Five Tips to Start an Actual Play Podcast

Start an Actual Play PodcastSo, you wanna start an actual play podcast?

Well, first of all, who the hell do you think you are? You come to our site and read our articles, and now you are looking to create your own podcast in order to compete with us? Oh, I see how this is – but fine, I understand. Why wouldn’t you want to join in on the fun of podcasting. I mean, it seems like a fairly easy thing to do. You already roleplay with your friends, so how hard could it be to slap a microphone in front of you all and do your thing? You’ve been told you have a face for radio – so podcasting is a natural progression!

However, it isn’t easy! Actual Play Podcasting is difficult. It takes time! And it requires you to do some things that you might not realize starting out. So, as a man who is looking to piss off Jesus by giving out all of Fandible’s secrets, let me help you out with some rules.

1) Invest

You invest time and you invest money into a podcast. If you want to keep your audience’s attention, you need to invest both of these things. You need to realize that for every play session that occurs, it will most likely take you longer to relisten to the recording and edit it. So if you are aiming to release a new episode every week, you gotta put a night out of your week to just editing and setting up the podcast for distribution. It isn’t fun, but that’s why we make Jesus do it for us.

But time isn’t all you need to fork over for a podcast – you gotta fork over money. You gotta invest in some equipment – and I wouldn’t recommend going cheap. In the beginning of Fandible, we used a single Snowball mic in the center of the table. While it worked, it wasn’t exactly easy on the ears of the audience. You need to find solid mics, a mixer, and pop filters in order to give the audio quality that is both professional and pleasant to your listeners. Movies invest in video equipment, painters invest in quality paints, and you need to invest in audio.

Currently Fandible is using one of these for a mixer . Our mics are these. Our pop filters are these. All of these are a nice balance of quality and price for us. We are always looking to improve our equipment, so these might change eventually, however for now they get the job done.

2) Use Audacity

This could probably go into the Invest catagory but I just wanted to point out how amazing Audacity is. The best part about the program is that it’s not only comprehensive but FREE. Yes, it is free. And while some people might look at it and go cross eyed at all the features it offers, the site has plenty of guides to help you.

The biggest thing I would recommend to a person using Audacity is using the ‘Noise Removal’ tool in the Effect drop down. Basically, you highlight a section of silence in your audio. You get a Noise Profile. And then you tell Audacity to remove that noise profile from the entire podcast. What this does is remove the background noise that occurs in everywhere. This is fantastic if you have a constantly humming AC unit in the background. This effect  is the bare minimum you should do for your podcast!

3) No Food

I know. Eating and Gaming go hand in hand. It is like going to the movies and not eating a twelve dollar popcorn! However, when you are recording an actual play podcast, you can’t have food at the table. Why? Well, it’s simple – people will hear you. Especially if you have solid audio equipment like we mentioned above.

Imagine you’re listening to the speech at the end of Independence Day and the President is interrupted midway by someone trying to open a Frito bag. While you wouldn’t fault the person for craving some Fritos during the end of the world, it isn’t really a good thing to hear when building dramatic tension. Plus, some people just can’t stand the sound of chewing.

So, no food at the table. And if you do need to have a drink, please keep a cap on it (especially around character sheets and expensive equipment!).

4) “You and You and You…”

When you’re gaming, it is easy for you to just point to someone and say “Me and you are going to charge the monster. Ready? Go!”. And while it is easy for everyone at the table to know who you are talking about, your listeners aren’t there to see where you are pointing. So! You have to make sure you use names. You can either use the character’s name or the player’s name, but you should absolutely avoid using ‘you’. Or just snap pointing.

You should also try to paint the scene with words when you are using a map. Fandible isn’t always great at this, but if you need to resort to a map, once the players see it, then you need to make the listeners can see it in their heads. It might not be easy at first, but you’ll get the hang of it eventually.

5) Do What You Want

Seriously, don’t do a podcast if you don’t want to do it the way you want. Because podcasting takes time and effort, and you won’t want to continue it if you aren’t dedicated to what you are talking about. So if you feel that the world deserves to hear your thoughts and theory on throat singing, you make that happen. You do it how you want to do it. You follow your vision. Take advice, clearly, and don’t be angry when advice is given, but the only way a podcast is going to continue is if you do what you want and how you want it.

It might take some time to get people to comment, but just keep uploading new material. As they say in the movies – If you build it, they will come.

 

So! That is the top five things you should do when starting a podcast. And while Fandible isn’t the most professional group of roleplayers and podcasters, these are the things that have helped us in the past. So, hopefully they will help you.

Do you have any tips and tricks to pass on to your fellow podcasters? Share them in the comments below!


