The Sage Welcomes You

So, here you find a blog about life in general, but with a focus on family, games, books and creativity. Other "stuff" will creep in from timt to time.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Heroes of the 13th Age: Part 4-Out of the Fire and into the Dungeon

Just a week ago we spent the whole 13th Age play session on a huge combat.  Last Sunday we continued where we left off, with combat between the adventuring party and a band of brutal Orcs raging.

The adventuring party again consists of
Cerise, the Spirit-Touched Cleric
Indigo the Gnome Cleric
Zephyr (note again the name change), the Half-Elf Rogue (this game Z’s player had to leave early, but the group carefully ran her character for the rest of the session)
Legolis, the High Elf Ranger
Hey Watchit, the Half-Orc Fighter
Lief, the Human Bard
Delthen Eversoar, the Human Paladin
Rolen Stillwind, the Wood Elf Sorcerer, and
Yoshi Antien, the Samurai flavored Half-Elf Fighter (Yoshi’s player could not make it to the session, so the group determined his actions)

At the start of the seventh round of combat a good portion of the ruined fortress was on fire.  Socerer Rolen Stillwind had started the fire with a fumbled roll with his Scorching Ray spell.  The beams and supports that had held up much of the inner fortress, still retaining some of the magic of the Elves, were being rapidly consumed by the wildfire of Rolen’s infernally infused flame.  While the flames rose unnaturally higher and higher, the bold adventurers battled the last of the Orcish invaders.

Lief the Bard called out his Battle Chant, striking with the thunderous power of his voice the Orc Berserker who acted as rear guard for a retreating Orc Shaman. 

Down at the bottom of the dry well, the Owlbear continued to stir, but not yet emerge.  Indigo, intrepid Gnome Cleric, climbed down off the roof of the old stables and determined that the broken stone well cover could be jammed over the top to discourage the Owlbear from coming up to eat them, but he did not yet have time to invoke his strength and place it over the opening.

The Orc Shaman and his other Orc bodyguard fled into the back tower of the fortress and opened a secret door to flee down into the dungeon chambers deep beneath the fortress.  Further covering their escape, and Orc Overseer and his six Kobold slaves (driven forward by his whip) steped out of the tower entrance.

Spirit-touched Cleric Cerise once again summoned the power of light and cast her Javelin of Faith, further staggering, but not yet killing the Orc Berserker who seemed determined to sacrifice himself to buy time for the Shaman’s escape. 

Around the corner, Delthen, the Dark Paladin of the Crusader’s Inquisition took a moment to vow that no demon loving Orcs would vanquish him and he rallied, taking a recovery.

Yoshi, stranded at the edge of the burning roof shifted from the inspiration of Akira Kurosawa to that of John Woo and leapt off the roof in an amazing acrobatic flip, in the middle of which he fired his bow in mid-air, transfixing and killing the wounded Orc Berserker and then landing safely.

Not to be outdone, Legolis the Ranger took a similar leap off of his roof, firing his bow sideways (Gangsta style) into the mass of Kobolds and the Orc Overseer.  His leap was perfect, but his aim was off, and his fumbled roll meant the arrow careened off the stone door frame to rebound over to nearly strike Lief the Bard in the head (fortunately his second attack roll was not much better than the first) [the target of the “friendly fire” fumble had the added advantage to be played by the younger brother of Legolis’ player].  Legolis landed with body intact, but pride injured.
Oh his turn, Rolen Stillwind the Sorcerer noticed that the cursed mark on his hand (his One Unique Thing) was pulsing and possibly even feeding (somehow) the fire that was growing at an alarming pace around the perimeter of the fortress courtyard.  Unable to do anything other than note it, however, he turned and cast Scorching Ray on the band of Kobolds.  The Kobolds were, on the one hand, screaming out in the common trade speech “don’t kill us!!!” but also wildly swinging their digging tools, picks, shovels and sharp sticks, at anything that moved and was not the Orc whipping them from behind.  Rolen’s ray set the group of Kobold mooks aflame.

Zephyr (a name taken this session since Z’s player had to come and go like the wind) stepped out of the shadows in the room with the secret door in time to see how the mechanism worked as the Shaman and his bodyguard closed it behind them.  She then took aim with her crossbow and shot the Orc Overseer in the back (‘cause, ya know, Rogue . . .):  20 points of damage.  The Orc is not dead, but not feeling well.  Zephyr also attempted to lob a loose brick to block the close of the secret door, but failed to wedge it in with a toss that fell short.

