Setting the Mood…

Setting the mood can help take a good game and make it
great.  The right music, sound effects,
voices and accents, lighting, and props can all help set the mood. Doing can be
difficult depending on time and resources.
For me, music is the easiest thing to do for setting the
mood.  I have all six Star Wars movie
soundtracks plus the music from The Old Republic.  This is my standard for any Star Wars game I
run. With it being all digital, I can set up a track list and easily switch out
to the appropriate music depending on the scene or battle. I have various
soundtracks from the Lord of the Rings, Conan, Gladiator, Braveheart, plus more
for fantasy games.  I prefer orchestral
music for my fantasy games. If I’m running Shadowrun, I’ll pick some techno
music and a friend turned me onto the Batman Beyond soundtrack for that. With
used CD stores or digital downloads from iTunes or Amazon it is so easy to get
music for your games.
Sound effects are another great tool. With laptops, tablets,
and digital downloads, you can find so many things for the background. Howling
winds, gulls, sounds of the city… I have quite a few clips of blaster fire
from the various Star Wars movies, droid sound effects, swords clashing, even
various animals. These sounds in the background can help draw your players in.
Lighting is important depending on the game as well. A
friend who used to run Call of Cthulu only ran her game at night and only lit
the table with candles. She had gotten some cheap candle holders and we would
take one if we had a private scene with our character. It helped set the stage
for the horror that would soon follow. The way the shadows danced on the wall
added to the game.
Props are a fantastic way to immerse your players. This can
be from the simple hand written note to maps. 
I will often write out a note in code to let the players try to decipher
it.  Crude maps to represent what they
may have taken from a body.  A friend
went so far as to purchase cheap cutlasses and hats for a naval game.  The icing on the cake was the bottle of rum
that we had to toast to the Kings health during the officers’ meal.
Voices and accents are a lot of fun but I’m not good at
them.  These can certainly bring your
characters or NPC’s to life. Most of my characters end up sounding very similar
though I try to change up the dialog. No matter how many times I rehearse the
voices they just never come out right. Stage fright, perhaps. On the other
hand, I’ve played with GM’s whose characters each have a distinct voice and
personality that comes out. It’s impressive and I wish I could do that for my
players. 

These are but a handful of different ideas to try and get
you and your players into the mood for your game. I highly recommend trying
different things, mixing and matching. It may not work out the way you plan but
it’s never bad to try something new.  
What are some of the things you’ve done to get your players into the
mood for your games? Any great stories or interesting ideas? Please share them!

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