Setting the Mood – Sound Effects

When running any RPG tabletop game, I’m a big believer in using as many tools as you can to draw your players into the world. When I ran a Star Wars RPG, I created a “title crawl” matching the feel and style of the movies beat for beat; as a way to introduce the story, and get the players in the right head space. I’ve used candlelight as a way introduce a more immersive experience; the shadows jumping across the walls serving to mimic the torchlight their characters use to illuminate the dark dungeon corridors. I enlist my 3D printer to make dungeon tiles, scenery pieces, and props. However, for my money, the best “bang for your buck” you can add to the table is: sound.

Music is the first step, and the easiest to bring to the table. Everyone has a smartphone. Most have access to vast libraries of music thanks to services like Spotify, Pandora, Google Music, Amazon Prime Music, even YouTube. Finding the music you’re looking for, and having it accessible at the table requires a bit of doing. That, however, is a topic for another post.

Today I’ll be focusing on sound effects. I’ve got a long history working with sound. My undergraduate degree is in audio engineering. I’ve used plenty of “sound libraries” and done my share of foley work. I never really considered bringing any of that experience to the table for my RPG sessions before a couple years ago.

It was the last day of GenCon 2015. I was walking the floor with my best friend and my sister. We were walking past a booth that, honestly, I’d skipped a couple times already. Today, however, my attention was immediately engaged by a lively Australian man. He offered to show me Syrinscape. It turns out this man was Benjamin Loomes, the creator of Syrinscape. He introduced me to this brilliant tool. It put sound at my fingertips in a wholly intuitive way.

Instead of individual sound effects that I had to trigger (though there are plenty of those “one shots” built-in to the app), Syrinscape is built around the idea of “moods.” Moods are collections of sounds running on loops with variable repeat timers. You simply push the button for “spooky forest” and you’re treated to the sounds of an eerie wind, rustling trees, crows, a wolf howling in the distance, and ghostly voices. Honestly, it’s like having an audio engineer at your side. You’re the producer/director and it’s his job to set the (audio) stage.

I use a tablet connected to a bluetooth speaker to bring this to the table. From the first time I used it, my players absolutely loved it. The addition of sounds effects really helps me draw them into the scene; whether it’s a cheerful bar, a dank dungeon, or a wind-whipped mountain pass. Syrinscape seems to have a soundset for everything I’d need. There is even a way to create your own moods, so you can mix in those tavern sounds with a wolf howling in the distance, maybe a dragon roar, or screaming villagers (suffice it to say I’d stay INSIDE this particular tavern – it sounds pretty rough out there).

There are plenty of different ways to bring sound effects to your table, but for ease of use coupled with sheer enormity of options, you can’t go wrong with Syrinscape.

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One thought on “Setting the Mood – Sound Effects

  1. I’m not super experienced with table top gaming and have really only run a few games, but I think it’s super exciting stuff if you have a good group. Mine was full of would-be actors who really played up their roles. I can only imagine how fun it would have been with additional sound effects.

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