Background music for games


Hey all. I know that many of you out there like to have some kind of music playing in the background during your games. I know that I do, and so do most of my players. Well, I thought it would be fun and useful to compile a list of good music cues to use in games. As a matter of fact, now that I have a CD writer, I plan to make several mix CDs for different moods/styles in my game. ie action/fighting, tense combat (like against "bosses"), moody/dark/sinister/creepy, stalking in caves/dungeons, general traveling, cities, etc. you get the idea.
Anyway, what sorts of music do you all like/use in your games?
Personal favorites of mine include Wagner (everybody loves to fight while listening to Ride of the Valkyries), Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King, various tracks by Basil Polydouris (from the Conan movies among others), and the occasional John Williams (although his music tends to be too well recognized and distracting).
So what do YOU listen to while gaming?


Clockwork Golem
The Soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings movie. That's about all we've experimented with. As a general rule, no-one really remembers to bring music when game-day starts.


I've had great success with the following soundtracks/albums:

The 13th Warrior

Lord of the Rings

Needful Things


Frankenstein (the Kenneth Branaugh version)

The D&D movie soundtrack (hey, something useful had to come out of that.


The Messenger

From Hell (if you skip the Manson track)

The 6th Sense

Conan the Barbarian


Batman Returns

Black Aria, by Danzig

I've also put together a combat CD from various other sources, some of which are listed above, some of which aren't. Two of the best pieces on there, if you can get 'em, are "The Duel of the Fates" from Phantom Menace, and "Let's Go Kill That Bastard" from Ravenous.


Temptation by Peter Gabrial

Early 80's Black Sabbath (the Dio years)


Carl Orf - Carinia Burahma (sp)


Since I am already on the subject, other ones I've used also include the Dune Soundtrack, Dracula, both of the Tim Burton Batman movie scores, and LotR:FotR, Highlander scores (the scores from the first three are available on one CD), various cues from the Robotech Perfect Soundtrack Album, Macross Plus, the Shadow, Wing Commander (yes, that dreadful movie, I could have written better with my turds), Stargate, and a few others I don't currently recall.


As usual, here is a blatant plug for when the music topic comes up. See my article "Fine Tuning Your Campaign" in Asgard issue #6. It mentions many of the soundtracks and other music I would have posted here as my answer...:D


for general ambiance i recommend
Dead Can Dance
Vas, a voice and percussion duo with medieval and middle eastern influences
Fairport Convention, Liege and Lief, a British folk rock classic
Finnish folk group Gjallarhorn

i also love using music to that evokes what the characters themselves might hear -- wild fiddling at a fey revel, the steady tolling of a temple bell. perhaps it's just my own taste for world music, but i find that traditional music from around the world can be very effective, particularly if the players are unfamiliar with it. the centuries old tradition of Tibetan Buddhist chanting can be profoundly meditative, but if you're hearing it for the first time from the stone mouths of demons carved on the pillars of a long sealed burial vault it's truly unnerving...
Great list, Monte--I'm definately going to have to check some of that stuff out.

As for what *I* use? Well, I havent used music all too much in my games, but when I do, I really think it adds a lot to the game. I heartily recommend anything by Midnight Syndicate I happen to have their Realm of Shadows CD, but plan on picking up one or more of their other CDs at GenCon this year. The Realm of Shadows CD and what little I've heard of the others are spectacular.

If you're just looking for some pumped-up battle music, get the main theme from Blade, or maybe even Smack My Bitch Up by Prodigy.

The Lord of the Rings soundtack does work fairly well too.

Now, to hijack the thread a bit... :D

My question do you use music in your games DMs? When I do use it, I sort of like to have it cued to certain places and locations and events in my games...I usually haven't had just plain BACKGROUND music going, except for a huge battle not all that long ago (in which case some upbeat techno really helped push the pace of the fight along).


droning monks of any religion

dire wolf- the greatful dead, when running g1(pleeeeease, don't murder me)


Registered User
Limper said:
Glen Danzig.... Black Aria.
I second this one wholeheartedly!

