Background Music for your Gaming Session.

Music & Audio

This is something I was discussing with a friend a day or two ago.

He says he loves having background music for his games, and that it adds to immersion. And I can see his point, but I feel its fares better in theory than execution.

Apparently, I'm the only one who feels background music can be very distracting. Specially if it's well known (even if only for geeks, like a video-game song. Actually, it's usually even more distracting in this case) or belongs to the favorite style of one or more players.

Also, changing the music/volume to fit the situation seems to break the gaming pace. ("OMFG! An Anciet Red Wyrm! To arms, comrades!" "Wait, let me put [insert-video-gameboss-theme-or-heavy-metal-song-here]")

I like background music when it fits the overall theme of the campaign/adventure and does not attract to much attention, to the point where it's pleasant but you almost forget it's there.

Like most people, I love music. I go to lots of concerts and even buy CDs, which is pretty unusual for most people my age. I listen to lots of different things, from Michael Jackson to Black Sabbath to Johnny Cash to Pomplamoose to Megadeth. I say this just to make it clear that music itself is not the issue.

I don't usually mind background music if it's at a lowish volume (so the GM/players don't feel the need to raise their voices), is not "too identifiable" (so the game game is not ruined when someone comments "Hey, this is boss theme from metal gear!" and proceeds to sidetrack from there) and has no lyrics (so noone ends up paying much attention to them).

basically, I want background music to be at most, part of the background, while most people want it to be too big a deal in the game.(more often than not, jut to show "that awesome song I have in my Ipod. ")

I'm aware I may sound like a bitter old man saying "this kids today don't know what good music is", but I assure you that is not the case.

So tell me, fellow roleplayers and game masters. What is your opinion on this? Do you like having background music? Yes? No? Why? An in what terms?

I'm a big fan of background music without vocals.
I usually use Pandora and play Movie theme songs like Lord of the rings


Moved thread.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Look up Midnight Syndicate. They specialize in roleplaying music.

Liberty's Edge

Movie scores are usually pretty good for this sort of thing. It's also useful to just have a few different playlists arranged ahead of time.

Theme music can really enhance a game, but it can also really screw it up. It depends on the proficiency of the GM.

And there are of course plenty of threads around here for good lyricless stuff.

As mentioned, movie and TV scores without lyrics are best. Low volume as well so as not to distract.

Let's see....the standard stuff like:

Gladiator, Braveheart, Dune, Firefly, Kingdom of Heaven (very good), Passion of the Christ, all the LOTR, Battlestar Galactica's, Game of Thrones.

I only notice the music when it stops playing.

Thx for the piece of advice, guys.


I'm not familiar with Midnight Syndicate. I'll check them out as soon as my home internet connection gets fixed.


Like I said, movie/series/game themes are usually pretty cool, but they often lead to some player breaking the gaming pace to comment something like "Hey, this is the song from that one scene/level from that one movie/series/game" which often leads to sidetracking.

I apprecieate the advice. Braveheart, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven could work with my group, I'll try them.

But LotR, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones would certainly lead to the situation I described. Or to someone focusing too much attention on the song trying to remember where it is from.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I use background music extensively, and have had more success than not. Those rare moments when the music cue syncs perfectly with what is happening in-game can be pretty thrilling. But, as discussed, it can be distracting. Here are a couple of approaches myself and some other GMs from my group(s) have utilized:

Right off the bat, I tell my players that I use background music. I inform them I'll be using a lot of different music, much of it from movies, anime and video games. I tell them that even if they hear something they recognize to keep references to it from out of game.

Volume. Keep it down. It should be clear enough to hear the music, but the music should never be loud enough to drown out the GM and players speaking.

Stay away from lyrics. Those are distracting, for the most part, and it can't be helped, really. The one exception I've found, there are a lot of songs out there that easily fit as background in a tavern, or similar situations. Your players walk in, the music starts playing, and you say "This is what you hear the bard singing."

Something that helps in a big way is a little pre-planning. First, a good idea, especially if you have a lot of music, is to use playlists. Create one for "Action Cues", or "Romantic Moments" or "Sad Themes", etc. That way, when you get to the big fight, you open the playlist, set it on random and you're set. All that will come up is music you've already deemed appropriate for the situation. Once the fight is done, switch to the next playlist, depending on what sort of scene it is. A remote can be invaluable in this way, as you can swiftly jump from playlist to playlist, or track to track without fiddling with your ipod or laptop.

