Roleplaying music – Five essential soundtrack albums

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?

[audio:]Conan the Barbarian – “Theology/Civilization”

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.

[audio:]A Nightmare On Elm Street – “Jail Cell”

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.

[audio:]John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness – “Main Theme”

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 You can also get several tracks from the Oblivion and the Morrowind sountrack for free at the official Elder Scrolls website.

[audio:]Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – “Main Theme”

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.

[audio:]Gears of War- “Gears of War”

By the way, from this day on I utilize the “Yahoo! Media Player” on this blog. It’s pretty easy to install and use. You just add the following line of code to your site’s header:

This adds the player to your site. Now you just have to link to a mp3 file to get small play button next to that link. A click on that button and the music starts to play. It’s as easy as that! For more details check out the official site for the player.

Update: I am using a flash-based WordPress plugin now.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

21 thoughts on “Roleplaying music – Five essential soundtrack albums”

  1. I've got kids, so usually the sound tracks for my games is either Shrek or the ever popular, "I wanna glass of water." that the kids love to sing so much.

    I do use music for writing dungeons, I head on down to the Library and they have tons of music available to borrow (and steal, ARG!)

    World music is awesome! Romanian folk, African Tribal chanting and drums, Asian melodies. Anything historic works well, now if I could only play it DURING the games, wouldn't that be something?

  2. The stereotypical celtic sounds work well for overland travels…Clannad is a good pick for that.

    The crow Original score works really well too.

    Lately it's been the LotR triligy OST, set on random repeat. Fills the dead space well.

    For battles? Rob Zombie or White zombie – the odd timing, and driving beats keep everyone amped up…definitely heavy metal for fights.

  3. The soundtrack for the Witcher game is pretty good too. And the soundtrack for the Rome TV series (both seasons) is simply awesome.

  4. @Questing GM: I am a great fan of Nobuo Uematsu, but I was looking for more generic tunes suitable to a lot of situations in roleplaying. The “Tiger & Dragon” soundtrack is great too. To be honest, there are hundreds of albums I could recommend and these 5 just made the list. BUT there will be more articles to come. 😉

  5. @Crom: I know the Children of Dune soundtrack and I love it. But I’ll have to check out that “Age of Conan” soundtrack.

  6. Requiem for a Tower is also an intensely powerful song… used in a Lord of the Rings trailor, I've heard it being used in few new trailers, including the TV trailer for 21, and the opening music for an NBA game. It can be hard to find. You can youtube it though to just listen to the song.

  7. I mean Requiem for a Tower, "based on" the song Requiem for a Dream by Clint Mansell…. if you can call it "based on" I guess. Uses the same theme, but incredibly more "epic" in feeling. The original is very good as well.

  8. Oh, I didn't know there were two versions of this theme. You're right, Requiem for a Tower is much more rpg- (and movie-) worthy

  9. I also strongly recommend The 13th Warrior soundtrack; we've used it a lot in our fantasy setting rpg's and it works well alongside the Conan soundtrack by Basil Poledouris.

    Talking of Basil Poledouris many feel that his Conan the Destroyer soundtrack was below par and that Flesh and Blood was far superior. I'm inclined to agree and recommend the Flesh and Blood soundtrack as well.

  10. Here's some good tips from my own campaign:

    You may note that some of the most obvious soundtracks for fantasy gaming are underrepresented (such as 'Conan the Barbarian', 'Braveheart', 'Gladiator', 'The Lord of the Rings'…) but that's because we used them so much in our previous campaign 🙂
    .-= Slynt´s last blog ..<a href="; rel="nofollow">Mercenary Companies and Free Men =-.

  11. Excellent article and kudos for bringing up the concept of background music! Music in my opinion is underrated tool and element for game sessions and I am a bit surprised how little people actually use it. I have actually ended up composing original fantasy music under Celestial Aeon Project for my campaigns and game sessions. One of the latest virtual releases is The Journey Begins: – it might offer enjoyable moments to fellow dungeon masters / gamers as well!

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