Bardic Inspiration, D&D / TTRPGs

Bardic Inspiration: Exploration

Welcome to the second installment of Bardic Inspiration. This segment looks at, well, listens to, the best tracks to play during tabletop role-playing game session. The first article about adding mood-setting music to tavern scenes is a great starting point for any campaign or story.

This time around we’re sticking with songs that revolve around exploration. These tracks are perfect for when the adventuring party heads into a dense jungle, traverses a desert, or searches for tracks. The music is designed to build upon mystery and intrigue so they players are pulled into the action.

Into the Unknown

Now, before everyone gets the Frozen 2 song stuck in their head, let’s start with one of my favorite exploration songs: “The Hunter’s Path” from the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. If you really want to set the mood, start up this track. It’s slow and melodic and reminds me of a full party tracking a wild beast through the plains. Even the name has explore built into it. It literally means following a path.

It’s a slow tune that uses soft drums to add a sense of stealth to the piece. Their rhythmic pace echoes footsteps while a lute – or perhaps a suka or gadulka – plays along with them. It’s great for leaving on repeat as well and is just shy of three minutes.

I take a lot of inspiration for planning music playlists from song titles. It can help you find tracks that fit a region or area better. For instance, if the party is traveling through an open plain, a great song to use is “The Plains of Erathell” composed by Grant Kirkhope.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has a special place in my heart as does its music. This track is built for expansive plains or fields. It can be used as a way to setup the area the character’s are going to explore or to enhance a description of arcane ruins. It’s just beautiful. And at four minutes, it’s easy to loop.

“Sand Travellers” by Ryan Roth is a track from the game Moon Hunters. The indie title from Kitfox Games is a fun adventure game with an all around excellent soundtrack. This specific track may focus around desert environments but it can be used for much more regions. It’s mysterious and can really transform scenes.

I first discovered it while building an encounter around a sphinx. Since that day I’ve used it while the character’s explored ruined temples, underwater ruins, and flown across vast distances.

For a song with spooky motif, I recommend “Dead City” by Pawel Blaszczak. It’s from the first Witcher game and is great for traveling through graveyards, following cultists through a dungeon, or entering a dragon’s lair. It’s dark and foreboding tone also makes it rather perfect for venturing to Strahd’s Castle Ravenloft.

It’s eight minutes long so you can easily leave it running while you hold a conversation or interact with the players.

Thankfully, there are thousands of video games and movies that have songs built for exploration. Lord of the Rings, Skyrim, Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls Online, and Golden Sun are full of epic adventure music to fill your D&D games.

Exploring is a one of the key pillars of Dungeons & Dragons along with social interaction and combat. It can be pushed aside quite frequently due to combat but is no less important. It’s a time for characters and players to discover ancient lore, important information about the quest, or find new magic items.

The fellowship in the Lord of the Rings wouldn’t have made it far without exploring. Frodo would not have found the light of Eärendil nor would Bilbo have found Sting or Gandalf Glamdring if they hadn’t come across the troll cave.

In real life, we use music to get us through everyday experiences as well. Whether it’s working out or driving to and from the store or work, turning on some tunes can enhance our imagination and make us think. It’s certainly helped in our D&D game and during our camper van travels.

Bardic Inspiration, D&D / TTRPGs, Storytelling Tips

Bardic Inspiration: Taverns

Adding Music Tracks to your TTRPG

So, it’s been a long time coming but I have had the idea to write about music tracks for a Dungeons & Dragons session. Really, these Bardic Inspiration pieces can be used for just about any fantasy based TTRPG. Adding music to the game can make it feel more realistic and emotional. Like the backdrop to a movie or video game, soundtracks are there to inspire and drive the story.

bardic inspiration

This segment, titled Bardic Inspiration, will go into what tracks work best in a given scenario. As a dungeon master it may seem daunting to plan, roleplay, and cue music on time. But if taken slowly, both players and DM will find it can enhance a game in a number of ways. If you’re exploring ancient arcane runes, perhaps Kingdoms of Amalur’s Dalentarth is best on repeat. While resting at a campsite or at an inn may call for something a bit lowkey and melodic such as Pillars of Eternity’s Oldsong.

It’s been several years, alright a decade, since I last studied music, but it’s stayed with me ever since I picked up a trumpet in marching band. If anyone wishes to chime in (really, chime?) with their favorite track, composer, a bit of musical knowledge, or why a piece of music worked well in a game feel free to start a conversation.

I could honestly talk Pillars of Eternity all day everyday 365 but I know there is far more music out there. If there are any other tracks that you think should be touched on or hidden gems you prefer, let us know! Now, on with the music!

It Began in a Tavern

The most classic way to begin any Dungeons & Dragons session is to do so in a tavern. So why not start with tavern music. There is a cornucopia of songs that have the upbeat vibe of sitting around a roaring fire drinking ale and chomping on mutton. Whether it’s from the Witcher series or Dragon Age, there is a song fit for beginning an adventure.

But if you really want to set the mood, perhaps the best track to start with is from World of Warcraft. Simple titled Tavern, the track is composed by Jason Hayes, a veteran composer of 24 years who has written for just about everything with Blizzard’s name on it.

Tavern is lively and medieval. It’s a classic example of what a tavern feels like. It combines a mandolin, flute, and drums to drive home that feeling of gearing up for a grand adventure. It’s a shorter track as well and one that can be left on repeat while the party chats with the local barkeep about a gnoll problem in the forest.

While Justin Bell’s The Lover Cried Out from Pillars of Eternity is a completely different piece altogether. It’s slow soothing tempo is pleasing and relaxing. It’s a track that is perfect for winding down at the end of a long day of adventuring or one that can be used to bring the party together while the players introduce themselves around the table.

Bell has been composing professionally for 13 years and is the studio audio director at Obsidian Entertainment. You’ll find his work in Outer Worlds, Fallout New Vegas, and the upcoming RPG Avowed.

If you want some more upbeat tones to set the mood while you explain the town, government, or overall plot, Dragon Age 2 and the Witcher are good choices to go with. Emmy award winning composer Inon Zur really made DA2 much more appealing when you crank up the volume. The story is wonderful but the OST is fantastic. Tavern Music is a great fast-paced track to use while you describe the chaotic world in which your players will soon explore.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s music director Marcin Przybyłowicz is a masterful composer. Both A Story You Won’t Believe and Another Round for Everyone are full of rhythm and dancing beats. They make excellent choices for when that inevitable bar fight breaks out and the paladin won’t put down the barstool.

Those are just a few Bardic Inspiration examples of how to enhance a standard tavern scene. There are far more song choices to choose from as well. Once you create a Spotify list of a few tavern songs, the rest should start showing up as recommendations. Until next time!