I frequently create a musical playlist keyed to a particular project. It isn’t so much a soundtrack meant to accompany the work as it is “mood music.” My demeanor, day to day, is prone to . . . let’s call it, fluctuation. Although that’s great when you want to change gears between two very different projects, it’s difficult when trying to achieve a consistent tone in a piece on the first go ‘round. Obviously, good editing helps to correct this, but I like to start work each day “from the same place” as much as possible.
I try to pay close attention to this when writing D&D adventures. The encounters, in particular, can draw me into a close view that creates tunnel vision, obscuring what came before and what comes after. Again, rereading and editing smoothes any rough patches that arise, but I’d rather stay on target as I go. Enter the playlist.
I listen to music a lot as I write. Some people consider that sort of thing a distraction, but I find it sharpens my focus. After I settle on a piece or two that lines up with the idea I have in mind, I build a playlist and toss more material in as needed. I almost never begin with a song and write from it, quite the opposite, but I do draw from artists and material that are already in my head. The bones of Pearl of the Sea Mother were about 2 sentences of guidelines/suggestions from Wotc. The actual plot developed while kayaking through mangroves in Florida and staring at the ocean floor. The music didn’t fall into place until I sat down to write about a week later.
Mentally, I usually set the scene with opening and closing credits. Obviously, there are no credits actually scrolling by, only images intended to set the scene (opening credits) and the final mood I want to evoke when the adventure/article concludes (ending credits, obviously). The line that forms between these anchor points supports the material I write there as well as the additional tracks intended to hold my mood in place or set scenes that diverge from the anchor points.
Sometimes tracks seem completely inappropriate in the context of the finished work. I once joked that I’d be curious to know who would be more shocked that a Lil Jon track was part of one of my D&DI adventure playlists: Lil Jon or the gamers playing through the adventure! Some of these non sequitur tracks are audio shorthand for me. Others are energizing or, at times, deliberately depressing (which is also energizing to me when it comes to certain material). And I’m always listening to Neko Case, so it’s a safe bet that her music ends up in there somewhere.
With Pearl of the Sea Mother getting ready to drop (as they say in the biz), here’s an audio tease of what was running through my head as I worked. With all this in mind, the playlist might not be the ideal soundtrack for the actual play sessions of the adventure, but there’s probably some good material there for you. There are no “spoilers” in the playlist. The opening and closing credits I mentioned earlier are “Seasick” and “Tightly,” respectively. The playlist actually followed the arc of the adventure rather closely, at least in terms of the mental structure I was assembling it around in my head.
The playlist, via Spotify:
And via Amazon: