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A Fantasy Geek’s Guide to YouTube: RPG Let’s Plays Part Two – Honourable Mentions

YouTube (logo)YouTube is an app, a website and a cultural phenomenon. It’s also a vast and barely-explored wilderness full of content that ranges from dynamic to dire. Whatever your interests are, there’s probably at least one channel out there for you. Still, managing to dig out the channels that cater to your own SFF needs can be a bit like panning for gold in the sea. (If the sea was full of flying fish that kept on jumping in your face with unskippable adverts painted on their scaly bodies and passing sailors trying to give you beauty tips.) So let me help you out by drawing your attention to some of the best channels and YouTubers I’ve discovered over the years.

Disclaimer. This article isn’t sponsored by YouTube, Google or any of the featured channels in any way. YouTube is not a perfect platform, as many YouTubers will tell you. Other platforms such as Twitch or iTunes are available, I just don’t know them as well as I do YouTube. Other channels are available as well, these are just the ones I like enough to geek out over in a blog article.

Last time we looked at my three all-time favourite RPG Let’s Play channels. This month we’re looking at a mixture of channels, some are favourites of mine that didn’t quite make the top three. Others I only know by reputation, but they’re so big and so popular that it’d be downright criminal for me not to let you know about them.

If you’re not sure what RPG Let’s Plays are then check out Part One of this article from last month!

Becoming Jayson

Becoming Jayson (logo)

This channel requires a little bit of explanation.

Jayson’s channel used to be called The Rogue DM (he may well still use that handle as he’s still active in the RPG community, including the RPG Brigade and ConPlus). Back then Jayson ran and uploaded a number of games and campaigns. He has since renamed and repurposed his channel to talk more generally about his life and challenges, in particular his journey as a transgender (female to male) man. Jayson still uploads RPG content but does it alongside fellow YouTuber Becky Rose Dungeon Girl on a channel called Pear of Geeks.

Scrolling through either of these channels won’t reveal the campaign I want to talk about here. But if you know what to search for you can still find it. Or, you know, click the link below.

A Clockwork Opera

A grand dystopian steampunk D&D campaign. In itself that’s refreshing, I do love it when D&D is shifted away from the classic Medieval Europe style fantasy world. But it gets better.

It’s easy to think of steampunk as just people drinking tea on airships while wearing goggles, corsets and funny hats. But remember that steampunk shares a root word with cyberpunk for a reason. At its most serious, steampunk is about examining and challenging the machines, political, economic, and literal, which have been grinding millions of humans into the dirt since the Industrial Revolution.

A Clockwork Opera

A Clockwork Opera gets that. It chronicles a brutal, totalitarian Brazil or A Clockwork Orange style regime and the unlikely heroes who ultimately lead a revolution against it. There’s horror here as well: hybrid clockwork-human abominations that reminded me of Jeffrey Ford’s Memoranda series (which, coming from me, is one hell of a compliment). We also see the dark side of a revolution: fanaticism, terrorism, bombs, mob violence and murder. It’s a worthy reminder that ‘good guys’ aren’t necessarily ‘nice guys’. Magic and mysticism do feature too, including magical tattoos, which are always fun.

(And of course there are still airships.)

I’d love to be able to direct you all to the sequel to A Clockwork Opera, A Clockwork Saga, but that has proved even harder to track down than the first campaign and I’m not sure that all sessions were even recorded. If anyone knows different then please do let me know.

Geek and Sundry (logo)Geek and Sundry

Perhaps the foremost geek focused channel on YouTube – Geek and Sundry was founded by Felicia Day, the uncrowned Queen of Geekdom. If you like board games, sci-fi, RPGs, video games or geek celebrities then this is the channel is for you.

Critical Role

You can’t talk about RPG Let’s Plays without bringing up Critical Role, it would be like discussing gangster movies without mentioning The Godfather. This is the daddy (or mommy) of them all. Arguably the biggest and most famous RPG Let’s Play show ever. (There’s also something called HarmonQuest but I believe that that’s more of a TV thing.) It’s been recognised and discussed by Wizards of the Coast for its significant and positive impact on the popularity of D&D. Viewers have clocked up millions of hours on YouTube alone and some have been inspired to join the hobby or start their own streams. There’s merchandise, a published campaign setting based on Season One, at least one fan-club and a fan-site that has a blog post on it titled ‘How Critical Role Saved My Life’. This show–

Ok wait. I have to confess something.

I…

Well…

Oh boy, this is awkward.

I’m…not actually a fan of Critical Role (they call themselves Critters by the way).

I feel as though I’ve somehow disappointed Felicia Day by admitting this publicly and I’m afraid that she might banish me from the Geek Tribe as punishment for my treachery.

(Is she allowed to do that? It seems as though she could.)