The Overseer, more than distracted by the crossbow bolt, hefted his axe and charged Zephyr, who easily dodged his attack.  This left the Kobolds unsupervised (and on fire) and they broke and ran wildly into the courtyard seeking to escape, and to hit anything that got in their way.  One succumbed to the fire.  Sidebar: lessons about Kobolds; Kobolds do not understand the concept of “stop, drop, and roll” End Sidebar.

Hey Watchit the Half-Orc fighter takes a moment to check the room behind him, unfortunately disturbing a big Hunting Spider that had made it’s lair there.  He is able to step back and throw a rock at it.  The last of the human workers, Nuri, an apprentice who had hidden under debris and excavated pottery, etc. comes out in time for him to recognize non-combatant Monk Crommard and for Nuri and Crommard to be potential victims of the honkin’ big Spider that Hey bothered.

Round 8
Lief the Bard moves in to assist Zephyr and casts the thunderous voice of his Battle Chant against the Orc Overseer. 

Meanwhile, outside in the courtyard, the Spider pounces and hits Hey, poisoning him.  Indigo, the Gnome Spider Specialist and Cleric identifies the breed of spider and shoots it with his crossbow.  He then advances with his warhammer.  Cerise launches her Javelin of Faith for a solid 10 point hit on the Spider.

Delthen the Paladin, with renewed strength, charges in and strikes the Orc Overseer with his mace. 

Yoshi draws back his bowstring and lets go with the killing shot on the Spider.

Legolis, concerned about the Kobold infestation, particularly that they are spreading small fires around the courtyard, succeeds in activating his borrowed Elven Grace and takes two shots with his longbow, killing three Kobold mooks.

Zephyr, bobbing and weaving against the murderous axe-wielding Orc Overseer slashes him with her dagger.  Rolen follows up with a blast of flame using his Scorching Ray, but only does miss damage.

The singed Orc takes a big swing at Zephyr with his axe and once again misses.

Hey pulls Monk Crommard and Nuri away from being too close to the well that contains the Owlbear and then quickly caps the well with the broken stone lid.  He then saves against the poison harming him and ends its ongoing damage.

Round 9

Short and sweet: Lief shouts his Battle Chant once again and the Orc Overseer falls down dead.

End of combat.

Despite the growing conflagration beginning to engulf much of the structure of the fort, the party was able to do a Quick Rest, and they then interrogated Nuri as to what happened.  He narrated that after Crommard left to go to town, his research partner, Seth, continued to keep work crews cleaning out around the suspected secret door and sorting through debris to find artifacts for Crommard’s examination.

When the crews were deeply involved in their work, Seth suddenly bellowed something out in a harsh foreign language and the courtyard suddenly filled with dozens of Orcs who put everyone to the sword.  They had with them an Owlbear and an Ogre with them as well.  Nuri had been sorting in a storage room when he heard the commotion.  He saw the attack begin and hid himself in a panic.  He heard the screams and conflict, and then it was more quiet.  The Orcs did a cursory search of the rooms (missing him) and then set up their own camp.  He could hear Seth’s voice from time to time.  He was gone for a long stretch and then returned and seemed to take a large group in the direction of the ruined tower where Monk Crommard claimed there should be a secret door.  Nuri continued to cower under piles of debris in the store room until he heard the renewed fighting and the roof of his room caught fire.

Nuri asked if he and Crommard might wait with the horses away from the fort, but the adventurers insisted that both men accompany them into the dungeon.

Zephyr easily opened the secret door, having observed the working of its mechanism.

The party proceeded into the dark, with small lamps lit for the aid of the two for humans with them (Lief, Delthen, Crommard and Nuri).  The quickly came to a very steep set of stairs (one of the players joked that they were probably like descending into the Washington, DC metro stations, which suggestion I immediately adopted.  Part way down these steep steps, they came upon a trap sensed by the Ranger and the Rogue.  Zephyr determined that the trap collapses part of the stairs down into a slippery ramp lined with poisoned blades.  She attempted to jam it, but only managed to jam it open, so that now there was a long part of the passage they would have to traverse that was slippery and lined with sharp blades.

The party decided the best way to “safely” cross was to quickly recover some of the Orc bodies from above and toss them down to line the trapped section.  Delthen also tried rolling a barrel down to see if it would catch on the trapped area, but it (and the next one he tried) just continued down the stairs to crash at the bottom in the darkness below.

After setting up their “Orc balance beam” Legolis tried to dash forward with a rope.  He made it across, but slashed his foot on a blade and was poisoned.  To steady himself, he drank a healing potion and then held the guide rope on his side while Hey Watchit held it above.  The rest of the party, save Hey, easily crossed the trapped area on the squishy Orcs.  Hey then tried to freestyle down, and also was slashed by a poisoned blade, but saved after minor damage.

