Travis: What did you expect to happen?
Griffin: YOU TO CATCH A FUCKING FISH IN THE FISH MINIGAME! Am I out of my mind? Is that an unreasonable expectation? To give them a fucking fishing minigame — Taako makes the lake float, Travis jumps in with a rapier like "let's get it done!" and Dad makes the fucking shit teleport away!
Clint: Welcome to the Adventure Zone, Griffin.
The Adventure Zone is an Actual Play podcast featuring the McElroy Brothers (Justin, Travis, and Griffin) playing assorted Tabletop RPGs with their father, Clint. The podcast began in late 2014 and new episodes are released every other Thursday.
The podcast initially focused on a single Dungeons & Dragons campaign, Balance, with Griffin as the Dungeon Master. Afterward the four McElroys took turns directing short experimental arcs until one of them, Amnesty (also DM'd by Griffin), was chosen for expansion into a full second season. As of Summer 2019, Amnesty has also finished as a series, as has Graduation with Travis as DM. The fourth full campaign was Ethersea, with Griffin back as DM, and the current campaign is Steeplechase, run by Justin.
Thus far, the podcast contains the following arcs:
- The Adventure Zone: Balance (2014-2017) is a D&D campaign run by Griffin. It follows human fighter Magnus Burnsides (Travis), elven wizard Taako (Justin), and dwarven "cleric" Merle Highchurch (Clint) as they attempt to hunt down powerful, world-destroying artifacts at the behest of an organization called the Bureau of Balance.
- In the same continuity is the adventures of the Hogsbottom Three, run by the hosts of bad movie podcast The Flophouse.
- The Zone of Adventure: Imbalance (2021) is a D&D campaign run by guest DM Aabria Iyengar. It is a 3-episode miniseries set after the events of Balance, where the Tres Horny Boys and returning supporting characters face a new, time-related threat. Notable for being the first arc of the series presented as videos on YouTube instead of as a podcast.
- The Adventure Zone: Amnesty (2018-2019) is a Powered by the Apocalypse campaign run by Griffin using the Monster of the Week hack. As mentioned above, Amnesty began life as an experimental arc before being picked up for the second season. A Monster of the Week story taking place in the fictional ski town of Kepler, West Virginia, following the tourist trap owner Edmund "Ned" Chicane (Clint), the amateur magician Aubrey Little/The Lady Flame (Travis), and the park ranger Duck "It's a nickname" Newton (Justin) as they hunt down dangerous monsters coming from a mysterious stone gate in the woods.
- The Adventure Zone: Graduation (2019-2021) is a D&D campaign run by Travis, his first time in the DM seat for a main campaign. It follows barbarian sorcerer Fitzroy Maplecourt (Griffin), swashbuckling rogue Argonaut "Argo" Keene (Clint), and an unnamed druid Firbolg (Justin) — three students enrolling at Hieronymus Wiggenstaff's prestigious School for Heroism and Villainy... or rather, its (somewhat less prestigious) Sidekick and Henchperson Annex. Dark forces are at work at the school to bring about an apocalypse, and the students must be trained in the arts of magic (and accounting) to save their world.
- The Adventure Zone: Ethersea (2021-2022) is a D&D campaign run by Griffin, set in an post-apocalyptic undersea city called Founderís Wake. The campaign began with a five-episode prologue, of the four playing a world-building card game called "The Quiet Year", which told the story of how four kingdoms caused an apocalyptic storm through their overuse of magic, eventually forcing them to settle underneath the waves. The story itself is set some twenty years later and follows a trio of adventurers working for the Blue Span Brokerage. They are the famous teleporting-shark - or "blink shark" - killer, Amber Gris (Justin); a young man who has recently defected from the church that raised him, Devo La Main (Travis); and a newly formed "brinearr" note , Zoox (Clint).
- The Adventure Zone: Steeplechase (2022-Present) is an original Forged in the Dark campaign run by Justin. Set in an immersive amusement park for the rich, it follows three criminal employees of the nostalgia-themed layer "Eustabin": Linden Julius A.K.A. Beef Punchly (Travis), Emerich Dreadway (Clint), and Montrose Pretty (Griffin).
ExperimentsA series of short, "experimental" arcs using various systems and run by alternating GMs, done to help decide what to do for Season 2 proper. Amnesty began as one of these before it was chosen to become the second season.
- The Adventure Zone: Commitment (2017) is a Fate campaign run by Clint, set in a world of superheroes inspired by T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. It follows the super-agile ninja warrior Chris "Remy" Rembrandt/Springheel (Griffin), the genius shapeshifter Nadiya Jones (Travis), and the HR ace Irene Baker, who can become the host to the storm goddess Kardala (Justin), as they join an experimental program for a humanitarian NGO called the Do-Good Fellowship.
