Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Pregens with Hawkwind

This is my forthcoming Eternal Champion style game for a house con:

The WishTower At The Junction Of Nine Planes

Once in a generation the WishTower intersects all dimensions. The Sorceress who resides within will grant one wish, without reservation, to any Champion who penetrates her inner sanctum. You are that Champion; chosen by your people, groomed from birth with a sword in hand, and send far from home to await the Tower’s reappearance at the very edge of Lawful land, where only rough weeds cling to nightmare cliffs over a roiling lambent sea, and the monuments to past Champions lie shattered and sand-blown, and clouds of ash consume the suns.

  • Other Champions from other nations also wait: will you fight, or work together?
  • Will you embrace your past, or reject it?
  • Will you wish for your family, your nation, or yourself?

Right, so I have a game idea. Now I need pre-gens. What better inspiration than Hawkwind?

Arrival in Utopia (from Choose Your Masques)

Stasis, the World City at the End of Time is technologically brilliant yet artistically stagnant, and spirals towards cosmic insignificance. An avatar, dressed in archaic armour, is sent back in time to seek the source of Chaos and re-ignite the Sun.

We dreamed of golden shining towers // Of lazy days and thrilling hours // Fields of wonder, streets so fair // Of amber ships which sailed, through the air // Dreamed of steel and glass and wire // Of days of wine and nights of fire // Dreamt of dogs that talked like boys // Of girls who flew, of unnamed joys // And now our dreams are true // We don’t know what to do // For we don’t like it here // There’s nothing for us to fear // Bored mindless in Utopia

The Sleep Of A Thousand Tears (from The Chronicle of the Black Sword)

An ancient sword Qanjana, sworn to protect the mortal society that owns it but desperate to be free to return to its own dimension. Its demon manifests as a drooling, whining albino who carries it aloft in battle; the sword has full use of the albino’s senses and voice box.

With your white arms wrapped around me // And locked in embrace so cold // We slept a thousand years or more // To awake in a land of gold // Where, the king of the world was a creature // Both man and woman and beast // Under landscape boiled with a million strange flowers // And the sun set in the east // And we were heroes you and I // By virtue of age and skill // And we rode to the land at the edge of the skies // To an emerald tower on a hill

Infinity (from PXR5)

A young knight in the service of Queen Antipathe, sworn to protect the Vale from alien invaders. She was not always a knight; once she was a twelve-year old child in a world far away who ventured into a forest alone and was trapped in Antipathe’s dream world, where she was aged magically to young adulthood. Despite her longing for home she has come to love the people of the Vale as much as she hates her mistress.

I met her in a forest glade // Where starbeams grew like trees // I did not take her for a witch // She wasn’t what she seemed // She turned the key of endlessness // And locked me in a dream // Infinity

Sonic Attack (first appearing on Space Ritual)

A weary warrior wearing white plate armour ringed with black grommets to dampen vibrations at different frequencies. He is a veteran of the Sonic Wars, where both sides employ sonic weapons and sonic drugs which resonate key areas of the brain to control sleep and emotion. Their world is a wasteland where the years-old remnants of aural detonations still resonate in unexpected patterns, making any journey outside a soundproofed Dome hazardous. In this world the ultimate act of intimacy is to remove one’s ear pods and listen to another human being.

The warrior’s generals want a weapon to end the war. The warrior craves one thing: silence.

These are all signs of imminent sonic destruction // Your only protection is flight // If you are less than ten years old // Remain in your shelter and use your cocoon // But remember Help no-one else

Magnu (from Warrior at the Edge of Time)

They terraformed the Sun! The golden knight rides the solar flares towards the Edge Worlds, bringing the message of the Solar Church to one and all, with a simple message — embrace the New Light, or be incinerated. Now they have travelled further than ever before, with the intention of illuminating the entire universe…

Sunbeams are my shafts to kill // All men who dare imagine ill // Deceit that fears the light of day // Fly from the glory of my ray // Good minds open and take new light // Until we diminish by the reign of night

Fable of a Failed Race (from Quark, Strangeness and Charm)

It is heresy to claim that there was ever a world other than this. Sand-blown and sterile where a fat green sun wreathed in flocks of monstrous crows presides over the half-submerged Pyramid Cities. A heretic priest is the last hope of the failing race; they will journey far away to find the source of life and return life to the surface.