Critical Role (logo)Look, I don’t dislike Critical Role. It’s just that it uses D&D, which I’m not especially interested in as a game, and is set in a relatively generic fantasy world, which doesn’t much interest me either – when you’ve read enough fantasy novels that you’re comfortable blogging about them you’ve usually seen enough generic settings to last you a lifetime. Compare to The Unexpectables which uses the same game but has a much quirkier setting with more influences from anime and video games.

So yeah, Critical Role is good. The players and GM are all enthusiastic about the game and the sense of fun they share can be very catchy. But Season One alone is a massive campaign with eight players and many, many hours of content and I have enough SFF addictions to fill my time as it is.

But let’s talk about you for a moment. If you’re new to D&D or fantasy or Let’s Plays, then Critical Role is a great place to start. It’s a professionally put together show with a cast of voice actors who know how to inject drama and comedy into their adventures, and GM Matt Mercer pulls off a genuinely creepy rendition of a mind-flayer. (Perhaps you already know what mind-flayers are, if not then it’s probably best to remain in blissful ignorance.)

And without Critical Role there’d be a lot less D&D and far fewer RPG streams out there. So, check it out. If nothing else it provides a gold standard to measure other Let’s Plays against.

The Gentleman Gamer

One of my favourite RPG reviewers in days gone by, these days he’s more often occupied with creating new game content for The Onyx Path.

The Gentleman Gamer (banner)

But back in the day the Gent in Question GMed a number of games online, some of which have been recorded for posterity. Most notably a Vampire: The Masquerade game called The Ivory Wall, which is set in Berlin during the time when the Berlin Wall was about to fall. If you don’t know anything about Vampire: Masquerade or the World of Darkness line, then this would be a great introduction to one of the classic RPG horror settings. If you do know your Lupines from your Gangrel then this is still a very interesting story to follow, particularly if you ever thought that Toreador couldn’t be creepy or frightening. Lots of political intrigue, artistic depravity and rising madness!

There’s a couple of Numenera one-shots too. Numenera is a science-fantasy RPG set many eons in the future and focuses on exploration, discovery and treasure-hunting.

Finally, check out this intriguing adventure set in Rapture (the sunken steampunk city which featured in Bioshock) using a modified version of the Storyteller (World of Darkness) system.

Grimith (cover)Grimith

An extremely prolific gamer and Let’s Player and a master role-player.

Eagle-eyed readers will remember that Grimith was briefly mentioned in Part One of this article as the man (or being) who gifted Rahal of Halldamir and Rahal with a dark apprenticeship in the arts of running RPGs online. He has since played with the Halldamir and Rahal team on several occasions, most notably playing a homicidal 11-year-old girl called Queen Bri in their main A Song of Ice and Fire RPG campaign.

Grimith has also played with the PSY LP crew and apparently taught one of their members (Squee) a great deal about RPGs and GMing.

For his involvement in these two channels alone Grimith deserves a mention.

As a role-player Grimith is often amused, occasionally infuriated and always impressive. He’s outspoken and expects great things from the games he plays and the role-players he plays with. He’s a little intimidating actually but he certainly creates interesting and dramatic characters with high entertainment values.

Grimith has GMed several campaigns including a massive 13th Age campaign called Grimith Takes on Europe. 13th Age (as I mentioned last time) is a bit like a streamlined version of D&D 4th Edition that is designed to make it very easy to create relatively unique characters and has a unique mechanic based around player character interactions with the great powers of the land, called Icons. Several members of the widely acclaimed (by me) Halldamir and Rahal crew took part in this game. He’s also taken on Star Wars: Edge of Empire and Vampire: The Masquerade V20 Edition.

Hammered

An advanced role-player who was one of the two players in the Gentleman Gamer’s Ivory Wall Campaign.

Hammered (logo)

Werewolf: The Dark Ages – Sverige’s Elite

Hammered GMed his own classic World of Darkness Game – a Werewolf: The Dark Ages campaign. The setting for this game is seriously trippy, think gothic horror meets Captain Planet in Planescape, as told by Vikings. (If you’ve not heard of Planescape then check out Halldamir and Rahal’s new campaign.) Spirits abound, other planes of existence can be accessed by those who know how, and extreme violence is usually the answer to life’s problems. Hammered and his players put a lot of thought and time and soul into this campaign, making it well worth your viewership. Look out for werebear wrestling, inter-tribal conflict, hideous demons of corruption and a talking skull!

Misscliks

Misscliks (logo)Another honourable mention rather than a straight-out recommendation. Like Critical Role, I feel as though this channel deserves a look even though it’s not a personal favourite of mine. Misscliks has a bunch of different campaigns and one-shots and I’ve tried a few but none of them have ‘clicked’ with me yet.

Yes, I went there, I’m a monster I know.

