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Old 05-05-2016, 03:56 PM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Musical Composition and Musical Instrument

Musical Composition is the IQ/H artistic skill of composing music. The defaults are Musical Instrument-2, or Poetry-2 for composing songs. Success means that the music is pleasant to listen to, presumably improved by a greater margin of success. The sill includes the ability to read, write and transcribe music in your culture’s notation (if any). The prerequisites are quite unusual:
  • Composing for a single instrument presumably requires that you have skill in that instrument, although the skill description doesn’t make that clear.
  • Composing for a group of instruments without a conductor requires IQ skill in one of them, presumably preferably the one that plays the lead part, and IQ-2 in all the others. There’s a skill penalty of -1 per type of instrument above the first, but it’s not clear if voice(s) count as an instrument group for songs.
  • For an orchestra or other group with a conductor, the prerequisite is IQ skill in Group Performance (Conducting). Here, there’s a skill penalty of -1 per type of instrument above the first, and a choir is counted as an instrument type.
Musical Composition appeared in Compendium I for 3e.

Musical Instrument is the IQ/H artistic skill of playing an instrument. The only defaults are to other instrument skills, at variable penalties from -3 for similar ones to none at all for utterly different ones, such as (Drums) to (Harp). It includes the ability to read music in your culture’s notation, if any. That seems to make "no default" a bit harsh, since when faced with a completely unfamiliar instrument, you can at least attempt to operate it at the right time. A minimum default penalty of -3 also seems harsh, given how similar "different" instruments can be, so assuming there’s a -2 unfamiliarity penalty as part of that -3 would be plausible. Musical Instrument dates from GURPS 1e.

Both these skills are boosted by Musical Ability talent, and Connoisseur (Music) defaults to either at -3. They are more common on character sheets than templates in published GURPS books, simply because quite a few people learn music as a hobby or for entertainment, especially at TLs before music recording. DF makes both skills important for Bards, and provides uses, treasure and henchmen for them. Fantasy provides several templates for musicians, and Fantasy-Tech has levitation via music. Horror has a couple of templates that don’t seem to allow for Musical Instrument if they have Musical Composition, which seems odd. Infinite Worlds has time viewing via the Music of the Spheres, and Worlds of Horror has the Glass Armonica, part of the Mesmeric technology of Gothic-2. Low-Tech and LTC1 have lots on musical instruments, including a list of classes (missing Valved Horn (TL5) and Theremin (TL6)) and an excellent revised list of defaults. Power-Ups 3, 6 and 7 have examples for one or both of these skills. Social Engineering’s Team Efforts rules are important for musical groups. Thaumatology: Magical Styles suggests Musical Instrument for Air and Sound magicians, and Urban Magics has Ratpiping. Ultra-Tech has extraordinary instruments, some with enhanced emotional effects.

Musical Composition clearly incorporates the activity of “arranging” music, setting up the parts to be played by different instruments. This seems to be why it demands a wide range of Musical Instrument skills to write for a group or orchestra, but that isn’t the only way composition is done. A composer will start by creating music for a single instrument: piano is common, because of its wide range and flexibility. Arranging for multiple instruments is a separate step, which isn’t necessarily done by a single person. A small group of collaborative musicians will normally do the arrangement together, each providing the expertise for their own instrument and rolling against that skill; if one person was to do it, then they would plausibly need the prerequisite skills RAW demands, and a roll against Musical Composition. Arranging for an orchestra with a conductor would demand the Group Performance (Conducting) prerequisite and a roll against Musical Composition. While composers may do this themselves, it’s common for it to be done by a specialist in arranging, sometimes guided by the original composer. It’s also routine for orchestral music directors, who are experienced conductors, to tweak arrangements for the strengths of their players, or even the acoustics of a venue.

"Transcribing" music doesn’t just mean copying sheet music. It’s the ability to write down music as it is played, equivalent to taking dictation in writing. Quite a bit of historical music is known to us because composers who later became famous (and whose papers thereby survived) transcribed it, and the transcriptions survived when the original didn’t. However, like dictation, a transcription isn’t necessarily identical to the original, and it may well be arranged differently.

Something that might be useful for artistic skills in general would be a rules mechanic for taking penalties to the skill in exchange for better reactions on a success. Bill Stoddard recently suggested using Performance as a complementary skill to Musical Instrument or Singing for "serious" performances, or vice-versa when showmanship is the main criterion.

I have no musical talent whatsoever, but I like using it as an element in games, more as a social art than as fantasy-musical mind control. What have you done with these skills?
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Old 05-05-2016, 04:02 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Musical Composition and Musical Instrument

Am I the only one who includes a few musical skills in each of my PCs just to dilute the inherent Murderhoboness of most RPG characters?

