The Unexplored Places is a triumph of a Monster of the Week podcast. Season 1, which recently wrapped up, is set in the largely fictional town of Deliverance, Ohio. Despite being a small college town with only two coffee shops to its name, Deliverance finds itself embroiled in a monster mystery that transcends time and space. Detailed, specific, and familiar, The Unexplored Places drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. Perfectly balanced between dice rolls and improv, GM and Keeper Christine’s mastery of the genre keeps their players and their audience attentive and engaged in the unfolding mysteries taking over this small town.
While Monster of the Week provides the flexibility needed by groups looking for one-shots, infrequent play sessions, or long form campaigns, The Unexplored Places is a masterclass of micro- and macro-storytelling. Each arc focuses on a new monster while unraveling the threads of a larger mystery growing behind the scenes. The story builds as it goes, falling into a rhythm of growing dread, resolution, and future complications. The players (Andrew, Morgan, Roman, and Chaz) find their characters (Chase, Rowan, Byrdie, and Lance, respectively) banding together out of necessity, even if those bonds chafe on occasion. Their growing groups of allies and enemies are always finding ways to pit the characters against each other, but the players make the inter-party conflict interesting and enjoyable; the tension always comes from the dramatic irony, never from the players frustration with each other (although that might be the magic of editing – who can say?)
Together, the Keeper and the players work together to immerse their listeners in a dangerous, playful, and just plain fun romp in this world where monsters are real and are probably closer to you than you think. Compelling music, relatable queer representation, vampire daddy issues, suspense, a little bit of gross monster body horror – this podcast has it all. While managing to balance the feelings of growing dread, anxiety, and tension, The Unexplored Places is most of all a podcast about the inevitability of hope in the face of darkness, and the relationships that tie us firmly together, no matter the storms raging around. Oh, and also that super-seniors might actually be angels in disguise.