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Adventure Towns

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If you're a writer of a TV drama series with recurring characters, you have a problem: You need a new story every week, and they cannot all be just about your regular cast. So most TV series formats, particularly for drama, involve some way of bringing a new set of guest stars into your leads' lives for every episode. There are just two ways to do this: Either your leads work as cops, lawyers, ER doctors, or another profession that naturally brings lots of other people to them for short periods of time; or else your leads do something that has them travelling around a lot, meeting new people and dealing with new situations wherever they go.

Maybe they're drifters Walking the Earth to right injustices. Maybe they are being chased by the law or they're from La Résistance, and they're eluding agents from The Empire. Maybe they are a roving international reporter for a big newspaper. Maybe they're a Private Detective who takes cases all around the world. Whatever the reason, our main characters go to a new place each week which results in an adventure that they have to solve in forty-two minutes — sixty minutes minus the commercials. Often the heroes will be Mistaken for Spies when they get there. Count on a local or two to help.

The location version of Monster of the Week. Compare to City of Adventure and Wacky Wayside Tribe. In Science Fiction shows, instead of going from town to town, the protagonists tend to go from world to world (thus travelling to "Adventure Planets"). Combined with Alternate Universe to make "Adventure Universes" in Sliders. Combine it with Time Travel and you get Quantum Leap. Combine with both space travel and time travel (plus the occasional alternate universe), and you get Doctor Who.

Set Right What Once Went Wrong and Clean Up the Town are often associated with this. Wandering heroes like The Drifter and the Knight Errant are built to save Adventure Towns. May overlap with World Tour if they go around the world in the process.

A subset would be the Town with a Dark Secret. Best examples are from movies like Bad Day At Black Rock, High Plains Drifter, or Hang 'Em High. The town is complicit in some evil criminal past and the arrival of the stranger disrupts their efforts to keep the lid on.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball has 2 examples:
    • The original Dragon Ball started out this way as part of the quest to collect the Dragon Balls,
    • GT for the same reason.
  • In Ergo Proxy they're really more like Mindfuck Towns.
  • Kenshiro's wanderings in Fist of the North Star often had him going through many such towns.
  • The Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) anime utilized this in a way that was very unique for the time, combining it with Chekhov's Armory. The early part of season 1 was yet another anime where the heroes visited a town every week looking for a MacGuffin and just happened to be there at the right time to set right that which was wrong. However, after a few episodes of this, a much larger plot materialized. The clincher is that, with the exception of the Psiren incident, practically everything that happened during this period of visiting adventure towns came back to affect Ed and Al at some point, highlighting one of the show's themes of equivalent exchange: you give something up (in this case, time they could've been using to search for the Philosopher's Stone), you gain something equal (aid in their quest later on). This left such an impression on many that even Hiromu Arakawa, the writer of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga upon which the anime is loosely based, actually took inspiration from this specific story structure during the later chapters of her series.
  • Mashin Hero Wataru Series: The first installment has Wataru venturing through each province of Soukaizan, which are designed like "floor levels" to take out the evil doers lurking in their kingdom. By Wataru 2, he is sent to "stellar provinces" in Seikaizan (星界山;”Stellar Realm Mountain”).
  • One Piece has several, except they're adventure islands, and they tend to spend an Arc there.
  • Pokémon: The Series has a lot of these in practically every episode between Gym battles. Even the Gym towns themselves qualify as this, as they spend a few episodes in each one doing various things.
  • Trigun quite blatantly does this, especially in the first season.
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- provides examples of Adventure Universes, although major plot key to the Myth Arc was hidden in one of them.

    Comic Books 
  • Jannah Station has a steady stream of tourists, students, and the uber-wealthy to supply all the trouble the local police need.
  • The Marvel Universe comic book Exiles is an Adventure Universe series, and Excalibur had an Adventure Universe story arc.
  • Marvel’s Warheads run on this trope - they’re mercenary adventurers who jump through wormholes to other times, planets and dimensions.
  • Usagi Yojimbo uses this a lot. The plot of an issue would have Usagi wandering into a town plagued by bandits or yakuza or a supernatural monster.

    Fan Works 
  • The Good Hunter: Cyril spends his time in a state/province-like area for an arc. The occasion where he moves to a new one indicates the start of a new arc. So far, Cyril has visited three—Lescatie, Sheffield, and Erebus. In particular, he visits a different village every 2-3 chapters during the Erebus Arc, in order to crack down on the slaver raids and hunt down whoever's responsible.
  • Pokémon: Nova and Antica: Each town, city, or locale always has something refreshing or exciting in store when Ash arrives. To the point you can categorize arcs based on the stuff that happens within a place and/or its surrounding areas.
  • Soul Eater: Troubled Souls: Usually, a Monster of the Week hides out or is particularly active in one city or town. Inevitably, students go out to the location to eliminate the target. Although, Chicago in particular is the setting of a major arc as opposed to being a “place of the week”.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Every film in the Blind Swordsman series has Zatoichi wandering into a new one of these.

