When it comes to music, we live in a moment of playlists. At least that’s where I’m residing for now. I make playlists for road trips, house parties, Halloween, Christmas, the workday, workouts, painting, and you’d likely guess that I make them for our Dungeons & Dragons sessions. I do.
So, yeah … I have no idea of what a wizard’s place would sound like, but I can imagine how my wizard’s home would sound. In fact with a small effort put into searching online you’ll find that lots and lots of others have already dived into this idea and provided links to their game night music. That said, playlists are wonderful, useful tools for us whether we’re playing a campaign or putting one together.
I love getting a great playlist together, and when it comes to D&D the preparation of a carefully chosen set of music is quite an adventure. The music you select for your campaigns can be background pieces or extremely useful tools. You could get individual pieces of music/noise together for different environments, such as cities, markets, a ranger’s treetop perch, and the crashing heat of battle. You might go as far as letting your players know that what they think they hear is a heartbroken man sobbing behind the paper-thin door of his room at the inn. This type of playlist control is effective, and best used when you’ve got an easy, add-free, and especially quick way to play your list. As a side note, the D&D 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide has an wonderful list of noises on page 298 that’s just begging to be built into a playlist.
We’ve mainly used our music as background, or better yet (I hope!) our campaign’s soundtrack, with the songs tailored to fit the world we’re in. When picking out tunes I’ve tried to find relevant songs that are not too soft, and I shy away from the overly bombastic as well. This seems to be the route to take when you want to keep focus on running a game and the interruptions by your hand to a minimum. Since I’m still new to being the DM this is my approach for now. I’ve also noticed that keeping the decibels down from the start of a game keeps everyone from yelling over one another, and that keeps the game moving on. Well, I also find myself turning the volume up over time as the brews are consumed and the night advances.
We now find ourselves marching right into the management of it all. There are too many options and methods to get sound from anywhere to your ears, so I’ll just focus on how I run the show at home. I tend to use Spotify as my main source of music, and I run it from an old iPad into my receiver. Since I can control that instance of Spotify with my iPhone from the table, it is the handiest option for me. However, when life gets busy and our campaign’s soundtrack gets a week or two stale, I’ll just find a the soundtrack to a movie or video game on YouTube, preferably in a playlist already, and play it through whatever device is ready to play (PC, PS4, laptop, etc.)
There are plenty of options for you to play your mix, so look around. There are endless paid options, for instance you could buy and build a library of assets in iTunes. There are a lot of free options at your command as well, such as Pandora. Look around and use what makes sense for you. Like I said, Spotify is my app of choice, and I pay to keep it free of advertisements, since there’s nothing like having an awesome mix and perfect atmosphere bashed to smithereens by the latest, greatest, screaming in your face product advertisement.
What would happen if all of this went away? If the internet met a black hole, or if these companies just vanished along with their vast libraries of sound? It would be alright. I might not remember every song, or album, in the depths of every playlist I’ve ever made on a streaming service. I’d go about missing music that I could remember loving, and using for game nights, but I’d probably forget a giant bulk of the artists I’ve collected. I’d still have my vinyls and cd’s, but I’d have to reinvest in the hardware to play them again, or invest in the latest model of music distribution.
Things would be alright at game night though. I’ll remember that it’s the people, the story told, and the experience as a whole that make the memories. The music is just a bit of icing on top.