Water Music

Bringing a setting well to life is a difficult task, especially in the Emerald Empire, with its exoticism and rich background. Additionally, the Master finds that verbal descriptions alone can do well, but one can go further to bring the game setting to life and stage rich, enjoyable atmospheres for role playing. There are many tool available, but for now, let us talk of music.

The Master finds that background music, generally played at low levels so as not to compete with the players or GM, adds to the enjoyment of the game. More directly, the appropriate background music adds – pick the wrong tunes and one can destroy the atmosphere. In an L5R game, music can go a long way towards bringing the setting to the players and reminding them of where they are (and keeping them in character), but what to look for? Randomly buying CDs can be a bit expensive and wasteful. Additionally most of the general gaming-suited music is just a bit off for Rokugan.

To add the GM (or players) who wish to bring the added element of sound to the gaming table, the House of the Jade Lantern offers the following titles as good places to start your journey.

Shakuhachi – The Japanese Flute (Kohachiro Miyata, shakuhachi). Five tracks of the Japanese Flute running approx. 30 minutes. Highly recommended. This CD features solo Japanese flute – the music is deeply contemplative, and sadly haunting. The alternating piercing and quiet notes of the flute evoke thoughts of far off misty Nippon. The Master uses this CD to start his sessions, allowing for five minutes of meditation on character before play begins. CD is also on the “super savers” series and runs approx. $11 US (Elektra Nonesuch Explorer Series).

Best of Kodo (Kodo). Eight tracks of Japanese drumming running about 60 minutes in length. The drumming is very martial in flavor and makes good backdrop to more exciting events and/or combat scenes. Another favorite for L5R and other Far Eastern-styled games; my players enjoy these tracks especially, finding that it enhances the tension and mood of action scenes. Available from Tri-Star music.

Koto Music of Japan (Zumi-Kai Original Instrumental Group). Five tracks of koto music running approx. 45 minutes length. This album consists soley of the high pitched strings of the koto; the atmosphere it creates, like the selections listed above, is instant. Recommended as another way to bring “traditional” Rokugani atmosphere to the table. Laserlight records for approx. $11 US.

Chinese Bamboo Flute Music. Approximately 45 minutes of traditional Chinese bamboo flute pieces in nice tracks. Various tunes (all, like the above Koto music, in public domain), many suitable for “theme song” type music; one track especially reminded many of an Asian “western” theme song. The Chinese flute has a very different sound than the Japanese flute – the tunes come across as more fitting for action or village scenes, or again, session introduction or theme song moments. Laserlight records; approx. $11 US.

Buddhist Chants & Peace Music: Music for Reflection and Relaxation for the Far East. Two tracks of Eastern monk chants running for 73.51 minutes (!). Excellent music to play during temple, monestary or monk encounters. The two tracks (Hanshan Temple and Bow to Avalokites Bodhisattva) are uplifting and very easy on the ear; good for putting folks at ease (and general relaxing as well). Note, however, that this track is not suitable for “evil” temple complexes and the like. Music Collection International.

Mandala (Kitaro). Meditative, mysterious and eastern styled guitar and music of a sort categorized as “new age”. Some tracks suggest the movements of wind or water, kami and wide open spaces, others seem to echo of the Void and a few have the “big” sound of various temple or danger scenes. A variety of enjoyable tracks; generally uplifting music. Good soundtrack for play, but this is not traditional music. Domo records.

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