Friday, November 30, 2018

Pandorum OST for Background Music

Watch Pandorum(It's not as bad as you think)
Hello my reader, I'd like to scribble to you a bit of my method on creating background music for the games that I run. As a coastal elite, I only appreciate the finest things in life. That's why I understand that the original soundtrack for the film Pandorum (don't read the plot, see the movie!) is to be adored. In my view, the film has a compelling story and is generally underrated. I won't contest that it has a number of problems. Whatever someone may think of the film, the excellence of its OST is incontrovertible. Therefore, behold both the tracks of the soundtrack, how I handle background music for RPGs as well as how I categorize the tracks of this OST.
Well, my last post, Pavlov's Players, detailed how I use and categorized background music. This post is maybe the method applied. I go through each of the tracks and show how they are sorted into the various playlists which I mentioned in my earlier post. However, for ease I'll list the categories below.
Categories: Combat, Grinding [creepy], Somber [creepy], Theme, Travel.
  1. All That is Left of Us - GrindCreepy
  2. Pandorum -Grinding Creepy
  3. Anti-Riot -GrindCreep but almost Somber
  4. Shape -Theme (but could certainly be creepy)
  5. Hunting Party -Combat
  6. Kulzer Complex -Combat?Creepy? (I put it in combat since i had fewer combat tracks)
  7. Tanis Probe Broadcast -Somber
  8. Scars -Grinding Creepy
  9. Fucking Solidarity -combat
  10. Gallo's Birth -SomberCreepy
  11. Biolab Attack -Combat, deliciously creepy combat. It's got a good mix of Grinding, Somber, and someone's going to die.
  12. Kanyrna -combat
  13. The Stars All Look Alike -Somber
  14. Boom -Somber or Grinding
  15. "Reactor" (4:08) - Grinding
  16. "Skin on Skin" (3:21) - Grinding
  17. "Fight Fight Fight" (2:56) -Combat (shocker, right? Actually, it can also double as a Grinding creepy)
  18. "Bower's Trip" (7:51) - Grinding 
  19. "Discovery / End Credits" (7:55) - Grinding.
The most interesting thing, of course, is what I use the themes for. That's what I named the initial blog post about background music after, after all -- Pavlov's Players. The track that I listened to here which I found to be creepy and self-contained enough for something I had in mind was "Shape." Now "Shape" is the theme for the zombie-mutants of my post-apocalyptic "Irradiated, Infected, or Afraid" campaign. Any time the PCs encounter a zombie, I'll begin playing Shape and describe the zombie's tough pale-gray skin, it's sharp fang-teeth, it's elongated fingers with blunt dogs' claws, it's lack of an iris in its watery eyes, and its expression of confused rage and hunger. The idea is, the music will help cement this description in the players' minds so that when I next play it, they'll be able to imagine what they'd imagined before when I first gave the description.
For fun, have this stupid and terrible quasi-poem based off the track titles:
So We're all that's left because some XOs got Pandorum. Guess we should spray some anti-riot on this ship (is that mace?) so that good things can take shape. Nevermind, all we got was a hunting party raiding our notorious Kulzer Complex. At least, that's what the Tanis Probe Broadcast said, when it was describing the scars they left in fucking solidarity. Suppose it's the Gallow's Rebirth after the Biolab Attack in Kanyrna. I hate it when all the stars look alike but I'm fine while things go boom. After a swim in the reactor we can lay skin on skin (cuz it fell off heheh) having fought fought fought Bower's bad trip. Look what we discovered.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Pavlov's Players: Background Music

