Listening to Friends at the Table

I’ve been listening to Friends at the Table a lot recently. It’s an actual play1 podcast run by a team of amazing people where they play different tabletop games. They have a focus on “critical world-building, smart characterization, and fun interaction between good friends” (to quote their strapline) and they do all three really, really well. I’ve just finished the first two ‘seasons’ of their show, and I’m super excited to pick up with the rest.

The show has been great for me for a few reasons:

  • it’s introduced me to a bunch of new, great games, like The Sprawl and The Veil (they don’t only play cyberpunk games, FYI)
  • I totally stole the idea to use the Stars without Number rules for my own game from their COUNTER/Weight season
  • I’ve been able to earwig some truly excellent fiction-first game play to learn from them
  • they do a great job about being gender/sex inclusive and positive, and caring for each othger, which has been super helpful for me to hear as I run Monsterhearts
    • this is also good for me to hear as a cis male who could probably do with a bit more comfort being sensitive around other men
  • it’s gotten me through some long user support hours with some delightful radio time

Most of the time they play Powered by the Apocalypse games (see my post about this too!), but it’s not just that. They really value the production of the series, and their composer, Jack de Quidt2 is amazeballs.

Honestly, it’s one of the best podcasts around. They bring a lot of themselves into the game, in ways that really enrich everything. Their characterization is not just smart, but also kind of heart-wrenching: in the first season, there was a moment not too far in, where Ali’s character, Hela, the ‘evil’ fighter (this is Dungeon World evil, not D&D evil, mind) has to decide if she’ll kill an old friend to escape death. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard a player dive as deeply into something as Ali did. She choked the eff up. While I didn’t3 like Hela (in the way you don’t have to like Guy of Gisbourne but can still love him), in that moment she became the most interesting character. Professional actors rarely pull that off as well as they did.

Their second season is called COUNTER/Weight, and it’s one of the coolest pieces of fiction I’ve ever come across. It’s a cyberpunk space opera, where a rag tag group of misfits and drifers save the galaxy. Which is the oldest damn story in the book, but shit you ain’t heard it like this before. Go listen, for serious.

So yea. If you’re looking for an introduction to PbtA games, good roleplay, or just some damn good podcasts to listen to… go find Friends at the Table. And if you want, they’re running a Patreon to fund their work, and damn if it isn’t worth it. There’s also a really cool meta-campaign they’re running there for backers, about a fictional Atlantic City where you’ve got all kinds of crazy and weird shit, and there’re millionaire blaxploitation heroes with names like Alexander Millenium Black funding ghost hunters to help clean the city up, and idiot mob kids trying to defraud their parents. It’s so good.

  1. Actual play is kind of like let’s play streams, but for tabletop games. For those who don’t know, ‘let’s play’ streams are where someone plays a videogame and streams and talks through the process. They’re super popular with the kids these days. 

  2. He lives in Bath, and I’m really hoping for a) a celebrity sighting, and b) that I don’t freak the eff out and make a fool out of myself. The former is far more likely than the latter. 

  3. Still don’t? Haven’t listened to the next season of the Dungeon World campaign yet.