Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Music to Game By...

We all know that music has charms to soothe the savage beast, although maybe not Cannibal Corpse!  And we also know that music can spice up movies and television by setting the right mood, perhaps building a sense of urgency when our protagonists are about to find trouble (or trouble finds them, which is often the case)...

Suffice to say, music provides atmosphere!

This can extend to gaming too.  The right music played in the background of a session can create the desired atmosphere without interrupting communication between players.  Indeed, music can actually ENHANCE the experience by supporting the GMs description of events and the setting, making it a valuable tool.

Adding music is easy and fun, although the following should be considered when planning a session:

(1) Choose instrumental over vocal music, with the possible exception of choral music, which tends to harmonize nicely with any instruments and not distract the listener.  Otherwise, we tend to listen to spoken (or sung) words, which can easily distract from the player/GM dialogue.  Movie soundtracks are best because these tend to be instrumental and also long enough (an hour plus).

Music sets the mood, alright... 

(2) But do feel free to choose INDIVIDUAL vocal pieces for specific encounters.  Once, in my Chill game, I had a heavy metal band accidentally summon a dark god at a concert and played Metallica's classic The Thing That Should Not Be as a prop!

(3) Choose music suitable to the genre and adventure.

(4) For longer sessions, use a CD changer or (nowadays) make an extended playlist on your computer.  Changing disks is distracting, although GM's should always be ready to stop the music should conditions require, like major combats, etc.

(5) Remember the MOOD you, as the GM, are going for and choose accordingly.  This is supposed to be FUN, after all...

Indeed, it creates entire landscapes!

And may we suggest our favorites:

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)This soundtrack captures the feeling of bejeweled altars and rousing battles, taking the listener through exotic musical landscapes that are truly thematic!

BEST FOR: General fantasy/temple raids.

LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992) - A sweeping composition tinged with
folksy strings.  This one really suggests expansive forests and the untamed wilderness of the film.  There's something quite gorgeous and even mystical here, making it worth a listen...

BEST FOR: Wilderness or lost world adventures.   

THE ORIGINAL PHANTASM (1979) - Try to imagine a much spookier version of Tubular Bells; a haunting score that nails the feeling of exploring dark and lonely places where evil waits.  This one is quite rare though, so best of luck in finding a copy...        

BEST FOR: Horror or horror-themed games.

Of course, there's more.  Robyn and I are sure that William's legendary Star Wars score is played during at least some Edge of the Empire sessions (and that could be an understatement).  We've all been inspired by music, and we've all imagined fantastic visions in our heads when listening to something we love.  So let that music drive you to do great things, and let it be a PART of gameplay!


  1. Recently we've been on an Ennio Morricone kick at my table.

    1. That's great! Also has that "Hawk the Slayer" vibe...