The Adventure Zone: Balance

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Name: The Adventure Zone: Balance
Abbreviation(s): the Balance Arc, Balance, TAZ: Balance, TAZ season 1, originally just TAZ
Creator: McElroy Brothers (and the creator of those creators)
Date(s): Dec 4, 2014 - Aug 17, 2017
Medium: podcast
Country of Origin: USA
External Links: podcast link
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

The Adventure Zone: Balance, also known as the Balance Arc, is the first campaign of the actual-play DnD podcast The Adventure Zone, hosted by the McElroy Brothers, Travis, Justin and Griffin, and their father, Clint McElroy. It spans 69 episodes divided into 8 arcs, and is a completed campaign.

There are also 11 bonus episodes set in the universe of the campaign, made up of live shows and other bonus content. All TAZ live shows are also set in the world of the Balance Arc, and will continue to be, despite the campaign being over.

Canon

Characters

The main characters of the Balance Arc are:

Notable NPCs include:

  • Angus McDonald, a boy detective
  • The Director, Lucretia, the leader of the Bureau of Balance
  • Kravitz, a reaper (one of many) who goes on a date with Taako and later becomes his boyfriend
  • Lup, Taako's twin sister, and a trans woman, who has become a fan favorite
  • The Voidfish, a large jellyfish that consumes memories
  • Killian, an orc fighter who invites the Tres Horny Boys to the Bureau of Balance
  • Carey Fangbattle, a dragonborn rogue and Magnus' best friend.
  • Julia Burnsides, Magnus' deceased wife
  • Davenport, a mysterious gnome who is later revealed to be the captain of the Institute of Planar Research and Exploration (IPRE) AKA the Red Robes
  • Barry Bluejeans, a fighter who resembles Tom Arnold, later revealed to be a member of the IPRE, and Lup's boyfriend

Graphic Novel

For further information, see The Adventure Zone (graphic novels).

There is a graphic novelization of the Balance arc, drawn by Carey Pietsch and adapted by the McElroys (but mostly Clint).

Fandom

The Balance Arc has a huge following, and it is overwhelmingly the most popular of the current TAZ campaigns. Thus, a lot of fan-created content, fanon, tropes, and general fandom content centers on the Balance Arc plot and characters.

Notable Ships

F/F

  • Lucretia/Lup (Lupcretia), the pairing between The Director and Lup
  • Carey/Killian, the pairing between secondary characters Carey Fangbattle and Killian (canon)
  • Hurley/Sloane, the pairing between fan favorite minor characters Hurley and Sloane (canon)

M/M

F/M

Notable Tropes and Headcanons

Merle/Plants

A popular joke both on the show and in fandom about Merle's... relationship with plant life. Even the most mildest of fanart usually draws him with flowers in his beard as a subtle nod to this.

Dragon Angus

A popular fan theory, based on Angus' incredibly high charisma, odd family situation and details, and personal interests as they align with common Silver Dragon traits in Dungeons and Dragons. A compilation of evidence can be found here.

Party Name

The three main characters are commonly known as the Tres Horny Boys in fandom, an off-hand joke made by Justin McElroy that fandom ran with.

As the boys themselves foreshadowed:

Justin: No one say [Tres Horny Boys] out loud ever again, please.
Griffin: Well, that’s unfortunate, Justin. Everything you say on this show becomes canon.--The Adventure Zone Episode 43: The Eleventh Hour Part Three[1]

