Role Playing and Music Ambiance or a Distraction

There are many tricks that can be used to enhance the gaming session and one of them is the atmosphere. Alongside the usual things such as candles and soft light, music can lend a massive amount to the atmosphere, but has to be used in the right way. Firstly rather than just have CD’s that seem suitable just playing away in the background, make a check list of music to be selected for certain points of the gaming session, music that lends specifically to that part of the game. To this end make up a few compilation CD’s that contain the things that you specifically require and the rest of the time you can just play something neutral yet conducive in the background.

There is an art to the inclusion of music. Firstly volume, remember that it should be very background, you still need to talk normally over it so make it a peripheral thing not the main event, it’s a gaming session not a night club. Also bear in mind that most modern music has lyrics which are in themselves distracting, you don’t want people singing along to their favourite song when they are meant to be making those life and death decisions. Also its easier to find music that suits fantasy games, as they tend to have a basis in our own medieval or ancient world that it is for modern or futuristic games. Having the latest Nu-metal releases banging away in the background of a horror game may seem cool after watching Blade, but you try concentrating over that for more that 10 minutes at a time.

So use it sparingly and at a decent volume, but I’m sure you will see the advantages of having something folksy and sing along playing as the adventurers enter the Inn by the Duck Pond looking for leads or something minimal and otherworldly as they land their space ship on the yet unexplored planet Sigma B1. Used correctly, tension will heighten and the players will find it easier to become immersed in their roles.

Some examples. For futuristic games, find the sound track to Blade Runner, a cross between futuristic minimalism and smoky late night jazz. Horror games might benefit from some carefully selected dark wave music but it is fantasy films that are easiest to cater for. Enya and Clannad work for those calmer moments, having the advantage of being in Gaelic and seeming otherworldly just in the language that they use. But half the fun is making the compilation CD’s in the first place and that is more about the imagination of the referee than me telling you what to select. Musical types may want to even record some of their own work to use. The list is endless, but I’m sure if you try it you will find that such a simple device adds so much to the gaming session.