Setting the Mood

If you are like me, you spend far too much game time listening to players talk about nuances that have nothing to do with the game, or watching the group degenerate when one person pushes too hard for everyone to get back to role-playing.  As a DM, it is often frustrating to watch your carefully planned out adventure laying fallow because the players just can't get into the mood.  Often, some players will get frustrated and ruin what little fun the others have by trying to drive the group by brute force.  With some careful preparation, and some pre-emptive psychology, these problems can be avoided by spending an hour or so prior to game time setting the proper mood.  The following movies may be watched before a gaming session get the players into the proper mindset for a hard night of gaming.

Movies Music Books Computer Games


Also, don't forget that there is a great world of ANIME out there as well!

My Ratings

Movies and Videos

**** Army of DarknessThis is the third edition to the infamous Evil Dead series.  Those who are familiar with the series are aware of its comic bent and the raucous, fast paced action that distinguishes this movie among its peers.  The Necromantic plot bent and the unique combat sequences makes this movie a good choice to get players into the "hack and slash" mindset.
*****BraveheartHistorical epic about William Wallace's attempt to drive the English from his homeland.  Although this movie is based in historical fact, the fight scenes and character interaction appeal to all Dungeons and Dragons fans.  The ending may bring some players down and the sheer length may prove daunting to most players.  Movies like this are best watched long before players ever start gathering to game.
****Clash of the TitansSheer epic bliss.  This movie is one of the classics of fantasy movies.  Those familiar with the myths surrounding the movie plot will find it gratifying that the filmmakers made a real attempt at authenticity.  The acting is only average but Harryhousen's claymation makes the movie worth the time.
*****Conan the BarbarianThe hero of old is back in a full length movie.  The star power of this movie is enough to drive viewers into a frenzy.  James Earl Jones is still one of my favorite actors of all time.  Set in the mythic Cimmeria, this movie tells the tale of Conan's youth and shows how the man was shaped into the greatest warrior in the land. 
****Conan the DestroyerThe second installment of the Conan movies, Conan is hired by to guide a teenage girl to a holy relic.  Fans of the original novels and comics may find this movie a little lacking in the plot area.  Conan's many battles and the climactic fight with a god are sure to get player's attention.
****The Dark CrystalJim Henson's masterpiece about two dying races of "mystical" beings.  Although the muppet feel of this movie may put many people at odds with the magical forces that vie for control in this movie.  I recommend this one for its novel approach to good and evil if nothing else.
****DragonheartSean Connery as a dragon.  That alone should get many people to watch this movie.  The special effects are great although the plot is a little weak at times.  As in most great epics of old, the "good" guys win out in the end but only by sacrificing much of what they hold dear.
*****Dragonslayer I have read the book and watched the movie.  Although much of the magic in this world is subtle magic, the dragon is one of the best ever seen on film.  Verminthrax rules the screen as the great she-dragon terrorizing a small kingdom.  Views of good and evil are skewed as right and wrong becomes unclear.  This movie is definitely one that all players should watch at some point or another.
*****ExcaliburA rendition of the Arthurian legend.  Although this movie is rather old, the magic and special effects gives this movie a contemporary feel.  Unlike other movies about Camelot, this movie tries to encompass all of the legends and myths about that kingdom. 
***First KnightAgain, Sean Connery is at his best as King Arthur Pendragon, lord of Camelot.  This movie focuses on Lancelot and his relation to Arthur and Gwenyver.  Just as the original stories, the characters are complicated.  This movie deviates from many of the Arthurian tales is several ways.  The most notable is the absence of Merlin and the introduction of a new nemesis for Arthur.
*****GladiatorEpic battles, grand conflicts, and enough plot twists to keep you guessing, this movie is one of the best ever caught on film.  The story is based in the declining era of the roman empire.  A popular general is banished after the Caesar's son slays his father to become Caesar.  The movie chronicles the general's passage from soldier, to slave, to gladiator, to hero. 
****Kull the ConquerorThose familiar with the Conan comics will know of Kull from Atlantis.  Kull is a lone warrior who tries to become one of the Dragon Legion only to be turned away due to his birth.  The laws of the kingdom of Valusha end up putting Kull on the throne after he slays the king.  A mad sorcerer frees a Demoness from her long sleep and then the real fun begins. 
***LabyrinthReality twists and bends as a child is placed at the center of an insane world controlled by a mad warlock.  David Bowie plays the roll of the ruler of the realm of madness and tries to corrupt a virginal girl with his overtures.  I would recommend this movie to anyone who loves a dive into dementia.
***** LadyhawkeA cruel ruler, a noble warrior, a virtuous lady, and a sneaky rogue, this movie has it all.  This movie has an intricate plot and characters so dynamic that they leap off of the screen.  The mix of mysticism and "ordinary"ness makes this movie memorable.
***LegendThe forces of darkness have used a beautiful innocent girl to plunge the world into darkness.  The hero of the movie must join forces with elves and dwarves/gnomes to combat the orcs and goblins.  They must rescue the last unicorn before the girl is turned down the dark path and the world is forever lost to the Lord of Darkness.
****MerlinYet another Arthurian legend, this movie focuses upon the life of Merlin the Magician.  The filmmakers try to show the duality that exists within this archmage by taking us through his childhood.  The Selie Court has a lot to do with Merlin and his powers.  Arthur is a mere footnote in the movie but those who like Merlin will love this movie.
***Mortal KombatThis movie is based in "modern" times but has an underlying mysticism that resonates throughout the whole picture.  This combat based movie has enough spectacular special effects to keep people entranced.  Although this movie isn't based in the typical fantasy setting, watching the film will get most people "in the mood" for a full night of gaming.
****The Princess BrideIn the tradition of most high fantasy, this movie takes a much overused plot idea but manages to breath new life into it.  Unlike most other movies that I recommend, this movie has clear definitions of good and evil as the conflict is drawn out from nearly the start.  This movie is a fantasy set within a fantasy, you will have to watch it to find out just what I mean by that.
****The Sword and the SorcererAn evil sorcerer, a cruel king, a valiant mercenary, what else could this movie have?  The near slapstick style of comedic action is enough to alleviate the oppressive weight of darkness and despair that permeates the movie.  Richard Moll plays an ancient sorcerer who is brought back to life only to be betrayed and wounded.  The presence of magical weapons should peak the interest of most gamers.
*****The 13th WarriorThis movie shows how a mundane entity could take on mystical significance.  12 Viking warriors travel with an Arabic poet to help free a northern kingdom from the grip of mythical creatures.  The filmmakers based this movie in fact and shied away from introducing the supernatural.  Appearances are deceiving and the fast paced action keeps you on your toes.

