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Using music to enhance your game

In a previous post I mentioned how I was using a very cool song from the movie Final Fantasy: Advent Children to add a ton of atmosphere and suspense to my 4E Shackled City campaign. It was a huge success, and I highly recommend using special music for special events. Here's a few more details about how it went down. (The full session recap can be found here.

The temple was well defended, and the party had been overcoming tough opposition (and were starting to really hate kuo-toas.) After emerging into a large open cavern, they started to hear a loud, rhythmic thumping noise.

This is what they heard (I clipped the first minute or so and played it on repeat.)

As they explored further, they looked into a huge, football-stadium sized chamber only to see hundreds of kuo-toas deep in trance/meditation. The sound was the sound of countless kuo-toa hearts beating in unison.

A long bridge led above the crowd into a shrine, and the effect of the suspenseful, ominous music playing while they crept across was great. I stopped the music when they entered the shrine. A few encounters and one session later, they had the dwarf in tow and were ready to start sneaking out again. They exchanged nervous looks when I put the music on again, which I took great pleasure in.

Sneaking out over the bridge was a stealth-based skill challenge, so as to not alert the dormant horde beneath them. They eventually failed, making noise and alerting the kuo-toas. However, I didn't tell them they had failed or that the kuo-toas had noticed them, I simply switched the song to the 1:40 mark and waited. When the tempo changed everyone at the tables completely lost their minds and started all yelling at once what they were doing, in a panic.

The skill challenge turned into an escape-themed one, led into a fight with a vengeful dragon back for a rematch, and finally a terrible far realm abomination blocking the way to their escape boat, all while being pursued by enraged kuo-toas out for blood. I used various escape/pursuit-themed songs to emphasize the danger, and after the beaten, tired but successful players drifted away on their boat, they all said it was one of the most intense sessions yet.

It can be tough to find that song that perfectly fits an event, and you don't want to do it too often or it'll lose its magic. But sometimes it works perfectly, and makes a cool encounter unforgettable.


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