My Halloween Music Playlist

Halloween is near! I know these words will sound terribly dated in a year or two, if they don’t already, but I like to burn1 a playlist of my favorite Halloween music onto a CD2 so I can listen to then when I’m driving3.

(Translation key:
1: record onto physical media
2: a piece of plastic used to store digital music in the physical world
3: people in my time didn’t have self-driving cars)

I’m due to put together a new playlist, but here’s the one I’ve been listening to for the last few years.

  1. Monster – Fred Schneider. This monster is in his pants!
  2. Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo. My favorite Halloween-related song.
  3. Fright Night – J. Geils Band. From the original movie. Very 80s.
  4. This Is Halloween – Danny Elfman. From The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  5. The Blue Wrath – I Monster. Used at the beginning of Shaun of the Dead.
  6. Partytime (Zombie Version) – 45 Grave. From Return of the Living Dead.
  7. Halloween (She Get So Mean) – Rob Zombie, from his Halloween Hootenanny album.
  8. Zombi – Zombie Nation. Also from Shaun Of The Dead.
  9. Addams Family Jazzy Theme – Czech Quartet. A jazzy cover.
  10. Gravewalk – Satan’s Pilgrims. Also from Halloween Hootenanny.
  11. The Time Warp – Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Little Nell & Cast. From The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  12. The Munsters – The Ventures. Another unusual cover.
  13. Ribcage Mambo – Frenchy. Also from Halloween Hootenanny.
  14. Puttin’ On The Ritz – John Morris, Gene Wilder, Danny Boyle. From Young Frankenstein.
  15. Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.
  16. The Gonk (Remix) – Kid Koala / The Noveltones. From Shaun of the Dead (and, before that, Dawn of the Dead).
  17. Devil Woman – Cliff Richard. (I really need to complete the trilogy by adding Evil Woman and Witchy Woman.)
  18. Back From The Dead – Spinal Tap.
  19. Moonlight Feels Right – Starbuck. (Admittedly a weak connection to Halloween, but I love the song so there.)
  20. Theme From ‘Young Frankenstein’ – Rhythm Heritage. From Young Frankenstein.
  21. The Raven – Read by Christopher Walken, from Closed on Account of Rabies.

I’d love it if you shared some of YOUR favorite Halloween songs with me here! What do you like to listen to when it’s the haunting season?

Gaming Soundtracks: Ghostbusters 2016

This is post number 25 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

Now I’d like to talk about the other Ghostbusters 2016 soundtrack, the one with popular singles used in the movie rather than the score.

I didn’t expect to like this album. Part of this is because I prefer instrumental scores to vocal tracks (especially as game music), and also because I’m a bit set in my musical ways and don’t often like modern music, and furthermore because I didn’t expect new versions of the Ghostbusters theme to be any good (after being burned on this with the Ghostbusters 2 soundtrack).

But I love it! It’s fun, and high-energy, and I’ll be damned, the new renditions of the Ghostbusters theme are enjoyable—every single one. This album features four versions of the Ghostbusters theme song. I think the decision to include multiple variants like this was absolutely the right thing to do. For me, if we’d been given one “new” Ghostbusters theme, that would really invite comparison to the original, classic, awesome Ghostbusters theme. (See Ghostbusters 2.) But throwing a bunch at us reminds us that all of these are just new options that don’t have to replace anything. For each of the new themes, my advice for using in a game is the same: use this as an alternate for when you would use the Ghostbusters theme to freshen things up and keep from overusing the original.

