Many gamemasters, myself included, like to spice up their roleplaying sessions with background music and sound effects. I’ve been finding quite a few examples of both in the bricked-up library, so I thought I would put them into a big pile, give them all a listen, and share my reviews for anyone who might find them useful for their games.

Toxic Bag’s Game Masters Collection is a series of sound effects arranged in several themed volumes. I’m going to tackle the first three in this post, and cover the rest in future posts.

Volume One: The Twentieth Century is a collection of ambient sound tracks and individual sound effects for contemporary RPGs.

The ambient sound tracks are full and rich – “1930s/40s Swing Club” features three minutes of crowd noise and jazz music, with laughing patrons, clinking glasses, and cigarette girls in the foreground. The “1950s Corner Gin Joint” track features the sounds of a pool match, a radio broadcast of a baseball game, and some background conversation, and the 1960s Go-Go Club, 1970s Disco, and 1990s Industrial Bar are just as full and rich. Each track clocks in at around three minutes.

Other goodies in this set include: a noisy, staticy morse code message (I’m tempted to try to translate it), calm and panicked distress calls with lots of dropouts and static, an emergency broadcast message announcing the declaration of martial law (thousands of uses!), an evil genius headquarters and mad scientist lab, a cave, a sewer, a couple of different cities, and several different types of gunfire.  Most tracks seem to run around a minute and a half long, with the ambient tracks running closer to three minutes, and the sound effects (like gunfire) clocking in at less than half a minute.

Some of the background tracks don’t work quite as well when looped. The Swing Club track, for example, fades in as the house band is in the middle of a song, and fades out the same way. I feel this track might have worked better if it were a bit longer, and included three complete songs (that would make the track seem less repetitious to the players if their characters are spending a lot of time in that particular scene).  Some of the other tracks have a long period of silence after the fadeout, which would create a noticeable hole in the effects if it was being looped. This could be somewhat remedied by playing the tracks more quietly (at the risk of losing some of the nuances), or more technically adept gamemasters could use an audio editing program to remove the silence and make their own extended versions of the tracks.

All in all, it’s a quality package for a reasonable price.

Volume Two: Monsters is a collection of sixty three creature sounds and noises ranging from bugs, cats, and snakes to aliens, undead, sea monsters, and demons.

Many of the effects here are very easy to repurpose. The Dimensional Beast, for example, could easily be used as a malfunctioning robot or distorted radio message, if you don’t happen to have a place for a Dimensional Beast in your scenario, and anyone with access to some audio editing software and even a modicum of skill could combine two or more of these tracks into something perfectly suited for their needs.

Most of the tracks run less than thirty seconds, with some of the more simple sound effects clocking in at between :10 and :15.  Some of the effects are a bit campy, but intentionally so (such as the “Polly Playtime” doll and one of the zombie tracks) which means that GMs looking for humorous and/or cheesy sound effects will find something of use here as well.

Volume Three: Fantasy features – you guessed it – fantasy themed sound effects and ambient background effects. This collection boasts fifty six tracks, with over a third of them battle themed – arrow hits and flybys, sword draws and clashes, and outdoor and dungeon skirmishes.

Other audio goodies include a royal fanfare, some orcs grunting and talking, a bit of gregorian chant (with some nice reverb effect to make it sound like it’s happening in a monastery), a church service, a few spells being cast and some dragon noises, to name a few – all of which could find a place in any good fantasy campaign.

As with the other volumes in this series, the ambient tracks (like the Busy City, Smithy, and Enchanted Forest) suffer from long stretches of silence at the end, which isn’t a problem when the tracks are played once, but will create a noticeable hole in the sound if they are looped during longer scenes in the game. This could be resolved by playing the sounds at a lower level, or using an audio program to trim out the silence and maybe even extend the entire duration of the file through cutting and pasting.

That’s it for this batch. Keep your ears peeled for my next batch of RPG music and sound effects!