  • The first story arcs of The Dreamside Road feature these.
    • As Enoa Cloud joins Orson’s quest to find the Dreamside Road, they’re chased by the Liberty Corps through multiple post-apocalyptic settlements.
    • Also, Orson spent the last several years, before the story begins, traveling the world, frequently hunting the eponymous treasure trove. By his own admission, he has a knack for getting involved in other people’s problems and has battled everything from folk monsters to robots in his travels.
  • Kino's Journey has the main character visit a new Adventure Town in most chapters, occasionally visiting several new ones in a single chapter. Each Adventure Town tends to have its own physical laws, technological level, and eccentric characteristics. Frequently subverted by Kino's aloofness preventing her from actually taking part in an adventure, as well as her personal rule that she only stays in a town for three days and two nights.
  • The Odyssey, forcing Odysseus to travel to several islands, travel through dangerous waters, and go to the land of the dead before coming back home.
  • Rick Riordan does this in his mythology-based series. The characters inevitably journey throughout America or other parts of the world, hitting gods or monsters at every stop.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events takes this approach. Some of the "towns" are individual foster parents for the orphans. As the books progress, they become more like actual towns including a lumber mill, a boarding school, and an actual village called the Village of Fowl Devotees, an unusual community where arbitrary laws and birdwatching are Serious Business.
  • The Undertaker: As is typical in Westerns of this ilk, the protagonist Barnaby Gold is a drifter who invariably stumbles into trouble wherever he turns up.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Classic Stern Chase versions include The Fugitive, The Incredible Hulk (1977), and Nowhere Man.
  • Cheyenne may be the first live TV example (it started in 1955). Cheyenne Bodie, the only recurring character after the first three episodes (during which he had a sidekick), aimlessly wanders the West, taking on odd jobs and having adventures.
  • Doctor Who: Featuring a time machine that can go anywhere in time and space, features Adventure Times that are often also Adventure Planets and at least three times an Adventure Universe. Adventure Bases, Adventure Starships, and Adventure Space Stations are also par for the course.
  • Farscape: Another good example.
  • Firefly: Often visited Adventure Planets and Adventure Moons as the crew of Serenity went on jobs.
  • In Frontier Circus, the T & T Circus travelled from town to town in the American southwest; finding a new adventure in every town they stopped in.
  • Have Gun – Will Travel, and to a lesser degree Wagon Train and Rawhide are also early Western examples.
  • JAG: Harm and Mac’s line of work (court cases and/or field investigations) takes them all over the world, i.e. wherever the US Navy and Marine Corps forces are stationed. Not to mention the occasional CIA undercover stuff and Harm’s private searches for his MIA father.
  • Kamen Rider Decade travels to different 'worlds', each with an AU version of a pre-existing Rider.
  • The Littlest Hobo: A classic Canadian series that exemplifies the Adventure Town theme, what with wandering hero strolling into a new town every week to set right whatever domestic issues they may be facing, only to head off into the sunset by the end of the episode. Only the hero in question is a dog. Most Canadians and quite a few Australians older than twenty-five can sing its "Maybe Tomorrow" theme from memory to this day. Those of us even older remember the original theme — "Road Without End".
  • Quantum Leap: Sam wound up in major cities, small towns, even flying a plane once (which he did not know how)!!
  • Revolution: While there is an overarching story, each episode finds the protagonists somewhere new with a new 44-minute adventure.
  • Route 66, Then Came Bronson, Kung Fu (1972), Knight Rider, and Supernatural did this every week.
  • Sliders: It's (almost) always the same city (San Francisco), but due to our heroes travelling from one alternate reality to another, they find themselves in a different situation each episode.
  • The Stargate franchise: Fits this trope also.
  • Used in most of Star Trek except Deep Space 9. In fact, Gene Roddenberry described Star Trek as "it's like Wagon Train to the stars" in his early pitches.
  • The X-Files: FBI Agents Mulder and Scully chase aliens, alien-human hybrids, clones, genetic mutants, vampires, serial killers, and conspirators all over the United States. Plus in Norway, Hong Kong, Russia, and Antarctica.
  • In The Witcher (2019), a Witcher's actual job works a lot like this, but thanks to the plot that he's gotten tangled up in Geralt of Rivia gets to do less and less of it as the series progresses.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess visited adventure villages weekly, as did her Spear Counterpart in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
  • Xena and Hercules' intended Spiritual Successor Legend of the Seeker used a similar format. In the first season, the heroes are on the run from an extremely powerful warlord on a scavenger hunt of sorts, so they have to move around. In the second season, they're on a journey to find an older, even more obscure MacGuffin, and the search takes them all over the Midlands.

