Appreciation for Actual Plays

Appreciation for Actual Plays

I talk a lot about games on this page. So far, that’s been a whole lot of video games and the occasional LARP thing, but one kind of game that I absolutely have not talked about yet somehow is tabletop roleplaying games (or TTRPGs). I don’t know why this isn’t a thing I’ve talked about yet. I really don’t, especially since they tend to take up a decent chunk of my life. There’s something about friends gathering around a table and playing a game that just appeals to me. Everyone’s working together to tell the story that’s been laid out for them.

The internet has really only made this better as it’s allowed people to share the adventures they get up to at the table with a larger audience and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I love it. I think part of that goes back to my love of a good story and my love of having other people tell me about the kinds of adventures they get up to in their own games.

(Stories are a big part of my life. Can you tell?)

I’m sure by now we’re all familiar with the juggernaut that is Critical Role, so today, I wanted to highlight a few of my favorites that maybe you haven’t heard of yet.

L.A. By Night

 

This one is probably the biggest name on my list of personal favorite actual plays to listen to. If you’re a fan of Vampire: The Masquerade, you’ve probably heard of L.A. By Night. I didn’t actually find out about this one until it was well into Season 3 and I’ve been enjoying it ever since.

L.A. by Night is a dark tale of personal horror that follows four vampires, or kindred, as they attempt to navigate Los Angeles nights and the politics of vampiric society. I greatly enjoy this show as it’s not only phenomenally acted by a quartet of professional actors (and several guest stars), but it’s also amazingly told by Jason Carl. As the game’s storyteller, Jason weaves an incredible narrative, and any time he utters the phrase, “I’ll make note of that,” there’s a slight twinge of fear in the back of my mind for when that particular point will come up again later to potentially ruin someone’s day.

If you’re a fan of vampire stories or gothic horror, this might be a good one for you to check out, and with Season 5 officially beginning on September 2021, now’s the best time to catch up! Seasons One through Three can be found on Geek and Sundry’s YouTube channel (season 4 can be found here), and you can watch it live come September on the World of Darkness Twitch channel.

Gehenna Valley

If you’ve never heard of Monsterhearts 2, I don’t think I would blame you for that. I, myself, didn’t learn of its existence until Critical Role’s Cinderbrush oneshot. But Monsterhearts 2… take every CW high school drama you’ve ever heard of and make those high school students monsters in some way. It’s a fun game to play and even more entertaining to watch as the game itself is a collaborative experience.

There aren’t many MH2 actual plays out there, unfortunately. The majority of them tend to be confined to oneshots, and I honestly thought that’s all I would ever see until Gehenna Valley. Set in the fictional Massachusetts town of Gehenna Valley, five teenagers (and one GM) come together to tell the stories of their high school experience. Whatever direction you think it’ll go in, I can guarantee you that you’ll be wrong.

I enjoyed this one in particular because you actually got to see their Session Zero and how building out the world they were playing in worked, which I feel like you don’t get to see too often in games like this.

While the game has sadly come to an end now, you can still watch it in its entirety on YouTube.

Realms Apart

 

Realms Apart is a game that I found simply because I’ve been following the people who play in it for… literally years at this point. The majority of them are LARP-related YouTubers I have followed at one point or another. When the pandemic hit, they decided to play Dungeons and Dragons as a way to keep adventuring together, and then it eventually became a podcast!

Originally taking form as a series of animatics on YouTube (that proved to be a bit too difficult to do in the long run), the podcast is being re-released as a more atmospheric experience, using lighting, sound effects, and set pieces to evoke the feeling of the places the game takes place in. Mo Mo O’Brien, the woman editing all of this, even has a few videos going into the behind-the-scenes of the podcast re-release, which I very much appreciate.

You can listen to Realms Apart on YouTube and Spotify.

Death 2 Divinity

 

This is the newest one on my list of personal favorites. In fact, it’s brand new, only having four episodes in total as of this writing (and soon to be more). Part of the reason why I genuinely love this one is that the game itself was built around addressing the lack of size diversity in TTRPG spaces. All the players (and their characters) are fat (and proud of it). There are a variety of non-binary identities present in both the players and the characters. It’s a space that I just genuinely love and have come to adore.

In Death 2 Divinity, the people of Acrimon took to the skies when the Wildes overtook the land below, and the heroes come together to reclaim the land from the Feywild. Full of gay disasters and a variety of homebrewed things (including a new genasi subrace!), I don’t think anyone will be disappointed by this one. (Unless you just don’t like body positivity in your TTRPGs. In which case, you are absolutely in the wrong place.)

Catch Death 2 Divinty live on Jude (aka MermaidRoyal’s) Twitch channel, watch the VODs on their website, or listen to the podcast on Spotify!


What about all of you? Do you have a favorite TTRPG actual play you listen to?

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