12 December 2010

Sleeping Birds Lie

Role-playing games tend to take a lot of influence from TV and film. When a game master sees cool stuff (and cliches too), the natural impulse is to replicate them (or parody, depending on the style of the game) in games. But many things seen on screen are of course difficult to reproduce in mere dialogue, even if imagination is the only limit. One of the prime examples is of course the musical. There are some brilliant examples of the genre both in TV and film (musical episodes from Buffy and Xena spring to mind, for example), but you can't exactly make players sing, nor can you exactly make up songs on the spot.

But then a solution came to me out of the blue. All you need is one musically minded game master. I love writing songs, after all, it's been a hobby of mine for a long time. So what if I write a few songs related to events in the game, generic enough not to be affected too much by the players' actions, and perform them at appropriate points during the game? I had this idea last summer, actually, but waited for an opportune moment. Sometime in November, I realised this was the perfect time. The direction of the next session was pretty clear, we were heading towards a climax of a storyline spanning several sessions. The characters had also just run into certain characters I really wanted to write a song about.

Once I started writing it, the songs quickly took shape. The lyrics were written inside a day, the melodies the next day, six songs in all. While I hinted in social media that music might happen, I kept the players in the dark as to the scale of the project. The game took place a week ago on Saturday. The reception I received from my players was, in a word, humbling.

One more logical step remained: the soundtrack album. I had been planning on doing one since early on in the project, and the players insisted on one after the game as well. I had also been meaning to try recording something again for a good while. So for the past week I've been hard at work recording the songs. And that's pretty much all I've been doing. I'm knackered now, but the record's done. Well, as 'done' as it will be, anyway.

OK, the result is still quite amateurish in my mind, but I think it's a slight improvement over my previous effort (Odes to Melancholy). Some of the tracks turned out quite nice, but there are also some disappointments (the guitar parts on 'Orafela's Lament', for example, are really awful, except for the solo). I might be an OK songwriter, but I'm not a pro on any instrument, and I'm certainly no record producer, neither is my equipment particularly great. But most importantly, I'm very impatient and have a terrible attention span. Which means I have a tendency to 'settle', and move on to the next thing. A rather bad habit when it comes to creative work, particularly work you might wish to share with the world. (Take the aforementioned 'Orafela's Lament', for example. I was never satisfied with the sound, it clearly needed something more, but in the end I simply got fed up with it, and left it as it is. The overall quality of vocals as well is very uneven, even though I had a slightly better mike this time.)

Anyways, the 25 minute soundtrack EP is now up for download in my music section, along with lyrics (which include a short synopsis of events in the game, since a lot of the lyrics are sort of 'inside' stuff). I will try to get it posted on services like Last.fm and SoundCloud soon (but I'm really tired now, so it might take a little while). EDIT: SoundCloud now added.

Now I just want to relax doing (and listening to) something totally different.

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