My go to is violin+piano+Musical Composition+Connoisseur (music)
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Old 05-05-2016, 04:39 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Musical Composition and Musical Instrument

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Originally Posted by Minuteman37 View Post
Am I the only one who includes a few musical skills in each of my PCs just to dilute the inherent Murderhoboness of most RPG characters?
Not at all. One of my characters currently has Musical Composition, Singing, and Musical Instrument (Keyboard), plus a Talent that will give her a bonus to her Musical Influence skill once I get around to giving it to her with earned XP. o/`
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Old 05-05-2016, 08:26 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Musical Composition and Musical Instrument

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Am I the only one who includes a few musical skills in each of my PCs just to dilute the inherent Murderhoboness of most RPG characters?
Bards are already one of my favorite types of murderhobo so the question doesn't make sense to me.
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Old 05-05-2016, 08:43 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Musical Composition and Musical Instrument

In one of my early GURPS campaigns, the PCs were present-day British teenagers who strayed into the realm of the fair folk, aka the lands of eternal twilight. I asked the players to come up with a reason that their characters were all together on Midsummer Eve; four of them decided to be musically talented attendees at a summer music program. (The fifth decided to play the soccer hooligan son of the janitor at the facility.)

This was in the days of GURPS 3/e, when Musical Talent was 1 point/level; they took from two to five levels, and the woman playing the group's vocalist also naturally took Voice, so she had something like +7 to her Singing skill, I think. They travelled from Glastonbury to the Highlands to Ulster, or their twilight lands analogs, singing and playing and being treated as honored guests. There were more music rolls than combat rolls. In fact a typical song performance tended to call for a Singing or Musical Instrument roll for each of them, a Performance roll for each of them, and a Sex Appeal roll for the vocalist (the player had also taken a really high appearance rating). There were also rolls to compose new songs. At one point a member of the human group got into a dispute with the local queen's bard, and challenged her to a duel, which ended with a singing contest.

As to murder hobos, I haven't run a campaign with that focus in decades, and my players don't seem to want one. The most sociopathic of my campaigns was either the In Nomine campaign about a reality TV series made in Hell, or the campaign about a group of very talented consulting criminals.
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Old 05-05-2016, 08:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Musical Composition and Musical Instrument

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Originally Posted by simply Nathan View Post
Bards are already one of my favorite types of murderhobo so the question doesn't make sense to me.
I suppose if you use can reliably use music to further your murderhobo agenda it doesn't count.
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Old 05-05-2016, 08:52 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Musical Composition and Musical Instrument

In one of the several solo campaigns in which PC's end up in a bunch of random worlds (naked), one player made a point of seeing how much exotic music he could seek out and learn. It was actually a really fun component of that character, and it was always a rewarding moment when he found and selected his instrument for that world.
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Old 05-05-2016, 09:17 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Musical Composition and Musical Instrument

In my current fantasy campaign, one of the PCs uses a flute made from the thighbone of an ancestor as a focus for summoning spirits. There is also a sailor who plays the fiddle, and the ship's girl plays the zils as part of her dancing.

Then there was the encounter with a group of selkie women who had figured out the sirens' trick and were using it to lure ships close enough for piracy. . . .
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Old 05-05-2016, 09:20 PM   #9
whswhs
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Musical Composition and Musical Instrument

I'd also note that the big innovation in LTC1 is that the untuned idiophones and membranophones ("percussion instruments") are played with Average rather than Hard skills. Or you can learn to play all untuned percussion instruments as a single Hard skill, subject of course to familiarity modifiers.
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Old 05-06-2016, 04:35 AM   #10
CoyoteGestalt
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Musical Composition and Musical Instrument

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Musical Composition is the IQ/H artistic skill of composing music. The defaults are Musical Instrument-2, or Poetry-2 for composing songs. Success means that the music is pleasant to listen to, presumably improved by a greater margin of success. The sill includes the ability to read, write and transcribe music in your culture’s notation (if any). The prerequisites are quite unusual....
I've sometimes wondered if we'd benefit from having a term/mechanic for a sort of "required complementary skill" as distinct from "prerequisite," mainly for situations like this - since clearly you can learn Musical Composition without the other skills (perhaps treating it largely as a mathematical exercise), it just isn't very useful.

Also, if you're composing music entirely for computerized playback later (eg old-style videogame music), would Computer Operation/TL substitute for Musical Instrument and Group Performance? Obviously some folks composing in that situation are using keyboard synthesizers, but others are just working by directly coding, and have no skill at playing music in real time. (And you can tell, because their compositions are much harder to arrange for conventional instruments rather than computer playback.)




[Note: that last observation based on listening to musician-gamer friends complaining about it; I am not a skilled enough musician to have first-hand experience here]
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