Soundtracks for your Modernity game.

I’ve had an ear out for amazing soundtracks that are just instrumentals for use in tabletop roleplaying games for years. Most of the time, I’ve had to build custom playlists or pick soundtracks from movies that don’t have big name rock stars headlining their soundtrack (which usually means vocals that will interrupt the game). Another good source has been video game soundtracks.

However, the problem with soundtracks from movies, TV shows, and video games is that they cover the entire story arc and the whole emotional curve from apex to antapex, zenith to nadir. I’ve found that often the trumpet fanfare of an upbeat piece will come at EXACTLY the wrong time in the game.

There was a humorous moment, though, when the Mel Gibson screamed “Freedom!!!” on the Braveheart soundtrack at precisely the right moment in a D&D game. It usually doesn’t work out that way, though. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

How to solve that problem with minimal effort and still have fabulous ambiance music for a dark game of contemporary occult noir, you ask? Simplicity itself. Midnight Syndicate to the rescue!

These amazing albums (use another word if album makes you feel old) are chock full of great mood music that’s dark, energetic, and mysterious.

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They have provided me much inspiration and motivation as I’ve been writing the novels in The Seraphim Conspiracy and the Modernity Roleplaying Game. Thank you, Midnight Syndicate!

There are more, but those are ones I’ve listened to and use for game purposes. I’ll post more RPG soundtrack options in the future.

More anecdotal evidence to support The Quiz!

A long time ago (in previous employment-lives), but in this very galaxy, I blogged about The Quiz that we used when someone made the mistake of promoting me to hiring manager and we needed a way to reasonably judge the capacity of job applicants. It worked very well at narrowing down a huge candidate pool to the kind of rock stars that we were looking for.

The most fun that I’ve had as a candidate taking similar “tests” prior to an interview was with Blizzard this past year. Although their “test” wasn’t a real job task/scenario like The Quiz, the coding puzzles were interesting. (For the record, I didn’t get the job. I think admitting that I did not play World of Warcraft had something to do with it. Heh.)

Antonio talks about a very similar process that he went through recently when hiring interns for the DB2 team @ IBM. Although he had it easy, since he only got 100 resumes to wade through. (I still have nightmares sometimes about wading through the zillions of probably-not-qualified resumes that were spewed out by another other job sites whenever we made the mistake of posting an open position there. I think I’ll restrict posting my future open positions to headhunters and

The coding assignment was a huge asset in determining people’s real abilities. Some of the nicest assignments came from those with academically weaker performances. You could clearly see who the hackers and potential future computer science professors were. Without the assignment, the selection process would have been much harder, so I’m glad that it was something we required the applicants to do.

Things I’ve learned from hiring interns for IBM

That echoes my experiences as a hiring manager, too. Some of the best coders that I ever hired had degrees in biology, law, physics and political science. Go figure. That is one thing that I truly admire about the Microsoft hiring process, too. Typically @ Microsoft, it doesn’t matter what your educational background is or how you acquired your technical skill, so long as you can demonstrate it. Under pressure.

For those of you future applicants to Glacier Peak. You have been warned. Expect to be able to demonstrate your skill. Under pressure. On The Quiz!

Teams or Stars?

When I have been a hiring manager in previous work lives, the question frequently came up: Is it better to hire a few rock stars (aka prima donnas) or a few more really competent people who know how to play well with others? In many software engineering circles, the conundrum is known as the Myth of the Heroic Programmer.

It’s always nice to see someone with quantitative research that backs up and validates the decisions that you’ve made in the past, and help to inform similar decisions that you’ll make in the future.

For the answer to that question, we don’t have to rely on hunches, or instincts, or a handful of individual cases. It turns out that some careful research has been done on this point. Data were gathered from a wide range of companies in an effort to settle the question of which is more important in generating superior performance: teamwork, or "stars?" The answer, hands down, turned out to be teamwork.

Caseplace: Teams, Not Stars, Are the Key to High Performance

Of course, if you can hire rock stars who are great team players, that’s the best of both worlds! However, in my experience, the personalities who gravitate toward building a “star brand” for themselves are generally the antithesis of team players. C’est la guerre.

I’m looking forward to growing Glacier Peak and adding quality team members to the mix, because there is nothing more satisfying than results that a small group of talented and highly motivated people can produce who are kicking ass, taking names and producing great products together.