While tabletop roleplaying games might not be the first kind of game you think about when you hear “game soundtrack,” there is an incredible array of songs out there that have been created specifically for TTRPGs. From Spotify playlists to full orchestral compositions, players and gamemasters have used music to set the mood for their campaigns forever. So even if you’ve never heard of “dungeon-synth” before, read on to discover some new musical gems and some incredible pieces of RPG history.
Spelljams, Dungeons & Dragons
“Spelljams features a double LP’s worth of tracks from artists all produced by Chris Funk, guitarist from the Decemberists, who plays D&D with many folks in the music scene in Portland, Oregon. Chris Perkins, story architect at D&D and lead designer of Spelljammer, worked with Funk to bring the Flash Gordon-esque soundtrack to life. ‘You know what they like on the Rock of Bral?’ asked Perkins, referring to a location in Spelljammer. ‘Rock music! The brilliant Chris Funk has assembled a motley crew of bards to create Spelljams—music inspired by our newest Spelljammer adventure, Light of Xaryxis. I encourage Dungeon Masters use Spelljams as background music during their D&D game sessions or listen to it while dreaming up future hijinks. Everyone else: enjoy the music of Wildspace!’”
1. “Seeds Of Destruction” - Magic Sword
2. “Arena Of Blood” – Osees
3. “Space Is A Place” - Reggie Watts
4. “Visible Lights” – TEKE::TEKE
5. “Far” – Black Marble
6. “Left Hand Path” – Mikaela Davis
7. “love is the disaster” – Lucius
8. “Xedalli” – Penny & Sparrow
9. “Moon Dancer” – Y La Bamba
10. “Light of Xaryxis” – Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
11. “Spacefighters” – MonoNeon
12. “Crystalline Climbers” – Cardioid & pink paint
13. “Me and The Moon” – Devon Gilfillian
14. “Endless Sea” – Red Fang
15. “Ghost Of The Nautiloid” Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band
16. “Forgotten Land” – Deru, Arooj Aftab
17. “Topolah’s Song” – Wizard of Waz
18. “chaotic.evil.astral.elves” – Califone
19. “The Door To Endlessness” – Shabazz Palaces
Sounds of Ald-Amura, Monster Care Squad
“The sounds of the trickle lake by the main road to Tinaris-Mal, the radio playing to nobody in an empty room on the Moon, the scratch of sand blowing through your cloak, and the laugher of your closest friends. Sounds of Ald-Amura is a musical journey through the strange and magical world of Monster Care Squad by the Fox in the Flowers and the Sandy Pug Games in-house band. Featuring vocal performances by Auden James, acoustic melodies by Jan Martin, and a bonus beat track by Richmond’s own dog[friend].”
1. “Auden’s Air”
2. “Wanderlust Embers”
3. “Breakwater Hostel”
4. “A Galleon Named Steamray”
5. “Locket City”
6. “Hunter’s Elegy”
7. “Travelers Aubade”
8. “Fledgling’s Flight”
9. “Shepherd of the Dream”
10. “Dire Trail to Sailor’s Bog”
12. “False Gold”
13. “Cavern of the Fireflies”
14. “Somber Dusk”
15. “Tower of Games”
16. “Moonbase Radio”
Eternal Lies Suite, Trail of Cthulhu
Pelgrane Press has commissioned a lot of tracks for their games! The Eternal Lies Suite was created by James Semple, Marie-Anne Fischer, Mike Torr, and Yaiza Varona for Trail of Cthulhu. Many of the musicians have worked with Pelgrane on other titles as well, and the press has commissioned tracks for games like Ashen Stars, Night’s Black Agents, and Esoterrorists. James Semple is particularly prolific, and you can see his TTRPG compositions on DriveThruRPG.
For Eternal Lies Suite, “the musicians [worked] closely with Jeff Tidball and Will Hindmarch, the authors, to create a thematically consistent soundscape which works both as music in its own right, and as an atmospheric background to the campaign itself in actual play.”
