Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Scoring the Scene: Fantasy Sims

A few months ago, I wrote a bit about scoring a tabletop role-playing game session. Playing music in the background can often bring an extra dimension to the play experience. Today, I thought I would showcase an album that can be easily inserted into any fantasy themed tabletop game: the original score soundtrack to The Sims: Medieval, by John Debney.

The Sims: Medieval is full of "generic medieval" music.
I will admit that I have never actually played The Sims: Medieval. I ran across the soundtrack while browsing the iTunes store. Sold in two parts, each priced at $2.99, I felt like taking a chance with it. The excerpts playable from the iTunes store sounded like they could easily work in my Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I was quite surprised with the results.

What to Expect...

Most of my players have come to learn that I prefer video game scores for my Dungeons & Dragons games. Since this type of music usually has to play somewhat dynamically it tends to be the kind of songs that can be readily repeated without becoming quickly irritating. This can be convenient when you want to spend thirty minutes having a meaningful encounter without having to worry about controlling your playlist. In that regard, The Sims: Medieval provides a solid musical foundation.

Having not played The Sims: Medieval, I cannot say in what context these musical arrangements appear in the game. There appears to be a fair mix of "royal court" mixed in with "village montage." A few of the pieces stray a bit from that theme. For example, the track "Incantus Magicus" sounds like a light-hearted take on the world of Harry Potter. Some of the others go off in their own direction. However, they do not stray too far from the medieval village/town theme. This album successfully captures enough of the the musical stylings of a medieval community.

If your D&D game has a lot of this, then this album
would be perfect for your gaming group.
What Not to Expect...

Although the score to The Sims: Medieval covers an important part of the fantasy adventure world, there are significant parts of the Dungeons & Dragons experience that it does not touch. Although these light-hearted melodies work great for a trip to town or a visit to royal court, nothing in the album does much for the mysterious exploration of dungeons or the dangers of combat. Do not expect to be rocking out The Sims: Medieval when your D&D group fights the mighty dragon or explores the grim cave outside of town.
Strangely, not a lot of this was featured on the album.
The music on this album tends to run a bit on the shorter end. Unlike some albums, the vast majority of the tracks in this album are two minutes long or less.  Although they are pretty short when compared to a lot of music out there, it is not that significant a concern. It is relatively simple to keep four or five of them on loop during an extended encounter in a civilized area. Thus, when your Dungeons & Dragons game heads to town, The Sims: Medieval is there to provide the background flavor.

In the End

The Sims: Medieval offers music for a somewhat limited range of the Dungeons & Dragons game experience. However, it is surprisingly inexpensive and can be acquired quite readily. Keeping all this in mind, this album is a nice compliment to a set of medieval themed albums. It can be surprisingly difficult to find good "around town and castle" music, so I was quite pleased to have this album thrown into my mix. Hopefully, your gaming group will agree. Overall, this is a good album to have for the price.