Friday, July 24, 2015

Ambient Music Suggestions

So it was the summer of 1982, and the first Champions game I ever ran was not going well. It was a new group of guys at the table that I had met from a 3x5" card that had been posted at the hobby store.

That was how we did it in old days, kids.

The feel at the table was very tentative--everybody was used to dungeon crawls (in 1982, Supers games were still something of a novelty in the RPG world). I was getting nervous that maybe this wasn't going to work. Then I tried something different: I put my cassette with the theme song to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" into the boom box and hit Play.

...That's right: a cassette in a boom box. Old School.

And all of a sudden, the mood changed. The "heroes" came alive. Players were physically punctuating their character's moves with a Superman-ish "fist in the air" takeoff. It was awesome.

Ever since then I have been a huge fan of ambient music. Whether it's at the table or even play-by-email, ambient music can be a really useful tool.

So in between SoG articles, I'll share some suggestions for ambient music that's available through Spotify, that might provide some oomph to your games.

My current preference is to look for tracks that are somewhat recognizeable, but aren't well known. I think that makes it easier to slot a particular piece of music into more varied circumstances. In other words, if you're playing Boot Hill, having The Imperial March in the background is probably more a hindrance than a help when it comes to providing a more immersive feel.

I also have been leaning towards music that has a "smaller" feel from an orchestration perspective, although that may be more due to the type of games I've been running / stories I've been telling lately.

For this first installment, I'll set the bar high with one of the more prolific composers of the 20th century.

Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975)

A Hollywood film score composer who worked a lot with Hitchcock and wrote the scores for the following movies (this is only a small sampling):

  • Psycho
  • Vertigo
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth

...And while he was at it, he also wrote a few things for The Twilight Zone. Here's a few samples of his work to whet your appetite:

Journey to the Center of the Earth Lost / Bridge / Gas Cave / Vines
If that's not a dungeon-delve track, I don't know what is.

The Day the Earth Stood Still Outer Space / Radar
Theremin in just the right amount.

The Day the Earth Stood Still Klaatu
Great background "tension" track.

Mysterious Island Escape to the Clouds

Mysterious Island The Island

The Egyptian The Nile and Temple
Exotic without being distracting.

The Twilight Zone episode Where Is Everybody?:The Door

The Twilight Zone Where Is Everybody?:The Plea

Citizen Kane Rain

Jason and Argonauts The Feast
The party started off so nicely...

Jason and Argonauts The Vase
Good "prepping for the finale" or the Big Reveal before it all goes crazy.

North by Northwest The Wild Ride

Note About the Links

If you have Spotify, you can paste these links into the search window in the Spotify app and go right to them.