Music can be used to set and reinforce a mood or a setting in a game. However, music must be set at a background level. Any louder than that and it becomes a distraction. If players are spending more time focusing on the music than playing the game, something is wrong.
Music is another voice of the game. Just like the GM needs to present information in the right way to preserve the game's feel, music should be selected to reflect the "feel" or ethos of the game. The specific music being played must fit the campaign, the setting, or the action. Music that fits the setting should reflect the kind of game and the environment like any non-player character. Drumming and traditional Japanese folk music were the soundtrack for my Nippon game. The soundtracks for Mortal Kombat were played when we were having combat in a martial arts game. We played chamber music for a Victorian game. Environmental sounds were great when we were in forests or out in the wilds. For a fantasy campaign, classical, celtic folk, or even Beatles could be applicable. During a huge street brawl in a modern-day game Marilyn Manson, Stabbing Westward, or Rage Against the Machine were all in the background. Find the mood you want, choose music to complement it, and play it.
To keep the disruption of maintaining music to a minimum. designate one player as "keeper of the music". It is that player's job to play DJ, with some input from the GM. This allows the GM to keep attention on the game, and to add music to the gaming experience. A keeper maintains a constant flow of music that fits the setting and mood at a low volume level. To assist this, most keepers create a "playlist" of what songs/ tracks on what albums were good for what kind of situations/ moments. The keeper is rewarded with extra experience or karma points because their efforts enhance the game.
So you are all hyped about music in your game. However, you complain that you don't have all this music. Where do you get "gaming music"? You would be surprised on how much "gaming" music you already have, from movie sound tracks and your troop's music collections. You can pick up more in any music or video store, and most local libraries. The internet is still a great source for free music, if you are careful. Just do not spend too much money on your music. It is just another game prop. If you need help finding appropriate music, music store clerks, media librarians, and some internet user groups, are great sources of information.
I would like to mention my favorite sources of music. Movie soundtracks are great sources of game music. The pieces all follow the same feel and have pieces for a variety of mood. (The compilation albums for a given time period or TV show themes also work well.) If the game is set in a historical period, use traditional music for that area. If the game is fantasy or sci fi, pick a musical feel and stick with it. Over the years, we have used Celtic, bluegrass, techno/dance, Native American/ tribal music, and Beatles tunes, to great effect. Environmental music/ sounds CDs, Fresh Aire, and classical/ opera music, round out the field.
Music is one of those you need to "gather" over time, rather than just grab in one bunch. The tool to facilitate that is the little black book. As a GM, you function much like an author. Like an author, keep a notebook with you. Record interesting things, observations, or ideas as you encounter them. Don't trust your memory. Trust your pen. Record descriptions (scenery, interesting people, the name of stores, music lyrics, turns of phrase) that can be used as little nuggets of descriptive goodness in your campaign. Record plot and story ideas and use them as springboards for future game plots. The little book will help you improve your game craft and your campaign. Go to Comment
For me, music is extremely important during a game. I almost hate to game without it. It's like watching a movie without the soundtrack -- because that's really what music is, a soundtrack for your game.
Following is a list of music that I use or have used. The list is in no particular order and is by no means exhaustive. I've included links to Amazon if you want to go there to listen to tracks.
I'll grant you, these are the obvious ones, but they need to be pointed out.
Gladiator Soundtrack: Gladiator: Music from the Motion Picture is my new favorite. A nice mix of rousing combat music and moody, slower pieces. Don't buy the "more music from the movie Gladiator" CD, however, unless you want to hear lots of dialogue snippets.
The 13th Warrior Soundtrack: Until Gladiator came out, The 13th Warrior: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was my favorite gaming CD. Great, emotional music.
Conan the Barbarian Soundtrack: Conan the Barbarian: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is probably the D&D album to have playing during a game.
Conan the Destroyer Soundtrack: More of the same, but that's a good thing. Conan the Destroyer: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack isn't quite as cool as Conan the Barbarian's, but it's still Basil Poledouris, so it's still pretty good.
Aliens Soundtrack: The Aliens: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is creepy mixed with action. A good way to describe a great D&D session.
