Using Music at the Game Table

Music is a very important force in my life.

I have been playing guitar for about 12 years. I have been playing in various metal and punk bands for most of it as well.  Being a musician, I have a strong appreciation for a wide variety of music. Now that I’m done humbly bragging about me being awesome, I shall tell you what this has to do with RPG’s.  Music can invoke feelings, emotions (not EMO), and moods (well, those are all the same thing, huh).
This can be done to subtly get your players in the mood (not that!). For example the last game I ran I played the same song while doing my wrap up on last session and setting the first scene of the current session.  Once the music started playing, all the players would give me their attention right away.  This gives the game a very cinematic feeling.

But Keith, what music should I use? Use whatever you want, except for polka, ska, and dubstep—though if you can make a game that could make those genres work, that would be one hell of an interesting RPG session.  Here are some pitfalls to keep in mind when using music to invoke feelings in your players.  Keep your players in mind when you’re choosing music selections. For example I avoid extreme metal (Death metal, grind core, hardcore) with my groups just because they don’t really share my taste for it. The exception to this rule is if it’s instrumental music. I like using progressive metal bands like Animals As Leaders—check the video bellow.

My best practice for using music is also just to set a playlist. It will be way too distracting to try and perfectly score the music with the game. Running the game should take precedence, not making sure you cue the sound effects.  Unless you have access Michael Winslow it’s never going to be perfect. Don’t forget to create playlists for different aspects of your game.  I have a playlist for travel, battle, and for drama. When I need the mood to change, I switch the playlist.

In the youtube link here are some songs that I have used at the table.  I plan post a somewhat regular article suggesting more music that would fit well with a games.  It doesn’t always need to be the Blind Guardian or the soundtrack from the Lord of the Rings. Different genres of music may provide additional inspiration for your games. What bands or genres worked  well for your games in the past?


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