Tavern of Heroes: “House of Unending Shadow”

Growing up I spent countless hours exploring outside. I was raised in a time when going outside was still something kids did. We built forts or played with army men, tramped through the woods and fished or rode bikes. We made clubs where only our friends were allowed (no one wanted to be in our silly club but it made us feel exclusive and special to pretend like someone might want to join). When it was too dark or rainy outside I was one of the nerdy few exploring fantasy worlds through book and video game. I was part of one of the lucky generations that got to experience video games in the true console era. I broke my teeth on the NES, Gameboy, Sega Genesis, Playstation and N64. I love my time in history because I had the best of both worlds. I consumed literature and art in a way that caused me to imagine and dream, but I also explored nature and walked to the beat of my own drum.

There are many different generations that are categorized using letters or codenames. This article will mainly be speaking to Generation X, Xennials (which can I just rabbit trail here and say that I have no idea what a Xennial is but it sounds like something that would attack you in a Ridley Scott movie) Gen Y, and Millenials of which I am sadly one. If you were born in these time frames from 1965 to late 1980’s you probably remember sitting mere feet away from a glowing tube screen like me hacking and slashing your way through countless 8-bit fiends in some sort of an RPG adventure. Maybe Gauntlet was your jam or Castlevania buttered your bread, either way the podcast I’m writing about today may be just your speed.

I was contacted recently by Michael Stagliano who along with his brother Stephen Stagliano are starting a very entertaining podcasting project called Tavern of Heroes. Michael and Stephen take you through a deep and immersive adventure in two episode, bite sized increments. Tavern of Heroes is set in a universe that was completely created and curated by the show’s founders. The world is known as Elderon, a magical place inhabited by humans and some magical creatures. The capital city of Arronhall houses an organization known as the Tavern of Heroes. This organization is employed by the king from time to time, and the tavern is filled with powerful warriors who step in when the city guard won’t cut mustard.

One thing that I loved right off the bat when listening to the first episode of this show is that the paragraph above is about the actual amount of intro you have to sit through before hearing the flavor of the adventure. The show’s hosts take you straight into the action and introduce one guest. I haven’t had a chance to listen to any future episodes (but don’t worry friends, when it releases I will) but I like the idea that this is how the podcast will flow. A quick pick up from where you leave off, introduce guests and then step right into your adventurin’ pants.

This is fantastic because you know what’s always great about a Role-Playing Game? Experiencing a wonderful and compelling narrative. You know what’s not always great about a Role Playing Game? Spending days and days learning a game system so that you can assign stats and stress over character creation. Tavern of Heroes takes care of that for you. The heroes are ready, the stories are prepared and it’s up to the talented and entertaining guests of the show to drive the experience.

The first episode I listened to features Michael, Stephen and a guest Christine Lakin who you may know from many popular TV shows and video games. One thing that sets the Tavern of Heroes apart for me is the level of talent behind the voices you hear. Michael allowed me to read through the list of cast members for the planned episodes and I will say that there are many professional actors and voice actors on the show and from the first episode you can tell. Characters are created by the hosts that draw you into the adventure and help you imagine you are exploring the decrepit mansion with our brave and somewhat timid adventurers.

From the very beginning Michael and crew aren’t afraid to let themselves fall into the story and what ends up happening is you as a listener are drawn in with them. The cautious, wordy, pastry loving Tormund that tells the adventurers about a problem in his neighborhood (Fresh Prince much?) has a character all his own, and I found out wanting to know more about him. A character known as Malar has a gruff exterior but gives you the feel of someone who cares about his fellow man at heart. Each character feels somewhat pre-developed and complete from the beginning and leaves you wanting more.

As a player of role playing games another thing I can say is it’s a wonderful thing when your GM can do a variety of accents and allows the players to explore a bit. I’ve heard many a tale from RPG players where every character they encountered was “some form of British”. The first episode from the Tavern of Heroes has a very laid back feel and each character has a different accent and personality. This gives texture to the story and keeps the listener engaged. I found myself wanting to be part of the group and I think that’s a sign of a well led RPG session.

The chip tune music chosen for transition points during the show and the narrative of the adventure brought me back to my console hack and slash/rpg adventure game days. The 8-bit audio and mysterious and sinister antagonist of the House of Unending Shadow give you the same feel of dropping into a story, knowing there’s a big bad, and knowing that you and your team have to defeat it. I love this simplicity of the narrative arch. This base level created by the show is easy to build upon and gives the actors room to explore and I think that will work to the benefit of the creators in the long run.

I like the idea of the show following a quest system in an MMORPG. You meet a patron with a problem (our nervous pastry loving Tormund), you are given a location to explore, you meet many a tough opponent to defeat, and you have a boss to encounter. I think this style of writing can be flexible because each adventure can be all its own but also blend into a campaign setting. This has me very excited about the future of Tavern of Heroes because the canvas is somewhat blank at this point, and there’s room to explore.

At the end of the day the Tavern of Heroes is an excellently prepared and presented form of entertainment and I humbly suggest that you give it a listen. I haven’t heard anything past episode one but my subscribe finger is ready to act when the show releases. If you’re looking for a new podcast to accompany you through your day at work or your drive home the Tavern of Heroes would serve you well.

 

Paul

 

P.S. I’ve attached a trailer of the show below so you can get a taste of what the stories will be like!

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