Notable Fanworks

Fanfiction

And Stop The Bleeding Before It Starts by inverts
(Taako Character Study) “Well, lucky you,” Taako sneers, “now you can use that time to see someone kinder and more supportive.” “I,” Kravitz stammers, stumbles over whatever he wants to say, before sputtering out, “Are you breaking up with me?” Well. That escalated quickly.
angus mcdonald, boy detective: the case of the gay dads by Karturtle (darkrose826) and lobotophd
(Angus McDonald & Kravitz & Taako), Four in the morning isn't a good time for getting shit done, but it's a great time for hot chocolate and venting.
Bureau of Badass by Chemicallywrit and miceensceneGenre: Roller derby AU longfic
The Adventure Zone Roller Rink and Arcade opened in 1979 and has been struggling ever since. There is really only one thing that keeps the doors open, and that is roller derby.
Heartstrings by Weevilo707
(Taako & Angus McDonald), Taako was not one for kids, holy shit no. Lup and Barry were different from him though. They were responsible and in love and if anyone deserved to have a happily ever after with a family it was fucking them. So of course he supported their decision. They were his family, and now this kid was too. And then, there's a little half-elf kid on the train, in a fancy suit with a fancy hat and a fancy voice. Taako doesn't pay him much mind at first, he's not one for kids after all. Fuck though, if something about him doesn't pull at heartstrings that Taako hadn't even realize were still there.
Lunar Interlude: Something New by Wildgoosery
(Script format fake episode) It's been a rough year for our friends at the Bureau of Balance, and what better way to blow off steam than raucous moon partying? Taako picks up a catering gig. Merle offers some professional advice. Magnus de-orbits.
Old Man Taako Outruns Death* and Lives Forever** by anonymousAlchemist
(Taako/Kravitz), Taako is supposed to die on the 18th of October, 652 A.H. Taako knows this. Taako stole Kravitz’s calendar-slash-agenda and on 10/18/52, it is marked in red: “Take Taako home.” There’s an asterisk mark with the addendum, “buy flowers maybe?” Taako had grinned to see it.
Out of This City by harpydora
(Angus McDonald & Carey Fangbattle), "So, I heard through the grapevine that it's about to be someone's birthday here soon," she says in a conspiratorial tone. Angus nearly jumps out of his chair in response, clutching his book to his chest and gaping at her in horror. No one was supposed to know.
RE: NO DOGS ON THE MOON BASE by yasaman
Seekers, Reclaimers, and Regulators: please submit timely reports of your seeking, reclamation, and/or regulation-related missions on the surface. The Bureau of Balance must maintain complete and accurate records related to our organizational objective of destroying the Grand Relics. Please consult your Employee Handbook for the formatting and submission standards for your reports.
starting to sound like a friendship thing by Psilent (HereThereBeFic)
(Magnus & Taako), "You don't owe me anything," Magnus says quickly. "You're my friend and you were in trouble and protecting that button clearly wasn't working – really sorry about that, by the way – and I couldn't just stand there and do nothing!" Taako is staring at him. He doesn't quite slump, just holds himself at different angles as the indignation slinks out of his posture to be replaced by bewilderment. "I'm your what?"
Take Up a Place Beside Me by goodnicepeople
"It's gonna be hard," Taako says, when they're alone again. "You can't... do that. Every time." Or: Taako and Kravitz move in. Others move on. Some get dogs.
The Best Possible Timeline For Taako by invertsGenre: canon divergence
(Taako took the Chalice AU), Magnus and Merle confront someone who's fallen to the temptations of a Grand Relic. Everything sucks, but in the end, it doesn't even matter.
the game is already lost by altschmerzesGenre: 5+1 things
(Taako & Magnus, Taako & Merle, Taako & Angus) Five times Taako manages to get a hug from one of his friends without having to actually admit that he wants a hug, and one time he flat out cops to it.
The Thirty-Third Element by TawabidsGenre: fake marriage, abuse, Minor Character Death
(Taako/Sazed, Jossed), Taako stumbles into a long-dreaded reunion, and recalls seven meals in his life that went horribly wrong.
The Worst Candlenights Ever by Weevilo707Date: 2017Genre: Fake/Pretend Relationship
(Taako/Kravitz), Taako and Lup have devised a plan to get back at their shitty family for the way they had treated them as children, as well as put an end to the incoming letters now that the twins have gained a little bit of notoriety. They're going to go back home for Candlenights, and it's going to be the worst Candlenights anyone there has ever had. Lup's bringing Barry, because nothing's better than showing up with a respectable looking dude only for said dude to start pulling out the formaldehyde pig brains. Taako needs something like that too. So, why not ask the cute guy in his drama class who does bad accents when he gets nervous if he's free over break?
(this is really not) what friends are for by stargayzingGenre: Fake/Pretend Relationship
(Taako & Magnus & Merle), "It's a matter of life and death," Merle says gravely. After a moment, he admits: "Okay, so there's not actually any fatal danger." Magnus rolls his eyes. "Called it." "But this is about my dignity. That's almost the same thing, you know. What's a dwarf without dignity?" "Not my problem," Taako says.

Fanart

Animatics

Meta

Theory about Angus McDonald [4] archive by /u/EithstillDate: Dec 13, 2016Genre: Fan theory
The first Drangus theory post, hypothesizing that Angus is secretly a young dragon.

Cosplay

This article or section needs expansion.

Fandom Controversies

Graphic Novel Character Designs

There has been much fandom discussion over the 'canonical' character designs.

For further information, see The Adventure Zone Graphic Novels: Issues with Character Designs.

"All Headcanons Are Valid"

Because the podcast is an audio medium, the McElroys have always insisted that most of the characters in The Balance Arc have no specific "canon" appearances. There have, however, been popular trends among fanart creators, often drawing the tres horny boys as white. However, this has lead to discussion on whether "all headcanons are valid" is true representation.

saying ‘the decision is up to you’ is… pretty irritating. Being ambiguous doesn’t help anyone - a personal example is that though I am free to draw characters in whatever way I want, I still get comments telling me what I’m doing is wrong, that I’m not adhering to ‘canon’ (canon in this case being, strict D&D race descriptions or a character description from one of the first episodes)

[...]

