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Monday Music: Scene Soundtracks

Recently I've started experimenting with building mini-soundtracks for scenes. My group has actually asked for more musical cues, so I've started making small groups of songs to accompany certain events as they unfold. It takes some micro-management on the DM's part but the extra impact is worth it.

(The following contains spoilers for the Shackled City campaign)

Here's an example of a scene that will occur the next time I run my campaign. In this scene, the city's merchants and businessfolk are fed up with increasing tax rates, and one merchant named Maavu is leading a vocal protest/demonstration outside City Hall. Many disgruntled and even hostile merchants show up, as well as many other civilians, and a large mob forms. One of the issues they have is that the tax money is being used to hire half-orc mercenaries to supplement the regular guard force.

Maavu's passionate speech has a huge effect on the gathered crowd, and they start cheering and encouraging him. His words are inspiring and stir up those in attendance...maybe too much. Encouragement starts turning into hostility towards the city government - perhaps Maavu's true goal all along. The next song will play once the party realizes things are starting to turn ugly, but Maavu continues orating and whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

The foreboding, ominous next song will start as a guard captain and 4 mercenaries arrive on the scene. As they make their way through the crowd they receive jeers, angry glares, and thinly-veiled threats. Upon arriving at Maavu's dais, the captain announces that Maavu is under arrest for, essentially, treason. The crowd, openly hostile towards the newcomers, is on the verge of erupting.

At that moment, members of the local thieves guild hiding in the crowd brutally ambush and murder the mercenaries in an attempt to throw things into anarchy. The last song starts at this point. The crowd starts rioting and destroying buildings, lighting things on fire, and trying to kill the guard captain. Meanwhile, a mage working for the city government in the upper level of City Hall summons some invisible air elementals to assassinate Maavu. The party has to try to disperse the crowd without killing everyone, save Maavu, save the guard captain, and deal with the air elementals. Needless to say, it's utter chaos.


I find that having scene-specific music really livens the game session up and keeps the players interested, involved and really immersed in what's happening. It does take some time to trawl through the hundreds of mp3s you've got stored up (if you're like me) but I keep them organized by theme - creepy, caves, fighting, etc - to help streamline the process. What would really make it more efficient would be a tag system, so I could tag a single song with multiple attributes. Something for me to work on, I guess.


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