Music in RPGs
I'm a huge fan of music in RPGs. Meaning, I love curating the right background / mood tracks for general scenes of games I'm running. Can music suck in an RPG? Surely yes, but I think you can avoid this by navigating correctly.
And speaking of which, I recently watched the movie No Escape, and was impressed but how well the music complemented the action and pace. It's like a lesser version of Mad Max: Fury Road, in that regard.
Many movie tracks have too many peaks and valleys, and highs and lows, within the same track. This makes them difficult to work with for gaming, because timing a climax with an actual game moment requires some serious DJ skillz, of which I have little.
But the correct tracks just set a pace and mood. Listen to any of the tracks from the game Fallout 2, and you'll see exactly what I mean.
Appending complementary tracks
Now, many great tracks are unfortunately somewhat short. This can become a real problem because if you put it on a loop, you've got something which easily becomes repetitive. You really don't want your players distracted by the music, but even more so, you don't want them downright annoyed by it. That's serious bad news for the game.
What I've been playing with recently is appending complementary audio tracks so that I get a longer loop, for audio that similarly sets a mood.
This is exactly what I did in preparing for tonight's game, which will be a continuation of a Dungeon World campaign that has been on a 3-month hiatus. I will be using Dread for this session, and want action and movement. And I want the music to reflect this.
I bought the No Escape soundtrack, and made the following tracks by appending songs together (might be listenable on SoundCloud for a time by clicking those links):
- Market Research + The President's Toast + Jack Wakes (5:30)
- Rooftop Refuge + Roof Toss + Map Quest + Atavistic Jack (8:05)
- Bike Thief (1:38)
- Coup Coup Roux + Jack Be Nimble + Pool Que + No Escape + Embassy Issues (8:50)
- Fighting For Annie + 007812 + Need a New Roof (7:08)
Track 1 works for them running into a band of refugees that may or may not be friendly. Track 2 is a general background for interludes and travel. Track 3 starts to ratch up the tension. It works well on its own and can repeat pretty well, but I also know that this would likely be used for a scene that won't go on for very long. Track 4 is the meat; this is when the chase is on. And track 5 is battle.
Although some of those tracks work together, they aren't necessarily adjacent or sequential on the soundtrack, so appending them one after the other gives me a longer track I can loop, and also means there is variety in the music so players don't have a chance to get annoyed by any specific track before forgetting about it in lieu of the next time it plays.
As far as the game... What's actually going to happen? Not sure, as I don't really have that much narratively planned. But just like the Dread Mad Max: Fury Road game, I'm hoping the music does the work with my brain juices, and gets it going to the right place.
I'll let you know.