With Free RPG Day just around the corner, I have decided to once again delve into the world of gaming music. More specifically, I’m going to look at how the albums I reviewed for the 2012 version of my annual “Music to Haunt By” series can be used with role-playing games. As was the case with the last two installments of this series, I managed to dig up some more example of early experiments with “gaming soundtracks.” And, as always, the reviews will be presented strictly in terms of the order I originally reviewed them and not by any sort of ranking of which is “Better” than the other. However, that’s not to say that things won’t be different this time around. In addition to the majority of the albums listed below having streaming sample tracks available in the linked reviews, I’m returning to my original vision for this series. While I had initially planned for “Music to game By” to short original reviews that would both inform gamers and entice them to check out the original full-length reviews, I eventually lapsed into lengthy reedits of my old reviews. Thankfully, that’s not the case this time around:
Shadow’s Symphony – To quote my original review, The House In The Mist is “an amazing musical trip through a long-ruined place of former elegance, with wordless female vocals appearing in most of the tracks. I’m overwhelmed by both the sheer excellence of this album and the limitless potential it has.” The titular opening track, “The House in the Mist,” immediately sets the tone for things to come (especially if you use it when your players first enter a haunted house. Tracks like “Dust Covered Opulence,” “Legend of the Ruins” and “The Hands of Time” imply age and lost luxury. For those seeking to unnerve adventurers as they enter a new area, “Restless Spirits” will work wonders. “Tragedy”goes well with funeral parlors while “A Sinister Feeling” can work in a dungeon or sewer encounter thanks to its dripping tones. The heavy touches and harpsichord work of “The Haunting of the Crowley House” let it work in a fantasy setting, as does the ethereal “The Dead Will Rise Again.” And those, dear reader, are only a small portion of the tracks available on this album!
Grave Tone Productions – Given its heavy rock nature and use of numerous samples, Music To Be Buried By is something of an odd duck in terms of role-playing music (unless you’re specifically running an adventure with rock music in mind). That said, it can still be useful. The opening soundscape of “Sinister Foreshadowing,” which takes the listener on a spooky walk through the woods and into an old cabin, could be used to start off a horror adventure. Also helping matters is the creepy narrator who warns of the horrors to come. The music box-like segments of “6 Degrees of Suffering” and “Room 324″ do allow use with a haunted nursery, especially in games like Little Fears or KidWorld. That said, both also offer lost of nontraditional moments as well, like rock segments and the sounds of screeching metal. “Nightmares and Lullabies” and “Creatures in the Closet” also fit into this category. Although the creepy piano work of “Ghost Note Funeral Hymn” would seemingly make it usable in a variety of scenarios, the Spanish funeral speech at the start and finish of the track does complicate matters somewhat. “The Murder Game” similarly uses eerie, soft tones with loud bursts of samples in order to create a creeping feel. While some might be tempted to use the catchy mix of rock and Night of the Living Dead samples during a zombie encounter, I recommend using it while players design their characters for a zombie apocalypse RPG. Those seeking something that sounds like a selection from a modern horror movie will enjoy Deathmarch” and “Violent Midnight” (which starts out with an 80′s horror feel) while “Raining Fear” fits just about any horror scenario thanks to its combination of the sounds of thunder and rain with spooky music.