Pretty early on in the campaign I decided I wanted to add an auditory element to everything we were doing, without resorting to generic dungeon crawling ambient noises that you can find on YouTube. How would one go about this then? Maybe they would search for music that set the appropriate mood, cause that would actually be a smart idea. But what if we added hours to my session prep and included unique music tracks for encounters and story beats? That’s the position I’ve put myself in.
There were specific tones and moods I was trying to cultivate throughout our campaign in an effort to add some drama and weight to everything. It started out with me making little stingers of violins swelling or big drums strikes that would act as the period on the important sentence I was relaying to the party. It largely went unnoticed and didn’t really add much to the experience.
But instead of bowing out there, I decided to go further. What if I made these long, loop-able songs that would properly portray the current encounter or location? I should note, this was all inspired by listening to certain RPG podcasts, where the element of audio can add a lot for both the players and listeners. On one of the podcasts, The Adventure Zone, they did an episode where they answered a lot of lingering questions by the listeners, where it was revealed that most of the music was made with Apple Loops that were built into Garage Band.
I didn’t have a Mac, but I did have an iPhone with Garage Band installed. Using the phone version of Garage Band wasn’t the optimal experience, but it got the job done. I mainly stuck to relying on the included loops and various midi instruments as well as occasionally actually recording a guitar track. Luckily the loops all worked well with each other for the most part, which made the whole affair a lot more manageable and less laborious. Once I had managed to make a handful of tracks, it was time to use them in the campaign.
It actually went really well and was received positively by my players. It made things feel a little weightier and put them in the mental place they needed to be. Would it have been easier to find a good facsimile of the music I was making on the internet? Of course it would have been, but I like making things myself. So not only did I get to make sure the mood was just right, but I got to stretch my creative muscles.
I suppose I never really appreciated how important music could be to a D&D campaign before, but I doubt I could ever go back to not having it. Aside from making the campaign better, it’s just fun to create things in general.
Honestly, being a DM has been some of the most rewarding creative work I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. From writing, to map making, character creation, acting and of course, making music, it’s truly a creatively fulfilling experience. And considering we’re about to start an entirely new campaign with new themes, you know I’m excited to get in there and make several albums worth of tracks for it.