D&D General What are your favorite D&D-related podcasts and actual plays -- and why?

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Because the annual Ennies nomination list is mostly people shouting out names, but nothing more, I thought it'd be worth putting together a more substantive list of D&D-related podcasts.

Although I'm not listening to them on my commutes like I did in the Before Times (it's likely my job will be work from home indefinitely, as the corporation has realized that not paying for so much office space is a big win for them), I listen to a lot of podcasts. I mostly confine my RPG listening to my evening walks or on weekends, when I'm not being distracted by work (stupid work, always distracting me from fun!).

My list as waxed and waned over the years, but here's what I listen to nowadays. All links are shows I can vouch for, as opposed to something I've downloaded but not actually tried out myself:

Adventuring Academy - If you've seen Dimension 20 (see below), you know that Brennan Lee Mulligan is a fabulous DM, probably the best I've ever encountered. And in this podcast, which I was turned onto by another poster at ENWorld, he thinks deep thoughts about Dungeons & Dragons, DMing, roleplaying and so on. That could be a big drag, but he's a College Humor veteran and is quick-witted and hilarious, as well as being a generous podcast host. You will feel smarter and like a better Dungeon Master after listening to Brennan's thoughts on the game.

Critical Role - The big one. I am risking my health and safety by saying this, but this isn't my favorite real play podcast -- it's just too decompressed, squeezing in the same amount of adventuring in a four-hour podcast as many of the other shows on this list squeeze into a single hour. But those four hours are instead filled with deep roleplaying by a crew of professional voice actors -- you've almost certainly played a videogame or watched a cartoon with some or all of their voices -- and they have developed some of the richest PCs you're likely to ever encounter. Matt Mercer is the DM many measure themselves by and he has taken what is, at heart, a pretty standard D&D world (5E by way of Pathfinder and 4E) into something inhabited by deeply realized NPCs. Inarguably the most influential podcast on this list, Critical Role will likely do more to shape the expectations of Dungeons & Dragons in future decades than anything else being produced today.

Dimension 20 - Brennan Lee Mulligan and a rotating cast of College Humor performers stretch the concept of what a D&D game is to the breaking point. Modern day New York City, with the land of Faerie as the sixth borough? Yep, that've got that. A stylized fantasy take on American Graffiti and a 1950s that never was? Yep, they've got that. Even the most conventional campaign still breaks the mold, with a cartoon version of Sauron's lieutenants struggling to escape the forces of Good with a Capital G as the Dark Lord falls, stretches the game beyond what most groups will ever try. The campaigns are hilarious, the cast is fabulous (almost as good actors as the Critical Role crew, but just putting their energies in a different direction) and Mulligan's campaigns (and a new one in which he's a player) will make you think about D&D in entirely new ways.

Dragon Talk - The official WotC podcast is a mix of news, interviews with WotC creators about upcoming projects, regular features like How to DM or Random Character Generator, in which the host and a WotC staffer use D&D Beyond's random character generator to show how even a weird mix of stats can be made into a (normally) compelling NPC or PC. Most of the podcast each week is a long interview with someone connected with D&D in some fashion, sometimes clearly (like Jim Zub, who's written D&D comics and products) and sometimes not (various actors who played D&D once or twice). But the hosts are charming and most episodes are worth listening to, although I admit to skipping many of the interviews after listening for a few minutes, if there's nothing I find compelling about the guests.

Hello from the Magic Tavern - Not technically a D&D podcast, Hello from the Magic Tavern is about an Earthman from Chicago who fell through a magical portal (behind a Burger King) into a magical fantasy land. There's a Dark Lord and various grand machinations, but Arnie mostly wants to hang around with his horny shapeshifter friend (who mostly spends his time in the form of a badger) and their pompous wizard friend. The show is all improvised, with special guests each week from the land of podcasting or improv, each playing other characters from the Land of Foon. And since it's all "canon," it's gotten weirder and sillier as things have gone on. Note that this is a hard PG-to-R rated show, with profanity, alcohol and drugs, although it's all very silly and hard to take terribly seriously.

Imaginary Worlds - Not a D&D podcast either, Imaginary Worlds is what it'd be like if NPR had a show about geek culture. Episodes have looked at the idea that the universe is a simulation, Tron, the Brothers Grimm, Camelot, how HP Lovecraft stands up in the modern era, and so on. Always thought-provoking, especially if you think you already know all about the topic.

Nerd Poker - Comedian Brian Posehn and his group of mostly stand-up comedian friends play 5E. Although they're professionals, like the folks on Critical Role or Dimension 20, this is pretty close to a standard home game -- the halflings come from a country named "Donkeyland" -- just with almost all stage professionals involved. They're on their third campaign, all in the same setting, and while the consequences of previous campaigns matter (in one of them, they unleashed an apocalypse on the world, ending that particular campaign early -- oops), each episode is about an hour long, and they whip through the campaigns pretty quickly. There's the occasional bit of profanity and a reference or two to alcohol or drugs, but this show is appropriate for high schoolers and older, I'd say. (I have a high schooler and allow him to hear this show.)

