Music

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Background music can, IMO, be a great means of getting everone in the roleplaying mood. I am about to start a campaign, and I want to burn a few CDs with fitting music for our sessions, but I want the songs to be as perfect as possible with music for combat, for dark and scary caves, joyful songs for travelling and sad music for... well, when something sad happens. I am not sure how I can make this work smoothly so that most of the time, the music is in tune with whatever happens in the game, but I thought to ask for help with just that.

So, do you have experience with using background music as an effect in your games? Any tips for making it effectful? Any specific songs for different moods? And how do you make sure the right songs are played at the right times?
I used to insist on music in my games. Sometimes I'd make a whole soundtrack for them, scene by scene. Then one day I stopped doing it. Nobody noticed and it changed nothing. As it turns out, they liked my stories and NPCs much better than whatever bit of soundtrack I thought was particularly good for combat. So, I took that out of my prep routine and moved the time saved to other areas of the game where improvement was needed.

There is one notable exception - the creepy piano/distorted voice track from Eyes Wide Shut. I used that in one particular scene during a very weird and dark turn at a fancy party the PCs were attending. While masked nobles looked on, one of the PCs had to share the spotlight with an NPC and perform in a mock combat while someone told the tale of a demon and a hero and some other stuff. (Foreshadowing.) The player later told me he was creeped out as hell over that scene because he didn't know what it was supposed to be about and was waiting for something horrible to happen the whole time. Nothing did, but the scene set up some future complications.

Anyway, point is, after all the time I spent on soundtracks and whatnot, that was the one time it had any meaningful impact and it wasn't due solely to the music - many factors beyond my control were at play there. So, I stopped worrying about it. Now, if anyone's in the mood for music during play, I just give them a laptop hooked up to some good speakers they can use to queue up song on Youtube, preferring to let them DJ whilst I run the adventure. It seems to work well especially since people can make requests on the spot.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Asked my sister about it, and she said (I'm beginning to agree) that music is usually more fun for the DM. And you can never really be sure how appropriate it's going to be. Classic example is high octane fight music while people are fumbling for the rules. I recommend just being open to it in case your players strongly want some, but most of the time it's more trouble than it's worth.
We have talked about it and all of us want background music. We don't have it on most of the time, and when we do, it's usually low and fits with whatever it is we're doing. Sometimes though, if the fight is really epic, we turn up the volume. I am not asking whether or not I should use music in my game(well, actually I did kind of ask...), but rather if anyone has any good tips for making it more effectful or have any good songs for particular situations.
When you talked about it, what kind of music did they say they like for gaming? Stuff taken from soundtracks? Dark techno stuff? Heavy metal? ABBA?

My admittedly limited advice in this regard would be to try and match as best as possible their personal tastes with the tone of the campaign. A pulp action game is going to "sound" different from a tale of a bleak land and its grim denizens. The closer parity you can get in that regard will make for a more successful tool to keep player energy high.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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When you talked about it, what kind of music did they say they like for gaming? Stuff taken from soundtracks? Dark techno stuff? Heavy metal? ABBA?



Come on, ABBA? The genres I'm looking for here are soundtracks and classical music. I thought it was unneccessary to state this, as I assumed this was the kind of music most people used if they used any at all.
Come on, ABBA? The genres I'm looking for here are soundtracks and classical music. I thought it was unneccessary to state this, as I assumed this was the kind of music most people used if they used any at all.



Nothing sends the barbarian into a rage better than "Dancing Queen!" The other night as the dwarf fighter and the human bard were limping their way out of a dungeon having had their **** kicked all night, they ran afoul of an umber hulk. The bard's player queued up Black Sabbath's Iron Man and before the song was even finished, that umber hulk's head was the dwarf's new helmet. Their tale sparked the whole next series of events in the story. So, it's possible to have some modern(ish) music to spice up your combats if your players are into it.

Here's a blog I read that has some soundtrack suggestions for certain types of games, sometimes laid out by track.

www.thoughtcrimegames.net/

Otherwise, try the (albeit limited) search function on these forums. There's a ton of threads on music.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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i use music as a background setting as well too.  but you have to be careful cuz some songs are louder than others and the players might complain that its too loud and they cant really talk over it and RP. 

some of the music i use, i just create a playlist on youtube,  open two windows, 1 playlist is labelled "non-battle music" the other is labelled "battle music"  that way u can tab back and forth quickly to pause one and play the other.  

the bands/soundtracks i use is, Diablo 1-3, Two steps from hell,  the witcher 1 & 2,  elder scrolls morrowind, oblivion and skyrim, Neverwinter nights 1 and 2.   

there's just so many artists/soundtracks to choose from, but the most epic ones are from "Two steps from hell"  they make amazing tracks and some of them are literally 10 mins long for a single track and u can even get a "block" tracks rolled up into one vid, so you can just let the player play for 5 hrs straight.  

