Adding Music Tracks to your TTRPG
So, it’s been a long time coming but I have had the idea to write about music tracks for a Dungeons & Dragons session. Really, these pieces can be used for just about any fantasy based TTRPG. Adding music to the game can make it feel more realistic and emotional. Like the backdrop to a movie or video game, soundtracks are there to inspire and drive the story.
This segment, titled Bardic Inspiration, will go into what tracks work best in a given scenario. As a dungeon master it may seem daunting to plan, roleplay, and cue music on time. But if taken slowly, both players and DM will find it can enhance a game in a number of ways. If you’re exploring ancient arcane runes, perhaps Kingdoms of Amalur’s Dalentarth is best on repeat. While resting at a campsite or at an inn may call for something a bit lowkey and melodic such as Pillars of Eternity’s Oldsong.
It’s been several years, alright a decade, since I last studied music, but it’s stayed with me ever since I picked up a trumpet in marching band. If anyone wishes to chime in (really, chime?) with their favorite track, composer, a bit of musical knowledge, or why a piece of music worked well in a game feel free to start a conversation.
I could honestly talk Pillars of Eternity all day everyday 365 but I know there is far more music out there. If there are any other tracks that you think should be touched on or hidden gems you prefer, let us know! Now, on with the music!
It Began in a Tavern
The most classic way to begin any Dungeons & Dragons session is to do so in a tavern. So why not start with tavern music. There is a cornucopia of songs that have the upbeat vibe of sitting around a roaring fire drinking ale and chomping on mutton. Whether it’s from the Witcher series or Dragon Age, there is a song fit for beginning an adventure.
But if you really want to set the mood, perhaps the best track to start with is from World of Warcraft. Simple titled Tavern, the track is composed by Jason Hayes, a veteran composer of 24 years who has written for just about everything with Blizzard’s name on it.
Tavern is lively and medieval. It’s a classic example of what a tavern feels like. It combines a mandolin, flute, and drums to drive home that feeling of gearing up for a grand adventure. It’s a shorter track as well and one that can be left on repeat while the party chats with the local barkeep about a gnoll problem in the forest.
While Justin Bell’s The Lover Cried Out from Pillars of Eternity is a completely different piece altogether. It’s slow soothing tempo is pleasing and relaxing. It’s a track that is perfect for winding down at the end of a long day of adventuring or one that can be used to bring the party together while the players introduce themselves around the table.
Bell has been composing professionally for 13 years and is the studio audio director at Obsidian Entertainment. You’ll find his work in Outer Worlds, Fallout New Vegas, and the upcoming RPG Avowed.
If you want some more upbeat tones to set the mood while you explain the town, government, or overall plot, Dragon Age 2 and the Witcher are good choices to go with. Emmy award winning composer Inon Zur really made DA2 much more appealing when you crank up the volume. The story is wonderful but the OST is fantastic. Tavern Music is a great fast-paced track to use while you describe the chaotic world in which your players will soon explore.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s music director Marcin Przybyłowicz is a masterful composer. Both A Story You Won’t Believe and Another Round for Everyone are full of rhythm and dancing beats. They make excellent choices for when that inevitable bar fight breaks out and the paladin won’t put down the barstool.
Those are just a few examples of how to enhance a standard tavern scene. There are far more song choices to choose from as well. Once you create a Spotify list of a few tavern songs, the rest should start showing up as recommendations. Until next time!