We reached out to the Syrinscape team, and they gave us free access to their fantasy player for a year so we could tell you more about it.
Jonathan and I are really into immersion at the gaming table: the more epic and sensory we can make the experience, the better.
They answer this question really well, so we’ll let them take the reins here first:
Beautiful, immersive, dynamic music and sound effects for your favorite tabletop games.”– from the Syrinscape homepage
There are two different ways of adding Syrinscape to your D&D table.
Both of the links below take you to the download page. If you want to go the free route or if you want to try it out first, which we always recommend when possible, after you download the fantasy player app, you can activate your ten free tracks.
Test it out for a few sessions and see what you think, and then you can either add a monthly subscription or buy individual tracks later!
The free version of the Syrinscape Fantasy player gives you access to ten diverse tracks that can be used in a wide variety of in-game situations. My personal favorite of these is the “Red Dragon City Raid” which takes you from an innocent city going about its business one morning through a red dragon attack and dealing with the smoldering remains afterward!
Similar to Spotify or other monthly music subscription service, you can opt for access to all of Syrinscape’s fantasy and D&D soundtracks for $7.15/month.
Quick note for the sake of clarity: At the time of writing, these payments are made every two months for $14.30.
One of my favorite aspects of the Syrinscape Fantasy player is that each soundtrack is set up to tell a story. Innocuous yet mood-setting opening tracks can give way with the touch of a box to a dangerous plot escalation.
Each set of soundtracks has an array of sounds included for the different parts of the story. You can turn on or mute particular tracks or change their volume.
If you’re like us and have a dog who is easily upset by bird calls, for instance, you can turn them off while maintaining the rest of the ambiance.
Additionally, each track has special effect buttons along the side. In “Lycanthrope Stalker,” for example, you can press a button and add a clap of thunder or a distant howl to increase the tension in a particular moment.
In almost any type of D&D, the DM is going to have a lot to manage. In one-on-one D&D, however, they have the additional problem of no tiny break moments while players RP with one another.
Because of this lack of in-game downtime, we recommend at least trying out having the player be the one who runs the soundtrack for your sessions. (You can read more about that here.)
With Syrinscape, the player can pick out a mood in advance, such as the “Witchwood” soundtrack, based on the DM’s chosen starting location, and if something changes drastically mid-session, they can always change it while their DM adjusts as well.
Syrinscape is the first official sound-provider of D&D! If you’re playing through Waterdeep: Dragon Heist like we are, for instance, there are sound settings created for different narrative moments and locations in the official storyline!
We hope this has given you plenty to think about for immersive sound at your gaming table! I know that we’ve recommend other sites in the past, and we would encourage you to try out all the different options to see what works best for you.
The biggest issue we’ve run across with any of the RPG sound systems is compatibility with our different technologies and how much space we have on our gaming table. At present, we use a mix of Syrinscape and Spotify when we’re gaming and really like the flexibility this provides.
Thanks for the question, Emmett. This question is a great follow up to our last question where we talk about tech at the table. In that, I note how technology can be fabulous for adding ambiance to your game night.
What are some apps or techniques for playing music/sound effects while GMing?
Emmett’s question is about using music and sound during an RPG. I’m going to expand on that a bit and look at using sound and music during any game night, not just for RPGs.
In addition to reading below, please check out Epsiode 8 – Can You Hear Me Now? of our podcast where Sean and I cover this topic.
Disclosure: Some links in this post are Amazon or iTunes affiliate links. As an Amazon and iTunes associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
My number one recommendation for a Games Master looking to add both some background noise and sound effects to their roleplaying game is Syrinscape.
Syrinscape is multi-platform software for Windows, Mac, Android and/or iOS. It’s a mix of ambient noise mixer and soundboard and comes in three different flavours. You can get one for Fantasy, one for Sci-Fi and a newer one for Board Games. Obviously, the first two are going to be the most useful for RPGs.
Each one of these comes with a pretty large number of different soundscapes. For example, the Sci-Fi player comes with Shipboard and Blaster Battle. Each soundscape has a selection of ambient noises. Each of these can be toggled on or off and has a slider for volume. Now you can trigger these yourself or pick one of the pre-set options. These change the volume and frequency of the different sounds, each giving a very different feel while using the same set of basic sounds. For example “In Space Port” has mid-range music, very few droid bleeps, normal engine hum, and systems hum but lots of ships fly by and other strange sounds. In addition to the mixer, you also get a soundboard with buttons that set off thematic sounds. For the Shipboard set, you have things like Alert Sounds, Scanners and A Distress Signal.