Our legends tell we came from a seed // That traveled at a whirlwind speed // Til it came to rest upon this land // That once was green and is now all sand // That buried us up to our eyes // And made us watchers of the skies // Til the shadow wings came for our sight // And left us to conspire with night.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

He Left This Message For Us

This article by Zach Sokol talks about tapes and it gives me warm and fuzzy feelings.

An individual under the name Bluesmojo wrote about running a cassette label: I run a cassette label. It’s not a “hipster” thing (if you have a problem with how other people consume music, you’re the “hipster”). It’s not about being analog snobs; most labels have Bandcamps and you can just download the releases if you don’t want to buy the tapes. I think the medium is an artifact of the origins of this scene, which grew organically out of other movements that never abandoned cassettes (noise, punk and metal). At the end of the day, I think it’s about community.

Yesterday in Truck I saw a tape release by Laura Marling for 9 quid, which raised some questions

  • does it come with a download?
  • who pays 9 quid for a tape these days?
  • and what are they playing it on?

Looking for more sensibly priced tapes I found A Giant Fern in Leeds which does cassette releases with accompanying streaming, FLAC and mp3 downloads. I found them via links in United Cassettes. Having bought vinyl for 20 quid and then only listening to the free download, a fiver for a download plus a nice physical artifact seems like a much better deal.

For hardware, unlike turntables not may people are making new tape decks — this TEAC is the only one I can see, and it will cost you 300 quid, and it has all the things that tapeheads supposedly don’t want like auto reverse. Unfortunately getting a s/h deck is a lottery — I bought a mid-range Yamaha Natural Sound deck a few years ago and its motor was knackered. The Sony I have now is low end (TC-WE435) but it’s OK and only cost me 30 quid. Anyone with 300 quid to burn on a tape deck should be looking at a secondhand Nak and a service anyway.

Anyway, the best thing about tapes are mixes from friends


The second best thing is the way tape, like vinyl, forces you to listen from start to finish (when I got a sony CDP with a skip wheel it was the beginning of the end).

The third best thing are the RYKO Bowie releases which are still good.

I also discovered my taste wasn’t completely awful:





It’s all about the physical artifact — just like vinyl, or a handwritten letter, or a RPG zine. But also while I appreciate vinyl as a thing, I don’t feel a nostalgic tug the way I do with tapes which are tiny and portable and can be made very personal.

Last, anyone who tells you that “cassette will wipe the floor with an mp3” is probably not making a fair comparison because they’re a tapehead playing their tapes through a Nakamichi Dragon and their mp3s from their laptop. Tapes have something magic, like vinyl. But playing tapes again made me appreciate my modern DAC and Amp.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Unstoppable Sex Machines

In the summer of ’93 I discovered two new favourite things: Bowie and Moorcock.


Previously I hadn’t really gone for glossy, commercial ToTP 80s Bowie, although Bowie the actor was interesting in Labyrinth (and perversely Absolute Beginners).

But Suffragette City was sampled in Carter’s Surfin’ USM, which was interesting. That year Ziggy Stardust, Space Oddity and especially Hunky Dory were on pretty constant rotation in the walkman. Also, Suede. Speaking of which, here’s a nice picture of David Bowie and Brett Anderson:

David and Brett

Anyway, I was listening to Quicksand and The Supermen and Wide Eyed Boy From Freecloud and at the same time getting into Hawkmoon (in the big Millennium omnibus imprint) and reading about Granbretan’s masked armies and giant flamingo riders with flame lances over the Kamarg. Also, drinking short-dated beer from the Classic Deli and watching Orlando and Naked Lunch at the PPP. Speaking of which:

David and Bill

There was also Vampire, which became next year’s big campaign, through my finals year, where I laid the foundations for future gaming and friendships to this date. Some of those friends are no longer here. They are who I am thinking about right now, as well as all the friends I have made who are still here.