Often, watching movies before a gaming session is not a viable solution.  Most of the time, players get together whenever their lives allot them a few hours for recreation.  Some players will leave school or work and go straight to the gaming table so watching movies is not an option.  When players can't get into the gaming mood by obtaining visual stimulus, CDs and tapes played during the gaming session can keep the flow of the game going.  This audio stimulus should be enough to keep players from daydreaming about things not related to the game, and therefore keep them from straying too far from the game.

Audio CDs

Gladiator:  More Music from the Motion PictureThis second installment of music from Gladiator features many of the instrumental scores found in the movie.  DMs should let this music play in the background, especially during combat oriented adventures.
Loreena McKennitt or Enya: I'd say most of their work makes good background music for games where you don't want the players to be distracted or you need a good sense of mysticism or "old world" feel.
Popular Music
Classical Music
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Anything that you and your players like.  I would advise you to stay away from anything too new.  Players who are familiar with a song wont spend precious minutes listening to the music instead of the DM.

DMs should keep their minds fresh with new ideas and classic story lines.  Several books exist for those who love to read that will give DMs good examples of storyline and plot development.  Players should keep their minds lucent as well.  TSR put several good novels out and Wizards of the Coast are following up with the same traditions.  Aside from the "official" novels, many good authors exist that delve into amazing depths of fantasy.


