That thing about the weather.


VNV Nation – Colours of Rain

Stay with Me by MissMorgue
“Stay with Me” by MissMorgue

///A Flowing, khaki-coloured skirt over tight-fit, desert-coloured cargo-pants. A black jeans jacket over a light-blue T-shirt. Long, black hair.///

Weather in any RPG is something that often gets overlooked. Sure, there are some old-school games which track adverse weather conditions to make the lives of the PCs that one bit more complicated. But weather can be so much more. Should be so much more.

There are many literally clichés that have to do with weather. It was a dark and stormy night…, indeed. But many of those were started for a reason. Certain weather conditions are evocative by themselves, without much auxiliary writer input. And especially these days, they can bring home certain emotional and intellectual responses that many other descriptions simply cannot do any more. How many people these days have never been in a truly deep, dark, fucking CREEPY forest? How many have not spent time outdoors, wide away from the nearest city’s lights? How many don’t know how downright satisfying a gulp of fresh, river water can be after more than a day of thirst? Sure, one can imagine those things. But they are… Abstract thoughts to many people.

But ask any deep-rooter city dweller about the last time they were in a really strong storm. The last time snow and/or ice shut down their part of the city. That one time the summer was so hot that the streets looked like in those post-apocalypse movies. Weather, these days, can bring some folks nearer to certain mind-states than one might imagine.

A great percentage of us will be able to imagine sitting alone at home at some point in our lives, looking outside a window when wind and rain made a wild spectacle outside. Just shutting out the lights, opening the window and… Look out. Experience it. Perhaps even, in that one moment, decide to get dressed and go out into the rain for a few moments.

And, similarly, even the most jaded “adults” will have a spot in their heart for those summer days when all is almost perfectly, peacefully, still. When you have some crickets or cicadas or [insert annoyingly loud local bug here] chirping in the distance, when the wind is so still that no leaves are moving, when the sun is so harsh that the shadows look like bold dividing lines between the dark and the light, the cool and the hot.

Or those days during the winter, when you step outside and hear that satisfying, solid “CRUNCH” of snow underfoot. And while it may be annoying to drive through, and while it may play hell with your company’s logistics, and while it might make shopping and other necessities harder… There’s still that one moment of a smile playing around your features.

At the same time, weather births smells. And smells bring memories. The smell of rain evaporating on hot concrete. The smell of crisp, cold, biting winter air. The smell of wet grass. The smell of certain perfumes at certain times in the year.

Then there’s also how some weather types are so contextual. When many people think of funerals, for example, they think of overcast, drizzly days. When people think of parties, they think of those not-to-hot-yet-sunny summer days. When people think of a vacation at the sea, they think of windy, clear-skied days. And so on.


While running an Urban Fantasy game, you can (and should!) play with all of those things. With the expectations, the memories and the emotional responses. They’re all connected and thus they can all be used to subtly manipulate your players. To immerse them a bit more into the story.

The same way that music can be used to create leading themes for specific actions and characters and situations (Bill Bailey’s “Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra” is a really good and damn funny way to learn about this, at the very basic introductory level.), so can weather.

Do go ahead. Set sad scenes to overcast, drizzling days. Let the characters triumph during a moment when the sun is high in the sky. Accentuate the monstrosity that is hunting innocents in the city by showing how easy it is to isolate people during a (snow?)storm even in a major urban centre.

At the same time, use contrast to accentuate scenes even more. Make it a peaceful, bright, sunny, summer’s day when a major tragedy happens/hits. Let the characters save the day during a shitty, gray, downtrodden day.

Use the weather like you would use music. Use it to accentuate, to contrast, to compliment and to disjoint.

When you accentuate and compliment, you can use the player’s own experiences with those types of weather help you build the mood. Describe the rain, describe all the reflections, the wetness, the smells, the rushing people, the sound of raindrops against windows and streets and walls. Describe the rustling of the leaves and the clasp of thunder in the distance. Let your players drink this in. They will feel themselves into that moment, and they will work with you from there.