Braveheart Soundtrack: If you don't mind the decidedly Scottish feel (that is to say, if bagpipes won't ruin the mood of your game), Braveheart: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is a great CD.
Holst: The Planets: Probably my favorite classical music CD, Holst: The Planets is mystical and otherworldly, while powerful at the same time.
Dune Soundtrack: This is a bit of a guilty pleasure. I like the dialogue snippets in the Dune: Original Soundtrack Recording.
Dragonheart Soundtrack: The movie had its flaws, but the music's good on the Dragonheart: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
Planet of the Apes Soundtrack: Planet of the Apes: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is from the original 1968 movie. I have no idea what the 2001 version will sound like (although actually, most Tim Burton movies have pretty good soundtracks).
Stargate and Independence Day Soundtracks: The Stargate: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, as well as the Independence Day: Original Soundtrack, are both good efforts by the same composer, David Arnold. These are not in my CD player every week, but they're good once in a while.
More D&D Adventure
These titles are a less obvious selections. They should pleasantly surprise you.
Henry V Soundtrack: I forget how I stumbled upon the Henry V: Original Soundtrack Recording, but it's great gaming music.
Elizabeth Soundtrack: Surprisingly good. The Elizabeth Soundtrack has some great medieval vocal bits mixed in with good fight music.
Paul Savanet, Nomad: Nomad is great travel music.
Dead Can Dance, Aion: Look for Aion, but really, practically anything by Dead Can Dance is good. It's pseudo-medieval, sort-of-Arabic music. Most of it has vocals, but they are usually moody and not distracting (most are not in English).
Vas, In the Garden of Souls: If you like Dead Can Dance, you'll like Vas. Try In the Garden of Souls.
Mediaeval Baebes, Salva Nos: Sung mostly by an a capella all-female choir, Salva Nos (Save Us) creates some interesting, flavorful background music for your medieval fantasy game.
Jean-Luc Ponty, Mystical Adventures: This one is an old favorite. Ponty is an electric violinist and creates some interesting instrumental music on Mystical Adventures and other albums.
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen: Lots of bits that you'll recognize from the movie Excalibur, if you're not already familiar with Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Steve Roach, Well of Souls: Very primal sort of ambient music. Well of Souls has lots of drums and primitive instruments.
Classical Thunder: Classical Thunder has all the great gaming classical music you need in one big collection. Very cool.
Replacement Killers Soundtrack: I bought the Replacement Killers Soundtrack on sale and was pleasantly surprised. Great action music. No annoying modern stuff stuck in at the end like so many of today's soundtracks, either.
These titles all work for D&D as well, but they are more creepy than adventure-oriented.
The Ninth Gate Soundtrack: The Ninth Gate Soundtrack is a spooky, slow-moving album. There's an import version too, but I don't know if it's any different.
The Devil Rides Out: The Devil Rides Out: Film Music is a great collection of classic horror movie music.
George Crumb Works: Really, anything by George Crumb is sure to be creepy and disturbing while you game. He's a modern classical composer with a real dark feel. In addition to Works By George Crumb, look for Black Angels, 11 Echoes of Autumn, and Four Nocturnes as well.
The Thing Soundtrack: Ennio Morricone is great. Just about any soundtrack by him is guaranteed to be a good addition for your collection. Definitely pick up The Thing: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
Horror Movie Madness: Horror Movie Madness is a nice collection of various modern horror movie themes like Halloween, Hellraiser, and The Exorcist.
The Omen Soundtrack: You'll find classic, creepy stuff on The Omen: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Omen IV also has a good soundtrack. I don't know about the other sequels.
What music do you play during your games? Share your recommendations with everyone in the DMs Only Message Board. Go to Comment
I just found a great list of marvellous music for gaming. It is from Monte Cook, whos website has grown and expanded to a marvelous place to visit since the last time I was there, oh so long ago. The link is...
Bram Stoker's Dracula Soundtrack: I didn't put Dracula on the list last time because it has a cheesy pop song at the end (that's the problem with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and a number of others as well). The rest of the CD is so good, though, that I just had to recommend it. Just stop the CD before you get to the Annie Lennox song, or buy it and then burn your own version without the pop song on the end.