At the bottom of the stairs, the party found three directions to go.  The underground passages were dusty, but also had been recently disturbed.  Here and there ancient remains of Orcs were slumped against walls or sprawled in the midst of passageways, where they had fallen 500 years before, presumably succumbing to the Green Death.

Reading the signs, Legolis determined that the most recent footprints came from the stairway and went to the left from the stairs.  However, the group that came down the stairs was not just the two Orcs they had seen flee into the passage, but also included at least two or three more.  Two other passageways led off, one to the right and one directly ahead.  The party determined to scout the room where the footprints lead.  Legolis was sure that earlier prints also pointed to another group of likely Orcs were in the room already, meaning that potentially a large group could be waiting for them.

Zephyr handled the recon and very stealthily determined the layout of the room and the fact that there were two high status Orcs, the Shaman and what looked like a Chieftain, as well as several Orc Berserkers and Soldiers guarding the leaders.

Of course the party decided to make a frontal assault.

The room was a very large space, approximately 80 by 60 feet, with huge columns down the center of the room.  The party set a time to simultaneously attack, and the more stealthy characters, Zephyr, Legolis, Indigo, Yoshi (and loudly protesting that he WAS stealthy), Delthen.

Unfortunately, stealth rolls were largely a bust, so, when the fight started, people were not quite in the positions they hoped to be.

Nonetheless, the party did very well in their initiative rolls and largely beat the different sets of Orcs.

Round 1 began with the party letting loose on a group of three Orc Berserkers, three Orc Soldiers/Sentries, a Chieftain and a Shaman. 

Lief, Yoshi and Legolis all attacked first (Initiative 23)
Yoshi did miss damage on the Chief.  Lief did maximum Battle Chant damage to the Shaman.  This also allowed him to use a Battle Cry to give +2 to Zephyr’s armor class.  Legolis fired his longbow.  His first roll was a miss and he used Archery to reroll and unfortunately miss again.

Rolen stepped into the room, raised his wand, and fired his Lightning Fork doing 17 points to the Chief.

Indigo cast his Javelin of Faith at the Shaman and not only did damage, but also used his Gnomish ability to Befuddle the Shaman.

Cerise then cast Spirits of the Righteous against the Shaman.  This did a massive strike of damage (over 20 points) and the Shaman fell slain by Holy light and fire.  The spell also gave Legolis +4 temporarily to his Armor Class (this became important).

The three Orcish Soldier/Sentries charged forward, with two attacking Legolis, but both missing.  The other handily hit Lief.

Zephyr stepped up to the Orc attacking Lief the Bard and did a 22 point sneak attack to the monster.

The Berserkers then charged forward and one each attacked Indigo (miss), Rolen (hit) and Cerise (critical hit).

Delthen, seeing the last Orc, the Chief, unengaged, charged forward recklessly and did a 17 point Smite Evil strike to the Chief.  In response, the Chief thrust with his spear, doing a 36 point critical hit to Delthen.  The Orc screamed as he struck, looking to the fallen Shaman, “You killed my father!!”  As he reached behind Delthen to pull his spear out Delthen’s back, the Chief whispered, “You die Elf-lover*” and as Delthen slumped to the floor, the Orc spat upon him.

*an Orcish insult
And we had to break play there. 

This is the second big fight against Orcs, the second time Delthen has recklessly charged into battle, and the second time his has kissed the pavement having gone below 0 hit points.  He is strong, brave, and a damage magnet.

Surely someone is going to rescue him.

Also, one Kobold did escape and manage to put his fire out.  What will become of him and his newfound freedom.  I suggested to my son (who happens to play Delthen), that perhaps he would go an try to eat the party’s mounts.  He assured me that his Destrier would lethally discourage anything of the sort.  I responded that the Kobold would probably just eat everyone else’s horses and leave a note next to the Destrier that said something like “I dood it.  Kilt them.  Signed Big Horse”, you know, to cast suspicion on someone other than the poor innocent Kobold.  That got me a laugh, but probably that's not going to happen.

Actually, I’m still not sure if we shall hear from the Kobold again or not.

Our next game is next month, so everyone enjoy Spring Break.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Heroes of the 13th Age: Part 3-Orcs and Fire

Two weeks ago we began with our first 13th Age play session.  Last Saturday we continued where we left off, at the start of combat.

