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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Music in play

Using music during play: this is a topic that comes up pretty regularly on rpg.net and other RPG discussion areas. I happen to be a fan of using music as background during game sessions, though I steer away from anything intrusive. Luckily I listen to quite a bit of ambient music, which is a great fit for unobtrusive session background sound. I'm also lucky enough to have a good friend and gaming buddy who is a musician heavily involved in creating ambient music. Here's some suggested listening:

  • Thoughts of the Long Now - This is a free compilation of drone-style tracks. It's about 2.5 hours of music, some pieces more applicable than others. I'll pimp Emdot_Ambient's piece Realizations of Absolutism Vol. I as my favorite (and I'm not just saying that because he's one of my best friends).
  • Ambient 1: Music for Airports - One of Brian Eno's early ambient works, this album is a defining piece in the ambient genre. The liner notes sum up the intent of ambient music and hint at why it might be useful in a gaming environment.
  • Thursday Afternoon - Another work by Eno, this piece was originally a soundtrack to a video.
  • Numena/Geometry - A collection of works by Robert Rich. A bit more structured than the pieces by Eno, still quite useful.
  • Quiet Music - Steve Roach is very much a minimalist. Quiet Music fits right in Eno's concept of ambient works.
  • Dark Wood - Classic cello in a very melancholy arrangement. Some of Darling's other works are more intrusive, but this album is quite fitting as game background.
  • Stone Tower - This is a fairly dark work, a bit noisier than some of the other pieces mentioned. It works quite well in tense settings, lending a bit of a horrific feel to the scene.
Two words on using this style of music during play: volume level is important! The goal is to have the music present but not intruding. Volume should be low enough that conversation easily drowns out the music. If possible place your speakers at some distance from the gaming table so it's really in the background rather than front and center.

I hope this inspires you to give music a try at your sessions.
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