  1. Ghostbusters by Walk the Moon. A good introduction to the new Ghostbusters themes that doesn’t stray so far from the original that it would be jarring, but still has a fresh new sound.
  2. Saw It Coming by G-Eazy featuring Jeremih. This one has a good sound, and the lyrics reference ghosts, but I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the hell the song is about.
  3. Good Girls by Elle King. A thematically-appropriate song (and cheerful) about doing “what good girls don’t.” I like it. In-game, maybe use for an action montage.
  4. Girls Talk Boys by 5 Seconds of Summer. This is a fun song, though a bit counter to the idea of a movie that handily passed the Bechdel Test. (To be fair, the ladies DID spend some time talking about Kevin.)
  5. wHo by Zayn. (Not featured in the film.) This is almost a Ghostbusters theme in itself, with the repeated lyric “Who you gonna call, gonna call?” (It sounds better than it reads.) “wHo” is a slower, more romantic song, though, so probably not suitable for use as a game-session-starter. If you have a PC being romanced by a ghost, though, cue this one up.
  6. Ghostbusters by Pentatonix. (Not featured in the film.) An a capella Ghostbusters theme? I’m in! And I love it.
  7. Ghoster by Wolf Alice. (Not featured in the film.) Nice beat, nice ghosty-combat lyrics, even a good title. Maybe usable for a scene of ecto-balls-to-the-wall fighting.
  8. Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid) by Fall Out Boy featuring Missy Elliott. The fourth of the Ghostbusters theme variants diverges even more than the a capella version, but surprisingly I still like it.
  9. Get Ghost by Mark Ronson, Passion Pit & A$AP Ferg. I’m not counting this one as a theme variant, though like “wHo” it does borrow elements from the Ray Parker, Jr. song. This one, though, might be suitable for use when you’d otherwise use the theme song. If you imagine your game as a TV show, this would work well for the end credits.
  10. Party Up (Up In Here) by DMX. If your Ghostbusters break into dance at HQ, definitely use this track.
  11. Rhythm of the Night by DeBarge. As with “Party Up,” this track was used in a light scene at Ghostbusters HQ. No one would blame you for doing the same. (And Holzmann would approve.)
  12. American Woman by Muddy Magnolias. This is a high-octane anthem for strong women, suitable for a scene of ghostly ass-kicking.
  13. Want Some More by Beasts Of Mayhem. This song was playing when the Ghostbusters fought Mayhem at the Stonebrook Theatre. When your Ghostbusters engage in a similar fight, feel free to use this song.
  14. Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr. I can’t find any info on this track other than a copyright date of 2010 in the liner notes. It sounds extremely similar to the 1984 original but I’m pretty sure it’s a variant version. If you have any more information on this track, dear reader, please let me know in the comments.

Gaming Soundtracks: Ghostbusters 2016 Score

This is post number 18 in the series “31 Days of Ghostbusters,” a celebration of the franchise’s return to the big screen.

For previous Ghostbusters movies, most of us only had access to the soundtrack albums containing primarily pop songs that accompanied some scenes. But not this time! Perhaps realizing that the modern soundtrack listener has developed more sophisticated tastes, the ghostly-music-producers have provided two albums for the 2016 film: one with the the pop songs and one with the score. Woo!

Today I’ll describe the contents of the Ghostbusters (Original Motion Picture Score) by Theodore Shapiro, the one I expect to be more usable in a roleplaying game.

  1. The Aldridge Mansion. This is a nice, spooky intro which builds in suspenseful creepiness. General purpose usefulness.
  2. The Garrett Attack. Also scary and more action-oriented than the previous track. Contains some eerie horror-movie vocals. Good for a showdown with a ghost or other action scene.
  3. Never Invited. Building action, ending with a hint of danger. Perhaps good for a planning scene.
  4. Distinct Human Form. Creepy and slow at the beginning, then adding hints of awe. Scarier toward the end, then triumphant, including hints of the Ghostbusters theme song. (This was when the Ghostbusters concluded their first encounter with a ghost.)
  5. The Universe Shall Bend. Another creepy beginning, then ominous with the addition of organ music. Back to quiet and suspenseful toward the end, concluding with a scare. Maybe useful during a conversation with a big ecto baddie.
  6. Subway Ghost Attack. Quiet, basic suspense music that builds to full-on action at the halfway point, keeping that up until the end. Good, general purpose action music.
  7. Ghost Girl. Bland, low-key dramatic music. Not spooky or especially useful.
  8. Mannequins. Starts scary, with chimes and strings, with a quick jump scare at the beginning, then at the midpoint, with most of the second half more action-oriented.
  9. Ghost In a Box. A short action piece, good for combat. Includes the Ghostbusters theme briefly.
  10. Dr. Heiss. Starts off like “Ghost Girl,” quiet and unobtrusive. Builds in suspense in the second half, but it’s stil not especially useful for background music.
  11. Ley Lines. Dramatic conversation music! Good for such a purpose in your game, or any scene where the action is starting to pick up. The last 40 seconds or so are more triumphant, including the Ghostbusters theme again.
  12. Pester The Living. Another blend of creepy and suspenseful with a dramatic ending.
  13. I Will Lead Them All. Suspenseful and spooky with a few jump scares.
  14. The Power of Patty Compels You. Calm for the first third, then adding rising suspense through the midpoint and into full action for the rest. Might be useful for kicking off a slow-build action scene.
  15. The Fourth Cataclysm. Full-on dramatic, portentious music (including operatic vocals), fit for a scene of major import. With bonus organ music!
  16. Balloon Parade. High-energy action music accompanied by creepy vocals. General purpose usefulness.
  17. Battle of Times Square. More high-energy action, more optimistic than suspenseful. Play it when the good guys are winning. Concludes with a triumphant rendition of the Ghostbusters theme.
  18. Entering The Mercado. Starts quiet and suspenseful, building up to a big reveal at about 0:40, then getting quiet again. The last 30 seconds are more action-packed. Good for a schizophrenic scene where the mood is all over the place.
  19. Behemoth. Spooky/suspenseful with a hint of building action, leading into ominous vocals. Good for a boss fight (which is fortunate, because that’s what was happening in the film at this point).
  20. Into The Portal. A blend of spooky and action-oriented. Features more creepy vocals. Gets quiet at the midpoint, and ends triumphantly. Good general purpose action music.
  21. NY Heart GB. Brief and triumphant. Use while handing out Brownie Point awards.

