Do you have enough DnD in your life? Likely not, if you’re reading this article.
There is no doubt that we are in the golden age of DnD, with the 5th Edition (5e) selling more copies than the 3rd, 3.5 and, 4th editions (as confirmed by a tweet by Mike Mearls, the lead designer of DnD’s 5th Edition).
It could be that 5e has brought DnD back to its roots with a more accessible system, or that the late 2010’s have seen a normalization of nerd culture, but I think that a major player in the popularity of 5e has been the internet.
Youtube has been a massive help for DnD to expand its audience. Channels like SourceFed, AchievementHunter, Critical Role, Funhaus, and Yogscast all have “actual play” (unedited) videos reaching towards the 1 million views mark (and some far surpassing that mark). This, combined with the number of tutorial videos and other resources available (like Matt Collville and Web DM), has made DnD a lot more accessible than it has been at any time in its past.
Another medium that has increased the accessibility of absorbing good DnD content has been podcasting. DnD lends itself to the audio format a lot more than most games, with the roleplay aspect being almost entirely verbal, while combat is slow, turn-based, and very descriptive.
With DnD’s rise in popularity and the ease of entry into the podcasting game, the market has been filled with different DnD podcasts. While every podcast has its highlights, in this article I’ll be showcasing the best DnD podcasts — the ones that do the best job of weaving a story to share with other people and draw you into their fantasy world.
I will be using my own experience, as well as the rating scheme on Apple Podcasts to help you figure out which DnD podcast deserves your attention next. One thing to note: I will be listing these podcasts in order of their number of reviews on the iTunes store.
★★★★★ – 2,253 Reviews
Personal Score: 8/10
The Adventure Zone was the first DnD podcast I listened to and gets pretty much all of the credit for getting me into DnD in the first place.
I got a concussion playing hockey and had to stay away from screens for over a month, so I decided to turn to podcasts to keep me entertained. None of the podcasts I tried really stuck until The Adventure Zone and, oh boy, did it stick. Here is a link to The Adventure Zone’s latest podcast on Spotify.
The Adventure Zone is a podcast created by the McElroy brothers (and their dad) which tells the tale of the following group:
- Magnus Burnsides (portrayed by Travis) – A human fighter/rogue
- Merle Highchurch (portrayed by Clint, their dad) – A dwarven cleric
- Taako (portrayed by Justin) – An elven wizard.
The podcast started as an “experimental DnD episode” on the McElroy brother’s popular podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me. This trial run was received extraordinarily well and was turned into a full-time podcast.
The Adventure Zone has now put out four arcs, all focusing on different tabletop role-playing games. Episodes 1 to 69 (The Balance Arc) is their most popular and focuses on DnD.
I will say, this podcast starts out absolutely amazing. The first four mini-arcs are the perfect blend of comedy, story-telling, and DnD, but as the characters progress the story-telling starts to take a front seat. The podcast begins to feel a bit railroaded towards the end and drops some of the emphasis on DnD.
That’s not to say that the second half of the Balance Arc is bad. It has some amazing moments in its own right and there is no possible way you could listen up until the end of their fourth mini-arc and not finish the series.
All in all, I would give this podcast an 8/10 and would highly recommend it if you are looking for a great DnD campaign with laughs and an awesome story.
★★★★★ – 742 Reviews
Personal Score: 8/10
Critical Role is the most popular DnD media of all time. The podcast follows a group of pretty famous voice actors and their equally famous DM, Matt Mercer, around an epic journey that is not only beautifully written, but masterfully produced. All of the characters have extremely deep backstories, their role-playing is spot on, and the story is extremely immersive.
This is really the crème de la crème of DnD podcasts, and Critical Role’s massive and dedicated fan base just serves to exemplify the popularity and quality of their content. Here is a link to Critical Role’s latest podcast on Spotify.
The Critical Role storyline encompasses two campaigns.The first follows a group of 8 adventurers calling themselves Vox Machina, where the party consists of:
- Pike Trickfoot the Gnomish Cleric — voiced by Ashley Johnson
- Keyleth the Half-Elven Druid— voiced by Marisha Ray
- Percival “Percy” Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III the Human Gunslinger — voiced by Taliesin Jaffe
- Grog Strongjaw the Goliath Barbarian — voiced by Travis Willingham
- Scanlan Shorthalt the Gnomish Bard — voiced by Sam Riegel
- Vex’ahlia the Half-Elven Ranger — voiced by Laura Bailey
- Vax’ildan the Half-Elven Rogue — voiced by Liam O’Brien
The first campaign came to a conclusion in November 2017 and ran for a total of 115 episodes and 373 hours of gameplay.