Herald Mage Books --This series, by Mercedes Lackey, is one of the most diverse serial novels that I have ever read.  I personally recommend By the Sword.  You have to read a few of these books before you get the overall feel of the series.
J.R.R. Tolkien -- That's right, the creator of the hobbit.  His in depth fantasy world set the standard for everything that followed within the genre.  The plots are overused but classic.  I advise everyone to read the Hobbit, if nothing else in the series, as it is such a timeless classic that will live forever in your mind.
Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series -- This series was created by Tad Williams and encompasses The Dragonbone Chair, The Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower.  This is quite honestly one of the greatest series that I have ever read.  The characters are complete and real, the action is fast paced and believable, and the plot has enough twists and surprises to keep you guessing right up to the last chapter.
The Forgotten Realms -- The official campaign world of Dungeons and Dragons.  This is where most of the novels have taken place.  To encompass all of the series that have been written for this world would take me more than one page to even attempt so I will just group them here and let you chose the ones that you like.  Personally, I recommend the Icewind Dale Trilogy but you can start with any of them.
Dragonlance -- This is the world created by Margarett Weis and Tracy Hickman to base their infamous chronicles.  The world is well fleshed out and the characters are unforgettable.  Raistlin and Tas remain two of the most adored characters in all of the Dungeons and Dragons novels.

Then again, there are young players and DMs alike who just don't have the time or patience needed to sit and watch one of these movies or read one of these books.  Face it, we live in a computer age and if it doesn't come with a 3D accelerator then many don't want to bother.  Here are a few computer games that get my young players into the mood.

Computer Games

Taking the standard conventions of a Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game--such as character creation, monster combat, special abilities, and spells--and combining them with a persistent and always changing online virtual world, Sony Interactive's EverQuest creates an experience like no single-player personal computer game. In fact, EverQuest features no solo or story-oriented game; EverQuest requires, and certainly encourages, interaction with the tens of thousands of other players online. (As an online-only game, EverQuest requires the use of your Internet connection.)  Check out the others in this series.

There are several titles created for the EverQuest world.  EverQuest 2 as well as several expansion packs exist for the game.

Everything that made the original Diablo great--nonstop action, wicked monsters, dark Gothic atmosphere, and fantastic magic items--has returned. But new enhancements such as the class skill system and cheater-proof multiplayer competition make Diablo 2 even better than the original.  See others in the Series.

The expansion pack is much better than the basic Diablo 2, so it is well worth the investment.

Pool of Radiance has been developed in close association with Wizards of the Coast (WotC), publishers of Dungeons and Dragons. The artists for the tabletop game have created a unified look for the product, and the art for the computer game has been informed by that unifying vision. The characters and monsters in particular animate the concepts presented in the Third Edition books. In addition, the artistic designers of Pool sought to bring the magic of the world more to the fore by creating dazzling 3D spell effects for the spells cast in the game. 
The point of the game is to shepherd your fledgling civilization to world domination, using war, trade, and exploration. You start with the bare minimum to get going, and you've got to balance your people's needs with your desire to be a little Napoleon. The Age of Kings gives you a ton of new units and technologies to enrich your strategic options. Each scenario is placed accurately within history, but you're also free to create your own.  Check out the other Age of Empires games.

I've linked to the Collectors Pack which is a great buy and can give you months of engrossing game play.

Neverwinter Nights is another Wizards of the Coast game played from the viewpoint of a single character.  You create the character just as in a tabletop game, train him in the training hall, then get thrown into a world where plots and sub-plots are more involved and in depth than any others found in RPGs before.  Neverwinter Nights also has an original online function making multiplayer gaming not only enjoyable, but as close to tabletop gaming sessions as you can get without the stale chips and click of dice rolls.
Although this is not considered top of the line, it is a great party based Role Playing Game with excellent graphics and a great software engine.  Played through a LAN this game is one of the most enjoyable I have ever experienced.  For kicks, my group used to break our party of six up into three subgroups controlled by a player with two characters each.  When we got bored or stumped at some point in the game, we would have an all out "free for all" or gladiatorial style battles between PC controlled groups.  Once, we even had a situation where we put all characters but one under the control of one player and had him attack the single character.  We had built that one up so strong that he easily decimated the rest of the party.  Fun times....