For many people, adding music to a gaming session adds great atmosphere and heightens the overall mood. It can accent and add punch to an characters speech, add dramatic flare to a daring maneuver, and get the blood flowing for an epic battle. Sometimes it is mismatched and destroys verisimilitude, or can even make a dire situation light hearted. But for many, it is simply a nice touch that takes a background role.
What I want to know is: what are some of the memorable moments where the music made all the difference, intentional or accidental, for good or bad.
I'll start with a few examples from my gaming life...
When I first started gaming:
This was a very long time ago, and my older brother was DMing for me and some of my friends. 2e AD&D recently come out, so we were playing a mix of 1e & 2e, with a bit of Hero Quest thrown in from time to time. I don't remember much of the specifics, but we were on our last leg. Deep in the bowels of some ancient mountain and battling a rampaging cyclops. All of us were knocked out save for our ranger, who was running around trying to save himself, us, and take out this giant who was not going to let us go easily (well, at all really). We were all noobs, so really didn't know what to expect. The music so far has been dark, nothing overpowering. Our ranger is almost dead and gets off a lucky shot. We have no idea how well we're doing, but suddenly the cyclops begins to fall towards the ranger (large and larger creatures had the risk of falling onto and crushing us when they died). A lucky roll of the die, and te dead Cyclops falls mere inches away from the terrified ranger. Out of nowhere, the music crescendos to a loud, heroic fanfare with a long sweeping melody. The player of the ranger was standing and pacing nervously up to this point, suddenly gets covered with goose-bumps, and in a shaky voice exclaims "yyyyYYESSS! HOLY *expletives*", and is unable to do more than say "That was freakin Awesome!" over and over again.
Scared the crap out of us:
Searching through some old castle ruins in Ravenloft, everything is eerily quiet. We know something terrible is here, but we can't find any signs of anything. Interview with the Vampire is playing in the background. We find an area that looks like it was covered up with dirt recently, so we start digging. We dig for hours, and the eerie, distant and quiet strings of the Iw/tV soundtrack do a good job of keeping the haunted tension up. After some time and some rolls later, the DM says "You're shovels suddenly hit something hard!" Instantly (and completely by accident) after saying "Hard", the track changes to Abduction and Absolution. Over half of us literally jump out of our seats and start freaking out. It was beautiful.
I was using a cassette player at the time, and had made a 2 sided 90 minute tape of Gon's ending music from Tekken 3 to use as the backdrop for a casino that the players needed to infiltrate in order to gather info on several targets. It was going to be a session filled with espionage and gathering information. We also had sections set up so that we could get more in-depth with our investigations. We had a poker table set up so that we could gamble in real time with our characters gold while simultaneously questioning and discovering bits of information through the nights banter. One of the players decides to join the band, picks up the closest thing to a bass, and starts jamming along with the band (playing Gon's music over and over again). This allowed him to blend in while gaining a good vantage point of the entire casino to keep an overall eye on everything going on.
The night goes on, were all having a blast, and the espionage builds up until finally and loudly one of our targets figures out that something isn't right, freaks out, and starts to both fight and run. Upon seeing this, the player who joined the band decides to stop playing, and throws his bass down onto the ground in front of him (intending on then jumping off the stage to give chase). Just then, side A of my cassette ended: suddenly and instantly cutting the music off. Total Silence. Absolute perfect timing!
Just a few examples. My table is rife with events like these... though the best ones are the accidental ones... though there have been moments where the PCs have altered their course of action, sometimes to everyones detriment, because of the music playing. For example:
Sneaking into an Ogres lair:
We're all trying to be stealthy, and we knew that we were getting close to the Ogre's main chamber. A long snaking hallway leads up to it, and In the Hall of the Mountain King starts to play (though my recording is instrumental only, no choir, but the tempo is about the same). One of our players starts enacting how he's sneaking up in the hallway ahead of the rest of us, all tippy-toed to match the music, and as the music accelerates and intensifies, so does his "sneaky' approach, until (when the choir starts to sing in the link) he bursts out into a full-on sprint well yelling "AAAAHHHH". The shots followed by short silence is him suddenly stopping in the middle of a large room, Ogres turning to look at him, him sheepishly turning to tuck-tail and run away... and thus begins a fight that nearly TPKs us. ^_^