I've gone so far as to actually identifying music cues that fit specific moments I've planned in my game. With timing (and luck) you'll find your cues work more often than not. I'll try to have a specific playlist that follows the plot of the adventure, and then when those specific moments pass, and a scene starts, I switch to one of my pre-programmed playlists. Pardon the alliteration.

The important thing is to not let the music become more important than the game it's supposed to enhance. But used wisely, the addition of music can really add flavor and emotion to a game.

Looking through my extensive music collection... I'd suggest Audiomachine, Nox Arcana (for those creepy parts), and Two Steps from Hell. They do mostly non-lyrical, though Nox Arcana has some speaking in a few tracks, but depending on your theme (Blackthorn Asylum would be amazing for Call of Cthulu, or d20 Modern in a haunted asylum), you could use that as an intro.

I'd really not suggest 3 Inches of Blood, Sabaton, Manowar, or DragonForce, but for writing up an adventure, I find them to be very helpful.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

If you want more music dissociated from stuff your players are likely to know:

This bandcamp has a ton of stuff
This one has some too
And this one
This one too
This guy
Him too
and this
and this
Of varying quality, musical style, and cost.

Liberty's Edge

I spent a good amount of time amassing a large number of what I feel are some great movie soundtracks for gaming. I then pulled the best tracks from each one and burned custom game soundtracks CDs - now have a 12 volume set! 12 CDs filled with more than 200 great tracks of music we can play during our games - over 14 hours ... not to mention the CDs are really fun to listen to LOUD in the car :)

Here are the main soundtracks that make up the 12 disc set. By main, I mean there was a LOT of great stuff on these and I ended up choosing a significant number of tracks from each one. There are assorted single songs from a number of other soundtracks as well to round the collection out, but these CDs served as my primary sources:

Conan the Barbarian
The Cell
Lord of the Rings (all three)
Lost (TV show)
The DaVinci Code
King Kong (new one)
The Last of the Mohicans
Pirates of the Caribbean (all three)
Last of the Mohicans
Kingdom of Heaven
King Arthur
The 13th Warrior
Batman Begins
The Dark Knight
Clash of the Titans
Prince of Persia
Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (Kevin Cosner version)
Robin Hood (new one)
Star Trek (new one)
The Tudors
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

A LONG and involved project, but it was worth it!

Of course, I still continue to pick up sountracks, so I can't rule out a Vol. 13 and 14 at some point ... :)

A fine list, but you missed Bram Stoker's Dracula. I'd consider the game soundtrack to Dragon Age and DA2 as well, and Diamanda Galas Plague Mass and The Divine Punishement/Saint of the Pit for horror stories.

...and perhaps Ruslana Wild Dances for horse chases around Absalon. ;D

Liberty's Edge

Snotlord wrote:

A fine list, but you missed Bram Stoker's Dracula. I'd consider the game soundtrack to Dragon Age and DA2 as well, and Diamanda Galas Plague Mass and The Divine Punishement/Saint of the Pit for horror stories.

...and perhaps Ruslana Wild Dances for horse chases around Absalon. ;D

Thanks! I have not checked out Bram Stoker's Dracula but I certainly will!

The rest are video game soundtracks right? I personally don't use any video game soundtracks but that's just a personal preference.

Oh, and I really want to create a antagonist called the Snotlord to use in the next thing I have published!!! :)

Dragon Age are computer games, yes. They sound a bit like LOTR/Conan rehashes, but I like them. The composer is Inon Zur, but not credited on spotify. Search for EA Games Soundtrack.

I mostly use Dragon Age, Dracula and the Dark Knight for my games.
LOTR and Conan are too familiar, and become distracting.

Ruslana was a joke. I like the song, quite catchy, and very distracting. It was used in GTA IV with great effect, hence the joke.

Diamanda Galas on the other hand is a very serious artist, better experienced. I used her for my V:tM games back in the day. Very effective.

I use a lot of music in my games using playlists in Itunes. I title them: Action, Drama, Sadness, Dungeon, Tension, and Tavern.

those are some great music suggestions from the other people posting and I'll throw out a few odd albums that you might not find on any list but are worth checking out.

Brian Eno, Ambient on Land - fantastic tense and creepy music. Perfect for a swamp, etherial plane.

Peter Gabriel, Passion - The soundtrack to the last temptation christ. One of the best soundtracks I've heard and fits nicely in a desert themed game.

