For decades, Dungeons & Dragons players have cobbled together custom soundtracks for their games from diverse sources, including various movie soundtracks (Conan the Barbarian, Lord of the Rings), game music tracks (Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights) and even specialized albums (Midnight Syndicate, Toxic Bag Productions). But now they have an official soundtrack, one sanctioned by the Wizards of the Coast, and one that promises to bring cinematic sound to the gaming table.
It succeeds wonderfully.
Old School, New School
Midnight Syndicate's Dungeons & Dragons Official Roleplaying Soundtrack is comprised of 23 tracks covering settings from arcane laboratories to dank dungeons to bloody battlefields. The tracks vary in length from 15 seconds to 4:45 minutes, and most combine orchestrated sound with chanting or choral singing. The music evokes the classic soundtracks that gamers have been using for years, but also brings forth memories of years' worth of adventuring. This is the sort of background music that DMs and players have always imagined they've heard as the monsters attacked, and steel rung against steel.
The folks at Midnight Syndicate are best known to gamers for their horror-tinged soundtracks, but reading through the song list, it's clear that they're familiar with classic Dungeons & Dragons. The names of certain tracks leap out at the reader -- "Descent into the Depths", "Beasts of the Borderlands", "Ruins of Bone Hill" -- evoking the much-loved, much-played adventures of D&D's youth. At the same time, other tracks names -- "Army of the Dead", "Relic Uncovered" and "Deep Trouble" -- evoke old enemies and conquered quests that every adventurer has faced.
Listening through all the tracks, I found plenty of excellent, suspenseful tracks for dungeon crawls, and lots of thrilling battle music. What I didn't find though, were more mellow tracks that could be used as background for when the party isn't hacking and slashing or trying to infiltrate a lost tomb. I ran a city-based session shortly after getting this CD and was disappointed to realize that none of the tracks would be appropriate for the adventure's opening in a seedy tavern, the scenes involving travel through the busy city, or the sea voyage to an orcish seaport (though it worked well for the sea battle against the giant squid).
In addition to these shortcomings, there's little in the way of what I'd call "ethereal" tracks, the sort of thing you might play in an elven courtyard nor are there any "planar" tracks -- like something meant to evoke the Abyss or one of the elemental planes. I'd also like to see a track or two dedicated to temples and churches, particularly ones for specific races (like elven or dwarven)
That said, the tracks we get are excellent, and do a good job of evoking the sorts of imagery and feelings that they're designed to evoke. If you're doing battles or dungeon crawling (and what self-respecting adventuring party isn't?) then you simply must buy this CD.
Here's some thoughts on the tracks included on the disk:
Ride to Destiny: Has a magnificent seven, "here come the heroes" feel to it.
Fens of Sargath: Nicely menacing.
Descent into the Depths: The heavy, methodical drum beat, combined with the overlying chorus, evokes caverns illuminated by ultraviolet light, and shadowed drow lurking just out of site.
Behind Door #1: A straight-forward sound effects track, involving mumbled words behind a door.
Eternal Mystery: The minute I heard this track, I thought of the snake temple in Conan the Barbarian. Perfect for the background music.
Skirmish: Ah, battle music! This track certainly gets your blood pounding -- I think my typing rate doubled when I heard this track while writing my next adventure.
Deep Trouble: The trap just went off, and the troll guards have been alerted. All hell is about to break loose. Playing this track should ratchet up the tension nicely.
Craft of the Wizard: You've just broken into the wizard's arcane library. Books and scrolls are stacked everywhere ... and you just know that there are magical traps waiting to be sprung. Mystical and subdued, yet menacing.
Beasts of the Borderlands: Another "Conan-like" track, this one is perfect for that battle against the orcs, or the arrival in an evil city where uncivilized humanoids abound.
Secret Chamber: And now for a little Indiana Jones. If your players have just unearthed their own map room and are moments away from a major discovery, this is the track to play.
The Dungeons & Dragons soundtrack is an essential part of any fantasy gamer's music collection, along side the Conan the Barbarian and Lord of the Rings soundtracks.
- Dungeons & Dragons Official Roleplaying Soundtrack
- Midnight Syndicate
- Entity Productions
- Web: www.midnightsyndicate.com
- MSRP: $14.99
- Buy from Amazon.com