New Year, New TTRPGs for Your Ears

3 min read

The fastest-growing sector of the podcasting space is the Actual Play podcast, where people record themselves playing a tabletop roleplaying game, usually Dungeons and Dragons. While the trope of “a bunch of friends/family playing a game together” was all the The Adventure Zone and Critical Role had to offer when they started in the mid-2010s, at this point you have to deliver more than that to roll a natural 20 on your podcast charisma check. Here are some shows doing a new take on actual play TTRPG podcasts that will pull you in, and, of course, what D&D class they would be.

Rogue: Fun City

Fun City is the rogue because they’re pure sneak attack damage. While you’re distracted trying to figure out how Shadowrun works, they’ll stab you with something incredibly funny out of nowhere. Fun City is the apotheosis of the difference between playing a game and listening to an actual play show; they do the game-lifting for you so you can just enjoy the story. And the story, set in an uber-futuristic New York City artificially reconstructed after a climate disaster and controlled solely by corporerations, leading to magic reawakening on Earth, is worth enjoying.

Sorcerer: Three Black Halflings

If a sorcerer is defined by their inherent ability to do magic, then Three Black Halfings is defined by bringing back the magic to TTRPGs in 2021. There is something for everyone on the feed: Actual play stories set in an African-folklore-inspired fantasy setting, chaotic and wild one-shots, D&D class breakdowns, interviews with luminaries of the TTRPG field, and more. But every episode is infused with excitement for the form and a clear-eyed awareness that there is no One Idea of D&D, no matter how much old-white-guys-who-played-AD&D or Wizards of the Coast might want to sell you on that.

Warlock Pretending to be a Wizard: Hey Riddle Riddle

Most of the time, Hey Riddle Riddle is an improv comedy podcast about riddles. Every so often, though, Adal Rafai, JPC, and Erin Keif play a TTRPG game, where instead of dice rolls, they have to answer riddles. They have the character work, the chaos, the story and the fun that you’re looking for in your Actual Play game. The tabletop gaming-adjcent episodes shouldn’t be a surprise considering their experience: Editor Casey Toney works on NeoScum, Erin Kief is starting a D&D podcast Sitcom D&D, and Adal’s experience on remembering canon in Hello From the Magic Tavern is half of being in a D&D game anyway. Check out the noir Hey Riddle City episodes on the main feed, and subscribe to the Patreon for more (though the first episodes of the 1985-high-school Hey Riddle High and the western HYAAH! Saddle Saddle! were dropped in the main feed)

Barbarian: Not Another D&D Podcast

You probably know this one already, but it’s worth tuning into now. The chaotic nature of the NADDPOD’s party is the same as a barbarian entering a rage–no matter what you throw at them or where they go, there’s no stopping it. . They’re about to start Campaign Three, returning to the setting of their most popular first campaign, but many years in the future. While other TTRPGs have faltered as they moved away from the story that brought them popularity, NADDPOD seems set up to gracefully return, bearing in mind  that DM Brian Murphy has said fan-favorite characters are fully dead if listeners ask where they are.

Fighter: Join the Party

Join the Party is the fighter because they’re constantly studying the blade. JTP pushes what a D&D podcast can do. The homebrewed stories go far beyond standard D&D fare, like the current campaign’s superhero story set in an alternate-universe upstate New York; they’re constantly adding and inventing new mechanics and gameplay to make playing fun for the players and the audience; and the editing is tight and the sound design is incredible. It’s also my show, so I had to put it on here, but I also think you’ll really like it.

Eric Silver is a writer, audio producer, game designer and teacher based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the Dungeon Master for Join the Party, Head of Creative at Multitude, and produces a bunch of other podcasts. He likes the fall, sandwiches, and being five minutes early.