In the beginning…
As I’m about to undertake the creation of a suite of music for the upcoming Trail of Cthulhu supplement, Eternal Lies, I thought it best to first give everyone a quick introduction.
My name is James Semple. I’m a media composer who has written music for both film and videogames. I’m also a roleplayer and was one of the playtesters for Trail of Cthulhu. To date I’ve written two musical offerings for Pelgrane Press, Four Shadows (music for Trail of Cthulhu) and Dissonance (music for Esoterrorists). Primarily I’m a guitarist however most of the compositions are realised using industry-standard orchestral samples.
To assist me in the creation of this suite I will be assisted by three extremely talented composers: Marie-Anne Fischer, Mike Torr and Yaiza Varona. They will each be writing their own introductions in due course.
The Purpose of the Suite
Given that I’ve already written some roleplaying music I took a step back before approaching this new suite. Firstly I wanted to really look at what purpose the music was serving. Why write music for roleplaying? How might roleplaying music be used in a game?
Writing original music for a roleplaying game allows us an opportunity to create a sense of atmosphere specific to Eternal Lies. While there are other pieces of music out there that are appropriate for Trail of Cthulhu, they are often tied to other properties (such as films or videogames) and if they are recognisable they can distract the listener and pull them out of the game.
I thought a lot about how to use the music in a game and as a result I’ve broken the tracks down into different types.
Overture and Closing Titles
Music designed to open and close the suite. These are the most traditional tracks and more than anything else they are designed to impart a sense of atmosphere and set the scene for the game.
These are tracks designed to be looped in the background while the game is playing. They make up the majority of the music within the suite. Each track is tied to a chapter or location within the campaign but works around the main themes presented in the overture. These tracks will be quite long (around 6 minutes each) and detailed enough to be looped continuously for many repeats.
These are 2-minute loops designed to be used in tension moments during a game. Fights, car chases, perilous hazards or any kind of danger scene can be accompanied by these pieces of music.
Often derived from the other music, these stingers are short pieces of music (usually less than 30 seconds) that can be played to signify a specific situation. For instance a brief sting can be used to pause the game for a break and another sting to resume the game. Following advice from Robin Laws I’ll be creating an ‘end of scene’ sting to let the players know it’s time to move on. Similarly I’ve created a tragic sting for when a character is retired.
So this is who I am and what I’m planning to create. I’ll get into the detail of the actual types of music I’m creating in a later blog. I’d be very interested to get feedback as I go along.