Vas Offerings: I recommended Vas last time. Here's another solid album, Offerings. Moody, fantasy stuff a la Dead Can Dance.
Clannad The Legend: This is a soundtrack for Robin of Sherwood. It's very Celtic, sweeping, atmospheric stuff. Good for about any fantasy session.
Arlington Road Soundtrack: You might be a little surprised to find this terrorist-in-the-suburbs movie soundtrack on the list, but mostly it's for the opening track. The whole of Arlington Road is good, but you won't find a more intense piece of music than the first track of this CD. It's composed by Angelo Badalamenti, the guy who did the Twin Peaks soundtrack. But where that was creepy, this one is driving and intense.
Leviathan Soundtrack: Jerry Goldsmith may do a lot of music for mediocre movies, but that doesn't mean that the soundtracks are bad. You can probably find this one kinda cheap, and it's great gaming music.
Dan Gibson's Solitudes: Thunderstorm in the Wilderness: This is almost an hour of an actual thunderstorm, but you can't beat it for atmosphere.
Douglas Irvine, Ambient Egypt: This is atmospheric background music for any game with an exotic or Middle Eastern flair -- or just a session in the desert.
Hunt for Red October Soundtrack: Yes, The Hunt for Red October is a submarine movie. But it's got a good, albeit short, soundtrack. The first track has a Russian choir singing, but you know, if dwarves sang in choirs, it would probably sound just like this.
Glen Danzig Black Aria: You might have heard others recommend Black Aria. They were right. Despite what you might think, it's not metal -- it's, well, an aria. Creepy and moody and exciting, it covers a lot of ground. But then, so do most D&D sessions....
The Count of Monte Cristo Soundtrack: This rollicking good, swashbuckler movie has a rollicking good, swashbuckling soundtrack.
First Knight Soundtrack: First Knight is not a great movie, but it has a good Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack.
Willow Soundtrack: Willow is another so-so movie (in my opinion) but a good soundtrack. (James Horner strikes again!)
Event Horizon Soundtrack: I was almost tempted to list this under "Horror," but you know, it's more intense than it is creepy. Great fight or chase music.
Just in time for Halloween, here are some spooky or disturbing CDs for a horror game:
Signs Soundtrack: Signs is good and chilling, just like the movie.
The Sixth Sense Soundtrack: While we're on the topic of M. Night Shyamalan's movies, this soundtrack is very quiet, and very creepy.
The Cell Soundtrack: The Cell is good, chilling stuff. Untraditional in the "Vincent Price movie soundtrack" sense, but good game music.
Final Conflict Soundtrack: Last time, I recommended The Omen. This sequel's soundtrack is just as good.
The Silence of the Lambs Soundtrack: I'll sometimes use this for fantasy games as well, although it's got a real sinister mood.
The Shroud, A Dark Moon Night: Okay, I don't want to get all goth on you, but A Dark Moon Night is soft, moody stuff. Kind of dark, but mostly just subdued. Good for exploring the woods at night or something.
