"Sing us the song of the century"
- Green Day, Song of the Century
Like many people, I love music. In my spare time, at work, while driving, I tend to usually have something going. When I get into the zone with things, it helps me stay there and get stuff done. In one word, music is immersive. What else do we look to immerse ourselves in? How about our D&D games?
Many DM's (myself included) seek to include elaborate maps. Others include fantastic descriptions, create awesome encounters, and so on and so forth. While all of those things are great, I think finding new and exciting ways to interject some musical themes in your games can be just as fun.
I don't believe in playing music for the sake of playing music. I'm not somebody to just put on a playlist and play D&D. I've read about it, and another DM of mine did it once, but it didn't really do it for me. Was it cool to have various instrumental pieces playing in the background? Yeah, but it didn't make me feel like I was more in the game or created any more investment. It simply made me feel like I was sitting around a table listening to music and playing D&D. I don't know how the other players felt, but it wasn't for me.
Had the situation been slightly different though, I would've been all for it. For example, in the Vellyn snow and ice game, the players were investigating an old shrine to Cryonax. In the large center of the shrine, they would meet a frost witch, Julnaara, who was working on completing a ritual. Due to the architecture of the shrine, there were various hollows and ways for the sounds in the center of the shrine to carry to all the other rooms. Therefore, in the shrine, the players could hear Julnaara's chanting of incantations. For this, I decided to use a piece of music from Final Fantasy X, the Hymn of the Fayth. Because I needed a female singing it, I went with the Shiva version. It can be found here. I simply played it on repeat in the background of the gaming session until the players came upon Julnaara and confronted her.
Many of my other games around the Genkarian area involves ships. With a player like P@, such locations are where he's at his prime in acting and becoming his character at the gaming table. Sometimes, a little background music can be used to prompt a character to further get into the character and dive into the game. In a situation like this, I could describe the crystal water and the wind rushing through the hair of the passengers. I would look to Niz to try and create a conversation/talk about something, and create a mood. For such an event, I would use a piece of music. I love this duet of Gerudo Valley from the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. While the original version sounds like it belongs on the plains, this piano duet sounds like it could work very well on the sea. It can be found here.
I also think sound effects can add a lot of the game as well. While fighting Sahuagin, the party had to either dispatch them quickly or allow the sea devils to raise the alarm. They failed, and the other sahuagin began calling to one another. I used various Trandoshan sounds from The Clone Wars TV show. That soundboard is located here.
I've also used various lyrics, as they sometimes can sound like pieces of a family crest or saying. I've taken a line from the Misfits song "Dig Up Her Bones" and put those words over an archway in Sierett Manor.
"And death climbs up the steps one by one, to give you the rose that's been burned by her son"
In conclusion, sprinkling various important events in your games with music is a great idea. Better yet, you can look to your favorite songs to provide inspiration for adventures, or even villains. I cannot count the number of times I have listened to "Powerslave" by Iron Maiden and thought about what a great desert villain I could have. What ideas has music given you for D&D? Leave your comments below, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @artificeralf