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Actual Play

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"[Actual Play shows] 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. More than that, Actual Play can help gamers become better gamers. Game designers have long bemoaned the fact that it's impossible to put themselves into the box to show people how to have the most fun while playing their games. Actual Play gives players of all skill levels full-bore examples of how to get the most out of their own games, presented in a format that's easy to share and enjoy."

Actual Play is a genre where real people play a Tabletop RPG to create a work that depicts their actual play of 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 "real play" or "live play".

An Actual Play work is not merely a start-to-finish raw recording of a private gaming session; it is created for public consumption. 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.
  • Using House Rules 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 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 Actual Play includes a fictional narrative, that narrative is created by real people playing actual games 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 

    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 
  • Tabletop: Part of Geek & Sundry. Essentially Tabletop Gaming: Celebrity Edition, hosted by Wil Wheaton with guest celebrities and Internet personalities. Mostly played board games, but some RPGs like Dragon Age, Dread, FATE, and Fiasco.
  • Ten Candles
  • TFS at the Table: A subset of Team Four Star's gaming channel. What the crew plays has alternated between random tabletop games (like Cards Against Humanity and 5-Minute Dungeon), a long-term campaign using Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition rules in a setting created by DM Chris Zito, a Natural Oneders campaign, and an original 2d6 system.
  • TitansGrave: The Ashes of Valkana: A spinoff of Tabletop and a celebrity tabletop RPG campaign GMed by Wil Wheaton with players Yuri Lowenthal, Laura Bailey, Hank Green, and Alison Haislip. The campaign is set in an original post-apocalyptic Science Fantasy Constructed World and runs on the Fantasy AGE game system. Became a Green Ronin campaign book.
  • The Town Of Nowhere: A subseries of Vinesauce and an unorthodox form of tabletop RPG gameplay created by RevScarecrow. Using various assets that mimic CGA graphics, Rev acts as a Game Master for his Twitch stream's sole Player Character, whose main goal is to find their sister in a West Texas town where monsters and other magical beings live in relative normalcy. Tends to go Off the Rails because any chat member can submit for a majority vote what they want said character to say or do.
  • Trapped in the Bird Cage: Hosted by Holly Conrad and set in more-or-less the same universe as Dice, Camera, Action!, but 25 years earlier in the City of Sigil. Four complete strangers are sucked out of their universes and into a closet within a tea room run by an old lady wereraven called Crone, who then sets the newly-formed Crowbar Crew to various tasks which she says are necessary to save Sigil.
  • The Unexpectables: A Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition campaign set in the mysterious land of Alivast, a relatively unknown frontier land. The players' characters, each having come to this new land for their own reasons, form a band of adventurers, eventually dubbed the Unexpectables. Live-streamed and then available as videos or a podcast. Sister campaign to The Prince Division.
  • Valiant Comics RPG Vanquished: From Hyper RPG. A high-stakes action-adventure based in the superhero universe of Valiant Comics and now canon to it, using a variant of Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game by Catalyst Game Labs. Five newly-born Psiots fight to survive against a shadowy organization than their utter destruction.
  • Verum: A world created by Arcadum, who also hosts a series of campaigns in said world that interconnect and at times even outright cross paths. The series focuses most heavily on the game and characters rather than the players; at the same time, his players include a wide variety of internet personalities, from Twitch Streamers, to cosplayers, to voice actors.
  • World Of Oredin: Encompasses eight campaigns in one Shared Universe using Dungeons & Dragons rules.
  • Wyrmwick Campaign: Named after the setting's kingdom's name, it's a Dungeons & Dragons campaign formed by members of Channel Awesome with LordKaT serving as the Dungeon Master.

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.
  • 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 Pokemon 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

  • 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.


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