It was 1997 the players had come over to my house for a game of TORG. (West End Games). I was running a one shot in the MicroCosum of Orrish. A Victorian Horror reality where the monsters were supposed to scare you before they ripped to pieces. I really wanted to impress the players by doing something different. I had recently picked up from the store software that would allow me to edit sound (Yes they were not standard on Packard Bell computers and downloading software was still sci-fi).
In Torg one of the warnings that reality is changing on you is a storm. (Look up Storm Knights). Once reality changed some of the key things that you depend on such as physics may not work in your favor. (such as your gun no longer being able to fire because it's tech level Was 1983, not 1883.... Go read TORG)
I had gathered up as many Wav files as I could find.
- Owls hooting
- Light rain
- something scurrying on the floor
- a wolf howl
- Thunder and lighting.
I had mixed this all together giving a Night soundscape that lasted for about an hour. (by the way, that size of a file back in that day crashed my computer exporting it to WAV. ) The rain would start off soft and slowly build over the first 10 min or so. From there I slowly added some of the other noises like the Wolf and the Owl. I had an audio queue of the owl hooting twice to warn me what was coming up next. this told me that I would have 10 min to start building the suspense. In the story, I had one of the NPCs leave the house to fix the electrical generator for the third time. I let room get really quite then
Wow was it really loud.
All the players jumped including the player who is always bragging that he himself is fearless. (He actually screamed like a child) Rest of the adventure the players were on their toes. I had changed the mood from a joking bunch of comedians who would fit better in Ghostbusters than the exorcist. Into something more serious to fit the mood of the game.
Audio Resources for Gamemasters
As a Gamemaster I am always looking for new ways to get the players in the mood for a game. My current obsession is http://tabletopaudio.com/ as it does 98% of the mixing and the sounds for you. It is also free! I was playing with it and freaked out my dog with the Thunder noises.
If think that an App would work best for you check out https://syrinscape.com/ There is a cost for this but I am told that its worth it. I have used the free version and I Can see why there is a cost. They have worked very hard on this app.
Making your own soundscapes
Start off by going to Freesound and download some sounds for free. I have a ton of these on my hard drive.
Next check out programs like Garageband or Audacity . They are both free
Rules for making soundscapes
- Remember that it's about ambient sounds. Opening up an app just to make the sound of a lightsaber is disruptive and will annoy your players.
- The sound clips should not be too repetitive. Make sure that your soundscape is at least 10 min long otherwise it will be like playing the same song over and over again.
- Less is more.. The sounds and music should b
- You should always be able to talk over the sounds even if the sounds are of battle. It's better to have no sound than sound you have to shout over (unless that is what you are trying to do... though the neighbors may not like you)
- Be careful of timing. In the example above I had a lot of FLUFF Role playing and interactions planned. So I could interrupt at any moment. If there were to be any action during that time I would have just shut down the sounds.
- If you are recording a podcast be careful many of these sounds are protected by copyright (though free sound project is not a problem)
- If you have to pick between being a GM or a sound tech always pick the GM. I have been in a game where we waited 20 min for the GM to figure out why the sound was coming out of the wrong speaker.
- For the love of THACO never make noises for every action. The sound effects should add to the experience not be one in itself. It's annoying for video games tabletop its even worse.