What inspires your gaming? Where do you find the emotions, mental imagery, and words to design your games and/or write your rpg adventures? This question came about as my wife and I were discussing April being National Poetry Month. This month I am focusing my weekly posts on creative works that have inspired my gaming over the years. Last week was Literature, while this week I will focus on Music, followed by Film to close out the month.
Love this quote from Victor Hugo, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” Very appropriate for a writer whose book Les Miserables became a hit musical and spawned a movie musical. Music speaks to the soul when words cannot. I truly believe that. I grew up loving music and have shared that love with my family. From classical to Broadway, from jazz to heavy metal, from acoustic to heavy synth, from environmental to deep lyrics, I really enjoy music and song. So, it is no surprise that certain music has helped inspire my gaming creativity or sets a mood for me when I game.
Most often, to set a mood for the gaming table or to put me into a mindset for a game or campaign I am working on, I prefer ambient music or music without much in the way of words to listen to. I want the music to seep into my mind, I want to feel the rhythms, I want it to be an emotional experience more than a mental one. I was a band geek in school (even becoming a drum major in high school), thus I have an interest in classical music. The two composers and their pieces that have most influence my gaming over the years are Belioz’s Symphonyie Fantastique and Wagner’s The Ring. The mix of haunting melodies and pounding overtures open the heart to so many emotions and bring to the mind fantastic vistas and visuals. Listening to these is like having a personal soundtrack for my fantasy campaigns.
After classic pieces, I love movie soundtracks with four composers having the greatest inspiration on my gaming over the years: Basil Poledouris (Conan the Barbarian and The Hunt for Red October), Vangelis (Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire), Ennio Morricone (various Italian westerns), and the incredible John Williams (Indiana Jones, Superman, and Star Wars). Each of these soundtracks perfectly embodies its genre and helps bring the listener into the world. Many an evening I have sat listening to one of these soundtracks to help inspire my writing for a RPG campaign or have had the music playing in the background to help my players feel the campaign as well as play it. More recent soundtracks that have been inspiration are Daft Punk‘s Tron: Legacy and Ramin Djawadi‘s Pacific Rim.
As much as I prefer ambient music, there are found albums that I pull out often when I am reading game manuals, researching, or writing for a game that really help set my tone for various style of games. The Riders in the Sky Cowboy Songs album has that perfect sound for wild west adventures that brings to my mind’s eye some of my favorite western novels and movies. Many a wild west adventure was written and cowboy game played while this was playing. Next up is the Chronicles album by Rush. As I mentioned earlier, I was listening to that heavily while reading The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. To this day, when I hear certain Rush songs, they visualize to me urban fantasy settings and stories. And finally, probably one of my two favorite soundtracks are from Queen, Flash Gordon Soundtrack and It’s a Kind of Magic (the unofficial Highlander Soundtrack). Very different in feel, but both provide so many fond memories for me. It’s a Kind of Magic follows Rush in that urban fantasy feel and often inspired my work on my Dresden Files RPG campaign. The music that has been close to my heart recently and in my year has been Flash Gordon, which I consider my quintessential pulp space adventure. This soundtrack has been a huge inspiration for my upcoming Spelljammer campaign.
What music comes to mind when you think about your gaming hobby? Have albums, artists, or composers that have had a significant influence on your games?