The Adventure Zone will bring in Aabria Iyengar to host the latest mini-arc of the popular actual play podcast. Zone of Adventure: Imbalance revisits the world and characters of the very first season, called Balance, and will use Dungeons & Dragons 5E to power the group’s roleplay. The first of three episodes goes live on November 10th.
The podcast began in 2014 as somewhat of a joke from Justin, Griffin and Travis McElroy, hosts of the long running “advice” podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me. Along with their father, the three siblings began a barely serious playthrough of D&D 5E’s introductory campaign, Lost Mines of Phandelver, that eventually spiraled into a multi-arc saga about memory, love, a worlds-ending evil and what someone would do to keep from losing the last bits of their old life.
Zone of Adventure sounds more akin to the goofy, irreverent roots of the show - its trailer manages to bring up failed dice roles, expressing anal glands and ludicrous digressions about the Zune. The premise seems to center time travel and revisiting the past of the main party - Merle Highchurch, Magnus Burnsides and Taako the Wizard. Fans will be surprised to see mainstay Dungeon Master Griffin McElroy appearing as a character for this arc, though who hasn’t been revealed.
Iyengar is quickly becoming a household name in the realm of tabletop actual play. A major participant in livestreamed series such as Into The Mother Lands, she began the summer of 2021 by hosting small campaigns for Critical Role and Dropout’s Dimension 20, in both instances as DM. Exandria Unlimited mixed members of the regular cast with new guests such as Aimee Carrero and new season three mainstay Robbie Daymond. Iyengar guested on Dimension 20 previously but was invited to helm the Harry Potter send-up, Misfits and Magic, which aired between the show’s regular seasons.
Both appearances were hits within their respective fandoms, leading many to clamor for more Iyengar and further arcs with guest GMs. Dimension 20 has answered that call with the recent announcement of Shriek Week, a four-part season with voice actor Gabe Hicks filling the chair of regular host Brennan Lee Mulligan and leading a cast of university students whose parents happen to be famous monsters and other ghoulish characters.
Mulligan and Iyengar will appear together in another Dimension 20 show, Battle for Beyond. The D&D Beyond-sponsored campaign will run for six episodes and invites other notable names from the actual play community, such as voice actor Erika Ishii and Jasmine Bhullar as the group’s DM.
Iyengar has now completed a hat trick of sorts with The Adventure Zone announcement, as the McElroy production is one of the most listened-to actual play titles in the podcast space. Her fame has been a welcome change for many who are glad to see a Black woman garnering so much respect and excitement in what has been a predominantly white endeavor within a historically white hobby.
The Summer of Aabria, as it was called, has stretched well past its moniker, but Iyengar has said she hopes to be the first of a wave of fresh names stepping into the spotlight of tabletop RPG actual plays. Zone of Adventure: Imbalance airs November 10th on most podcast services and the McElroy Family YouTube channel.