Hey folks! I’m back again with another D&D article. This time I want to talk about the importance of ambiance sounds during your game and how I’ve used music to enhance my games. Now, let’s just get into an exercise. I want you to close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you for about 15 seconds. Hopefully you opened your eyes to read this by now, if not then I guess you’re in a meditative state of bliss. Now, when your eyes were closed, what did you hear? Was it just the TV, work chatter, or your kids fighting? What about the background noise. Maybe a fan humming, a faucet dripping, or even a leaf blower running outside. Not only is sound important in a D&D session, it can either enhance or take away from important events in a game. A lot of times, we may not notice these sounds but when used correctly, they can really enhance a session of Dungeons and Dragons.
Let me paint a scene using words. Your group has arrived at the crypt of St. Owsin. It’s just after dark and the air is dry. There’s a stench of decay that seems to linger around the graves. The headstones are covered in moss and over grown with tall grass. In the distance you make out a shape of a large structure. You approach the structure and realize it’s the mausoleum. This building has seen better days. The gray stone is chipped and crumbling under the thick vines that encase this it. It appears that this place has been forgotten about and nature is reclaiming it. A iron gate sways in the wind, creaking with every movement.
Now, imagine the DM describing this setting, but there’s people in the background talking about school. Or a children’s show is blaring on TV talking about blueberry pancakes. Or even a radio turned on with today’s latest hits playing. It takes away from the mood that you’re trying to create.
Now, if you google or search Spotify for Forlorn Cliffs by Inon Zur, play that and read the same description. It really sets the mood and tone for this session. Going for a dark and ominous feeling, that something isn’t right here.
Music can really set the tone of a session. Every time I go to run a session, I think of what the tone is going to be, then I look to create a play list on Spotify. Then I save that playlist and use it when I need to in the game. Now, I don’t pay for Spotify, so I get ads. And usually they don’t come at the best times, but when playing for 6 hours, the number of ads don’t seem to be too bothersome.
Here are the playlists that I like having on hand during a session. I feel like this covers a lot of scenarios and tones for the game.
D&D Tavern – These are upbeat and fun instrumentals that I can use in about any town setting.
D&D Creepy – These are usually slow, ominous instrumentals that really set the creepy “Did that just move?!” feel. I like using these in dungeons, graveyards, and caverns.
D&D Battle – These songs are usually a faster tempo have a sense of urgency to them.
D&D Travel – These songs are just mixed of gentle background music. Now imminent threats and not a bustling town. Just easy travels.
D&D Sad – Slow tempo and usually a lot of piano to them. I’ll use this if there are any really emotional parts to the session.
Now, I like to use Spotify and create playlists to easily play from my phone and play on a Bluetooth speaker. I have a iHome brand speaker that’s shaped like a flask. It’s a nice rechargeable speaker that lasts the whole session on a single charge, plus some podcasts on the way home after the session. I can usually get about 8 hours out of the charge. The flask shape is icing on the cake, as it adds a nice little visual while sitting next to DM’s screen.
This is just what I’ve been using for my games. I’ve tried a couple of different apps, but this is what works best for me. I’m not saying that this is “The Best” solution out there, but it’s what I like using the most. I’ve tried Syrinscape for a session. While I love how you can pretty much customize the sounds and have different sound effects at the tips of your finger, I didn’t like how I couldn’t run it in the background on my phone. Like many people, I do just about everything on my phone. Especially when I run a D&D session. I have apps that I can search for spells, monster stats, and even an app that I map out my campaign for quick reference. I couldn’t stand stopping the music every time I needed to check on a spell or monster stat.
Another app worth mentioning is DnDify. It’s an app that uses Spotify, but has one click playlists that you can switch to on the fly. It also has a battle button on the bottom of the app, so you can switch to battle music with a click of the button. The categories for the playlists fall under Ambient, Atmosphere, Combat, Monsters, Mood, and Situation. It’s really nice having them just one click and you can pick the atmosphere or mood. As it’s an app that uses Spotify to play music, it uses what I like. While typing this out, I’ve been using it, and for the most part it has nice pre-made playlists. I have found that Haunted Place and Mountain Pass playlists aren’t the instrumental scores I generally like playing. Instead, they had some music from Lady Gaga, Kane Brown, and Billie Ellish. Not sure if this was a mistake or not, but I find Lady Gaga quite haunting.
So, that’s my view on music and D&D and how it can really enhance the sessions and what I use. I’ve been using DnDify more and more. I highly suggest checking that out if you’re looking to add music to your sessions. When running playing your D&D sessions, what do you like using for music and sound? Do you have something not listed that you what to share? Leave a comment, I always like looking at the different options.