Nothing embodies high-fantasy pop culture better than Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). D&D is a thoroughly imaginative and fun game to play with your friends. The game sets a series of basic rules that create an engine for people to tell their own stories. The game occupies and challenges the imagination with make-believe locations, characters, and scenarios. At the heat of the D&D gameplay are three essential pillars. These describe D&D activities into three categories: exploration, social interaction, and combat. If you’re looking for inspiration on your own D&D campaign, look no further than the best D&D podcasts!
Allow us to list down some of the best D&D podcasts online with actual-play recordings of the most imaginative group conquests.
What is Dungeons and Dragons (D&D)?
Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a high-fantasy tabletop roleplaying game. The game is about adventuring in a fictional world filled with magic and monsters. It tells stories of brave warriors and the imaginative and spectacular adventures they go through. The game shares elements with childhood games of make-believe.
The game is played in groups led by a Dungeon Master (DM) who acts as the lead storyteller and narrator. All the other players get to create their characters at the start of the game. The DM crafts adventures for the characters. The characters, in turn, must navigate the DM’s hazards and decide which paths to explore. Together, the DM and players create richly descriptive adventures that make up an ongoing story called a campaign. Many people who play the game keep their campaigns going for months or even years. Regular meetings between friends are necessary to pick up where the story left off. Characters earn points and gain new capabilities as the campaign progresses. A character’s vitality and health throughout the campaign largely depends on decision-making. It also depends on the scores generated by the rolling of the dice.
There are two ways to play D&D, and both involve the participation of a team. The traditional way is to be physically present with other players. This usually requires a tabletop map, a rulebook, and a set of dice including but not limited to a 10-sided die. It can also be played through online D&D channels using pre-set storylines and characters.
How Does Playing D&D Work?
Multiple editions of D&D have been released since the 1970s. Before any campaign can begin, the players must first create a unique character. The characters are based on a combination of traits set on the rule book. Each player must pick class features, racial traits, equipment, and magic items. The reference for these categories and all the rules of the game are described in the D&D rule book. Every character is different with various strengths and weaknesses. As such, a party of adventurers is ideally one where characters complement each other. The game officially starts with an exposition from the DM.
The DM sets the narrative location, the story’s overall theme, and the current situation that is happening to them. A player narrates their actions based on what they want to do. Depending on the action taken, a ten-sided die is rolled to check if the player is successful in their chosen action. This process of selecting a course of action and rolling of the dice proceeds with other players. If in a battle, the DM takes control of the gameplay once more after everyone has taken a turn. The DM is directly responsible for creating avenues for an unlimited number of adventures. It’s not unusual for campaigns to last for months, years, or even decades. Many groups meet regularly to pick up the story where they left off.
What are D&D Podcasts?
D&D has one of the most active fandoms in the world, so it’s only fitting that staunch players have created podcasts dedicated to the game. There are now hundreds of online D&D-related podcasts that you can find with a quick search. These podcasts are popular for presenting a mix of theater and actual D&D gameplay. There’s also background information on D&D, D&D lore for character development, and game mechanics. The podcast channels also function as a communication platform for D&D players and fans. D&D podcasts are very entertaining to listen to if you are familiar with the game. They’re also highly informative and helpful for both complete beginners and players who are trying to get back into playing the game.
How Can I Listen to D&D Podcasts?
There are two ways to play D&D podcasts. The first method is by using speakerphones and the other is by using earphones or a closed headset.
If you’re going for the first option, you’re probably going to need a Bluetooth speaker to stream online content. This is just not possible with regular speakers unless you plan to download every single podcast episode. But before you jump in and buy a pair of Bluetooth speakers, learn more about how Bluetooth speakers work.
For those who are using smart speakers like Alexa, playing podcasts is relatively straightforward. All you have to do is instruct Alexa to play the podcast. But then, you might not know that Alexa records your interactions and instructions for her. If that is something you’re not comfortable with, read how to stop Alexa from divulging your instructions to Amazon.
The second and more reserved option is by using earphones. Having good-quality earphones raises the quality and enjoyment you can get out of podcasts and music. Podcasts are also great to listen to in the background while you’re busy with other things. But to be able to multi-task comfortably, you’ll need a good pair of wireless earphones. These portable devices add mobility and clarity to your listening experience. Here’s a buying guide to the best wireless headphones for you to choose from.