I first started using background music at some point in my first campaign. The first idea I had of it was literally a joke. I was inspired to play during a fight "Amok Time," the famous Star Trek The Original Series fighting music. It's silly 1960s music was a perfect gag to bring some laughs to the table (which was the point of playing to begin with). I guess everyone might know it as the music of when Kirk fought the Gorn, but I recall it as when Kirk fights horny Spock. Oddly enough, I don't remember people being as amused by it as I was when I played it. After that I began looking at music that I might play while running the game and began exploring the video game soundtracks of Fable, Diablo, EverQuest, etc. The next game that I started running was over Roll20, and I began making extensive use out of the Jukebox that's available there. Gaming without music now just seems a little too quiet. So, here's my way of handling background music for the games that I run.
Background Music by Themed Playlists
Naturally, a GM might establish a nice playlist of music found in a video game or a movie or wherever one might find nice ambient music for a theme. There are plenty of pieces of music which match one or more themes that are present in an RPG. In that past I have categorized the themes/playlists as: Wilderness, Combat, Creepy, Dungeon, and Town. Generally they corresponded to place and situation. That style originated from when I was GMing D&D (Pathfinder). Those playlists were all on shuffle, and whenever the PCs moved into a different area or a different situation, I'd switch between playlists. The playlists weren't terribly nuanced and I had them a bit too general -- occasionally the desert would creep into the forest. 
Recently I've departed from place, and stick entirely to situation (although maybe that hasn't really changed much). The playlists I have now are: Combat, Somber-Creepy, Grinding-Creepy, Hard-Boiled [Apocalypse], Themes, and Travel. Combat hardly needs much explanation. It's fast-paced, sometimes abrasive, usually pretty rhythmic, and attempts to be intense, as dramatic as possible, and fear-evoking. The point is to energize with productive stress. An example of a track which has been on my Combat playlist for sometime now is "On the Champs-Désolés" or "Commanding the Fury," both from The Witcher 3.
I am a fan of creepy music (who isn't?). There are shades of creepy, or at least attitudes of creepy. There's the somber, yet still helter-skelter creepy. That one lets your skin crawl, but from a slow-creeping sense of anticipation and the hope that perhaps the consequences and risks will be slimmer. Good examples of this are Atlantean Twilight (especially good if played alongside Dark Future by Tabletop Audio), Classic Horror, or Colorless Aura by Kevin MacLeod. Another creepy, which I call Grinding, dashes away that hope, setting on full-display that naught is right with the world. It's much more abrasive that a somber creepy. A Grinding creepiness abandons the mournful tones that a somber creepiness generally carries, and dives headlong into latent threat. Nearly all of the soundtrack for Pandorum belongs to this category.
Hard-Boiled Apocalypse (I'm running GURPS After the End) came out mostly as a result of my listening to Incompetech and discovering much of his jazz and blues. It reminded me a little of the countless hours I spent listening to the music of Fallout 3, and I decided that I should compile it. I suppose I'd play it in schmoozing moments and generally when the PCs are ostensibly out of danger. So the Hard-Boiled Apocalypse playlist effectively performs the function of Town, calming the players and luring them into a sense of normalcy or security.
Pavlov, presumably listening to chimes
The Themes playlist is less of a playlist and more of a list of pieces of music. I won't play it on shuffle. Instead, in specific circumstances, such as facing certain NPCs or enemies or evading a specific kind of danger (radiation, landslides, flesh-eating locusts, whatever), I'll play a specific track available in this playlist. Some of them might not be just for a single NPC: "Amazing Grace (instrumental)" might be reserved for the entrance to a settlement that the PCs have managed to save from a terrible corruption and "Corncob" might be reserved for when the PCs enter Deliverance. The themes just allow me to attempt to establish some kind of evocative response for these NPCs and places, helping to make them memorable by building associations. Just think back to the song that was ruined by some moment that's forever associated with it. Sorry I reminded you, but it's basically like that except hopefully better. When the PCs think about the zombies, they'll remember the horrifying and nauseating music that comes along with them. In a way, I'm talking about making Pavlov's Players...
Travel is essentially like Wilderness. Quiet music that isn't particularly creepy, yet creepy enough to warrant being present in the post-apocalypse. It probably has some natural elements, involved, such as several minutes of spoopy rain, which is appropriate since the game is set in New England. That said, I've also placed a few songs in which are not nearly as terrible (in terms of terror) as the rest.
That's my categories for background music at the moment. They serve as any background music, setting tone for the action presented at the table. In the future, I may go more in depth in background music, but I sort of doubt it. The concept is pretty obvious, and having something to listen to at the table can range from something pleasant to hear as we play or a powerful tool in the hands of the GM. I can remember several games which had a soundtrack of their own, which were in fact soundtracks from a couple different sources.
I have a coming post which is basically my categorization of the tracks from the Pandorum OST. It's good, very spooky and alarming. Perfect material to help produce unnerving scenes. I imagine that it won't be my last post of that nature.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Aging Disadvantage

by Hans G Baldung
The Ages and Death by Hans G Baldung
You might notice that in my racial template for Orcs, one of the racial disadvantages for orcs was Short Lifespan 1 (B154). Each level of Short Lifespan halves the time until a sapient reaches an aging threshold (instead of 50, GURPS considers you middle-aged at 25) and the aging increments (better make those HT rolls every six months instead of every year, you decrepit 26 year-old!), and it's a pretty hefty disadvantage, coming in at -10/level. Maturation also comes in faster (I'd said that orcs are adults at 9, but really, it should be 7.5 or 8).
One of my players decided to play an older orc who's 'seen some shit' and I informed him about the aging rolls. He thought that being an older orc was important to his character concept. Seems fine, right? Well, when six months should've rolled by, I never made him make those HT rolls to see if any of his stats drop. It seemed a little arbitrary to me that this character in particular had to make aging rolls while no one else did. Nothing on his character sheet dictated it, not even a quirk. The only thing is that the age might be seen as a 0-Feature, but that didn't seem like it was enough for me. I decided that I wanted characters to sell me their aging rolls, that that seemed to be fairer to me. So I made the disadvantage below for my future games.

The cost of the disadvantage depends on how frequent aging is. The first scheme is that each level costs -1/level. The second scheme is that the points increase with the greater age as such: -1/-3/-6. If unsure whether game time will speed by quickly, refer to Tech Level and how it modifies aging rolls. If the TL is TL 4+ or TL 5+, use the first scheme. If the TL is TL 3 or less, use the second scheme.

To help me justify asking you to make aging rolls, older age is now a disadvantage. It can be taken in three levels. With Aging 1, you are between the ages of 50 and 69 (age once each year). With Aging 2, you are between the ages 70 and 89 (age twice each year). With Aging 3, you are at least 90 years old (age every three months). While aging is particularly terrifying, I’ve kept it at a pseudo-quirk level since aging rolls will rarely come into play. See B444 for more information.
Aging is compatible with Short Lifespan and Extended Lifespan. Adjust the aging thresholds and increments -- there is no change in cost.

Ustalav Map

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