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Tabletop Audio
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Audio ambiences for tabletop role-playing games
Audio ambiences for tabletop role-playing games

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I've implemented a new feature on the Custom SoundPad that I hope you'll find useful. It's similar to the text filtering on the home page, but instead of a living keyword dictionary for each sound, it just filters by title.

For instance, if you type in 'rain', it shows you all the sounds, across all the SoundPads, that contain 'rain' in it. Remember, it's not search, so it will also return (as above) the sound 'Toy Trains' as the letters r-a-i-n are present. (And, when I make a sound called 'monkey brains' a 'rain' search will return that too! )

This is not meant to be a full featured keyword search, but a simple shortcut method of finding sounds by name.

I know quite a few of you have been asking for this for a while and I hope this works for you.

As usual, whenever I finish 3 days of code writing (I know, I'm slow) I'm dying to get back to audioland. So that's where I'm heading. Well, maybe not tonight :)

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This one started out from a field recording I did at Grand Central Terminal in NYC while waiting for a train. As I was standing in the main hallway (I was the tall guy with headphones, holding a field recorder and trying not to look suspicious to all the armed soldiers) I kept thinking about how I would use the sound of this huge, bustling reverberant space on Tabletop Audio.
I started thinking about scifi sounds, because, well - scifi. But really because so much of scifi audio tends to be empty and devoid of people. Which of course is totally cool, but it really doesn't have to be. I love the idea of a bustling space station at the crossroads of multiple civilizations. A place that's wide open. A place for buyers, sellers and travelers of all stripes.

Truth be told, Orbital Promenade is only really moderately scifi. If I didn't have the excellent orbital colony image by Yutaabe (http://yutaabe.deviantart.com/gallery/) you could be convinced that it was a cool modern installation. The lobby of an aquarium or planetarium maybe. So that's a plus I think. Give this one a listen and put it on whenever you need to be in a crowd. Or alone in a crowd. 

Frequent visitors to the site may notice that I’ve done a bit of a spruce-up with the graphics. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for the longest time but as there’s an endless list of things to be done, graphics and tedious CSS tweaking always seem to take a back seat. The new updates are nothing fancy, I just think the new logo and dragon image look a little bit cleaner.

More importantly I’m experimenting with a new text filtering system for the main page. As you can see above, there’s a new text input element on the genre filter bar:

I should point out straight away that this is not search, it’s a live text filter. The idea is that while the genre filters might get you most of the way to finding the sound you want, there are better descriptive means of finding it. For instance, the title!

When text is entered into the input field it will attempt a match after every keystroke. This means you most likely won’t have to ever type in the full word. For instance, let’s say I want to see all the ‘tavern‘ sounds. I’ll type in ‘t-a-v..’ and by this point, it’s already returned anything with a t-a-v in it.

Obviously, this has some downsides. It will also return words like: (I’m making these up) ‘tavelon’, ‘ratavistic’ and ‘scultavious’. But you get the point. Have I mentioned it’s not search? It’s live text filtering.

So, now if you’re willing, I could use your help. I’m not trying to make this a definative index of terms, but I would like to know what words you might add that would aid you in finding sounds you need. If you type something in, and expected to get a sound or sounds back, let me know what that word was.

I’ve added some game suggestions from Bart Quicho’s excellent "Game Enhancing Music Geeklist" over on Board Game Geek. E.g. You can type ‘Le Havre‘ and it will return ‘Docks District‘. Entering ‘Ticket to Ride‘ (actually just ‘Ticket‘) will return both “The Age of Steam” and “Strangers on a Train“. I think you get the picture

We’ll have to see how overcrowded things get of course. I really don’t want to add “Dungeons & Dragons“, for instance, as arguably the entire site could be used for this. It also shouldn’t replace the already helpful genre buttons – although these are mirrored in the text filter, so e.g. typing ‘scifi‘ will return the same items that the ‘scifi‘ genre button does.

Hopefully this feature will evolve over time and become more useful as the site grows and the dictionary improves.

Tim

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Well, for those of you who have told me I can never make enough taverns, here's a somewhat different take. Wild West Saloon. Much like the venerable fantasy tavern, the western saloon was the social and business hub of any frontier town. It was always the first place you stopped to see what was what.

Whiskey, women, work, word from back east, the saloon had it all. It even had that guy in the corner banging out tunes on a 'rickety ol' pianer'.

This here saloon's on the friendly side of don't-mess-with-me. And by that I mean, the whiskey ain't got much water in it, the ladies bathe once in awhile and the food won't kill ya.

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This new track, 747 Interior, would definitely classify as a utility ambience in that it doesn't evoke the same movie for the mind quality that some sounds do. However, it is still quite useful, especially if your story unfolds at 30,000 feet.