The group consists of
Cerise, the Spirit-Touched Cleric
Indigo the Gnome Cleric
Zephine (note the name change), the Half-Elf Rogue
Legolis, the High Elf Ranger
Hey Watchit, the Half-Orc Fighter
Lief, the Human Bard
Delthen Eversoar, the Human Paladin
Rolen Stillwind, the Wood Elf Sorcerer, and
Yoshi Antien, the Samurai flavored Half-Elf Fighter

Our heroes had been trying to make their way around the ruined inner fortress walls of an old military installation called Jawarl Avignon.  Unfortunately, some bad luck alerted an Orc Sergeant to their presence, particularly the rogue on top of the wall whom he spotted after a portion of the roof collapsed into his room and he saw her.

This initiated a scramble over the walls and the flight of the Orc, while blowing his war horn, across the courtyard.

Our session consisted entirely of rounds two to six of combat.  It took several hours.  It was a lot of fun.  Everyone had something interesting to try to do.  Some success, some failure, but a good time had by all.

Round two began with the Lief the Bard moving down into the room, what had been some worker’s quarters, but which had become the Orc Sergeant’s room, and moving to the narrow doorway to begin his Song of Spilt Blood.  The Orc Sergeant had disappeared into an opening across the courtyard, and shortly thereafter, ten Orcs with swords boiled out looking for invaders to attack.  The clerics moved to the top of the wall.  The Ogre from the front gate raced around to try to catch the attackers still outside the wall. 

Delthen the Inquisition Paladin charged down off the roof and right into the middle of the Orc Swordsmen (all mooks) (who came to be known as the Swordy-Orcs) and killed two right off.  He took no damage from their counter-attack, and one actually fumbled and killed one of his companions.  Legolis moved into position up on the roofs of the courtyard buildings and shot and killed another Swordy-Orc.  Yoshi also drew his bow, but missed his target.

Meanwhile, the Sorcerer Rolen cast Scorching Ray and set the Ogre on fire.  Zephine, stylish Rogue that she is, leapt down on the Ogre and landed successfully on his shoulders.  Unfortunately, she was unable to land an effective blow with her dagger. 

Much to the chagrin of the party, another set of ten Orcs, this time Archer Orcs (another pool of mooks), ran out into the courtyard and started to let fly with their arrows.  Arrows hit Legolis, Rolen, Cerise and Yoshi, with critical hits (thanks in part to the expanded crit range for the Orcs) on Legolis (x2) and Yoshi.  However, one Orc archer fumbled, and the players suggested that his bowstring broke, a suggestion I accepted and he went from Archer Orc to Knife Orc for the rest of the combat.

The round concluded with Hey Watchit the fighter putting a big wallop with his tree upside the head of the Ogre (being careful, of course, not to hit Zephine in the process).

Round 3
Because there is an Owlbear down at the bottom of the dry well, I had the players make a roll for me to see what kind of interest the monster might have in the combat going on above its head.  I interpreted the roll as it had “some” interest, but it was not coming out yet.

The combat round began with the Orc Sergeant charging back out for a swing and a miss (but 4 points miss damage) on Delthen the Paladin.

Lief concluded his Song of Spilt Blood giving Delthen a recovery. 

Gnome Cleric Indigo cast his heal on the badly arrowed up Legolis, then cast his Javelin of Faith at the archers, but missed.  Cerise followed suit, casting her heal on Legolis and hitting an archer with her javelin.

The Ogre fended Hey away and attempted to dislodge Zephine but failed.

Delthen used his Smite Evil to bash the Orc Sergeant.  The Swordy-Orcs manage to land one critical hit on Delthen.  Three of the Swordy-Orcs advanced to attack Lief, but one fumbled and the other two missed.  Lief used a magic item to turn one of the misses into fumbles and two of the Orcs ended up dead from fumbles.  He successfully rolled the regeneration on the item, which allows for immediate rolling instead of at a quick rest.

Legolis lets go with his Acid Arrow spell on the Orc Archers, but missed the attack, though it still did ongoing acid damage.  Yoshi killed an Archer Orc and got a second shot which missed.

Zephine rolled a successful improvised maneuver scrambling around atop the Ogre and garnered a +2 bonus to hit, but her main attack still missed. 

Rolen aimed his magic wand and intoned his Scorching Ray spell, but with his fumble (at his own suggestion) set the roof upon which he and Yoshi were standing afire.  Rolen quickly fled the roof area.

The Archer Orcs let go another volley, missing Legolis, making a critical hit on Cerise, and fumbling (and because it was funny, I took the suggestion that the arrow sailed over the wall to where Zephine and Hey had the Ogre engaged and hit the Ogre. 

