Over the years I’ve run tabletops and larger live action games in a variety of ways, and nothing yet has proven to have the same ability as music to propel the game and set the mood. Tried and true this method is often utilized to signal the beginning of a game, and a great aid for getting the session started on time (a feat I know many of us have struggled with). Whether it’s the opening theme song chosen for the game, or some generic music the storyteller has found for the back drop of the evening’s narrative, like the orchestra tuning their instruments before the performance, music can be a powerful tool for directing the “audience’s” attention.
In the early years of my gaming we’d often just find some generic sounding music, the score from some movie befitting the genre we were playing, and left that running for the majority of the game. Occasionally if someone was showing off they’d switch it up for an important scene, but that was often the extent of our amateurish “scoring.” Later, after being introduced to the LARPing community, I had the fortune to play a game where the storyteller took the time to score out all of his characters, and after playing the game for a couple of months it became apparent just how powerful that technique could be. For my character in particular I had a track from the Phantom Menace that signaled when their precognitive powers struck.
This cue provided the subtext informing me that the events were manifestations of my power, and that these events were happening at some future point, allowing me to act accordingly while the storyteller imparted the information he felt relevant from the scene. Once the pattern was established the opening notes of the piece were more than enough to warn me of an impending vision, and often provoked a roomful of groans as everyone gave their attention to the horrible portents likely to befall our efforts. And while the cue was not only important for me, it ensured that the players knew an upcoming scene might be of interest to them, or a good opportunity to step away from the table if they were the sort that liked a surprise. I still to this day cannot hear that track without immediately conjuring up my character’s apprehension at what he was about to bear witness to.