Welcome to this week’s installment of Only On Tuesdays. This week we will be talking about the impact that music can have on your campaign, and why you should try to utilize it in your sessions in order to make them more epic, and memorable.
The Power of Music
Music is a very powerful element in many forms of art. Be it from movies, video games, or even just the music on its own, it can be a very powerful element that can add a whole new layer of depth and complexity to something that is already good on its own. Music is a much more passive element, but the role it plays cannot be understated. Many amazing things would not be as good if it were not for their amazing soundtracks. Star Wars and it’s iconic symphony would not be the same if that were to be taken out of their intro. Your game can benefit greatly from the use of music, and it can help you to create memorable games that your players will remember for years from now.
Music is great because it is something that you can very easily include in a game, that will greatly shape the way it plays. In a game of Dnd, you as the Dungeon Master are encouraged to describe the sights, tastes, and sounds so as to better immerse your players in the game. With the addition of music to your campaign, you can utilize one of your player’s senses without them even realizing it. The simple addition of an appropriate soundtrack can better immerse your players than the best description you could possibly give.
The movies are in part, so successful because they are great at utilizing our senses of sight, and sound, the 2 senses we use the most in daily life. Sound was so important to movies that even during the silent era of films, they would hire an organist to play a song during the film. Music engages people on a subconscious level as it helps to set the tone and the sense of scale of the film. Some of the most classic films ever made are accompanied by just as classic music, such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The music in these films quickly sets the tone and lets us know what kind of show we are about to watch. Subtle manipulation of the sound during the film can change our emotions, and this is used to a wide extent in many horror movies where the sound will become creepy, and eerie, right before the jump scare. Sound design is a huge component of films nowadays and for a very good reason. Music can change your emotions and is a key part of making a film successful these days.
Music Makes You Braver
Let me start by saying this. Up until recently, I was not a fan of music. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Beatles and a Rolling Stone’s song. I couldn’t tell you what that little squiggly note means or represents. (Still can’t). I couldn’t even tell you what my favorite song was up until the past 2 years or so. All of that changed when I met my new player named /u/Vernaux.
When I first began to DM, I played with no music at all. It made no sense to me to include music in my campaign as I didn’t listen to music anyways. It never appealed to me, and all of the music that I listened to, was music that I didn’t really care about. (That’s because my sister was in charge of the radio, and only listened to pop music at the time). So when I played Dnd I focused on the story first and foremost, and auxiliary elements such as props, let alone music, were beyond me.
About a year down the road, when I’m finally beginning to get a grasp on things I invite /u/Vernaux to join my campaign. He joins and we have a good time and go home. He later asks me if we could play some music during the campaign and sent me some links to this one obscure company on YouTube that produced epic orchestral music. I had never heard anything like it before and immediately fell in love with Two Steps From Hell
. I agreed and I started playing it at my sessions from that point on.
But it wasn’t until I actually got to play a session with the music playing, that I figured out how powerful the music really could be. I was doing a one shot with one of my players as the DM, and right as it comes to my turn this song called Dragon Rider
comes up. I was about to do something really basic and boring, but when that song came on I felt compelled to do something more. Rather than chase the villains through the street, I climbed to the rooftops and started chasing him by running from one rooftop to the next. It felt epic, and I was having the time of my life. Realistically, it was very cliche thing to do and wasn’t actually as epic as I thought. But the music elevated it to a whole new level. The music not only inspired me to do something amazing, it has stuck out to me, and is something I will always remember. The slogan of TSFH (Two Steps From Hell) is that Music Makes You Braver, and I never understood that phrase until then.
Music can inspire you and your players to do amazing things that they would have never even considered before. It can elevate the tension of a situation, make the death of a character more tragic, and make those epic moments that we dream about, come to life. Ever since that session where I ran across some rooftops chasing the villain, I have never gone a game without at least playing some music for it. It is also really easy to implement it as well. I currently am using a set of speakers that I got for $10, and it is performing well past my initial expectations. If there is one quick trick to make all of your sessions better, my easiest tip would be to simply say to play music. You’d be surprised at how easily you can change the quality of your sessions, with the simple click of a button.
Music For Your Sessions
I actually didn’t have any dedicated playlists before I decided to make this post. I would usually just find a TSFH playlist and put the whole track on shuffle, and it would still be able to add a lot of enjoyment to the game. I would even recommend this method to a starting DM as it’s the quickest way to get music into your games, without having to worry about having the right soundtrack to play at every moment. But I decided to go through my tracks and organize them into playlists so that other people can get some quality use out of them. (And I’m also doing it because I really should have just sat down and made this list over a year ago). TSFH’s music is more geared towards battle music, but they do have a few songs that make for a decent soundtrack in the background.
Disclaimer: The only playlist that I consider “done” is the Boss Battle playlist. The others are more a sample until I find more time to add another 100+ songs to the list. In the meantime, I feel that about 80ish songs should be sufficient until I am able to complete the lists.
Disclaimer 2: I have a preference and a pretty strong bias for TSFH so most of the songs on these playlists should be coming from them. I am personally not as big of a fan of the other companies, as they don’t suit my personal tastes as well. That doesn’t mean they are bad! In fact, I really enjoy many of their songs, and will eventually add them to the playlists. Their songs just don’t appeal to me as much as TSFH’s, however, their music may be perfect for you and your group. Here are some other companies that make similar but distinct music from TSFH.
Most of these are trailer music companies, and that is largely due to the fact that trailer music can be very easily keyed into a Dnd game without much finagling. These companies I feel try to focus on
Epic music, which is the main style of game that I run. If you are running a different style of game such as horror, pulp, or even noir, I would consider finding music from movies that fit those genres and finding the producers of that music, in order to fit that tone you are looking for.
You could even use soundtracks from your favorite movies and video games, and that music should serve you well. Take the Skyrim
soundtrack for example. It’s a popular choice for RPG music for many reasons. It’s epic, it’s iconic, and it delivers heart pumping music, along with more slow-paced adventure music. If it fits the style of your game, then, by all means, try it out.
Another thing to consider is that it does not have to be music playing, in order for you to use soundtracks or effects. Tabletop Audio is a fantastic website, that gives you plenty of different ambiance sounds to choose from, that can give a whole new layer of depth to the game. If you play the appropriate music/ambiance for your games, your games will improve by 10 fold as your players will become more immersed in the finer details of the game. Using tabletop audio also allows you to make music a more special event, and will keep the music from becoming mundane.
I hoped this was able to help. To many of you more experienced DM’s, using music in your games is a huge no-brainer. Feel free to share what kind of music you have listened to during your sessions, and whether or not it has influenced your sessions for good or even bad. But to the few of us like myself, who didn’t even consider using music in their sessions, it is important that they learn the power that music can have on the quality of their session. Music is a very important part of immersion in a game of Dnd, and it is often overlooked due to its very simplistic nature. Music truly can make you braver, and it can make you a better DM.
Next week I will be talking about how to Improv a Session, and the power of Chandler’s Law! So until then, have a great week, and an amazing Tuesday!