Not every game master out there uses music to enhance their RPG sessions, but I do.

Why?

Because music helps the players get into the proper mood, and cuts down on distractions. I’ve played music in my games nearly as long as I’ve been a game master. When done right, it works.

If you’ve been considering adding music to your games, and you don’t know where to begin, I recommend the following steps:

1. Begin with what you have. 

Chances are, you already have a music library. Begin there.

You already have an ear for the music you enjoy. Why not see if you can use it at the tabletop? If it doesn’t work, try something else.

2. Listen to a variety of music. 

Think of building your RPG music library as prospecting: you’re always keeping your ear open for good music.

And that’s part of the fun.

You get to listen to a lot of music while you’re out and about. That music you liked in that movie you just watched: could that work? What about that music video on YouTube?  Can you use that?

3. When in doubt, go ambient.

Movie soundtracks are a great place to find music. But can also be the worst: too many sudden rises and falls, changes in tempo. And if you’re not used to pacing your narrative these shifts can jar your players out of the mood.

The same goes with singing. Yes, Led Zeppelin has some of the best medieval rock music out there, but I may not want to talk over Robert Plant’s vocals.

So what do I mean by ambient? It’s music which can be played in the background, but you sort of forget its there after a while, even though it can heighten the tension.

Certain video game soundtracks do this, like Diablo II (which I can’t recommend enough). Parts of The Fellowship of the Ring  fit the bill.

4. If you’re concerned about genre, go classical. 

It’s hard to go wrong with classical music: that’s why you hear it everywhere, especially in advertising and television. If you listen closely, you’ll discover certain movie soundtracks are just variants of a piece of classical music.

Classical music crosses genres. You can play it a medieval-fantasy game. You can use it for science fiction. It works for modern RPGs.

And it doesn’t cost that much.

For starters, get 99 Darkest Pieces of Classic Music. There’s over 11 hours of music on this album. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll like.

5. Read Soundtrack Saturday.

Every Saturday since I started this blog, I’ve been recommending music that might go well with your games. I’ve listened to countless hours of music.

And I’m just getting started.