I think every DM has had that moment where they say to themselves, “Our group has great adventures! I wonder if other people would like to listen to them.” And, suddenly, you find yourself on Google looking for “how to start a D&D podcast.” Well, we’ve got you covered!
Here is a complete podcast equipment list for beginners that will get you set up to share your antics with the world, with decent sound to boot! Plus, some bonus tips and tricks from some of our favorite D&D podcasters.
Related: If you’re good on equipment, but want tips on improving and marketing your podcast, check out our interview with the folks from Severed Sons D&D Podcast!
First, let’s talk about the reasons to start a podcast.
Many people choose to share their live TTRPG games in different ways, each with its pros and cons. Most commonly, people weigh the decision between livestreaming and podcasting.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing how to deliver your content:
|– Fewer equipment requirements for all players.|
– One stream of audio/video. Easy to manage.
– Delivered instantly, no editing necessary.
– Live interactivity with community via chat.
|– In general, lower-quality production value.|
– Longer, unedited VOD’s, prone to dead air, lulls in activity.
– Difficult to juggle things like scene changes, music/SFX, etc.
– Reliant on the quality of everyone’s internet connection.
|– Ability to edit, improve, and add effects during editing.|
– Higher quality finished product.
– Easy for people to consume at their own pace.
– Can record and produce in batches/seasons.
|– Time-consuming to produce and edit.|
– Higher tech requirements for participants (decent mics, recording software, etc.)
– Discoverability can be difficult.
– No live interaction with community.
There are also quite a few podcasts that do both–livestream a show and then edit it for a podcast afterward, which is a great option and boosts your visibility ten-fold! But, quite a lot of work.
For this post, we’re just going to cover podcasting with the assumption that your focus will be on audio only. I’ll have to cover video and streaming in another post. 🙂
Important Note: This article is optimized for people playing remotely, rather than in the same room. Recording in the same room is a little bit more difficult and will require some additional equipment (and money). That’s not covered here, but this video goes over a good setup for in-person recording.
Important Note the Sequel: This article contains links to products that, if purchased, give a small cut back to us at no cost to you. Thank you for your support by purchasing from the links in this post if the guide was helpful to you!
While software can do a lot these days in the way of cleaning up audio and improving quality, you’ll want to get your hands on some decent starter equipment to set you up for success before ever setting foot in your audio editor.
The meat and potatoes of any podcast. Depending on the podcaster, there are two ways you can go with mics: USB and XLR. A USB mic will be the easiest and most cost-effective option for beginners, but if you want to build a set-up that will grow with your podcast, it’s worth looking at XLR mics, which will require an additional interface to connect your PC.
Luckily, our top recommendation for a podcast mic can connect via either USB or XLR!
Samson Q2U Dynamic Microphone
The Samson Q2U Mic comes highly recommended by multiple podcasters and comes in well within the beginner-friendly budget of under $100.
Reviewers pretty much unanimously agree that this is the best mic for the money. Better yet, it does better than some mics at even the $200 and $300 price points.
For the podcasting newbie, this is a dynamic mic, meaning that it even does well in larger rooms that create a lot of reverb and will cut out some measure of background noise. So, if you’re anything like me and don’t have a spare closet or room you can pad with soundproofing, well–this will help you out a lot.
Honestly, there’s hardly a need to put any other mics on this kit, but for the sake of having a choice, I’ll include one more.
Rode NT-USB Condenser Microphone
The Rode NT-USB Condenser Mic microphone comes in at a little higher price point, just under $200, but is a great option for those who want to go a little further with their setup.
This mic is a condenser mic, meaning that it will pick up all sound with as perfect clarity as possible. This means wonderful things for your voice (crystal clear!) but also means that you’ll need to focus on some level of soundproofing to make sure that it doesn’t pick up echo and other noises around you.
If you have the quiet space for it, this mic will have your podcast sounding like the pros. It also comes with a pop filter.
For recording voices, a pop filter is a must-have for preventing the ‘pop’ of your plosives. Ever listened to a podcast or video and heard the harsh tick of P’s and T’s? This will prevent that.
Unlike mics, there’s nothing crazy to consider here. A simple circular pop filter like this one will do the trick. Or, if you went with the Rode mic above, it comes with one already!
This will attach directly to your mic stand and sit between you and the microphone, ensuring that your voice comes through nice and clear without any distracting popping.
