"You are not allowed to play music at my place ever again."Music while gaming is a subjective thing. RPG messageboards are full of topics advocating Hollywood blockbuster soundtracks; Dimmu Borgir; and Midnight Syndicate as gaming session soundtracks.
I have obscure musical tastes, and even though I'm intellectually aware that my records with The Devil or mushroom clouds on the cover do not contain music that is any better or any worse than any other music, I can't help being enough of a snob/jerk to read the aforementioned threads for the *giggles* factor.
Years ago the gaming space that my circle of gamers use was located in my apartment; before one session an unnamed, but otherwise sterling, participant played us a sample of what he thought would be good music to listen to while playing D&D. It sounded like slick European symphonic black metal crossed with slick industrial rock, like Dimmu Borgir crossed with KMFDM. My immediate, unthinking reaction was "You are not allowed to play music at my place ever again."
When I first started DMing again in my adult years, I could not handle music with vocals (aside from some "abba dabba" nomad chanting and the like) while I was DMing; I found it too distracting. In a similar vein, although I listen to lots of music by guys that wear belts made out of bullets, I couldn't handle DMing wile metal was playing. I also found both annoying while playing, but hey, I gotta take my lumps when I'm not wearing the Viking Hat.
Nowadays I've come around, and can handle pretty much anything while playing or DMing, even descending deep enough into madness to use Jon Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory" as the theme music for a brief western-themed D&D campaign, not to say that there aren't exceptions that grate mightily upon my nerves.
One thing I've come to hate is signature, epic, genre-appropriate Hollywood Blockbuster orchestral soundtrack music. The Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Braveheart, etc. Not only do I find most of it plodding and tasteless, but I've also observed an emergent behavior among players while such music is playing.
I call is the "Desperate Battle" effect; the party is fighting some desperate battle, meanwhile this booming symphony is playing the background music for some movie heroes iconic death. Somehow the movie soundtrack affects the players judgments, and instead of fighting smart and tight they engage in poorly executed heroic blunders that put their character, and others' characters, in serious peril.
I still love the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack, even though I find it disgustingly overplayed at this point; the Robocop score is awesome; and Morriconne's Fistful of Dollars trilogy is some sort of audial mana emanated from the extradimensional redoubt of the eternal champion...
Anyways, while Dudebird is DMing his Wilderlands AD&D campaign, he will call an intermission to grill up some sausages. A couple of times lately he's put on some "soft rock" music for the break. It's a nice change of pace from the Star Trek fight music on repeat and German Oak of the previous hours.
And after we gorge ourselves on cruel, delicious meat and get back to the D&D table, Pete (another player) and I find ourselves intensely petitioning DM Dudebird to keep playing the soft rock. Don't get me wrong, the DM is the DM and pretty much has the right to chop of someone's hand for unauthorized ipod meddling; we just try to present a compelling case: We're usually in a dungeon, usually beat up or in peril, people are making rash decisions, and Pete and I opine that what the party needs in that sort of circumstances is some optimistic, calming soft rock.
And you know what? It seems to work; instead of catastrophically bumbling our way through the rest of the night like a pack of Chris Farley's, despite perhaps being tipsy and bong-addled, we tend to play a smart, calm, well-oiled game when provided a soft rock soundtrack.
As a DM, I love playing German Oak, Hellhammer, Hawkwind, Sleep, Bone Awl (the long song on bog bodies!), as well as Morriconne and all sorts of arty-fartsy stuff, when running a delve; but as a player, I can think of no better soundtrack for my imaginary swords & sorcery adventures than some smooth soft rock!