Do you ever use music or ambience tracks for your games?

Do you ever use music or ambience tracks for your games?

Do you ever use music or ambience tracks for your games? I’ve never done it but always wondered if it could be done in a constructive way. I just don’t have the music collection to even attempt it and anything with lyrics would be distracting. Really fighting the urge on this kickstarter. Anyone else jumped on this yet? Any good experiences in the past using stuff like this for your games?

20 thoughts on “Do you ever use music or ambience tracks for your games?”

  1. Well, I annoyed a bunch of Call of Cthulhu players by putting the Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack on repeat for the entire game. BUT I ENJOYED THE HELL OUT OF IT. Other than that, I can’t imagine managing a soundtrack without the help of someone, like the DJ direction I’m going in. That would be maddening. You’d need a co-GM or something.

  2. See, that’s what’s appealing to me about these tracks. In theory anyway. They’re just thematic background noise that can be looped. Put one on for dungeon. Change to city mp3 for the town. Not micromanaging the soundscape with effects. I don’t know though. Like I said, theoretically it sounds interesting.

  3. Honestly, even the attention spared for the track change is too much for me. I get so focused on the fiction, all my creative/logistical energy is used up. Noticing the need for music change, walking across a room, and choosing the new track – gah.

  4. Ah yeah, that would be a drag. For sure. I’ve been imagining for roll20 online gaming. Evidently it has some “jukebox” feature that allows you to easily switch tracks when wanted.

    You’re doing a good job of keeping my money in my pockets though Willem. Keep it up!

  5. I soundtrack as often as i can, and as a result a good 40-60% of my music collection is stuff i don’t actually listen to, it’s stuff i play in the background.

    So, i’m kinda excited about this, but i’m also pretty involved in soundtracking already, which leaves me at a loss.  What would this offer me?

    Also – dig Radio Rivendell

  6. Man, he just announced the next stretch goal, Environment Pack. I’m weakening. There’s some good tracks in there for the Elemental Nodes of my upcoming Temple of Elemental Evil run. And here Gray Pawn is telling me how much he’s been loving adding soundtracks to his games too…

  7. It’s a cool idea!  I just wonder if there’s a better way to do it than …kickstarting a packet of MP3s?… Still MP3s with Gaming Background specifically designed into them is…way better than just downloading video game soundtracks and scouring them for ‘quiet ones’ vs ‘action ones’ vs ‘dark ones’…

  8. That’s the benefit to me. 1. I wouldn’t even know where to begin when it comes to amassing “music” for backgrounding. 2. I have zero time for putting into doing it even if I had the motivation to pursue it. It literally needs to take no more than 5 minutes of my life for me to be able to utilize it.

    Here I’ve got “Dungeon Realm”. Play that on loop when in a dungeon. Easy.

  9. I use this website:

    It’s basically a shared iTunes, and you can look up a bunch of different songs and stream them. Joel Watkins and I have been putting together a playlist for the Dungeon World PbP game we’re about to start. We’ve got songs from the Assassin’s Creed games, God of War, Skyrim, A Game of Thrones, Ultima Online, Pan’s Labyrinth, Beowulf, and many more.

    A cool new feature I didn’t know about is the broadcast feature. You can literally broadcast your playlist and give your players a link to listen to the songs as you hear them. I think that would be most useful in a Google Hangout or webcam-based game. If you’re playing a live game in person, you can just stream it in person obviously.

    It’s not really adaptable to PbPs unfortunately – everyone would have to be on at the same time to listen to the broadcast.

    It could totally work out for chat games too though.

    I’m actually broadcasting the playlist right now 🙂!/mishappening/broadcast

  10. Those all sound like awesome options, but the problem i’m still having is two-fold:  these options involve curating your own playlists, or, the alternative, having a randomly generated streaming thing.  The first problem is obvious:  who has the time?  The second is equally problematic, i can’t tell you how many times i’ve had action scene music suddenly queue up in our Dungeonworld game because Radio Rivendell arbitrarily chose that track, even though we’re talking to an elderly woman at the local Inn (prompting it to feel like we should suddenly be stabbing her – not cool Radio Rivendell, not cool).

