Note: this essay does not contain explicit spoilers of any kind for the first campaign arc of The Adventure Zone podcast, even if you have never listened. However, it does contain “conceptual spoilers”, which may or may not be a thing, including for the *finale* of the Balance arc; therefore, proceed at your own discretion. There is also a reference to a not-that-cool musical act. You have been warned.
Full disclosure: I can say with absolute certainty that The Adventure Zone has brought me to tears more than the sum of its closest fictional competitors. And I mean really cry, honestly and unexpectedly in the way that you can only do when you genuinely connect to a character’s heart, beyond a phantom of your own. Sad is easy; it’s much rarer for fiction to manage to roll a crit on your full range of emotions and draw out reactions you didn’t know were there. And it’s certainly the last thing I expected when I followed up on a lot of word of mouth about a podcast of some dudes playing Dungeons & Dragons.