Media & Entertainment Podcasts

A look inside what makes RPGs tick. We discuss the "moving parts" of what makes table top role playing games fun and successful. What creates those moments of "great play?" Join us for our deep dives into the rules, systems, and settings of TTRPGs!


United States


A look inside what makes RPGs tick. We discuss the "moving parts" of what makes table top role playing games fun and successful. What creates those moments of "great play?" Join us for our deep dives into the rules, systems, and settings of TTRPGs!





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010 Rulings

This episode’s topic is Rulings. The use of at-the-table decision making is one of the defining features of tabletop roleplaying games that allows for unlimited player creativity. Relying on other humans, though, can leave your table open to bad behavior and interpersonal conflict. Join us as we discuss the differences between rules and rulings in RPG HOSTS: Erik SaltwellEthan Schoonover APPENDIX X: Loki Season 2Ham RadioFunk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and LegendHome Theater Remodel GAMES MENTIONED: DreadDungeons & DragonsApocalypse WorldNights Black AgentsCurse of Strahd SUMMARY: In this episode we tackled “Rules and Rulings" in RPGs. We differentiate between "rules," which are the mechanical aspects defined by the game system, and "rulings," which rely on human judgment to adapt or create new rules on the fly to accommodate unique situations in the game. We explore the concept of "tactical infinity," the idea that anything is possible in tabletop RPGs, a feature that distinguishes them from computer RPGs and we cover how rulings can enhance gameplay by allowing for more creativity and flexibility while looking at the challenges of balancing rules and rulings to maintain fairness and player engagement. We talk about the importance of trust between game masters and players, and how a shared understanding of the game's rules and the willingness to adapt can lead to more rewarding gaming experiences. We conclude by discussing the “what if” scenario of a game system based entirely on rulings and the implications for game design and player dynamics.


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009 Licensed IP

This episode’s topic is Licensed IP, which provides RPG gamers the promise of being a hero in stories they already love, while utilizing their knowledge of a property’s setting and tropes to improve the tabletop role playing experience. Join us, to learn how licensed IP can enhance, or break, your gameplay. HOSTS: Erik SaltwellEthan SchoonoverAPPENDIX X: A Murder at the End of the WorldWarlockBlood MeridianGAMES MENTIONED: GhostbustersStar Trek AdventuresBlade Runner RPGTerminator RPGDune RPGAlien RPGSUMMARY: In Episode 9 we delve into the topic of licensed intellectual properties (IPs) in role-playing games. We discuss the advantages and challenges of using licensed IPs in RPGs including how licensed IPs can facilitate play by providing familiar settings and narratives, lowering the barrier to entry for new players. We also consider how these IPs can constrain creativity due to their predefined worlds and stories. Our conversation touches on various examples, including "Alien," "Blade Runner," and "Terminator," exploring how these IPs have been adapted into RPGs and their impact on game design and player experience. We compare licensed IPs with original content, discussing the impact of world-building versus story-building in games and the mechanics used by different games to capture the essence of their respective IPs. We reflect on our experiences playing RPGs based on licensed IPs and original content, sharing insights on what makes these games compelling and challenging.


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008 Authorities

This episode’s topic is Authorities. Who can say what, and when can they say it, in an RPG? Authorities determine this, and have, since the foundation of tabletop role playing. Small changes to the authorities in your game can have huge, sometimes unexpected impact on the gameplay experience. HOSTS: Erik SaltwellEthan Schoonover APPENDIX X: City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled CityOld Army Firearm Training FilmsSCPAlan Wake 2The Night House GAMES MENTIONED: Psi*RunInspectresDungeons & DragonsCall of CthulhuSpelljammerMasks of NyarlathotepThe Pool SUMMARY: Episode 8 of the “RPG XRAY” podcast, titled ""Authorities,"" dives into the concept of authorities in role-playing games (RPGs), a topic discussed by hosts Jason Beaumont, Ethan Schoonover, and Eric Saltwell, along with their experiences and insights on how authority distribution affects gameplay. The episode begins with the hosts sharing their recent media consumption and its relevance to gaming. Ethan discusses the book ""City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City,"" reflecting on its implications for world-building in RPGs, particularly in creating dense, lawless environments. Eric shares his exploration of World War II training videos and SCP (Secure, Contain, Protect) Foundation content, highlighting their potential for storytelling in games. Jason talks about playing ""Alan Wake 2,"" emphasizing the game's use of sensory experiences and subjective reality to enhance horror elements. The main discussion centers on the concept of authorities in RPGs, referring to the rules that dictate who can say what within a game's narrative and mechanics. The hosts outline three primary roles with potential authority in RPGs: the player, the game master (GM), and the rule system. Traditional games typically grant players authority over their characters, the GM authority over the game world and narrative, and the rule system authority over the outcomes of actions. The conversation explores various distributions of authority and their impact on gameplay. Examples include traditional games, where the GM has significant control, and non-traditional or story games, where players may have more narrative authority. The hosts discuss how shifting authority can create different play experiences, from collaborative world-building to games where players have significant control over the story's direction. The episode concludes with the hosts reflecting on their personal preferences and the potential for experimenting with authority distribution in their games. They express interest in exploring how changing who has authority in specific situations can lead to innovative and engaging gameplay experiences.


