Today’s guest article is a follow up to our sampling of podcasts article. Keith Garrett stepped into the guest gnome hat (we should really clean that thing after each use) and did a sampling of actual play podcasts! Check it out below! – Head Gnome John
A while back we talked about some general RPG Podcasts, so today we’d like to discuss a more focused topic: actual-play podcasts. These are recordings of real RPG game sessions, often edited for brevity and sometimes even enhanced with sound effects and music.
Like the more general-purpose gaming podcasts, actual plays cover many many many different games and genres and play styles. One of the great advantages of these kinds of episodes is that you can learn about a game before you buy it…or even before you CAN buy it, because some of these podcasts feature games before they are released. Besides that, many listeners (like me) find that actual play podcasts are simply fun to listen to. Some of them are recorded by professional voice actors, and even the ones that aren’t — especially the long-running ones — generally feature likable personalities performing fun in-game activities.
If you want to explore far more actual play podcasts than we can detail here, go check out RPG Casts. This is a catalog of RPG-related podcasts, actual play or otherwise. Using this site, you can locate podcasts by multiple overlapping categories, including actual play, campaign, one-shot, women hosts, people of color, LGBTQ+, episode length, tags by specific game, and more.
A note for those of you who already listen to actual play podcasts and are looking to see if we listed your favorite — there is a VERY GOOD CHANCE that we didn’t. And that’s okay; this is intended to be an eclectic list, not a comprehensive one. Please tell us about the other podcasts that you recommend in the comments!
This series by the creators of the webcomics Penny Arcade and PvP — with the notable involvement of Wizards of the Coast — started as a podcast episode introducing D&D 4th Edition and grew into an actual play empire that included other podcasts, Twitch shows, and even live shows. Some of the episodes are expertly Dungeon Mastered by D&D luminaries such as Christopher Perkins and Mike Mearls.
This popular Dungeons & Dragons actual play podcast is a spin-off of My Brother, My Brother and Me, a non-gaming podcast (but don’t hold that against it) by three amazingly entertaining fellows. The Adventure Zone releases weekly, with episode lengths around an hour.
After the success of One Shot (mentioned below), the podcast’s creators followed it with one designed to please listeners who prefer an ongoing storyline. Campaign presents a consistent cast and continuous story set in the Star Wars universe, using the Edge of the Empire system.
Another long-running institution, Fandible features both one-shot and long-term campaigns, each released weekly. Fandible campaigns have featured games of Numenera and Force and Destiny, and their one-shots have included TimeWatch, Pugmire, Blades in the Dark, Paranoia, and plenty more.
This Pathfinder-focused podcast started in 2015 and was recently declared the first official podcast for the game by Paizo. This year the gang kicked off a Starfinder podcast as well, called Androids & Aliens. Glass Cannon is following the Giantslayer Adventure Path, while its sibling A&A covers the Dead Suns Adventure Path. Both release weekly.
I first found this podcast when I was writing about Tales From the Loop, because Lost and Forgotten Worlds produced a great actual play podcast for that game. But they’ve covered other games, too, including Star Frontiers, TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes, and West End’s Star Wars.
I am a fan of this collection of podcasts because of their Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program and Ghostbusters: Resurrection actual plays, which make good use of music and sound effects. Nerdy Show has other offerings, too: Dungeons & Doritos, Pokeballs of Steelix, a few one-shot podcasts, and other nerdy non-actual-play content.
When many people think “actual play podcast,” this is the first thing that comes to mind. And for good reason — since 2013 One Shot has presented short adventures covering dozens of systems and featuring a variety of entertaining players and gamemasters. Some of the participants are professional game designers, some are skilled improv actors, and some are regular folks just like you and me — though probably more entertaining to hear.
Another podcast stew with a combination of campaigns and one-shots. Current campaigns include games of Pathfinder and Call of Cthulhu, and the backlog contains completed campaigns of Night’s Black Agents, Numenera, and The Strange. The Redacted Files releases weekly.
This collection of actual-play recordings includes (like some others above) a combination of campaigns and one-shots. Recent featured games include Tales from the Loop, Delta Green, Monster of the Week, and Warhammer 40K. The RPPR website has helpful lists of recommended episodes in various categories, including best episodes, hilarious episodes, and scary/creepy episodes. RPPR releases weekly, with most episodes lasting about 90 minutes.
Though this podcasting empire features discussion-style podcasts as well, most of their productions are actual play recordings. The majority of the campaigns are D&D, with a few other systems including 13th Age, Fate Accelerated, and Savage Worlds. The one-shots are divided into fun and silly “Field Trips” and the more education-minded “Trials” which are intended to explain the rules and settings of various games. Recent one-shots have included Threadbare, The Orpheus Protocol, and Firefly.
Hosts Senda and Emily use their podcast to showcase women as gamemasters. The show presents one-shot games using different systems, and releases every other week. This is a great source for learning about newly-released games and those that are currently crowdfunding — such as the recently-covered Iron Edda Accelerated, which is still funding on Kickstarter.
This is another multi-series podcast featuring both one-shots and campaigns. Originally started as a 13th Age campaign podcast, Six Feats Under has also recorded campaigns for Mouse Guard and Fellowship, as well as one-shots for games such as Urban Shadows, Lasers & Feelings, Ashen Stars, and Eclipse Phase.
Got a favorite actual play podcast? Tell us about it in the comments, whether we listed it or not.