Ars Magica Mood Music

What kinds of music do you have in the background when playing, if any?

We use a few tried and true CD's and found some that can set the mood for role playing. Top of the list and my highest recommendation is hands down anything by Dead Can Dance. I believe it's the ultimate medieval mood music, although it's not "real" medieval music. The soundtracks to Braveheart and Conan the Barbarian (don't laugh, listen to it!) are excellent, although the "epic" movements may not fit a quiet, intimate scene. European folk music can sometimes fit in, depending on what you get. Beware the tinwhistle, though!

We've tried some "real" medieval music but so far haven't found anything better than Dead Can Dance; either it was full of harpsichords (the horror!) or lacked the right mood-setting elements, even if it was "authentic."

Anyone know of good people, bands, styles that set the mood?

I can second Dead can Dance and Conan (others have used them for games I played) but for my games silence is the order of the day for me personally music is more of a distraction. (I can never really ignore it.)

Harpsichords probably predate the late 15th century but not by much, so any music with harpsichords probably isn't authentic. Actual authentic music isn't really available as the 13th century predates adequate musical notation and folk music probably changed a great deal between the 13th century and when it was first put to paper (very possibly not until the nineteenth century).

I actually spend a fair bit of time making playlists for various themes. The music is a mix of "authentic" and cinematic - some groups take varying measures to attain some measure of assumed authenticity. I have a song that signifies the game has started, and people generally try to get in character, answer the day's Character Quiz, or otherwise stay silent until I present the opening scene. Music plays low in the background after that point.

The Playlists and their Inhabitants, with ridiculous faux latin names:

Ars Bellicoso - fight scenes
The Duke of Death 5:23 Jeff Van Dyck Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack (a favorite - players know it's combat time when this song's drums start up)
Mare Nostrum 3:33 Jeff Van Dyck Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack
The Battle Of Kerak 5:36 Harry Gregson-Williams & London Session Orchestra Kingdom Of Heaven Soundtrack
Crusaders 1:42 Harry Gregson-Williams & London Session Orchestra Kingdom Of Heaven Soundtrack
Crack your Head with a Tabla 4:26 Jeff Van Dyck Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack
Crusaders 4:11 Jeff Van Dyck Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack
Battle of Tollan 4:15 Jeff Van Dyck Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack
Wall Breached 3:43 Harry Gregson-Williams & London Session Orchestra Kingdom Of Heaven Soundtrack

Ars Diabolus - scenes of horror or infernal workings
The Forward Decks:Lewis & Clark/Neptune/Claire/First Containment/Core/Metal/Second Containment/Airlock 14:01 Michael Kamen & Orbital Event Horizon Soundtrack
The Main Access Corridor:Singularity/Ducts/Turbulance/Medical/Gravity Drive 12:04 Michael Kamen & Orbital Event Horizon Soundtrack
Engineering:Tomb/Blood/Countdown/Outer Door/Bio Scan 13:25 Michael Kamen & Orbital Event Horizon Soundtrack
The Event Horizon:Weir/Event Horizon 4:56 Michael Kamen & Orbital Event Horizon Soundtrack
The Storm 5:05 Wojciech Kilar Bram Stoker's Dracula: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack
Suite from The Omen 11:53 Jerry Goldsmith Cinema Choral Classics Soundtrack 1 2007-07-21 7:09

  • the Event Horizon soundtrack features a lot of strange, string-like pluckings with rising and falling latin chanting, with a manic backbeat. Played low, it rises and adds a nice frisson of panic to proceedings.

Ars Divinitas - scenes in churchs, or in the presence of the Holy
01_City_of_Jerusalem 3:11 Assassin's Creed Soundtrack
Henry V (St. Crispin's Day) 5:15 Paul Bateman; City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra Warriors Of The Silver Screen Soundtrack
Henry V (Non Nobis Domine) 3:44 Paul Bateman; City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra Warriors Of The Silver Screen Soundtrack
O vos imitatores excelse 6:33 Jeremy Summerly Very Best of Naxos Early Music
Basse Danse, "La Magdalena" 2:50 Bernhard Bohm Very Best of Naxos Early Musi
O Quanta Qualia 3:59 Azam Ali Portals of Grace World

  • I heartily recommend Azam Ali - more earthy as opposed to the at times ethereal Dead Can Dance (though I do love DCD, and own all of their albums, they don't feel right to me for Ars Magica). She does some period stuff in her Portals of Grace album, including my Saga's theme song.

