Using Music in D&D

Bupp

Explorer
Ambushed!
I once played Slayer, fast and loud during an ambush on my players. I mean loud. They had to shout at me and each other during combat. It led to confusion and misunderstandings among the players, much like their characters were facing.

Cliché Revealed
Yes, I did the cliché during one campaign. A wizard was the party's patron/questgiver since early levels. Each time they met with him, whether for a quest, sage advise, or to collect a reward, I played the opening bars of Black Sabbath's "The Wizard".

When the BBEG was set to reveal himself for the first time, in a total Sauroman heel turn, I played the opening bars of The Wizard. The look on my player's faces was priceless.

How have you used music during D&D sessions?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Not long ago in my game a party in the field sacked out for the night as usual. What they didn't realize was that a wild magic surge during the day was going to put them into a dreamworld adventure during their night's rest.

I don't always play music during my sessions, and intentionally didn't this time, until when they hit the dreamworld I turned on some synthwave/chillwave and just let it run; playing it through the next few sessions as well.

Three sessions later when they came out of the dream, off went the music...and only then did they get the connection. :)
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Yep, when the characters went to Hell (back in the late 80's) I played Metallica's "Jump in the Fire".

Now, I have more music more that are game soundtracks, mostly from MechWarrior. Great music!
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
I have a variety of setting/mood appropriate tracks that I've categorized into Theme, Scene, and Action tracks that I can select from to play in the background. A lot of them are from my copies of old D&D games.

But when our party ends up in Sigil...I grab whatever contemporary song I can fit into the game somehow.

I played "Disturbia" by Rihanna as the party was watching a portal to Sigil open and passing through it for the first time. I've always thought of Sigil when I've heard that song, and I was looking forward to sharing that scene with my group.

I played "Dead Man's Party" by Oingo Boingo when the party visited the Sigil Mortuary for the first time.

And IN-character, I also have groups in bars in Sigil perform modern music.

It serves to make the pL&Nz feel weird and different (at least the Planescape/Sigil cultural elements of them). Since part of our campaign is on the Material Plane, and part of it is planehopping (which the low-level characters have limited control off), it makes a cool contrast.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
Very rarely.
*5e - At the shop on Thur. nights it's often already noisy enough what with other RPGs, sometimes a 40k game, some MTG, & every other week a group of model builders having their club meeting. No need to add to the din.
* PF (currently PF2) - Nobody in our Sunday game (hosted at a buddies) much cares for background music.

That said, I used one bit during the opening "adventure" of each current campaign. Both groups started at the same point.
Our soon-to-be-adventurers are attending an all night Bacchanal. Along about midnight the NPC Bard picks up an ornate silver horn dropped by one of the Satyrs & gives it a good blast.....
It's a Horn of Valhalla & it's not keyed to the bard.
So a portal in the opposite wall opens & # of angry barbarian types are summoned.

Push play on the phone....:
"And the man in the back said everyone attack, and it turned into a Ballroom Blitz...."
{In this case the man in the back is the leader of the barbarians & he points to the bard.}


Roll Initiative as the barbarians charge the stage, plowing/hacking through anyone in their path.

Song loops from that line through until the fight ends.
 

ninjayeti

Explorer
I use a lot of the music and ambient sounds from Tabletop Audio to set a scene or establish a mood. It is a great resource although I am finding it is best used sparingly when it will have most impact, rather running constant background sounds.

A wizard was the party's patron/questgiver since early levels. Each time they met with him, whether for a quest, sage advise, or to collect a reward, I played the opening bars of Black Sabbath's "The Wizard".
I really like the idea of giving key NPCs their own theme music. Having an audio cue seems like a great way to establish a mood or tone for a particular NPC as well as draw players back in when reintroducing the character.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
My group frequently had music playing- typically Conan and other fantasy and sci-fi soundtracks, or selections from our favorite bands on shuffle play.

But only twice has music selection actually impacted the games.

The first was by accident. We had a bunch of early Rock & Metal on shuffle. But just as the party was midway through the graveyard,the dead began to rise...and the randomizer kicked forth Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”. Lyrically, the song isn’t about the undead, but damn if it didn’t feel like it was at the time.

The second time was by design. The party had been attacked by cross-dimensional raiding anthro tigers who had captured the ship they were on. The others on the ship had been killed and rotisseried for the victory party on the beach in the raiders’ home dimension. But because they fought so well*, they were being given a chance to possibly win their lives back. So, while they were unconscious, they were stripped naked, with their gear strewn all over the island. They would have a few hours head start before the hunt would begin.

