Sounds of the Desert Part 1


I’ve spent a lot of my time off from work on the Obsidian Portal Wiki for my weekly Dungeons & Dragons Campaign, Marrakesh, and I’m lucky enough to have players who are enthusiastic about contributing as well. M, who plays Zael, writes up fucking hilarious adventure logs every week, in addition to illustrating the characters and their exploits.

One of the things I’m known for at the table is my extensive playlist to supplement their exploits in-game. I’ve gone through the trouble of listening to each track, adding comments to describe the mood and possible applications, and ordered it in my iTunes in Categories of Desert, Investigation, City, and Battle. Certainly, you don’t need to go to these lengths to set the mood, but if you want to avoid the pitfalls of music at the table you may want to consider at least familiarizing yourself with the titles.

For those of you who run Dark Sun campaigns, but also for any dungeon masters who have desert side quests, I’d recommend the following CD’s.

Assassin’s Creed Soundtrack by Jesper Kyd

Buy on iTunes

It goes without saying that a game featuring Assassins in the Holy Land would be perfect for a desert campaign. It’s just what I need for my thieves guild and their associated subterfuges, from the merchant’s quarter to the chase to the big city entrances. Highly recommended–you’ll use every track. 9.99 on iTunes

Favorite Tracks:

  • 5. Acre Underworld (3:25)- Now you know you’re in the bad part of town. Was that shadow there before?
  • 6. Access the Animus (9:35)- Perfect for your tense chases and street battles, and it’s long so I can let it repeat multiple times.
  • 9. Meditation Beings (2:47) – The Quintessential Marketplace track, with the slightest hint of foreboding.

Bewitched by Raquy and the Cavemen

Buy on iTunes

Self-dubbed “Epic Middle-Eastern Music,” I first heard about the duo when I saw them live at our local Yule Ball. Holy shit can Raquy play a Dumbek. And the Kemenche. Being instruments native to Lebanon and Persia, respectively, you can bet that their pieces bring a piece of those countries to your campaign. A few of the more drum-solo tracks are less useful, so I might buy the tracks you like individually. 9.99 on iTunes

Favorite Tracks:

  • 4. Dahlradia (7:35)- Can you say cutscene for one of your villains? Play this and your players will know the NPC in question is up to no good. And it’s still exotic and utterly perfect for the setting.
  • 8. Axarai (5:01)- My notes read, “Into the Thieves’ Den,” but it could also be used as a smokey shop or brothel. Slow moving, mysterious, sensual.
  • 10. Bewitched (7:26) – If a single song can be said to have inspired Marrakesh, it would be this one. Used for the Thieves Guild leader when he was a character of mine in another campaign, I am immediately transported to a setting sun and minarets when I hear this.

Game of Thrones Soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi

Buy on iTunes

Brand-spanking new music from the epic HBO series, I immediately raided it for its Dothraki tracks. If you’re running an Arabian game, I’d stick to buying song individually, but if you’re a fan of the series or are planning to run a more typical fantasy campaign, you should pick up the entire soundtrack. In addition to those listed below, I’d grab “Love in the Eyes” and “You’ll be a Queen One Day.”9.99 on iTunes

Favorite Tracks:

  • 15. The Assassin’s Dagger (1:19) – Add it to a short playlist of other chase clips to add in some variety, as it won’t fare well on repeat for very long, or use it as a stand-alone played once in a cutscene you’re describing to your players that involves an assassination attempt, a malicious ritual nearing completion, or another calamitous event.
  • 16 To Vaes Dothrak (1:29) – Works really well in conjunction to the Assassin’s Creed city themes to introduce a place when played once, though it also bears repeating better than the previous track since it’s a lot more ambient and isn’t nearly as dynamic.
  • 25. When the Sun Rises in the West (2:40) – I’m not entirely sure at what point in the series this is played, but it works well enough as another desert theme. I see dunes, camels, a sunset; it evokes a mildly melancholy feel, so use it in case of grief or even a cliffhanger before the next session. Alternatively, it could be used at night, with the stars looking over a struggling party of adventurers.

Into the Gold by Erdenstern

Buy on iTunes

This Hamburg-based group writes music specifically for play at tabletop games. How awesome is that? Each of their CD’s is themed with a color: Red for combat, Green for woods, Gold for the desert, and so on. What I like best is that they’ve already applied the songs to an encounter/setting in-game in the title, and each song comes with additional comments pre-written. Saved me a lot of time when I made my playlist. If you’re strapped for cash, this is The One You Want, given the variety/applicability and sheer number of tracks. 9.99 on iTunes

Favorite Tracks:

  • 5. Hookah and Tea (3:15)- Good, ambient music for the local cafe or shaded marketplace. Not very dynamic, so feel free to put it on repeat, and let it sink into the background.
  • 9. A Flower in the Sand (3:25)- A little bit more solemn than the other tracks, I’ve used it as post-battle contemplative music, as well as for my more serene NPC’s, or even just a tranquil place. Lots of mileage on this one.
  • 16. Snakes and Spiders (2:53) – Perfect for driving up the tension, either for a battle about to get underway, or a chase, or even something in a tomb about to, say, spring a trap and roll a boulder straight for the adventurers.

Tune in next week for selections from the Kingdom of Heaven, Rome, and Troy soundtracks, and Mischief from Raquy and the Cavemen.

What other CD’s do you use to evoke an Arabesque feel at the table?

One Response to “Sounds of the Desert Part 1”

  1. Chaosmeister says:

    Glad you have Erdenstern on this list, they are mentioned far to seldom. I will look into the others, most I don’t know yet. Thanks for sharing.


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