When I write, I put on music. When I play RPGs, I put on music. I don’t know anything about music, really, but here’s something I’m listening to.
John Debney and Kevin Kaska composed a stirring and bold score for the ill-fated video game, Lair, about dragon-riding knights doing battle across fantasy kingdoms. Though I haven’t played Lair, I got into its world a bit through the now-defunct website and world-building designs on display there. The artists behind the game considered the looks of everything from textiles and banners to palaces and cities, creating a sense of the place and culture even without the story within the game to carry me through it. That’s what got me looking for the soundtrack, as I recall, and I’m glad I found it. This is a go-to soundtrack for me when I’m writing or playing fantasy material.
Some tracks, like the main title, are combinations of proud horns, sweeping strings, and dramatic choral pieces — what the kids might call “epic.” That same track, though, also contains a contemplative melody that suggests more than bombast. The whole soundtrack is like that — a great mix of moods and motifs without being scattered. This is a complete work for a single world that easily transplants to other fantasy realms for play.
Speaking of play, the way these tracks are built makes them great for mood-setting in RPG play. The track called “Diviner Battle” opens dramatically, serving as a nice mood-setter, before driving into a menacing mix worthy of battle. “Blood River,” “Serpent Strait,” and numerous other tracks provide great background music for combats heroic and frantic. One of my most played, though, is “Firestorm,” which has a great vocal motif and a marching forward momentum — good for action of various sorts, not just battle — so it feels as much like music for a rescue as it does a heroic combat.
“Funeral Pyre,” meanwhile, is a short moody piece great for backing up sorrowful remembrance or a bit of ominous exposition. The Diviner’s theme is a foreboding piece that turns triumphant, great for the darkness before the march to dawn. “Ruins of Mokai” is a wonderful short piece for sadness, grief, or even bitter victory.
Probably my most played track of all these, though, is “Darkness Theme,” which I’ve used for mournful allies and complex villains alike. This was, more or less, the theme for the enemy queen in my Viking-themed D&D 4th Edition game, though I also used it for various other magical practitioners from her tradition, so it wasn’t easy to tell if this was “bad guy music” or not.
Lair is a terrific soundtrack. While it’s a shame that we probably won’t get sequel games with sequel scores to expand on this world, Lair gives us a terrific source of music for fantasy-adventure games with the added bonus that your players probably won’t associate its themes with baggage or recollections from this or that film. Recommended.
I bought Lair at the iTunes store.