Okay, so full honesty - yes, the title is clickbaity. And a lot of people create videos where they rank who "beats" who, but that's not what we're doing here. And the simple reason for that is that a number of the YouTube channels that I follow do different things, and thus they don't easily "rank" against each other from a winner/loser perspective.
I have discovered over time, though, that different channels tend to offer different types of content, so we're going to detail (with links, of course, to their channels so you can subscribe to all of them) where each channel ranks well in different areas: GM tips, Player tips, game knowledge, campaign ideas, character/item ideas, etc.
Now I follow more channels than this, but I wanted to highlight just a few (because I don't want this post to go on forever) that are particularly good in a particular area. In this way, if you are looking for thoughts on how to make (fill in the blank) better in your games, you might start with these channels.
I. Game Master Tips
For tips on how to be a great game master, it will not surprise anyone that I begin with Guy Sclanders's channel, How to Be a Great Game Master. Guy has been making videos for years, and creates content multiple times a week, with virtually all of his videos being spot-on with tips for how to improve your technique as a game master or a player.
Guy gives virtual walkthroughs for online tools, most notably WorldAnvil (which we use for Zurn as well). He has also showcased map generators, terrain builders, dice creators - all kinds of kinds, so if you are looking for general assistance for how to spruce up your game, you should check out How to Be a Great GM.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Matthew Coleville here, of course, as his Running the Game series on YouTube is one of the most heavily watched playlists in the roleplay community. Matt has designed games (in various mediums), made supplements for D&D, but perhaps most importantly for our discussion here, he's game mastered for decades. This gives him experience that forms the basis for his advice over several groups that spanned years of gameplay. So I highly recommend his channel: you'll learn a lot from him.
I don't enjoy his live gameplay sessions as much, so if you're looking to trim some content to save you time you can probably skip those. His Running the Game series though is really good, and I think every GM should go through it at some point. Even if not all of them speak to you, there's a lot there that will.
And a final channel for GM tips: I have to mention Cody's channel at Taking20. Cody is such an engaging speaker and has such deep insights into GMing that you really can't go wrong listening to Cody's channel.
Whether you are looking for ways to challenge your party with a particular race, special/rare/magical items to present to your players in-game, or answers to tough questions about how to go about the day-to-day of game mastering, Cody has good thoughts for you.
All of these guys provide quality GM content for free on YouTube; you can support all of the people below on Patreon, and you can support Matt by buying his supplements for D&D and his novels via his website. See their channels for more info.
II. Player Tips/Guides
The first channel I started following on YouTube was Andrew at DawnForgedCast, and to date he's still my favorite (so if this was a clickbait article, he'd be #1 on the list). Whether it's his conversational tone, tips for game masters, or commentary on the gaming community, Andrew Armstrong is always a home run.
Where I think he really shines, though, is in his advice for players. Whether you are looking to play a particular class, looking into how a new game system works, or are navigating how to handle a tough situation in the group, Andrew has great ideas for you. I've never been disappointed when I insert his thoughts into my gaming style as a player.
Monty and Kelly also have great ideas for players, so check out the Dungeon Dudes. If you like "counting videos," you'll love their content, as they do a lot of, "Best 5 Spells for (fill in the blank)" videos, as well as class guides, race guides, and strategy talks for players. They also have tips for game masters, so if you are interested in a good dialogue on how to be a good game master, the banter between Monty and Kelly is excellent.
And finally, we have mentioned them before on this blog, but Nerdarchy has great player tips. Whether it's, "What should you trait in, take, or focus on as a particular race/class," discussions on new content coming out, or how to solve common questions that come up in gaming groups, Nerdarchist Dave and Nerdarchist Ted give excellent tips for players and game masters alike. And with routine guests stopping by the Nerdarchy, you also get other opinions on occasion as well.
A number of the channels below also offer player tips, but since they rank higher in other categories I've placed them there. The next set is a cool category: people who will train you well in knowledge of game mechanics, even across game systems.
III. Game Mechanic Knowledge
When it comes to reviewing games, it's hard to top Seth Skorkowsky. Andrew at DawnForgedCast does this too as noted above, but Seth takes this to a whole new level. Love Cthulu? Check out Seth's channel for an in-depth look at an RPG for that. Conan the Barbarian? You'll find one there too. Any era, any genre, almost any setting you can think of, Seth has a review of a game that is on the market waiting for you. So if you are looking to try out a new game system, definitely visit his channel.
Seth also has an engaging way of giving GM and player advice, involving him roleplaying members of a party - if you want a good laugh while learning a lot about how to be a better game master or player, check out his channel. He also writes fiction, so if you enjoy his channel you might also enjoy his novels.
Another prolific channel is Web DM. Pruitt and Jim down in Texas give really good advice, both supportive and critical of gaming systems, helping you understand how things work and what is possible to do under a given gaming system. Most of their content is geared around Dungeons and Dragons as that's the game they play, but if you play D&D they walk through what the rules say, what they don't say, and what people think they say but don't in fact say.
They also have excellent advice for players, GMs, ideas for how to build adventures, etc., but where I think they shine is in the area of telling you, "this is how it works, and this is what it means for your game."
IV. Campaign Element Ideas
If you are looking for the king of characterization to make something in your campaign sound better, look better, and grip your audience better, check out Esper the Bard. He does NPC rankings based on type, sample riddles, thoughts on how to make your world more immersive - the whole gamete. But it doesn't take long on Esper's channel to realize that what he cares about the most is how to make your world come to life: he cares about the flavor, lore, and vibrancy of the NPCs in your campaign just as much as he does about the mechanics, if not more.
