best actual play podcasts

Introduction to Actual Play Podcasts

Actual play podcasts have become a thriving form of entertainment in recent years, captivating audiences with their immersive storytelling and engaging gameplay. From fantasy realms to dystopian futures, these podcasts allow listeners to experience the excitement and intrigue of tabletop role-playing games (RPGs) firsthand. Whether you’re a seasoned RPG enthusiast or new to the genre, actual play podcasts offer a unique and accessible way to enjoy the thrill of these games.

What are actual play podcasts?

Actual play podcasts, also known as AP podcasts, are audio recordings of tabletop RPG sessions. These podcasts typically feature a group of players, guided by a game master or dungeon master, embarking on epic adventures within a chosen RPG system. Listeners are transported into the world of the game as they listen to the players’ interactions, character development, and the unfolding narrative.

Why are actual play podcasts popular?

The popularity of actual play podcasts can be attributed to several factors. First and foremost, they provide a sense of escapism, allowing listeners to immerse themselves in fantastical worlds and exciting adventures. The engaging storytelling and character dynamics keep audiences hooked, eagerly anticipating each new episode.

Furthermore, actual play podcasts offer a unique form of entertainment that combines the engaging aspects of both audio dramas and RPGs. The audio format allows for vivid descriptions, sound effects, and music, enhancing the overall atmosphere and bringing the story to life. This blend of storytelling and gameplay creates a captivating experience that keeps listeners coming back for more.

How do actual play podcasts work?

In an actual play podcast, the game master takes on the role of the narrator and controls the game world, while the players assume the roles of various characters within that world. The podcast typically follows a specific RPG system, such as Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, or Call of Cthulhu, with the rules and mechanics of the game incorporated into the storytelling.

The players engage in collaborative storytelling, using their imagination and creativity to interact with the game world and solve challenges presented by the game master. The podcast captures the dialogue, actions, and dice rolls of the players, allowing listeners to follow along and experience the adventure vicariously.

Advantages of listening to actual play podcasts

There are numerous advantages to tuning in to actual play podcasts. Firstly, they offer a window into the world of RPGs for those who may be curious but have never played before. Listening to experienced players navigate the game mechanics and engage in role-playing can serve as a valuable learning experience for newcomers.

Additionally, actual play podcasts provide inspiration and ideas for players and game masters alike. The diverse characters, intricate plotlines, and creative problem-solving showcased in these podcasts can spark new ideas and enhance one’s own RPG sessions. They also offer insights into different playstyles, game systems, and storytelling techniques, enriching the overall RPG community.

Moreover, actual play podcasts foster a sense of community among listeners. Many podcasts encourage audience engagement through social media, forums, and live events. This allows fans to connect with fellow enthusiasts, discuss episodes, share fan art, and even participate in special events hosted by the podcast creators.

Brief overview of the podcasting industry and its growth

The podcasting industry has experienced exponential growth in recent years, with an ever-expanding range of content and genres available to listeners. According to recent statistics, there are over 2 million podcasts and more than 48 million podcast episodes available worldwide, showcasing the immense popularity and demand for this form of entertainment.

Actual play podcasts have emerged as a prominent genre within the podcasting landscape, attracting a dedicated and passionate fanbase. As the demand for immersive storytelling and interactive experiences continues to rise, the actual play podcasting niche has flourished, offering a diverse array of podcasts to suit different interests and preferences.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the world of actual play podcasts, exploring the criteria for evaluating the best ones, highlighting top podcasts across various genres, providing tips for finding the perfect podcast for your preferences, and concluding with final thoughts on the value and enjoyment of actual play podcasts.

Criteria for Evaluating Actual Play Podcasts

When it comes to choosing the best actual play podcasts to listen to, there are several important criteria to consider. These criteria will help you assess the quality, entertainment value, and overall experience offered by different podcasts within the genre. Whether you’re a seasoned RPG enthusiast or a newcomer looking to explore this captivating form of entertainment, evaluating actual play podcasts based on these criteria will ensure an enjoyable and immersive experience.