The second, once again, follows a group of 8 adventurers. This time calling themselves the Mighty Nein, the party consists of:
- Yasha the Aasimar Barbarian — voiced by Ashley Johnson
- Beauregard the Human Monk — voiced by Marisha Ray
- Mollymauk Tealeaf the Tiefling Blood Hunter — voiced by Taliesin Jaffe
- Fjord the Half-Orc Warlock — voiced by Travis Willingham
- Nott the Brave the Goblin Rogue — voiced by Sam Riegel
- Jester the Tiefling Cleric — voiced by Laura Bailey
- Caleb Widogast the Human Wizard — voiced by Liam O’Brien
The second campaign is about 57 episodes in (at the time of writing) and has about 220 hours of gameplay so far.
While Critical Role is mainly known for its Twitch and Youtube presence, as all sessions are shot with audio and video, it still makes for an awesome podcast if you are looking to listen to this amazing story while commuting, at work, or not able to be watching for some other reason.
One thing I will say is that people new to DnD will likely find this series quite intimidating. Things move very fast and there is a lot of homebrew content that has been added by the master DM Matt Mercer. Also, the first campaign starts in the middle of the campaign, with the party’s arrival to Kraghammer, and just jumps right into the story with very little background information. This, combined with the poor audio quality of the first three episodes, makes me hesitant to recommend starting off your DnD podcast-listening career with the first campaign of Critical Role.
General discussion around the Critical Role subreddit (shoutout to r/CriticalRole) is that Campaign 1 is more light hearted and high fantasy than Campaign 2. Campaign 2’s characters are more morally grey whereas Vox Machina was a sort of collection of benevolent super-powered individuals. That said, it is really hard to compare the two campaigns as it would be very similar to comparing Daredevil to The Avengers. Sure they are both awesome and entertaining, but they are playing in completely different leagues.
As an avid DnD player and listener, I was able to break through the intimidation surrounding the fast and hard introduction to Critical Role’s 1st campaign and would give it a straight up and down 10/10. Like I said above, the story is incredible, characters are deep and very well-portrayed, and the quality of the podcast never wavers.
As for Critical Role’s 2nd campaign, I would give it an 8/10. I still love the story and you can best believe I am listening to the new episode every Thursday, but, to me, there seems to be a fair amount of bloat with the character’s backstories that doesn’t necessarily bog down the campaign, but definitely convolutes it a bit.
★★★★★ – 505 Reviews
Personal Score: 11/10
Not Another D&D Podcast is the brainchild of long-time DM and ex-Collegehumor writer, Brian Murphy. The show also contains 3 other Collegehumor alumni: Jake Hurwitz (known for Jake and Amir, and co-founder of the Headgum podcast network), Emily Axford (known for Hot Date, alongside her husband Brian Murphy), and Caldwell Tanner (known for Cartoon Hell and Big City Greens). Here is a link to the intro episode for the Not Another D&D Podcast on Spotify.
The podcast follows the Band of Boobs (their words, not mine) through the homebrewed realm of Bahumia. This campaign is supposed to take place after a group of Legendary Heroes rallied an army to defeat the ruler of the Nine Hells. But, after they did, everything started sucking ass again (again, their words, not mine).
This podcast has a heavy emphasis on comedy, but the player’s goofs are kept in reign by their DM, who has an excellent grasp for core DnD gameplay, story-telling, world building, and homebrewing unique mechanics.
At the time of writing, this podcast has 58 episodes with a run time of about 1.5 hours per episode.
I’m going to be completely honest and say this is my favorite DnD podcast of all time. I have listened through the entire thing at least twice and subscribed to their Patreon for their aftershow “The Short Rest” and I still can’t get enough.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’ve been a Collegehumor fan since I was in elementary school, but I like to think it is because this is the funniest DnD podcast currently running and maybe ever.
The PCs characters are full of motivations, connected to the world around them, and have a deep backstory that keeps getting added to by the awesome writing of Brian Murphy and roleplay by the players. The NPCs are even better — Brian has a way of creating characters that have a great place in the story, while never overshadowing the players and simultaneously being hilarious.
