Awwww.. Music.. Some people love it in their games.. Some hate it and find it distracting. Personally I love music in the background. I find it adds quite a bit of ambiance to the setting. My experience shows that if the music doesn’t quite “match” what is going on in the game, players tend to shut it out and no one really hears it (unless it is SO blatant a contrast- say The B-52’s playing during a epic boss fight). However when something happens in game and the music matches and enhances the mood, it will pop in the player’s minds and makes what is happening more exciting, more palpable. For example: A dark melody playing (Mozart’s Requiem) as the campaigns villain does something diabolical for instance.
Clockworks- Not Classical
One thing I wanted to veer away from in our current play-test of Shawn Gaston’s homebrew steampunk game Clockworks was to get away from classical pieces. Why? I use them constantly in our DnD and fantasy settings. Classical goes really well with fantasy settings.
So what does that leave me?
I didn’t want to just have rock going in the background constantly, although I will use it for mood and action.
Reading the comic and trying to keep with the Victorian and Dystopian feel of it, I pondered what music I would like to hear that would enhance the mood. I wanted something that I was into, and make the setting mine.
In my head I see workers on docks, dissatisfied with life and their position, yet unable to change, looking for an escape. What do I hear with that? I hear the Blues. I’m not talking about new Blues. I’m talking early Blues artists, like Robert Leroy Johnson, Lead Belly, Bessie Smith, and others.
I don’t want the WHOLE theme to be the Blues though. My game takes place in Clorencia City, the capital city of the Great Republic. It is a city of prosperity, of opportunity, all at once dark and dangers, yet safe and secure. Decadent yet vibrant.
Here I see dimly lit, smoky hazed clubs, with energetic music playing as people dance, drink, and celebrate that they live in the greatest nation in all of Vheld. Here I hear Ragtime and Early Jazz. Sadly I don’t know MUCH Ragtime, save for Scott Joplin (the most well known and recorded of Ragtime composers), but I’m hoping to gain more recordings of this style of music. I think I also want to incorporate some Bepob Jazz into the game for its discordant and highly improvisational style.
Early Jazz, however, I am a HUGE fan of. I love it. I really want to incorporate artists like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, King Oliver, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and others.
I think that putting this music will add a nice authentic feel, for me, and hopefully my players. I want to be able to treat it as if they went to a pub/music hall, and that is what is playing.. Not just something that my players are listening to.