February 28, 2012: Mood Music For RPGs
I enjoy listening to music to help set the mood when I'm playing or running a game like Vampire: the Requiem. My criteria is that the tonality of the songs can't interfere with the storytelling experience. That means I'm not a fan of music with a lot of singing or shrill violins in them -- unless it fits the setting at that particular point in the game.
Music is a crucial element in my games because I was a musician and singer for many, many years. So my tastes tend to be very nitpicky because I can tell if the musician took shortcuts. There are four composers and groups that come to mind when I think of great background music for RPGs:
Bailey Records - The interesting thing about Bailey Records is that they've compiled their music according to the type and genre of the game you might want to run. They are currently working on the score for the Spycraft RPG. If you're looking for a variety of sounds to have in the background, I'd take a peek at what they have to offer.
Midnight Syndicate - A fan favorite, Midnight Syndicate produced the official soundtrack for Dungeons and Dragons back in 2003. You may have spotted their music at Halloween stores or at conventions like GenCon.
Nox Arcana - Music from Nox Arcana is arguably darker than any other composer I've listed here. Many of their CDs, like the Necronomicon CD, are put together in a thematic format where each song tells a different part of a story. I like the creepy voice acting so much I've incorporated it into my games!
James Semple - Pelgrane Press did something really unique for Trail of Cthulhu and Esoterrorists. Simon hired James to compose music that can be played on a continuous loop in the background during a game. At first I wasn't sure I'd like this technique, but after working with James on The Queen of Crows trailer, I decided to give it a shot. I really feel like I've gotten more out of his music after working with him on a composition and seeing his process. James is currently working on the film score for The House of Hell.
Love playing music in the background? Hate it? Don't be afraid to continue the discussion over at our forums and talk about how you set the mood for your GURPS games. I'll gladly babble on and on about crescendos, trumpets, and cultists!
-- Monica Valentinelli