 
You guys ever listen to soundtracks so often at gaming that when you watch the movie it's from again you're like, "Man, I can't watch this movie anymore. Sorry, Russell Crowe." *click*

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
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the bands/soundtracks i use is, Diablo 1-3, Two steps from hell,  the witcher 1 & 2,  elder scrolls morrowind, oblivion and skyrim, Neverwinter nights 1 and 2. 
 



NICE, I actually didn't think of soundtracks from games. It's perfect. So much to choose from Thank you.

You guys ever listen to soundtracks so often at gaming that when you watch the movie it's from again you're like, "Man, I can't watch this movie anymore. Sorry, Russell Crowe." *click*



Once or twice, yes
Computer games are a great source of background music, even as simple ambiance (you don't need to pick specific tracks for specific events).

In addition to Timmy's list, I'd also suggest the following fantasy game soundtracks, based on my own compilations:

The entirety of the Quest for Glory 5 soundtrack.

Some to many individual tracks from Ultima 9, Age of Wonders, Lords of Magic, Dragon Age, and Return to Krondor.

The Legend of Grimrock - it only has one track, but it's a really nice one.



Curiously, I also found a few good pieces among the Master of Orion and Mechwarrior music, even though they're space-fi games.
Classic example is high octane fight music while people are fumbling for the rules. I recommend just being open to it in case your players strongly want some, but most of the time it's more trouble than it's worth.


That's because high octane music, while great for movies, is usually a terrible choice for D&D combat.  Not only does the pacing of the music not match the pacing of action at the table, but such music usually demands to be in the foreground when you really need it to hang in the background so you can still keep you mind on the game.

Soundtracks from tactical RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre are designed with those considerations in mind.  For example, OP, consider Battle on the Bridge and Anvilla Henya for what I would consider good high intensity themes that could fit D&D combat. 


I'm also partial to the more atmospheric tracks from Final Fantasy XII, Breath of Fire II and III, Secret of Mana, Legend of Mana, and the little known Secret of Evermore for D&D games.


Edit: Changed Anvilla Henya link to a superior rendition
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I think the "Gears of War 3" soundtrack is awesome as well although it's a sci-fi shooter. I'll check out the others as soon as I got time. Totally agree with you Fireclave. Movie soundtracks are usually too tailored for the movie and the pace and melodies are supposed to match certain scenes. This makes movie music a bit awkward when used in a DnD game IMO.

Pan's Labyrinth had some tracks I liked though.

Thanks a lot for the suggestions so far  
I get a chuckle when I think about a montage scene with high intensity music as people are pouring over the PHB or texting a friend while someone's turn is up.

Or my favorite when there's an intense moment in the game where the chips are down and the PCs have to pull out all the stops to survive and a happy-sounding song queues up.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I get a chuckle when I think about a montage scene with high intensity music as people are pouring over the PHB or texting a friend while someone's turn is up.

Or my favorite when there's an intense moment in the game where the chips are down and the PCs have to pull out all the stops to survive and a happy-sounding song queues up.



Ah, yeah, we've had moments like that as well It is possible to avoid though, by having more than one playlist for instance. And, not having the music on at all times.
Two Steps From Hell

It's all background music, but the really good part is that the mood does not vary within a song. I went thorugh the whole Pirates of the Caribbean album and could not find one song that did not end in some sort of up-beat explosion of sound as the related movie scene came to a conclusion, which always startles players. I don't have that issue with music from these guys.

There are also no lyrics, which helps with immersion and keeping your music "in the backgorund"

Besides switching generic playlists "Village, Combat, Suspense, Horror, Adventure, Tragic" I don't plan the music too much, as it distracts me from describing the world.
When you talked about it, what kind of music did they say they like for gaming? Stuff taken from soundtracks? Dark techno stuff? Heavy metal? ABBA?



Come on, ABBA? The genres I'm looking for here are soundtracks and classical music. I thought it was unneccessary to state this, as I assumed this was the kind of music most people used if they used any at all.



Actually, I agree that it's a good question to ask.

This isn't the first thread of its kind that's been started in this forum (shouldn't take much trouble to run a search of the forums and find a number of them), and I've made a number of suggestions to the previous threads.

Those suggestions range from dark wave, ambient noise, classical, a variety of movie and game soundtracks, electronica, industrial, mutant varieties of heavy metal and "gothic", recordings of interplanetary radiation translated into sound, and more.  I'm sure many groups would have a hard time finding much of it suitable for their style of gaming, though
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