Over the last years Pelgrane Press have become one of my favorite publishers. Their games are written by my favorite game designers, the artwork and production quality is excellent, and they are one of the few publishers which release soundtracks for their games. For some of you the notion of scoring a roleplaying game may sound weird, but for GMs like me – who love to use music during the game sessions – it’s brilliant.
Dust and Mirrors, the soundtrack for Kenneth Hite’s Night’s Black Agents is the latest work of James Semple and his team (Marie-Anne Fischer, Thery Ehrlich, and Chris J Nairn). The album contains 19 tracks with a playtime of about an hour. Like Kenneth Hite’s game, Dust and Mirrors combines two genres almost seamlessly. There are fast and exciting tracks reminiscient of the spy genre and the more dark, brooding and atmospheric tracks that are firmly rooted in the horror genre.
Each track was obviously composed with a certain kind of scene in mind. “The Brief” for example is a slow and peaceful tune that might work well while the players are preparing for their next mission. This is contrasted by tracks like “Heist”, which is much faster, more aggressive, and which makes your heart beat faster. Other tracks like “An Eye for an Eye” are very dark, and almost atmospheric and reminded me a bit of their other work for Esoterrorists and Trail of Cthulhu. Overall Dust and Mirrors contains a wide variety of musical styles, but each of them fit perfectly to the genre-mix that is Night’s Black Agents.
Even though each track fits a certain type of scene Dust and Mirrors can also be played as background music. I actually enjoy the music so much that I even listened to it repeatedly during work. It makes dreary office work so much more exciting and mysterious! Alas the first track called “Night’s Black Agents Theme” is a bit too short. But that’s only a minor quibble. Overall James Semple and team have produced another great soundtrack. I hope that Dust and Mirrors has not been the last album he and his team produced for Pelgrane Press!
The soundtrack is currently available from the official Pelgrane Press store for $15.95 (£9.95) for the MP3 download.
When I first encountered roleplaying games in the early 1990s, the hobby was already about 20 years old. The first games I’ve played were Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition, West End Games’ TORG, and FASA’s Shadowrun. It was even later when I first played AD&D 2nd Edition. Back in the day, I didn’t know much about our hobby’s history. I had an idea who Gary Gygax was, but I knew next of nothing about older editions of D&D and the company that was TSR.
A couple of years back, Mongoose released Shannon Applecline’s Designers & Dragons, a huge book, containing our hobby’s history from the early 1970s to today. I eventually got a PDF copy of said book and I totally loved it. For me it never felt sufficient to play these games but also learn to know the people behind those games. Designers & Dragons is a great way to learn more about our hobby, the RPG industry, and the ups and downs over the last 40 years.
In 2014 Evil Hat Productions is going to release the first book of a new Designers & Dragons book series. Instead of releasing one tome they’ve decided to split Designers & Dragons into several volumes, each focusing on one decade. But they are not content with just rereleasing the old book in a new format. The material has been expanded upon and there’s new information that fills the gaps in what came before. The first book is expected to be released in mid-2014 but they are already releasing the TSR chapter from the 1970s book as a free 121-paged sneak peek. You can download the PDF from the official Designers & Dragons website. Enjoy!
This morning I finished reading “The Atrocity Archive”, a short novel by author Charles Stross, which has been released in the book called “The Atrocity Archives” which also contains the short story “The Concrete Jungle” also written by Stross. Although I had to struggle with Stross’ writing style a couple of times I had a blast reading the book. So what’s the Atrocity Archive about?
It’s the story of Bob Howard, an IT guy working for The Laundry, a UK secret government agency which protects the UK from all kinds of Lovecraftian horrors. It’s not set in Lovecraft’s world per se, but Stross was definitely inspired by it and he even mentions Cthulhu and Nyarlathothep among other things. Over the course of the story the protagonist transfers to active duty in the agency, has to deal with the insane bureaucracy of The Laundry, fight extrauniversal horrors, and deal with a threat that could very well be the end of our known universe. Whoah! I won’t get into more detail on the story here, because the story holds a couple of interesting surprises that I don’t want to spoil here. All this is accompanied by a healthy dose of a pretty dark British humor.
Stross’ writing style is fast, sometimes a bit overwhelming, but always fun to read and very cinematic. I am pretty sure the book could easily be turned into an exciting movie. Ah, I forgot to mention one important aspect of the fictional universe the story is set in: mathematics can be magic. There are certain calculations that open leaks to other, distant universes. Luckily the maths involved are very complicated and before the advent of computers it was very had to pull off certain spells. But nowadays you can run magic software on your Palm Pilot (or Necronomiphone). This is unknown to the world and everyone who stumbles upon this secret – cultists, mathematicians, the IT guy in your company’s basement – are either killed or recruited to The Laundry or similar agencies.
If you now think this would make a great setting for a roleplaying game then you’re right. There even is an official The Laundry RPG by Cubicle 7 using Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying system. But if you prefer a system more suited to the pulpy style of Stross’ stories, you could probably run a game using Savage Worlds, Realms of Cthulhu, and Agents of Oblivion. Whatever you use The Laundry Files series for, inspiration for your Call of Cthulhu game or just for your entertainment, it’s definitely highly recommended to anyone who likes Lovecraftian horror, British humor, and has at least some familiarity with higher mathematics or working in IT.