All in all, this podcast gets an 11/10 from me. You better believe I will be listening every week until the end (and probably relistening after that).
★★★★★ – 4.9, 47 Ratings
Personal Score: 7/10
Dames and Dragons is another D&D Podcast that plays on the lighter side of things. The cast consists of 5 friends from highschool playing through the homebrewed city of Estra.
The podcast follows Laika the Tiefling Paladin, Fran the watersoul genasi illusory wizard, Corbin the human druid, and Slake the half-orc Fighter. What ensues is a hilarious, goof-filled adventure where they are charged with looking after the Goddess of their world.
The DM, Kat, has made a very interesting world. It has a very unique setting (being on a floating island) and it is clear her players enjoy the environment that has been set up for them. You can check out their podcast on Spotify here
Much like Not Another D&D Podcast and The Adventure Zone, this podcast has a heavy emphasis on comedy. I find myself laughing out loud quite often when listening to this podcast. It is clear that the cast of Dames and Dragons is playing for the fun of it and letting us listen in. One thing to note is, with all of the goofs and memes comes a break in the immersiveness to some degree. I definitely have a lot of fun listening to this podcast but at times I wished they would get back into gameplay a bit faster.
Also like The Adventure Zone, Dames and Dragons tends to depart from the realms of D&D 5e at times and runs a fairly linear, railroaded story. If you are looking for a comedy podcast that has RPG elements, Dames and Dragons is definitely for you. If you are looking for high-level D&D 5e play that can heighten your skills as a player, I would look elsewhere.
★★★★★ – 5.0, 2,745 Ratings
Personal Score: 9/10
The Glass Cannon Podcast is an Actual Play Pathfinder Podcast that originally started in June of 2015. Why, you ask, is a Pathfinder podcast in a list for the best D&D Podcasts? Simple, The Glass Cannon Podcast is amazing.
It’s very rare to find podcasts that can hold a candle to Critical Role in terms of sheer gameplay quality, but The Glass Cannon Podcast has such an amazing mix of humour, story, suspense, and chemistry between players that truly comes off as something very special.
The game is run by Troy Lavallee and follows players Skid Maher, Joe O’Brien, Grant Berger, and Matthew Capodicasa as they interweave immersive storytelling, awesome gameplay, and great table chemistry. You can check it out on Spotify here:
A good thing to note is The Glass Cannon Podcast, unlike Critical Role, starts the campaign at session 1. This definitely lowers the bar when it comes to jumping in to this podcast. However, the early campaign features a lot of combat, which can get a bit tedious for newcomers. If you stick it through though, you will be rewarded with a high stakes, top-notch storytelling podcast with clean over 200 episodes.
★★★★★ – 4.9, 260 Ratings
Personal Score: 9/10
Dungeons and Daddies is a comedic, real-play Dungeons and Dragons podcast about four dads from our world flung into a land of magic and fantasy in a quest to rescue their lost sons. The show features the talents of DM Anthony Burch, Matt Arnold, Will Campos, Beth May, and Freddie Wong.
Before listening to this podcast, I saw a lot of talk around the web comparing Dungeons and Daddies to Adventure Zone and I have to say, the comparison is spot-on. The early episodes certainly have the same “learning to play the game” feel as The Adventure Zone and the gameplay is a bit more skewed towards improv and player/character chemistry rather than going through a more traditional campaign structure. I really like the way they rift off of each other and test their DM’s (Daddy Master) boundaries in a way that doesn’t seem forced or like they’re solely hoping to make the audience laugh.
The podcast is still in its infancy at only 22 episodes at time of writing. But, from what I have heard so far I will certainly be listening every time I need a laugh.
You can check it out on Spotify here.
So, What’s the Best D&D Podcast?
I guess the answer to this is, it depends. There isn’t really a hard and fast decision, it’s more about your situation and what you’re feeling at the time.
I’d say some general guidelines would be:
New to D&D? – The Adventure Zone, Dames and Dragons
Want the funniest D&D Podcast? – The Adventure Zone, Dames and Dragons or Not Another D&D Podcast
Want to cry? – Listen through The Adventure Zone till the end or Critical Role
Want top tier DMing and Roleplay? – Critical Role, The Glass Cannon
Want cool new ideas for your D&D Table? – Not Another D&D Podcast or Critical Role
Hope you liked the article! If you have any questions or feel we’ve missed anything go ahead and post a comment below. If you like our content subscribe to Arcane Eye!