Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and other tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPG) have captured the hearts and imaginations of countless adventurers across the globe. Whether you're a seasoned dungeon master or a complete newbie, there's always something enchanting about experiencing the world of D&D. Over the years it has moved from being just a game to a cultural phenomenon with varied ways people get drawn into the hobby.
Enter Actual Play or Real Play D&D Podcasts, auditory portals to realms of mystery, intrigue, and heroism (and usually a solid sprinkling of comedy). In this article, we'll delve into what these podcasts are, why they're so appealing, and introduce you to some popular choices along with a few hidden gems.
What are Actual Play D&D Podcasts?
Actual Play D&D Podcasts are audio recordings of real people playing Dungeons and Dragons as well as other TTRPGs. These podcasts capture the essence of tabletop role-playing games while offering a compelling auditory story, creating a unique and immersive experience for listeners.
In these podcasts, you'll hear the clatter of dice, the laughter of friends, and the excitement of discovering hidden treasures or facing menacing foes. The podcast hosts often include seasoned Dungeon Masters who craft intricate narratives, while the players assume the roles of brave adventurers. The finished product varies widely, with some being cast by professional voice actors, improv actors, and comedians. Some have professional sound design, others not so much. The key factor is that they are actually playing the game. The stories may be scripted somewhat, but they are rolling dice and the action (and consequences) are up to the players.
Why are Real Play D&D Podcasts So Appealing?
- Storytelling Magic: At the heart of D&D lies storytelling. Actual Play podcasts bring this magic to life, allowing listeners to become part of captivating narratives filled with rich characters, unexpected plot twists, and epic battles.
- Accessible Entertainment: You don't need to be a D&D expert to enjoy these podcasts. In fact a significant part of the audience for these shows doesn't play at all! They provide a fantastic entry point for newcomers, offering a taste of what the game is all about without the need for rulebooks, character sheets, or their own set of dice.
- Community and Connection: Some popular shows have an active and devoted fandom. Listening to these podcasts can make you feel like you're part of a welcoming and enthusiastic community of fellow adventurers. It's a shared experience that fosters a sense of connection and camaraderie.
- Inspiration for Your Own Games: Whether you're a player or a Dungeon Master, Actual Play podcasts can inspire you with creative ideas for your own D&D campaigns. You'll witness how other players solve puzzles, handle challenges, and role-play their characters.
Now, let's embark on a quest to discover some of the popular Real Play D&D Podcasts, as well as a few hidden gems.
Popular Actual Play D&D Podcasts:
- Critical Role: Led by the charismatic Matthew Mercer as the Dungeon Master, Critical Role features a group of talented voice actors who dive headfirst into epic adventures. The podcast is known for its exceptional role-playing, emotional storytelling, and character development. This show helped bring me personally back to the table after a long hiatus.
- The Adventure Zone: The McElroy brothers, along with their dad, Clint, explore D&D and other tabletop games in this hilarious and heartfelt podcast. Expect a mix of zany antics and compelling narratives.
- Not Another D&D Podcast (NADDPod): Hosted by a group of comedians, NADDPod delivers laughs and epic quests in equal measure. Their chemistry and humor shine through as they embark on various adventures.
- Dungeons & Daddies: This actual play podcast takes a unique twist by featuring four suburban dads who are transported into a fantasy world. The result is a hilarious blend of fatherhood and fantasy. Don’t let the title fool you. While they will repeatedly remind you it’s not a BDSM show, it is also not a family show!
Hidden Gem: Critically Stupid
Podcasting is a weird world where most of the oxygen in the room is taken up by a few big players. That being said, there are a lot of fantastic shows out there that you might not have heard of. Among these is the hidden gem, Critically Stupid, which we at Libris Arcana support.
Critically Stupid is funny, a bit raunchy, and full of intrigue and adventure. The DM and cast clearly love working together, and there are a lot of laughs along with a compelling story. They also have frequent guests, which mixes up the fun as well. They are currently working their way through a loose interpretation of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. Check them out, and you might even hear an awesome Libris Arcana commercial!
Other Lesser-Known Podcasts:
- The Lucky Die: This podcast explores darker themes and challenges the characters in ways that push the boundaries of their morality. It's a gripping tale of survival and growth in a postapocalyptic setting.
- The Dice Girls: An all female cast of first time D&D players decide to make a real-play podcast in a homebrew setting, and hilarity ensues.
- Rivals of Waterdeep: This podcast had a fantastic 5 year run before shutting down this summer. The show is still streaming however and showcases a very talented and diverse cast, exploring themes of inclusivity and representation within the world of D&D.
- Role to Cast: This actual play TTRPG podcast is long running and award winning with fantastic original stories. The cast is made of professional actors in Australia and the sound quality is on point.
Actual Play Dungeons and Dragons podcasts offer a unique and captivating blend of storytelling, camaraderie, and humor that has resonated with a diverse audience of gamers and non-gamers alike. While popular shows like The Adventure Zone and Critical Role continue to dominate the scene, don't forget to explore the lesser-known gems like Critically Stupid and others. With a wide array of podcasts to choose from, there's a D&D or other TTRPG adventure out there for everyone, waiting to be discovered in the realm of podcasting. So, grab your headphones, settle in, and let the adventure begin!