Engaging and dynamic storytelling

One of the primary factors that sets apart exceptional actual play podcasts is their ability to deliver engaging and dynamic storytelling. The podcast should transport listeners into a rich and vibrant world, filled with compelling characters, exciting plotlines, and unexpected twists. The game master’s storytelling skills play a crucial role in creating an immersive experience, capturing the imagination of the audience and keeping them hooked throughout each episode.

A well-crafted narrative should have a clear structure, with a captivating introduction, rising action, climactic moments, and satisfying resolutions. The podcast should strike a balance between scripted elements and improvisation, allowing for spontaneous and unexpected moments while maintaining a coherent and engaging storyline. A strong narrative arc keeps listeners invested in the characters and their journey, eagerly anticipating each new episode.

Well-developed and relatable characters

Characters are the heart and soul of any actual play podcast. A top-tier podcast should feature well-developed and relatable characters that resonate with the audience. Each character should have a distinct personality, motivations, and goals, bringing depth and complexity to the story. The players’ ability to embody their characters and bring them to life through role-playing adds an extra layer of immersion and authenticity.

Furthermore, character growth and development are essential aspects of a quality actual play podcast. The characters should evolve over time, facing challenges, making tough decisions, and experiencing personal growth. This not only adds depth to the story but also allows listeners to form emotional connections with the characters, becoming invested in their individual journeys and overall character arcs.

Clear and concise rules explanation

Actual play podcasts are not only about storytelling but also about showcasing the mechanics and rules of the chosen RPG system. A well-executed podcast should provide clear and concise explanations of the game rules, ensuring that both experienced players and newcomers can follow along without feeling overwhelmed or confused.

The podcast should strike a balance between explaining the rules and maintaining the flow of the narrative. Complex rules can be simplified and explained in a way that is accessible to all listeners, without detracting from the overall enjoyment of the story. The game master and players should collaborate to ensure that the rules are explained seamlessly, enhancing the understanding and engagement of the audience.

High-quality production value

Production value plays a significant role in the overall listening experience of an actual play podcast. The audio quality should be clear, ensuring that dialogue, sound effects, and music are all balanced and easy to hear. A well-produced podcast will have crisp and professional audio, allowing listeners to fully immerse themselves in the world being created.

Additionally, attention to detail in editing is crucial. Unnecessary pauses, background noise, or technical glitches can detract from the overall enjoyment of the podcast. Skillful editing ensures that the pacing remains engaging, with smooth transitions and a polished final product.

Diversity and inclusivity in the podcast

Inclusivity and diversity are essential aspects to consider when evaluating actual play podcasts. A podcast that embraces diversity in terms of gender, race, sexuality, and representation fosters a more inclusive and welcoming environment for listeners.

Diverse representation among both players and characters adds depth and richness to the storytelling. It allows for a broader range of perspectives and experiences, making the podcast more relatable to a diverse audience. Furthermore, inclusive storytelling promotes empathy, understanding, and appreciation for different backgrounds and identities.

Frequency and consistency of episodes

Another important criterion for evaluating actual play podcasts is the frequency and consistency of episode releases. Regularly scheduled episodes ensure that listeners can anticipate and look forward to new content, maintaining their engagement and interest in the podcast.

While the exact release schedule can vary depending on the podcast, consistency is key. Whether it’s weekly, biweekly, or monthly, a reliable release schedule allows listeners to incorporate the podcast into their routine and enjoy a consistent flow of content.

Listener interaction and engagement

The final criterion to consider is the level of listener interaction and engagement facilitated by the podcast. Many actual play podcasts encourage audience participation through various means, such as social media platforms, forums, live events, or even incorporating listener suggestions into the gameplay.

A podcast that actively engages with its audience fosters a sense of community and allows listeners to feel connected to the creators and other fans. It provides an opportunity for discussions, sharing fan art, asking questions, and participating in fun activities related to the podcast. The level of listener interaction and engagement can greatly enhance the overall enjoyment and sense of belonging within the podcast’s community.

By evaluating actual play podcasts based on these criteria, you will be able to identify and choose the podcasts that best align with your preferences and offer an exceptional listening experience. Now, let’s dive into the world of top actual play podcasts across various genres.

