On the Virtue of Actual Plays

Hello, all. I’m the CMO of Dice Envy, and an Actual Play streamer. I love tabletop roleplay games, and I’ve played a LOT of them (especially on Twitch!), but I’ve always wondered about the economy of actual play podcasts and streams. What percentage of the community watches/listens to them, and why?

There’s a couple schools of thought on the usefulness of APs: for some, they act as a tutorial for new or obscure game systems. Many AP streams go out of their way to show “session zero” character generation and constantly explain character abilities and rules adjudication. On the other hand, lots of APs run rules-light games and focus of the collaborative storytelling magic of TTRPGs and treat their campaigns as serialized radio plays. I’ve been a part of both, and I see the benefits and usefulness of both approaches, but I still return to my question: why do we watch? What makes us choose a group and a game and come back week after week to hear their story unfold?

I don’t know if I have an answer to this. Maybe that’s a strange flex for my first official blog post here, but stay with me. I want to know why YOU listen or watch, or why you don’t! Is it the GM’s NPCs, the player characters’ story arcs, or the excitement of how a dice roll can change everything so quickly? Is it the models and miniatures, or the strict commitment to “theater of the mind” gameplay, or something I never even considered?

I hope you jump into the comments and let me know. I hope you link me to Twitter threads and Tumblr posts and Medium articles discussing it, because the thing I truly love most about Actual Plays are the conversations they start about heroes’ journeys and cultural mores and the math behind the mechanics that drive the game altogether. So reach out. Let me know! And don’t forget to get out there and actually play!

- Aabria Iyengar

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