With these types of sounds I tend to fight against myself a lot. I always start off adding way too much, and then gradually pairing it down. In an early version I had a stewardess thanking everyone for flying "Tabletop Airways"! Can you imagine hearing that every 10 minutes? Yeah. No.

This track will work equally well in retro and modern settings as the sounds really haven't changed that much. I left out the annoying guy next you, hogging the arm rest while Kid Rock leaks out of his earbuds. You're welcome.

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We just got hammered with a nasty March blizzard here in NYC and this time of year that always stings. So, to fight the protracted winter blues I decided to work on something that evoked warm weather.

The travelling Carnival is a classic theme. Some call it a fair, or an amusement park, but I always thought that the term carnival implied transience - here today, gone tomorrow. Rides, cotton candy, food on sticks. It brings back such vivid memories of childhood.

I wanted to place this carnival any time in the last 100 years, so the music is old, but wouldn't be too out of place today.

I have an older ambience called Abandoned Fair which might work well as a creepy before/after combination. It all depends on what you're going for!

Hope this finds its way into your stories! -Tim

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The Western, as a genre is an integral part of America's cultural DNA. Images of wide open spaces, endless skies, lawless towns and frontier justice invoke the same sense of mystery and adventure that sailing adventures did a century before. We're so enamored with these themes that we've combined them with every other genre and created an endless number of sub-genres. Western horror, Western comedy, sci-fi Westerns, cyberpunk Westerns. The list is endless.

Because of this there is nothing that we can't 'make Western' by the addition of a few well placed touchstones. Space exploration is 'Western' in that it's a dangerous journey to the unknown. Add dusty leathers to the crew and give the captain a down-home twang and you've got Joss Whedon's Firefly. Add buckets of blood and you've got everything Cormac McCarthy ever wrote. Add robots and you've got Westworld. Add Zombies and you've got Red Dead Redemption, whose opening theme gave me the inspiration for this track.

I wanted to create a musical track that had a Western vibe, but wasn't a Morricone soundalike. (I adore Morricone, for the record). Also, one of the things that I never get to do in commercial projects is play live instruments. Given time and budgets I would but the reality is that revisions, timing adjustments for new picture, more revisions, means that live performance is just impractical.

So here's my ode to the dark Western genre. Lonesome West is a 10 minute, meditative piece for (mostly) piano and violin. (Yes, that's me playing the violin). There's enough ambience here to place you in the West if you want, but you could really take this anywhere.

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I finally read Joe Haldeman's excellent Forever War last week. Plus, I've been watching the new season of The Expanse, so naturally it was time for a sci-fi ambience.
I took my cue from the classic - "we've lost contact with the outpost! " trope and went from there. Lunar Outpost is a suspenseful , damaged wreck of an installation. Wires hanging from the ceiling, intermittent power and all manner of things fritzing out.

Although I think the overall vibe of this one is suspenseful, I think it would work well for horror games as well. As always, I'd love to hear how you use it.

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The new musical track Weirder Things is either a shameless rip-off, or a sincere homage, you'll have to decide for yourselves. But know this! I grew up in the 80s. I went to middle school and high school in the 80s and I played D&D in the 80s, so I'm voting for homage!

Like many of you, the brilliant Netflix show, Stranger Things captivated me and brought me back to that decade in the best way. I wanted to write a 10 minute track that took the simple synth arpeggio that defines the original and just riff on it. I even got to work 'outside the box' for once, which means I used a few real live synths that I had to physically patch in to my computer (with cables!). Sorry about all the exclamation marks..

I did do a few iterations of this. One of them had bicycle sound effects running through it. Another had a Ronald Reagan speech in the middle, the one where he muses about an alien force invading earth so our countries would unite against a common foe (google it!). In the end I decided that a purely musical track would be more useful as a backdrop for whatever game you wanted to play.

This was a challenging (mix-wise) piece to produce but lots of fun as well. Hope you enjoy it.

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Just a quick note to let you know that all the sounds from the lastest SoundPad, Combat:Future, have been added to the Custom SoundPad tool. You can finally use your blaster weapons in the Dark Forest!

Additionally I've made a few tweaks to the Custom SoundPad code:

- The global fade-in parameter for the sounds has been tweaked to allow me to customize the fade on a sound by sound basis. I noticed this as I was making blaster shots which lasted for 1 second - but had a 1 second fade in!

-The total number of sounds you can load has been increased from 24 to 32. This limitation was originally imposed because of the possibility of crashing browsers (usually mobile) by loading too many sounds. Since I haven't had any reports of crashes I decided to increase the total number. Let me know how this works out for you.

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