Gaming Soundtracks: Conan the Barbarian

I love using background music when I run an RPG. Before I got into gaming I was already a big fan of film scores, and after becoming a gamer my fondness for games and cinematic music have supported each other in a way that I find extra satisfying. When I get a new RPG, I feel the need to find just the right music to accompany it, and when I get a new movie soundtrack, I just have to find a way to use it in a game.
Today I’d like to celebrate the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack by Basil Poledouris (1982). Its use as background music for a fantasy game like 13th Age should be obvious, but the album is also useful in supporting action games in general. Despite its origins in the 80s, the music isn’t too dated.
One reason I like the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack is that it isn’t strongly branded. Some fantasy soundtracks are riddled with themes that most listeners easily recognize if they’ve seen the movie. You don’t have to listen too long before you realize you’re hearing a Lord of the Rings or a Harry Potter soundtrack. That can be fine, but I prefer my background soundtrack to blend in well enough that it could have been composed specifically for my game.
Here’s a list of the tracks on Conan the Barbarian, along with any comments I have about each one. I also list a few keywords to describe the music (such as its mood and tempo), plus my ideas about how a GM might use the piece in a game.
(Note: while writing this, I noticed that a Blu-Ray combo pack of the 2 Conan movies (Conan: The Complete Quest (Conan the Barbarian / Conan the Destroyer)) is coming out on June 14, 2016. I don’t get a cut if you order it from that link; I just wanted to point you to it in case you’re itching to see the movies now like I am. I also discovered a 3 CD version of the soundtrack that I didn’t know about. Dammit.)
  1. Anvil of Crom. I skip this track because of the chronicler’s voiceover. The music is good, though, starting at 1:04. I do like the voiceover when I’m listening to the soundtrack in a non-gaming context. I just don’t want my game interrupted by someone else talking.
  2. Riddle of Steel/Riders of Doom. This track is light, fast, and somewhat whimsical. It features chanting vocals and sounds heroic. Useful for traveling music or marching into battle.
  3. Gift of Fury. This one is sad and serious, with Latin-sounding vocals.
  4. Wheel of Pain. Slow, serious. Good for a non-combat dramatic scene, or to indicate something menacing drawing inexorably nearer.
  5. Atlantean Sword. Slow, mystical, wondrous. Good for exploration, or to convey a sense of wonder. Would work well for visiting some new place, especially if it’s magical.
  6. Theology/Civilization. Slow, peaceful, with flutes and chimes. Good for traveling through or visiting a village or kingdom.
  7. Wifeing (Theme of Love). Slow, serious, begins somewhat mournful but progresses to a more happy theme. (Or maybe that’s just my interpretation.)
  8. Leaving/The Search. Slow, serious, but not too somber. Picks up a bit at the 2 minute mark. Might be good for traveling, or background to a dramatic conversation. Or for a travel montage.
  9. Mountain of Power Procession. Driving, serious but upbeat. Good for battle preparation or visiting a martial location like a gladiatorial arena or a throne room.
  10. Tree of Woe. Tense, suspenseful. Good for a scene of approaching danger. At the 2 minute mark the track turns peaceful and happy, so watch out if that’s not how your suspenseful scene ends!
  11. Recovery. Slow, serious but peaceful. Good for representing down time.
  12. Kitchen/The Orgy. Upbeat, cheerful. Good marching music. Could easily represent dwarves heading into battle. When I think of the Conan soundtrack, I think of this piece. “The Orgy” starts at about 2:20, and continues the upbeat, cheerful mood, but in a less-marchy, more peaceful mode. Which is probably appropriate for an orgy.
  13. Funeral Pyre. Somber, as you’d expect from the title. In addition to accompanying sad moments, this track would be useful during dramatic scenes or exploring the ruins of a previous age.
  14. Battle of the Mounds. Driving, serious, orchestral music with vocal chanting. Good for battle music, as you might guess.
  15. Death of Rexnor. Serious, ominous, with some vocal chants. Would be suitable for a momentous occasion (such as a funeral), or for exploring somewhere dangerous.
  16. Orphans of Doom/The Awakening. Slow, peaceful, with a dramatic ending. This would work great as background for exploring a faerie village, or meeting a princess.
Have you done any gaming to the stirring melodies of Conan the Barbarian? What’s YOUR favorite gaming soundtrack?