Optional Gear and Upgrades
Boom Arm and Shock Mount
While a mic (with the stand it comes with) and a pop filter are your only mission-critical pieces of equipment, there are a few things that can elevate your quality and eliminate a few pesky podcast situations.
For example, a boom arm and shock mount. These two things will bring your microphone off the desk or table surface and prevent sound bleeding in from any activity on the tabletop (which there can be a lot of) or accidental movement of the mic and stand. It also allows you to bring it right up to your mouth to speak while leaving the area below clear for everything else you need for a successful game.
This kit on Amazon contains everything you need, including the pop filter, so you don’t have to buy one separately.
In most cases, an audio interface is not necessary for podcasting, but if you’ve done your research and want to opt for an XLR mic and the difference in quality that an audio interface provides, much respect!
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a solid option for podcasters. According to sweetwater.com, “its high-performance 24-bit/192kHz AD/DA converters ensure crystal-clear digital sound; and its impressively low latency makes for excellent recordings. Plus, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 runs on USB bus power — no wall plug required.”
Again, remember that these are unnecessary for great quality sound, but they will open up your mic options and give you room to grow with both equipment and quality.
Once you have your physical setup ready to roll (or should I say role(play)?), it’s time to load up the software that gives it all meaning. For actual play podcasters, this will include a few classic podcasting tools and TTRPG specific tools.
Yes, step one! Capture the audio from your players! There are a handful of ways to do this, and you’re probably already using one now, but for this kit, our focus is on quality audio that will sound stellar when distributed to the masses. That’s why our first recommendation is:
Zencastr is similar to Zoom or Skype in that it allows you to gather your players in a ‘room’ with audio and video. However, Zencastr is optimized with podcasting in mind. While tools like Zoom compress audio to be delivered easier and faster over your internet connection, Zencastr prioritizes quality, delivering much clearer and cleaner tracks for you to use.
It also records each person separately so that you can edit and adjust the tracks individually.
Better yet? It’s free to use with their Hobbyist plan, which allows you to record unlimited MP3 audio with yourself and 4+ guests. If you want video too, that’ll fall into their paid plan, which also comes with uncompressed WAV audio recordings and some editing tools. You can always try that out in a free trial to see if it’s worth your while.
Discord + Craig Bot
Who would we be if we didn’t acknowledge the power and convenience of gaming’s favorite collaboration tool? Discord is free, most people are already using it, and a powerful community of plugin developers mean that there are a lot of options for recording D&D sessions over their voice chat feature.
One of those options is Craig. Craig is a bot that you can add to your Discord server to record your voice chat channel. Craig is feature-packed and allows you to record unlimited speakers on their own separate tracks for up to 6 hours at a time, then download the audio (in multiple formats) for editing and post-production.
But, what about quality, you say? Discord is susceptible to the same compression I talked about with Zoom above. Well, Craig has a solution for that too. Their web app will allow you to record audio simultaneously in higher quality than Discord.
And then, there’s the matter of backups. Craig’s brother Giarc can be added to your server as well, which will record and save a backup of your recording to a different server in a different part of the world–just in case.
See? Craig’s got you all sorts of covered. And, it’s also free.
Editing (Digital Audio Workstation or DAW)
Now you’ve got your audio tracks, time to make them ready for the spotlight! Your editing software (or DAW) will allow you to improve clarity, adjust levels, add music and sound effects, and so much more. It’s what will level up your audio to help your audience become fully immersed in your story.
There are so many DAW’s to choose from, and largely it will be a matter of preference, but here are a few commonly used in the actual play podcast space.
One of the oldest and most commonly used free and open-source DAW’s on the internet today. It’s not particularly shiny, but it is reliable, has all the features you’ll need. If you’re new to editing, there are a ton of resources and tutorials online to help you with everything from the basics to more advanced editing techniques.
Thanks to being open source, there are also plenty of downloadable presets to make quick work of simple tasks like noise reduction, auto-leveling, and more.
One of my personal favorites, and again, a program for which you will find resources and tutorials galore. While the full-service version of ProTools went paid a while back, ProTools First is available to podcasters (and students and musicians) for free!
I find the interface of ProTools to be a little more intuitive and easy to use than Audacity, but again, it’s largely a matter of personal preference. Since they’re free, it’s worth checking out both and seeing which flavor is your favorite!
