In an article about starting an actual play podcast, a microphone in front of a computer
Starting your own actual play podcast is easier than you might think. (Image via Pixabay, Daniel Friesenecker)

How To Start Your Own Dungeons and Dragons Actual Play Podcast

You may run into unexpected challenges when starting your own podcast. Here’s some advice so you don’t run into the same problems I did.

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In an article about starting an actual play podcast, a microphone in front of a computer

You may run into unexpected challenges when starting your own podcast. Here’s some advice so you don’t run into the same problems I did.

Dungeons and Dragons is the perfect way to hone your storytelling ability. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the game master’s seat, running the characters and challenges of your fictional world or you are the player advancing the plot with your own actions. Everyone learns the fundamentals of tension and narrative when playing tabletop role-playing games. Crafting these stories chock-full of adventure is entertaining, to say the least. So naturally, when you play with a tight-knit group of friends, talk of your own actual play podcast may arise.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. Turning your game night into an actual play podcast can be daunting; you must be certain you are willing to put that kind of effort into it. Once you and your friends have a few microphones staring back at you, the whole tone of the room will change. If you’re the one running this thing, here are some things I wished I had known.

First, who am I to tell you how to run your podcast? I too was like you. My group of friends and I fell in love with our own tabletop experience so much that we had to give actual play podcasts a try. We salvaged what little spare change we had, invested in some equipment and started our podcast, “Arcane Etc.” Immediately, I ran into problems.

How To Face Technological Challenges

The first main challenge you need to overcome involves your equipment and recording space. You’ll quickly realize running a quality podcast means making some sacrifices. Your mouth can’t be away from the mic; you can’t walk around the room imitating some gigantic beast anymore. Also, the room you’re recording in will have a direct impact on the sound quality. You’ll have to think about balancing comfort and quality where you play.

Playing music that you don’t have the rights to in the background is also a big no-no. You might need to learn how to play in silence, and mix music together in post. Or if you’re going for a podcast that is unedited, you’ll need to find some royalty-free music online, which might not be as enjoyable as what you’re used to.

I’d recommend getting familiar with audio production. Learn the basics, and as you discover new challenges, watch video tutorials online on how to combat these issues. It’s likely that you and your friends can’t afford a professional recording studio, so you’ll have to find ways to make do.

Learn about mixing and mastering audio. Hang up blankets and make homemade reflectors and diffusers to accommodate sound reflection and reverb. At the end of the day, it’s about proper recording etiquette.

How To Structure Gameplay

The game master should make players aware of the changes being made to gameplay. While a normal game at home can last as long as your friends would like, pacing is incredibly important when running an actual play podcast. The game master must be aware of how long encounters are taking and be able to advance the plot or raise the tension when things are starting to get slow.

Also, how long are your episodes? An average game can last around four hours or more. Even though podcasts are long-form content, your episodes shouldn’t be too long. If you split each session into two episodes, then you will need to structure each half of gameplay as its own individual episode. Make something important happen in each half.

That’s a key thing to remember. How is each episode going to be memorable? You need to leave your audience with excitement. What’s going to keep them invested? What will stay on their minds all the way until the next episode is released?

Think of it like a TV show or another form of content you enjoy. What keeps you invested in the shows you enjoy, and how can you incorporate similar methods into your own podcast? Each episode, encounter and combat scenario needs a purpose. That’s not only the game master’s job, either.

How To Keep the Energy Up

Remember, people are listening to this; hopefully it’s not just your friends tuning in. Watch out for things like player fatigue, and make sure everyone is taking a healthy number of breaks and keeping energy high. If your players are going to get sleepy, then don’t record late at night. No one wants to listen to your players slur their tired words or yawn into the microphone.

You and your players need to master your own radio voices. No, you don’t need to sound like a famous disc jockey, but you need to actively participate and give your listeners something worth listening to.

One trick is to focus on entertaining yourself and your friends at the table. If you care about your character and the fictional setting, then so will your audience. Remember that your listeners can hear your passion, so be excited to record, and have fun!

Prioritize What’s Important to Your Group

Make sure you and your players are having fun. There are hundreds of actual play podcasts out there to enjoy. Don’t sacrifice your fun for a podcast. Your group’s inside jokes and love for the stories you tell are sacred at your table.

When it becomes an actual play podcast, that means it’s in the public’s hands. Suddenly the games and stories you and your friends are so proud of are now subject to criticism and internet ridicule. If you don’t want to take that risk and just want to have fun, then why get microphones involved?

On the other hand, maybe everyone will love it. Perhaps the criticism makes you a better game master or player. You will never know unless you give it a try — that’s the risk that content creators take with every upload.

Just know there’s a whole community of amateur actual play podcasters that go through similar challenges. You aren’t alone in your ambition, and we understand the pursuit. Whatever you choose to do with your Dungeons and Dragons game, make sure you have fun.

For other tips on running a podcast, check out this article here.

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