“Dirge of the Lost,” Candlelight
“Dirge of the Lost” is a theme for Candlelight*, a Trophy RPG incursion that focuses on the final moments of an adventurer after they have died. Gabriel Robinson has also created a playlist for the game itself, which you can listen to here for peak spooky vibes.
*Disclosure: I contributed tables to Candlelight! They’re great and very spooky.
Chris Bissette has composed soundtracks for a variety of games, but Orbital Blues in particular comes highly recommended (the game itself is also fantastic, by the way). It’s cowboy rock mixed with synth and a little bit of sci-fi grit, a little edgy, and perfect for that kind of space game where the rust is falling off.
1. “Dramatic Opening Number”
2. “Runaway Space Truck”
3. “The Shape of Shapes To Come”
4. “Chase Ghosts Coast To Coast”
5. “Long Haul”
7. “Even Stars Fall Apart”
8. “Blue Shift”
Putrescence Regnant, Mörk Borg
“Putrescence Regnant is a Mörk Borg bog crawl in LP vinyl format, yellow and black marbled. The gatefold cover doubles up as an impromptu GM screen with a map of Targ-Dungel; rules for traveling, capsizing and drowning; information about the roaming undead bog bodies; and a random encounter table for each of the three distinct sections of the bog: The Royal Swamps, Killer’s Moor and the Rotlands.
“Included in the record is also an eight-page insert full of content such as a map and description of the swamp hamlet Traurish, circa 20 minor locations as well as the three factions and their dwellings. Adding to this are creatures, swamp gas, foul smells, and soggy death for hours upon hours of rotten gaming. The inner sleeve also has a player-facing map on one side.”
Believe it or not, this vinyl/RPG is drawing on an old tradition of games included with record releases! Some older examples include...
First Quest, Dungeons & Dragons
This double vinyl album was produced by TSR (the original publisher of Dungeons & Dragons) in 1985, which includes an adventure for high-level characters designed by Dave Miller. It’s a pretty incredible piece of D&D ephemera, and was produced in extremely limited quantities and distributed in the UK. From the interior, as described by Gary Gygax: “Close your eyes and experience a musical odyssey through a magical underworld of adventure filled with hobgoblins, gnomes, dragons, monsters and heroes.”
If you’re interested in reading more, this Reddit thread has compiled scans of all the interior pages!
Record 1, Side 1: The Quest Begins/The Bloodguard/Elves/The Sorcerer’s Apprentice/The Caravan/The Heroes Ride Out
Record 1, Side 2: Gnomes/Hobgoblins/The River of Souls/The Gates of Hell
Record 2, Side 1: The Living Dead/Wandering Monsters/The Hall of Spiders/The Dragon Passages/The Room of Pools
Record 2, Side 2: The Lost Caves/In the Sorcerer’s Cave/The Summoning/The Crystal Chalice/The Return of Light/The Aftermath
Long Haul 1983
Long Haul 1983 is a game where the soundtrack is intrinsic to its play, and is not just an aesthetic addition. In the game, “you play a long-haul truck driver trying to make their way home. Every day, you’ll hit the road, navigating treacherous highways, fleeing from menacing threats, and dealing with the psychological impacts of isolation. And at the end of each day, you’ll find a payphone, make a call, and leave a message for the most important person in your life. They never pick up. You never stop calling.”
From the playlist description: “Tracks 1-13 are only played when specific cards give instructions to the player. Tracks 14-26 can be used as background atmospherics during setup and play.”
Death Robot Jungle
“Death Robot Jungle (by Andre Novoa and Manuel Pinheiro) is a system-agnostic setting in LP format for use with any traditional roleplaying game. Included is a vinyl with 10 tracks, four interludes, a GM screen, and a minimalist description of the setting.”