Hey attacked and missed the Ogre but used his Lethal racial ability to reroll and hit.

Round 4
The Orc Sergeant missed Delthen again, but did enough miss damage (again with a “lucky” miss that still triggered enhanced miss damage) to put Delthen on the ground.

Lief the Bard easily disengaged from the last Swordy-Orc and rushed a healing potion to Delthen to put him back on his feet.

Indigo cast a quick heal on Cerise and then poured a flask of lamp oil onto the already burning Ogre, adding to his ongoing damage.  He then climbed back out of the fortress to assist in further fighting the Ogre.

Cerise cast a quick heal on herself, cast her Javelin of Faith killing another Archer.  She then moved to get off the burning roof, but slipped at the edge and went down to the courtyard the “easy way” except for the sudden stop.  This erased much of the healing she just had received.

The Ogre took a swing at hey and did some serious damage.

Delthen killed another Swordy-Orc.  The Swordy-Orcs hit both Delthen and Rolen.  Yoshi missed with his arrow.  Legolis, with his borrowed Elven Grace, succeeded in rolling for a second action and killed all but the last archer (who was the one who had broken his bow string).
Rolen also succeeded in his Elven Grace roll, he Gathered Power and then unleashed his Burning Hands spell killing the last Archer Orc and a Swordy-Orc.

Zephine came down off the Ogre and attempted to entangle his legs with a rope, but missed again with her main attack.

Hey swung wide at the Ogre.

Round 5
The Orc Sergeant swung and missed.  Lief used his magic hood to turn the miss into a fumble and yet another Swordy-Orc died.

Lief blasted the Orc Sergeant with Battle Chant. 

Indigo, outside the wall, used his Trickery domain to create a “3” trick die.  He then struck the Ogre with his war hammer. 

Cerise cast another quick heal and once again cast her Javelin of Faith and hit the Orc Sergeant. 

The Ogre succumbed to the ongoing fire.

Delthen missed the Orc in front of him.

Legolis succeeded in another Elven Grace roll which allowed him to fire twice, hitting once and missing once on the Orc Sergeant.  Yoshi also hit with his bow, and using his Surprising racial power combined with his Second Shot attack to shoot twice.  The second shot was unfortunately a miss.

Rolen cast Scorching Ray and set the Orc Sergeant on fire.

Zephine ran to a different section of the fortress outside the wall and climb up onto the roofs.  Hey first rallied, then moved over with Crommard (still terrified) to the area where Zephine scaled the wall.

Round 6
The Orc Sergeant disengaged with Delthen and moved to defend a doorway of another of the rooms around the courtyard.  He then threw a javelin to no effect.

Lief, using his Battle Chant then killed the Orc Sergeant.  Just as the Orc fell, a group of five Giant Rats (mooks) was released out of the doorway where the Sergeant had taken a position, to be followed by an Orc Shaman and his two Orc Berserker guards.  They did not move to engage, however they instead fled towards the area where Crommard the monk/academic had informed the party he believed there was a secret entrance to the subterranean part of the fortress.  The Shaman did toss a curse off towards Delthen, but the dark power of Delthen’s faith easily shrugged it off.

From outside the wall, Indigo the Gnome Cleric again moved to climb the wall in an area that was not on fire.  Cerise the Spirit-Touched Cleric used her Javelin of Faith to slay one of the rats.  Delthen charged the Berserker who was the rear guard of the retreating Orcs and landed a solid blow with his mace.  Legolis, once again invoking his borrowed Elven Grace fired multiple arrows, killing three rats.  Yoshi fired his bow to kill the last rat from his vantage on the burning roof.

Rolen the Wood Elf Sorcerer scored a success with Elven Grace and Gathered Power and then fired a scorching ray to further damage the Orc Berserker.

Zephine finally rolled a successful attack invoking Shadow Walk and disappeared from view (with Momentum!).  Hey Watchit, the Half-Orc Fighter, carefully lowered Crommard, the non-combatant NPC, into the courtyard and then followed down.

At the end of the round, the fire crept up on Yoshi and started to do fire damage to him.  He needs to get off the roof.

And there we had to leave the party.

They have Orcs to chase, an Owlbear in the well, the escalation die is just hitting 6.

Oh, and the fire continues to spread.

What will happen to challenge our brave heroes next time?  Certainly one or more of the Fire, Swords and Owlbear that is out there!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thoughts on 13th Age: Some inspiration for my Dragon Empire

If you have been reading my blog, and really who hasn't been, you'll know that I am running a new campaign using the pre-publication 13th Age rules in the default setting of the game, the Dragon Empire.