- The Adventure Zone: Dust (2018) is a Powered by the Apocalypse campaign run by Travis using the Urban Shadows hack. Set in the Weird West of Crescent Territory, it follows the late cashew baron Augustus Parsons (Justin), the traveling wizard Gandy Dancer (Clint), and the former-politician werewolf Errol Ryehouse (Griffin) as they investigate a murder while preventing the prominent vampire and werewolf families' feud from boiling over.
- Dust received a second mini-arc (2022), following Augustus Parsons (Justin), the stoic gunslinger Callan (Clint), Indrid Cole the Mothman (Griffin), and possessed proprietress Lulu Kageyama (guest player Erika Ishii) as they track down Pearl Blackwell and try to return her to her family.
- The Adventure Zone: Hootenanny (2019) is a Lasers and Feelings one-shot run by Griffin. A 'Space Opry' following an interstellar country band with a constantly changing name, including arcade machine turned standup bass playing android Shoots McCracken (Travis), Benny Gene Esserit, Prince of Marrakis (Clint), and deeply conservative, cryogenically frozen balladeer Pepsi Liberty (Justin).
- The Adventure Zone: Dadlands (2019) is a one-shot using an RPG of the McElroys' own design, featuring Brennan Lee Mulligan as a guest DM. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited only by dads, it features Briquette Hoggins (Griffin) of the Grill Dads clan, Chip Hugginsby (Justin) of the Vacation Dads, Coach Red Ruffinsore (Clint) of the Sports Dads, and Guy Ferrari (Travis) of the Car Dads, who go on a journey to recover the remote that controls a miles-high plasma screen television in the middle of the Dadlands.
- The Adventure Zone: Just Us (2021) is a SuperNormal one-shot run by Travis in 2019, featuring a group of superheroes at a company picnic trying not to blow their secret identities.
- The Adventure Zone: (K)Nights (2016-2017) is a D&D campaign run by Travis. It follows half-elf warlock Tom Collins (Griffin), human bard Lenny Manolito (Clint), and Tiefling monk Troth (Justin) as they carry out missions as the new leaders for the thieves-guild-turned-resistance-movement The Beasts of the Ring. Available exclusively to those who donate to the podcast's publisher, Maximum Fun.
- The Adventure Zone: Elementary (2018) is a very silly one-shot run by Justin in a rules-light system called Four Sherlock Holmes and a Vampire (Who Is Also One of the Aforementioned Sherlock Holmes); it follows Sherlock Holmes (Travis), Sherlock Holmes (Griffin), "Sherlock Holmes" (Clint), and Sherlock Holmes (Justin) attempting to solve a mystery, and also one or more of them might be a vampire. Available exclusively to those who donate to the podcast's publisher, Maximum Fun.
- The Adventure Zone: Fur (2019) is a Honey Heist one-shot run by Travis. It follows the unhinged polar bear "The Thomas Crown Affair" (Griffin), the incompetent sun bear Puka Malone (Clint), and the retired grizzly bear Gerrrf (Justin) as they pull off the heist of the century: stealing a briefcase of pure manuka extract worth five million dollars from the 2019 Sacramento Honey Con! Available exclusively to those who donate to the podcast's publisher, Maximum Fun.
- The Adventure Zone: Mercer (2020) is a Dungeons & Dragons 5E one-shot featuring Matthew Mercer as guest DM.
- The Adventure Zone: Lords of Crunch (2020) is a modified Lasers & Feelings one-shot run by Justin. It follows three breakfast cereal mascots, Weedy (Clint) of Buddz Hemp-Based Breakfast Cereal, Skipper Little Dipper (Travis) of Honey-Dipped Oats: Sugar Berry Blast, and Sylvester Stud (Griffin), of Flav-O-Corp's Nutrient-Enriched Fiber Squares, as they attempt to save their home dimension of the Keriopsis from being destroyed at the hands of the evil Horatio. (And his band of murder perverts.) Available exclusively to those who donate to the podcast's publisher, Maximum Fun.
- The Adventure Zone: 2tenanny (2020) is a sequel to the Hootenanny live show, run by Clint while Griffin joins the players as replacement band member 48.
- The Adventure Zone: Charlieverse (2021) is a modified Muppet Babies one-shot run by Justin and designed by his 6-year-old daughter Charlie.
Tropes common to multiple arcs include:
- Aerith and Bob: To different degrees in different arcs, but you get things like characters named "Zoox" and "Devo"note adventuring alongside "Amber".
- Artistic License: Liberties are frequently taken with game mechanics for the sake of Rule of Cool, Rule of Fun, or Rule of Funny.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: "Balance" is the only arc to take place in a fictional world not original to The Adventure Zone (Faerûn), although it becomes more original as time goes on.
- Reference Overdosed: The players make frequent references to pop culture, both in-character and out.
- Shared Universe: The members of the family seem to have differing ideas about this. Griffin usually denies it, but the others seem to like the idea that all arcs take place in the same universe (or rather, multiverse).