But something keeps drawing me back to this channel, maybe it’s the light-heartedness of the players or the fact that they’re clearly having an awesome time. Maybe it’s the imaginative settings created by the channel’s GMs. I just don’t know, but I feel like I’m going to get hooked on one of their games someday soon.

Started with the admirably awesome goal of encouraging more women to join the hobby by creating and supporting female role-playing and board-gaming role-models, Misscliks is a female-led Let’s Play channel that’s tackled a wide variety of games, but usually focuses on some kind of D&D.

My experience with the channel is spotty but I get the impression that the Misscliks cast likes their games a bit on the silly side – even if the adventures are meant to start out fairly serious they usually end up derailing them and going off on some mad side-shenanigans. Cheeky humour is common even as side characters suffer hideous fates.

There’s a good deal of variety here – pirates and demi-gods and monster detectives. I will pick out one short campaign and a one-shot for special mentions.

Nimmorgeist

Nimmorgeist follows the adventures of a group of, mostly evil, beings in a vast, byzantine and monster-infested city with obscure and arcane rules. There is a trial by pie-eating contest. The pie is made out of something called a Night-Ghast. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Nimmorgeist (logo)

D&D Under the Sea

The one-shot (two-shot actually, it overran) is called D&D Under the Sea! If that doesn’t sound awesome to you then I just don’t know what you’re doing with your life.

As a final note. Accent junkies will enjoy the pleasant mixture of American and French-Canadian voices sported by the core group of players.

Penny Arcade

Another online giant, Penny Arcade started out as a webcomic and has become – well a company. They have a website, a YouTube channel, a podcast and a ton of content. They’re also the people that made PAX – a huge annual gaming festival.

Penny Arcade (logo)

Acquisitions Incorporated

Acquisitions Incorporated (logo)This series of connected D&D campaigns is based on the idea that the original player characters were the founding members of an adventuring corporation that eventually became a franchise.

Acquisitions Incorporated started way back in 2008 and there are multiple seasons, (not all of which seem that easy to get hold of). Some seasons feature the original characters, but more recent seasons follow the adventures of the C Team, a new adventuring group who bought into the Acquisitions Incorporated franchise.

As you might be able to tell from the shortness of this description I’m really not that familiar with Acquisitions Incorporated. But I do know three things about it:

1. Penny Arcade is hugely successful, so they must be doing something right.

2. The series comes with a hearty recommendation from Rahal (of Halldamir and Rahal fame) and was cited as the reason why he got into RPGs in the first place.

3. One season (called Acquisitions Incorporated: the Series) includes an adventuring intern played by none other than Patrick ‘Freaking’ Rofthuss of Kingkiller fame! Rofthuss is absolutely (in my opinion) one of the greatest fantasy authors of this or any other age, so seeing him in action is worth the price of admission alone.

Red Dice Diaries

Red Dice DiariesRed Dice Diaries also got a mention in my RPG Reviewers article and he continues to roll out RPG content to this day, Let’s Plays as well as reviews.

There’s a good mix of games here, including tons of Fate games and one-shots. Fate is a popular RPG system which is usually fairly rules-light and encourages a narrative approach from players and GMs alike. It has been used to create games for many different settings.

There’s also a fine Dungeon-World campaign that really showcases that system. Dungeon World is a cinematic, story-driven RPG which simulates the feel of D&D but is much easier to learn, albeit lacking in the hundreds of character options which D&D and Pathfinder offer. (Misscliks have also done a Dungeon World campaign, and a campaign which uses its parent game – Apocalypse World.)

The Rose of WesthavenThere’s even a chance to see what Old School Renaissance games are like to play. (See my previous article on RPG reviewers to get more information about what makes an OSR game.) There’s an ongoing game called The Rose of Westhaven that uses the Lamentations of the Flame Princess system and the Midderlands setting. (The Midderlands is an excellent alternative Renaissance Era middle-England full of bizarre monsters, green-tinged magical mists and creeping weirdness, well worth a look.) As I’ve said before this isn’t my kind of system, but I’ve been enjoying watching this campaign. The characters are different enough from the standard fantasy fare to keep my interest (there’s a demon, a witch and a cultist of Dagon, among others).

The story offers plenty of secrets to uncover, there’s a strong whiff of Lovecraft about the whole thing and an abundance of flintlock pistols which always makes any game more fun. I should warn the faint of heart that OSR games tend to be a bit of meat-grinder and this game is no different; two Player Characters have met grisly ends so far. But that just makes it more exciting for the viewer, since every roll of the dice could end up killing a player character and a total party kill is always on the cards.