When you contrast and disjoint… You do the same. But you do this to lull them into a false sense of security or fear. You won’t be able to do this often, so use it like you’d use a very fine, expensive, spice. But WHEN you use it, make sure to use it to its full effect. When the scene is being set, describe how the weather is like. Describe the details, the incidentals. Describe people reacting to it. And when your players are going with it, when they’re attuned to their own expectations, the full impact of the planned scene will hit that much harder.


The next time you are planning an impactful scene… Just think about the weather. Talk about the weather, even.
Let it help you. Use it to your, and your group’s, advantage. It’s a really quick and easy way of adding more immersion to your game.


Just a small bonus, this time.
This song is one of my all-time, most favourite songs, to this day.
And it’s a song I so deeply associate with autumn, that I can get a slight shiver of cold when I listen to it on a 32°C day in mid-July.
Listen to it. And “listen” to your thoughts and memories. What kind of weather do you associate with it?

VNV Nation – Beloved [Lyrics]

Some doom and glom can be allright. In the right doses. And the right style.

And Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio have that style. In swathes.

Today, I want to push you to listen to their release “Songs 4 Hate & Devotion (For All Of You, Who Mean Nothing To Me)”. I know, it’s hard to get. But it’s worth the hunt.

They play Apocalyptic Folk, a very moody blend of NeoFolk, slightly experimental Electronica and sexually as well as politically/socio-culturally filled lyrical themes. (“In Heaven, Only Abstinence Remains”, “Long Knives and Little Men”, “If Christ Is The Answer Then What Is The Question?”)

They weave wonderfully dark and deep tapestries of sound and thought. And in this album it’s… As if Death In June took “Of Runes and Men” and “Rose Clouds of Holocaust” and made an antire album following the footsteps of those two songs.

This is modern, modern-sounding!, music for candlelight, wine, whiskey, intimate erotic moments and gazing at the stars.

This is music you can think to. Think with. Think about. It can make you open your mind and examine those thoughts you don’t want to think about for too long most of the time. But sometimes, sometimes it can be cathartic to let thoughts of apocalypse and dystopia wash over you. Like the Bene Gesserit litany against fear says. Sometimes you need to let fear wash over you, to defeat it and crown yourself as the emperor of you own being again.

“A World Not So Beautiful [a Song 4 the Emperor]” (A hauntingly beautiful song, and so frighteningly… Frightening right now.)

London is burning, ignited with love
Misunderstandings, descend from above
Paris has fallen; the flag has been raised
A nation in ruins, once pompous and great
Brothers are fighting, in pleasure and pain
There is no refuge, in the ladies of Spain
Brussels is drowning; the flood has commenced
The secrets of Europe, are waking again
Berlin is falling; it has been besieged
Europe is burning, for you and for me
Rome is collapsing, just like before
This is the future, it’s Europe at war

Let me take your little hand, let me make you understand
That the world is not as beautiful and free, like you believe

Belgrade is bleeding; the past was retrieved
Prague under siege, in tears we concede
The uproars in Munich, in crystals they march
Amsterdam trembles; there’s no light in the dark
Brothers are fighting, in pleasure and pain
There is no refuge, in the ladies of Spain
Vienna has perished, consumed by its past
Zurich is ruined; the gold did not last
Berlin is falling; it has been besieged
Europe is burning, for you and for me
Rome is collapsing, just like before
This is the future, it’s Europe at war

This is also music to which you can shut off your conscious thoughts and simply let the mood and texture and beat lead you towards those slightly obfuscated areas in your mind. Those thoughts that push you towards your darker urges and desires. And with the right person, this album can take you both there. Enjoying yourself all the way towards the end. Sharply smiling, heading towards mutual satisfaction outside of common norms.

“Lucifer in Love” (Dark, twisted, yet honest love and romance.)

