Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Discussion: Gamer Band Survey Results

Earlier this week, we asked gamers about their favorite rock band (with a pretty liberal definition of “rock”, mind). There were 3 questions on the survey: What’s your favorite rock band, do you use music during a RPG session or in planning for one, and does music play a large part in your gaming?

We ended up at the time of my writing this with 129 responses. Because of the limited nature of the “free” service I used (SurveyMonkey), the survery was cut off after the first 100 responses. Nice. Well, let’s press ahead with what we do have:

Question 1: Your Favorite Rock Band.

There was no, and I mean, no consensus on this. Only a few bands even had multiple responses. Amongst those, here’s the breakdown:

-Rush, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Metallica all tied with 4% of the vote each.

-AC/DC, Blind Guardian, Jethro Tull, and Led Zeppelin all tied with 3% of the vote each.

-The Clash, The Who, Tool, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, Clutch, The Ramones, and yes, Blue Oyster Cult all tied with 2% of the vote each.

I would wager as gamers, this tells us two things: James Raggi hates us to a man, and we have some classic (less polite term: old fart) music tastes.

Question 2: Do You Use Music During A RPG Session Or In Planning For One?

-39% of respondents answered Yes, with 61% answering No. That’s a big indicator that perhaps music at the tabletop isn’t as widely used as perhaps I had thought.

Question 3: Does Music Play A Large Part In Your Gaming?

-30.3% answered Yes, 20.2% answered No, and 49.5% answered Only Occasionally. As unscientific as this is (and believe me, it couldn’t get much less scientific), it would seem music inspires more than it is directly used in play.

So, for today’s Friday Discussion, I thought we could discuss music in general for RPGs—if we find it distracting, the best use of music we’ve seen in a campaign, if the results here surprise you. Comment away below! Aside from that, have a great weekend!


Bonemaster said...

Music is an odd thing. I've always found it hard to find the right music. Sadly, we all don't have our own personal composer at hand. I've only played a handful of sessions where music was used. I've noticed that Horror style games tend to use more mood music than say Fantasy. And while less than Horror, Sci-Fi tend to have more mood music usage than Fantasy. All of that's based on the gaming that I have done.

I'm not surprised by the classic music edge of the respondent gamers. While some gaming companies like WotC refused to admit it, it seems like most RPGer tend to be older rather than younger. Maybe it's also part of sensibilities. We tend to be drawn a bit to the historic.

So, I have a question, what was the oddest favorite band that someone replied with, if there was one?

David said...

I misread the survey when i took it. I thought question 2 was asking if I used my favorite rock bank as the music at the table. I don't, but I do tend to use a lot of music when I game.

Zachary The First said...

Good question--I was surprised to see Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers on there. I've heard them as sort of a country and reggae mix.

DeadGod said...

I will agree with Bonemaster here. It seems like horror is the only genre of game I've ever employed music. I think part of that is because horror is a lot about mood and emotion, and music is a great medium to convey such things.

A good source for horror theme music: go to and create a station with the composer Anton Webern. While you are at it, add Arnold Shoenberg. Lots of minimalist, discordant, orchestral music.

clash bowley said...

I usually am running music while I game, but my players are in charge of it, putting whatever disks they want into the rotation. Yah - CDs. I don't do the MP-3 thing. Playing OHMAS with Elizabethan chamber music did nothing for them, but playing Blood Games with Dreamchild on was especially creepy. Then again, BG is horror and OHMAS isn't, despite being basically the same game.

Tyler said...

I used the Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack for an Adventure! one-shot. That's about it.

I'm in favor of background music while roleplaying. I just don't do it myself.

Bret said...

I don't think I could run an adventure without music. Having a sizable soundtrack collection helps things but I've been known to use the occasional new age track as well. Anything with lyrics (normally) just distracts the players. I could see cueing up a lament for a funeral scene or maybe bombastic non-English for a battle scene though. I've been using music for so long that the players tend to comment when there's nothing playing in the background. When I have more prep time than usual, I'll sometimes write a scene to match a particular track (timing out my sentences if possible for maximum effect).

Mr. Gone said...

Coming from a musicians point-of-view, I think background music makes for a much better game. I'm a huge fan of creating the atmosphere for when we game. Music seems to help push that nasty tension over the edge.

