Sound, music, and ambient noise form a facet of gaming that when done right, you won’t even notice it’s there. When done badly or if neglected, it leaves a glaring hole that’s hard to ignore.
Soundtracks have a deep impact on the players and their perceived gaming experience. Don’t believe me?
Think of the opening scene of Skyrim. Can you hear it?
What about the first time you played a Zelda game?
Regardless of what game it is, I can almost guarantee you can hear it in your mind. Whether it’s the spinning Triforce coming down from the sky or some epic battle music playing, soundtracks enhance our gaming experiences.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one platform, you can just hit the easy button and check out Syrinscape.
Its soundboards and ambient soundtracks make it very easy to set the mood in all manner of situations and genres.
Syrinscape is free — up to a point. At registration, you’ll have access to 10 free soundboards, which is plenty to get a feel for the system, but if you want more boards or a more extensive sound library, you’ll have to subscribe.
Syrinscape is a little different than other music programs because it truly is an all-in-one platform. Yes, it plays background noises and loops sounds, but it also does something that none of the other programs on this list does. With a click of a button, it will dynamically add sounds together to create a unique setting.
Is your gaming crew ready to blast into space? Click the button and epic music will start playing various thruster noises.
Want to send a dragon to attack your players? With a single click of the button, a dragon’s roar bursts from the speakers. Animals and villagers will cry out in shock. Church bells will ring in alarm. Flames will grow louder as the destruction rages.
The Syrinscape program will dynamically create the setting with a single click. You don’t have to mix and match or set up intervals for each sound. You can simply let the programming put it together. It does allow you to mix and match yourself, but the main selling feature is how it creates these dynamic environments, That way, you as the DM can focus on trying to keep your players from derailing the campaign.
YouTube & Spotify
YouTube and Spotify are probably going to be your first thoughts when it comes to sounds and background music.
Both have free versions and have enough music and sound effects to last you a lifetime. There’s a near-infinite list of bands, artists, and sound effects that work well with any game setting, but you’ll have to sift through it yourself to find what you’re looking for.
The downsides are, of course, the ads. Unless you have an ad-blocker or pay for a premium subscription, there’s always the risk of an ad ruining a key moment in-game. Depending upon the ad type, they can also be unskippable. I’ve also seen abnormally long ads that are 15+ minutes that you can skip, but they’ll just keep on running until you do. If you’re not on top of it, an ad can kill the mood pretty quickly.
The plus sides of both of these two are the mountains of free content available. There are tons of curated playlists ready to be used but unless you have a premium subscription to either Youtube or Spotify, you’re going to be interrupted by ads quite a bit.
This is another cool little project someone made.
It’s a browser-based app that allows players to pull music and sounds from their own Google Drives and upload them into a player. It’s completely customizable and you can add songs, background noise, and even images to different scenes.
Due to Covid and other life-altering current events, the developer has stopped releasing regular updates and is just working on RPG Ambience for his own purposes. It’s still available for use, but you probably won’t see another update for it.
As it stands, however, it’s a very cool app that’s free to use. It allows for a fair bit of customization and, while you have to provide all your own sounds, once you have everything set up, it’s really easy to just click the button and let it run.
Softrope is another new service. The app is currently only in beta but works rather well.
It allows players to upload any soundtracks they wish, but also allows users to add a list of randomized clips to play throughout. For example, if you want to set the mood for a thunderstorm, you could add rain sounds and thunder, but it may get repetitive if you put it on loop.
Softrope lets you add multiple clips and randomizes them over the main soundtrack. It’s a really cool system and I’m really looking forward to how it plays out.
Currently, it doesn’t offer any sounds with the app itself. It’s just a program, albeit a really nifty one. It works well, but it’s a lot of work to set up.
The way they named the site is fantastic too.
“I wanted a word that would be fairly unique yet still RPG/DnD related. Surely, I’m not the only DM to have this happen in a situation where “rope” was required.
Player: “I’ve got some soft rope, will that do.”
DM: “WTF? Soft rope?”
Player: “Here on my equipment I’ve written, ‘Rope (S0ft)’.”
DM: *Looks closely*.
DM: *Slaps player*.
At the end of the day, it was a choice between Softrope or 50ft Boots.”
Tabletop Audio is another great resource for bringing some audio ambiance into your games or even into your everyday life.
It was created by a man named Tim, who is actually a real-life composer. It’s his creative passion project.
Table Top Audio is a really cool system that works like a soundboard or a “sound pad” as he likes to call it. Each sound pad is set up for different themes like dungeons, western towns, and epic space adventures.
You can easily add sound effects and background music with a click of the button, as well as loop them and adjust volume levels easily.
It’s incredibly user-friendly and completely free. Tim even has a very generous creative commons license, so all the music he creates is free to use for most projects.
It’s a very nice site and if you’re a beginner DM looking to add a bit of pizzazz to your games, this is probably the easiest way to do it.
You don’t need to spend hours and hours planning an epic soundtrack for your D&D or RPG night. With any one of these programs you’ll be able to add some fun sounds and music to your game, and you’ll be amazed at how it sets the mood at the table.
We hoped you liked our list, and if you have any other resources that you like to use for your RPG games, we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below.
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.