I find music to be strangely underused in LARPing. Occasionally, when a LARP takes place in a location that explicit has music (masquerades, balls, and proms come to mind), there will be some appropriate music playing in the background, but it often seems like a missed opportunity to me. As most of us already have ipods (actually, I have a zune)… it seems like such a quick, cheap way to help establish an atmosphere. As I scroll down through my Master List of LARPs, I try to recall which had some kind of music involved. Surprisingly few. But there are quite a number I think could have used it easily, if they’d wanted to. I once played in a LARP that took place at a reception in an Opera House in the 1920s… imagine if it had had 1920s music? Or opera music?
Sometimes, while reading over my character sheets or working on a costume, I like to listen to music related to the genre of the LARP. Enrio Morricone’s Ectasy of Gold reminds most people of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but it will always remind me of Redemption: High Noon at the Devil’s Luck because I had it on repeat while gluing together a Native American costume.
I’ve often thought about experimenting with the idea of LARPs having theme music. Often, at the start of theater LARPs, there’s a period of time where players are arriving, receiving and rereading their character sheets, and generally milling about, waiting for the LARP to start. Why not use music to set the stage, like a TV show? Especially when a LARP is based in a pre-existing setting that has its own iconic music. Maybe the infamous The Other, Other* All-Batman Game (something of a staple at Intercon- if you’ve never played and find the ’60s TV show amusing, I’d recommend it!) could open with a NANANANANANABATMAAAN. (That sentence made me grin just typing it.) That theme song might actually be a bit distracting- the tune is frenetic- but then again, The Other, Other* All-Batman Game, being a classic Sunday Morning LARP, doesn’t really require deep concentration prior to the LARP.
Or what if the theme song from the HBO series Game of Thrones had been playing while people were getting ready to play A Game of Thrones: Blackfyre Rising? The tone of the theme music is, naturally, just right for the hard edged drama of the setting.
It’s not just about GMs bringing music into LARPs, though. I often see this question on casting questionnaires, “do you have any talents we should know about?” and a handful of times, I’ve seen people respond that they can sing or play an instrument. But I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen an in-game performance that wasn’t prompted in game by the GMs. (We players/sacrifices did sing amusing praises for the Minotaur in Labyrinth of the Minotaur, and everyone sang in the musical LARP ‘Tis No Deceit to Deceive the Deceiver– the writers wrote hours of music for the players to “spontaneously” burst into, just like a real musical!) I hear tales of players bringing guitars to strum around campfires at boffer LARPs, but I’ve yet to see it for myself. I guess kumbaya isn’t really genre-appropriate for Lost Eidolon‘s Lovecraftian steampunk horror flavor.
I thought I’d share a few tales of music used to great effect in LARPs.
First, I was actually tasked by the GMs of Stars of Al-Ashtara, an Arabian Nights themed theater LARP, to prep the music. The LARP takes place in an Arabian bazaar just outside the royal palace at the end of the day, and the progression of daylight to night was relevant to in-game mechanics. The writers wanted to create a sense of increasing danger as night fell and the world grew darker. (Stars emerged in the sky to reveal prophecies, and characters with combat abilities became deadlier as the darkness allowed them to get away with more.) I searched Amazon for downloadable songs (they generally can be found for a dollar each) that sounded appropriate for an Arabian setting. Then I listened to the music and rated it based on how cheerful or eerie it sounded. The brightest music was used during the Daylight period, the more sedate tunes for Sunset, and the spine-tingling, goose bump raising music was played for Night. (Night had some One-Woman Wail music.) When Night fell and the gloves were off, the citizens of Al-Ashtara knew it.
In Lost Eidolons, I once went on a particularly scary late night module, where PCs were lead to a dark field, empty except for a strange baby-like being huddled over a music box in the center. I don’t recall specifics, the music might have been summoning demons? But what I do recall was the utterly creepy tinkly lullaby-like tune that was the only sound we heard while crouched in the grass, trying to figure out what to do and expecting monsters from the trees at any moment.
Which reminds me of another late night module where we hunted a vampire in his lair, and while we were trying to silently work our way past the traps, we could hear occasional faint mad laughter and screaming from somewhere in the building… a sound effect CD being used to great effect.
(Incidentally, Halloween stores often have CDs of Haunted House sound effects and music on sale . They have stuff like occasionally faint screams and laughter, Gregorian chanting, and scary organ music. Good stuff. There’s a reason we LARPers love Halloween Stores right after Halloween. And of course, there’s also tons of free downloadable stuff online.)
The Dance and the Dawn was a LARP I played that centered around a ball thrown by the Queen of Ice. The Lords of Ice and the Ladies of Ash danced to waltzing music. Characters were permitted to duel between dances, and I remember being rather surprised the first time a duel was declared, and suddenly classic anime-style battle music came on. It made the battle rather exciting, and I felt a subtle shift in the flavor of the LARP to one that was more anime-esque. Actually, I think the flavor had been there all along, but the battle music was how I recognized it.
Any tales of music used creatively in LARPs to share?
Or thoughts on theater LARPs having theme songs while character packets are coming out?