Top Actual Play Podcasts by Genre

Actual play podcasts cover a wide range of genres, allowing listeners to explore different worlds, game systems, and storytelling styles. Whether you’re a fan of high fantasy, science fiction, or horror, there’s an actual play podcast out there to suit your tastes. In this section, we will delve into some of the top actual play podcasts within popular RPG genres, providing recommendations and insights into their unique qualities.

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) Actual Play Podcasts

Dungeons & Dragons is arguably the most well-known and widely played tabletop RPG system, and it comes as no surprise that there is a plethora of actual play podcasts dedicated to this fantasy realm. These podcasts allow listeners to embark on epic quests, battle fearsome monsters, and uncover ancient treasures alongside a group of adventurous players. Here are some noteworthy D&D actual play podcasts:

  • Critical Role: Critical Role has gained a massive following, with its compelling storytelling, memorable characters, and talented cast. Led by veteran voice actor Matthew Mercer as the game master, this podcast features a group of talented voice actors who bring their characters to life in a captivating and emotionally charged campaign.

  • The Adventure Zone: The Adventure Zone, hosted by the McElroy family, offers a unique blend of humor, heartfelt moments, and thrilling adventures. With a focus on storytelling and character development, the McElroys take listeners on a rollercoaster ride of emotions through their various campaigns, including the wildly popular “Balance” arc.

  • Not Another D&D Podcast: Not Another D&D Podcast (NADDPOD) is a hilarious and entertaining podcast that combines comedy, drama, and epic D&D gameplay. Led by game master Brian Murphy, this podcast features a talented cast of improvisers who bring their comedic chops to the forefront while crafting an engaging and immersive story.

  • Dice, Camera, Action!: Dice, Camera, Action! features renowned game designer Chris Perkins as the game master, taking players and listeners on thrilling adventures set in the Forgotten Realms. With a mix of humor, suspense, and memorable characters, this podcast has captivated D&D fans and showcases the expertise of its players.

  • Dimension 20: Fantasy High: Dimension 20 offers a unique twist on the traditional D&D actual play podcast. Led by Brennan Lee Mulligan as the game master, this podcast features a cast of talented improvisers as they navigate a high school setting within the fantasy realm. With a perfect blend of comedy, drama, and unexpected twists, Fantasy High has become a fan favorite.

These D&D actual play podcasts, among many others, showcase the vast creativity and storytelling potential within the realm of Dungeons & Dragons. Whether you’re seeking emotionally charged narratives, hilarious moments, or epic battles, there’s a D&D actual play podcast that will cater to your preferences.

Pathfinder Actual Play Podcasts

Pathfinder, a popular tabletop RPG system, offers a rich and expansive fantasy world for players to explore. With its intricate ruleset and vast array of character options, Pathfinder has garnered a dedicated following. Actual play podcasts set within the Pathfinder universe provide listeners with thrilling adventures, intricate storytelling, and exciting gameplay. Here are some notable Pathfinder actual play podcasts worth checking out:

  • The Glass Cannon Podcast: The Glass Cannon Podcast is a highly acclaimed actual play podcast that follows the adventures of the “Glass Cannon” crew. Led by game master Troy Lavallee, this podcast offers a blend of intense combat encounters, engaging role-playing, and immersive storytelling. The Glass Cannon crew’s chemistry and dedication to character development make this podcast a must-listen for Pathfinder fans.

  • Find the Path: Find the Path takes listeners on a journey through the Pathfinder Adventure Path series. This podcast features a group of friends exploring the world of Golarion, solving mysteries, and facing off against powerful adversaries. The hosts provide insightful commentary and demonstrate a deep understanding of the Pathfinder rules, making it an excellent choice for both fans of the Adventure Path series and those new to Pathfinder.

  • The Hideous Laughter Podcast: The Hideous Laughter Podcast combines horror and humor in their Pathfinder actual play sessions. With a focus on Lovecraftian themes and mysteries, this podcast delivers a unique and captivating experience. The cast’s witty banter, impressive role-playing, and atmospheric storytelling create an immersive and entertaining listening experience.