“Xanathar,” Dungeons & Dragons
From Cauldron and Tower: “Behold and soak in that tan from your CRT, as your arrow keys guide you into digital dungeons. Rock out to those sweet highs from compressed riffs, muffled drums, and digitized vocalizations at 32 kilobytes per second. Each sealed black pouch contains a 3.5-inch floppy disk with an MP3 of ‘Xanathar’ by Throne of Iron, hand-numbered edition of 20.”
Ancient Undead Spider Wizard
Ancient Undead Spider Wizard is a tabletop RPG dungeon adventure and a limited-run, 7-inch vinyl EP. Each of the four instrumental pieces collected here inspired one of the four feature encounters that await explorers in the adventure.
Music from the Succubus Club, Vampire: The Masquerade
Released in 2000 as a soundtrack for Vampire: The Masquerade, Music From the Succubus Club is unique because it has an in-universe explanation for its existence. According to the lore, this CD was compiled by DJ Damascus, a DJ at the titular fictional Succubus Club, with each of the 13 tracks corresponding to a Vampire clan. The tracklist is really a who’s who of goth metal from the late ‘90s, and it’s a ride.
1. “Deception” (Ravnos) — The Crüxshadows
2. “Seraphim Shock” (Lasombra) — Prey
3. “Bloodsucker 2000” (Tzimisce) — Paralysed Age
4. “Heart of Darkness” (Setite) — Wench
5. “Cold From Fever” (Ventrue) — Sunshine Blind
6. “Fall No More” (Gangrel) — Bella Morte
7. “Soul To Bleed” (Malkavian) — Carfax Abbey
8. “Hemoglobin” (Assamite) — Beborn Beton
9. “Last Beat of Your Heart” (Brujah) — Mission U.K.
10. “Rotting On The Vine” (Nosferatu) — Kristeen Young
11.”The Night Is Young” (Giovanni) — Nosferatu
12. “Blind in Darkness” (Tremere) — Diary of Dreams
13. “Superficial” (Toreador) — Neuroactive
“Quietus is a one-shot, prepless RPG of melancholy horror. It’s a game for a GM and one or two players, and emulates tragic horror movies like Oculus, The Strangers, The Babadook, Inside, and the Netflix version of The Haunting of Hill House. If a piece of fiction can make you cry and scream, then it’s a great model for the sort of stories that you can tell with Quietus.”
Hunt on the Nazi Necromancer
When Heimat Der Katastrophe listened to the album Hunt on the Nazi Necromancer by Dungeon Guerrilla, they were thrilled to write an explicitly anti-fascist game of rebellion and subterfuge. This cassette release includes a module set in 1943 where a group of Yugoslav rebels are tasked with tracking down and destroying an evil Nazi magician.
1. “Through the forest and over the hills”
2. “The hunt begins”
4. “The weeping fresco”
5. “The monk’s shadow story”
6. “The lair”
7. “The new dawn of the old sun”
A Lasers and Feelings hack, “Cyber//Punk is a tabletop roleplaying game inspired by works like Blade Runner, Neuromancer, Ghost in the Shell, and Shadowrun. Be a grizzled ex-police hacker, an unhinged sexbot turned living weapon, or any number of other characters. Infiltrate megacorps, outwit the yakuza, and steal top-secret AIs. All the rules are on one page.”
To set the tone, push play on this “neon-soaked playlist to run in the background while playing the Cyber//Punk One-Page RPG, or for when you’re just in a cyberpunk mood.”
The Wretched, Wretched and Alone
In The Wretched, “you play a lone survivor of an horrific attack. You have seen and done terrible things, you have seen your friends—your found family—brutally butchered by something you can’t even begin to comprehend, something that you were sure didn’t exist until it manifested itself aboard your ship.”
Loot the Room, a tabletop company led by Chris Bissette (led might be an understatement, as they do almost all of it) has been putting out great games and great soundtracks for over five years. The Wretched inspired a whole slew of games based on the Wretched and Alone system. This album was a Kickstarter exclusive, and while they are currently in stock, they won’t ever come back once they’re gone.
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