Empire of the Hyena

Also worth keeping an eye on is Empire of the Hyena. I love the concept of this game. It uses D&D 5E but throws out the standard setting and builds something new. There are no humans in this world. Instead, the dominant race are gnolls (burly and extremely dangerous hyena people), with creatures such as orcs and goliaths also wandering about (goliaths are a D&D race that are basically seven-foot-tall humans with grey skin who live in mountains). The setting is based heavily on Feudal Japan, complete with samurai, ninja, and oni, as well as wakizashis and katanas. Very refreshing and highly entertaining. They’re just two episodes into the campaign at the time of writing, but it’s been well worth watching so far. Episode Two had a nail-biting conclusion and featured the curious tale of The Dumpling Warrior.

YogsQuest

Yogscast (logo)

YogsQuest is a series of campaigns created by members of the YOGSCAST – a very successful company which creates videos for YouTube, mostly video game Let’s Plays. It originated with two streamers called Lewis and Simon but has since expanded to include a small army of YouTubers.

Despite being pretty much a side project YogsQuest is in some ways a rival to Critical Role. Sure, if you count up the views and so on then YogsQuest isn’t nearly as popular as Critical Role. But Lewis and Simon’s channel, where the first YogsQuest was posted, is five times as popular as Geek and Sundry. So these guys have a huge following to share their love of RPGs with.

That being said, more recent YogsQuest series have been hosted on a less famous YOGSCAST channel called Games Night, which also features board games, poker and war games.

I have to say that my first experience of YogsQuest didn’t grab me. It was a D&D adventure which mostly centred on a door that wouldn’t open.

But the second one, Goons of the Galaxy, was brilliant. It was a grungy sci-fi about a group of misfits fighting to stay alive in the face of a galaxy-destroying horror. One character was a self-involved lover-boy who managed to seduce a female version of The Emperor from Star Wars. Another was a cleaning robot. Then there was the blue lobster-man alien-warrior type. It felt a lot like Red Dwarf and frankly it was funnier and more entertaining than the last two series of Red Dwarf itself (though it was meant to be more like Guardians of the Galaxy).

Goons of the Galaxy (logo)

They went to a ton of effort as well. All the players have costumes, including a robot-suit and a full-body alien outfit with accompanying blue face-paint. There’s green screen effects too apparently (that or a really elaborate set). There’s art and little cartoons as well to highlight the action. I would recommend this series to anyone who likes sci-fi or that particular brand of grimy oddball British humour which you get in series like Red Dwarf, Black Books and Spaced.

Continuing the sci-fi theme there are several YogsQuest adventures set in the more squalid parts of the Star Wars galaxy. Again the group’s laddish, dark-but-silly sense of humour is very much in evidence, e.g. an entire moonful of Ewoks was wiped out by accident in one character’s back-story. Star Wars isn’t particularly my thing, but I believe that people still like it and I think I even heard that there’s some new films coming out at some point so perhaps this’ll keep you going until then.

Call of CthulhuThe group has also tackled Call of Cthulhu several times. If you’ve heard of Call of Cthulhu or the works of H. P. Lovecraft then you might expect these adventures to be about a group of investigators slowly uncovering the true horrors that lie beneath our world and going mad or suffering even more terrible fates as a result. And, technically, they are. But you’re not going to get any nightmares from watching these videos, because the YogsCasters are far too goofy to take the genuinely horrible things their characters deal with seriously. Expect to encounter a sweary fake-Mafioso, an over-dramatic PI called John Steel who narrates his own life and a completely deranged PROFESSOR OF ROCKS!!!!

Also expect a lot of shouting and references to things that don’t make any sense in the 1920s setting, such as Professor Griswold’s eternal quest to discover who would get pregnant if Tails and Sonic had sex. (Yes, that’s the level of humour we’re dealing with here. It’s a lot funnier when they do it, honest.) There are three series of CoC YogsQuest so far, with the latest one having just finished at the time of writing. The adventures of Professor Griswold and friends might not do a lot to communicate the intended atmosphere of playing a game of Call of Cthulhu, but they’re certainly entertaining!

The group also experimented with a completely narrative game in which the players and the GM work together to create a world and act out some of the key moments in its history. Needless to say the resulting world is very strange, with multi-limbed gods who get enslaved by deranged railway magnates and tribes of disenfranchised fish people.

There was a zombie adventure too but, as I noted in this article, there are too many zombies around these days and it’s best not to talk about them much. It only encourages them.

This is a good way to try out RPG Let’s Plays if you’re short of time because all the Seasons are split into episodes, each around 20 minutes or so long.

D20 Dice Stickers by sacari

That’s all for now folks. The Fantasy Geek’s Guide to YouTube will return!

Title image by sacari.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for the mention 🙂 Unfortunately we had to wrap up the Empire of the Hyena game and the Shards of Light & Shadow 5E game due to those darned real-life commitments sucking up a lot of my time. However the Rose of Westhaven game is still going strong 🙂

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