Since we were kids, our gaming group has been all metal-heads. So our guys like to put in some Blind Guardian, or maybe some Hammerfall. Or, if we're getting into a hairy battle situation, someone always puts in At the Gates - "Slaughter of the Soul."

I dabbled in World of Darkness for a while with some dudes who chain smoked Djarums. They set the atmosphere with bands like Paralysed Age and Ministry. Different, but it worked.

Swordgleam said...

I've heard music can be cool in sessions, but honestly, I have enough things to keep track of already as a DM that I don't think it's ever going to happen in my game.

Listening to certain music while planning the game does help, though. I've been using Blackmore's Night's "World of Stone" as the campaign theme song for a while now.

DNAphil said...

I misunderstood Question 2 as well. My favorite band was Guns and Roses, but I have never used GNR at my table, but I do use a lot of other music when I play.

For my fantasy games I keep two play lists on my laptop. The first is background music, mostly soundtracks, for movies like LoTR, Blackhawk Down, etc. None of these have lyrics, just mood-setting music. This way while I GM, I am not talking over it, and it helps to set the mood.

The second playlist is combat music. This is often some form of metal: Slayer, Manowar, The Sword, Avenge Sevenfold, Iced Earth, Hammerfall, etc. These songs are designed to pump up the players while they are in combat. A number of those bands above are Fantasy Metal bands, so the songs are all blood and steel kind of stuff.

For Modern and Future games, I typically stick with a background playlist that is more techno.

The farthest I have ever taken this, was for several games of Xcrawl, where each room had its own theme song, that I played as the players entered the room.

MJC said...

While I don't use it all of the time, I have used music during games to great effect. For instance, during an underdark game, I played Evanescance's "Lies" just as the party entered the Drow city, and as they were taken before the Matron Mother. Other songs are great for general use, like Tool's "Sweat," Distrubed's "Indestructible" and Lacuna Coil's "Our Truth" are great battle songs for various situations. Also, there are a series of albums called "Lullaby Renditions" that take music from popular artists (like Tool, the Beatles, Queens of the Stone Age, etc) and plays their music in lullaby form. While that may sounds strange, it's actually pretty cool, and makes for great background music in a variety of situations.

Effective use of music during a game is dependent on a couple of factors; mainly equipment and planning. By equipment I mean what device you are using to play the music. Personally I don't like the idea of using CDs unless you burned them on your own and put the music in the order you want. Otherwise you do a lot of disc changing & track skipping. Optimal equipment would be either an MP3 player hooked up to speakers (which you have prepared with playlists and settings that will work best with your game), or if you're like me & DM from a laptop most often, the laptop itself works quite well. The music should not be loud, only enough to play in the background of the game, so as not to interfere with the action. I usually set mine to play the song I select then stop, because I don't want it to continue to another song (unless I have multiple songs picked out for a scene).

By planning I mean that you've taken the time to plan the game in advance, and you have a pretty good idea of what your group will be doing when. Of course, as all GMs/Storytellers know, players will derail your plans on a regular basis, but having a good game plan is still a good practice, and doing so allows you to decide that you want to play Song A during Scene C, so when that scene comes about, you aren't searching through your media library for fitting music. I actually use a set of notes that allow me to create a hyperlink to each MP3 I want to use, so all I have to do is click the link and it loads to my music player and plays.

I hope I've given a some folks out there a few good ideas on how to use music effectively during a game, and I look forward to reading everyone else's ideas too!

Zachary The First said...

I think volume is a big one. I had a continuous loop track of a thunderstorm in the background once, and it worked well. It was soft, but helped set the mood--it was a dark and stormy night (yep, I know), and there were assassins somewhere out in the driving rain. What fun that was!

Scott said...

Glad to see the Beatles faired so well! I have not run a campaign where Beatles music was appropriate since a 1967 Marvel Super Heroes campaign many years ago.

When running D&D, I would have Lord of the Rings or Gladiator sountracks playing. When running a superhero campaign, I usually use Batman: Mask of the Phantasm's soundtrack.

Joseph said...

No love for "Surfin Bird" by The Trashmen?

Obviously this is a flawed poll.

Joseph said...

Oh, and if I'd known we were going to honk off Raggi, I'd have voted for Abba. ;-)