The world has been flooded with Actual Play podcasts, where various groups of friends get together and play their favorite tabletop roleplaying game and share it with the world. And, like all the games that we play in, some of them are okay, some are good and some are great. The recently launched Worlds Beyond Number podcast has already landed on my list of great ones.
Worlds Beyond Number is a podcast that features four players – Brennan Mulligan, Erika Ishii, Aabria Iyengar, and Lou Wilson. Now, this line-up is an all-star cast if you pay attention to roleplaying. Brennan Lee Mulligan is best known as the DM for all the Dimension 20 shows, where he has led multiple 5e DnD campaigns, ranging from fantasy settings to a high school campaign to a campaign centered on players playing different characters from fairy tales. Lou Wilson has been a player in many of those campaigns and is a masterful storytelling partner. Aabria Iyengar has been a DM herself, on several Dimension 20 shows, as well as serving as the DM for the Critical Role show Exandria Unlimited, where she also played in the Mulligan DM’ed Exandria Calamity. Erika Ishii has been a player on a number of different actual play podcasts, as well as being an excellent voice actor and host in a variety of nerdy contexts.
In January, there was a cryptic tweet from their official Twitter account, with the above art attached. Not long after came the announcement that the four of them would be launching an actual play podcast together, where they would start with a Mulligan DM’d fantasy campaign but that they also wanted to long term to be able to play lots of different TTRPGs, rotating among them all who would serve as the DM. When the opportunity to support it on Patreon, where they have only a $5 tier, I added it to my stack, as I was curious to see what kind of show might come out of the storytelling powers of this group.
After first episode that served as almost as an origin story of the group, via Patreon, they have been releasing what they call Then and Now episodes, where we get an origin of each of the titular characters of this first actual play, The Wizard, the Witch, and the Wild One.
And, I have to say, these episodes did not disappoint. To be spoiler-free, I will simply say that the Then part of each episode served as an origin story for each character, while the Now part worked to set-up who the characters are now. There have already been some incredible moments, as called out by Lou Wilson, who towards the end of the Then part of The Wizard episode cries out “This is how we are starting?!? We have to go up from here?” at a point of amazing storytelling. These stories, set in the campaign world of Umora are now collected together for the non-Patreon audience in an episode called the Preludes.
And, for the Patreon audience, the group has released The Children’s Adventure, which tells the story of the 3 characters as small children and serves as to slowly develop them from essentially level zero characters upwards. It has the feel of a Studio Ghibli film, with both seriousness and whimsy, as the cast laughs and plays together. Having only listened to half of the 8 episodes dropped, it has already been hilarious, funny, and deeply moving, as these 4 storytellers embody the child-like spirit of these characters, slowly telling their way into what has now dropped as episode 1 of the series proper.
All of this should be noted that this actual play is wonderfully produced. My experience is that actual plays can be found in extremes, with one direction being simply the voices of the characters and one being sound effects and background noises that overwhelm the story. The episodes that I listened to have been amazingly done in that perfect center, of adding to the story but not overwhelming it. Much credit on that seems to go to their producer Taylor Moore, who runs Fortunate Horse, an audio company he founded after having served as the director of comedy and podcasts at Kickstarter.
All of which to say, nerds, if you are looking to get in on the ground floor of what feels like is going to be an excellent actual play, with amazing storytelling across the board, Worlds Beyond Number and their first podcast The Wizard, the Witch and the Wild One is worth checking out. You can find more information on Patreon, their website and on their podcast feed.