Current 93 Faust: Okay, seriously. No messing around now. This is just freaky stuff. You can also look for a CD of theirs called Live at Bar Maldoror, although it is hard to find. Some of my players don't let me play this stuff while they're there. It's that freaky. While on the topic of hard to find, there's a French group called Tribe of Circle that's almost as disturbing, but difficult to track down. If you try Faust, and you're not mad at me afterward, try looking for Tribe of Circle, The Advent of Redemption. Go to Comment
You can work music without interfering with your GM duties easily, if you are a techno GM, with a computer/ laptop by your side. By creating a bunch of launches for various tunes you will need (no fumbling for them) and setting up a set of real speakers for real sound, your computer familiar can provide musical accompaniment to perfectly match the mood you want. Go to Comment
Greetings. I have just spent three days searching for just the right song to put on a website for an Everquest Guild. The feeling is simple. They are a clan of noble Knights who represent all that is good, Holy, and Just. I am searching for a song to evoke Nobility and Honor, pride of ones clan. I searched under many different fields and found nothing but hard rock remixes or Classical tunes that were just way to dead. Maybe something befitting an epic battle of good against evil. I found a song on a different website and loved it, but i am not down for robbing from other websites. It was found in the intro of the guild called The White Cross. I am looking for something similar to that if possible. I have exhausted my efforts and do not know under what search parameters i can look under to find such songs. Please help. Thank you. Go to Comment
Hmm, guess that I'm not gonna' be to original, but I use a lot of soundtracks: 13th Warrior (Jerry Goldsmith), Children of Dune (Brian Tyler), Lord of the Rings of course (but It's a little bit to known and generally it already suggests the Lord of the Rings storyline to the players...)... Yeah, and one thing amongst them all: if You have a good extraction program (I think that the best one available would be Nova Software Extractor 2.4) always try to ripp music from Your favorite games! I have a wild variety of such kind of music, just the examples: Divine Divinity (the file named "bitva" is just great, all other are good too), War of the Ring (this one is one of my all-time favourites), Warcraft III (You don't need the ripper - there's a special option in the map editor to extract music), Vampire: the Masquerade - Redemption (the music is unpacked somewhere in the game's folder), Ultima IX, Blair Witch Project series, Medal of Honor (not all of its wonderful tracks suit the fantasy setting, but some of them can), Majesty (another great one), Heroes of Might & Magic III (not to particulary good, but if You insist You can use it as a background...), Heroes of Might & Magic II CD (extract the cd audio - nice vocals I must say), Diablo and many, many others... You can also look for some music in the internet (www.billbrownmusic.com , www.kmmproductions.com - a lot of mp3 for starters). If You want some names to search the Kazaa, try: Jerry Goldsmith, Sergei Prokofiev, James Horner, James Newton Howard, Elliot Goldenthal and Basil Poledouris. Have fun! ))) Greets from Poland to ya' all! ) Go to Comment
"Dueling Banjos" From The Original Soundtrack: Deliverance
- Dueling Banjos
- Pony Express
- Old Joe Clark
- Fire On The Mountain
- Bugle Call Rag
- Hard Ain't It Hard
Any number of classic western's soundtracks if you can find them
"Dancing with Wolves"
"A Gun for Ringo"
"Hang 'em High"
"A Fistful of Dollars"
"My Name is Nobody"
"Once Upon A Time in the West"
"A Silhoutte of Doom"
"Bullets Don't Argue" for tense scenes
"Death Rides a Horse" and "The Big Gundown" for battle sequences.
"Young Guns 2" and at times "Young Guns 1"
***"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" soundtrack it has a wealth of music spanning moods from sad to contemplative to rousing enough that you're ready to start a gunfight in a bar.
"Outland" has a space/ western feel to it.
"Quigley down under"
"Shanghai Noon" Which works better than you might expect
Johnny Cash: Highway Man" "Don't Take Your Guns to Town" "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "A Boy Named Sue"
Willie Nelson: "Poncho and Lefty" "Me and Paul" and "Whiskey River."
Bela Fleck - Tales from the Accoustic Planet Volumes 1 & 2
Anything by Nickel Creek
Much of the Charles Daniels Band Decade of Hits has a nuber of them
"Old Time Hammered Dulcimer Favorites" It just has the right sound.
Soundtrack for the PBS series The Civil War
"The Wild West- The Essential Western Film Music Collection"
"Songs of the West"
Speaking of TV series: Deadwood soundtrack as well.
The Lonesome Dove soundtrack by Basil Poledouris.
The Irish volunteer is a great collection of civil war music.
Doc Watson is a master banjo player and worth looking in to for more folksy sounding stuff.
Appalachian Stomp: Bluegrass Classics
Shine from Bond (www.bondmusic.com)
'Vale Of Plenty' from the "Black Hawk Down" soundtrack sounds very appropriate
'Prometory' from the soundtrack to "Last Of The Mohicans".
Any number of chamber music CDs for cheap (1.99) are available for when you want to be "cultured".
For Companion-y music
Natasha Atlas give the perfect Eastern feel.