16 Best D&D Podcasts to Listen to with Friends
D&D is not exactly a walk in the park due to the innumerable rules that need to be followed. For this reason, it’s really helpful to have samples of actual gameplay before you make the plunge. These podcasts are created by people who are as passionate and knowledgeable about the game as you want to become. Maybe you’re just eager to hear actual gameplay and join in on the fun. Or you could be a newbie to the D&D realm and would like a serious look at how the game is played. Look no further, because here are 16 of the best D&D podcasts that are simply incredible in weaving the best stories in the realm of D&D.
Critical Role is the crème de la crème of D&D podcasts. It’s an actual-play podcast made up of voice actors such as Matt Mercer, Ashley Johnson, and Laura Bailey. They also feature celebrity guests including Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton from time to time. Critical Role is known for its massive YouTube and Twitch presence, snd this podcast contains the audio versions of the recorded clips to play on the go. The podcasts are ideal if you are looking to listen in while you’re commuting or at work. Critical Role has become one of the most popular D&D podcasts in the world, and its players have gained a massive following throughout the series. The first campaign was officially completed in October 2017, and the group is currently running through their second campaign. Some of the episodes are performed before a live studio audience.
Not Another D&D Podcast
Not Another D&D Podcast is the brainchild of CollegeHumor writer Brian Murphy that has several former CollegeHumor members included in the cast. The podcast follows the Band of Boobs (yes, they named their party that) through the homebrew realm of Bahumia. This campaign is supposed to take place after a group of Legendary Heroes rallied an army to defeat the leader of the Nine Hells. This is a post-war world with its series of problems, some of them caused by the heroes’ actions.
The podcasts have a heavy emphasis on comedy. Nevertheless, the player’s shenanigans are kept in rein thanks to their DM’s excellent grasp of core D&D gameplay and rules. The gang recently finished their first campaign after an incredible total of 100 adventures. This podcast has got to be one of the funniest and lightest podcasts currently running online. If you don’t like overly serious gameplay, this is the podcast for you. Not Another D&D Podcast releases new episodes every week.
HarmonQuest is the closest thing to a TV show that D&D podcasts are ever going to get. The series was brought to life by writer and producer Dan Harmon and Spencer Crittenden. The show is part animation and part live-action. The live-action scenes are filmed straight from the gaming table while the animated sequences were created after-the-fact. The roleplaying campaign is acted out in front of a live audience. Each episode also features a special guest who happens to be a celebrity or friend of the producers.
Dan Harmon is the creator behind much-beloved series Community and Rick and Morty. Having had a successful stint with those shows, Harmon expressed his concerns over the quality of this show. Nevertheless, the part-animated show turned out to be a big hit with viewers and especially D&D fans. The show lasted a total of three seasons with an impressive 360 episode list. If you like comedy RPG that blends animation and a live audience at the same time, this is the podcast for you. You can watch the series for free through the mycartoon.tv channel.
Force Grey: Giant Hunters
Force Grey: Giant Hunters is a brand-new D&D series starring Chris Hardwick. If you don’t know who Chris Hardwick is, he’s the creator of the Nerdist Podcast Network. In this special D&D podcast, he and his guests playing the newest storyline, Storm King’s Thunder. The series of adventures revolves around an elite group called Force Grey. The group is striving to defeat a group of giants who are pillaging the Storm Coast. To save their town, Force Grey must harness the power of rune magic. They must also turn themselves into giants for a time to defeat the enemy.
All adventures are live-streamed from a small studio in Los Angeles. The series just premiered, so it’s really easy to catch up if you hurry. The series also features Critical Role DM Matthew Mercer. Force Grey: Giant Hunters releases podcasts on a biweekly basis.
D20 Dames is a hardcore D&D podcast run by an all-female group. This group has generated several campaigns spanning three seasons, their first campaign centering on the heroes entering Gray Woods in search of the Kindred Spirits. Kindred Spirits is a religious organization that offers inner peace for troubled souls.
The girls are usually accompanied on live streams by Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch, creators of a fantasy comic book series Rat Queens. The story follows a group of foul-mouthed female adventurers. Aside from traditional podcasting, the girls also host live podcast shows with customized storylines. They also do guest appearances on other D&D podcasts from time to time. Moreover, they work to teaching children about the joys of playing D&D. D20 Dames streams episodes every week.
