Experiment: The Edge

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Today's post comes to us from our Musical Director, Devin Vibert, who is launching a new experiment called The Edge!

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About ten months ago I started up a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign with some friends. It was an interesting mix of people; some of us were veterans of the game and others had never seen an icosahedral die before in their lives.

As the players drew close to completing their first adventure together, I thought it would be a neat idea to reward them by creating a couple of songs thematically tied to their adventures. It originally started as four songs, but I quickly realized keeping a record of their adventures in music had the potential to be something more than a small token for the players.

In my experience with roleplaying games, I'm usually having so much fun that when the game concludes I feel the equivalent of a book hangover: that feeling of longing where you want nothing more than to go back to that world and devour more content. Writing music to go along with their adventures, then, seemed like a way to give the players what I never had - something to hold on to once the in-game events had concluded.

My intention is to have the music serve as 1) something that immortalizes the player's actions in a very tangible way, 2) legitimizes what has already occurred in-game, and 3) acts as a mood-setter for whatever is yet to come. I think a piece of music can help a player develop an emotional attachment to a game or campaign (serious or goofy or otherwise) that might not otherwise have existed. I also believe that in time it can give a player even more positive reinforcement when they make a positive impact in-game - "I did that, that part in the music is because of me." And really, if the players are happy, they're having fun, and if they're having fun ... mission accomplished.

It has also been a challenge at times. On several occasions I have been punished twofold - both as a musician and a GM - when I made the mistake of planning too far ahead of the players. I expected events to transpire a certain way, became excited about the prospects, and then made the horrid mistake of writing a song before the event had actually happened. Invariably the party would do something I'd never anticipated, and then a song would be rendered completely irrelevant. Most of those rogue songs were deleted immediately out of sheer disappointment, but I've kept one or two which serve as a harsh reminder that it's not my story, it's their story.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this experiment is that I am attempting to write the soundtrack to a story without knowing how it ends. I can't sneak in hints of what's to come into the music because I haven't a clue what's to come. I mean, I certainly have vague ideas of where the party will be in a few sessions, and there is an overriding plot that I hope will be realized, but beyond that, I'm forced to write about the here and now. My hope is that as the characters change, mature, and settle into a comfortable role, the songs will follow suit, and at the end of it all the music will evolve in an organic manner that no composer could ever have duplicated if they'd known the fate of the adventuring party beforehand.

So, I welcome you to join me on this musical adventure. I don't know how it ends, and neither does the party, but at least when all is said and done, there will be a great tale to tell, both in-game and out!

- Devin

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