My body is cleansed with flowers and wine
Bodies of passion in linen entwined
Your body undressed and stockings reveal
You’re naked and longing and yearning to feel
Venus is rising to salvage the earth
A flower ascending in blossom through dirt
In blood and perfection this world shall be cleansed
So lust and cumpassion may flourish again
The angels are feasting on blood of the meek
In blossom with treason I play with the weak
Fading roses cover me
And semen makes my spirit free

“The sacrifice was made in the name of me
The sacrifice was made in the name of you
You call me by my middle name
I’m Lucifer in love, in love with you”

The words you have heard and the things you have seen
Shall vanquish the morals you’ve tried to defeat
When time has demised and mankind has burned
Then madness shall rise and love shall return
The nectars I drink from the cleft to your soul
Shall nourish the yearnings and murder control
I see how you ache from the crown that you wear
I cut out your heart just to see if you care
Your lips shall devour the flesh underneath
My sperm in your mouth is the proof that I need
Fading roses cover me
And semen makes my spirit free

If you can, get this album.
It’s really worth the hunt.

This was money exquisitely well spent for me.

And, yes. You can’t just listen to those songs without a critical eye. They’re not meant for that. At least not the first time.

Let’s start a new season.

It took longer than I though it would take.
But now this damn thing is back on-air again!
Or, err, rather… It’s back in-action.
Daily updates, mostly music, some personal, some utterly, revoltingly weird.

Today will be music and something else.
A mini-review of a novel I recently read.
And by “review” I mean that I will be quoting some marked passages and explain why I think that they were a good idea.
And by “recently” I mean that I got it Saturday evening and finished it Sunday night.

But first, the music!

A change for the next posts: I will include the cover picture of the track/album/EP/compilation that I want to showcase. Simply to imprint this in all your brains and make you buy it the next time you’re in a record store, looking for some new music and should around seeing it sitting in a shelf. Which isn’t too likely with most of you with regards to most of the music I will present. But it might push SOME of you in the right direction. And that’s a risk I’m frankly willing to take! (Yes, I’m selfish this way.) [EMPEROR BE DAMNED! I always want to do that fucking “shellfish” pun. Stupid punny literature…]

So, behold today’s offering, my old, new and virtual audience!

—-

ODST OST Cover

Today I will let you listen to a piece from the phenomenal soundtrack to the videogame HALO 3: ODST [2009].
Cards open: I’m a big fan of all the HALO soundtracks. They offer wonderful ambient landscapes of hope, loss, desperation, action and deliverance. They could score AAA movies and would blow some of the current crop out of the water, if they were used correctly. And ODST… Is the best of the lot.

Here you get martial drums, whiskey-fueled saxophone passages, strings, subtle and hard percussion and wonderful electronica.

I’ll showcase this with the help of two tracks. The first being “Overture” and in itself a sampler of the things to come. It’s a bit disjointed at times, yes. That’s why I will later let you listen to a fuller track. But it DOES give you a good picture if you’d like the soundtrack or not. If you feel that you don’t like most of the parts of this track, simply skip to the part where I talk about the book. Or, just wait ’till tomorrow. But if you DO like those parts? Or even just many of them? Stick for a bit more. :)

So, without any further ado… Overture!

So, what do you say? Did you like it? Do you want more?
If so… Follow me and take a look at the Skyline.

Skyline is one of the more martial tracks. It’s interwoven with parts of the over-all Halo theme for great effect to kindle a sympathetic reaction in players of the former games. But even people without those connections, who haven’t played a game of Halo in their life will get the sense of urgency, of frantic desperation to get moving, to get shit done! And then it turns out that things aren’t just like they looked. That the rabbit hole goes deeper and it’s much darker at the bottom than you previously thought. But you still jump in and move on. People depend on you. And you hope that you will survive long enough to keep their hope alive.

Shit.

