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The Problem with D&D Longplay Podcasts

I really like playing D&D but I have no one to play with. To that end, I’ve tried listening to a few D&D long play podcasts, but I’ve noticed I can’t keep my attention on any of them. They’re all just so boring and here’s the common problem: They don’t move forward fast enough.

There’s too much airtime placed on the players’ interactions in the environment or ten-minute debates on how to solve a puzzle. It’s like listening in on someone’s business meeting or a very long detailed book-on-tape. If you’re going to construct a story, you’ve got to play by one rule: keep the story moving.

But all these longplays, they’re always just dinking around, talking to the bartender, stealing a flower off a person’s headdress just because they can, having conversations with unimportant people in the back. And there’s always one guy who’s a newbie and that person never does anything bold or dramatic because they’re afraid to or don’t realize they can. They’re still in the mentality of board games. They’re thinking they’re the Sorry! piece, limited by the squares the rules say they can step on.

One episode should be like one chapter of a book. And in the first chapter of a book, I should know A) who the main character(s) is and B) the problem he/she is facing. Maybe a little bit about the stakes too, if one feels so bold. The problem with D&D is that only the game master knows what is being moved toward.

I did listen to the entirety of the My Brother, My Brother and Me‘s “Balance” arc (the first D&D podcast they did), and that was the best and really, the only one I could tolerate. That was for two reasons. One: The McElroy brothers are funny. And they’ve been podcasting for a long time so they know what works and what doesn’t in audio format. B) something about the structure — 7 plot coupons, resulting in 5-6 episode story arcs — meant there was a clear determined endpoint. The characters were dynamically different and working toward something. There was light at the end of the tunnel.

But these other longplays, no one seems to know how to measure time. Each action takes ten minutes to discuss, roll, and there’s nothing for the listener to latch onto. No snappy patter or consequence or plot revelations. It’s like a book that’s too long.

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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