Tom McGee is the Dungeon Master of the acclaimed Dumb-Dumbs & Dragons podcast, along with GM and Storyteller of several other live-play TTRPG shows on the Fable and Folly network (Warhammer 40,000: The Valentyne Heresy, The Mythos Mysteries, Dumb Scum and Villainy: A Star Wars RPG Podcast, and S1 of Blood & Syrup: A Vampire the Masquerade Podcast).
With a background in storytelling, Tom builds rich narrative worlds and scenarios for the comedic characters and players on his shows to crash into, then manages the resulting chaos with a sense of play, heart, and suspense. Tom is an award-winning playwright, dramaturge, director, actor, and puppeteer, who is currently a story development lead at a global digital storytelling platform and teaching playwriting at Queen’s University. He holds degrees in theatre and classics from Queen’s, and an MA in Theatre Studies from the University of Toronto and lives in Toronto, when he’s not living in a fantasy world with dice.
This is a list of some great podcasts to listen to if you’re looking for inspiration for your own TTRPG game. Whether you’re playing the game or running it, these shows are some of the many places I’ve drawn ideas, character design tips, story inspiration, or game-running tools from and can help you bring new dimensions to your own game. They’re a mix of TTRPG-related and other things, all of which can help you, as they’ve helped me on Dumb-Dumbs & Dragons, to create a rich, living world, deep characters, and the kind of unforgettable narrative the bards will sing about (or at least you and your friends will talk about) for years to come.
Dungeons of Drakkenheim
A live-play podcast featuring D&D tips and tricks crew the Dungeon Dudes, they just had a super successful Kickstarter for their own campaign book and one of the creators, Monty Martin, was a huge inspiration for how I run D&D specifically. Listen to this one for inspiration on how specificity in your small details can help your world come to life – so much so that you might even need to make a campaign book for it!
Lore By Night
There’s a tonne of lore to digest if you’re running a World of Darkness game like Vampire: The Masquerade – and fans really like sinking their teeth (pun intended) into the YEARS and many books’ worth of content. Lore By Night is a great source of info, as well as turning a necessary critical eye to the problematic parts of the lore. Listen to this one if you want better insight into World of Darkness (we’ve used it for our show Blood & Syrup) or as a good example of how to interrogate the content of sourcebooks with your own critical eye.
Gimmie Da Loot
A great example of how to weave comedy into the narrative in an organic way that not only entertains but also helps make the world more rich and unique. As with Dungeons of Drakkenheim, keep an eye out for how including specific details – comedic or narrative – helps the world feel lived in and original. Bringing elements like a truck stop into a fantasy realm immediately makes it intriguing, quirky, and unique – what can you add to your game to make it feel different from other fantasy realms?
A fantastic bite-sized podcast exploring folklore, ghost stories, and everything in between. These stories are wonderful inspirations for moments, scenes, or even whole story arcs. Each episode has several stories within it, so if you have a theme or location your story is heading to and want some fun things to populate it with, see if there’s an episode that syncs up (give Ep 23: Ropes and Railings a listen to see what I’m talking about – you’ll never think about lighthouses the same way again).
Dumb-Dumbs & Dragons
This is our show – it’s a mix of comedy and narrative that packs outrageous laughs (we work mostly with improvisers and comedians) and a surprising amount of heart. I recommend it not just for nepotism (but also partially for nepotism), but also because it’s a great example of the cutaway and the character check-in. We frequently split the party and use cutting back and forth between scenes at dramatic moments to keep the action moving – it’s DMing the story like it’s a film. I also tend to check-in with characters who might not have much to say in a scene and do little mini-interviews to get their emotional state or thoughts – it’s a great way to let everyone participate in scenes they might not otherwise get to engage in.
Fear of a Black Dragon
A deep-dive into modules and settings and how to use them by the team behind Gauntlet Publishing. Jason Cordova is a great designer and a huge supporter of the indie TTRPG community – lots of great inspiration here. Of particular note here is how to approach the decades of modules, systems, and TTRPG ideas that are out in the world and how you can bring elements of them into your modern game. Also be sure to check out Jason’s game The Between which features great mechanics for running mysteries.
The Adventure Zone
Featuring the cast of My Brother, My Brother, and Me, the McEllroy brothers and their dad Clint play a variety of different systems (beginning with D&D, but then moving onto Monster of the Week and others). This is a great podcast for seeing how different systems run – having a consistent cast as a baseline is helpful for seeing what about each system might work for your games. Plus they tell a great story (Amnesty’s slow build is great). Their Balance arc (D&D) starts with the same adventure module that Dumb-Dumbs & Dragons does, so also fun to compare how two different shows handle the same story.
Famous for the introduction of Jim Darkmagic to the world, the very first arc featuring Penny Arcade and PVP was my introduction to the world of TTRPG live play podcasts. Listening to it as a data entry temp, I felt like I was at the table with the cast, who talk through their process learning the mechanics. Listen to this one for a great example of how you, as a GM/DM/Storyteller can create an accessible game for any player by enabling their creative choices (Jim Darkmagic) while also providing the necessary rules framework (and check out the pre-podcast Penny Arcade/PVP arc to start where I did!)
This fantastic podcast looks at the first draft of famous movies with the screenwriter. It is a fascinating look into the screenwriting process, but for TTRPG purposes, there are also a lot of great tips and tricks for creating engaging worlds, characters, and narratives. The John Wick episode is great for this. Listen to this to add some more narrative tools to your toolbelt and make your NPCs more engaging (or hateable!)
Dumbgeons and Dragons
This show is a really good time – check it out not only for the great storytelling, characterization, and adventure design but also for the dynamic. When TTRPGs really soar it’s when you can tell the players and the DM/GM are playing TOGETHER rather than against each other, and Dumbgeons is a perfect example of this. DM Russ has also been great about finding crossover shows (including with Dumb-Dumbs & Dragons), so you can also get a great sampler of other shows, DMs, and playstyles by exploring their feed. Theirs is a table it’s always a pleasure to sit at – either as a listener or a player.