Anyway, David Bowie was there. I’m hanging onto the tapes.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Some Ambient Music For Games

Prompted by several recent discussions on music for rpgs, here’s some ambient music that I especially like that may work. This was originally just a few random notes but then started growing, so I’ve roughly grouped them into five sections.

1: Dark Ambient

A lot of Dark Ambient does the same thing — sounds of wind running through vast forgotten passages, distant bells, low drones, chanting, machine sounds. That being the case, just owing one or two albums is probably enough.

Atrium Carceri

Atrium Carceri is from Sweden. Is Nordic Dark Ambient a thing? Probably should be. This is a good start if you want moody atmospheric stuff. For example:

The Untold

From The Untold (2013).


Industrial and claustrophobic — from the first album Cellblock

The Old City

A bit more restrained — the soundtrack to The Old City: Leviathan.

Good For: being stalked by something impossibly large while exploring a vast forgotten city of giants full of strange machinery

Also see: Cold Meat Industry and Cyclic Law are labels to look out for.


My favourite band, with a very wide range of styles from industrial dance through to completely ambient and neoclassical by way of television commercials.

Dismal Orb

How To Destroy Angels is early Coil, very dark and deep ambient.


Black Light District and Time Machines were aliases for Coil in the 90s.

Good For: an alternate history Dungeness where sentries staff a coastal sound mirror outpost waiting for the Belgian zeppelins to attack.

Also see: Music to Play in the Dark I and II are brilliant — though maybe less useful for games.

Controlled Bleeding: The Poisoner

The Poisoner

Good For: adding layer upon layer of tension

I don’t think Controlled Bleeding did other albums as purely ambient as this, though they recorded the gothic-sounding Songs from the Ashes, and Songs from the Shadows (as “In Blind Embrace”)



Like A Slow River by Lull a.k.a. ex Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris. For sparse environments (and games moving at a glacial pace?).

2: New Age Ambient

A lot of crossover and structural similarity with Dark Ambient, though it can be a bit more melodic (decide whether that’s a good thing)

Brian Eno: On Land

Lizard Point

Eno’s Music for Airports is better known but On Land is my favourite of the Ambient series. For solving horrific murders while on holiday in rural East Anglia.


Apollo soundtrack, stargazing music.

Music for Films

Music for Films (and its sequel album) are small set pieces.

Also see: Eno’s catalog varies a lot. Late 90s he did the Shutov Assembly for an installation, and Neroli as “thinking music”, and more recently he released Lux. But though I like them I don’t think they’re as atmospheric as the three I’ve picked above which are absolutely must-listen. His work with Cluster and possibly Harmonia are fairly similar to to the above.

Harold Budd

Abandoned Cities

Of the two Harold Budd albums here Abandoned Cities is probably more suitable for a game being less distracting.

The Gunfighter

Lovely Thunder is my favourite album, and this is probably my favourite track. For announcing future badness.

Also see his collaborations with Brian Eno including The Pearl and The Plateaux of Mirror.

Tom Heasley: Where The Earth Meets The Sky

Ground Zero

Ambient tuba! Seriously.

On the Sensations of Tone and The Joshua Tree are also worth a listen.

Robert Rich

Below Zero

This is Below Zero. Good for contemplating the vast and empty cosmos, watching stars being born and feelings of awe and despair.


Stalker is Robert Rich with Lustmord (contemporary of members of Throbbing Gristle, pioneer of dark ambient) and crosses well over into dark ambient. Music for picking your way between pools of liquid helium on barren moons.


Outpost is a the collaboration with Ian Boddy. Several of Ian Boddy’s albums have a space exploration theme (e.g. Aurora). For responding to a distress call from a powerless ship at L3.

Also see: Humidity and Somnium are both live performances (Somnium is one of Rich’s “sleep concerts”).

Other artists to check out are Klaus Schulze are Steve Roach.

Alio Die

Otter Songs

Alio Die has collaborated with other ambient artists (including Robert Rich). Music tends to be on the spiritual side of New Age. For temple rituals.

