The wonderful world of TTRPGs (and by extension, actual play podcasts) is one of a staggering amount of diversity. From one page RPGs fit for any setting to massive setting-specific tomes with rulings for every possible edge case, there are bound to be games fit for exactly the story you want to tell and play-style your table prefers. Don’t let analysis paralysis keep you from finding your actual play’s next big feature! Let’s take a look at five games (and five podcasts) that might just be the perfect fit for your next season (or listen).
For those who like their sci-fi dark
From the makers of ultra-dark rules-light heavy-metal fantasy TTRPG Mörk Borg, comes “a nano-infested doomsday RPG about cybernetic misfits and punks raging against a relentless corporate hell” by the name of CY_BORG.
Like Mörg Borg before it, CY_BORG retains its easy to grasp “rules before rulings” philosophy. For all intents and purposes, CY_BORG is a reskin of the previous game with a couple of additional features built around its cyberpunk aesthetic like the fantastic “Cy-Rage” where overly battered players lose themselves to their cybernetics and enter a randomized, hyper-powered rage until they’re put down one way or another.
If your table isn’t afraid of a corpo-run hellscape where everyone and everything is out to absolutely demolish them (and might just succeed), then CY_BORG might just be your next TTRPG. Requiring little more than a d20 and some d6s, the game is super quick to pick up and oozes personality on everything from the adventures to the maps to the super-convenient online character and headline generators! Oh, and they carry over their fantastic third party license so feel free to create your own material and monetize it without fearing another OGL-type scenario.
When inquisitor Lucius Valentyne receives a vision of the immortal Emperor’s death, he must put together a team to attempt to save the emperor and - by extension - all of humanity. It doesn’t get more grimdark than the Warhammer 40k universe, and the team over at Dumb-Dumbs & Dice manage to paint that darkness absolutely *deliciously* in The Valentyne Heresy. This actual play uses the Dark Heresy conversion for the Genesys system, allowing the show to run an inquisition-focused campaign in the Warhammer world.
While knowledge of the Warhammer 40k universe would certainly allow one to geek out more easily while listening, the team does a pretty good job of covering the basics and making the show accessible to those who have never drooled over armies of space marine minis on a war table. I myself have very surface-level knowledge on Warhammer lore but was able to follow along just fine. Right off the bat, what stood out to me most was the way GM Tom McGee sets the scene. He strikes a nice balance with painting a detailed picture without holding up the narrative, just enough for you to see the war-torn vistas in your mind before the cast inevitably get up to high stakes trouble.
Speaking of trouble, the TTRPG is quite crunchy. “Crunchy” meaning there are a potentially intimidating amount of rules for new players with plenty of dice to roll and numbers to calculate. That said, the cast keep things moving pretty smoothly for the most part; even when they don’t, I find the system’s specificity adds to the brutality that Warhammer is so famous for. It is not uncommon for me to find myself on the edge of my seat as the numbers add up, waiting to see what unfortunate twist awaits the crew on the other side of a dice roll.
For fans of quirky little guys
Born of the board game of the same name, Root the RPG sends players on roguish adventures where they embody woodland creatures in a (surprisingly well developed) land of warring factions. From the moment I laid eyes on the book and its charming art style, I knew I had to have it; and I suspect many of you might feel the same.
However! Do not be fooled by the adorable woodland adventurers. Root’s world is a brutal one with danger at every turn and untrustworthy factions aplenty. When you accept the role of your “vagabond”, you’ll find yourself presented with a ruleset very familiar to Powered by the Apocalypse players. That said, the system does delve a fair bit deeper than many PbtA games and I find it strikes just the right balance for the kind of games I love to run.
While there are plenty of detailed rulesets and references for player and GM alike (such as lists of potential unfavorable outcomes when attempting a roguish feat), the game centers all of them around furthering the story. An experienced GM will likely immediately know which tools would be useful and which may not be necessary at their particular table. But it is marvelous to see these tools present to help guide newcomers to tabletop roleplaying games, not to mention the helpful rundown on Root’s lore that is sure to inspire a plethora of campaign ideas and get everyone pumped for their next session.
