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.
Pelgrane Press’ Gumshoe roleplaying games usually don’t disappoint and Kenneth Hite’s Night’s Black Agents is no exception. Night’s Black Agents combines the spy thriller genre with vampires. The players are spies that have worked for one of the many secret agencies like MI5, CIA, Mossad or even the Stasi. For one reason or the other they left government employment and went into the shadowy criminal underground of Europe. The characters had been highly trained by their agencies for years in espionage, combat, covert operations, data analysis and now they are putting their skills to good use again. They fight vampires!
Night’s Black Agents is a 232-pages full-cover hardcover. As with all recent releases by Pelgrane Press the production quality is top notch. The three-columned layout is surprisingly clear and the interior artwork fits the theme of the game perfectly. I’m not too fond of the cover, but that’s only a minor quibble. Overall the quality of the artwork is great. The binding feels pretty solid to me, although I haven’t put it to the test yet. Usually I treat my books very gently.
As I’ve already mentioned the game uses Robin D. Laws’ Gumshoe system, which is the perfect choice for any game where investigations play a major role. In most games finding the clues needed to unravel a mystery can be a very frustrating thing. The players fail a single important roll and the whole game comes to a sudden stop. In Gumshoe you don’t need to roll to find clues – if you have the right investigative skill, you get the clue and you can move on. In Gumshoe the interesting question is not whether you find the clues but how do you interpret them. For more information on how the system works check out my interview with Robin D. Laws.
When it comes to soundtracks for pen & paper roleplaying games my favorite composer is definitely James Semple. He and his team have created several awesome soundtracks for Pelgrane Press’ series of GUMSHOE games including Trail of Cthulhu and Ashen Stars. A while ago, after finishing my review of their latest work “All We Have Forgotten”, it occurred to me that it could be very interesting to ask James a couple of questions about his work. I contacted him over Twitter and he gladly said yes. So, without further ado I am proud to present our interview with the composer and multi-instrumentalist James Semple.
Stargazer: Thanks again, James! It’s an honor being able to do an interview with you. Even though I already gave our readers a short introduction on who you are, could you please tell us a bit more about yourself and your work? What non-gaming projects have you worked on? How did you become a composer in the first place?
James: Hi Michael, it’s a real pleasure to be interviewed here. The short story on me is that I’ve been a gamer since I was about 10 years old and I’ve been a fan of film scores since Star Wars was released at the cinema. It really had a huge impact on me and ever since then I have always loved big orchestral film scores. For many years I played lead guitar in various rock bands but for the last 6 years I’ve seriously been focusing on media composition and getting back to my first love of orchestral film music. Outside of composing for tabletop RPG scores I’ve worked on videogame music (The Witcher: Platinum Edition) and feature film scores.