3: Ambient Techno

Tends to be heavy on samples (film and especially SF references) as well as beat oriented, so not always suitable.


Biosphere would be my first choice for electronic ambient on the dance side, and is probably good for a range of games (whereas others will only suit SF/Cyberpunk).

Sphere of No Form

Substrata is full of sounds of wind, creaking wood and melting ice; perfect for polar expeditions under a perpetual sun (but also see Lull’s Like A Slow River, above). Polar Sequences (with HIA) is more of the same.

If you can find Substrata 2 you’ll get the remastered Substrata plus “Man with a Movie Camera”.

I have a deep love for Patashnik, but that’s a bit too ambient house. Still, samples from Cronenberg’s Scanners.


Hybrid’s music crosses over between breaks, ambient and orchestral soundtrack styles.

In Good We Trust

Cinematic Soundscapes

Soundsystem 01

Soundsystem 01 is also worth checking out, though it’s a mix album by Hybrid rather than their material.

Break My Soul

City of Prague Orchestra recording From the “widescreen edition” of Disappear Here.

Future Sound of London

Point of Departure

From Environment 5

Vertial Pigs

From Lifeforms

everyone is doing something without me

From Dead Cities

Future sound of London indeed. Also FSOL have recorded more psychedelic stuff as Amorphous Androgynous including The Cartel (fantasy 60s spy themes).

Solar Fields

Mmm, back to Sweden. Solar Fields gets an honourable mention: the music varies between ambient and dance (like Hybrid) so some may only be suitable for action scenes, if you don’t find that distracting. These two pretty much cover the spectrum:

Until We Meet The Sky

Until We Meet The Sky is ambient throughout.



Both tracks from the soundtrack to Mirror’s Edge. However annoyingly the action portions seem to be often mixed in with the slower bits, so buying the album isn’t terribly useful (maybe it’s possible to extract the individual tracks if you have the game?).

4: Nature Sounds

Pond by Tod Dockstader and David Lee Myers


For trudging through poisoned swamps on the edge of a rotting empire.

Also see Bijou, also by Dockstader and Myers; Aerial trilogy of albums (very drone-y and dark).

Fernand Deroussen


Just a quick mention of Fernand Deroussen — basically ambient nature sounds, and very nice recordings. Maybe not useful for games, but very handy for surviving the open-plan office. Here’s why:

Julian Treasure

5: Classical, Neoclassical

Dead Can Dance: Spleen And Ideal

DCD is right at the “neoclassical dark wave” end, but this particular album sits between their first (which was pretty much goth/post-punk) and later (which are more folk/traditional).


Good For: scenes with breathtaking sights of pre-human architecture.

Also see: Within the Realm of a Dying Sun and The Serpent’s Egg are also fantastic and chronologically the closest to this album (DCD starting to move in the folk/world music direction).

Max Richter


On the edge between soundtracks and minimalist classical music. Good for gloomy journeys by train and wrestling with crippling cases of ennui. Also see The Blue Notebooks and 24 Postcards which are similar. Infra is slightly more electronic. Also worth looking at are his scores for film and TV (e.g. Perfect Sense, The Leftovers).

Philip Glass

Pruit Igoe

Glass’ Koyaaniquatsi has three recorded versions, and I’m missing the third version. Classical minimalism, serving a similar duty to Max Richter but on a grander scale, this is music to watch civilisations rise and fall.

I’ve played in a game where Solo Piano was used throughout, which was great. Worked well for high fantasy campaigns. Also like the Low and Heroes symphonies (with Bowie/Eno).

Sunday, 26 April 2015

So Frightened To Lose Yourself

I recently discovered (thanks, social media) that every line of Stephen Lack’s dialogue in Cronenberg’s Scanners was re-recorded and used in place of the original. It explains how Cameron Vale’s voice is present in a subtly different way to the other characters, although maybe that wasn’t intentional.

I’d heard samples from Scanners before I’d even seen the film (yeah, I know).

On Biosphere’s Decryption:

Also on Among Myselves by Future Sound of London:

“They were drowning me.”

