I love having music on in the background when I’m playing tabletop RPGs. I now notice if it’s not there! In today’s article, I thought I would share some of my favourite tracks in the hope that you might suggest a few more in the comments.
A few things I look for in backing music:
- A sense of the fantastic
- Subtlety – it can’t be too distracting!
- ‘Loopability’. Video game soundtracks are often better for this than films’.
If I’m playing online, I either share a link with my players or use a Discord bot like Aoide (formerly Botify). Roll20 and Foundry have an option of playing music, but you have to load it up first, which is a bit faffy.
It would be impractical to share every possible track, but here are some of my favourites. Suggest your own in the comments section!
Obvious disclaimer: I am sharing these links for your own personal use. You should seek permission before you use any of these tracks in streamed games.
Pillars of Eternity
Composer: Justin E Bell
First up, a wonderful score from a wonderful game. Critical Role has used some of these tracks; Matt Mercer was one of the main voice actors in the game. What follows is just a sample – there are too many great tracks to choose from!
‘Twin Elms’ is mysterious and atmospheric:
I love ‘Oldsong’:
For something more epic – perhaps the death of a character? – try ‘The White March’:
For something haunting and sinister, try this track, used for a sanitarium in game. Perfect for Curse of Strahd!
For something even more intense and foreboding, use ‘Heritage Hill’:
And for dungeon-crawling, try ‘The Endless Paths’:
Might and Magic
Composer: Paul Anthony Romero
A blast from the past! I have a lot of fondness for these games, and the music is a bit part of it.
This is a stately and sombre track used for several areas in game:
If you’re playing Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, you’ve got to try ‘Frozen Highlands’ from Might and Magic VI. It even has arctic wind in the background!
For a really evil area, try this track from Might and Magic VII:
For a super magical area like the lair of a Mad Mage, this track from MM6 is great:
And for an atmospheric dungeon crawl, try this one:
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu
Truthfully, I should call this ‘Final Fantasy VII/VIII‘ since that’s where most of these tracks come from. It’s worth noting that many of these have been remixed and extended, and some have even been given an orchestral treatment.
For the start of an epic mission, you can’t beat ‘The Landing’ from Final Fantasy VIII:
Great battle music, this one given an orchestral treatment (‘Don’t Be Afraid’):
Or slightly more upbeat and punky (‘The Man with the Machine Gun’):
Creepy, menacing, otherworldly fight music (‘J-E-N-O-V-A’):
My all-time favourite boss music comes from Final Fantasy VII (and no, it isn’t ‘One-Winged Angel’). Everything about it is just awesome.
An eclectic mix, this. This post is already getting pretty long, so I have tried to pick absolute favourites!
Must I only pick one from Diablo? (Composer: Matt Uelmen) If so, it would have to be ‘Tristram’, perfect for a cursed town:
Much as I love the rebooted Tomb Raider, there was always something missing for me, and it was this. Has there ever been such a great title theme? Haunting, wistful – just superb. Composer: Nathan McCree
I’m not the biggest fan of The Witcher, but the music is wonderful. Lead composer: Marcin Przybyłowicz. This track is great for creating a sense of wonder and exploration:
For something whimsical, can you beat ‘Lost Woods’ from Zelda? Bookmark this if you’re planning to run Wilds beyond the Witchlight! Composer: Koji Kondo
For a truly heartbreaking moment (man I love this one – composer Gustavo Santaolalla):
I loved playing through Thimbleweed Park a couple of years back. There are several absolute bangers on the sound track by Steve Kirk, but I chose this for a mournful finale. Wonderful guitar-playing here. (I highly recommend ‘The Factory’ also for some prog rock vibes.)
And speaking of rock: I use this track by the Eagles for the start of every session of Dungeon of Mad Mage. It was originally used as the theme for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and fits the mood of the adventure perfectly.
The Elder Scrolls
Did you really expect me to miss this off the list? Some absolutely fantastic tracks in this series: sweeping, haunting, otherwordly. They create a real sense of wonder and adventure. Composer: Jeremy Soule.
‘Far Horizons’ is a peaceful track for exploration:
‘Secunda’ is quieter but still beautiful, perfect for night-time:
Alternatively, try ‘Harvest Dawn’ from Oblivion:
‘The Streets of Whiterun’ could work for any small town but has a slightly melancholic undertone:
‘Silt Sunrise’ is a Morrowind classic, reused in the Dragonborn expansion to Skyrim, perfect for exploring a slightly alien wilderness:
Another one reused from Morrowind, ‘Peaceful Waters’ is slow, gentle, and serene:
And for something slightly more upbeat, try ‘The Road Most Travelled’, also from Morrowind:
What are your favourite backing tracks for RPG sessions? Link your suggestions in the comments below.
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