And that makes for a very unique channel for advice: I find myself constantly being challenged to make my creatures, races, societies, and world more complex and detailed whenever I listen to Esper.
There's also a non-RPG channel that is useful for getting ideas for the races in your campaign, and that is Shadiversity's Fantasy Rearmed series. Shad Brooks is a novelist in Australia who loves storytelling and is a former roleplayer, but he is also a medieval enthusiast who does a playlist on YouTube looking at what weapons fantasy races would actually use if they were being realistic.
I highly recommend this channel, as it dramatically changed my approach to how I view selecting arms for my NPCs, and I think you'll enjoy his commentary.
His thoughts on castles are also excellent - you'll learn a lot from it, and may come in useful if you write a campaign where castles factor prominently in the campaign setting. For one of our campaigns which is centered around a castle siege we drew heavily on Shad's thoughts as well as scholarly works on the topic, and we are hoping to bring that campaign to you as a pre-built module in the next few years after it finishes with testing.
And whether you're looking for ideas on how to build maps, or characters, or engaging NPCs, or anything at all really, you should check out WASD20. Nate does a great job of laying out a wide range of ideas that will keep your games interesting and exciting, challenging your paradigms to bring new and unexpected content to your game table. Check out his channel - you'll enjoy it.
And I'll take this moment (as I reflect on what I've learned from Nate's channel) to note that I hadn't realized how many assumptions I was making about how to run encounters until I started listening to what Nate said was possible. I hadn't noticed all of the things I glanced over when designing maps until Nate told me to take it slower and think about things like geology (as that will determine where your mountains should be located). So as we pass the halfway point in this list, just remember: you should follow channels like this purely to help you realize what you don't know - you'll grow a lot from it.
Most of us have a decent background with mythology if we are interested in roleplay gaming in a fantasy world, and it's likely more common among game masters. But with so many mythologies all across the globe, it can be nice to have a central repository for learning about the stories from other cultures, and for that, two channels come to mind.
Purely due to the hilarity and engaging nature of the channel you should subscribe to Monarch Factory. Dael Kingsmill is a native Australian who tells myths and fairy tales, but also give roleplay advice (as she's a DM in Australia), so you get a lot of great ideas from this channel. Highly recommend that you subscribe to her and email the content to your grandma (if you don't get the reference, watch any video on her channel).
And if you are looking for a mysterious and "Masterpiece Theater" YouTube channel that provides a wealth of stories and creatures for your games, look no further than Mythology & Fiction Explained (can't find a picture of the author, so no picture here). Listen to just one of these short videos and you'll see why I recommend it: you feel like you are listening to a masterful storyteller sharing ancient tales and old stories with you, and it's chilling how good it is.
VI. Historical Medieval Context
And finally I want to end by discussing some channels that are good for learning a bit about medieval history, as this may help you with planning out your fantasy adventure if you are setting it in a medieval context. None of them (as far as I know) are roleplayers, but all of them have some background with the community through questions they have received, and they often provide thoughts for us from their research and/or experience.
Matt Easton at Schola Gladiatoria runs a YouTube channel that is named after his Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) club, and has been using swords and following historical training manuals for twenty years. He has excellent thoughts on everything ranging from ancient and medieval warfare, Renaissance weaponry and form, and firearms and weaponry up through the Twentieth Century.
The level of research that Matt does is also excellent, and part of why I watch his channel so faithfully. So if you want thoughts on form and weaponry, check out this channel.
For medieval, Japanese, and Roman history, Metatron runs a channel out of Sicily that is worth watching. Whether you have an interest in medieval arms, armor, tactics, culture, or even painting tutorials for miniatures (a newer form of content from him), you'll find it on his channel.
A linguist who has studied and taught several languages, he also offers thoughts on language and pronunciation, which may be a useful component to your games. He is also just really fun to watch, so I highly recommend him.
And if you like bearded Viking men with a healthy bit of salt, check out the Canadian YouTuber Skallagrim. He and his wife recently moved to Eastern Canada, and in their new house he has a lot more room (including a YARD), so I anticipate that there will be more testing videos and form videos coming out in the future as he finally has room to swing around his weapons without having to travel to a range, lot, or other location. He also participates in HEMA and enjoys showing the effectiveness of weaponry from across the medieval period, so you'll find cutting demos for swords and axes, crossbow shooting - all kinds of things.
You'll also find a lot of commentary on Canada's weapon laws, so if you enjoy some snark in your political commentary, you should definitely subscribe.
The last channel I'm going to highlight is a cool one: Modern History TV is an English gentleman who is knighted, descends from a family that was knighted, and he talks about how people lived in medieval times with full demonstrations. Jason tends his own land, rides and trains horses that are from bloodlines of the time, and tries as best he can to keep everything as close to how it was back in the day.
The level of quality and production that goes into this is truly incredible (better than what you get on the History Channel), and you have to watch it. He's also a fan of shields, so what can I say - I'm biased, I'm a fan, and I love his work. So check out his channel.
We hope that you found this useful - I've really enjoyed learning from these people, and enjoy their weekly vlog content as it better informs me in how I build my adventures and campaign arcs. It has been said that you can't be a good storyteller without consuming stories, and I'd add that you can't be a good game master without listening to how other people run their games. And these channels all do a great job of feeding your ability as a roleplayer.
As we head into the rest of November, it's a cool thing to take a step back and think about what we're thankful for. I find that I'm thankful for the many people that post ideas, stories, and advice online for free so that guys like me can benefit from it. I hope that you benefit from them as well.