One of my most recent projects is sorting my musical cues for game night into categorical playlists. Rather than grouping my songs by album, genre, or performer, I am trying to put together comprehensive collections of songs based on the appropriate mood that I am aiming for. This is a trick that some of the more music-savvy DMs use, and it is a big improvement over using a generic collection of songs and themes.
If you are running a game of Dungeons and Dragons, for instance, you might use the soundtrack from The Lord of the Rings series... but the odds are that the various themes and medleys won't sync up so well with the action taking place on the tabletop and in your collective imaginations. Big bombastic battle songs will play when you are resting in a tavern, or whimsical flute solos will undercut your climactic fight with villainous warlock.
So that's why it's better to listen to each individual song and use whatever software you can... Spotify, iTunes, your computer desktop... to compile your favorites into categories of style. Exciting music, soft music, however you want to organize them. Just make sure you have a lot of songs and a few different moods to choose from. Some of my own playlists currently look like this:
- Majestic Themes (For grand halls or wonders of the realm)
- Standard Battle Music (For when a fight begins)
- Triumphant Themes (For when the players are winning a fight)
- Intense Battle Music (For truly epic encounters)
- Travelling Ambience (For playing softly in the background)
- Sad Music (For pulling the 'ole heartstrings)
It also pays to have subcategories of these kinds of playlists, based on the genre of the game you are running (Like science-fiction playlists with techno and synth beats versus the orchestral strings of a high fantasy song.) In any case, I encourage any DM who likes to use music to enhance their campaign to subscribe to this method of music organization if they can. If you have a musically-inclined player, it might be good to have them help out with this. Maybe even let them run the soundtrack and switch playlists during the game so that it frees you up to concentrate on your notes and DMing. In any case, if you have the right song to fit the moment it will be the perfect tool to complement the action of the tabletop.