The only paid option on our list, Reaper’s big benefits are that it is 1) more feature-rich than the above two options, and 2) performs better on most computers (as in, less CPU usage). More features for less power? Yes, please. That being said, a program this robust may not be necessary for everyone. If you’re doing heavy editing or even recording things like your own sound effects or music, you may want to consider something like Reaper.
Even paid, Reaper has an incredible community and 300+ free plugins to make a lot of your editing tasks faster and easier.
The nice news is, it’s free to try! So, it’s another great option to try out and see if it’s for you.
Virtual tabletops are for anyone playing virtually but come especially in handy for podcasters because it helps all players to be on the same page during the game. It eliminates things like having to repeat descriptions, re-establish the locations of characters, ask for the status of your fellow players, etc. This will make for smoother storytelling and a lot less editing work on your part!
There are two popular VTT’s that we’d recommend trying out:
Roll20 is a long-established virtual tabletop in the TTRPG space. It has all the basics for hosting sessions online, plus a fabulous marketplace of extras like maps and other art assets, effects, rule books, pre-written adventures, and more.
Roll 20 has a free version which may be fine for what you need but also has a Plus and Pro subscription (monthly or yearly) that gives you access to some extra features like dynamic lighting, custom character sheets, etc. Since we’re only focused on the audio experience for a podcast, these features are purely a matter of preference, but nice to have the option either way!
The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is using the in-app audio and video. While convenient, the quality is hit or miss, and you’ll be much better off using the above tools to see, hear, and record your fellow players.
Foundry is a little newer on the market but has many bells and whistles that people looked for in Roll20 but never got. Or did, but they didn’t quite work as expected.
Foundry is visually stunning, and unlike Roll 20, which is web-based, it is a standalone application hosted on the GM/DM’s computer and accessed by players via a browser. So, rather than a monthly or annual subscription, you pay a one-time fee of $50 and have access to the whole shebang.
Personally, I prefer that. It’s like owning instead of renting, and none of the features are gated by “tiers.”
It’s also incredibly developer-friendly and has a marketplace of add-ons similar to Roll20, many of them completely free!
Honestly, if I were doing a podcast, this is the VTT I would choose. You can try out a web demo on their site to be sure, though!
Tips and Tricks from Fellow Podcasters
While the above will get you well on your way to launching the first episode of your virtual play podcast, here are some helpful tips and tricks from some of the podcasters I spoke with during the making of this post!
Some level of soundproofing will make a noticeable difference in the initial quality of your audio recordings! Even small rooms can create a lot of reverb or echo, so something to absorb the sound will help immensely.
Ron from the Severed Sons D&D Podcast suggests picking up an inexpensive photo backdrop to place behind you to absorb sound. He even went so far as to order a fabric banner with his podcast’s art on it! If you’re doing video, too, it can be fun to get creative with what you put behind you. But, any fabric backdrop will do. Even a large blanket or a couple of towels you have around the house already.
This is a simple one from Amazon, that can get you going.
If you don’t have the room for a big backdrop (like me), another option is to get a Microphone Isolation Shield which is placed around the back of your microphone to dampen any sound that may bounce off of walls and floors and come back at your mic. It can either be placed on the table surface or affixed to your mic stand using the included hardware.
This Mic Isolation Shield is available on Amazon.
Yes, this is an equipment post, but some beginner tips and tricks are always nice to have in your back pocket!
- @Whatthedicepod reminds everyone to conduct a sound check before starting each recording! Better to realize problems BEFORE you spend hour recording audio that doesn’t sound the way you want.
- @BardRockCafe suggests that if you’re using multiple audio tracks for your guests (which we recommend), do a “sync clap” at the beginning of recording. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Everyone claps at the same time, so you can line everyone’s track up easily when editing.
- @ChristmastideOH uses a koosh ball as a fidget during recordings! If you like to fidget but don’t want the sound picked up on the mic, a koosh ball is quiet enough to not interfere with your sound.
- Similarly, @rollforromance reminds new podcasters to consider the materials used to run your game, and the sounds they make. The rustling of papers can get distracting, for example. Or the tapping of a loud keyboard.
- And, @PeachGardenRPGs preaches the importance of saving multiple versions of your files as you go! Nothing worse than losing your work due to file corruption, programs crashing, and any of the other mishaps that happen when working with…you know, computers.
With the tools, advice, and recommendations from the sage podcasters that came before you–you’ll be ready to join the #TTRPGFamily of Actual Play podcasters with all the gear necessary for a new TTRPG Podcast!
Special thanks as well to the following podcasters for their contributions to this post: