The Adventure Zone: Setup - Commitment
October 5, 2017 7:20 AM - Subscribe

As we prepare for Season Two of The Adventure Zone, we're going to be doing a handful of short-form, experimental arcs, taking turns running new games and exploring new genres. Our first experiment is a super hero story created by Dad, who's running us through the Fate system! Come learn the basics of the Fate rules, and meet the new characters we'll be playing over the next couple of episodes.
posted by Tevin (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh man "Ben Franklin's Junto" is such a neat basis for a super organization. This led me to read up about it, to come across this gem about current-day Juntos:

"Hedge fund manager Victor Niederhoffer has been running the New York City Junto since 1985. Meeting monthly, the New York Junto focuses on libertarianism, Objectivism (the philosophy of Ayn Rand), and investing."

Libertarianism and Objectivism, eh? Sounds like a great basis for helping your fellow humans.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:43 AM on October 5


I already love the characters, but I do think Griffin could step back juuuust a bit more and let Clint run the show. I think he came on strong regarding Nadiya's feelings towards Remy - I get why he doesn't want to set up a negative relationship between the characters, but I don't think you have to play "Nadiya thinks Remy is a failure" as an antagonistic relationship. She might take on a sort of mentoring, big-sister kind of role because she ends up wanting him to succeed, or it could be a kind of Tony/Steve friendly rivalry (let's draw a veil over Civil War and whatnot for now). It sounds like they have a very different perspective on what constitutes success, so I don't think it's neccessarily a problem for one of them to think the other is a failure.

I do get Griffin's motivation in wanting to avoid friction between the PCs, but I think he could have taken a more wait-and-see approach, especially in these short arcs.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:47 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Oh and for a second when they did the whole "Ben Franklin, first President of the United States" goof I thought they might be setting up some alternate history for their world and I got nerdily excited.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:49 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


I feel like maybe Griffin is having a hard time taking his hands off the wheel. And you know, seeing how much of himself he poured into being DM that's totally understandable.

I like all these characters. They have good motivations and conflict in interesting ways and I can't wait to see how they bounce off each other as the story kicks off.
posted by Tevin at 11:37 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


I also think he is just naturally suited to being the "boss" of this podcast, and he will probably have more of a hand in steering it than anyone else would as a player. He's got a strong narrative voice and little tolerance for shenanigans. It's not the worst thing in the world to have a player provide some of the structure and guidance in an RPG campaign, especially here where he is (I assume) going to continue to produce the podcast and compose music for it.

I keep thinking back to the (amazingly good) episode of MBMBAM where they decided to not answer any questions and just shoot the shit for an hour. Griffin's tension at not following the preset format was palpable.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:13 PM on October 5 [6 favorites]


I really enjoyed this setup and the characters introduced.

I was disappointed a little that they rolled the antagonism between Nadiya and Springheels back, it seemed like a great dynamic. I'm looking forward to seeing Travis try and play a standoffish nerd who doesn't care for people at all. It seems so against his instincts that I'm sure it'll be great.
And as we've seen from Justin's playing style I can see a lot of fun to be had from an incredible hulk made up from an HR rep and an inuit goddess!
Really good character work all around.
I agree re: Griffin really wanting to take charge a bit too much. I remember switching from DM to a player on a storium game where I accidentally threw in waaaay too much exposition and world building and completely broke the plan of the DM before realising that I had done bad things and recanting everything.
It's a tricky transition.

Likewise, I get the impression that Clint has written a ton of backstory and wants to get it out there.

Not that I'm complaining. I think that learning these new roles will be what makes things interesting as much as the game or the story. Really looking forward to seeing where this goes.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 12:48 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


I feel like maybe Griffin is having a hard time taking his hands off the wheel.

That's a problem for Griffin in general. I will be curious to see how he handles it going forward.
posted by maxsparber at 1:06 PM on October 5


I love Travis' character and it makes so much sense for her to see Remy as, generally, a failure. As a non-academic who spends a lot of time with academics, I think he has the makings of really great and believable scientific genius character, warts and all (not that all academics are geniuses, just that some of the ones I spend time with are). Her seeing Remy as a failure is as much about Nadiya's self doubt as anything Remy is doing. I hope Griffin gets over that because the Remy/Nadiya dynamic is going to be very good I think.