Where do we go when we die? Well, if you live in the world of QuestFriends: Hereafter the answer is clear: the Hereafter, of course! Inspired by dual world kid’s cartoons, QuestFriends latest season explores a universe with distinct realms for the living, dead, and extra-dead (the here, hereafter, and after) that aren’t always entirely separate.
Full of ghosts, vampires, zombies, and all other manner of undead that can freely travel between the realms, Hereafter is infused with a delightfully kooky Saturday-morning-cartoon vibe. All throughout, the gang go on quirky adventures featuring memorable NPCs (such as my favorite: the ghost of Rasputin) and strange creatures called Necromon (yes, they are essentially undead Pokemon) that are sure to give you a good chuckle.
Even as a fan of good homebrew myself, one can’t deny the impact of having a TTRPG that is tailor-made to fit the goals of your actual play. That is exactly what GM Kyle Decker has done with his Powered by the Apocalypse system Under the Neighborhood. Inspired by those same Saturday morning cartoons and infused with a healthy dose of cryptids and oddities, the game really sings on the show and would likely be a great fit at many tables.
(Note: I have collaborated with the QuestFriends team on a crossover special with my actual play, Dungeons & Drimbus, in the past.)
For anyone who wants pulp monster-of-the-week vibes
Still in development, this “minimalist TTRPG love letter to monster heroes” is definitely one to keep an eye on if your table loves playing flawed heroes doing their best in a world that just can’t seem to understand them. Everything in the (beautifully designed) book centers around the characters’ monstrous natures and it is glorious!
Hexingtide features intensely streamlined mechanics that give players and GMs exactly what they need to run the game. Each character will have a die type dictated by how “monstrous” they are. With simple rolls (over 6 to attack, under to defend) and clearly defined assets (powers to help you out of a jam, portents threatening to rear their ugly head when pushed too far), you won’t find yourself digging through rulebooks in the heat of battle nor having to cook up new rulings to make up for the game’s shortcomings.
Personally, this game very quickly earned its spot as one of my all-time favorite TTRPGs. If your table takes joy in heavy roleplay, finding creative solutions, and playing a delightfully edgy band of underappreciated misfits then this may be the game for you! It lends itself incredibly well to one-off sessions or an ongoing monster-of-the-week style campaign.
(Note: My first exposure to Hexingtide was during a playtest which we recorded for the patrons of Dungeons & Drimbus and had creator Will Phillips on as a guest)
Fans of noir-style mystery adventures filled with creepy culty goodness should definitely tune in to Role to Casts’s fourth season: Ambrosia Island. Everything from the plot to the characters to the (awesomely intense) recurring theme song evoke that classic pulp fiction feel as Jørgen, Mena, and Pierre investigate the evil doings of a mysterious cult. Needless to say, the stakes grow to be as high as one would expect from a campaign run on a game called Pulp Cthulhu.
As in other Role to Cast series, the cast really shines here. I’m a huge fan of how much agency they take over their characters and the world; the players know where they want to take their characters and are totally at home jumping in with descriptions and performances that breathe life into even the simplest of scenes. Pair that with the heavily themed Pulp Cthulhu expansion for the ever-popular Call of Cthulhu TTRPG and you’ve got a hell of a good listen.
For the hopeless romantics
Tired of your campaigns going from fight to fight until you kill god and save the world from impending disaster? Want something a little smaller scale? Do you take most joy from flirting with innkeeps? Then Coffee Shop AU may be the game for your next actual play!
This “two-player tabletop roleplaying game about slow-burn café romance” revels in the small interactions and milestones that make up a new romance as the players take up the mantles of barista and stranger. The game gives players plenty of freedom to shape their relationship as they see fit and according to their comfort level. All that’s required is a pool of six-sided dice and a way to write things down. Players will take turns initiating scenes and rolling dice when attempting an action that would progress the relationship.
