Every RPG should have its own soundtrack!

On the weekend I started playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which is actually a prequel to the original Deus Ex that was released over a decade ago. I like the game a lot so far, especially the soundtrack. I am sure the game wouldn’t be as fun if it didn’t have the great soundtrack by Michael McCann. In movies and computer/console games the soundtrack plays a vital role. Music can affect our emotions much more than visuals or words.

That’s the reason why a lot of game masters use background music when running roleplaying games. Alas it’s often not so easy to find fitting music for your game. Often you have to rely on movie and game soundtracks, but they are not as perfectly suited as one might hope. What some GMs end up doing is creating elaborate playlists for their games with background music, music for combat scenes, music for chase scenes etc.

Things would be much easier if there were soundtracks especially created for the game or campaign you’re currently running. Luckily there are a few of those. A shining example is the “Eternal Lies Suite”. James Semple and his team have created 27 tracks perfectly suited for the upcoming Eternal Lies campaign or any ToC campaign for that matter.

The German band Erdenstern has created the soundtrack for “Mountains of Madness”, a Call of Cthulhu campaign, “Die Chronik Aventuriens”, a soundtrack for “Das Schwarze Auge”, and the soundtrack for the German steam-fantasy game “Elyrion”. They are also known for their more generic “Into the …” soundtracks which have been composed with roleplaying games in mind.

So there are already a few soundtracks created for certain roleplaying games but it’s still the exception and not the rule. In this day and age some publishers experiment which the transmedia approach, telling stories across multiple platforms and formats. So why not add soundtracks to the mix that are not only composed with the regular listener in mind, but that also takes the needs of roleplayers into account?

In my opinion it would be awesome if every new roleplaying game would come with a soundtrack of its own. There are of course various reasons why this will never work. Not every publisher can afford to pay a composer, musicians etc. for such a project. But wouldn’t it great if at least the larger publishers would put some thought into this?

P.S.: I actually know of one game that did it the other way around. The upcoming steampunk RPG Airship Pirates is actually based on the music and lyrics of the band Abney Park. 🙂

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.

4 thoughts on “Every RPG should have its own soundtrack!”

  1. I love this idea! As a GM who has embraced music in his games I agree. However I have NOT found the perfect music for my supers game. 7 months in and still the right mix has not been achieved.

  2. Two Steps From Hell, Audiomachine, E.S. posthumus , Doctor Who tracks from 2005 and up, and X-ray dog are some of my favorites to use in a game. With the exception of the Doctor Who soundtracks, they all have choir and none choir tracks of their songs. Some of the songs have one to three different versions all building in intensity, so that you can use one set as the theme song for the campaign. The most intense version can be used for the final campaign, but I used it for the final of a story arc.

    These guys have never let me down when I want to run any genre for any campaign. Just remember to separate any of your choir and none choir tracks in different folders on your PC. It is always helpful to put some songs of similar themes in their folders; e.g., sad music, victory music, battle, and stuff that sounds like evil is in control.

    I almost forgot to mention Nox Arcana, Lustmord, and Midnight Syndicate for a good horror selection. You can use some of the video game soundtracks from Elder Scrolls for your fantasy stuff. Dead Can Dance, Kevin Macleod, search Youtube for Kevin’s Darkness is Coming, and Amethyistium.

  3. Most of the time I use movie soundtracks: Gladiator, The Last Samurai, How To Train Your Dragon (yes, it’s realy good), The Village; and, of course, Two Steps From Hell witch is the most “powerful” for battle scenes.

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