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About the Author
Billy started out his roots like many roleplayers - D&D. Playing it and then Vampire all through highschool and college, Billy picked it all up again when he made the move from Michigan to New York. Now working in publishing, Billy does what he can to view roleplaying games through a narrative's lens. Does that sound classy as balls? It should.

6 comments on “Five Tips to Start an Actual Play Podcast

  1. Marco says:

    This is what I needed! I’ve been interested in hosting an actual play podcast since I’ve started listening to a few and wanted to do one but never understood how. I’m from Italy and Actual Roleplay Podcast are a rare sight (up until today) so I thought I would make one.
    Thank you Billy, I needed to read pointers on how to start.

    A few questions:
    – Since I’m not proud of my voice and I REALLY want to be the host of the podcast, would you recomend taking voice lessons to get me there or do you have any tips on how to sound better while being recorded?
    – You produce a high number of shows, so I recon you’ll need more than one night per week to edit them all… How long does it take to edit a 2/3 hours show? Do you need to have Editing background from school or something? Can a noob like me pick it up?

    Thank you very much for the high quality work you put out every week. You keep me entertained and make my day job not only bareble but FUN cause I can listen to you guys (and Gal).

    Marco

  2. Arvandus says:

    The best advice I can give you Marco is to just do it. Get started and don’t worry about being fantastic right off the bat.

    I started recording/editing games with a blue snowball mic and 1 day of audacity training. And by training I mean I installed the program, saw it didn’t crash my computer, and said “meh, lets see what happens”.

    Use the advice Billy gives you and start from there. You will eventually get better and get more comfortable with recording a game. Your beginning stuff wont be your best, but you can only get better if you have a place to start from.

    And then put your PC’s in horrible situations and give them annoying children they cant defeat. Best advice I can give you.

  3. Barsher Da Barsher says:

    Hey hey,

    I am all about self-improvement and if you feel you want to enhance your voice, I would recommend you trying out a voice teacher. Do you need it? Nope! But some people like having a personal trainer to help them at a gym and some just wing it. So, neither decision is wrong – just do what you feel necessary. If you’ve always felt your voice could use some work, why not give a voice trainer a try.

    What helped me is trying to end my sentences on a down beat. I also try to talk slower and enunciate. Again, these are all things a voice teacher can work with you on. However, if you are looking for a cheaper alternative, try looking for lessons on Youtube. Youtube probably has some amazing voice coaches who can get you started on some voice techniques.

    As for the editing, you don’t need to go to school for it. Download Audacity, play with it, and then read some helpful guides online. You’ll find a bunch of help via videos and webpages so you don’t have much to worry about.

    Of course, audio editing isn’t something you can pick up easily if you want to be a professional in Hollywood! But for podcasting, it can absolutely be self taught. And I’d wager most of it is. Give it a try!

  4. Marco says:

    Fantastic!
    Thank you so much for the great advice. I started working on this project!
    Another thing: how important do you consider Social Media in a podcast? Is it possible, nowadays, to start a podcast without a presence on Facebook, Twitter or Youtube?

    There are podcasts that also use a live chat room during recording time. How do you feel about that?
    Personally I think it detract from the general experience, therefore I appreciate you guys don’t do that 😀

  5. Barsher da Barsha says:

    I am not very good with social media. I wish I actually was better at it. While you don’t need to really be strong on social media to become a podcast… it helps. I feel if Fandible took a stronger approach to social media early on, we’d probably have more listeners. Of course – that isn’t to say we haven’t worked hard at improving, but we’ve seen other podcasts rise in popularity quicker because of solid programming and great social media skills.

    If you don’t have any social, you are hoping that people find you organically. Which is something you can do but… well… it takes time. If you are starting a podcast, I highly recommend you joining a podcast community and atleast having a Twitter account going. That’s the very least you should do. Not only do podcasts help other podcasts, but by joining Social Media, you’re brought into a loop.

    As for the general chat room question – I think certain Podcasts do well with it. I think Fandible would do well with it but only during our GTRT chats. For an actual play podcast, I think it would be just another distraction in the story trying to be told. However if you are just talking about opinions and such, I don’t see a reason why not to incorporate it if you want to.

    I think overall, it’s important to give your audience a place to chat with you. Social Media does this. Live chat rooms do it. Just find something you feel comfortable with.

    But yeah, social media is pretty important if you desire to be well known.

  6. Fairystail says:

    Just recently started running an Unhallowed Metropolis game with a few people on Roll20 and while it is early days the group is fantastic, everything i could want in a group. especially with stuff like how our doctor keeps hitting on our mourner with anger issues or the criminal closed the door on someone during an outbreak and asked them how much they were willing to pay to be let in. and I have never had a game before where i ever said ‘great now i don’t need to look up the rules for chloroform’
    its early days as i said but if i end up sticking with these guys and we en up playing other games together then I know i’m going to be asking them about making a podcast and using your advice so thanks Billy

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