The party started running into the foliage while their captors had breakfast. They found a few things quickly, but soon realized they’d have to improvise. As the players were dickering about who would get what of their scroungings, I hit play on this:

It was playing for a little while before the SERIOUS drums came in, and one player stopped mid-sentence, looked at me bug-eyed and said, “Wait, do we- do our characters hear that?”

“Yes.” And I smiled.

And what followed was an actual increase in tension as the discussion turned to bickering, and repeated reminders to each other that they had to get moving NOW if not sooner.


* no REALLY! Their dice were red hot, and turned what was written as a railroady capture scene with combat into an open question.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I use music a lot. I have to, because of my ADD, but I have taken that need and turned it into an asset.

For my “fantasy colonial Spain” mini campaign, I used a lot of Spanish guitar, medieval lute, and literal Zorro score, music.

For my recent heist-during-a-Tourney in Eberron, I used a mix of Hot Club Jazz (Django Reinhardt, etc), Cowboy Bebop songs, songs from Oceans 11, Dave Brubeck, The Fencing Lesson from Mask of Zorro, and a couple “Theme Songs” for characters. (AFIs Strength Through Wounding for the BoV Paladin and Macklemore’s Firebreather for the Kobold Wizard. )

Fights, chases, and other adrenaline fueled scenes in Eberron are usually various Brass Band jazz songs.

In our FR game I usually stick with fantasy scores, like Skyrim, LOTR score, or even the various tavern music files from DDO, mixed with good adventuresome movie scores. Big Alan Silvestri fan.

But I have to have something in the background, or I have no control over what I focus on.
 

Aaron L

Adventurer
I have ADD. This would not be fun for me. But if it works for your group, go for it.
I did once start a Star Wars campaign with the instrumental Star Wars score.
Yeah, I thought it would be really rad to have a nice soundtrack to the game and that it would heighten the experience... but I have ADHD and all it ended up doing was causing me so much distraction that my attention was too split to focus on anything. Some low-volume orchestral music in the background, however, seems to not be too distracting for me, but anything with words just pulls my attention too much; we also once did the Star Wars score thing for a D20 SW game and it seemed to be OK for me as long as it wasn't too loud.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I use a variety of selections from video game soundtracks to evoke the mood of the moment, one my new players recently commented “oh wow this music is perfect!” :) so mission accomplished.

Soundtrack compilations I rely on: The Witcher series, Descent series and Dragon Age.
 

Richards

Adventurer
We often play various episodes of "Music from the Hearts of Space" (a radio program of "contemporary space music") in the background during our gaming sessions. Whenever possible, I try to pick themes appropriate to the adventure, so if the PCs are going to be fighting undead I'll go with some of the spookier stuff they play around Halloween or if they'll be trekking through a jungle I'll play rainforest music and so on.

One session, however, started with about half a dozen giant beetles attacking an elderly woman in the forest, which gave me a pun-worthy reason to play the Beatles album, "Help!"

Johnathan
 

RobJN

Explorer
I tend to go for the "not iconic" movie scores. If the music is too well known, it pulls the players out of the situation.

Go-to composers: Yuki Kajiura (.hack//, Noir), Yoko Kanno (Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Macross Plus, Macross Frontier), Sawano Hiroyuki (Guilty Crown, Kill la Kill, Attack on Titan, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress), Taku Iwasaki (Read or Die! Ruroni Kenshin, Witch Hunter Robin), Keiji Inai (Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Heavy Object, Alderamin of the Sky)
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
Yeah, I use music every session with RPG soundmixer. I think my current D&D folder has over 100 songs and sound effects. The best stuff is from movie soundtracks. Remember that lame movie Jupiter Rising? Well, the soundtrack is phenomenal.
 

Legatus_Legionis

< BLAH HA Ha ha >
I had one session where I was the "guest" DM, and the group wanted something they never had before.

So I had picked and created a playlist from various film scores.

And depending one what the random music was, I adjusted the encounter/fight/etc. to match.

I had the fight end when the musical clue said it was over (regardless of HP).

I quickened encounters to match the music.

I introduced suspense if that was part of the music.

All but one player loved it.

The one that did not was so freaked out by it he swore to never RPG if music was in the background. (Can you guess who's player got some of the suspense music?)
 

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