I can’t stop now. Not now.
I should give you just one further example.
Something on the darker and more mellow side. And it’s a toss-up between “Neon Night” and “The Office of Naval Intelligence”.

But, seeing as it’s night now… And I don’t want to give you the most paranoia-inducing track on the soundtrack… I opt for Neon Night.

For this one… Get out your Whiskey. Go watch the city outside your window.
Or get into your car and drive the Autobahn at night.

Because this track will let you see the city in a different light. [And trust me, that one was NOT intended. But my internal thesaurus is offline now, as it’s late and I’m tired.]

And this is just a small part of the full soundtrack.
It’s on two CDs, each giving you about an hour of listening pleasure.
And it really is a pleasure.

It’s good driving music, it’s good reading music, it’s good thinking music and it’s good relaxing music. Even the frantic parts, yes, because the will give your mind the chance to change gears and think about other things than you normally would.

But where this soundtrack REALLY shines (apart from in the game, that is) is in your car, at night, driving through cities and stretches of Autobahn. It’s Rhine-Ruhr Night-Music. (And when you’re reading an exciting book. For me, who reads swathes of military SciFi and Trans-/Posthuman novels… It’s dead on very often.)

And it’s really damn well composed.

Full marks from me.
I love it.
Bought it in 2009 and haven’t regretted it once.

[I decided to split of the book “review” for the next blog post. I think I should keep topics at least broadly seperate.]

Let’s be tired.

Today, I spent about five and a half hours doing mind-bogglingly tedious and taxing work, just as a favour to my parents.
And while it was, I think, good for me health-wise, it still took its toll on my energy. I just really hate gardens and nature and anything related to it.

Partly also because after I got home I found a new video card for my PC waiting for me, which is about 150% better than what I had until now, I installed it, configured it… And all I see is speed-loss. Which sucks in a major way, as I’m awaiting Skyrim on Friday. And maybe Sword of the Start II will be patched into a playable state too, this month. But it also hit my Deus Ex: Human Revolution FPS, so it means right now I can’t play The Missing Link.

Instead of trying to figure this out today, I’ll shut my PC down earlier than on most days after loading some relaxing music and movies on my iPad. Then I’ll go to bed and try to forget this day ever happened. And hope that tomorrow will present a way to fix the FPS issue. And maybe FINALLY get that writing done I’m sitting on for a few days now. I get paragraphs done, yes, but not in a speed I’m happy with. Which sucks.

While I was browsing iTunes for some relaxing tunes I found something really, really old but really, really good. As a bonus, it doesn’t sport any lyrics, which makes me happy as I don’t have to track them down, re-format them and put them in that stupidly arcane tag here.

It’s something so 80s that even Blank and Jones have to bow their heads in respect.

I give you… Crocket’s Theme from the series “Miami Vice”.

Jan Hammer – Crockett’s Theme [Miami Vice OST] | 1984 for the original composition, 2002 for the “Complete Collection” album, which I HIGHLY recommend! | …Chill-out Ambient?

This piece of composition never fails to make me relax, cool down and smile.
For some reason I also think about whiskey, crime, dangerous women and fast cars. Really don’t know why.

As a small, added bonus, I will leave you all with a small collection of TV intros for shows which played highly into my childhood and early teens. I’m really hoping to give at least a few of you pangs of nostalgia and fun memories. And if the rest of you curses me into painful oblivion… Well… That’s just a perk of writing this blog.

[Fun fact: The lyrics to this composition are “Suicide is painless/It brings on many changes/You can take or leave it/As you please” – It fit the show perfectly. One of the few good non-British Dark Comedies.]

Those shows made my weekends and even my week-days when I was going through 1st to 10th grade.
Enjoy. :)

Let’s Go Into Space.

The last few weeks my mind has been torn between the World of Darkness as well as SciFi, for different reasons.
And both interests have music and sounds that go with them, at least in my personal part of the woods. And my mind. Mostly my mind.

