What are the Best DnD Podcasts?
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, Yogscast all have actual play 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) and 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 railroad-y 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 till 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 creme de la creme of DnD podcasts, and Critical Role’s massive and dedicated fan base just serves to exemplify the popularity and quality of the 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, but 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 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, make 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 (their words, not mine, again).
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 subbed 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 amazing, full of motivations, connections to the world around them, and 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 they’re 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).
So, What’s the Best DnD 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 DnD? – Adventure Zone
Want the funniest DnD Podcast? – Adventure Zone 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
Want cool new ideas for your DnD Table? – Not Another D&D Podcast or Critical Role
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