Sidequesting is a comedy fantasy podcast written and produced by Tal Minear, who also voices the main character, Rion.
As the title of the show suggests, it plays on the concept of ‘sidequests’ from video games, where the player accepts a quest which has no bearing on the main plot of the game. This is what Rion does, by travelling around and going on various quests to help people.
Rion is a brand new adventurer, who has decided to leave the village they grew up in. It’s a big scary decision for them, but they’ve realised that they can’t spend the rest of their life in the same place, seeing the same old things day in, day out. They want to travel, to see the world, to meet new people. And that’s just what they do.
In episode one, we meet Rion, who’s on their way to the town of Pigsmire. A rare event has drawn a lot of people to the town – there’s a sword stuck in a stone. And the problem is, it’s drawn too many people. Rion isn’t going there to try and get the sword, oh no. A friend wrote them a letter asking if they would come to the town and chase away the tourists. As their friend explains in her letter, the town is tired of all the chaos they’re causing.
This is just one example of how Sidequesting plays with tropes and settings found in traditional fairy tales and in a lot of fantasy. In episode two, Travel Buddy, Rion has to deal with a bandit, but as the episode unfolds, we discover that there’s much more to the story than what we initially see at the beginning of the episode. In episode 12, Building Bridges, Rion is travelling with a merchant, and on coming to a bridge, they encounter a bridge troll who is very unlike the trolls we see in fairy tales. And in episode 13, Shining Armor, there’s a unicorn who has a surprising secret.
There are a lot of great comedic moments in the show, too. One of my favourite moments is at the beginning of episode four, Basket Case. In the opening narration, Rion is explaining that it’s apple harvesting time in the village they’ve travelled to, and all this comes from a very…unusual location.
Sidequesting is a queer show featuring queer people. Rion is a nonbinary asexual adventurer, and on their travels they meet many other LGBTQIA+ folks. In Cupid’s Aro (episode 7) Rion goes to meet Sam, a friend they haven’t seen in years. As they catch up in a tavern, the conversation eventually turns to relationships. Sam is aromantic, which Rion didn’t know, and Sam didn’t know that Rion was asexual. As Sam puts it, they’re “exact opposites”. It’s a tender moment between the two friends, and their conversation also reflects modern-day society’s expectations of asexual an aromantic folks.
The word I use most to describe Sidequesting is ‘delightful’. Each episode focuses not only on Rion helping people, but also people they meet helping out others in their community. This feeling of collaboration is reflected in the guest voices that appear every episode. For season one’s finale, titled NPC, Minear asked 13 indie fiction creators (including yours truly!) to voice characters who Rion interacts with during the course of the episode. It’s a wholesome, family-friendly show, focused on kindness, friendship, and exploration.
Minear is also one of the co-creators of Light Hearts, along with Caroline Mincks and Evan Tess Murray. Light Hearts is a queer comedy set in a community space for LGBTQIA+ folks, which is also very delightful. Before Sidequesting, they also co-created Ungifts with Leo Balestri, where a group of young people go on a road trip to rescue their friend, who has been possessed by a spirit who had been trapped in a locket.
As of August 2020, Sidequesting is on its second season, with 15 episodes currently available.