The Album - Red Steele
The Artist - Dominic Messinger - http://www.music4pictures.com/read-me/
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t really know anything technical about music. I haven’t studied it, nor can I play any real instrument. (Ok, I can play the recorder…poorly). But I absolutely love to listen to music. This article is made up of my opinions on music that I own. You’re welcome to agree or disagree with me. Don’t expect a tactical deconstruction of each song; I like what I like and I don’t like what I don’t like. I’m sharing my thoughts with you in hopes to inspire you to use music in your game.
I have been using music in my role playing games for years. I find that it adds to the atmosphere of the game, assuming you are using the right music for the right mood.
Having used music for so long, games that don’t use music always seem a bit off to me, like it’s too quiet. And that’s when I will volunteer to supply music for the game, which almost all players seem to enjoy. The write music can add just a touch of cinematic to a described scene to take it from awesome to WOW.
I’m going to start off with a disc that was made specifically for Dungeons and Dragons. Back when the brand was owned by TSR, they released a boxed set called Red Steel. This was intended to be a sort of a swashbuckling campaign setting set on what they called the Savage Coast. It was originally placed in the world of Mystara, but it was laid out in such a way that you could add it on any world that had a coast.
The boxed set came with a disc containing 15 tracks. I’ll tell you right now, there are two tracks that you don’t want to use; Tracks 3 and 4. They contain narratives that are…well…hoaky at best. The voice actors they used have decent voices(one of them, anyway), but I think they were directed in a bit of an over dramatic tone and some of the dialogue is a bit, repetitive.
To quote the narrative: “Red Steel. A magical metal. A metal of legend. A metal as strong as normal steel, but lighter, much lighter, and therefore much deadlier.”
(Red Steel is a metal. Just so you know. A Magical Metal. That is also Red. ANYWAY.)
Don’t believe me? YOu can listed to the monologue right here.
There are also some ‘special effect’ sounds that really don’t belong in a fantasy RPG. A couple of people get into a fight and it sounds like they are using lasers. Maybe it was intended to be a magic missile or someone other power, but it doesn’t even sound like good lasers; is the kind of laser sound effect you’d get from a really old and unpopular cartoon.
However, looking past those two tracks, the rest of this cd is pretty good and can help set a mood for your game.
Let’s take a closer look.
Track 1 – Heroes of Steel – This is the type of track that inspires adventure, courageous actions, hope and all around goodness. It’s the type of song you could play while introducing your world, assuming it’s a world of hope and not a world of despair like say, Ravenloft. You could also use this track while your party is travelling on the road or just being plain old heroic.
Track 2 – The Savage Coast – When this song starts, we feel like something is wrong, or off. As it continues, we know that there is something bad building up. Have the players come across a note that tells them of an upcoming plot? Or maybe there in a tense meeting with someone they know is a criminal but they can’t yet prove it. This song works for any sort of incoming threat to the players or their home.
Tracks 3 and 4 – These are the narratives and can’t be used unless you’d want to include these items into your game, as it goes into the specifics of Red Steel.
Track 5 – The Celebration - This is an excellent track for a high class party. The main instruments are violins and, what I think are harpsichords, which adds an air of elegance to any scene. I really like using this track when I have small parties or to-dos that the players have to attend and act less like murder-hobos and more like members of a high society.
Track 6 – The Adventurers - This track has some parts that are similar to Heroes of Steel, so it works well for the themes mentioned above. And if you’re like me and tend to leave one song on repeat, you can instead make a playlist and include this track along with track one and it doesn’t sound disjointed.
Track 7 – The Travelers – The music here seems to suggest that there is something pressing that needs attention, but then falls more into your typical adventuring type music. It isn’t too bad but I don’t use it very often.
Track 8 – Stormy Seas – Wood creaking, thunder clapping in the distance and then rather tense music almost suggesting something falling: this music definitely gives you the feeling of being on a rickety ship swaying to and fro during a storm. The crashing symbols following the howling wind really set the mood up well, but in truth this isn’t a track that I use often as I don’t have my players on ships. But, if you do, and you want to have them play through a stormy scene, this track will certainly suit your needs.
Track 9 – Reawakening – This is probably one of my most favorite tracks on this disc. It’s a very mellow track and sits well with just about any scene that isn’t intense. Chatting up with some characters? Having a secret meeting? Exploring some ruins that don’t appear to be dangerous? Doing some research in the library? Any of these scenes will fit in well with this track. Incidentally, it reminds my friend of another track but he can’t for the life of him remember what it is, so everytime I play it, he tries to remember where he heard it from.
Track 10 – The Fair – This is another track that has both music and ambient noise. You have the sound of people having a merry time and an upbeat tune of drums and a sort of flute. This track is great if your players are at some sort of fair or gathering and there are happy times to be had.
Track 11 – Into the Dungeon – This track starts off a little tense and mellow and starts to build into something bigger, as if something more is slowly starting to happen.
Track 12 - Suspense - The title aptly describes the music. This track is more ambiance than music, starting with some howling wind and some low notes. The beating of a deep drum comes in later and then a rhythm starts to slowly pick up. Thum Thum….thum thum...the rhythm is accompanied with some brass instruments, starting to get a bit louder. Strings come in and add to the atmosphere and suddenly a loud crash of music(which can startle in the right circumstance). The music almost seems to run away from that event. The track becomes more like a song, but still works with that feeling of suspense. If you have a troup exploring a haunted house, an old mine or a dark forest, this will definitely help.
Track 13 - The Dread Forest - While the track does conveys Dread, I don’t feel that it conveys Forest at all. This can be used in any scene that isn’t action packed but is sombre. So if the players have come across a burned village, or a recent slaughter, it’s appropriate. But don’t feel you have to be in a dark forest to use this piece.
Track 14 - The Battle - This is a pretty generic fight song. The issue I have with it is they decided to add the clashing of swords and the whipping of arrows in the background. While it’s supposed to sound like an epic, large scale battle, it really falls short of that. We used to joke that they were clanging forks in the background. I still use it this track, because the music itself is good, but I use it sparingly because of the forks. Always with the damned forks.
Track 15 - Hope for the Future - When you hear the first part of this music, you’re strongly reminded of the end scene in Star Wars A New Hope, where they’re all receiving their medals. As the track continues you start hearing snips from Heroes of Steel, so the entire CD comes full circle. This would be a track that you can play during a great victory for your players, or even the end of the story if you happened to start with the Heroes of Steel track. Not one I use too often because it almost seems like you’d want it for an awards ceremony, but not a bad track.
All in all i really like the Red Steel disc. I’ve had it for many many years and have used it in virtually all of my Dungeons and Dragons games. If you can get your hands on it, I recommend it.