being entirely what he's presenting as? So is that something they worked out ahead of time, or... how does it work?

In my game, at least two characters (mine included) have backstories that are/were not as presented to the other characters and players in-game. You work it out privately with the DM, who may suggest ideas or request detail that gets built into the game as you go.
posted by sciatrix at 4:14 PM on November 15 [3 favorites]


The corpse in the library - it depends, usually if there's hidden backstory, it's sort of sketched out by the player upon character creation, the GM might fill in or ask for more information later, depending on preference and level of trust between player and GM.
posted by dinty_moore at 4:14 PM on November 15 [1 favorite]


Like they said. There's probably backstory for Argo, Fitz and the Firbolg that each has only shared with the DM. The player wants to know that their ideas will work in the given milieu, and the DM can use the information in their own world-building (if there's a secret backstory, after all, there are likely to be NPCs involved in the backstory).

Generally speaking it can depend on whether a given D&D campaign is going to lean heavier on the gamesmanship or the role play. Clearly the McElroys are in it for the role play, but back in the day when I played D&D there were games where you weren't expected to share certain information with the DM lest they add a monster, trap or NPC to screw with it.
posted by ardgedee at 6:38 PM on November 15 [2 favorites]


This was a great episode and it was a mistake to listen to it on a flight. I should get a baseball cap that says "Not Dying, Justin McElroy is Up to Something in My Ears."
posted by snerson at 8:24 AM on November 20 [5 favorites]


wondering about the setup. Argo has a shady backstory that the game master knows about, right? The whole thing with him not being entirely what he's presenting as? So is that something they worked out ahead of time, or... how does it work?

Apologies for taking this innocent question as an opportunity to discourse on RPG storytelling and gameplay theory!

How you approach this depends very much on what you're trying to achieve, and what works at the table in normal play is not necessary going to be what make best radio. Hence the below should not be taken as any comment on how the McElroys have made artistic decisions as podcasters, mainly because I don't know what those are. It's just a comment on the artistic decisions I make as a player of RPGs, in particular when moderating* them. I also recognise that there really are people who like playing games that involve a GM trying to kill the players' characters, although I note that I've never actually encountered such a group in over 3 decades of playing. Suffice it to say, if you and your group all like your game, you're playing it right.

In my view, the best approach depends on who originates the idea for the backstory, for what purpose, and how fleshed out it is, usually. Backstory can be anything from passing flavour to the entire plot of a campaign, and it can often be useful to work out what a piece of backstory is for when deciding how to introduce it. Although I should note that some of the best campaign defining pieces of backstory will start out as a bit of incidental detail or an in-universe joke.

That noted, my strong personal preference as a GM is to allow the details to emerge collaboratively at the table as much as possible. I think it is usually better if what literary theorists would probably call the "text" and fan theorists call the "canon" to be defined in clear terms: the events that happen and the words that are spoken at the table, and the agreed game state arising from this. There are absolutely games where this can and should be extended, but those are usually games that involve what I think are some quite deep theoretical complexities, and I don't want to disappear completely up my own Ars Magica. But, in general, it's much easier to get the dramatic flow right if players know the intra-group secrets that their characters don't know. I think it's also notable that RPGs are probably unique in modern narrative media, in that the performers and the audience are the same people. Excluding certain sections of the audience from certain bits of the narrative is something that I think always needs very strong justification.

So, anyway, I want to be clear that I'm not saying that people should avoid thinking up or discussing and writing about backstory away from the table: all players are partners in building the story and the world and should be encouraged to take part in whatever way they want. However, I think that the basic understanding needs to be that nothing is "true" or "canon" in game except as it is established at the table. It's entirely appropriate, in my view, for players to share any material they want with the group outside of the game itself, but (except in games where suspicion and paranoia are the point, which require a specific type and level of player buy-in) I don't like situations where information is shared between one player and the GM only; that creates a power dynamic about control of the story that isn't healthy in most games.

To illustrate what all this theory means in practice, if I were a GM with a backstory I wanted to introduce to a specific character, a simple approach would be to ask the player before the session (and here I do think it is fun to draw them aside beforehand, just so the moment when the menace is revealed is cooler for the others, but I'd make clear after the reveal that they have no secret information) something like "Is it ok if I introduce a sinister mystery from your past that will ask questions about Argo's moral character and endanger the safety he thinks he has found? And are you happy to play along and act scared when I initiate this during the session?". Most people will jump at that sort of opportunity, and if they don't (some people do just like to hang back, or like the role of having to clean up everyone else's messes, or whatever) you just ask someone else.

Another option, if the GM wants to introduce a backstory but it doesn't matter who it belongs to, is to just make the offer at the table. In this game you might do that by having the stealth tutor use the name "Mariah" in class, during a lesson on keeping an impassive disposition: describe him meeting the gaze of each pupil in turn while lecturing in his creepy voice. At this point you'd directly ask the players, "OK, so which one of you knows something about Mariah, and what expression does Jackal read on your face?" and wait for volunteers (if you don't get any volunteers then you may well have a lack of trust at your table and need to have a proper conversation with your players about how you're going to fix that: the fact that a lot of teenage boys played D&D badly in the 80s isn't any more relevant to how people should play today than the shitty metal bands they were in is relevant to me practising guitar today, and being able to trust the GM to not fuck you over is pretty fundamental to enjoyable play, in my experience).

What all of the above is predicated on is that you can both know and reveal as much or as little about Mariah as is appropriate for her purpose in the story. Maybe Mariah is just a stepping stone: a small piece of leverage on Argo to push him to do something wrong, which will result in the adventure moving forward one way or another, depending on Argo's response. In that case, as a GM, you're golden, because you just ask the player why they don't want anyone finding out what happened with Mariah. If you know more about Mariah's needed role, you can give them those facts as established realities, and ask them to fill in the blanks. This latter approach is often easier for players, but I think it's important to give people as much opportunity to take part in shaping the story as possible, not only because it's more fun, but because it's a skill that gets easier and more enjoyable for all the players as time goes on.

Probably more importantly, all this collaborative work is work that I haven't got to do personally. My developing approach is to know as little as possible about what is going to happen. This is strongly inspired by the Powered by the Apocalypse approach (used in Monster of the Week as well as a lot of other stuff), as well as FUDGE/Fate, although that places a fairly onerous burden on players, as the McElroys found with the Commitment arc. All I really need is the big narrative forces and an idea about why they're interesting to the characters, and I can allow the rest to develop naturally; I'm still free, if I want, to create locations, scenes, characters and plot threads to use as they become appropriate, but not really knowing how they're going to to fit together gives the players more control over their characters' stories, and saves a lot of wasted effort. I'm much less likely to end up with a bunch of work I can't use when my players suddenly decide that the coughing chimney sweep is their best lead to the source of the plague and set off across the rooftops, if I haven't decided in advance that they're going to discover the corruption spreading from the archmage's tower down in the sewer network.

*GM, for me, stands for "game moderator", per Robin D Laws' suggestion**.
** As is much of my theory of good play.

posted by howfar at 2:28 PM on November 24 [3 favorites]


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