Not Another D&D Podcast - Another subset of College Humor performers, many of whom appear on some seasons of Dimension 20. This is a cohesive group of three players and a DM (two of whom are married). Like Nerd Poker, it's very similar to an ordinary home game, just done by professional improv folks and comedians. So it tends to be very funny, very quick witted and also pretty weird at times. They have side games featuring talking gorillas in a Gorilla City lost world environment and, last summer, had a Hot Boy Summer side campaign of surfer bros trying to solve a mystery, along with more conventional D&D games.

The Adventure Zone - In many ways, the grandfather of all the above, The Adventure Zone is one of roughly 200,000 McElroy family podcasts, in this case, featuring Clint and his three sons running RPGs games, mostly D&D. Next to Critical Role, it's the most popular D&D show out there, by a large margin, and the other big mainstream podcasting hit. As with Critical Role, I don't love every aspect of it. Their mastery of the rules is frankly terrible and the settings all tend to be much more high magic than I prefer. But no one beats this family for chemistry and warm humor, even when they're mocking each other for not healing during a whole campaign or not understanding how D&D works years into playing it on a podcast. As the show has gone on, they've begun to stretch their wings more and more, and the next D&D campaign is currently getting a prologue played out using the game The Quiet Year. This show comes pretty close to listening to your own friends and family play D&D, if your friends and family were experienced podcasters. (Maybe they are, I don't know you.)

So, what are your favorite D&D adjacent podcasts, and why?
 
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Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Favorite non-actual-play for players is Treantmonks Temple. I love his passion for reasonable, non-broken optimization. He can make almost any concept work, find ways to rationally compare classes which are not easy to compare, and tinker with the math underlying the system in fun and interesting ways.

Favorite actual-play is Matt Collvilles stuff. I find his games are close to the way my groups play, but really a blast to watch/listen to.
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
I'll give a +1 for the Brennan Lee Mulligen joints (Adventuring Academy and Dimension 20). D20 can be difficult to get access to but is 100% worth the price of admission
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I'll give a +1 for the Brennan Lee Mulligen joints (Adventuring Academy and Dimension 20). D20 can be difficult to get access to but is 100% worth the price of admission
They put the podcasts up about a year after the Dropout streams, similar to the Um, Actually show on YouTube. (Which I also highly recommend.)
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Favorite actual-play is Matt Collvilles stuff. I find his games are close to the way my groups play, but really a blast to watch/listen to.
Matt desperately needs some sort of beard/haircut intervention, but I never fail to find his discussions of RPGs interesting. Also a big fan of Dael Kingsmill, who also gets bonus points for the Australian accent.

They both need podcasts!
 

Rikka66

Adventurer
I haven't listened/watched to all that many, so of those few I'd like to mention...

Acquisitions Inc: The original podcast series was my first introduction to D&D (outside of references on TV and a few episodes of the cartoon) and I still hold quite a fondness for them. I've never enjoyed the live sessions as much, but that's just a different kind of performance.

Chris Perkins and Robot Chicken: A game run by Chris Perkins during his "DM to the Stars" days with some of the crew of Robot Chicken. Worth a watch. Perkins also did a director's commentary where he talks about the session, the adventure, and his thoughts on running the game for new players.

Critical Hit: The podcast from the Major Spoilers site. I learned a lot from the DM, Rodrigo, and overall an excellent bunch of players. I fell off at some point in the Feywild season.

Gamer's Haven: A bog standard D&D podcast from 2009. I only mention them because after looking them up I believe all their recordings are unavaiable, they played through Keep on the Shadowfell two (!) times, and I imagine only like 100 people ever heard them. Just an interesting footnote from the early days of D&D podcasting.
 

BRayne

Adventurer
They put the podcasts up about a year after the Dropout streams, similar to the Um, Actually show on YouTube. (Which I also highly recommend.)

I think they've stopped that pattern because otherwise they would have released Tiny Heist and Fantasy High: Sophomore Year from behind the paywall by now
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
Oh yeah, I do love Matt Colvilles stuff, it's great to listen to and I get plenty of ideas from it. I like how he one time talked about the red hand of doom adventure as one of his favourites to run and it immediately became one of the most popular purchases on DMsGuild. I've watched him doing the chain playthrough as well which was pretty cool, they stole an illithid squidship!

Although he doesn't do actual plays, Zee Bashew has some short fun clips on youtube in his animated spellbook series. He's also animated some of his games into a small 5 part series, hopefully more to come.
 


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