  • Androids & Aliens: Androids & Aliens is a spin-off podcast from The Glass Cannon Podcast, set in the science fiction world of Starfinder (a game system based on Pathfinder). This podcast follows the adventures of a group of androids and aliens as they explore the vastness of space. With a mix of action-packed combat, exploration, and deep character relationships, Androids & Aliens provides an exciting and compelling journey through the Starfinder universe.

  • Band of Bravos: Band of Bravos showcases a group of adventurers exploring the world of Pathfinder in the Extinction Curse Adventure Path. This podcast features a diverse cast of characters, each with their own unique abilities and personalities. The Band of Bravos’ thrilling adventures, immersive world-building, and engaging role-playing make for an enjoyable listening experience.

These Pathfinder actual play podcasts offer a wide range of storytelling styles, character dynamics, and immersive gameplay. Whether you’re a Pathfinder enthusiast or simply looking for captivating fantasy adventures, these podcasts provide hours of entertainment and inspiration. Strap on your armor and ready your spells, as you embark on epic quests through the world of Pathfinder.

Call of Cthulhu Actual Play Podcasts

For fans of horror and cosmic dread, Call of Cthulhu provides a unique tabletop RPG experience. Set in the Lovecraftian universe, Call of Cthulhu actual play podcasts delve into the realm of ancient secrets, eldritch horrors, and sanity-shattering mysteries. These podcasts bring the chilling atmosphere and suspenseful storytelling of Lovecraft’s works to life. Here are some notable Call of Cthulhu actual play podcasts that will keep you on the edge of your seat:

  • The Lovecraft Tapes: The Lovecraft Tapes follows a group of investigators as they uncover the dark secrets lurking in Lovecraft’s universe. This podcast combines atmospheric sound design, immersive role-playing, and a gripping narrative to create a truly immersive experience. With its focus on character-driven storytelling and intricate mysteries, The Lovecraft Tapes is a must-listen for fans of Lovecraftian horror.

  • How We Roll Podcast: How We Roll Podcast delivers a blend of horror, suspense, and intense gameplay in their Call of Cthulhu actual play sessions. Each campaign explores different scenarios, from haunted houses to ancient ruins, as the players face off against otherworldly terrors. The podcast’s high production value, engaging storytelling, and skilled role-playing make it a standout choice in the Call of Cthulhu genre.

  • The Old Ways Podcast: The Old Ways Podcast takes listeners on a journey through the 1920s, exploring occult mysteries and eldritch horrors. This podcast captures the essence of Lovecraftian horror, with its atmospheric descriptions, unsettling encounters, and psychological tension. The Old Ways Podcast’s attention to detail and commitment to storytelling make it a compelling choice for fans of Call of Cthulhu.

  • The Good Friends of Jackson Elias: The Good Friends of Jackson Elias offers a unique blend of Call of Cthulhu actual play sessions, discussions on Lovecraftian themes, and analysis of horror literature and gaming. Hosted by a group of passionate Lovecraft enthusiasts, this podcast provides a deep dive into the lore, themes, and gameplay of Call of Cthulhu. It is an excellent resource for both players and fans of Lovecraftian horror.

  • Miskatonic University Podcast: Miskatonic University Podcast explores the world of Lovecraftian gaming, including Call of Cthulhu actual play sessions, interviews with industry insiders, and discussions on various aspects of Lovecraftian horror. This podcast covers a wide range of topics related to Call of Cthulhu and offers valuable insights and advice for players and game masters alike.

These Call of Cthulhu actual play podcasts offer a chilling and immersive experience for fans of Lovecraftian horror. Whether you’re seeking atmospheric storytelling, nerve-wracking encounters, or in-depth analysis of the genre, these podcasts have something to offer. Prepare to confront the unknown and face your deepest fears as you delve into the realm of Call of Cthulhu.

Other Popular Actual Play Podcasts

While Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Call of Cthulhu are among the most popular RPG systems for actual play podcasts, there are numerous other podcasts that cover a wide range of game systems and genres. These podcasts offer unique and captivating experiences outside of the traditional fantasy and horror realms. Here are some noteworthy actual play podcasts that have gained significant popularity:

  • Shadowrun: Corporate SINs: Shadowrun: Corporate SINs is an actual play podcast set in a dystopian cyberpunk world. This podcast combines elements of futuristic technology, corporate intrigue, and high-stakes heists. The immersive storytelling, complex characters, and intricate world-building make Shadowrun: Corporate SINs a standout choice for fans of cyberpunk and futuristic settings.

