Sunday, January 31, 2010

DJs and Dragons: Music in Your Game

I love to use music in my D&D sessions. I really feel it helps establish an atmosphere and sets the tone for the game. This isn't something we did in the 1908s or 1990s, but it's an aspect of the game I really enjoy.

We D&D players are what Henry Jenkins calls "Textual Poachers." We take the things we find useful and mix and match them to create something new. This is the case with our musical choices. We setup playlists in three categories

1. Background (music we play during the beginning, during character generation, etc)
2. Combat (For fighting scenes inbetween dungeon-creeping)
3. Dungeon (for dungeon-creeping)

Each of these three we break down into music taken from video games and music taken from soundtracks.

Here's an example of some of the video game soundtracks we use:

Icewind Dale
Icewind Dale 2
Baldur's Gate
Baldur's Gate Shadows of Amn
Daldur's Gate Dark Alliance*
Neverwinter Nights Trilogy
Oblivion: Elder Scrolls IV
Dragon Age
The Battle for Middle Earth*
The Battle for Middle Earth 2

*I highly recommend these two albums. Also, anything by composer Jeremy Soule or Michael Hoenig will be great for D&D sessions.

In terms of soundtracks, here are some of my favourites:

Planet of the Apes (brilliant)
The 13th Warrior
Conan the Barbarian
Conan the Destroyer
10,000 BC
Army of Darkness (surprisingly good!)
300 (select tracks)
The Golden Compass (again, select tracks)
Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings (love this)
Sleepy Hollow
Van Helsing
The Mummy Movies (select tracks)
9 (quite a few good tracks here)

I am quite specific with my music lists, but this will give you some ideas if you tend not to use music in your game.

Also, I would also like to bring Syrinscape to your attention. This is a program designed to run D&D style partially-randomized soundscapes as background. The program is customizable too! Check it out.

Please let me know what you use in your games!


  1. Check out Midnight Syndicate if you haven't already. They did the album 'Dungeons & Dragons' in 2003, but most of their records work well as background music (especially if you're in a haunted castle/spooky forest type setting).

  2. Yes, I have the official D&D one, so-so on their other work though.

  3. I use Softrope to play both music and sound effects. Check it out.

  4. Planescape Torment is great if you need something a little more blue collar and dirty, and I think the tracks "Summon the Worms" "The War Begins" and "The Jihad" from Children of Dune works for just about any battle. I also like to use the Atreides themes for any triumphant arrival scene.

    Also, I think the Midnight Syndicate stuff is boring and almost always seems to lack energy.