Choosing the right music for your DnD campaign is essential to creating an immersive atmosphere. You wouldn’t use a lullaby for an epic boss battle, right? In this post, we’ll talk about how to choose the perfect tavern music for your games!
1. What does the tavern music express?
Music is an excellent tool you can use to set up the mood of a scene— it doesn’t have to be your generic happy lute tune! So, to pick the best music for the occasion, think about which themes of your setting you want to reinforce in that specific moment. Do you want to create a creepy atmosphere to set up the next adventure? Or maybe a triumphant one after the last victory? It all depends on what you want your players to feel. You can also reinforce what your players are already feeling—if an NPC (or a PC) they loved died, you might want to go for a sadder tone, for example.
2. Where is it coming from?
Once you have your tone, think about where the music is coming from! In DnD games, music is usually just ambiance—there isn’t a band of NPCs following the party around providing a soundtrack (although that sounds like a fun way to mess with your players)! But this can change in taverns, as bards are really common in this sort of location. While it could be just ambiance, if you decide that there’s a bard playing or singing, the kind of music you use will change. At the end of the day, bards can’t play all the instruments in an orchestra at the same time, right? In this case, try picking music that you feel could be played by a small number of people.
3. Use different kinds of tavern music for each region
If your players travel around the world during the campaign, you can use music to reinforce their current location! A quick way to do this is by using traditional music from different real-world cultures. You could have a tavern play Spanish music, another Chinese music, and another South-African music. You could also come up with your own music styles: maybe one country only uses drums, while another favors strings. Whichever method you use, it will create a cohesive atmosphere for your countries, which will increase the level of immersion for your players!
4. Don’t forget about ambient sounds!
Taverns are not exactly quiet places—there are people speaking or arguing, jars clanking, doors opening, coins being paid, and things falling to the ground. To make the DnD tavern come alive, you can include these sound effects in your soundtrack! For some examples, check out this winter tavern, this tavern with a fireplace, and this playlist with six more DnD tavern soundscapes. The best thing about this is that you can embed these soundscapes on World Anvil! Just use the [youtube:URL] BBCode tag with the URL as the YouTube video and see the magic happen!
5. Use silence for contrast!
I know, talking about silence in a post about music? What is this madness?! Well, as any musician could tell you, silence is actually an essential part of music! It’s just how negative space is important in graphic design and pauses are also important in books. In an RPG game, you can use it to create contrast for dramatic effect. For example, if a mysterious hooded figure suddenly steps into the tavern, you can pause the music to create a feeling of uneasiness. Or, if you decided that there’s a bard playing the music, stop it if the players decide to talk with the bard. This will give the scene more realism and your players will appreciate the attention to detail!
Where can you find good music?
It might sound obvious, but YouTube is a great place! I recommend taking a look at John Theodore’s soundtrack for The Seeker’s Guide to Twisted Taverns, by Ghostfire Games. The music has extremely high quality and it has tracks for many different moods and instruments, so I’m 100% sure you’ll be able to integrate it with your campaign.
Check out our video on the topic here:
So, put on your favorite tavern music and create a World Anvil account to start writing about your taverns! And make sure to check out the Tavern Challenge we’re currently running!
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