  • Campaign: Skyjacks: Campaign: Skyjacks takes to the skies with its swashbuckling adventures in a rich and imaginative world. This podcast combines elements of fantasy, steampunk, and exploration as the crew of the Uhuru embarks on thrilling and daring missions. The Skyjacks’ camaraderie, witty banter, and imaginative gameplay create a captivating and enjoyable listening experience.

  • The Unexplored Places: The Unexplored Places explores the world of Dungeon World, a narrative-driven RPG system. This podcast focuses on character-driven storytelling, improvisation, and collaborative world-building. The Unexplored Places offers a unique blend of fantasy, humor, and character development, making it an excellent choice for fans of narrative-driven gameplay.

  • The One Shot Podcast: The One Shot Podcast showcases a diverse range of RPG systems and genres, with each season dedicated to a different game. This podcast offers a unique opportunity to experience a variety of game systems and playstyles, from action-packed adventures to comedic storytelling. The One Shot Podcast’s versatility and high production value make it an engaging choice for those seeking a diverse RPG experience.

  • Red Moon Roleplaying: Red Moon Roleplaying explores a wide range of horror and dark fantasy RPG systems, including Vampire: The Masquerade, Call of Cthulhu, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. This podcast focuses on immersive storytelling, atmospheric sound design, and intense role-playing. Red Moon Roleplaying’s commitment to delivering chilling and atmospheric experiences sets it apart within the horror RPG genre.

These actual play podcasts demonstrate the vast diversity and creativity within the RPG podcasting landscape. Whether you’re interested in cyberpunk heists, high-flying adventures, narrative-driven gameplay, or exploring the realms of horror and dark fantasy, these podcasts offer unique and captivating experiences. The variety of game systems, genres, and playstyles ensures that there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the world of actual play podcasts.

Tips for Finding the Best Actual Play Podcasts

With the abundance of actual play podcasts available, finding the ones that align with your preferences can be a daunting task. However, with a few tips and strategies, you can easily discover the best actual play podcasts that cater to your interests and offer an enjoyable listening experience. Here are some valuable tips to help you find your perfect podcast:

Researching and exploring podcast directories and platforms

Podcast directories and platforms are valuable resources for discovering actual play podcasts. Platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts offer extensive catalogs of podcasts, including actual play shows. Utilize the search functionality and explore relevant categories and genres to find podcasts that match your interests.

In addition to major platforms, there are also dedicated actual play podcast directories and websites that curate and recommend podcasts within the genre. Websites like RPG Casts and Podcasts of the Realm provide comprehensive lists and reviews of actual play podcasts, making it easier for you to find podcasts that suit your preferences.

Seeking recommendations from fellow listeners or online communities

One of the best ways to discover hidden gems in the actual play podcasting world is to seek recommendations from fellow listeners or online communities. Engage with RPG forums, social media groups, and online communities dedicated to tabletop gaming. Ask for recommendations and engage in discussions about your favorite RPG systems and genres. This allows you to tap into the collective knowledge and experiences of the community, gaining valuable insights and discovering podcasts you might have otherwise missed.

Reading reviews and ratings

Reviews and ratings can provide valuable insights into the quality and enjoyment of actual play podcasts. Take the time to read reviews and browse through ratings on platforms like Apple Podcasts and Podchaser. Pay attention to reviews that align with your interests and preferences, as they can offer valuable feedback on the podcast’s storytelling, production value, and overall experience.

Considering personal preferences in terms of game systems and genres

When searching for actual play podcasts, consider your personal preferences in terms of game systems and genres. If you have a preferred RPG system, such as Dungeons & Dragons or Call of Cthulhu, look for podcasts that focus on those systems. Similarly, if you have a specific genre in mind, such as fantasy, cyberpunk, or horror, seek out podcasts that cater to those genres.

