Discover more from Critical Hit Parader
Orbital Blues: Afterburn
Plus Job for a Cowboy and Fritz Leiber
Orbital Blues: Afterburn is currently crowdfunding and is the first major expansion to the tabletop Orbital Blues, “an RPG about sad space cowboys.” This campaign from SoulMuppet Publishing caught my eye because music plays a significant part in the game’s theming, as you can see from the following description:
In this game of sad space cowboys, your crew of desperate and downtrodden outlaws do what they can to make ends meet. They travel across a music-infused space-western universe filled with retro-future technology, plagued by heartbreak and the haunting shadow of the blues.
A roleplaying love-letter to off-beat sci-fi, vintage music, and cooperative old-school styled roleplay, Orbital Blues allows you to play out rules-light tabletop adventures in the style of space westerns such as Cowboy Bebop, Firefly and The Mandalorian.
Co-creator Sam Sleney put together an eclectic, official Orbital Blues playlist for the original game, which contains “a series of classic songs which inspired the game’s vibe and Sam’s writing.” Any playlist that includes Frank Zappa, Miles Davis w/John Coltrane, John Lee Hooker, Duran Duran, and Warren Zevon is alright with me. Also, check out this innovative use of music for the game:
“In the original 2021 Kickstarter, we made a cassette album with Chris Bissette, musically cosplaying as the Deltas, an in-universe band. You can pledge for a reprint of that cassette as part of the project, or head over to Spotify and listen to get a feel.”
Chris Bissette is the creative and prolific game designer behind Loot the Room, and I think they did an amazing job performing as the Deltas.
If you missed the original Orbital Blues campaign, you can purchase a core book as part of the current campaign.
Job for a Cowboy
The heavy metal band Job for a Cowboy just released a video for their killer new single “The Agony Seeping Storm.” The song will be included in their upcoming album Moon Healer, and I think the trippy video provides inspiration for occult investigation RPGs with themes of psychedelia and alien conspiracy. The music is technical, progressive, and crushingly heavy. If you want to have your mind blown, check it out:
Fritz Leiber Essay by Ted Giola
Ted Giola’s The Honest Broker is my favorite music-related Substack. Ted is, among other things, a jazz critic and music historian, and The Honest Broker provides “in-depth coverage of music, books, and culture—with a mix of longform essays, reviews, commentary, links, observations, and amusements.” Paid subscribers to his newsletter get access to “The Vault,” a collection of over 400 essays Ted has written on various topics. While browsing The Vault, I came across an essay he wrote about Fritz Leiber.
In Appendix N of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide, Gary Gygax includes Fritz’s Leiber’s “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” series as one of the literary influences on him and the creation of Dungeons & Dragons. Many games and supplements have been released to support playing in the world of Leiber’s most famous characters, including my favorite, DCC Lankhmar by Goodman Games.
I thought I would share a link to this essay as an unusual example of the intersection between music and tabletop roleplaying games. Here we have a music writer showing appreciation for one of the luminaries of sword and sorcery:
You need to be a paid subscriber to The Honest Broker (or sign up for a free 7-day trial) to access the full essay. I think it’s well worth subscribing, but if that’s not a fit for you, here are a few excerpts where Ted talks about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser:
A similar emphasis on "magical realism," infuses the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories. The duo are depicted as vulnerable, fickle, and down-to-earth in a way that was rare in the 1930s. This was, after all, an era of larger-than- life heroes. Superman had just made his debut a few months earlier, and a host of other protagonists from the period—Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Captain Marvel, Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Lassie, Dick Tracy—all worked out, in their various ways, a simplistic good-versus-evil worldview, not much different than the matchup destined to unfold on European battlefields a few weeks after the publication of the first Fafhrd and Gray Mouser tale. Leiber would have none of this vanilla virtuousness, and in his adventure series he embraced the anti-hero ethos, breaking many of the most cherished rules of genre writing.
I’m even more surprised that Fafhrd and Gray Mouser haven’t yet served as the basis for a blockbuster motion picture series. In many ways, these characters are much more aligned with the sensibility of modern audiences than the more idealized figures that populate the fictive universes of Middle Earth, Star Wars and Narnia. And Leiber’s sly and witty dialogue is ready-made for transference from the written page to the silver screen. Leiber, recall, immersed himself in the world of acting and drama long before he started writing stories, and his literary output shows his knack for setting the stage and striking the right rhetorical tone.