One thing I really like about Syrinscape over other ambient sound generators that I’ve tried is that it is designed to never repeat or loop, so you never have that feeling that there’s an artificial soundtrack playing. It fades into the background quickly. You can try Syrinscape for free but to get the full software you do have to pay. There are a few different pay models, which include paying per soundscape or by subscription. I personally think this software is worth supporting, it’s that well done.
So as to not leave the board game fans out, Syrinscape has you covered too. Just check out the Catan Soundscape in the Board Game version of the software and you will see how much this tool can add to your game. I love the fact that it has a progressive soundtrack that you advance as people build more cities on the board. It’s actually rather cool.Read the rest of the article...
I think that’s why some people get such a thrill out of tabletop gaming, a hobby that I never had the time to invest in but one that seems rather fascinating. On top of spending time with friends and learning new ways to communicate with them, you also get to hone and challenge your imagination to take the bare minimum of visuals and create something epic and grandiose in your mind. But what will ultimately be lacking with such a situation is the absence of audio cues and aural stimulation. That is Syrinscape comes in.
Syrinscape is a free app that allows users to load sound designs that relate to the style of game you’re playing. Are you venturing into a mystical and fantastical land? There are packages dedicated to making sure the tavern is raucous, the forests enchanting, and the mines eerie! What if you’re taking on an alien race intent on eradicating your species? You can get access to SoundSets that mimic lightsword fights, space battles, and extraterrestrial worlds.
The app allows you to control multiple elements of a SoundSet, so you’re not just hitting ‘Play’ on one track and then listening to it on loop until you move to the next area. By fading in elements while fading out others, every step of your journey can sound unique and engaging.
Today, we’ve got an interview with Benjamin Loomes, who is the creator of SyrinScape. We spoke about the origins of SyrinScape, the challenges of creating these SoundSets, and a lot more! Check out our interview below!
To learn more about Syrinscape, head on over to their official website. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re interested in checking out a pack, I highly recommend the Cthulhu Rises DoomPack, which is probably for very obvious reasons!
Dread Central: The concept of Syrinscape is so simple and yet so brilliant. Tell me a bit about how Syrinscape came to be and how it’s evolved since its inception?
Benjamin Loomes: While I have always been a gamer, I have also worked my whole life as a composer, singer and pianist, and as a lover or good movies and computer games, I always found it strange that music and sound were missing from my tabletop games. I started using music CDs and computer game soundtracks and things like that to create a bit of ambiance for my players and they loved it. Pretty quickly I was making 15 minute recordings complete with environmental sound design and they were pretty cool. But the problem with these was that they started getting repetitive very quickly, especially in roleplay games where you can stay in a single location for one or two hours. So by the ninth time you hear the same distinctive bird call and market vendor shouting his prices in exactly the same order every time, you start to notice those patterns.
The human brain is designed to notice patterns. We actively seek relationships and causality effects, the ear gets pulled to these and distracted. And suddenly, instead of immersing the players, you are pulling them out of the action. Like the sounds in a movie, tabletop sound should subliminally affect the emotional state of the audience, and give them emotional cues, and this can be a powerful thing.
So I started making longer and longer recordings, but it just wasn’t working right for me. So I thought, surely a computer is good at this sort of thing, at random playing a sound from a pool and then randomly choosing another sample and waiting a randomised amount of time. Doing a whole lot of simultaneous tasks, together and independently. So I wrote a really simple version of Syrinscape in Python, and that work pretty well. I shared that online in 2009, and people just went mental for it. They wanted it on their iPad, or Android, and all sorts of other devices.
About 4 years ago we released a full blown professional version of the Syrinscape Player, just like the original, but super-powered. With the most recent versions of Syrinscape, you can create a set of samples yourself, bring them into the app, control when and where they appear in the aural landscape, set the direction, distance and even apply Doppler effect and reverb, all dynamically and easily. You can even keep the “Wilhelm Scream” close to hand, in case of Character Death, because important things are important.