The Adventure Zone
The Adventure Zone is a comedy and adventure actual-play podcast. The podcast is based loosely upon the popular Dungeons & Dragons game series, but it also features story arcs from other role-playing games. The game is played and managed by the McElroy brothers and their father. The father, Griffin McElroy, typically plays the Dungeon Master. The first campaign was known as the Balance Arc, where they loosely followed the game’s traditional rules. The storyline follows a group of heroes tasked with finding seven Grand Relics. These relics represent the various schools of magic and are necessary to save the world. The first campaign was swiftly followed by Commitment for its second campaign. A third campaign called Amnesty followed suit.
The first arc of the first campaign has been adapted into a best-selling graphic novel, Another novel based on the second arc already is in the works. The brothers also worked on other experimental arcs. These alternative arcs take place in completely different worlds. These alternative arcs didn’t strictly follow D&D gameplay, but instead adapted other role-playing games. The team also records a series of commentaries called “The Adventure Zone Zone” where the players discuss the game and answer fan questions. The Adventure Zone releases podcasts on a biweekly basis.
Dames and Dragons
Dames and Dragons is a comedy-themed actual-play podcast. The series features four friends and their special guests. The gang undergoes a series of campaigns in the homebrewed world of Avelis. The storyline follows a group of guardians of a Goddess on the floating fortress of Estra. Both the guardians and the Goddess fall into Avelis, a dying world from which their idyllic Estra was plucked thousands of years ago. The guardians must protect the Goddess from the hands of the evil lord Torva while also struggling for survival.
The heroes must embark on a wide variety of adventures to protect the city and its inhabitants as well to form alliances against their enemies. Their current campaign is currently six arcs long. This has seen to the introduction of new characters, places, and dilemmas. The team also releases in-between episodes that provide background information on the next arc. Dames and Dragons releases podcasts on a biweekly basis.
Nerd Poker is a weekly comedic podcast on the Earwolf Podcast Network starring Brian Posehn and his friends. This group is composed of comedians and writers who get together regularly. They clearly intend not only to play D&D for the viewers but also to have fun themselves. The gang has been dishing out D&D adventures for the past three years.
The main game is set in a homebrew world on a continent called Amynna. You’ll learn soon enough that the cast isn’t so keen about sticking to high fantasy as they are about comedy. The game occasionally deviates from actual D&D with occasional pop culture references. There’s also some profanity and some silly objectives. that make each episode a fun romp to listen to. If you can appreciate improv storytelling minus the rigidity of D&D rules, this is the podcast for you.
Drunks and Dragons
Drunks and Dragons is an award-winning actual-play podcast. The series features a group of friends who drink while playing Dungeons & Dragons. The characters fight against animated skeletons, orcs, and zombies while the creators explored and deepened this very interesting premise over the course of the podcast. The podcast has been active since November 2012, making it one of the longest-running podcasts you can find right now. The podcast has over 180,000 viewers as of July 2019 and has received The Academy of Podcasters Award 2017 for Best Gaming Podcast. Due to the widely positive reception, they have begun to set up an annual live show for their viewers. Drunks and Dragons releases episodes every week.
Friends at the Table
Friends at the Table is another D&D podcast skyrocketed in popularity after recently being an iTunes feature. Unlike other shows on this list, Friends at the Table plays other RPG games besides D&D while also doing meta-explorations of the medium and the genre. The podcast is led by Austin Walker, a writer from Giant Bomb. Six other players in the group role-play as heroes in various magical worlds. The first series focuses on the fictional continent of Hieron, a land devastated by a cataclysmic period. So far, the group has been able to produce a total of six series set in entirely different worlds. The podcast prides itself upon critical world-building and smart characterization. The podcast is also notable for its fun interaction between good friends.
