D&D Ideas — Music

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Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is music, which we discussed in our live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST on Nerdarchy Live to talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of music, in Girl with the Dragon SNAFU when adventurers visit an inn filled with music, laughter and lots of conversation they discover a whole lot more going on off stage than the performance on stage. This and 54 other dynamic encounters ready to drop right into your game come straight Out of the Box here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates, info on how to game with Nerdarchy and ways to save money on RPG stuff by signing up here.

5E D&D music Out of the Box encounters
In Girl with the Dragon SNAFU adventurers meet in a tavern for some rest and relaxation while a musical performance conceals a tense situation. [Art by Kim Van Deun]

Nerdy News

Peer into the past at the week that was with gnoll adventurers, action packed combat and different kinds of intelligence plus as always live chats with creative pros highlight this week’s Nerdy News. Check it out here.

Delving Dave’s Dungeon

A deep dungeon delve detracted from Nerdarchist Dave’s time for D&D Ideas this week. Instead, take a look at this golden chimera and see if it can make a home in your 5E D&D world here.

From Ted’s Head

When it comes to music in general everyone has their own idea as to what qualifies. It could be loud or soft, fast or slow and numerous other options besides. But when we look at music and Dungeons & Dragons there are many aspects to consider. I am sure I could offer some suggestions on mood music and battle music but instead I will give you the two soundtracks that have been tried and true at our table for years.

Long before YouTube nothing sounded more like the ring of battle than when we heard the intro notes to “The Anvil of Crom,” the soundtrack to Conan the Barbarian. I have heard this track so many times I can hear it in my head. Later I added the soundtrack to Gladiator.

But there are loads of new and great choices out there.

When you are talking about in game music the options might not be as crazy. With Song of Rest, Bardic Inspiration and through the Performance skill there are many times music can come up in the actual game. As a Monty Python fan, I know all about Brave Sir Robin. If you don’t it is worth your time.

Do your adventurers play music to pass the time over the long journeys or is everything about stealth? You could have a fellow adventuring team have a bard doing this and the characters begin to hear music and singing. This would be a great way include a fun roleplaying scene, or if you are feeling evil an enemy adventuring party. Or both!

Bagpipes of Skill

Wondrous item, uncommon

These bagpipes are nondescript but surprisingly anyone who attempts to play them does better than expected. You add your proficiency modifier to any skill check made to play these bagpipes if you are not proficient. If you already have the proficiency you add twice your proficiency modifier instead.

Shawm of the Wildlands

Wondrous item, rare

This wind instrument is carved from a single piece of unknown dark green wood with variety of animals carved into it. Any Animal Handling checks made by creatures who can hear the music made while you are playing the shawm are made with advantage.

Beasts will not attack the you while you play this instrument unless they are provoked.

From the Nerditor’s desk

Normally I focus on the topic from a different angle than the live chat but this week I felt like the relationship between music and fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons — or any tabletop roleplaying game — bears repeating. Curating a soundtrack for your game can do as much heavy lifting as an enlarged goliath Path of the Totem Warrior barbarian with Aspect of the Beast (Bear) and Bull’s Strength to get people invested and engaged.

Even if you bookmark a handful of tracks for a big encounter or a single song to encapsulate your character, music for most people can touch on a deep emotional level and the right music can convey something words cannot. Whatever side of the Game Master screen I find myself on music informs a big part of the process. Much of this is away from the gaming table but I have incorporated music into games too.

Lots of nerds have affectionate preferences in epic heroic music like Flight of the Valkyries or the score from Conan the Barbarian but I’ve got a hot tip on a dope soundtrack for your game — Clint Mansell. This former Pop Will Eat Itself frontman went on to become a soundtrack composer with an impressive body of work and for my money the soundtracks for the film The Fountain and the video game Mass Effect 3 make spectacular RPG music.

When you think about your RPG experience consider finding some music to accompany the imagination. For Game Masters you might discover inspiration for anything, like I did for one of our episodes of Ingest Quest. A powerful song or selection of songs can inform an entire campaign, providing the highs, lows and beats of a narrative. And I can’t be the only nerd who wants to imagine their lightning lord character bringing down the thunder with the Immigrant Song blasting.

I’ve got a growing playlist for the character I’m playing over at Nerdarchy Live too. We’re all having an amazingly wonderful time playing Those Bastards! My character Vent really took on a life of his own along with everyone else in the party and with our Dungeon Master Megan it feels like a proper story for sure. One of the songs on Vent’s playlist is He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother, but as to whether it’s The Hollies version or Neil Diamond’s take you’ll have to give them both a listen and decide for yourself.

And Sister Sledge is on there too because of course!

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