By James Semple, Marie-Anne Fischer and Yaiza Varona
Released through Pelgrane Press
I’m going to hold my hands up here – I don’t know much about Ashen Stars. I do know that it was designed by Robin D Laws and that it’s published by Pelgrane Press, and that it’s a gritty space opera game. You can see more about it at the Pelgrane Press website and it certainly does look like a good game.
What I’m interested in here is the music created for the game by James Semple, Marie-Anne Fischer and Yaiza Varona. Here you get ten excellent and atmospheric background tracks with an orchestral feel you can play and cue up to enhance the atmosphere of your Ashen Stars game. Like the previous soundtrack ‘Four Shadows’ for the Pelgrane Press ‘Trail of Cthulhu’, also by James Semple, it’s music designed to help give your games a unique flavour, a musical marker that can be related only to your game.
There are ten complete tracks on the album and each one invokes a different atmosphere:
1 - THE PROLOGUE: Dark, intimidating and threatening, as if danger is around the corner.
2 - FRAGMENTS OF THE PAST: Somewhat rousing, as if beginning a journey out into the depths of infinity.
3 – ALL WE HAVE FORGOTTEN: There’s a feeling of impending action to this one, and could be used as the build up to a mission or a violent encounter.
4 – INTO THE BLEED: Another long piece that feels dark and dangerous, perfect for those moments when you’re keeping the suspense high.
5 – CLASS K ENTITY: When something big, ugly and dangerous arises, this is the music to play.
6 – TETHERS AND SNAILS: A lovely long, ominous background piece that works really well when put on repeat. When your players are skulking in the guts if a ruined starship, this is a must. This suits exploration in the dark very well.
7 – THREON SHADOWS: Now we’re talking; this is action music!
8 – ASHEN STARS THEME: A great way to start your game; with a theme tune! A great piece you could see starting a TV show, which is why it’s perfect.
9 – TARTARUS: Another long, dark ominous piece.
10 – DEATH STRUGGLE: Did you just spring a major surprise on your players? Then here’s the track to play.
There are also three ‘stings’ that act like introductory pieces to a gaming session, or for whatever the GM wants to use them for. They’re just a few seconds long but work as little indicators to mark beginnings and ends of games or events.
This music works exceptionally well when cued up ready to go. If you’ve got a scene all ready or an encounter set up then you can choose the track that suits it best and put it on repeat. There a long tracks that work well as general background music, such as TETHERS AND SNAILS and TARTARUS, as it’s moody, unobtrusive and helps support the atmosphere. It’s not explosive in such a way it would interrupt or overshadow the gaming (depending on how loud the GM is playing the music, of course!).
All in all it’s an excellent album with some great music, and it’s suitable not only for Ashen Stars but for any science-fiction game. I can see this music working well for sci-fi horror, cyberpunk or a general exploration game.
It would have been nice to have had more variety in the music in the form of a few more tracks, and maybe even much longer pieces, but what you get is extremely well produced and atmospheric. Highly recommended.