GM Essentials: Background Music

Today I wanted to share a great tool that I’ve started using in my Pathfinder sessions lately. As the title of this post suggests, that tool is music.

I started out playing the odd CD during a session, but CDs are very short compared to a 3-4 hour game, and I didn’t enjoy the distraction of getting up to change discs. Then I tried using my existing collection of soundtrack music and loading those onto my iPhone so I could play them on a random playlist. This worked a little better, except most of my collection of soundtracks included CDs that I had listened to many, many times before. They also had very memorable and recognisable themes: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean. They were a bit too distracting for the players (and me as well) as many of the themes immediately led them to think of the films they come from instead of what we were doing in the game.

Next I started checking out what was available on iTunes (after a couple of pointless visits to a physical music store – their soundtrack selections were pretty grim). It was there that I found a fantastic selection of music at reasonable prices. [Though it is worth noting that the South African iTunes store inexplicably lacks random albums, for example the Stargate Atlantis soundtrack.]

   island_soundtrack   SerenityCDcover   Thor_The_Dark_World_soundtrack

So far I’ve created a playlist that includes, to name but a few, the Iron Man 3 and Thor The Dark World soundtracks (Brian Tyler is one of my new favourite composers), plus the Firefly, Serenity, The Island, Donnie Darko, Gladiator and The Hunger Games soundtracks. I even have some of the Lego Movie soundtrack in there, which tends to appear just when our sorcerer is about to do something crazy.

This mix of awesome-sounding, but not immediately identifiable, music adds a nice background to our sessions. I don’t spend time choosing songs, as the speakers are on the far side of the room. This also helps keep the focus away from the music. Sometimes the random selections are not quite right for what’s happening at the table, which leads to a few laughs, but often, it’s just enough to bring a little flavour to the action.

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