In my column “Roleplaying music” I want to write about the usage of music in tabletop roleplaying. If you start using music in your gaming sessions, there are five albums you should consider buying (if you don’t own them already).
Conan the Barbarian (composed by Basil Poledouris)
Conan the Barbarian is one of my favorite fantasy movies and this is partly because of the great soundtrack. The music is very epic sometimes even bombastic, but there are also quiet, melodic parts. It’s an full orchestral soundtrack, so no synthie sounds here. It’s highly recommended for any fantasy roleplaying game. But you should try to get your hands on the Varese Sarabande CD, since other versions like the CD from Milan miss a few tracks. From what I’ve heard the CD versions are quite hard to find, but you can get it on iTunes for around 6€. So what are you waiting for?
A Nightmare On Elm Street(composed by Charles Bernstein)The Nightmare on Elm Street movies are probably not the best horror movies ever made, but the soundtrack is awesome. The music was done completely with synthesizers and Bernstein manages to create an unsettling and unnatural atmosphere from the first second to the last note. Just listening to the music sets a great mood at the gaming table. I’ve used this soundtrack in many horror campaigns and it never gets old. It’s a timeless classic. As with other soundtrack CDs this is hard to find in shops but it’s available over iTunes for the regular 9,99€ price.
John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness (composed by John Carpenter)
Prince of Darkness is a great horror movie by one of my favorite directors. If you haven’t seen the movie, yet, go to a video rental store and rent it. It doesn’t have any new-fangled digital effects but it’s very creepy and you’ll get a lot of great ideas for horror campaigns. The trouble is that it’s extremely hard to get a copy of that CD. I sometimes get the feeling that only movie fans and roleplaying geeks buy this kind of soundtrack album and so they are usually “out of print” just a few years after release. And Prince of Darkness is another 80s classic. Like the aforementioned “Nightmare” soundtrack, the music from this horror classic was done in the synthesizer. It’s not quite as good as “Nightmare” but it’s a good alternative. As far as I know the album isn’t available on iTunes either, but there are some John Carpenter compilations available.
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (composed by Jeremy Soule)
When you are a fan of computer roleplaying games, you probably have played either Oblivion or its predecessor Morrowind, or you’ve at least heard the name Jeremy Soule. Soule has composed a lot of computer and video game soundtracks and is (in)famous for his characteristic style. Some people say, that if you’ve heard one Soule soundtrack you know them all. But in my opinion the soundtracks for Oblivion and Morrowind stand out. Especially Oblivions’ music is perfectly suited as background music for your gaming session. You can easily use it in almost any fantasy setting. When I am not mistaken, the CDs where only available with the Collectors Edition of the game but you can get all Soule soundtracks at DirectSong.com. You can also get several tracks from the Oblivion and the Morrowind sountrack for free at the official Elder Scrolls website.
Gears of War (composed by Kevin Riepl)
The soundtrack from this futuristic third person shooter is great for any gaming session involving modern or futuristic battle. Although there are some slow sequences most of the time the music is very fast and almost brutal. In my opinion the Gears of War music would work great with the new Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game “Dark Heresy” or anything similar like post-apocalyptic campaigns. I found this soundtrack over the iTunes but you should get it as CD as well.