How to set the mood at the game table

It’s time to roll dice.
Everyone’s excited to get going, fight some goblins, tip back some beverages (be they boozy or Mt. Dewy) and have a good time.

But when it’s time to get into the game, you may have to do a little bit of work to keep everyone in the mood (whether you’re the GM or the player).

We have some tips, and they’re all about immersion.

Keep in character. Remember to keep your out-of-game talk and in-game talk separate. If you refer to your +2 plate mail to the waiter at an inn, they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. If you’re the GM, encourage players to speak in-character whenever possible.

Find some music. If you haven’t heard of Midnight Syndicate or artists like them, welcome to an RPG musical rabbit hole. There’s music for everything from tavern tunes and atmospheric sounds to gothic horror orchestrations and mystical music. Your favorite film scores also usually work well.

Here are some links to check out:

 Bust out those maps, minis, coins and tokens. Though theater of the mind can be fun, a lot of players dig the physical representation of the game. It can help visualize everything.

Create some terrain. For the hobbyists out there, this is where you shine. Get out the Styrofoam, card board and craft paint and whip up some set pieces or whole dungeons. It feels more like you’re living in the world than looking at a flat representation of it.

Make props or maps. Do the players find an old map? Print or draw one out, pour some old coffee on it to age it, and hand it over. Do they find a special gem covered in magic symbols? Pick up a fake gem or rock from the craft store and carve or draw symbols on it.

Crafting Links: 

Make the story stem from the player’s choices. This is more of a gameplay one than something physical provided. Railroading players into a story isn’t as fun as seeing what they do when presented with a situation and taking things from there.

Remove distractions. Everyone has phones and tablets and eight million other things going on. If everyone left their phones at home or (more realistically) left them off the table, ate dinner before the game rather than during or kept the non-game talk to a minimum while you played, that would be nice.

Pay attention. There’s nothing that takes you out of the game faster than having someone need to repeat themselves because someone wasn’t paying attention to the gameplay.

Be prepared. Make sure your character sheet is up to date, you know how your abilities work and (especially for your spellcasters) you’re aware of what spells you have prepared.

Make the places real. A little preparation goes a long way for this one. The players are at a tavern. What kind of wine do they serve? What’s the bartender’s name? When they’re raiding a castle, what does it smell like? What’s on the tapestries? Place names and descriptions are great, but a little extra detail keeps everyone in the world.

For more inspiration check out