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!

Dungeons and Dragons in Quarantine

I’ve been a part of a weekly D &D group for a year and a half now. Friday nights are reserved for our campaign and we’ve more or less kept that schedule since I’ve joined. I met this particular group through an old workplace. At one point or another, everyone in the group was or still is working there. It used to be a great outlet for discussing frustrations at work but now it’s much more a way to keep in touch with friends I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Before the pandemic, we were in the middle of one of our longest Pathfinder campaigns since I’ve joined. It’s been going strong since last summer. Now that we’re in quarantine, we’ve decided to bring in a few more players and start a D & D 5e campaign.

It turns out, the online tools out there are much better suited for 5e than Pathfinder. Sure, you can make Pathfinder work within tools like Roll20 but there are much better tools and support for 5e.

Case in point, for Pathfinder we’ve been using open-source software called PCGen to create and keep track of our characters. PCGen works for what it’s intended for but there’s a lot of set up and finagling to get it to do what you want. When I first installed it, I had to hunt down an unstable beta version to be able to use the sources I wanted for my character.

For 5e we’re using D&D Beyondwhich is a more streamlined and polished tool. Unlike PCGen, source access is limited to the books you’ve bought. Luckily, only one person needs to own the books and host a campaign for everyone in the campaign to have access to it. Creating a character is a much more straight forward process. It also helps that the set up for a 5e character is simpler than a Pathfinder character as well.

Since our character sheets are on D&D Beyond were able to use the Beyond 20 chrome extension to integrate with Roll20. This allows you to click on a skill, spell, save, and attack and will automatically roll with the correct modifiers in Roll20. It makes rolling painless and way more efficient which speeds up play. And let’s face it, rolling virtual dice is no substitute for rolling real dice.

There’s Roll 20 itself, which is a fantastic tool. I’ve used it for other online sessions in the past. My DM has been working very hard to create the same level of detail and maps he has for our in-person games. It’s working out very well. One of the features we’ve been using that’s a real game-changer is Dynamic Lighting on the maps. For one, you can only see what your character can see. So if you’re in a dark cave and don’t have Darkvision or a torch you don’t see anything. What makes it really interesting is depending on your position you can see enemies you party members otherwise can’t. It’s definitely a feature that can only be used online but it’s a game-changer.

All that said, I miss our in-person sessions. Online sessions just don’t have the same vibe when you’re used to having six people around a table playing around with miniatures. But it is better than nothing and just different enough that it’s an interesting experience all on its own.