For Asian Feel
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"
"House of the Flying Daggers"
some of the hong kong action movies.
Rel Fexive of waves in the black @ aimoo board posts these two CDs he has burned
01. Sonny Rhodes - Ballad Of Serenity
02. Natacha Atlas - The Righteous Path
03. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly - Il Tramonto
04. Jelly Roll Morton - Stars And Stripes Forever (from Deadwood)
05. Firefly - Ready For Battle
06. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly - Il Treno Militare
07. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - A Wedding Interrupted
08. Last Of The Mohians - Promentory Part 1
09. Firefly - Leaving
10. Natacha Atlas - Ashwa
11. A Fistful Of Dollars - Square Dance
12. Serenity - Going For A Ride
13. Kate Rusby - Underneath The Stars
14. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly - La Storia Di Un Soldato
15. Firefly - Mal Fights Niska
16. Macross Plus - Welcome To Sparefish
17. Firefly - Big Bar Fight
18. Bruce Springsteen - Devils And Dust
19. Firefly - Caper
20. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - The Encounter
21. June Carter Cash - Will The Circle Be Unbroken (from Deadwood)
22. Last Of The Mohicans - Promentory Part 2
23. Firefly - Out Of Gas/Empty Derelict
01. Serenity - Serenity
02. Michael Hurley - Hog Of The Forsaken (from Deadwood)
03. Juno Reactor - Pistolero
04. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - To The South
05. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly - La Carrozza Dei Fantasmi
06. Serenity - River Goes Wild
07. Natacha Atlas - Iskanderia
08. A Fistful Of Dollars - Without Pity
09. David Schwartz - Theme From Deadwood (from Deadwood)
10. Firefly - Saffron
11. For A Few Dollars More - Il Colpo
12. Natacha Atlas - Kidda
13. Firefly - Back Home
14. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly - Il Forte
15. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Night Fight
16. Natacha Atlas - Leysh Nat'Arak
17. Michael Brook - Arriving In Deadwood (from Deadwood)
18. Firefly - Inara's Suite
19. Gustavo Santaolalla - Iguazu (from Deadwood)
20. Hans Zimmer - Vale Of Plenty (from Black Hawk Down)
21. Firefly - River's Dance
22. Serenity - Love
23. Firefly - End Credits Go to Comment
Personaly I go with ephemeralstability and select clasical music very often.
Prokofiev, Scjostakovich, Dvorak, Rachmaninov, Tsjakovski, but also Grieg and Field.
Besides that various irish and scotisch folk music. My current favorite is a album by magna carta. This album is relased but a few months ago in the netherlands and I keep forgetting the name. Otherwise, the "lord of the ages" album remains a favorite in our group. Go to Comment
Personally, I love music in a game (especially as a GM). I feel it relaxes me and it helps to ease the pressuse that sometimes arises. Most important of all... when your busy trying to work something out the players will listen to it instead of talking to each other and then arguing (at least my players to) and distracting you. We dont use music much but when we do its a much better experience.
Some of my favorites are:
Blue Oyster Cult -Dancing in the Ruins
Blue Oyster Cult -Astrology
Blue Oyster Cult -Ballroom Blitz (for a barfight)
a few other b.o.c. songs
Aerosmith -Kings and Queens
and Enya works well
Heh... I was just reminded of the time all we had to listen to was Adam Sandler. To say the least, we had to turn it off. Go to Comment
Some of the music i think is awsome is
The sorow song from grandia II
For the dragons from breath of fire III
Renas theme song from star ocean II
The battle music from all star oceans
the big boss music from grandia II
lockes theme from final fantasy III
The boss music from legend of mana
fighting spirit from tales of phantasia
darts theme from legend of the dragoon
the chapter II world map music from legend of the dragoon
Most of the music from gundam wing endless duel
By the way, captain penguin, i want my soundtrack from icewind dale back. Go to Comment
hey guys, go to bluelaguna.net for pretty much every final fantasy mp3 from 6-11, kingdom hearts, and fft advance. (some of the mp3s will only work if you have a relatively good mp3 player) Go to Comment