Saying ‘there’s no canon design’ for a character means nothing when the graphic novel, the merchandise, the posters, the zine - these all feature white designs. You can’t say you care about representation - how important it is to you - when you don’t represent anyone. You can’t say you accept all designs when the only ones that seem to be accepted all look the same. You can’t say there is no default when white is the default.

roswelltxt on Tumblr[2]

Taako's Race and Skin Color

With no true canonical character design, Fanart fandom has long debated about Taako's race and skin color (and occasionally personality), and the possibly harmful tropes associated with various depictions. This debate resurfaced in 2017, with the reveal of Blue Taako in the graphic novels.

This is about the general fanon/fanart discussion. For discussions specifically around the graphic novel depiction, see Blue Taako.

Antisemitism and Green Skin

Because of certain fanon tropes, there is much conversation about green-skinned Taako in fanart, as well as other antisemitic stereotypes on the podcast itself.

your green taako has antisemitic undertones:

Green/olive skin = witches/wily natures was once/still is translated as Jewish people to antisemites

#taako taaco #taako #taz cast #taz #adventure zone #the adventure zone #talkin #not saying you did it on purpose but you should know where it comes fromvelvetwyrm on Tumblr[3]
I saw people going “TAAKO’S DESIGN IS ANTISEMITIC” before I even got to see the pages. And I was bracing myself for the hurt, I really was.

Then the pages finally came up on my feed and I was hunched over in the break room at work to stare at them all “??????”

I live in South Florida. I live with antisemitism. These days, I’ve removed certain phrases from my vocabulary in public because I don’t feel safe having that label even remotely assigned to me by strangers. When my uncle passed and my entire (INCREDIBLY jewish) family came down for the funeral, I fucking sat in a car with my cousin and talked to her about how the student at her school who dressed up like Hitler for Halloween and followed her around was a disgrace and should have been suspended immediately.

I…. don’t understand this. I do not understand it. I do not see where it is coming from and for every time I see people implying that if we disagree with the backlash we should shut the fuck up, I see red.

SORRY I GUESS I’M NOT JEWISH ENOUGH, WHOOPS. MY OPINION IS INVALID, HUH?

Miss me on this shit.callmearcturus on Tumblr[4]
having a character with green skin is okay. having a character with green skin and a pointy wizard hat is still fine. having a character with green skin, a pointy wizard hat, and an exaggeratedly long nose? getting a little uncomfortable. having a character with green skin, a pointy wizard hat, an exaggeratedly long nose, and a tendency to steal things? feels bad scoob. having a character with green skin, a pointy wizard hat, an exaggeratedly long nose, a tendency to steal things, and also speaks Yiddish on occasion? blatant antisemitism. #taz #taako taaco #wanda.txttrickstarlilybell on Tumblr[5]

Latinx Taako

There's longstanding fandom conversation on whether Taako, whose name is a play on "taco", ought to be Latinx.

[mononsnidali on Tumblr[6]]
folks the reason taako’s ethnicity is important to be mexican (and I mean specifically mexican) isn’t because justin named his god damn wizard after tacos. in fact his name has zero to do with why I interpret him as mexican. the reason is that part of taako’s arc is to invent in this world the concept of tacos, which is a traditionally mexican style dish. this was explicitly stated to be part of taako’s development from episode 1. it’s not that big of a deal (under these circumstances, imo, but correct me if I’m wrong) that a mexican character is named after mexican food, taako’s a vain character and in the context of the story I can completely see him naming a dish after himself. what is a big deal is having someone outside of that ethnicity invent something from a culture that doesn’t belong to them. that’s honestly worse than having mexican characters named after latinx food.
[sometimesgoescaw reblogging from mononsnidali]
No yeah is is exactly how I feel about this? Being like, Mexican myself, I can’t wrap my head around how white people tend to think “He can’t be Hispanic because his name is Taako, and it’d be racist” when like, him being white is not really any better? Like, having Mexican twins named Taako and Chaalupa is really, honest to god not the issue, and it seems to be like, the one thing they actually sat down and thought abt? Like, no, the issue is people deciding that Taako’s sun elf ass would be light skinned or whatever. Don’t even get me started on ppl drawin wizard hats that look like sombreros only to put them on a legend of zelda lookin white elf. The problem is people see whites in fantasy as being the “safe default” instead of being the “unfortunately unavoidable.”
i’m not caught up with that drama

but, speaking as a latinx, i would be uncomfortable with a character named taako being Mexican. …

like think about it does that sound right to you?? It would feel like making a joke of us “haha his name is taako and he’s mexican”moonlandingwasfaked on Tumblr[7]

External links

References