A Better Game - Audio-enhanced Tabletop RPGs
This week's entry is from Patrick Taylor of StoryWeaver, known for lots of quality game products including a series of audio files meant to enhance your tabletop RPG experience.
Audio-enhanced Tabletop RPG's
Before I dive into this article, I want to ask you a question... do you think that computer RPG's have it all over the traditional tabletop games? What with their sound effects, a tight musical score, and animated graphics? Well, as Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang said, tabletop RPG's have 'the best video card in the world, the imagination.' But what about sound? Can that be improved on? Well the answer from everyone here at StoryWeaver is an unqualified 'YES.'
The Soundtrack of Our [Roleplaying] Lives
Apple were the first to suggest that we could all have a 'soundtrack for our lives,' by taking our favorite tracks with us on an iPod. But what about our Characters' lives? Well, we can't have every player broadcasting a different tune during a game and still hear ourselves think, but we can have one player, with an interest in the music, in charge of the game's soundtrack.
This can be easily done using movie scores; picking from tracks that match what the action is at the time. Creepy music for sneaking through those sewers, or investigating that derelict mansion. Epic music for those high adventure moments. Fighting music for those important battle scenes, and tense music for when it's do-or-die time!
It doesn't have to always be music either. General ambiance tracks, such as the tracks we supply with and for StoryWeaver products, called Soundscapes, can really add to a game. Take the free adventure we published for the release of Hael, calledBurning Bridges. It was set on the bridge joining the two largest continents of Hael, linking the northern and southern sides of the city of Crossplains. This particular bridge is part of the markets/business district, and as such would have many street vendors hawking their wears and elaborating their virtues. Daeorcs, Yeana, and untamed barbarians wandering about talking and haggling, and the other general sounds of commerce fading into the background of the swelling water below. To bring this to life we included a Soundscape track to loop-play during the outdoor scenes in this area, and it really does make a difference for bringing to life that play area.
Likewise, 'spacy' music for Sci-Fi games, or modern music for a more modern setting can really bring that game to life, and if the background sounds of that area are included too... you are one step closer to being there!
Getting the Soundscapes and music where you want them, when you want them, can be a handful if you are also GM'ing. This is why a volunteer player from your group, with a good set of audio/music files - or the files provided with StoryWeaver adventures - can be a big help. If the GM sets up the files they want played in the type of scene with the volunteer beforehand, they can use Winamp on a PC laptop to repeat a single audio track that fits the scene over and over until the action changes to requires a new one (you set this up in the 'repeat preferences'). If you are an Apple person, you can use individual playlists with only one track and set them to repeat, choosing a new, single-track playlist when the action changes. You then put these in a playlist folder and you have functionally the same setup as on the PC. You can also do this on an iPod, iPhone or iPad, although it is a bit clunkier.
Audio SFX - Have Some Fun With It
You can also bring audio effects to your gaming table. There are plenty of apps out there for smartphones and tablets that give you sound boards to surprise your players (or your GM!) when the action is happening. They range from modern, to historical, 30's gangster, sci-fi, and even zombie sounds. Also, when the bullets start to fly, there are a plethora of weapon soundboards, from swords clanging, to firearms blazing, to futuristic weapons discharging, as well as explosions, and let's not forget the evergreen "lightsaber" sounds! These can all help bring your battles to life.
Also, if you can't find a soundboard that contains the sounds that fit your game, you can actually make your own. With an app like Smule's MadPad HD for the iPad, you can record the sounds you want from almost anywhere, and them play them back at the appropriate time. If you put that tiny bit of effort in up front, it really can put smiles on your friend's faces around the gaming table.
So have fun with your imagination, and give it a helping-hand with the right sounds that add to your games and make them even more fun to play!