Grab a pint, pull up a chair, gather ‘round and listen close while I recount for you the legendary tales of the Tavern of Heroes!
Welcome to a brand new series that I’m calling the “Recap of Heroes”. Every two weeks on I’m A Social Gamer you’ll find a new article chronicling the adventures and exploits of the heroes from the Tavern of Heroes. Tavern of Heroes is a brand new actual play podcast created by Michael and Stephen Stagliano. It features an entirely original campaign setting and uses a custom ruleset created by Michael and Stephen which is built to be simple to understand and, more importantly, unobtrusive. Each adventure will be released in two-part episodes and will feature Michael, Stephen, and a rotating cast of friends and guest stars as they take their heroes from the tavern and head out on perilous adventures in the lands of Elderon. You can listen to the first three episodes of the show here, and it’s also available where all good podcasts can be found. Before we dive into the recap, I need to say something. You know how people say someone has a face for radio? These guys and their friends are the opposite of that. Seriously. Go look them up. They’re good looking guys and gals.
With my man-crush out of the way, let’s dive into our first adventure in the Tavern of Heroes: The House of Unending Shadow…
Act 1: Who Guards the Guardsmen?
Michael is our Story Master for Episode 1. The adventure kicks off with Arodyn, a paladin of Shaya (who is the goddess of light), played by Stephen, and Tia, a mystic played by Christine Lakin. The heroes are deployed by Sheriff Ironwood to head into a creepy old house on Baker Street in the middle-district of the city of Arronhall. Sheriff Ironwood has already lost two guards to the house and has sought out more capable hands from the Tavern to venture into the dilapidated old building, rescue his men, and figure out what’s going on. Being the heroes that they are, Arodyn and Tia readily agree. Sheriff Ironwood leads our heroes to the house which, as one would expect, is decidedly creepy and foreboding. Not to be be deterred, Arodyn and Tia head inside… only for the world to seemingly flip on its side, sending them plummeting into the house to the sounds of a booming and twisted laugh.
A Note on Rules
During the show Michael and Stephen do a great job of dropping in to clarify some of the rules they are using in their custom ruleset. It’s a very effective way of presenting something as complicated as a new rule system, as they only address pertinent rules when they arise or will arise in the next part of the story. It means that as a listener you’re not bombarded with acronyms and numbers all at once and can pick up the rules in a more holistic manner. It also does a great job of breadcrumbing the info out so you’re keen to learn more about the rules and figure out what makes it tick. Though maybe that’s just the game designer in me…
Act 2: Not a Leglug to Stand On
Tia and Arodyn crash-land in a 10 foot square room that rapidly begins filling with poisonous gas. After a frantic escape they find themselves face to face with a pig-faced demonic creature named Leglug, who wields a wicked axe and who seems to be the one who captured the two guards. A short but vicious battle sees Tia wrench Leglug’s soul from his body and boil him to 187,000 degrees, causing the furious demon to retaliate against an already weakened Arodyn. Thankfully Arodyn, with help from the goddess Shaya, calls upon his holy might to put Leglug down for good.
With the threat neutralised, Tia and Arodryn manage to free the two trapped (and somewhat starstruck) guards. The guards warn them of a strangely tall and skinny man lurking further into the house. Undeterred Tia and Arodyn descend further into the house, taking a shadowy staircase down to basement. The basement is cool, dark, and, unusually for most basements, filled with corpses lying on tables. As the heroes try to parse what the hell is going on, one of the corpses slowly sits up… No, not corpses… UNDEAD!
A Note on Production
One of the things that really impressed me listening to Tavern of Heroes was the production quality. The first session of an actual or live play podcast is usually a bit rough around the edges but Tavern of Heroes is nicely polished. Music has been added in post production in places and, though used sparingly, is used to good effect. Michael, as Story Master, also seems to have an effects pedal of some kind which comes in handy when trying to unsettle your players with terrifying demonic voices. The audio can be a little tinny at times but for the most part everything is really high quality. Serious brownie points!
Act 3: Redead The Undead
Tia and Arodryn are now confronted by the face at the heart of the house’s evil: Miles Agger, a twisted doctor who has been experimenting on corpses and raising them from the dead. The doctor attacks with a wicked needle, draining the blood from both Tia and Arodyn while bolstering his forces by raising corpses from the surrounding tables. Things look grim for our heroes, but the turning point comes when Tia uses her most powerful ability to tear some of the spirit from Agger and transfer his lifeforce to the wounded Arodyn. The newly invigorated Arodryn calls on the power of Shaya once more, this time slamming his hammer down and sending the doctor and the undead tumbling to the floor. With this opening (and some seriously clutch dice rolls!) Tia uses her magic to burn the doctor where he lies, causing him to erupt in an explosion of blood and flame. Our heroes return to the lost guards, Alden and Thalin, and carry them to safety. With that, the job is done, the day is saved, and the creepy house on Baker Street becomes nothing more than an unpleasant memory.
Wrap Up of Heroes
So there you have it, the first adventure from Tavern of Heroes. I have to say I very much enjoyed listening to it. The players are charming and seem truly invested in what is happening and Michael, as Story Master, does a great job of encouraging them and helping them while also driving a sense of urgency. The episodes are also nice and tight, clocking in at roughly an hour each, making them perfect for your morning or evening commute. I’m really looking forward to hearing the next episode and seeing what new heroes emerge from the Tavern and what perils the world of Elderon holds for them.