By aligning your preferences with the podcasts you choose, you increase the likelihood of finding shows that resonate with your interests and provide an enjoyable listening experience.

Sampling episodes and assessing compatibility

Before committing to a podcast, it’s a good idea to sample a few episodes to assess compatibility. Listen to an episode or two to get a feel for the podcast’s style, storytelling, and overall atmosphere. Pay attention to the chemistry between the players, the quality of the audio production, and the engagement of the narrative. This will help you determine if the podcast aligns with your preferences and if you enjoy the overall experience it offers.

Following podcast networks and creators for updates and new releases

Podcast networks and creators often have multiple shows within the actual play genre. If you find a podcast that resonates with you, consider following the network or creators behind it. This allows you to stay updated on new releases, spin-offs, or other shows that they may produce. By following these networks and creators, you increase the chances of discovering more podcasts that align with your preferences.

Utilizing social media to discover new podcasts

Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit, provide opportunities to discover new podcasts and engage with the podcasting community. Follow actual play podcast creators, networks, and relevant hashtags to stay informed about new releases, recommendations, and discussions within the actual play genre. Social media platforms can be a valuable source of information and a way to connect with other fans of actual play podcasts.

By utilizing these tips and strategies, you can navigate the vast world of actual play podcasts and find the ones that offer the best fit for your interests and preferences. Remember to explore, engage with the community, and sample episodes to discover hidden gems and enjoy the immersive storytelling and gameplay that actual play podcasts have to offer.

Now that we’ve explored the tips for finding the best actual play podcasts, let’s move on to the concluding section of this comprehensive blog post.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Actual play podcasts have revolutionized the way we experience tabletop role-playing games, offering immersive storytelling, engaging gameplay, and a sense of community for fans around the world. Throughout this blog post, we have explored the world of actual play podcasts, delving into different genres, highlighting popular podcasts, and providing tips for finding the best ones. Now, let’s recap the benefits of actual play podcasts and conclude with some final thoughts.

Listening to actual play podcasts offers a multitude of advantages. Firstly, they provide an accessible way to experience the excitement and intrigue of tabletop RPGs, even for those who have never played before. Through the captivating storytelling, dynamic characters, and immersive gameplay, actual play podcasts allow listeners to be part of thrilling adventures and explore fantastical worlds from the comfort of their own headphones.

Additionally, actual play podcasts serve as a source of inspiration and learning for RPG enthusiasts. They offer insights into different game systems, playstyles, and storytelling techniques, helping players and game masters enhance their own RPG sessions. By observing experienced players navigate the game mechanics and engage in role-playing, listeners can learn new strategies, character-building techniques, and creative problem-solving approaches.

Actual play podcasts also foster a sense of community and connection among listeners. Many podcasts encourage audience engagement through social media platforms, forums, and live events. This engagement allows fans to connect with fellow enthusiasts, discuss episodes, share fan art, and even participate in special events hosted by the podcast creators. The shared love for actual play podcasts creates a sense of belonging and camaraderie within the community.

In conclusion, actual play podcasts have transformed the way we experience tabletop RPGs. They provide a gateway into immersive storytelling, engaging gameplay, and a vibrant community. Whether you’re a fan of high fantasy, cyberpunk, horror, or any other genre, there’s an actual play podcast out there to suit your tastes. By evaluating podcasts based on criteria such as engaging storytelling, well-developed characters, clear rules explanations, high production value, and inclusivity, you can find the podcasts that resonate with you.

So, grab your dice, sharpen your imagination, and embark on epic quests through the realms of actual play podcasts. Whether you’re seeking thrilling adventures, heartwarming moments, or spine-chilling encounters, there’s a podcast waiting to transport you to new worlds and ignite your passion for tabletop RPGs.

We hope this comprehensive guide has provided you with valuable insights, recommendations, and tips for finding the best actual play podcasts. Happy listening and may your adventures be filled with excitement and wonder!

Note: This blog post was written in response to the specific keyword “best actual play podcasts” and aims to provide an in-depth exploration of the topic. The recommendations and information provided are based on research and popular opinion at the time of writing. The actual landscape of actual play podcasts may evolve over time, and new podcasts may emerge that further enrich the genre.