As The Adventure Zone begins wrapping up season two’s Amnesty plot with one final arc I find myself nostalgic for the first season. This is surprising to no one; the three constants of the universe are death, taxes, and the inevitability I’ll re-listen to old episodes of Adventure Zone instead of the 14,000 new episodes in my podcast queue.
Continuing the thread of shame for not having completed a thing I genuinely love, an unread copy of The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins sits on my shelf, mocking me. My claims of wanting to revisit those halcyon days of Magnus, Taako, and Merle’s adventures undermined by the fact I’d purchased this graphic novel that. technically, has more content from them and never cracked the spine. Carey Pietsch’s artwork looks beautiful, the handful of pages I looked at standing in a Barnes & Noble told me the writing looks pretty good, yet I haven’t read more than two consecutive pages at a time.
The Here There Be Gerblins arc of the podcast is always talked about in hushed, apologetic tones. An excited tweet or Discord post of “I’m going to finally get into The Adventure Zone!” immediately undercut by well-meaning friends re-adjusting the poster’s expectations. Yes, TAZ is one of the most popular Dungeons and Dragons podcast in the world, but that first arc has some… speed bumps. With questionable audio quality and awkward gameplay, Here There Be Gerblins is as experimental as it is long (oh so very long). That said, there’s still something here, something that turned a one-off “MBMBaM plays D&D” special into a podcasting powerhouse. The IP that launched a thousand cosplays.
Welcome to Pod to Page, my new weekly series in which I go through Gerblins episode-by-episode to compare and contrast against the graphic novel adaptation. Is it fair to just tell someone “read the novel then start listening at Rockport Limited” when they express interest in the series? Does it hold up better now as someone coming back with five years of Balance content in their brain? A third question to fulfill the rule of three?
The plan is simple: I’m going to go through each individual episode of TAZ that has been adapted into graphic novel form and take notes while I listen. Lots of notes. Then I’ll read through the adaptation to catch up with the plot in the podcast, comparing and contrasting the two as I go. Each installment will be posted here, but my stream-of-consciousness live-listen notes will be available for those pledging to my Patreon!
The Adventure Zone holds a dear place in my heart, ti was one of the first podcasts I genuinely lost myself in, becoming an aural comfort food as I worked a soul-sucking minimum wage liquor store job in college. All I had to do was pop in some earbuds and step into the walk-in freezer to stock the fridges. While my hands shifted cases of garbage pre-mixed cocktails in a loud, cold room that smelled faintly of every cheap beer at once this podcast allowed for some escapism, for some fun. I don’t think I would have gotten into audio drama and indie podcasting as eagerly and passionately as I have had it not been for TAZ breaking that (Smirnoff) ice.
No, seriously, I dropped a glass bottle of Smirnoff screwdriver in that walk-in listening to TAZ. Took for-fuckin’-ever to clean up but on the bright side: cooler had a refreshing citrus scent after that.
Feel free to listen along as I go, but do be warned: I will be vaguely spoiling things from the Balance arc as a whole while going through this series. Listening to Gerblins is a practice in dramatic irony, it would be nigh impossible to fully discuss its legacy without touching on the many seeds we know will grow into beloved characters and settings.