Music: For play or for work?

I have found that music is a useful tool for DMs while designing and running campaigns. Dead air occurs while you’re reading through rulebooks or while your players are making decisions in the game. Sometimes music is useful to keep the pace of a game, keep you entertained while you’re designing encounters or maps, and even give players something to hum a long to while something is taking up an inordinate amount of time.

Music is, of course, purely opinion oriented and within my group of players I certainly have a much different taste than others. I was a metal head throughout much of school, I have played guitar for over ten years, and I’m one of the few people in my social circle who has spent ridiculous amount of money on headphones. I love music, I love to listen to it, I love to play it on guitar, and worst of all I love to share it with people. While the metal genre is certainly epic at times it does not always fit the mood and feel for a DnD session.


I like to listen to music while designing games and running them. They also give me quite a bit of inspiration. But the music for a DM is not always the music needed for players. I’ve discovered that some of my tastes have become hits with some of my players. Some of the metal I listen to is accessible and even has a few hooks of its own. Other bands I listen to are straight out of the question.

I’ve learned that catchy, simple music is the key to keeping gamers happy and focused. Walls of noise or even overly complex songs can break a groups concentration. Though my metal sensibilities scream at me for writing this I have to say that Pop is popular for a reason. It is catchy music loaded with catchy hooks and simple rhythms. Anyone can sing along to it and it doesn’t take up much brain power while the party is rolling d20s. Use it and most people won’t complain.

Spice to taste

I have started to develop a list of music that I like to use for both DM work and running a game and I thought I’d share it with you. I might end up creating a master list later on.

Radio Rivendell – First and foremost this needs to be listed. RR is not a band it is a site that streams fantasy music 24/7. If you are too lazy to find music and pipe it out through some speakers then plug a computer into some speakers near your players and stream this site!

Lord of The Rings/Dragon Age Soundtracks – These two are fairly obvious. The biggest fantasy trilogy of the last decade and the one of the biggest fantasy video games of the past few years. Both are blasted with immense and epic music. Howard Shore and Inon Zur (respectively) did excellent jobs of creating musical scores to describe such detailed and beautiful worlds.

Loreena McKennitt – A Canadian singer/songwriter with a penchant for celtic folk. A beautiful voice, a nice collection of folk instruments, and a discography with a wide range of attitudes and moods.

Muse – This band has become one of my favourite groups of the last few years. An excellent rock band, a group of accomplished songwriters and musicians, and they scream nerdy prog rock like no ones business. Their music is super catchy, sometimes epic in scope, and other times quite heartfelt.

Electric Wizard – A stoner/doom metal band from England that I’ve recently discovered. Groovy, 70’s style, metal reminiscent of early Black Sabbath. Perfect for classic dungeon crawling DnD.

Tallywood String Quartet – I know next to nothing about this group but they are an excellent way to fill the dead air during a game. TSQ has released a plethora of albums all dedicated as tributes to individual artists and bands. They have covered Hendrix, Dylan, Muse, Guns n’ Roses, and many more

Comments, questions? Email me at or follow me on twitter @shiftykobold

I wrote today’s article in Ommwriter. If you’re having trouble doing writing of your own check it out here.


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