And for just total fun and because it gets pretty much everyone's juices flowing, you cannot go wrong with the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack.


I thought I was one of the only ones on Earth that got the Black Aria. Hm.

I like rock, myself. Someone mentioned Black Sabbath, particularly the Dio years. I heartily reccomend the Black Sabbath / Ian Gillan release "Born Again" which includes "Disturbing the Priest" and "Zero the Hero". Other rock songs that fit well in the gaming context are...
Angel "The Tower"
Blue Oyster Cult numerous songs including "Black Blade" and "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" cowritten by Elric author Michael Moorcock.
Judas Priest "Tyrant" "Jawbreaker" "Genocide", though they have a lot more songs that would be ideal for a mecha campaign.
Iron Maiden "Sun and Steel" "The Duellists" "Nomad" the whole Seventh Son album, and don't forget Bruce Dickinson's solo "Chemical Wedding".

Backing away from metal a bit...
Chris DeBerg "Don't Pay the Ferryman"
Loreena Mckennitt pretty much anything.
I guess Charlie Daniel's "Went Down to Georgia" would be good for a bardic challenge, but may be distracting.

Oh yeah, the classics. Carmina Burana, Valkyries, The Planets, Mussorgsky's "Baba Yaga's Hut" "Night on Bald Mountain", Grieg's "Mountain King".


Wow, just about everything I would suggest is already there! (Braveheart, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Lord of the Rings, etc.)

Depends on the flavor of your campaign, though. For a slightly more whimsical campaign, some Harry Potter or Princess Bride music also works, even if you do recognize it (in fact, in many ways because you recognize it.)

I'd also add Johan de Meij's Symphony No. 1: Lord of the Rings to the list. For futuristic games, I've used anonymous techno. For spy-type games (especially if they take place behind the former Iron Curtain) I've used Schindler's List and Hunt for the Red October.

Just recently saw Minority Report as well, and I think it's got a great soundtrack, especially for a more intrigue-laden game.
Monte, your list was nigh impeccable, I must admit. Kudos for having Dead Can Dance on there! I bought their CD after hearing about it on these boards, and I love it!

If you are into more hard rock, I highly recommend Rush (their older stuff). I can't think of a better rock band for D&D, unless you happen to like Iron Maiden (which I do, but many others seem not to). Also, I favor all of Tool's 3 albums (not to mention their live ones), except that a lot of music aficionados will pause to listen to the music more than they actually play D&D, perhaps. I mean, they are that good, IMO.

Another band you should definitely listen to for D&D: Bela Flack & the Flecktones... There's a "best of" album that you can just set on repeat for hours while you play; I highly recommend it for planar-type campaigns, personally.


Iconic Gnoll
Monte's list is pretty definative. I have been using it since he first posted it on his website. I made it my mission to acquire everything on the list (I still have a few titles to go).

One thing I do is rip the music off of the CD's and store them on my hard drive, I DO NOT post them to the internet. I basically have a dedicated laptop that I use as a juke box. This lap top is hooked up to the stereo system, and it gives control at the tip of a finger. Using the MS music/media app I make several lists and play them accordingly during the game. I also have several back ground effects ripped from various PC/Console games. When the PCs are in caves I play the cave track, or some of the sound tracks from Diablo 2. I keep the volume low, I want ambient noise afterall, no need for music to be the focus.

Often, we will game with hours of light classical movie scores, but when it comes to combat I take it up a notch BAM! (thanks Emeril).

If a demon or somesuch shows up, Metallica "Hit the Lights" begins and segues through the remainder of the Kill 'em All album. After the long quiet stuff, this puts a bit of apprehension in the air and makes everyone edgy.

This works well, but with different music, for Cthullu as well.

Oh, and Midnight Syndicate rocks! Love their stuff.
A long time ago I started the RPG Music Project, to highlight some of these great albums as potential mood music for D&D. You can see my (and others') contributions at I use amazon as a method of serving snippets of songs, so you can listen to some the ones you've never heard before.

oh, and anyone who's interested can add their own choices to the RPG Music Project. you have to be a site member, but hey, you're joining 900+ other D&D fans.
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