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007 Systems

This episode’s topic is Systems. Unlike video games, role playing games separate game engine, game concept and game level into distinct pieces. We dig into the various ways that RPGs split authority for the design of each piece between designers, game masters and players. What effect do these choices have on the experience of the game, and how can you use them to foster great play at your table. This episode’s hosts: Erik SaltwellEthan Schoonover This episode’s Appendix X HitmanControlThe Lost RoomSCPHistory of Beauty Games discussed in this episode GURPSPendragonTop SecretPsi*RunLasers and FeelingsAshen StarsStar Trek AdventuresYellow King RPG Games mentioned In passing Trail of CthulhuCall of CthulhuDelta GreenFall of Delta GreenRiftsTrophyBlades in the DarkDungeons & DragonsBlade Runner RPGDune RPG The podcast episode delves into the nuances of role-playing game (RPG) Systems, emphasizing the contrast between universal and specialized systems. We compare the experiences provided by generic systems like GURPS with those crafted by more setting & scenario focused games including many indies. We discuss the trend in video games of moving from proprietary to universal engines and relate this to RPG development, pondering whether a generic RPG system can capture the distinct feel of different genres. We cover the appeal of one-shot games versus long-term campaigns, the enjoyment of learning new mechanics in one-shot games (which often have bespoke systems that enhance the thematic experience). Why is it that once played, the interest in revisiting these games tends to diminish? We chat about whether playing a variety of self-contained indie games or engaging in a traditional extended campaign would be more enjoyable. The final part of the discussion addresses the design intentions behind RPG systems, particularly concerning homebrew settings and the adaptability of systems for such purposes. We tackle the importance of setting expectations when introducing a new system, emphasizing the need for clear communication abou


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006 Progression

This episode’s topic is PROGRESSION. Whether it’s levels, experience points, that scar your character has with an epic backstory, or some other measure of character development, PROGRESSION is a mechanic that stretches back to the earliest days of RPGs. We will dig into the layers of what and how games offer progression to players in this episode of RPG Xray. Appendix X: The RookMt. Baker-Snoqualmie National ForestGuns on YoutubeStarfieldTraveller RPGThe X-FilesVeronica Marsa|state RPGChat GPT


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005 Horror

This episode’s topic is HORROR. Horror is one of the oldest RPG genres and has wrapped its tentacles around much of modern tabletop game play, but what is it? What makes an RPG horror in tone, mechanics, or gameplay? Are horror games scary? Should they be? Can they be? All this and more on this episode of RPG XRAY. Appendix X Links Dave the DiverGods TeethGravity FallsRoad TripThe Laundry FilesThe RookEspresso Chalet


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004 Mysteries

This episode’s topic is MYSTERIES. What does investigative gaming look like in table top RPGS? Are all RPGs mystery games at their heart? Are there games which appear to be detective and mystery oriented that aren’t mystery games at all? What is great play when it comes to mystery games? Hopefully you come out of this episode with clues that you can use in your own mystery gaming. Appendix X for this episode: ChatGPTRedfallFar Cry 5Invisible CitiesNotes on Blood MeridianBlood Meridian


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003 Fiction

In this episode we talk FICTION. Specifically how do fiction and mechanics interact in role playing games. This is a broad topic and there’s a lot of ground to cover. From Clocks to Metacurrencies to Resolution systems, we’re diving deep but hopefully bringing it back to how these concepts can be applied at your own table. Appendix X References: Twenty Thousand Herz [Podcast]Audio Commentary Tracks [Audio]An Immense World [Book]The Wager [Book]Return of The Obra Dinn [Video Game]


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002 Failure

In this episode, we discuss failure in role playing games. Unlike video or board games, tabletop RPG scenarios are rarely replayed, making failure more significant, final and problematic. Excessive failure can create an adversarial game, while too little tension can result in dull gameplay. Join us as we explore how to grab the tiger by the tail and use failure as a tool to enhance gameplay. Appendix X References: The Making of the Atomic Bomb[Book]Alien Series[Film]Gibson's Alien 3[Audiobook]Dishonored 2[Video Game]Murderbot [DiariesBook]How to sell a haunted house[Book]


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001 Fun

In our inaugural episode 1 we talk about the most critical factor at the RPG table: fun. What is it? How do we bring the most fun to every game we play? What is the relationship between fun and difficulty? Do different players experience fun differently? All this and more, coming up on RPG Xray. Appendix X References: Disco Elysium [Video Game]Only Yesterday [Book]Game Wizards [Book]Road Warden [Road Warden]Citizen Sleeper [Video Game]