Follow TV Tropes


Actual Play

Go To

"They take RPGs out of the basement and put them on the world stage, showing a global audience exactly how much fun roleplaying games can be when played by talented people who are fully invested in their shared stories."

Actual Play is a genre where real-life people play a Tabletop RPG to create a work that depicts them playing that game. The work is produced for audiences and depicts the game mechanics, the narrative created through the gameplay, and the players' experiences with that game. It's sometimes referred to as "live play".

This genre is not merely a start-to-finish raw recording of a private gaming session; it involves a mix of unscripted actions and improvisation, prior plotting and planning by the Game Master (GM)/Dungeon Master (DM), and Tabletop RPG Tropes. However, the resulting work is still presented as representing the reality of that game session even if there are creative modifications.

Actual Play may involve any of these and more:

  • Following the players as they progress from start to finish through a single campaign narrative and move In and Out of Character.
  • The cast playing different games or campaigns across different episodes or seasons.
  • Editing pre-recorded sessions to produce the resulting work, such as re-recording scenes or removing side commentary unrelated to the game.
  • Opting to streamline standard dice rolls for the sake of time or to modify the narrative.
  • Livestreaming during the game session or filming in front of a live audience, possibly as a semi-interactive show with Audience Participation influencing the live gameplay.
  • Conducting a playtest of a new or upcoming game release, sometimes as a promotion by the game's creators.
  • Video footage of the players as they play, images or animation depicting the characters or setting, and/or displaying the physical or digital tabletop used to play.

Features of interest may include the personalities or personas of the players, the narrative story told through their gameplay, or the demonstration of game mechanics for audiences seeking more information about playing that game.

Actual Play is not a fictional depiction like a Campaign Comic, Deep-Immersion Gaming, Role-Playing Game 'Verse, RPG Episode, or RPG Mechanics 'Verse. While it includes a fictional narrative, that narrative is created by multiple real-life people playing Tabletop RPGs in real life, not by a writer using game elements to craft a fictional work and controlling the outcome... although the GM may be a cheating bastard.

Compare with Let's Play for video games. See also Role-Playing Game Terms.

Not to be confused with an actual play.

Index of Actual Play pages:

    open/close all folders 

  • Record of Lodoss War is actually one of the oldest play-transcription series, having begun its primary run of serialization in 1986 to celebrate the first anniversary of D&D's Japanese release. Serialized in text in Comptiq Magazine (audio and video actual-play transcription being a far harder sell at the time), the play sessions ran from September of 1986 to September of 1988, with a brief break between April and June of '87, and then with two campaigns in near-parallel (one led by the berserker Orson, and one led by the fighter Spark; Orson's party concluded their adventures ahead of Spark's). Lodoss went on to have a very healthy history in adaptation (for which it is better known outside of Japan), but for a long time the original Comptiq articles were nearly Lost Media due to loss of archival versions — until a complete set of the first party's run (that is, Parn's party, the focus of the 1990 OVA) was found in 2021, and both preserved in Japanese and translated into English for the first time.
  • Spaceships and Psychics: Primarily a Review Blog for science fiction tabletop games, the creator also plays Solo Tabletop Games and presents them as an actual play series where explanations of the game's mechanics alternate with a prose-style narrative built from what happens mechanically.

    Live-Action TV 
  • HarmonQuest: A streaming service spin-off show of the regular sessions in Harmontown, it follows Dan Harmon along with other comedians and actors participating in a fantasy campaign. Live-action portions show the players sitting around the gaming table (filmed in-studio before a live audience) as they play and engage in improv comedy, and these are interspersed with animated segments showing what their characters are doing within the game world.


    Web Video 

    Western Animation 

Actual Play works without pages:

  • Autonomic is a family-friendly podcast that uses an original RPG system and follows a group of middle schoolers with magical powers as they protect the citizens of the world of Respite.
  • D And D-Minus is a Dungeons And Dragons game played by the cast and crew of The Scathing Atheist, with a heavy emphasis on the comedy potential. Eli Bosnick is the Dungeon Master, while Noahnote , Heathnote , sound engineer Morgannote  and Eli's wife Annanote  (frequently the Only Sane Man of the group) are the players. Patrons at certain tiers get to make suggestions, and may have their names used for NPCs. Notable for Heath's relentless trolling of Eli (in particular, forever insisting that his Dragonborn character is actually a Dragon), Morgan's kleptomania (he attempted to steal the pipe that an NPC had in their mouth at one point), Noah's character being a fantasy stoner with a magical tattoo on his ass that manifests wolves - ripping off his pants in the process - and Anna being reduced to shouting "God-Fucking-Dammit!" whenever any of these traits manifest.
  • CtrlGroup tests various RPG systems to see what they do well and go through a variety of settings, from Kingdom Hearts using Interstitial to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy using Lasers and Feelings.
  • The Eternity Archives follows tiefling nerd Ryl, lizard princess Zen, and office lady Linda as they work for a Library between worlds and travel into various universes (each represented by a different game system) to solve problems that arise when interdimensional artifacts accidentally land there.
  • Kingdom Hearts: A Forgotten Era uses Interstitial: Our Hearts Intertwined to play a game set 80 years before the events of the first Kingdom Hearts game. The characters are all OCs but the worlds they go to are all Disney or Disney-related media.
  • Not A Scratch combines elements of a Powered by the Apocalypse system with Pokémon Tabletop Adventures to play a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game.
  • Otherwhere is a Masks game following a team of teen heroes who get caught up in a dimension-hopping adventure.
  • Pod Against the Machine is a Pathfinder actual play using the Iron Gods Adventure Path.
  • Super Idols is a Masks: A New Generation game set in a world where adolescents with musical talent can also develop superpowers, and focuses on a high school idol club vying to become both pop sensations and national heroes.

Web Video

  • "DesiQuest": A D&D 5e video series taking place in an India-inspired fantasy setting and with an all-Desi fulltime cast.
  • RWBY: The Grimm Campaign: A RWBY-themed game of Dungeons & Dragons is played by the crew behind the show, telling a canon story that takes place two years before the events of the series.
  • WarHams: A Warhammer 40,000 campaign running off the Wrath & Glory RPG system set in the universe of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device. The players consist of TTS voice actors with Thurston Hillman GMing. The PCs are members of a newly established emissarial corp attached to Corvus Corax and Vulkan's Bro Trip Crusade. Notable in that viewers can donate money to contribute temporary bonus dice to either the players or the GM to either increase the odds of success, or to make things... complicated, in interesting ways.