Dungeons & Dragons is an exciting game to play with your friends, but what do you do if no one in your friend group is interested in playing? Maybe your work schedules don’t give you much time to set up sessions, or you all want something different from your games. Whatever the case may be, there is another way to scratch that DnD itch: watching live-play shows. We’ve got some of the best DnD streams right here for you to check out with hours of content ready to go.
Where to Watch: YouTube and Twitch, streaming Thursday nights at 7 pm PST
Easily the most famous Dungeons & Dragons live-play show out there; Critical Role has managed to garner millions of fans in just five short years of being on-air. They’re so popular that they Kickstarted two seasons of animated episodes that Amazon Prime picked up and will be airing in February of 2022. Their secret? Everyone involved was already a well-known voice actor. With those kinds of industry connections and professional acting training, it’s no wonder that the seven players and their Dungeon Master, Matthew Mercer, have revolutionized D&D streaming and become so popular.
Campaign 3 recently began on October 21st, which could be an excellent point for new viewers to jump in. Even long-time fans are still learning the new characters and letting go of their old favorites. Each campaign is set in a new area of their homebrewed world, Exandria, and, so far, they’ve clocked in an impressive number of episodes for their two previous ones. Some of those characters originate from a shorter mini-campaign that took place over the summer with eight episodes, so if you want some context (and great shenanigans from guest DM Aabria Iyengar), you can start there too.
A note of warning to new viewers: generally, an episode of Critical Role will last around four hours. If you don’t have that kind of time, they provide a ten or fifteen-minute intermission halfway through the episode, which is an excellent place to stop and take a break. You can also listen to their podcast during a commute or while you’re working. Just make sure not to get emotional at work!
Where to Watch: CollegeHumor’s Dropout and YouTube
Unlike shows like Critical Role and Rivals of Waterdeep that continue the stories of the same characters for many episodes, Dimension 20 prefers shorter stories, often confining their campaigns to between eight and ten episodes. Each campaign is wildly different than the others, featuring new characters, settings, mechanics, and so much more. That means you never have to worry about getting behind on episodes.
It also allows the show to host a variety of cast members. While there are a few reoccurring cast members, and usually the Dungeon Master Brendon Lee Mulligan remains the same, the cast pulls from all around the DnD streaming community for new and exciting people to guest star on their show. Everyone is bound to find at least one campaign that strikes a chord within them.
As anyone who has ever played DnD knows, even professional actors can’t keep every moment entertaining. People take time to figure out their moves in battle or spend too long analyzing their equipment during a shopping trip which can be tiresome to watch. With Dimension 20, they edit the show so that you can get in on all the action and none of the in-between stuff. They tightly edit the one-hour episodes so the audience doesn’t spend a lot of downtime waiting for the next exciting event.
Where to Watch: YouTube and Twitch, streaming on Sundays 5 pm GMT
As the timezone likely gave away, these British DnD players, led by the incomparable Mark Hulmes, head off on their adventures Sunday evenings. If you can’t catch them live, worry not! They upload their shows to their YouTube channel and have podcasts available for people who prefer to simply listen to the streams instead of watching them.
They are currently in their second campaign, titled Aerois, which began in July of 2018. There are currently 127 episodes following the characters from level two to level 15. However, if following an entire campaign seems daunting, you’re in luck. High Rollers has made several multi-shots or mini-campaigns that feature completely different characters and settings.
For example, Uncharted Territory follows the adventures of a band of archaeologists exploring an ancient tomb. It’s more bite-sized than a more extensive campaign, clocking in at just eleven episodes. Or, if you aren’t sure about committing to that, they also have a ton of fantastic one-shots. The players pick a new character in a one-shot and wrap up the entire story in a single session. Great for a way to see if watching D&D streaming is what you want to pursue.
Rivals of Waterdeep
Where to Watch: Twitch, streaming Sundays at noon CST
At first glance, Rivals of Waterdeep can seem a little intimidating with so many episodes. However, they separate their episodes into eleven convenient seasons, each one consisting of ten episodes. If you’re going to get into their campaign, make sure to start from the beginning, though, since the seasons are direct continuations of each other and build on information and characters from episode one.
Waterdeep is an official Dungeons & Dragons setting released by Wizards of the Coast. Despite that, however, the show’s storylines don’t necessarily line up with what you’d find in their sourcebooks. However, some fans have enjoyed seeing the setting brought to life and identifying key characters within as being new creations or original ones from Waterdeep: Dragon Heist.
One exciting part of Rivals of Waterdeep is that they frequently rotate their Dungeon Masters. That means that the players can lead the games in their own unique styles and give the previous DM a break from the hard work. No one needs to commit to a long-term position, just to have some fun with their friends (and the audience!)
Critical Role is the worst. How is it so popular? My only guess is that it’s like Jersey Shore: it appeals to the lowest common denominator.