    But what if there was a channel or some other streaming option that let you switch between “Dark” and “Town” and “Action Scene?”  And what if it could do it smoothly, but without limiting itself to one or two discs of music?  By pulling from a library as large and well-kept as Radio Rivendells?  Now, i’d back that kickstarter in a heartbeat.

    (not to sound like i’m dumping on this KS – it’s cool too, i’m just dreaming out loud).

  11. No problem, I hear you. I’d also back a kickstarter that lets you stream and broadcast and separate songs by categories and program it so you can easily switch if you need to (even look up a certain song on the spot and play it right then and there). That’s all wishful thinking there, too. 🙂

    Grooveshark has a lot uploaded to it (because other people upload music – hence why it’s a shared iTunes) – and you can look up all your favorite fantasy video games and movies, for example, and add the songs that come up to a grand playlist to broadcast.

    You don’t have to download anything either – you just add it to your library and boom, you’re done.

    In terms of the randomness – yes, I agree. That can be problematic. You can re-arrange songs to fit your play order, but that can be extremely time consuming.

    If a situation ever occurred where the characters are sneaking through a cave and suddenly loud, blaring horns and trumpets for some royal procession start playing – I would just quickly hit next song and be done with it.

    Grooveshark could definitely be improved upon – but it’s the best thing I’ve found so far that suits my needs.

  12. Nah, I get what you’re saying Gray Pawn. (I did briefly check your link and will check it further when I get some time. Is it like a fantasy music Pandora?) I absolutely don’t have time to create playlists, much less collect tracks, listen and cut, etc.

    I guess in my mind I’m mostly thinking about their use via online play. What appealed to me is that they seem so generic (but sound cool) and purely ambient that they would be easy to use over and over. They’re not even music, so I’m thinking I could loop Dungeon Realm indefinitely when appropriate. Switch to the town track when in town. Not really building a complex playlist. Just very generally themed background noise.

    Think it would detract more than add in that way?

  13. Evidently each one of these is about 10 minutes and specifically designed for seamless looping. If done well I’d hope you would t even realize you were looping.

  14. Radio Rivendell is just a cool streaming radio for fantasy music.  Anything from Enya to LotR soundtrack. (same thing?)  But if you create an account and rate songs it’ll take into account what you like/don’t like on a scale of 1-5 stars (which, btw, when you rate songs you ‘level up.’  how cool nerdy is that?)

    But, yeah, the problem is getting lame music or music that just totally doesn’t fit the mood.  And there’s no ‘forward’ button to push.  Just pause/play.  :/  Because they’re built entirely on asking for donations.

    I’ll have to check out Grooveshark, though.  That could come in equally handy for sure.

  15. I think it adds, and a lot. From the day our GM tried it, it became expected, and I’ve almost always exclusively GMed with a soundtrack.

    I load about a dozen varied tracks to a music player, with clear names, and enable the “loop track” option. When the situation changes, I just click a new track.

    Don’t assemble a enormous collection of tracks: like in a TV show, there should be some familiarity with most tracks, to avoid distraction every time a new song pops up. Use different music for rare and special occasions, like a big boss battle.

    That KS looks great. The only downside I using background music is that it sometimes distracts some players. Non-musical background tracks would be great. I would still use music, but much more sparingly.

  16. There’s a lot to be said for situation, too.  For instance, you can have all kinds of music in the background for a Star Wars game – so long as it’s Star Wars music.  Which will always draw some attention, but only, IMHO, in a good way.

    Another way for the situation to make the difference is if the music is being played in game too.  I once ran a session where the players went into an underground bar in an urban fantasy setting.  The schtick for the bar was that you had to choose a song from a jukebox to get in.  So i had the players all pick a song – the just asked if i had it on my computer, if i did it was on the Jukebox.  Once inside they discovered that all the songs were not played from records or CDs but live from a giant multi-limbed robot.  So as the songs came up we all narrated details of what instruments the robot was using to play his ‘cover’ of the songs they’d picked.  I would call that immersion, not distraction.

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