Category Archives: Advice

Freebie: Ultima X Odyssey Soundtrack

I love using music in my games. A well-chosen soundtrack can massively improve the atmosphere in most games. Especially horror roleplaying games benefit a lot from background music. So it’s no surprise I am always on the look-out for new music.

Recently while reading up on the canceled Ultima MMO called Ultima X Odyssey I’ve found out that the soundtrack had already been produced by the time the game development was stopped. And composer Chris Field was kind enough to provide the blog Video Game Music Daily with a copy they were allowed to share freely.

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The music is perfectly suited for any fantasy roleplaying game and most tracks can be played in the background without diverting too much attention from the actual game. There are a couple of more dramatic pieces which work well for combat scenes.

Chris Field has done a great job with the UXO soundtrack. Each track – there are 31 – is a pleasure listening to, even when you’re not gaming. Kudos to Mr. Field for sharing his music with us freely!

Check out Video Game Music Daily for more details and a download link.

Update: The FLAC version download link doesn’t work, but the MP3 version is still available. Click here to download the soundtrack.

Review: Traveller Spinward Marches – Excellent Maps for Explorers and Merchants

I don’t think I need to tell you about the importance of maps in roleplaying games. Even the most crudest of maps can still be a very helpful tool in any campaign. A great map might even help to immerse the players more deepy into the game.

An excellent example of such a map is the Traveller Spinward Marches map by the German oublisher 13 Mann Verlag. In its print edition it’s 96 cm x 68 cm, printed on both sides, and even laminated. I am not sure if you can use boardmarkers to write on it, but it should at least be protected from greasy hands or spilled drinks. As a physical handout the map is just awesome. It’s made to look like a product available in the actual Traveller universe. One side shows the scout map of the Spinward Marches, with every system detailed. You don’t need to look up stats in a book, everything you need is right there on the map.

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The other side features the trade map for the same area, and features all of the information needed for crew of merchants trying to make a buck in this region of space. Especially the trade map can look a bit intimidating at first, but should come in handy during the game – especially if your campaign focuses on trade.

Some people may ask themselves whether a physical map still makes sense in today’s world. I have to admit, I still like having physical handouts at the table. And the map is definitely a great eye-catcher.

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If you prefer a digital version of the map, you can get it as well – which actually contains one PDF for each of the two maps. The digital edition is a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. It looks great, is only 7 MB in file size and looks pretty good even on a tablet PC, but it’s just not as useful as the printed map – at least in my opinion. Your mileage may of course vary.

The print edition of the map sets you back €24.95 (about 31$) which is a pretty fair price, if you ask me. It’s available directly from 13 Mann or through local retailers. The PDF version is also available from DriveThruRPG and sets you back $15.55. If you are a fan of any edition of the Traveller RPG and if you’re playing in the Spinward Marches, you definitely should check this product out.

Mental Health in Roleplaying Games

Because of my personal and professional experience I know quite a lot about mental health issues. As you may well know I suffer from depression and anxiety disorder myself and since I work in a psychosomatic medicine department , I learned a lot about all kinds of psychological and psychosomatic disorders over the years. What sometimes bothers me, is how roleplaying games use mental health issues.

There are a lot of games which have rules for psychic disorders. The most prominent example is probably Call of Cthulhu. In most of these games your character gets a random disorder when he or she has lost a certain amount of mental health points. Most games don’t even bother to distinguish between different causes. Being confronted by unspeakable horrors from beyond has the same effect as seeing a loved one die or being close to death yourself. In one case my character in a Palladium Fantasy game was on the brink of death and got traumatized by that. What was the result? He suddenly had a phobia against fey creatures – no kidding!

This of course doesn’t make any sense. It might have, if the almost mortal wound had been caused by fey, but it was because of drowning. One other common mistake is that neuroses and psychoses are randomly thrown together – which doesn’t make any sense. Playing out a psychological disorder might be a very interesting and intense roleplaying experience. But in most games it’s handled so badly that it just becomes an excuse to play “crazy”.

I don’t expect total realism. But I would prefer it if game designers took these matters more seriously. Suffering from mental health issues is no laughing matter. And while some roleplayers can have lengthy discussions about how realisticly guns are simulated by roleplaying games, almost noone bats an eye when it comes to unrealistic “insanity” rules.

I have to admit I haven’t had the time yet to do some more research on the matter. I am sure there are a couple of games who treat the subject with respect. I faintly remember that the Trail of Cthulhu rules did a slightly better job when it came to insanity and mental stability than most games. But I have to double-check.

What is your stance on the matter? Are you bothered by the portrayal of mental health issues in RPGs, too, or do you just not mind? Do you know a couple of laudable examples you want to share? Feel free to post your thoughts below!