Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Music in your hangouts

Last Friday during my Era playtest I included music in my hangout game. I must say I was most pleased with the result. There was always some background to the scene at hand. I had music grouped into battle and search themes. Whenever the characters were in a roleplay part, investigating or in general just moving around I'd put some of the search or suspense tracks on. When they moved into combat I changed to something that would build up to the encounter, and finally there was a battle finished track that I played after the encounter. I added to the sense of triumph and it placed us in the mood to go over the battlefield, tend the wounded and mourn the dead of the encounter.

I've been running these hangouts using Roll20 which has a jukebox for exactly this purpose. Below is a snapshot of how it looks.

You add tracks to the jukebox and then during the hangout you can click the play button to activate the track, which can play one time or loop. As you can see I've also added special effects to the jukebox, like the "draw sword" below.

The jukebox gets its music from SoundCloud . When adding a new track to your game you can search by keywords, preview the track and add it to your jukebox if that's what you want. Below you can see an example while setting up my campaign.

For me this opens up a whole new dimension in role playing and adding more value to the story. Not only is there the verbal and visual components of the story as you narrate it and present the players with maps, dungeons and images, there is also the background music that adds more depth to the game. There is a reason movies have soundtracks. Imagine Alien without the music and sound effects. It simply would not be the same. I seriously recommend players take a look at this functionality and include it in their games. It is one of those game preparation things that should really be done.

Things I would suggest to the Roll20 team if they happen to read this:

  • Add tabs so I can separate sound tracks into groups relevant to the different parts of my adventure. Maybe link tracks to maps?
  • Add some notes or link functionality so I know when I should play a certain track during the game. For example: play when characters approach the golden vault of Kja'ish.
  • Create playlists I can add various tracks to. This allows for a longer background track without sounding to repetitive in loop mode.
So, have you used this feature in Roll20? Do you think ambient music and effects are important in a tabletop game?

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