Friday, July 31, 2009

Gaming and music: Firing on all cylinders

For last week's Autumn Frontiers campaign, I queued up about 70 assorted metal songs and let 'em rip over the course of our 5-hour game. Among those was a record that I consider to be my campaign's muse: Wintersun, an album by a Finnish metal band of the same name.

Back when I was originally brainstorming ideas for my Points of Light-derived fantasy sandbox, I listened to Wintersun a lot. The songs, with their Viking/dreamland-inspired imagery, really juiced my imagination, and even today, it's easy to travel back to the halcyon days of that worldbuilding effort simply by putting on track 5, "Battle Against Time." That song—the melody, really, and the stadium-rock vocalization that opens the tune—never ceases to fire my creative pistons, evoking images of adventurers roaming across a vast, uncharted wilderness, exploring the ruins of past civilizations and spending hard-earned coin in shabby frontier villages—before heading out into the unforgiving lands to do it all over again. Good stuff.

As an aside, I glanced at the tracklist from last week's game. As near as I can tell, Wintersun came up toward the end of the session, as the party's wizard PC was fighting for his life on the windswept cliffs of the Darkwater Keep. In fact, his death very probably coincided with a Wintersun song titled "Death and the Healing," which boasts some very apropos lyrics.
Time is the death and the healing Take your last breath, 'cause death is deceiving Time is the past, now and tomorrow Days fly so fast and it leaves me so hollow

A snowstorm blew inside a wolf's eyes
and the frozen tears covered all the mountainsides But then the time got by and the wolf died and someday that wolf would be I.
Sage advice indeed. UncleBear touches on designing a campaign soundtrack, and d7 over at the Seven-Sided Die compares rpgs to musical genres. It seems music is in the air. What type of music juices your campaign?


Michael S/Chgowiz said...

I must be in a minority - I find music distracting when I'm DM'ing. I'm not sure about playing. Now music while I'm creating/writing? Oh yea... and thanks for the links! :)

the Reverend said...

I always like music, but during a game, it has be be managed well enough to stay ambient. Music can either add to the environment, or detract from conversation. It also depends on the group; if the majority of your group has ADD, then it's probably best to go without. That said, Scandinavian Metal usually works.
I like MGMT, and Portugal the Man. Little bit different of a feel there, but still good music to add to environment.

Patrick W. Rollens said...

I definitely agree that music (especially loud music or ::shudder:: the wrong music) can ruin a session.
But I find it nice to have a steady stream of ambient tuneage going in the background, ready to fill in those exciting moments when they players are silently plotting their next move.

Patrick W. Rollens said...

@Chgowiz: Strangely enough, I *can't* listen to music while I write. It ruins my creative process.

Supah said...

As Patrick well knows, I'm a big fan of listening to music while gaming - both as a player and GM. I actually love paying attention to what's playing and trying to "score" the game. For fantasy games, metal is often the winner. For space cowboy games, well, break out the acoustic songs with electronica flair. Music generally adds another dimension to a game for me, and when we put music on halfway through, that feeling is palpable. As a player, it's often nice to vibe with the music while paying attention to the game when you're not in the spotlight.

For writing, though, I usually aim for music that is repetitive and loud. My job demands that I write nonfiction with heavy analysis, and it tends to keep me focused and in the zone.

Supah said...
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