The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - The Complete Recordings by Howard Shore and released by Reprise Records is a huge collection containing 3+ hours of music from the movie spread over three CDs and augmented by a video DVD documenting the soundtrack's production. It's so huge that a single review won't do it justice, so instead, I'm blogging it. View the "Blogging the Complete Two Towers" category for the complete list of posts in this series.
Fans of pen-and-paper role-playing games have long searched for music to augment their role-playing sessions. For years, that was limited pretty much to the Conan soundtracks and whatever oddball Celtic, folk or medieval albums they could find. Things improved greatly with the release of the Lord of the Rings films and their corresponding soundtracks, but still, it was a mere three additional hours of music that had to be stretched out over years of game play.
And now we have the Complete albums, and if you're a gamer you need to buy them immediately. While I've only listened to the Complete Two Towers so far, I think its safe to say that the corresponding soundtracks for the Fellowship of the Ring and Return of the King would be equally rich finds.
Listening to the three discs, I find themes for almost every environment I'm likely to use, from epic battles to forest wanderings to desolate marshlands. Missing are tracks for dungeon crawling (though I expect that Fellowship and its musical recreation of the dungeons of Moria) and city exploration (which may be difficult for any soundtrack to satisfy)
There's a lot to like on this soundtrack, even for someone like me who already has quite a few fantasy soundtracks at hand. The music itself is great, but what makes it even better is that it evokes memories of the films, and does so in a way that isn't incompatible with a generic fantasy game (as opposed to the Star Wars soundtracks, which is so iconic that its all but impossible to use with any other setting).
As a result, when you play a track like "The Banishment of Eomer" you not only get the strong good vs. evil musical themes, but the residual memories of Rohan in decline as well.
"Wraiths on Wings" is a nicely dramatic song, and as in the movie, it’s a great track to use when a new enemy suddenly appears on screen.
I don't have many tranquil, wilderness-type tracks, which makes "The Dreams of Trees" a really find. It's calm and serene, and easily loopable.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in effectively using The Complete Two Towers in a role-playing game is taking the time to listen to and categorize each track so that you have it ready when the action calls for it. To date, I haven't had that kind of time (though this blogging project has started me down that path) but I've still found it useful to play the album from start to finish during the session. While the music rarely syncs up with exactly what's happening at the table, there are the occasional pleasant surprises as the player characters and music converge on some epic battle.
Tomorrow: Thoughts and role-playing ideas for Disc Two of the Complete Two Towers.