Sunday, September 9, 2012

Theme and Mood, pt 2: Mood

As I wrote previously in my earlier post about Theme, Mood has always been the easier one for me to convey.  It's always been much easier for me to focus on conveying a Mood, especially for a single session or adventure, than it has for me to focus on reinforcing a Theme over an entire chronicle.

This doesn't mean, though, that as I plan my upcoming campaigns that I want to let Mood out of my sights.


Mood has always been easier for me because I use music to reinforce the mood that I know I want to convey.  Apart and aside from any mood enhancing effects that the music has on the players, I'll play certain music to keep me focused on the mood I want to convey.

On the drive over to game, when I was the assistant storyteller for a Sabbat LARP, I always made sure to listen to Alec Empire's "XXV3" off of his Futurist album: because it encapsulated for me, the terrifying freedom that the Sabbat want to bring.

For any characters that I play longterm, I'll usually create a playlist of songs that help put me back into the mood I want to convey with that character. When I was playing a Wild West Gun slinger hunting down his older brother in a Dead Lands game, I had a playlist based off of the Angels of Light song, "My Brother's Man" (performed live, acoustic and harrowingly here, by frontman Michael Gira)


For my last 4E D&D campaign, my successful application of mood, in my opinion,  was a trek by the players up an icebound mountain where the last battle of a long ago war was fought, I wanted a mood of melancholy and loss and a little bit of gore (there were, of course, an army of frozen corpses littering the mountainside) and to keep myself on track I played Earth's fantastic two album set, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light:


Haunting and wordless, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light, provided a wonderfully rich and melancholic, but non-intrusive backdrop, that even if my players did not pay any attention, served as a reminder to me of the mood I meant to set.

DREAD is another game where I rely on music to help me set the mood, and with DREAD I always intend for the players to notice.  For each DREAD game I run, I come up with two playlists, the first for character creation, where each player answers their character questionnaire.  For my upcoming DREAD game, The Left Wing of the Day of Judgment, a game that will mixes Melville and Lovecraft, the centerpiece of the character creation playlist is Crime and the City Solutions "The Brideship" which inspired the game scenario itself.

The playlist for game play for The Left Wing of the Day of Judgement, on the other hand, has Andrew Liles sparse and haunting, shipwreck drenched Dying Submariner and Dead Submariner albums at its heart.

I've used both these albums for DREAD games before, and they are wonderful because they stay submerged below the narration of myself and the players until there is silence and then their eerie soundscapes surface re-injecting the game with a bit of the uncanny.

As I've been planning my Reign game,   I've been listening to a ton of Extra Life, especially the Made Flesh album. Below is the video for "Headshrinker" off that album because it has a d20 in the video...

I'm unsure if Extra Life will be played during the game, as I usually prefer music without lyrics or at least with a minimum amount of lyrics, though the melisma of the singer's vocal style does at least give the vocals a bit of a medieval flavor, but it will probably remain my pre-game music for Reign.

I think my goal for my upcoming games will be to make sure that I have a mood that runs through out the entire chronicle, a base or default mood, and then also to pay attention to the mood I want to set with each session or episode. Perhaps I'll also encourage players to think about the mood of their character, and perhaps I'll solicit character theme songs from them.

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