One of the great things about the setting is that there is just enough information to provide a lot of great plot hooks and adventure ideas without railroading a game master into a particular mode of play with too much detail.  In the classic formulation in Dungeon World (which is definitely influencing me even while not playing those rules), with the Dragon Empire, they have drawn a map but left blanks to be filled in through play.

So, I am using many tools to help fill in my Dragon Empire.  I have a ton of old Dragon Magazines, access to some Dungeon Magazines too.  I am using a lot of ideas from my players.  I am stealing shamelessly from every fantasy, history, and documentary piece of media (book, movie, game) that I have been exposed to.

But, when I really just need to let my mind take the pieces and try to fit them together in some inspired way I need music.  I have been listening to a lot of different things, and I try to change things up with some frequency.  I have a large playlist, but my MP3 player is a very rugged but "ancient" iRiver that holds just one MB of music.  So, I try to randomize what goes on and change things out (I keep it because I am descended from tight fisted Scots, because it is rugged and I don't to worry about using it every day, and it has a radio on it too and I listen to the news a lot).

However, I have developed a list of musical pieces, mostly movie and game soundtrack music, though some other things drawn from folk/world/and movie trailer music that have become an essential part of any mix.

Since these are, at the moment, my favorite inspirational musical tracks for my Dragon Empire, I though I should share them (with annotations, of course).  In no particular order, they are as follows:

Artist Dead Can Dance
Album Dead Can Dance 1981-1998 (4 Disc Set)
Title(s) Saltarello, Nierika
The first piece I ever heard by Dead Can Dance was Saltarello.  I heard it played on the public radio station in Chicago (WBEZ) on an ecclectic music show hosted by Stuart Rosenberg.  I was transported to another world.  Nierika also does that, and it is a completely different world.  There is a tremendous range in the music here, and I am hoping to infuse those many different flavors into my game.

Artist Knut Avenstroup Haugen
Album Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
Title Ere The World Crumbles . . .
This is an awesome track with amazing vocals and powerful orcehstral music.  It feels like you are entering a mighty world.  The whole album is great, but this is the must have piece for me.

Artist Knut Avenstroup Haugen
Album Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer
Title All Heroes Unite!
This is another amazing album, though I slightly prefer Hyborian Adventures over this, but only slightly.  This is a straight up rousing adventure piece.  The album also has a terrific mix of Asian influenced music, but this is the piece I like to hear often to get my mind on epic adventures.

Artist Loreena McKennitt
Album An Ancient Muse
Title Caravanserai
I got turned on to Loreena McKennitt's music about the time I met with Dead Can Dance.  I'm not sure if I heard it first on Stuart Rosenberg's show or on something like the Thistle and Shamrock.  In any case, I have collected her music ever since.  This piece is evocative for me, because my Dragon Empire has a "silk road" theme in my mind.  Many cultures, many peoples, many traditions, many spices, many dangers, all bound together.  I love this piece.

Artist Hans Zimmer
Album Angels & Demons
Title 503
Zimmer is amazingly prolific.  He can be great, he can be terrible.  Here, he is amazing.  I could not care less about the movie, but the piece here is mournful, evocative and engaging.  It has tones of menace and a hint of the supernatural.  I don't leave home without it in the playlist.

Artist Jesper Kyd
Album Assassin's Creed 2
Title(s) Ezio's Family, Flight Over Venice 1
Jesper Kyd is one amazing composer.  I don't get to play many video games, but I try to keep up with the music review sites, and I came across praise for Kyd's work on the Assassin's Creed series.  They were not kidding.  This guy is a terrific composer.  These two pieces are some of the best ever.  Flight Over Venice 1 (there is a 2 and it is also good) is just a beautiful piece and perfectly captures the idea of flying over a city of danger and adventure.  The masterpiece, however, is really Ezio's Family.  It starts out beautiful and almost wistful, and then subtlely turns to horror.  For me (never having played the game), like coming home to your family home, pausing to relive all the beautiful memories that it holds, and then going in and finding a murdered member of your household in every room; after you have processed the full horror of what your enemies have done to you, you fall to your knees and swear eternal vengean on them and all they know.  That is some damn fine composing.

Artist Jesper Kyd
Album Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
Title The Brotherhood Escapes
Probably one of the best action/chase/fight pieces I have heard in the last ten years.  It's driving percussion pounds images of a desperate running fight through a tower or the streets into my mind.  Shadows, mist, swirling cloaks and the flash of knives, crossbow bolts, and probably some parkour just invade my mind when I hear this.  Amazing.

