Podcast Sunday: The Adventure Zone

No Audio Dramas for me this week. Instead, a friend got me hooked on a D&D live-play podcast called The Adventure Zone. I vaguely remember the show having ads at the end of Mission to Zyxx but never took a chance to listen to it because live-play podcasts are daunting to start.

D&D shows are the MMOs of podcasts. They’re large, usually with hundreds or episodes if they’ve been running for a while. They’re also quite a time investment with episodes running an hour or more. I tend to balk at any type of show that have episodes longer than 45 minutes. If you’re not caught up already it’s going to take a long time to do so.

The exception to this is Fool & Scholar’s Dark Dice where a lot of the downtime, table talk, and combat rolls are cut and described by the DM or players in post production. Episodes for this show tend to run under 30 minutes. They add sound effects too which makes this show feel like more of an audio drama which is what Fool & Scholar typically produces.

The Adventure Zone is different from other your typical D&D show. For one, none of the cast are experiences D&D players. I find this extremely relatable. Their first campaign is running in a similar vain to one of my friend group’s campaigns. In the past, I’ve played D&D with a group of people who have a massive amount of knowledge about the game and were very min/max focused but I much preferred the fun that comes with my current group that plays less seriously.

The couple other D&D shows I’ve listened too also have a bunch of voice actors playing characters. Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy host another podcast called My Brother, My Brother, and Me, which I’ve never listened to but have heard many a MaximumFun ad for…they’re podcasters rather than voice actors so it feels like more of a group of people hanging out rather than a stage production. Their dad, Clint, who has no previous D&D experience, also plays with them in and I find the table interactions between all of them to be one of the best parts of the show.

I’m really enjoying it but it is consuming all of my podcast time right now. This style of podcast seems to be easier to listen to while I’m working so I’m getting more time than usual to listen. I’m going to need it, the first campaign alone is 68 episodes and there’s three campaigns in total!

VAST Horizon: Adrift- Ghost

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Dr. Nolira Eck is finally able to open a communications channel and hear a distress hail to the Bifrost.

S1 E5
Released: July 22nd, 2019
Length: 31 minutes

If you’re keeping track you might be wondering where episodes 2-4 are. Truth be told, I ran out of time to get my thoughts together for those 3 episodes before this new one came out last week. Even this write up is a bit later than I would have liked it to be. They’re good you should listen to them. Norlira does some crazy stuff, we learn there’s another life form on the ship, and she names the AI Ali.

I still like how the world-building happens in bits and pieces throughout the episodes. This week we learned that humanity has spread far a wide throughout the galaxy via a lecture. Expansion to the point where the lecturer questions if we should be expanding even more

.Where episode 1-4 were fast-moving and action-packed, episode 5 gives us a bit of a breather with a more reflective tone. Even though it’s not as exciting, it’s an important mommnet. So far the dynamic between Norlira and the AI has been built around survival. Ali is calculating the best routes to take, the amount of time Norlira has to get things done, constantly reminding her that there is no one available to help her. In this episode and even a little bit in episode 4, Ali seems to be trying to understand Norlira more and questions why she does some of the things she does. Tanja Milojevic does a fantastic job with Ali. There are times when she seems almost human. Other times I’m reminded it’s only an advanced computer when it repeats words and phrases the exact same way.

—-Spoilers Ahead—-

At the end of the last episode, Norlira had reached the communications bay and was receiving a distress signal. We learn that this distress signal is coming from an escape pod of a seemingly different ship that also ran into something. The child, Po Yano, is the sole survivor.

Norlira desperately tries to contact Po but it seems the escape pod can only broadcast out. What resonated the most with me is this scene where Norlira is determined to let Po know that she’s not alone which is something that Ali can’t understand. There’s this great exchange between the two where Norlira keeps arguing she needs to try to help this girl and the AI keeps calculating the chances of saving Po at zero. And even when it’s revealed that this broadcast was just a recording, Ali doesn’t understand why Norlira is still upset.

Norlira has overcome incredible things given the circumstances. She’s gone outside the ship, she’s traversed areas of the ship with no life support, she’s crawled through maintenance shafts in the dark, and yet she can’t save this scared girl trapped and alone in space. To me, it seems Norlira is trying to come to terms with just how helpless she is in her situation. You can hear the defeat in her voice when she says “…She tried so hard and there was no one here for her, she was alone, she died out here alone. Just like I will.”

VAST Horizon: Adrift- Stirred

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Nolira is an agronomist tasked with establishing agriculture in a new solar system, but when she wakes up on a now- empty colony ship, the whole of her plan disappears. The ship has been set adrift, with numerous mission-critical problems requiring immediate attendance outside of her area of expertise.

S1 E1
Length: 38 minutes

Audio Dramas might be my favorite type of podcasts. They can be exceptionally good entertainment if done right. And VAST Horizon: Adrift does everything right I discovered this one thanks to Mission To Zyxx on my way to work this morning. I downloaded the first episode for my commute home.

Norlira wakes up on a colony ship on a set course to a new solar system. Except there are no signs of anyone else and the onboard computer AI can’t tell here what happened. We do learn that most of the ship, the Bifrost, is severely damaged and 72% of the ship is without life support. The ship has no communication equipment, navigation, or propulsion. Oh yeah and there’s no crew left to fly it as far as we know.

As far as first episodes go, this one really grabbed my attention. There’s a lot of action-packed into this opening episode and a bit of backstory. The episode flips back and forth between the Norlira’s present struggles on the ship and flashbacks to before Norlira left on the Bifrost. It seems that her family was reluctant for her to go, which is understandable, seeing as she won’t be coming back. So far we’ve only met Dr. Norlia Eck and the ship’s AI and it’s unknown if there will be more characters. though at the very end of the episode, there are signs of life detected in the nursery.

Acting makes or breaks this type of show and the cast in this episode did a great job. I liked the dynamic between Norlira and the Bifrost AI as they attempt to solve problems one at a time. I also found the various flashbacks compelling and a great way to build on backstory without the presence of other characters.

I didn’t realize it at the time but this show is made by Foll and Scholar Productions who made The White Vault. Personally, I didn’t care for the White Vault, I’m still an episode or two shy of finishing season 1, but I know others who loved every minute. Honestly, I’m glad I didn’t know, it might have put me off to listen to this show.

VAST Horizons: Adrift is currently 4 episodes in with a new episode releasing every 2 weeks. I’m sure I’ll be all caught up in time for episode 5 which will be released on July 23rd.