  • Stormhaven from Jemjammer is both a coastal shipping town and surrounded by dangerous swamps and forests, which has made it a natural hub for adventurers and bounty hunters.

  • In The Six Shooter, Britt Ponset is a working Cowboy who travels from town to town, running into a new adventure every week.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dogs in the Vineyard, the PCs are God's Watchdogs in a knockoff of 19th century Mormon territory, traveling between towns ("branches") and fixing thorny problems before they fester into full-blown demon-enabling heresy.

    Theme Parks 
  • Universal's Islands of Adventure, as its name implies, has guests traveling (in a circle) from island to island, where exciting experiences await at each one. At opening, the islands were: Port of Entry, Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island. Since then, two islands have been added to the park: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Skull Island.

    Video Games 
  • EarthBound (1994). One city is filled with delinquent children, another has a cultist group just around the corner, another is in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse...
  • The Fallout games have numerous adventure towns. It's not mandatory to visit them, but they are good sources of experience and equipment.
  • In My World, My Way, every town is an Adventure Town... even the little hamlet out in the oasis.
  • This is generally how Pokémon is structured.
  • The Spore expansion pack Galactic Adventures turns whole planets into this. Your captain can go down onto them and do quests, Star Trek style.
  • Fate/Grand Order: The first part of the game, Observer on Timeless Temple, has the protagonist and their Servants go to different parts of the world and points of time, called "Singularities", in order to prevent the ongoing process of what was right from turning wrong and the world history and human order foundation from being destabilized. Part 1.5, Epic of Remnant, continues the story with the protagonist correcting minor singularities. Part 2, Cosmos in the Lostbelt, goes a bit differently: now the protagonist team are traveling to different parts of the world where alternate possibilities of human history are threatening to impose themselves on the current time, called "Lostbelts", and they have to stop them from "growing" too big.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has four towns that are home to problems that Link needs to rectify: Zora's Domain is in danger of flooding due to constant rains from Divine Beast Vah Ruta, Gerudo Town is endangered by lightning storms conjured by Vah Naboris, Goron City is being plagued by eruptions and Magma Bombs from Vah Rudania, and the people of Rito Village are being forcibly grounded due to risk of being attacked by Vah Medoh.
    • The same four towns are endangered again in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom: the waters of Zora's Domain are being polluted by toxic sludge, Gerudo Town is blanketed in an impenetrable sand shroud and attacked by Gibdos, Goron City has fallen into decline due to the deleterious effect of a newly discovered "Marble Rock Roast", and Rito Village has been cut off from the rest of Hyrule by an unending blizzard.

  • Marvel's Eternals: The 500 Year War sets each story in a different part of the world (Japan, Korea, Spain, the South Atlantic ocean and China) with a Time Skip between each one. The only common threads are the Eternals themselves and the Deviants they're fighting.
  • Incubus Tales features this model for each adventure: the shop Phantasies can go anywhere, anytime, any reality.

    Western Animation 
  • Most of Avatar: The Last Airbender revolved around the Gaang traveling to all sorts of exotic or eccentric villages as Aang mastered all the elements. Justified as Aang was being chased by the Fire Nation for basically the entire show.
  • Ben 10 revolves around a road trip across America that Grandpa Max takes Ben and his cousin Gwen on in his RV. The stops range from cities, dingy tourist traps to farms. Inevitably, there will be a Monster or Villain of the Week that Ben will find in these places, no matter how mundane they seem.
  • DuckTales (1987): Many episodes feature globe-trotting exploits and visits to various Adventure Towns.
  • Glenn Martin, DDS is about a Bumbling Dad indefinitely wandering the country in his RV after his old house got burned down. They go to a different town every episode, such as the Amish Country, a green town populated by Hippies, and the setting of a reality show where the host secretly tries to break up their family. They also go to various major cities.
  • A few episodes in the second season of Gargoyles were like this, after the island of Avalon kept sending Goliath, Elisa, and Angela to different parts of the world where old or new enemies were causing trouble.
  • Here Comes the Grump sends the protagonists to a new town every episode in their quest to find the Cave of Whispering Orchids and escape from the villainous Grump.
  • Initially averted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic but with each passing season, more episodes have taken place outside of Ponyville and Canterlot. The advent of the Cutie Map in Season 5 has led to different settings in almost every episode.
  • ReBoot has this happen while Matrix and Andraia are lost on the Net, though most of the towns are visited offscreen. They mention visiting over dozens of systems but we only see three of them before they find one with ports to the Net and can finally reach the Web.
  • Thunder Cats 2011 has its title group of Catfolk Hitchhiker Heroes stumble on to these while hunting for various magical Ancient Artifacts on a Multicultural Alien Planet, in hopes of defeating Big Bad Mumm-Ra.

Alternative Title(s): Adventure Town, Town Of The Week