Artist Denez Prigeng, Lisa Gerard
Album Black Hawk Down
Title Gortoz A Ran
A beautiful song and a melncholy song in Breton with great production.  Evocative of many things and many imaginings.

Artist Ilan Eshkeri
Album Centurion
Title We Are The Prey
This was a terrible, if watchable (because of Michael Fassbender) movie.  However, it had some very solid music by Eshkeri (who also scored Stardust).  This piece is very eerie and perfectly evokes the sense of being persued by someone or something very bad.

Artist Basil Poledouris 
Album Conan the Barbarian
Title(s) Riders of Doom, Anvil of Crom
Whether you loved or hated the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan movies, the first film had some of the best fantasy adventure music every created.  My two favorite blood pumping (okay maybe blood spurting) pieces are Riders of Doom and Anvil of Crom.  Both are simply awesome.  If listening to them does not make you want to pick up a sword and charge out to fight the darkness then there is no talking to you.  Interestingly, Riders of Doom is in part so highly effective because of the choral part of the track.  Anvil of Crom does not need no stinkin' chorus and kicks butt quite well without it.  Poledouris showed genius in creating the score.

Artist Shigeru Umebayashi
Album Curse of the Golden Flower
Title Tai-He-Song
I was ultimately unsatisfied with this film, but the music score is great.  Tai-He-Song is on my must play list because it's amazing chorus draives home the magesty and power of an emperor.  If I want people to know what it is like to walk into the audience chamber in the full court of the Dragon Emperor, this is the music to convey that emotional impact.

Artist Inon Zur
Album Dragon Age: Origins
Title Lelianna's Song
Need to evoke an enchanted forest (or perhaps any kind of enchanted landscape).  This is your track.

Artist Inon Zur
Album Dragon Age 2
Title Main Theme
A dark, powerful and haunting theme, with great vocal work and great musical storytelling.

Artist Two Steps From Hell 
Album Dynasty
Title Magika
A musical piece that starts off strong and builds to an amazing climax once the choral part starts.  The music makes my hair stand on end.  Something primal and magical about it.

Artist Jeremy Soule
Album The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Title Dragonborn
This is the amazing opening piece from the huge Skyrim soundtrack.  This piece just about floored me with its power.  Great orchestration and great use of chanting and choral singing.  If you are not seeing flying dragons and advancing armies by the end of this piece, I'm not sure what to do with you.

Artist Howard Shore
Album The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Title(s)  Over Hill, Erebor
These two pieces from The Hobbit stand with the best that Shore has ever done.  Over Hill contains one of the most exciting expressions of the heroic music from The Hobbit, which is brilliantly first picked up in the Dwarves "Misty Mountains" song.  When the full on orchestral version of that music hits in Over Hill it is like an explosion of adventure in my brain ("struck by lightning, struck by lightning").  Erebor, a piece that is only on the Special Edition music, is just a terrific integration of traditional instruments (bagpipe particularly) and full orchestra.  It is a perfect evocation of a lost dwarven kingdom.

Artist John Debney & Kevin Kaska
Album Lair
Title(s) Rohn's Theme, Darkness Theme
The Lair soundtrack is simply a revelation.  Every track is amazing.  It has some of the best action music, some of the best "place" music, and here I have chosen some of it's most evocative "mood" music.  Rohn's Theme is a contemplative heroic theme.  The hero has resolve and bravery, but also faces tragedy and hardship.  It is a great piece.  The Darkness theme is appropriately dark and spooky, with a hint of perhaps tragic regret.  Both tracks are imeasurably deepened by the outstanding and emotional vocals that accompany the instruments.  Absolutely must have tracks for me.

Artist Jamie Christopherson
Album The Lord of the Rings: Battle For Middle Earth II
Title(s) Men of the West, Pride of the Dwarves
Somehow I stumbled onto the existence of this musci long after it came out.  This is a great album.  If I ever believed that Howard Shore was the only composer to really evoke Middle Earth, this work by Christopherson would shatter that illusion.  Shore is surely a master, but Christopherson shows himself equal to the task on this album (and in a prior one in which he collaborated with anothe composer).  My favorite two piees are Men of the West and Pride of the Dwarves.  Men of the West is simply the most magestic and noble theme I have heard, perhaps ever.  Pride of the Dwarves perfectly evokes its subject, with the sound of anvils and the feel of the deep places in the earth filled with treasures.  Highly recommended.

