How to soundtrack your D&D game session



How to soundtrack your D&D games

You’ve got this Game Master thing down.

Your games of D&D are intriguing and exciting. Your players are invested in the story. You lay down massive maps for every adventure. You have a miniature for every monster in the Pathfinder bestiary.

But what about the background music?

Music and sound effects are the extra element that really sets the mood for your next tabletop session.

It’s easy to set the scene and create an ambiance that pulls your players even further into the game. You can certainly put on a playlist of your favorite bands, but we have some guidance that takes it quite a few steps further.

First, we have some tips on picking your music and how to play it on the table.

What kind of game are you playing? Is it a horror RPG? Or high fantasy? Are you sailing the high seas as pirates? Answering this question can help you determine what direction you want to go and make sure the music you pick matches up with the vibe you’re going for.

How are you going to play music at the table? Your best bet is to have a stereo, bluetooth speaker or TV set up and ready to go. (FYI, using your phone, tablet or laptop speakers might not sound very good.) Make sure your bluetooth connection is set up and the volume level is appropriate. (Too loud, and you won’t be able to hear each other. Too soft, and you won’t be able to hear the music.)

If you’re playing on a virtual tabletop, you can play music there, too. It takes a little forethought, but you can set up music and sound effects on most virtual tabletops. Roll20 has the jukebox.

Have different tracks queued up for different purposes. You’ll want different things for background music, combat and even different locales. The light background music won’t be as good once you roll initiative, and that sweeping orchestral score isn’t going to fit well when the players enter the tavern.

Try for variety. Your players might go insane if they hear the same song every time they do combat, or the same film score every time they sit at your game table. Change it up and keep them interested.


OK, we have that set. But what about sources for your soundtracking needs? We have some ideas for that, too.

Film and video game scores
The easiest things to procure are scores from movies and video games. You can find them on YouTube and any streaming service if you don’t own the tracks. Think of the vibe you’re going for in your game, and try to match it with a movie you know. If you’re playing in Ravenloft, try the “Dracula Untold” soundtrack. If you’re doing a high fantasy adventure, the “Lord of the Rings” soundtracks will work wonders. Video game music is also great because the songs are typically matched to specific scenes of gameplay such as battles, exploration or conversation.

Tabletop Audio
This site is amazing. TabletopAudio.com offers more than 100 of audio tracks full of music, sound effects and other ambient elements that make you feel like you’re in the local they describe. The site lets you narrow them by subject (fantasy, sci-fi, historical, etc.), create playlists and download the tracks. Each track is 10 minutes long, and you can loop them continuously.


Midnight Syndicate
This band has 13 full-length albums that are each a soundtrack for different genres of RPGs such as gothic horror, Christmas, dark carnival, zombies and more. (They even did the “official roleplaying soundtrack” for D&D.) Take a cruise through their albums and pick out some tracks for various things you might need. (They have jaunty songs for combat as well as chanting and other sorts of things.)


Syrinscape
You can certainly create some pre-made music, but Syrinscape lets you create your own background audio for your adventures. Think of it like a D&D soundboard. With a little advanced preparation, you can use it to generate the perfect audio. Basically, there are sliders for various musical elements and sound effects, so you can make a track that has battle music, clanging swords and the sounds of a fire-breathing dragon. Or change it up to have cheering rebels, shouting dwarves and exploding fireballs. It sounds really, really cool.


Battle Bards
These guys created a host of audio for your games including music, monsters, sound effects and even actors speaking in languages such as orc and draconic. It’s free to sign up, and some elements are also free, but you pick and choose what pieces you want to pay for. There’s also a soundboard and mixer, so you can weave your audio elements together.