The Eternal Lies Suite

In the beginning…

As I’m about to undertake the creation of a suite of music for the upcoming Trail of Cthulhu supplement, Eternal Lies, I thought it best to first give everyone a quick introduction.
My name is James Semple. I’m a media composer who has written music for both film and videogames. I’m also a roleplayer and was one of the playtesters for Trail of Cthulhu. To date I’ve written two musical offerings for Pelgrane Press, Four Shadows (music for Trail of Cthulhu) and Dissonance (music for Esoterrorists). Primarily I’m a guitarist however most of the compositions are realised using industry-standard orchestral samples.

To assist me in the creation of this suite I will be assisted by three extremely talented composers: Marie-Anne Fischer, Mike Torr and Yaiza Varona. They will each be writing their own introductions in due course.

The Purpose of the Suite

Given that I’ve already written some roleplaying music I took a step back before approaching this new suite. Firstly I wanted to really look at what purpose the music was serving. Why write music for roleplaying? How might roleplaying music be used in a game?

Writing original music for a roleplaying game allows us an opportunity to create a sense of atmosphere specific to Eternal Lies. While there are other pieces of music out there that are appropriate for Trail of Cthulhu, they are often tied to other properties (such as films or videogames) and if they are recognisable they can distract the listener and pull them out of the game.

I thought a lot about how to use the music in a game and as a result I’ve broken the tracks down into different types.

Overture and Closing Titles

Music designed to open and close the suite. These are the most traditional tracks and more than anything else they are designed to impart a sense of atmosphere and set the scene for the game.

Ambient Tracks

These are tracks designed to be looped in the background while the game is playing. They make up the majority of the music within the suite. Each track is tied to a chapter or location within the campaign but works around the main themes presented in the overture. These tracks will be quite long (around 6 minutes each) and detailed enough to be looped continuously for many repeats.

Action Tracks

These are 2-minute loops designed to be used in tension moments during a game. Fights, car chases, perilous hazards or any kind of danger scene can be accompanied by these pieces of music.


Often derived from the other music, these stingers are short pieces of music (usually less than 30 seconds) that can be played to signify a specific situation. For instance a brief sting can be used to pause the game for a break and another sting to resume the game. Following advice from Robin Laws I’ll be creating an ‘end of scene’ sting to let the players know it’s time to move on. Similarly I’ve created a tragic sting for when a character is retired.

In Summary

So this is who I am and what I’m planning to create. I’ll get into the detail of the actual types of music I’m creating in a later blog. I’d be very interested to get feedback as I go along.



4 Responses to “The Eternal Lies Suite”

  1. Troy says:

    Fantastic. I have seen a lot of soundtracks that are supposedly good for role playing over the last decade. Maybe some others took the same tack that you did, but I don’t know of any. I GREATLY appreciate the idea of composing for specific types of game events as you have outlined them above. The “tragic string” cracks me up … in a good way. (Now if anyone wants to build an iPhone/iTouch app that allows me to trigger various tracks with pre-programmed buttons – like a sound fx board but programmable – I would be in heaven.)

  2. I am terrifically excited about this soundtrack and cannot wait to hear what all you come up with. I only wish it was done already so that I could play it while I’m writing!

  3. James Semple says:

    Will, I can at least promise that you will be able to hear advance copies of the music as it’s written. It would be great to know that it’s inspiring you!

  4. […] courtesy of James Semple and his collaborators Marie-Anne Fischer, Mike Torr, and Yaiza Varona. James wrote a bit about his plans and intentions on the Pelgrane blog last week. The way he’s planning to organize the tracks to be useful for […]

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