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Ribbon Drive: Perfect Match

My playlist from the last session…

Alt-J / Breezeblocks


Thom Yorke / Analyse


UNKLE (with Black Angels) / Natural Selection


Sparks / I Married A Martian


Tubeway Army / Jo The Waiter


David Bowie / Always Crashing In The Same Car


Radiohead / Creep


Beck / Ramona


Divine Comedy / Party Fears Two


LCD Soundsystem / Someone great


Pink Floyd / Wish You Were Here


Queens Of The Stone Age / Long Slow Goodbye


Sunday, 18 May 2014

Return the Book Knowledge / Return the Marble Index / File under Paradox


1. The First Five Minutes After Death

2. Queens Of The Circulating Library

3. Titan Arch

4. Die Wolfe Kommen Zurück

5. The Mothership and the Fatherland

6. Triple Sun

7. Sex With Sun Ra (part 1)

8. Red Birds Will Fly Out Of The East And Destroy Paris In A Night

9. His Body Was A Playground For The Nazi Elite

10. Another Brown World

11. Lost Rivers Of London

12. Light Shining Darkly

13. Cold Dream Of An Earth Star

14. Theme From Blue

15. How To Destroy Angels

16. The First Five Minutes After Violent Death

17. The Dreamer Is Still Asleep

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Clean Up For Christmas

In semi-particular order, this is what I’m listening to today.

  1. Magnetic Fields/Everything is One Big Christmas Tree
  2. Sonic Youth/Candle
  3. Sultans of Ping/Xmas Bubblegum Machine
  4. Mr B/’Oh Santa!’
  5. Tom Waits/The Piano Has Been Drinking
  6. Tori Amos/Purple People
  7. David Ford/Have Yourself a Bitter Little Christmas
  8. Tom Lehrer/A Christmas Carol
  9. Low/Taking Down The Tree
  10. Sketches for Albinos/Let It Snow (whoops, can’t find a video. It’s quite nice)
  11. Babybird/It’s Not Funny Anymore
  12. Aimee Mann/Clean Up For Christmas
  13. Foo Fighters/Next Year

Merry whatever.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Cut Up Sunday


The Cronenberg Project opens on November 1st of this year, celebrating “all things Cronenberg”. Unfortunately it’s in Toronto, but there’s a virtual exhibition.

Cronenberg donated several props to the Toronto Film Festival — including the Clark Nova from Naked Lunch, which opened the press conference.



The iconic Clark Nova writing on its own and then in full BugWriter mode. In real life it’s a Smith Corona Sterling. For yet more typewriter porn check this page on for some pics of authors and typewriters — including Burroughs with the Clark Nova.

Re-watching Naked Lunch I noticed Optimum’s little promotional booklet of their other films — and was surprised to find Malcolm Tucker:


Welcome to Annexia, Malcolm.

Like all Cronenberg films Naked Lunch was scored by Howard Shore — and I’m torn between it and his score for Crash as my all-time favourite.

I could talk about Burrough’s own recordings, which include Dead City Radio, his readings for  Giorno Poetry Systems and the fantastic Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales (with the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy). But I just found this recording of Frank Zappa reading “The Talking Asshole”:

Since I’m on youtube and in a Burroughs mood, here’s Bomb the Bass’s Bug Power Dust:

Did you get all of it? The lyrics are easier to hear on the downtempo mix from the K&D Sessions.

Anyway. I also found this fantastic Beastiemix of Root Down. It’s something like mix number 3728:

And talking about the Beastie Boys:

…yeah. These must be the symptoms of withdrawal from a substance that doesn’t really exist.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Les Revenants Soundtrack

I haven’t seen Les Revenants (a TV remake of They Came Back) but I’m currently listening to the soundtrack, by Mogwai of all people.

Les Reventant

It’s melodic, melancholic and generally less post-rock-y than the band’s other offerings. I’m a big fan of soundtracks and will take a punt on some albums even if I haven’t seen (or hated) the film, so my collection contains a few duds — but this one I feel confident in recommending to anyone who likes, well, ambient music. This one’s kind of tense, and kind of sad.

Oh look, it’s raining outside.