Whenever I run a game of Dungeons and Dragons I spend hours searching through the depths of Spotify trying, sometimes in vain to find the right music to fit one of the many paths my players will take during our next session
An unknown source once said “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” This quote is often attributed to Plato, however historians believe this to be false.
Music is a powerful tool. It can build suspense, it can make you laugh, and make you cry. It is quite possibly the most powerful thing in the world. Combine this with the joy of tabletop gaming, and it can increase the atmosphere in the room ten fold. But with billions of music tracks out there, what is the best music to play by? As a musician myself, I am extremely picky over what music I want to represent my campaign. This has led me to find a few go to artists, and has reduced my research time dramatically.
Ambient Realms is almost the first place that I go to for my atmospheric needs. They have five different collections of music ranging from tavern atmosphere, to mystic sounds, to epic climactic battle scenes.
They also offer a wide range of selection on their site, and stream on Twitch every Tuesday night. My personal favorite from them is the Massive Ambient Music, Vol.1. It offers a wide arrange of dark and moody ambiance, as well as some great tunes for your local bard to be playing.
Midnight Syndicate is comprised of two guys who do some amazing things with music. They are known for their gothic, horror inspired music, but have so much more. In 2003 they partnered with Wizards of the Coast and created a Dungeons and Dragons Soundtrack and it is pure gold for almost any tabletop game. It has everything from a cheery tune called City of Sails, to dark rhythmic chanting you may find in a necromancer’s lair.
They started producing music in 2001 and have not stopped since. They have every genre of music covered in the discography and I highly recommend checking them out.
Arcana has probably one of my top and just plain casual use tracks out of all of them. It is a song call Inceptus. While I am not usually a fan of vocals in my background music, it has some rhythmic humming that fits perfectly into the piece.
While their stuff is a bit more up-tempo and situational than I like to normally use, I make exceptions. These are more actual music tracks than they are for ambiance, though they fit perfectly well in almost any tabletop game.
If you have seen a movie trailer recently, you have heard the work of Audiomachine in the background. They are a “boutique, motion picture advertising music production collective, specializing in original epic music and bone crunching sound design for theatrical trailers, television commercials and video game advertising campaigns.”
Some of their recent trailers consist of Beauty and The Beast, Rouge One, A Cure For Wellness, Spiderman Homecoming, and A Series of Unfortunate Events just to name a few.
They have been creating music since 2005 and have made some amazing music. Just about every Dungeon Master playlist I have, includes music from Audiomachine. Some of my favorite pieces of them include Wars of Faith, as I am a huge fan of very cello heavy music, and A Feast for Crows, which makes a perfect battle song.
Music can make almost any game better; the best music makes you forget you are even listening, and allows you to just enjoy the ride. There are hundreds of thousands of other artists than those few I mentioned above. My own tabletop playlists have hundreds more. Soundtracks of video games make a fantastic source for music, think Dragon Age, The Witcher, and World of Warcraft just to name a few. To give an example of a playlist that I personally use, I felt my Tavern playlist would be a good starting point.
If you look at it, while most of them have Tavern in their name, they are mostly from soundtracks, games, and covers of games. They are all going to have a few things in common. First, they are all going to be uptempo and usually in the higher octave scale of music. Which means lots of flutes, violins, piano, things of that sort. As opposed to a battle playlist which may be more cello, bass and drum heavy. Second, they all lack vocals, with the exception of The Green Dragon, as my group is a bunch of Lord of The Rings nerds. I feel using vocals removes you from what is happening in the story, and pushes you towards what the vocalist is saying. Finally, there is a wide range of songs. While they all have generic things in common, I try to find as wide of a range as possible, this allows me to change music based on what is happening, and not have it all sound the exact same.
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