Recounting the deeds of an evil wizard over metal riffage and proggy synths. A fuzz-laden journey into the sanctuary of snake worshippers, A trippy story of haunted nobles hiding a dark secret. A cautionary tale that pits a demi-lich against grave robbers. Goth rock through the halls of Castle Ravenloft. An Americana-tinged ode to a remote beacon of civilization. A campaign with an all-bard party going on various famous adventures? Well, possibly, it’s not a bad idea, but not quite. If you like Dungeons and Dragons and/or rocking out, you’ll want to give a listen to Hex Volume 1 from Loot the Body!
Well, this is a little different, isn’t it? We’ve taken a look at TTRPG adjacent works before – usually some variety of historical non-fiction offering, with the odd accessory – but this is the first time something of a musical nature has landed on our collective desks. Land it did, however, and the pitch was interesting enough to look into. Let me pull from the press document LtB sent us to help make introductions.
“There are few replacements for the comfortable embrace of an immersive fantastical world. Any member of a dedicated fandom recognizes how special that feeling truly is, and in the case of LA’s Loot The Body, capturing the thrill of an engaging Dungeons & Dragons adventure is the ultimate objective. The brainchild of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Levi Nunez, this project provides a score to fan-favorite campaigns.”
For Hex Volume 1 (“a three-pronged reference to old-school hex maps, warlock-ian curses, and the number of tracks contained within”), that last sentence is dead accurate, as each of the songs in the volume bears the name of and corresponds to an (originally) old-school adventure – you know, the kind that had a letter-and-number code as part of the title.
White Plume Mountain (S2) is the most metal of the tracks, telling the story of the mage Keraptis and how he created his mountain complex and was driven from it, leaving it behind to doom adventurers. Dwellers of the Forbidden City (I1) might be my favorite of the lot with harsh riffs, evil laughter, and a particularly catchy refrain about something being alive in the ruins.. Castle Amber (X2) is particularly trippy indeed, following a party of adventurers getting waylaid and trapped in the Castle with a bunch of crazy nobles who “like their magic like their coffee”.
Tomb of Horrors (S1) is particularly easy to nod along to, even as it reminds adventurers who try to raid Acererak’s home how they’ll “see the truth in his ruby eyes much too late”. Ravenloft (I6) is a haunting tune that is, in a lot of ways, I, Strahd the Musical which easily lends points to it because of course Zarovich is enough of a dramatic jerk to sing about himself. The Keep on the Borderlands (B2) is easily the most laid back track, a kind of feel-good tune to get a tavern crowd raising their mugs in praise of the eponymous Keep and its defenders.
Loot the Body cites “The Beatles, Hawkwind, Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power, and early Genesis” as inspirations, and LtB’s own music is described as “a blend of psychedelic rock, progressive indie rock, and 60’s-era pop.” Now, I’ve got all the academic musical knowledge of a rock, so I can’t quite dissect the tracks of Hex along those lines; I can only give the D&D player’s perspective and a layperson’s perspective.
From the prospective of someone who has played and run D&D: Hex Volume 1 has nailed it. Each track is a one-song rock opera telling the tale of an adventure that helped build the foundation of Dungeons and Dragons – if you were running a campaign, podcast, or stream involving one of those adventures, the corresponding Hex track would make for one heck of a theme song.
More importantly, though, is that you don’t need to have played these adventures (or any of their more modern variants, or potentially any D&D at all) to enjoy these songs. Heck, I haven’t! I’ve run a bit of Curse of Strahd so far, and had some single session good (Dungeon World), bad (5e), and weird (4e) times in the Tomb of Horrors, but those have been of limited table time, and I’ve never touched any of the others in any edition. While you might be able to smile at a few more reference points if you have played or read the adventures in question, if you haven’t you don’t end up missing any context because the songs give you the context.
Honestly, Hex Volume 1 is just really fun to listen to, whether you’ve got it in the background to just enjoy the tunes or are listening enraptured to the story being told.
I’m looking forward to Volume 2 already.
You can buy Hex Volume 1 on Bandcamp for $6, and as of this writing can get it and LtB’s other two offerings (Random Encounters and The Barrier Peaks Soundbook) in a bundle for a total of $15. You can also find Loot the Body on Spotify, Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram.
Rock on, oh noble adventurers.
Thanks to Levi Nunez for sending a download of Hex Volume 1 and a press briefing for us to check out!
Like what Cannibal Halfling Gaming is doing and want to help us bring games and gamers together? First, you can tell your friends about us! You can also find our Discord channel and drop in to chat with our authors and get every new post as it comes out. You can travel to DriveThruRPG through one of our fine and elegantly-crafted links, which generates credit that lets us get more games to work with. Finally, you can support us directly on Patreon, which lets us cover costs, pay our contributors, and save up for projects. Thanks for reading!