Disclaimer: I am not an professional sound editor or native English speaker. Some terms might have been used wrongly.
How to use material here to create ambient background soundscapes
-When creating soundscape avoid packing too much tracks on just one frequency area or your hearing is not able to separate between the sounds. Example of bad combination: thunderstorm, heavy engine and explosions.
-Try to compile ambience tracks so that they utilize all of three general frequencies:
Low: Booms, heavy things
Medium: Human speech
High: Beeps, chirps, small things
-Ambience sound should stay on background during the game session so that players do not need to raise up their voices. This is tool of subliminal mood building where sounds can mainly be heard when players are nor speaking.
-Short singular sounds can be used on much higher volume than ambient ones during gameplay. Doing it simultaneously when player throws a dice gives extra immersion to skill check.
-Changing relative volume of tracks during gameplay makes sounds to come closer or go farther depending on how you change volume levels of independent tracks.
Sound speed and pitch
-With YouTube and sound editor it is possible to change speed of track and it’s pitch.
-Slowing down or lowering pitch on some tracks (test this on half speed) makes them sound of alien language or something weird instead of what it originally sounded of. It also makes sound source of any track to sound more larger as slower the track gets.
-With speeding up some tracks same happens as with slowing down but to other direction. Higher the frequency (increasing pitch) track has smaller the object on it sounds (test this on double speed).
Track, ambience and singular
-Track refers to single sound file, either stream from YouTube or downloaded MP3 file.
-Ambience refers to combination of tracks that are part of particular scene and are constantly running on a loop on background.
-Singular refers to track that GM is able to launch quickly on top of ambience.
-Are you GM or DJ. In my opinion it is more important to run a good social game than try to reach the perfect background sound. This is supplemental tool for game sessions and not an stage for cranky DJ egos.
-If several different soundscapes are needed during the game session then it is better to do some work beforehand. Create ready MP3 file/s of ambience soundtracks beforehand as transition from one scene to an another can be instant with pre-made tracks.
Lazy persons soundscape creation by YouTube
- Open required amount of YouTube pages on your web browser.
- Open wanted ambient and singular sounds from YouTube pages.
- Pre-adjust each of YouTube page’s sound volume to suit your soundscape.
- Put ambience sounds on a loop and singular sounds ready and paused.
- When soundscape is ready, set it to mute from your computer volume control and just let the soundscape loop on.
- When players have arrived and are ready to start the game just unmute your computer and keep ambience running through whole game session.
- Use singular sound/s during game as needed.
-Plusses: Easy to set up
-Minuses: Requires internet connection, prone to browser crashes, if several soundscapes are needed during session change from one to a another is slow.
In depth soundscape creation
-If you plan to use several different soundscapes during game session this approach makes it fast and easy compared to YouTube method.
–Download required sound tracks as MP3 from YouTube and edit them by using Mixer or Multi-track editor.
-Plusses: When work is done you do not need internet connection during the gameplay, you have better control of volume levels of tracks (and reverb, pitch, etc), possibility to edit downloaded tracks, larger sound libraries available as you are able to snip required parts from “effect bundles” available on YouTube, fast transitions between premade soundscapes during gameplay is easy.
-Minuses: You need to learn to use mixer/editor and you have to download sound library to your computer.
Examples of easy YouTube soundscapes
My first idea of soundscape to use during RPG game was set on WWI trenches.
Ambience: Constant rainfall and distant explosions.
Singular: Infantry charge is used each time character started their attack.
Imperial guard jungle operation:
This was developed for game set on a jungle planet where the players had characters of Imperial guard heavy weapon team.
Ambience: Either Jungle day or Jungle night depending of the time of a day at the game.
Singular: Autocannon (used by player characters during their heavy weapon shooting actions) and Constant warfare (Continuously on during endgame after enemy reaches the lines Imperial Guard is holding).
Following ones are latest ideas that I have been designing for my current WH 40K campaign:
Imperial frigate bridge:
Ambience: Millenium falcon engine, Factory sounds and Beeping machinery
Singular: Battle ambience distant (during inevitable void combat), Small arms fire (if star vessel is boarded during void combat), Nuclear alarm (if star vessel receives critical hit during void combat).
Lair of the heretical cult:
Ambience: Cave with dripping water, Beeping machinery, Bubbling in a cave and Demonic whispers
Singular: Demonic chorus when chanting starts and Daemon of Nurgle when the daemon appears.
Daemon of Nurgle:
Ambience: Bubbling ooze, Swampy thing, Flies buzzing and monster sounds
Singular: Godzilla breath when it launches attack with daemonic powers and Unnatural evil laugh when it is taunting the characters.