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Creating & Producing a Dungeons & Dragons Actual Play Podcast

D&D Podcasts have recently become a more popular form of sharing the D&D experience with an online audience. There are hundreds of them out there, including the Adventure Zone, Not Another D&D Podcast, and plethora of others. I even have my own podcast that I will never stop talking about because I love working on it. However, it’s actually surprisingly easy to get everything set up. In today’s article, I’m going to tell you how I record and then produce my D&D podcast.

Note: These are tips for recording that specifically refer to digital tabletop RPG play and the use of Discord.

The Equipment & Software

First off, when it comes to equipment, you’ll want to focus on the microphone aspect of recording. Personally, I use the Blue Snowball but I know one of my players uses a Blue Yeti during our recording sessions. The Blue Snowball, as I’ve mentioned it before, is a perfectly good microphone and is far less expensive than the Yeti. However, what microphone you use could be entirely based on what you think will give you the best quality for the amount of money you’re paying for it.

Second, when it comes to recording software, the easiest to use is Audacity. However, there is another option. If you’re using Discord as a voice chat solution, recording a podcast can be made easier using a Discord bot called Craig. Craig is a bot that will join voice calls in Discord servers and will record the call for up to six hours or until you tell it to leave. After you do that, Craig will send you a link to download the audio files that it recorded. The great thing about it is that each person is recorded on a separate track and all of the tracks are perfectly synced with one another. Personally, this bot has made editing and recording really reliable and much easier. My hosts and I record with both Audacity and the Craig bot, using one as back-up audio. I also used the Craig files as a guide for syncing the Audacity files, mostly because none of us can do a sync clap to save our lives but also because the Audacity files tend to be a bit better quality than the raw Discord call.

Third, you can’t have a podcast if you don’t have a way to edit it all together. For my show, I used Adobe Audition and it works really well. There are a plethora of features that make using it really beneficial. However, not everyone is required to have a Creative Cloud subscription for their graphic design minor so not everyone has access to Audition. There are plenty of alternatives to Audition out there. The one that I’ve heard of most is, again, Audacity. Personally, it was too clunky as a audio editing tool so I never got far using it for that purpose but, perhaps others will be able to use it well. There’s also Garage Band and a number of the programs that can be used for this purpose.

One additional note that I will add to this section is about the resources that you can use when editing your podcast. Something like a podcast is typically a fantastic creative endeavor that really shines with the use of interesting or appropriate music and sound effects. If that is the kind of editing you’re interested in, you would do well to find some reliable sources for ambient music tracks and sound effects. For my podcast, I use Free Stock Music. This website has an entire section dedicated to cinematic fantasy music and, for the most part, there are some really good tracks on here. If you’re looking for ambient music tracks like the ambient noises of a bustling shopping district or an eerie dungeon, TableTop Audio is a wonderful source. I’ve used something from this site in both episodes of my podcast that I’ve released so far.

Releasing Episodes

When it comes to releasing episodes of a podcast, there are no shortages of podcast services to create an RSS feed through. There’s PodBean, Buzzsprout, Blubrry, Transistor, and plenty of other options to choose from. Use Your Imagination is hosted through PodBean but what service you use is up to you. When looking into podcast hosting, I would suggest comparing service pricing and the benefits of that service before paying for anything. Through most services, you’ll be able to link an RSS feed to services like Google Play, iTunes, and Spotify. From my personal experience, PodBean is completely free to use until you want to put the podcast on something like Spotify. Other services might function in the same way.

The next big thing you’ll want to think about is the name of your show and the cover/album art for the show that will appear on iTunes and other places. Use your Imagination is set in the same world as another show I do called Dungeons & Doodles, which is a Twitch stream with a lot of visual elements, including the free-hand drawing of maps. Since Use Your Imagination is a podcast and there is no visual element, I thought the name would be a clever play off the concept that we use for Dungeons & Doodles. When creating the album art for the show, I decided to stick with a similar aesthetic to my other show. Dungeons & Doodles uses an aesthetic similar to that of doodles that you might find in the notebook of some very imaginative high school kid. As you can see below, I went with the same aesthetic:

I would recommend doing something similar for your own show. The title of Use Your Imagination is a play on the Dungeons & Doodles umbrella title. Naming conventions can be different for every group that wants to do a podcast. It could be a play off the title of the game that you’re playing, like Dungeons & Doodles is a play off D&D’s title. It could be an egregious pun about dice. It could be even more egregious pun about ability scores. It all just depends on the type of campaign that you’re playing and the naming conventions that you want to stick with.

Another part of releasing episodes that you might want to consider is setting up a website to host information about the show and the hosts. I have one set up through Weebly for Dungeons & Doodles that acts a place to find information on both shows that fall under that umbrella. It also acts as a place for audience members to read a little bit about the hosts and their characters, find social media accounts, and access any accessibility resources we have set up.

You can use Weebly for your website. It’s free to a certain extent and has plenty of features that make it worthwhile. A fairly popular hosting site, however, is WordPress, which a lot of podcasts use to post about their show. If you’re feeling fancy, you could probably even set up something with SquareSpace but that’s your money, not mine.

Something to Consider

When you begin a podcast, it is important to remember the kind of audience that you are reaching out to and to remember that you have a chance to reach out to a very large community of people. I think one of the biggest things people forget is that the D&D community and the, probably just as large, community of people who regularly enjoy podcasts are two widespread niches of people. I urge you to find a way to provide transcripts for the episodes you release. Does it take a long time and a lot of work? Absolutely. Is it worth it? It’s worth it to know that the people who enjoy the podcast know that my other hosts and I care enough to put in the effort. Transcripts provide an accessibility option for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. And, not that I need to justify the need for transcripts beyond that, but transcripts are also a good way to reach a global audience as well. Written transcripts provide a resource for people who don’t speak or comprehend English so they can translate it better. Spoken English can sometimes be rough to do a written translation of, especially when you aren’t familiar with the language. Transcripts are also useful for people with attention deficits that hinder them from fully understanding the events of the episode just by listening to it.

Please make transcripts of your show.

Final Thoughts

Like I said, working on a podcast can be an incredible creative endeavor. Once you’ve figured out all of the technical stuff, producing can be just as fun as recording. You have full control over how music, sound effects, and other aspects of the process accentuate the narrative of your campaign or improve the experience for an audience.

If you enjoy D&D and want to share your experience I would recommend the podcast as another form of media through which to do just that.

To read about other options in sharing the D&D experience, read one of my past articles about budget-friendly table-top gaming.