Although simple, Coffee Shop AU’s rules succinctly embody the give and take in a relationship as well as the tension and uncertainty in taking next steps. The relationship’s “end point” is up to the players to determine and the game allows you to zoom as far in or out on individual interactions/relationship stages as you’d like, which I find makes it an excellent vehicle for a shorter actual play. Oh, and the game’s note on subject matter and emphasis on giving the barista agency is an appreciated detail that I’m glad was included.
(Note: We have previously used Coffee Shop AU for a patron bonus series on Dungeons & Drimbus in the past.)
Fables Around the Table is a fantastic podcast for those always on the lookout for new TTRPGs and Candlelight is a delightful exploration of games for the hopeless romantic in all of us. This three-episode series features three separate games: Tension, A Cozy Den, and Dating.Sim. “A queer cat and mouse story”, “a gentle sapphic tale of an impassioned art collective of lesbi-snakes”, and a “trial of animated attraction and knightly courtship” make for a series that definitely covers more bases than I would’ve expected.
The best way to describe Candlelight is as a very earnest exploration of each game. While they are not interconnected like one may expect from a typical ongoing actual play campaign, these episodes do a great job of giving you a feel for what it would be like to run the game at your table. Unconcerned with extensive sound design, Candlelight bares it all from rule explanations to delightfully honest deliberations before big character moments that make you feel at home at the table.
Perhaps my favorite of the three episodes is episode two, which follows a group of “lesbi-snakes” in search of warmth and coziness for the winter. As a snake parent myself, I appreciated the little details and the unique spin on a romance game.
Sidenote: I love how the jazzy intro to each episode sets the mood in a hilariously cheesy way.
For crime lords in the making
One Last Job
If your table is anything like mine, you’ve probably got a handful of people playing skilled characters with an inexplicable urge to throw themselves in harm’s way as often as possible. For players with a death wish, One Last Job may help sate their desire to put it all on the line for one mission with improbable odds. The players will embody a “washed-up, past-their-best crew” banding together for… you guessed it: one last job to set them up for life.
What I absolutely adore about this system is the way it handles character creation! Rather than scouring pages for the right features to make the perfect character, players will step up and take the mantle of an introduced character whose traits are revealed over the course of the job as their fellow crew mates share stories from the good old days when they become relevant to the situation. One Last Job is an easy game to run, tailors well to fit the characters, and can be played as seriously (or silly) as the table likes.
The nature of the game is one that allows GMs to unleash everything in their arsenal and really put the players up against the wall so they can succeed (or fail) in spectacular fashion. Although One Last Job is designed to be run in a single session, it could make an interesting starting point for a longer campaign that delves into the characters’ earlier histories. But then again, when is one last job ever really the last job?
No strangers to exploring new systems, the Realms of Peril and Glory team deliver not one, not two, but three seasons (and a prequel) in their Liminal London series. Featuring wonderful guest players (such as Grant Howitt, creator of some of my favorite one-shot TTRPGs One Last Job, Honey Heist, and Goat Crashers) and a new enthralling mystery in each season, the show has found a wonderful format that stays fresh despite multiple visits to the same world.
The Liminal London series is played with the Liminal TTRPG which explores “those on the boundary between the modern day United Kingdom and the Hidden World” full of wizard councils, fae nightclubs, werewolf gangs, and more mythical beings. The light ruleset allows the cast to focus on uncovering the tantalizing mysteries and sinister conspiracies in this not-so-alternate version of the UK. Simply put, they’ve chosen an already deeply intriguing game and put it to use in just as enthralling ways.
No matter which season I was listening to, I was very fond of the sense of camaraderie that the cast gave off. The Realms of Peril and Glory crew manage to capture that lovely sense of teamwork that I appreciate at my tables: everyone working in tandem to tell a good story and having a great time doing it (despite the often dark subject matter). Liminal London is just one of many of their joyous explorations into new systems, and one I hope will inspire others to venture into the vast world of new and exciting TTRPGs.