Rock Steady: Do you know what episode of MBMBAM that is?
posted by coreywilliam at 1:33 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


I'm not Rock Steady but I think he's referencing this episode. It's actually one of my favorite pieces of McElroy content and one I listen to every couple months.
posted by Tevin at 1:38 PM on October 5 [5 favorites]


So what's the betting that Nadiya is named for second generation British Bangladeshi Bake Off superhero Nadiya Hussain?
posted by howfar at 1:52 PM on October 5 [8 favorites]


I do think Griffin could step back juuuust a bit more and let Clint run the show. I think he came on strong regarding Nadiya's feelings towards Remy -

While I agree that Griffin is still adjusting, this sort of debate about interpersonal aspects is integral to character and world creation in Fate. It's one of the things that makes it such an appealing game for storytelling. You do (whatever amount you want of) the world-building collaboratively, and then see the consequences of those decisions come alive mechanically in play.

I also think that the aspect that came out of it "Remy needs to be pushed" is a really great Fate aspect, because it's so double-sided, opening it up to lots of invokes and compels, whereas the originally proposed aspect was OK for compels (i.e. making things more complicated and earning Fate points) but bad for invokes (resolving situations and spending points). The thing about Fate is that it only really works if there is a fluid economy of Fate points. Good aspects, to really come to life, have to be easy to turn in different ways in different situations, because that back and forth is what keeps the roleplaying and the mechanics locked together.
posted by howfar at 2:04 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Bake Off superhero Nadiya Hussain?

Oh gosh, of course!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:59 PM on October 5


I'm not sure how much they talked about their characters with each other as they developed them, but it's pretty funny that Irene and Remy both have a major character trait of "really really want everyone to get along and do well, yay teamwork" whereas Karlinda and Nadia are both more like "I'm literally just factually better than other people on every level, why would I want them to help me"
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:40 PM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Man, you know what? Listening to this episode actually gave me just the inspiration I needed to crack a big problem in a story I'm writing, namely that there were a bunch of blank personalityless characters in it and I had no clue how to fix it. Just sat down and figured out half a dozen peoples' basic character traits by thinking about it in the same basic terms they used in this episode.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:15 AM on October 6 [8 favorites]


I'm not Rock Steady but I think he's referencing this episode.

Yup, Tevin's got it. It's a goddamn delight from tip to toe.

While I agree that Griffin is still adjusting, this sort of debate about interpersonal aspects is integral to character and world creation in Fate.

Interesting. I've never played Fate before, so that is intriguing.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:06 AM on October 6


This sounds like a fun group of characters. I agree that Griffin was steering more than I was expecting. Justin was, conversely, almost completely silent.

One worry I have is that, knowing the way the boys discuss science on MBMBaM (even when they're not trying to make a joke), knowing that Nadiya works in my field and might use words I use daily is making me preemptively cringe super hard.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:43 AM on October 6


I also felt like Griffin was having a little consternation handing over the reins, and also that Nadiya's antagonism towards Springheel was Travis' way of "yes, and..."-ing Griffin's own character creation. It's great that Remy's history has him embarrassing himself the one time he stepped onto the world stage, but that has to mean something at the interpersonal level too. I'm glad Clint gently asserted himself on this one that these are the characters' starting points.

Griffin made the really good point about how Irene/Karlinda can let Clint put his thumb on the narrative scales a bit, and I hope Clint really makes some good use out of that.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:31 AM on October 6


I really appreciated them taking a moment to highlight that, no, Irene doesn't have happy-funtimes-bipolar. It's that sort of concern for how their fiction connects to real life, and the emotional power it can have, that makes TAZ such a special thing.
posted by meese at 9:55 AM on October 6 [4 favorites]


... Looking through the fandom, it looks like a lot of people are assuming they confused bipolar disorder with DID. Which is kind of annoying to me.
posted by meese at 11:03 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


One thing the boys didn't mention is that Fate is published under the Open Gaming License, and is accordingly, available to read online. Anyone looking for an intro would probably best direct their attention to the Fate Accelerated pages. The 'Accelerated' edition keeps all of the central concepts while stripping the engine down to the bare minimum, so it's a good place to start with the game.
posted by howfar at 11:20 AM on October 6 [3 favorites]


I found this one a little stressful & painful to listen to. They all sounded too stressed to me, especially Griffin as noted above. I think everyone has put too much pressure on them to produce something "GOOD, yknow, like last time". I had to stop right as they were starting the character creation. I'd rather pick that up as they go along like I did with Balance arc. Looking forward to upcoming episodes.
posted by bleep at 5:24 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]


The McElroys seem super worried that they'll lose what they had with the Adventure Zone. It's kind of funny because I don't think they grok why people like them. For instance: the MBMBaM episode where they just didn't answer any advice questions. Griffin seemed genuinely nervous that if they didn't answer questions people wouldn't be interested, as if a single person tunes in for life advice.