Dungeons and Daddies
Dungeons and Daddies is a comedic, real-play D&D podcast. It features four dads from our world flung into the magical land of Forgotten Realms in a quest to rescue their lost sons. The first few episodes certainly have the same “learning to play the game” feel to them. The gameplay also leans towards improvisation and player/character chemistry. The players include a girl, and the rest sound younger than we’d expected. This inclines us to think that this group of friends took on the role of daddies just for pure fun. The series is also a newbie on this list, with the first episode airing only in January 2019. There are currently 38 episodes and running. So far, the gang has not run out of funny shenanigans and is a great pick for light D&D streaming. Dungeons and Daddies streams episodes on a biweekly basis.
The Glass Cannon Podcast
The Glass Cannon Podcast is a hardcore actual-play podcast featuring a bunch of self-proclaimed super-nerds. The group is following an adventure path called the Giantslayer Adventure Path. This adventure path is the product of the group’s sponsor, Paizo Publishing. Adventure paths are pre-written epic adventures that take characters on a long storyline. Each adventure path typically takes at least three years to complete.
The Giantslayer narrative revolves around strangers brought together in a war-torn village. The players must evade an invisible assassin as they traverse pre-written adventures. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of storytelling possibilities to be had. The characters still remain in charge of their decisions, creating a unique flow to the story. The podcast interweaves immersive and descriptive storytelling with irreverent, improvised humor. This is another example of what it means to have a great time with friends while playing a tabletop game. The Glass Cannon Podcast releases episodes every week.
Lore is an award-winning and critically-acclaimed podcast that centers around non-fiction horror stories. The podcast was the brainchild of Aaron Mahnke, who acts both as creator and narrator. Mahnke reportedly only used historically accurate information to create his stories. Mahnke and his team of writers spend hours upon hours per week on research alone. Lore covers the origins and influence of folklore and tall tales across the world. The podcast tackles subjects such as urban legends, curses, and the fear of darkness. The show won several awards as a podcast, and Amazon even released a TV version of select episodes.
Each episode features a variety of stories connected by a common theme. The stories are a combination of folklore influenced by modern-day legends. The series explores the mythic origins of creatures and purported ghosts. At the same time, it also explores real factual events such as massacres and serial killers. The podcast is crafted and narrated in a way that is detailed and keeps the listener on edge as they listen. It’s great for those who love to inject some horror into their campaign. You can even add real-world monsters into it if you wanted. Lore releases podcasts on a biweekly basis. Lovers of both the horror genre and D&D will love this series.
Hello from the Magic Tavern
Hello from the Magic Tavern is an improvised comedy interview-based podcast. The story begins with a character named Arnie who accidentally falls through a portal behind Burger King in Chicago. He unwittingly lands on a magical fictional land called Foon and then proceeds to podcast about the magical world. We don’t know why there would be internet on a magical land, but we’re fine with the story. Arnie is joined by two other characters in exploring the mystical world.
The characters explore while trying to escape the watchful eye of the evil Dark Lord. They also interview a variety of creatures or citizens with their own backstories. The podcast also features some guest stars who play new characters. Together, the players and guests build on the lore and continue to expand the story. A notable thing about the series is that it features detailed background information. This makes for a rich narrative and a fully inspired and hilarious series of adventures.
Welcome to Night Vale
Welcome to Night Vale is a fictional radio announcement show set in the town of Night Vale. The podcast depicts a place riddled with government conspiracies and unexplained events. An old lady guarded by a variety of angels in her home. A dog park haunted by mysterious hooded figures. A cat forever suspended above the sink in a station bathroom. These are just some of the tales you’ll hear. There’s plenty to draw from modern science fiction and summer camp tales. Each episode reveals more and more of what lurks in the town of Night Vale. The podcast comes off as the audiobook version of Twilight Zone but with the addition of pitch-black humor and deadpan delivery. And we can’t fail to mention the amount of artistic and literary effort that goes into the series.
Since its launch in 2012, the show has become a popular podcast. Some of its famous fans have even begun appearing as guests. Live performances have sold out quickly. The show now marks the transition into the physical world with its debut novel of the same title. The creators admit to meticulously looking through hundreds of episode scripts. Narrator Cecil Baldwin also adds to the quality of the podcast by delivering each line with care that has remained constant since Episode 1. Again, this is not a podcast that involves actual-play podcast of D&D. But it’s a great inclusion to this list for its highly imaginative sequences which is similar to D&D. If you want to add a literary quality to your gameplay, this is a podcast worth drawing inspiration from.