Ars Mysterium - songs for mysteries, uncertainty, intrigue, and slowly rising tension
Octli 3:11 Richard Vaughan Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack Soundtrack
Secret Sandals 2:44 Richard Vaughan Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack
Inca 3:30 Richard Vaughan Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack
Lhiannan Shee 2:56 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis Classical
O Felix 5:19 Azam Ali Portals of Grace World
Reis glorios 8:15 Estampie Ondas

Ars Nobilis - songs for the nobility, courtly doings, fanfares, and majestic castle goings-on
Nova vobis gaudia 2:19 Ciaramella Very Best of Naxos Early Music
Coronation 3:03 Harry Gregson-Williams & London Session Orchestra Kingdom Of Heaven
The War Lord (Prelude & Main Title) 4:23 Paul Bateman; City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra Warriors Of The Silver Screen
First Knight (Arthur's Fanfare) 0:44 Paul Bateman; City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra Warriors Of The Silver Screen
First Knight (No Surrender) 5:25 Paul Bateman; City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra Warriors Of The Silver Screen
First Knight (Arthur's Farewell) 5:04 Paul Bateman; City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra Warriors Of The Silver Screen
Solenka 3:45 Richard Vaughan Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack (this one is fairly martial in rhythm)
Basse Danse, "La Magdalena" 2:50 Bernhard Bohm Very Best of Naxos Early Music
Lord Willobies Welcome Home 3:03 Elizabeth Farr Very Best of Naxos Early Music

Ars Rustica - songs for travel, village life, simple pleasures, and daily goings on without a Wizard's March in sight
Breton Medley 3:57 Azam Ali Portals of Grace World (my current Saga's theme song, roughly the right time and place of origin)
Sackpipslät 2:41 Azam Ali Portals of Grace World
Ibelin 2:06 Harry Gregson-Williams & London Session Orchestra Kingdom Of Heaven Soundtrack
Star Of The Sea 3:32 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Trovommi Amor 4:39 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Temptasyon 3:20 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
San'c Fuy Belha Ni Prezada 1:36 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
All For Love Of One 3:39 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
The Lament 3:28 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Musa Venit Carmine 3:27 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Kilmeny 3:59 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Umlahi 2:15 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Cittern Segue 0:52 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Return Of The Birds 3:45 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Tam Lin 4:24 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Scarborough Fayre 3:24 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Come My Sweet 3:21 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Märk Hure Vår Skugga 3:43 Mediaeval Baebes
The World Fareth As A Fantasye 4:08 Mediaeval Baebes
Away 2:20 Mediaeval Baebes Mirabilis
Salve Virgo Virginum 1:44 Mediaeval Baebes
Now Springes the Spray 3:27 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
Ah Si Mon Moine 2:19 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
Adam Lay Ibounden 3:10 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
Foweles in the Frith 2:08 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
So Trieben Wir Den Winter Aus 2:30 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
The Coventry Carol 4:25 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
Gaudete 2:18 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
An Adult Lullaby 2:44 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
Veni, Veni 5:06 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
Salva Nos 2:46 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
Verbum Caro 2:34 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos (A particular favorite)
Lo, Here My Hert 1:42 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
Binnorie O Binnorie 2:06 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
This Ay Nicht 1:42 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
Miri It Is 2:36 Mediaeval Baebes Salva Nos
High Winds 3:22 Richard Vaughan Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack (has some Middle-Eastern influence, as do some of the Kingdom of Heaven songs)
Estampie V 4:26 Estampie Ondas
Ben e crudele 3:49 Estampie Ondas
O fortuna 3:51 Estampie Ondas

Ars Umbra - tension has built to the pre-climax of the evening's action, and things have turned Serious. This is the follow up to Ars Mysterium in terms of tone
Mare Nostrum 3:33 Jeff Van Dyck Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack
Destiny 2:06 Jeff Van Dyck Medieval II: Total War - The Soundtrack
03_Spirit_of_Damascus 1:31

I'm still placing songs into playlists and categorizing them for game-use. A particular new group (to me) is Estampie, who are very good. Their album Ondas is pretty nice to listen to.

