Are you aware of the musical genre Dungeon Synth?
While the easiest comparison is video game music from 8-bit and 16-bit console RPGs and CRPGs of the 80’s-90’s, it also encapsulates old-school TTRPG milieus and non-game influences such as Tolkien and other fantasy literature and art.
It is a varied genre that obviously has a lot of source influence and there is a significant range in music, from harsh to soothing. From these various accounts I have selected some of my favourite Dungeon Synth Bangers.
Gollum (Demo) by Grimdor
If the inspiration for this one is not obvious, I seriously wonder why you are looking at this list at all.
Regardless, let me laud praise on this track.
This hazy, Korg tune is able, within a few minutes and without any lyrics, able to tell a story that goes from mysterious, to frightening, and into a subtle denouement. To me, this track conjures adventure and peril and I totally recommend listening to it while drawing a map (yes, for the fun of it).
Don’t Fuck with Batspike by Batspike
Something that is almost universal for the genre is that it goes without lyrics, often as it is intended to be used as background music for actual (or fantasy/rpg) dungeon-delving. Due to the lack of lyrics, there is a large worldwide pool of artists and fans that share their music that can be fully appreciated by anyone regardless of their language or culture.
This album, while aggressively titled, is a slow-burn synthesizer grind through bleak land(sound)scapes and, to me, makes me think of the toils of slaves in a mine, a wizard working on some unknown alchemical tincture, or a party of nervous adventurers stumbling into the chambers of a long-forgotten cult.
The Dead Man’s Journal – eponymous
Wow. Just the title of this one is enough to inspire me, but actually listening to this album is a real adventure.
To me this evokes feelings of 70’s Italian gothic horror movies combined with the absolute terror of a player’s first dungeon-delve while player Second Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons – but maybe that is just my experience.
This is another slow, subtle set of music that feels like a journey fraught with peril and the unknown and you have to keep listening to it because you need to know how it resolves… What a fantastic album, in any genre.
Sidequest – eponymous
These are some subtle, warm synths. The chip-tune inspiration is glaringly obvious and it is glorious.
When you listen to this you will find yourself on an uncomfortable wooden chair in front of the glare of a 15″ CRT monitor, the only light in the room. Your hands will rest on a yellowed, mechanical keyboard; absent is a mouse, for it doesn’t exist on this setup. Near the monitor rests a spiral-bound graph-paper notebook filled with maps and notes, a half-filled bottle of Pepsi gently fizzes. PC-speaker sounds and music grate on your senses but it doesn’t matter, because you are absorbed in adventure.
Empyreal Forest by Lost Horizons
I love this album and as dungeon synth, it is absolutely fantastic. I find the title fitting, and the clean, mysterious sounds are really evocative. The, hollow, distant sounds make it seem like this is played in a vast underground chamber, filled with treasure and danger.
When you listen to this album, you are listening with the elves.
I hope you liked these dungeon synth selections, maybe you opened up to some new musical horizons. Let me know your favourite album from this list, or otherwise, in the comments.