Dice, Camera, Action
D&D owners Wizards of the Coast have started its weekly video campaign Dice, Camera, Action. Dungeon Master Chris Perkins leads his gang in a campaign called the Curse of Strahd, set in a fictional city of Barovia. Here, the heroes must defeat a vampire count called Strahd using magical items. During their quest, the heroes will encounter plenty of magical creatures such as druids, werewolves, and other monsters. There’s also plenty of magic to experience and haunted houses to explore. While not as well-presented as other D&D podcasts, it’s straightforward storytelling. At the end of the day, this team is just admittedly a bunch of nerds enjoying play pretend through D&D.
How Can I Access These Podcasts?
Most, if not all, of the podcasts listed here can be streamed online for free. It’s also possible to download the podcasts if you are subscribed to the streaming service. You can even turn your regular MP3 podcast downloads into high-resolution podcasts if you have the space for it on your iPod or computer. To learn how to download podcasts as high-res, here’s a beginner’s guide on high-res audio. And if the endless recordings start to take its toll on you, you can always switch to listening to music. Check out this guide on how to download music to your MP3 player if you didn’t already know how.
What Are the Benefits of Listening to D&D Podcasts?
The podcasting medium is popular for true crime, comedy, and news. However, many people are starting to find themselves enamored with a new genre of podcasts, and that is none other than Dungeons and Dragons. Most of the D&D content available on podcasts are actual-play recordings. Actual play means a group of people sit down and record themselves playing a game. Granted that actual-play podcasts don’t replace firsthand adventures with friends, they are nevertheless a great way to get a feel for a campaign if you don’t have a group yet. And if you need an even deeper justification to play D&D, consider this: Life is already difficult and mundane as it is. Taking a trip down fantasy lane wouldn’t hurt.
Unique Method of Storytelling
Actual gameplay of D&D also offers a unique method of storytelling. It brings a healthy balance of literary fervor and creative improvisation to the high-fantasy genre. This combination is something that even non-D&D fans can appreciate. D&D belongs to the high-fantasy genre and has taken a lot of bad rap in the past for allegedly being escapist, satanic, or corruptive. Comics and high-fantasy novels based off of D&D should have helped elevate the genre. Unfortunately, most people are just don’t have the willingness nor the resources to read them.
D&D podcasts could potentially bridge the gap between hardcore fans and the non-nerds. Podcasting actual gameplay makes the genre appear much less intimidating to the average listener. It’s also much more accessible to the average D&D player as everything’s online.
Instructional for D&D Campaigns
Recorded gameplays are also instructional in a way. As expected, you’ll hear lively banter between friends. You’ll also most likely hear some commentary about game mechanics. But on a more serious note, listening to actual play also helps you to plan for your campaigns. It’ll give you great tips on how to design the story of your campaign along with tips on how to run it. Podcasts also help you get ideas on how to create amazing plots and characters. The characters that you create need to have the right set of skills and impact on your campaign. You’ll also realize that much like your character, there are a few skills that you need to have as a player. And that is a good sense of humor, dedication, and lots of creative thinking.
Final Thoughts on the Best D&D Podcasts
We’ve listed quite a number of podcast channels, but there’s plenty more of this type where that came from. Each podcast has a different story arc, set of characters, and timelines, but all of them share a common goal: to tell the best stories that they can with all the imaginative resources that they have. Podcasters dedicate significant time and effort to follow through with their campaigns. Often, they need to meet on a weekly or biweekly basis to complete a campaign on time. Some even go to extra lengths to improve the production value of their content. Most have their own web pages, logos, and fan pages. It’s also not uncommon for podcasters to dress up as their characters during live shows.
And if you still think that D&D is for antisocial nerds, these podcasts prove otherwise. These popular podcasters are ordinary people, complete with day jobs and meaningful relationships. They’re just a bunch of really good friends who share a passion for the game. It’s not a competition but a really fun and exciting way to spend time with friends. And everything they do give the impression that D&D is a cool and fun game to play.
Truth be told, you don’t have to be a nerd to appreciate good storytelling and unscripted humor. It would be even better if you could create your own campaign. Put as much effort into creating your imaginary world as you do into filling in the details. Don’t forget to invite your friends and have as much fun as the podcasters on this list. If you’ve never played D&D before, this is the perfect time to start.