Artist Howard Shore
Album The Lord of the RIngs: The Fellowship of the Ring
Title The Bridge of Khazad Dum
Howard Shore truly is the master of Middle Earth, at least as far as it's emotional core.  This music connects with me on a deep emotional level, and it takes me through an amazing emotional range of excitement, terror, determination, tragedy.  It perfectly describes the flight of the Fellowship through Moria, across the Bridge, the fall of Gandalf, the esacpe of the survivors and their pain and loss.  It is inspirational, emotional storytelling that I hope to internalize.

Artist Howard Shore
Album The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings - The Complete Recordings
Title The Passing of the Elves
Simply beautiful singing in Tolkien's invented language.  Beauty and loss captured in an ancient tongue that never was.

Artist Howard Shore
Album Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Title(s) Foundations of Stone, The Riders of Rohan, The Uruk-Hai, Frth Eorlingas
 Amazing Howard Shore awesomeness in Middle Earth.  Musical storytelling of the highest order.  Thus I must listen.  Frequently.

Artist Lei Qiang
Album Putumayo: Music from the Tea Lands
Title Picking Flowers
A simple Chinese folk tune.  It feels like a journey, like a dream, like finding a magical place.  It is just what my Dragon Empire needs.

Artist Hans Zimmer
Album Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Title Singapore
A terrific over the top Asian inspired piece.  I think it fits with part of my over the top Asian inspired Dragon Empire.  East and West mixing in a big blender of imagination.

Artist  Marc Streitenfeld
Album Robin Hood (2010 Soundtrack)
Title(s) Fate Has Smiled Upon Us, Landing of the French
I did not see the movie, but the music got very good reviews, and after listening, I have to agree.  These two tracks are interesting and exciting examples of the strong theme that Streitenfeld develops for Robin Hood, exciting, urgent, resolute.

Artist Michael Kamen 
Album Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves
Title Oveture and a Prisoner of the Crusades
Terrible movie, great score.  This is a rip roaring opening to an adventure tale (hopefully I can do a much better job than they did in the movie).

Artist  Kaoru Wada
Album Samurai 7
Title Samurai 7
An entire anime series that reimagines the story from The Seven Samurai in a weird steam punk, mecha, dystopian future/paralel universe.   Sounds like a disaster, but it was actually pretty good, and I loved the music.  My track choice is the anthology of the action music from the show, which showcases many of the iconic folk instruments of Japan.  Wonderful and evocative.

Artist  Dead Can Dance
Album The Serpent's Egg
Title Chant of the Paladin
Once again Dead Can Dance take me to another world.  This is what it says on the box, a chant.  It is droning and compelling.  I see the interior of a dark temple, a sacred space, the fog of incense, and the presence of something beyond mortal ken.  Good job Dead Can Dance.  Good job.

Artist Naoki Sato & Hiroshi Miyagawa
Album Space Battleship Yamato
Title Opening Title
One of the first examples of Japanese anime that I ever saw was Star Blazers, the American adaption of the Japanese Series, Space Battleship Yamato.  As a kid, I was not allowed to watch much TV and I never really saw much of the series, but I was aware of it.  A few years ago, apparently a big live action blockbuster movie based on the series got made in Japan.  Naoki Sato took the original music by Hiroshi Miyagawa and gave it the western orchestral treatment, pumping it up to 11 in my estimation.  I saw a review and finally was able to acquire the music.  It is a great album.  I like the opening title because it feels like a warship launching, whether by sea or in space.

Artist  John Williams
Album Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Title  Duel of the Fates
An absolutely amazing musical track, with huge emotional power, especially due to the choral elements.  The ultimate fight music.

Artist  Greg Edmonson
Album Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Title  Nate's Theme 2.0
Edmonson's work on Uncharted is outstanding.  There are three scores with a huge amonunt of material.  This is my favorite version of the main theme.  It sounds like and adveruturer's theme.  I'm ready to plunge into jugle temples, find desert pyramids, and climb to high mountain necroploises listening to this.

Artist  Garmarna
Album Vengeance
Title Gamen
A Swedish group that sings folk songs about werewolves, murder, madness, all to a heavy metal beat?  Okay, turns out that's awesome.  This track rocks with a major norse vibe.

Artist Jason Hayes, Tracy W. Bush, Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford
Album World of Warcraft
Title The Shaping of the World
I don't play WOW.  No time.  But I got introduced to the music, and I am hooked.  This is a great track and it does what it says on the box.  It feels like we are flying through the creation of an amazing world of magic and danger.

So, this is some of the music that I need for my personal inspiration.  If you find something you like, I hope it is similarly inspirational for you.