Amazing list there!!!
Are those playlists made using spotify? (and so share-able)? If the answer is "yes" I would be extremely grateful, but I suspect they will not...


I'm sorry, what?

That picked up my curiosity, what are those?

Often not using so much music in such a complicated way as Vrylakos at least (if you can juggle that neatly with story, great going!), but its nice to have some music running a bit more in the background, having it in the next room works fairly well(a long ranged remote control(preferably not IR based) is preferred, hehe).
Never really tried to stick to "authentic", thats just troublesome most of time. Mostly its just nice as vauge background. Pretty much any music that isnt too "rowdy" works.
Had just about anything from the music from Heroes of Might & Magic 2 (real orchestra and opera singers were hired for it and some of the tunes are superb) to the music from the movie Predator(which really isnt so odd as it might sound). From the Mechwarrior 2 music to selected tunes from Yuki Kajiura´s contribution to anime. :wink:

Might want to check out the most well known version of that, Thåström/Imperiet:
Id call it better, but depends on what kind of vocals you prefer(and i heard the Thåström version probably 100+ times so im totally biased).

The playlists were cut and paste from iTunes. I'm unfamiliar with Spotify.

As for character quizzes:
Every game or two, I ask the players some minor questions to fill out their character. What's your favorite food? What is an example of a nice evening, if you're unable to be in your laboratory?

I do sneak in questions from time to time that are really me fishing for info that I'll use in stories:

If your Maga were a Bjornaer, what would her Heartbeast be? (I used this a session or two before the group went to an strange Aura, a la More Mythic Places, that transformed people into animals)

What is the worst torment your magus fears? (used in their descent to Hell)

And so on and so on. Basically they fill them out, keep them in their character binders, and I refer to them as needed.

A combo character-rounding exercise/get into character tool, with an opportunity to info-gather for the Story Guide.

Hm, cool video.

As for the music in game: the usual host of the game, located most central to all of us, is a DJ. His musical rig is pretty nice, and generally, he fades music out when appropriate. The ladies of the game demanded we get the music going on more than one occasion to 'get them in the mood'.

I'll note that before I had them split into lists, they were all one mega list. One song has a grandiose royal trumpet fanfare, and it became a bit of a joke in game. "The King! Here in Vezay?".... "The King!?! Here at Tribunal?" ... "The King? On our boat?"... and so on.

And THAT'S the real reason I split them out, besides utility. The flipping ubiquitous King of France.

I like a lot of the suggestions there, though I personally find the Medieval Baebes detracts from a medieval theme more than it adds.

For actual Early Music, I would recommend the Toronto Consort, the Boston Camerata, and Sine Nomine, among others. Loreena McKennit is a favorite artist that I think complements the theme (all of The Book of Secrets, also The lady of Shalott from The Visit).

Nunnery or Holy Place: Anonymous 4 - Hildegard von Bingen (beautiful music, but all of their albums basically sound alike, so you only really need one; Portrait would also be a good choice)

Male Monastery: any of the various Chant CDs are fine, and they were a phenom back in the day, so they are cheap and available at the used CD store.

Pilgrimage, the Village, & Travel: The Toronto Consort - The Way of the Pilgrim

Hunting and Feasting: Ensemble Clement Janequin - Les Plaisirs du Palais

Nordic: Ensemble Polaris - Not Much is Worse than a Troll

Faerie and Magical Realms: lots of stuff by Enya
On a More Metal (and generally campy) Note: Manowar (various, but see The Crown and the Ring, Warriors of the World, Master of the Wind, Defender, and Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts) for barbarians, kingship, and war. Nightwish, Blind Guardian.

More Classical: Sibellius: Symphony No. 2; Finlandia; Karelia Suite (forget the ensemble) is good soundtrack music in my opinion, even if not particularly medievalish.

