Several years back, I went through a prolonged, mind-searing journey into the blackest depths of industrial music. I’m not talking about Skinny Puppy or KMFDM or rivet-head club music. I’m talking about “plunge your mind into a world of eternal darkness where the only comforts are the sounds of scraping metal echoing through the catacombs of the infernal machinery of low-tech iron hell” industrial music. A lot of what I was listening to, one of my friends referred to as “Dungeon music”.
This label gave me an idea: not all, but many of the albums I’d been listening to made for great ambiance during some of the grueling dungeon crawls I’d cooked up for my gaming group. It’s amazing what a little background music can do to enhance the mood of a gaming session. Distorted, barely audible vocals over gently rumbling electronic noise and feedback, “the sound of orcs echoing in the halls” of a prison had some of my players genuinely scared!
Really, you want to pick and choose something that suits the mood you’re trying to create, and nothing so loud that it would be distracting, but adding dungeon music can make for some great sessions.
A few of my favorites that I used were tracks by Critical Theatre and OLoF NiNe. Critical Theatre may be a bit harder to find, as most of their releases were on hand-made cd-rs, but they’re more than worth hunting down. Last I saw, they had a Bandcamp here: http://criticaltheatre.bandcamp.com/
OLoF NiNe’s entire discography is free to download at http://omnicorn.com/pganza/. For my dungeon crawls, I particularly used the album “Fuck, You’re Dead”. Warning, some of the images may be considered mildly NSFW. I even recorded an album with the guy from OLoF NiNe for a project we called Kathedrikos Maschine (http://astrangerparadise.com/releases/offb026-alex-kimball-&-ian-linter-kathedrikos-maschine). Maybe it’s kinda Ravenlofty?
Lastly, there’s another band, whose entire purpose seems to fit this theme. Sadly, they disappeared years ago, but there was an experimental noise band called “Forgotten Realms” who put out a handful of albums that were all free for download. From what I gathered, they would play live shows in the dark while stuff like Ator played in the background. I’m still owed a physical copy of Warrior Turned to Stone. Anyway, since I don’t know if any of their old free stuff is still hosted, I’ll go ahead and host this for now. Behold, “Instant Death: Deck of Many Things“! (Forgotten Realms, get in contact with me if you want me to take this down or if you want to finally send me your last album). They had a youtube video of them playing live, once upon a time, but good luck finding it…
If the game hadn’t broken up for other various reasons, I’d planned to use something like Sopor Aeternus for a scenario with an ancient true neutral vampire bard, whose melancholic violin music would echo through the halls of his crypt. I do hope I get a chance to use that character eventually.
Anyway, I’d love to hear from other GMs, DMs and STs about their thoughts on using music in gaming to enhance the mood.