As of right now, the McElroys are already about midway through their second “season” of The Adventure Zone, this time called “Amnesty,” and I’m enjoying the hell of it. It was a bit of a slow start, and honestly, I was missing the Tres Horny Boys like whoa. I even started a relisten right after Amnesty started, but now I’m as addicted to the new game as I was to “Balance.”
But I am missing the D&D play, if I’m being 100% truthful here. As far as I go as player of tabletop RPGs, I love me some Powered by the Apocalypse because I feel like I have a lot more creative control and there’s a bit more of a dialogue with your teammates because you’re creating the world together. And as much as I’m enjoying “Amnesty,” the lack of the definitive D&D structure included in “Balance” (as much as they followed it, anyway) has been detrimental to the storytelling. I don’t feel like I know what is going on as much as I used to, leading me to have to start entire episodes over again (the most recent episode had to be replayed several times before I was like “ahhh, okay”). Scenes tend to just keep going, like the whole French onion soup bit with Ned (Clint) and Duck (Justin), and as much as I am inspired by Griffin as a storyteller, his weaknesses – for example, his need to tell his story instead of letting his brothers and dad actually roleplay (not all the time, obviously) – are really highlighted by a looser game style. And the other McElroys aren’t as deft with their characters without leadership from Griffin, pushing them to make tough decisions like in “The Suffering Game.”
I don’t know if it’s just because they aren’t as familiar with how these types of games work. Or maybe “Amnesty” isn’t as strong as “Balance” because it started out as “we wanna tell a ~**story**~” rather than organically becoming something special, followed by them throwing the playbook out the window after they’ve established themselves. They don’t necessarily have to go back to D&D, although a lot of their humor came from dice rolls and what have you, but maybe go back to something a bit more structured, like Exalted or hell, even Pathfinder, and then morph into the story all of them want to tell.
I’m not saying that media can’t change and grow into something completely different from what they were initially supposed to be. Just look at Welcome to Night Vale. Parks and Recreation. The original Star Wars trilogy. And there are always bumps in the road, slight deviations that can only create something better. I’m just hoping that the boys will figure out how to balance out their love of goofs and good storytelling.
Art Credit: Maximum Fun