Since 1974, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has existed on the fringes of popular culture alongside many other tabletop roleplaying games. In recent years, however, D&D and other RPGs have emerged at the forefront of gaming culture. The allure of fantasy and magic draws players into creating and roleplaying characters in a mediated fantasy space through social interaction. Though largely untheorized, Dungeons & Dragons has been examined through sociological and philosophical lenses, though these studies often ignore the performative aspects of the game itself.
During gameplay, Dungeon Masters (DMs) often exploit sensory detail, music specifically, in order to encourage roleplay in their players. The fifth edition handbook of D&D states that DMs can use “music, art, or recorded sound effects to help set the mood, and many players and DMs alike adopt different voices for the various adventurers, monsters, and other characters they might play in the game.” The following research explores the use of music within D&D as it relates to the players’ ability to immerse themselves within the game, drawing on research in ludomusicology and applying a lens of reflexive and close ethnography. Additionally, this research explicates a growing popularity of D&D on the internet through shows such as Critical Role and the live storytelling genre, as well as how it has altered ideas concerning the performance of voice. Based on interviews with players and observations of D&D games in person and via online streaming services, this article asserts that music allows players to immerse themselves within the setting of the game, which in turn creates a form of participatory performance for both the players and the Dungeon Master.