With tabletop games, live streaming gaming, and podcasts all on the rise, it is inevitable that these things would all intersect. Actual play shows, be they audio-only podcasts or videos on websites such as YouTube or Twitch, are great for those who love gaming.
They are a good stand-in if you can’t get a game together yourself, and might be just what you need to scratch that gaming itch after work or at the gym.
These eight shows, listed below in no particular order, are ones you should check out.
Going on for eight years now, this primarily Dungeons & Dragons fourth edition game has to be one of, if not the longest continuously running actual play podcast around.
Critical Hit mixes in some house rule fixes and a whole lot of reskinning (DM Rodrigo will almost never tell you what the stat blocks of the monsters they’re fighting are).
In between story arcs, they play other systems, such as fifth edition D&D, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, and FATE Accelerated. If you loved fourth edition, give this podcast a try… it is a joy to listen to.
If you like to hear samples of games before putting your dollar down, there’s no better podcast on the web than Fandible. While they have multiple ongoing campaigns, much of their content revolves around single game (generally concluded in one to two episodes) sessions of different systems and genres.
You’ll experience games of Warhammer, World of Darkness, Dungeon World, and The End of the World. The group’s commitment to showcasing these games for their listenership, especially when one considers how much work it would be to learn the rules for them, is astounding.
Fandible is well worth the time and bandwidth to subscribe.
If you are at all familiar with the world of actual play shows, you have probably heard of Critical Role. Nine talented voice actors play fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons with some homebrewed rules on a weekly Thursday night Twitch stream.
If you can’t watch live, you can always catch archived episodes on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel.
Recently, DM Matthew Mercer published a campaign setting guide so that fans of the show can create their own home games in the world of Tal’Dorei.
As they are currently in their fifth and potentially final story arc, now would be a great time to buckle down and catch up with the adventures of Vox Machina.
Dungeons, Dice, & Everything Nice
A refreshing twist on the male dominated world of actual play podcasts, this show’s cast are all women. More than that, however, the show’s cast is hilarious without being crude or problematic.
Though most of the crew is learning the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons rules while playing, the show is vastly enjoyable. Their introductory season has just concluded in a three part episode, which makes now the perfect time to get into their show without having to wait a week for the next installment.
The Adventure Zone
Another heavy hitter in the world of actual plays, if you know anything about fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons podcasts, you have probably heard about this gem.
The group is made up of the DM’s two brothers and their father, and while it is often times irreverent, this heartwarming show is loved by many.
Their current campaign is ending currently, and the show has partnered with First Second to publish a graphic novel based on the adventures of Magnus, Merle, and Taako.
Something about in the interactions of a family playing a game together just can’t be replicated, and The Adventure Zone is one you shouldn’t overlook.
Board with Life Radio
While mostly an actual play fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons podcast, BwLR also features content about board games, as well as interviews and reviews.
The podcast is crewed by a bunch of people who all work in film. Their “Adventures in the New World” Campaign is wrapping up at the time of this writing, but their feed also has an amazing playthrough of Ravenloft.
This isn’t Curse of Strahd, however, but the classic from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons translated into 5e instead! With the new campaign beginning shortly, now is the time for new listeners to jump into this amazing podcast.
Join the Anarchy
This live stream show on Twitch has one of the most interesting premises I have encountered. Using the rules light version of Shadowrun fifth edition, Shadowrun Anarchy, this show is fully interactive.
Anyone watching them play live can interject with suggestions to throw into the game via their chat…the GM and the players earning plot points they can use to affect the game if they accept them.
This sort of interaction provides deeper investment for the fanbase and a more enjoyable, if sometimes chaotic, experience for the crew and viewers alike.
If you want to have a hand in your entertainment, and crave cyberpunk settings with massive dice pools, Join the Anarchy is not a show you’ll want to pass up.
This podcast utilizes a house ruled version of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons featuring unique races, as well as amazing audio production, with sound effects and music.
Moreover, the podcast is completely immersive. Sure, the players include a paladin, a rogue, and other fantasy staples, but gameplay doesn’t make that evident in universe, letting listeners drop the baggage of such party roles and just enjoy the game for what it is.
The show had recently successfully funded a Kickstarter for a setting guide filled original classes, items, and monsters. If you like games with a rich backstory and lore, Godsfall can’t be beat.
While these are some of my favorite shows, there are many more out there on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and whatever podcast catcher you favor.
Do you have suggestions on episodes of the above to start with, want to rave about your favorite show, or tell me about shows I missed?
Tell me which ones and why in the comments below!