Music to Set the Mood

Nothing sets the mood of an adventure or scene more than music.  Swelling violins for an achingly beautiful elven glade… happy dance music for the tavern… drums of warning in the jungle… dark tones of haunting.  But why be too generic?

Give your most important places their own theme music.  It works for TV shows and heroes in movies, why not your campaign?  Consider ethnic flavors of music to provide differences between different cultures, countries, and cities. Imagine a smoky rural town with the sounds of Celtic reels escaping from the local pub compared to a densely populated cosmopolitan warren of streets with klezmer dance echoing down dank alleyways.  Consider Arabic or Asian music to emphasize a city whose culture is markedly different than the characters’ home area.

Mining for strong heroic themes in soundtracks is also likely to be fruitful.  Don’t be ashamed to steal obvious ones (Raiders Theme for pulp 1930s adventures, Superman theme for four-color super hero campaigns).  Here is a list of some of my favorites: Unbreakable, Hercules, Last Samurai, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, any collection of Gregorian Chants, Deadwood, Air Force One, Gladiator, Punisher, Open Range, Reign of Fire, Hidalgo, Blackhawk Down, Ocean’s 11, Italian Job, Master and Commander.

And it would not be a proper list without the grandaddy of them all: The Conan movies (Barbarian and Destroyer).

Just using genre soundtracks in a game is a well known bit of gamemastery.  The point is to pick a theme and assign it to a particular city, town, or region of your game world.  Use it every time they come to that place from somewhere else (don’t overuse it) and you’ll establish a flavor in the mind of the your characters.

Using your computer to organize these cuts and label them with the place they represent will make it easier to keep up the technique.

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