There's a lot of soundtrack music that I think is good, but it really depends upon your group -- the the Hobbiton theme from The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring is going to distract your players, pass on it.

What do people particularly think says Dark / Light courts of Faerie?

Argh! Now I must track down the Toronto Consort's Way of the Pilgrim!

Thanks for the tip!

Holy cow! These are all awesome suggestions. Particularly Vyrlakos, you went all out. I was hoping for a handful of responses and suggestions at best but you took it to the next level. I like the idea of playlists more than actually doing the work and keeping track of it. We just plug a bunch of cd's in the player, turn it on shuffle and when an inappropriate song comes on (Conan war theme during a quiet conversation with a village maiden, say) just skip to the next one. But I think I'll copy your playlist and see if I can't come up with something more organized.

I think it's pretty nifty you included a lot of videogame soundtracks, which I neglected to list, because these days a lot of games have very good quality music. Even go back to Baldur's Gate, that had some good earthy background music. And movie soundtracks are another excellent source, as mentioned. In fact, I'll bet it's easier to find medieval mood-setting music on soundtrack than it is to find a folk group or chamber orchestra that hits the right notes (just look for castles, men in armor and/or ladies in long flowy dresses on the cover). I never thought of Predator, I'll have to go back and watch--er, listen--to it again, but I totally believe you (whoever that was, I forget now). You can find good music in some odd places . Interesting nobody has mentioned Carmina Burina...we don't use it either, unless some epic confrontation is about to go down, and even then....

On the note of authenticity, I am generally in favor of it, but only to a strictly limited degree. In terms of music I couldn't care less: it's for mood, and no amount of "authenticity" can make a mood-killing song into an inspiring one. Conversely, if a piece of music sets the right mood it doesn't matter one bit whether the musicians are all playing lutes and lyres or moog organs, so long as the emotion or vibe is right. Like the harpsichord; if you told me that was the ONLY instrument played during the middle ages I would still hate it, and never allow it to be played during one of my stories.

To answer larkvi's last question, for faerie music I particularly enjoy Cocteau Twins (they have songs that fit both dark and light, IMHO), although I am admittedly biased because I love them IRL. Play them low, in the background.

Alot of is very "chase" or "uh oh"-style music which can be very nice at the right time.
Can get a bit too "strong", but still a useful addition.

Thank you very much Vrylakos, you playlists are most impressive. :slight_smile:

I might also suggest looking into the group Corvus Corax for taverns, celebrations, and a sort of "medieval Metal" feel -- many pipes, drums, flutes and clashing instruments:

Ooh, nice find.

A delightful posting - thank you. I'm just about to kick off an all-day Ars sesh in about 3 hours time - wish I'd seen this a few days ago.

I have various tracks downloaded for the campaign - my favourite being 'Miri it is while sumer ilast' - which I'm told is the oldest song in English, dating from around the 13th century.

I think it adds so much to throw in sights sounds and smells to a campaign - I have the beeswax candles on standby for tonight, and have made up a 'pottage' for the lads' lunch (having a couple of vegan gamers makes the stock harder to deal with, but one has to ensure one's guests are happy). The Praeco has a medieval (12th C.) bronze ring of office (a metal detector find) which he wears in council, and we'll have the pewter tankards out later when the sun is over the yard arm.

That playlist thought was magical - I look forward to tracking down some of that material over coming weeks and adding a bit more atmos. to proceedings.

I'd love to hear what else folk do to create the right mood.



Conan soundtrack is cool
Paranoid by Black Sabbath
anything by Blue Oyster Cult
Green Velvet
Metallica (Ride the Lightning or Garage Days)
most Jethro Tull works

Depending on which mood you have in your games Blackmore's Night ( might fit well as mood music. I have used Secret Garden a lot. BN tends to be a bit too catching to work well as background music.

I never used any music during play. But back in a previous saga many years ago, I always got up early in the morning on game days (in weekends), put on Enigma, drink coffee and plan the stories, the saga and the covenant, update covenant data and characters etc.


I was trying to remember the name of that group, as I am somewhere right now and the CD is elsewhere--many thanks.