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 EƤrendil 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.

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