Basically, The Adventure Zone could be brand-new improv prompts every week and I'd still tune in because I want to hear their goofs and how they overcome the problems placed before them. Basically, I don't care about Magnus and Taako and Merle and Nadiya and Irene and Remy. I care about Clint and Travis and Justin and Griffin (and Stuart). As long as they're involved, The Adventure Zone will be great.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:15 AM on October 7 [7 favorites]


Basically, The Adventure Zone could be brand-new improv prompts every week and I'd still tune in because I want to hear their goofs and how they overcome the problems placed before them. Basically, I don't care about Magnus and Taako and Merle and Nadiya and Irene and Remy.

I'm the same way, but I think a large (or maybe just small but vocal) percentage of the fanbase really really identified closely with the characters, and tuned in to hear what was going to happen to them next - they were invested in the narrative, not the gameplay. There's a good chance that a lot of those people won't immediately click with the new narrative, and it is important to remind them that Tres Horny Boys needed a little time to find their footing.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:17 PM on October 9 [2 favorites]


I found this one a little stressful & painful to listen to. They all sounded too stressed to me, especially Griffin as noted above. I think everyone has put too much pressure on them to produce something "GOOD, yknow, like last time".

As someone who has become a fairly regular consumer of podcasts/recordings of live-stream tabletop RPGs, I'm finding it fascinating how there is a growing tension between the end product as a "game" versus "entertainment."

For example, consider sports - where a group a people come together and play a game with and against each other. There are rules, but within the rules, improv is allowed. At high enough levels of skill, we consider this entertainment and people will watch and pay for the privilege; but even then, sometimes it sucks, as entertainment.

And that is also going to be the case with things like TAZ or Critical Role; sometimes the experiment doesn't work, and things don't come together; sometimes it is going to fall flat or the dice rolls break in such a way that a big, dramatic conflict moment isn't one (Sneak Attack has a few of these moments, where the "boss fight" or tough encounter actually gets dealt with quickly, with little fuss), or that something that wasn't supposed to be a big deal becomes a major obstacle (I'm looking at Critical Role's ability to deal with doors at times), and I'm thinking that this is the inherent risk of the medium - because things aren't scripted, because the dice introduce an element of chance, and because of the choices players make, there is always a chance that what gets created just is "meh" rather than great; but I'm detecting a creeping need/desire/anxiety on the part of everyone involved with the projects I'm consuming to create big, wonderful tremendous moments and memories. To force things, I guess, for lack of a better word, when in all cases they started as small things, of friends and family coming together to play and have a good time and that is what drew the audience initially - that sense of play.

So it's interesting what the pressure of having an audience and is doing to these groups (wrt audience expectations and the perception of what those expectations are, which might not be the reality), and the anxiety I'm hearing from TAZ and Critical Role as they both have wrapped up respective campaigns and are preparing to launch anew; the combined desire and anxiety of making it "good, like last time" and I'm curious how it is going to shape their new ventures; how they can balance that desire alongside the play that is also necessary.
posted by nubs at 1:41 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


I think it's not just the pressure of any audience that causes this negative feedback loop but specifically the huge, loud, demanding, needy, highly invested audience that fandom creates.
posted by bleep at 3:08 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]


"but I'm detecting a creeping need/desire/anxiety on the part of everyone involved with the projects I'm consuming to create big, wonderful tremendous moments and memories."
This type of thing happens organically and it's great and then people get tattoos of it and write about how it saved them from suicide and suddenly the stakes are much too high for those moments to happen organically again. But now it's a requirement instead of a happy bonus. It's kind of an impossible position that creators get put in, and the resulting stress is palpable and unpleasant.
posted by bleep at 3:38 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


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