Science Fiction, for me, is mostly about vast, far-reaching vistas and the stories told in them. (And also stories about problems that are solved either by science and/or human/alien ingenuity as well as about how society will change and adapt across short and long time-frames and the experiences that come with them, and NOT about stuff being solved by faith/religion/belief… But that’s another, long, ranting and hate-filled post waiting to happen…)

And to get into that space-of-mind there’s nothing like Ambient music.
About Five years ago, I had the great opportunity to stumble upon the artist “deepspace” over on last.fm – He was one of my recommendations. And is still one of those encounters that make me willing and glad to give the last.fm folks money from time to time. It just proved to me that their algorithms work. (And that proper tagging and sorting of music for personal consumption is important. But, again, a different post. Also long, but with a lot less hate.)

His albums “The Barometric Sea” and “The Barometric Sun” blew me away. Not because they are upbeat or uptempo. No. Quite the opposite. Quite the exact, polar opposite. They are deep, slow, ponderous and they pull you in. When I close my eyes while listening to those CDs, I get sucked away into deep space. I feel the hard radiation emanating from Pulsars washing over me. I feel the harsh caress of solar winds pushing me towards the hard and jagged embrace of Oort clouds. I can see light break, fracture and be distorted by hard-gravity wells, black holes, white holes and the occasional supernova. I let my mind expand to take in and measure the whole galaxy and I can start imagining wonderful, awe-inspiring stories happening all over it.

While I’m deeply in love with the hard, harsh and quick style of Cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk/transhuman literature, I am still heavily drawn towards that epic, immeasurable scope of slow, socio-historical science fiction. Okay, I admit it. I like to throw in some forms of FTL travel and FTL communication, but I generally like describing starships behaving like they should under Newtonian physics. I like short bursts of thrust then long “glides” and turns and then new bursts of counter-thrust as a means of travelling inside a solar system’s gravity well, for example. While the image of space-fighters is a cool one (And I like reading about them, see my love for the Rogue Squadron comics and novels!), I much rather have combat to be between ships that hold a substantial crew. And it should be short and deadly as well as slow and ponderous at the same time. A captain should be able to detect her opponent launching a salvo of torpedoes. But they will take many minutes to cross the vast space between those two ships. And when her ship’s counter-measures and point-defense fire don’t manage to take them all down, the crew should know that something horrible will happen in a few minutes that they’re powerless to defend against. They can only prepare themselves and the shortly-needed medical and technical first-aid and triage. And they would need to keep calm nerves and deal with the chance of sudden, inevitable death they just know will come to some of them.

At the same time, I want to have a ship enter a virginal solar system and start taking in all its grandeur. The colour, age and power of its sun. Its orbiting planets and moons and gas-giants. It’s comet-clouds and its apparent age. The cataloging of ancient features and the extrapolating of its history and past by scanning, looking, measuring and testing all the different inputs and samples one can obtain. To be exited about finding similarities which mean that a planet is habitable. Or be excited about getting results that, if repeatable and substantial, could mean a re-definition of old-held beliefs.

This is the Science Fiction that I enjoy reading and writing about.

And this kind of Science Fiction goes well with something special.
A free one-hour long ambient track by “deepspace”.


deepspace – Another Empty Galaxy | 2008 | Ambient

(If that doesn’t work for you, go directly to his last.fm page and download from there. It’s free, it’s legal and it’s completely awesome. And while you’re at it… Write this guy some encouraging words, will you? He deserves them… | http://www.last.fm/music/Deepspace/_/Another+Empty+Galaxy)

Listen to it now.
Download it and listen to it when you’re in the mood.
Or when you want to get in the mood.

But listen to it.
And try to think about something vast and beautiful.

And this time, I’m closing with two pictures that go well with today’s track.
[right-click -> “View Image” to see them in their full glory. Credit is below each picture.]


(http://tsarye.deviantart.com/)


(http://pipper-svk.deviantart.com/)