With shows like our own Critical Role and Nerdist’s Force Grey, there are lots of new ways for Dungeons & Dragons fans to engage in D&D-themed entertainment. Of course, Matthew Mercer can only DM so much, and the cast who makes up Vox Machina would be exhausted if they had to spend every day creating new, epic adventures for us. So whether you’re just a fan of D&D shows, you’re a DM yourself, or you just love Dungeons & Dragons, Hello From the Magic Tavern is the perfect podcast for you.
The podcast, created by Arnie Niekamp, follows Arnie’s journey after he falls through a portal into the magical land of Foon. Every week Arnie hosts a podcast with his co-hosts, a shapeshifter currently in badger form named Chunt (voiced by Adal Rifai), and a wizard named Usidore (voiced by Matt Young). So why is this the perfect show for D&D fans? I’m so glad you asked.
Hello From the Magic Tavern Comes From a Group of Friends
Part of what makes watching Critical Role so fun is the natural chemistry between the members of Vox Machina. They’re all friends, and that makes watching their adventures fun. The same is true for the cast of Magic Tavern. Niekamp, Rifai, and Young are all friends who did improv together for years before Magic Tavern even was a glimmer in Niekamp’s eye.
When the idea for the podcast finally came, Niekamp approached Young and Rifai at a wedding. They instantly jumped on board without a single sarcastic comment or making fun of Niekamp even a little (something Rifai is sure caught Niekamp off guard). Both Niekamp and Rifai have said that after years of working together, they just know each other and have created a safe space to goof around and tell all kind of crazy stories in the land of Foon.
The Show Is Totally Improvised (Mostly)
Like any good D&D campaign, episodes of Hello From the Magic Tavern are mostly improvised. While they do work out a few big plot points ahead of time, the events that happen on the show are made up on the fly. Sometimes guests have come on with one idea for their character, and after interacting with Arnie, Chunt, and Usidore, the character takes a completely different journey through the show. Even the larger plot ideas are left fluid enough that they can be changed as the show warrants it. That’s what makes watching shows like Critical Role fun. We all know that the DM has planned some crazy stuff for the adventurers, but anything could happen during a gaming session. The same is true on Magic Tavern.
There are Tons of RPG and Fantasy References, and You’ll Love It
While Arnie is usually pretty quick to stop any talk about “Earth stuff” while chatting with Usidore and Chunt, there are still loads of references to pop culture in the show, and even more references to fantasy and D&D-style games. While Arnie, Chunt, and Usidore occasionally meet with amazing adventurers–Usidore himself is on a quest to defeat The Dark Lord, but he totally has time for a weekly podcast in the midst of all that, no big deal–there are also a lot of sub-par adventurers out there. And really, there are a lot of us who can relate to that, right?
Niekamp said that he’s gotten a bit of a laugh keeping Arnie stuck at the opening of a dungeon as he tries to claim the the Lunar Sword from the depths of the dungeon, “I think being trapped on level one and having to just fight falling rocks over and over is funny and probably somewhat realistic.”
There’s An Earth-Themed RPG The Foonian Characters Play
Obviously, if you live in a world similar to an RPG, you wouldn’t want to play a game that was essentially what you face every day, right? So in Foon, gamers play “Offices & Bosses,” an RPG set in the world of an everyday office. Bill Arnett, a guest on the show, came up with the idea, and the cast just ran with it. It’s quickly become a fan favorite, and both Rifai and Niekamp have said how much fun that episode was to record.
Don’t worry if you’re late to the podcast. Since “Offices & Bosses” was such a huge hit, they’re thinking of other ways they could get the game back in the show. I feel like Matthew Mercer would be a perfect guest for another “Offices & Bosses” episode, right? After all, according to Adal Rifai, they’d be game to meet up with Vox Machina. Of course their stint playing “O&B” wasn’t the only time Chunt, Arnie, and Usidore have done an RPG together. The three also appeared on the One Shot Podcast and had a blast doing an RPG as their characters, even though Arnie was essentially playing himself.
The Guests Are Golden
Chunt, Arnie, and Usidore are hilarious, but what makes the show really pop are the weekly guests who help both Arnie and his earth listeners understand Foon. The guests come from Chicago’s giant improv scene–of which Niekamp, Rifai, and Young are a part–and they all bring something amazing to the table. Whether the guest is creating a unique RPG, an elf who’s terrible at archery but great at kicking, a servant of the Dark Lord altering Arnie’s reality, or a confidential courier who ends up being a con man trying to trick people into…you know what? I’ll just let you discover that one on your own. Either way, the guests are incredibly memorable and help expand the world of Foon in hilarious ways.
Have you listened to Hello From the Magic Tavern? What do you think of the show? Tell us in the comments!
Image credit: Hello From the Magic Tavern