DC: One would think that traditional compositions would simply be music. However, you’re creating something far more immersive. What are the challenges in creating these sound packs?
BL: Always in our mind when we are mixing audio is immersion. Getting players to forget they are in the real world and become entranced by the story that is being told is all about making the as natural, normal and real as possible, which is particularly fun, when that ‘real’ sound it the sounds of a Goblin being eaten by a Dragon! I am frequently impressed with just how ‘wrong’ audio sounds until you get it just right, and then all the distractions slip away and everything sounds natural. Yes, there really is an uncanny valley for audio mixing as well.
Whether we are building the sound of a 7 foot tall ooze who wants to dissolve your brain or actual Cthulhu coming out of the sea, there’s always a way to do it. We spend our days trolling books and Youtube and friend’s brains for ideas about how to create this stuff. A pretty fun job actually.
What is great, is once you’ve got the source material, then you just hand it to the Syrinscape machine and it takes care of everything else, of mixing the sounds together, of positioning them spatially and ‘immersing’ the disparate elements in the acoustic, so everything blends together just perfectly, as long as your set the parameters just right, that is!
DC: How do you strike a balance between “that’s too little to convey the right atmosphere” and “that’s too much and will overwhelm players”?
BL: Tabletop Roleplaying is most importantly a social game. I want more people to play the Social Games I enjoy. I want people to enjoy these games more, be immersed more, moved more, thrilled more. I want to make Social Gaming a better experience for all those who are brave enough to play. That’s actually specifically why I created Syrinscape. Using Syrinscape to manage the sounds and music at my table allows me to keep my attention focused on my players, while keeping the attention of the players well and truly focused on the game. Game Masters already operate on overload and anything that makes their job easier is good. That’s why so many people streaming live games on Twitch and YouTube are using Syrinscape now: Matt Mercer of Critical Role and the lovely people from the Glass Cannon Podcast to name just two great shows.
As for the sounds themselves, we just make a movie soundtrack. Movie music has a few peculiar traits that make them perfect for movies and not so good at actually attracting and holding your attention. Movie music has no lyrics, this is really important, and I’m sure I don’t need to go into that one too much, but you’ll also notice that movie music lacks any kind of very dominant foreground element. So there’s not a lead singer, but there’s also not a virtuoso, attention seeking violinist either. Movie music and sounds servers the image and story. It focuses the viewer’s attention on the drama, so for us at Syrinscape it’s the same. As we are creating sound, anything that draws the players into the game stays, and anything else falls to the cutting room floor, no matter how fun it is… well except for the “Sad Trombone” sound… sometimes Players roll 1s, don’t they?
DC: For each genre of tabletop RPGs, there needs to be the right kind of atmosphere. After all, a fantasy pack probably won’t work in a horror session. How do you get in the right mindset to compose for the various genres out there?
BL: I am very cued by visual art. And we at Syrinscape have been very lucky to have access to some of the greatest Fantasy and Sci-Fi Artists in the world. When we are building official Pathfinder content I read the adventure text (which often specifically mentions what the characters hear), but I also simply look at the art. That get’s my imagination going. When we are building our own, non licenced content we use our fantastic local artist Arianne Elliott and she inspires without fail, and recently I’ve been getting to immerse myself in the amazing art of Remko Troost as we build the fantastic audio content for the launch of Starfinder! People are going to love the game and our sounds are going to blow people away!
DC: What are some of your favorite sound pack/game combinations?
BL: This is like being asked to pick my favorite child! Let’s see… I am particularly proud of “Red Dragon City Raid” because the dragon sounds so huge and mean (and I know that his growl is sourced originally from my lovely tenor voice). We built that Dragon for “Rise of the Runelords”, the very first piece of licenced content we made with Paizo. I love Gil Luna’s work in the “Car Chase 1920” because it sounds just exactly like an old fashioned movie, and I love the big Starships in the Sci-Fi Player because their guns sound epic. We played a game of Numenera the other night and it was fun combining SoundSets from both the Sci-Fi Player and Fantasy Player to create the weird, spooky blend of Fantasy Horrors and tech that make up that atmospheric world. I could go on… but suffice to say the stuff I’m most excited about right now are the amazing sounding Starfinder Starships and all of their epic sounding weapons. They go BOOOOOM!