James Horner, Glory soundtrack The charging of Fort Wagner gets the blood pumping.

The playlists all me to not micromanage the music. The last thing I want to do is end up looking like Moss from the IT crowd. I just let em play quietly in the background.

I also use the Ambiance app (Iphone). You can create custom sound effect mixes. By layering a few of the sound effects I was able to create the experience of an earthquake in the middle of a battle, complete with magic and screaming.


Our gaming group loves to use ambient audio while we play to set the mood just like you guys. Recently, I found an article on Geek Native -rpg-audio/ that mentioned a Kickstarter campaign to create custom music, sound effects, and voice overs for Tabletop RPGers! They even have some guy who did voice work on Diablo 3 working with them.

I'm backing this sucker at $75 to get the Soundboard and all audio they create as it's finished but you can get all the basic audio for a $15 pledge. Thought this info might be useful to some of you guys (or gals like me) would find it useful.

Name: The Realmsound Project
By: The Orange County Gaming Group
Goal: $10,000
Ends: Tuesday, July 23, 3:23pm EDT
What: Professional Custom Music, Sound Effects, and Voice over for Tabletop RPG gamers
Pledges: $5 Wristband, $15 $2000 worth of their audio, $25 CD + All Previous, $35 All Previous, $50 Soundboard + All Previous, $75 Get Audio as it's Created + All Previous, $100 Voting Rights for SFX + All Previous, $150 Thank You + All Previous, $250 Voting on Monster Sounds + All Previous, $500 Voting Rights on Racial Music + All Previous, $750 Voting Rights on New Language + All Previous, $1000 Use Your Character's Name in VO + All Previous, $1500 Create Own Custom Character Music + All Previous

I just discovered this guy earlier (been up all night), and I have to say, his work is fantastic. I've listened to a bunch of his Celtic stuff so far and it's all great for background audio.

Adrian von Ziegler

The braid soundtrack. Nuff said!

Lemmy wrote:
So tell me, fellow roleplayers and game masters. What is your opinion on this? Do you like having background music? Yes? No? Why? An in what terms?

Absolutely. In fact, I'm not sure we'd ever go without music ever again.

With that said, your question about terms is a very good one. For us, terms include:

1) Only when appropriate (as defined by the taste of our group). It's only used during 'important' moments, or when a specific mood is important.

2) Know when to hit 'stop'. It doesn't need to be on all the time.

3) Keep the volume relatively low.

4) If you need to spend too much time (again - 'too much' being defined by the group) looking for the right track, you're doing it wrong (and it apparently just wasn't important enough).

5) What you said - not too identifiable, and lyrics kept to a minimum. We only want to play a Star Wars track if we're playing Star Wars, or want to think Star Wars.

We play in my rec room with an HTPC (and accompanying home theater) ready to go, along with a wireless mouse, and massive HDD full of music all in alphabetical order and labeled, so it's very convenient for us.

For the most part, the tracks are chosen when the adventure is being read/prepped (and then all queued up right before the session begins).

Honestly, we rarely use background music in my games. We often have music playing while we're playing, but it's normally just a band that most of the group enjoys. It runs the gamut from metal to electronica, with a few side trips to Gregorian chanting and the like. Most recently it's actually mostly been the blues & roots/folk rock band that my brother plays for.

We do have a couple of guidelines though. Nothing amazingly heavy, no playing it too loud, and if it's distracting people too much then it goes off or gets changed. Mostly we don't find that there's any problems though.

The one time in recent memory that I've used background music was when I was play testing the introductory scenario of my homebrew campaign, and narrating the aerial drop scene that it opens with. I actually used Icarus, the main theme from Deus Ex: Human Revolution for that, and found it worked really well.

I routinely use music tracks for my sessions. I keep the music low and vary the tracks by area and situation. Going from the Carebear enclave to the Pits of Undead Despair would warrant a track change. ;-)

I also compose songs for my gamers. Check out:music links at the bottom of the page.

The theme song for the current group is "Heroic Journey." All of the composed songs have particular significance. "Alas, poor Molly," for example commemorated the time the party decided to rescue Molly, who was captured by giant spiders, by burning their webs.

Yeah, not so much ... The party gets a good laugh every time the song pops up in a sessesion soundtrack.

In service,


the Dr Games Site

Community / Forums / Gamer Life / Entertainment / Music & Audio / Background Music for your Gaming Session. All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Music & Audio