A couple of weeks ago we went to I-Con in Springfield, and ran a bunch of demos for Space Monster.
We’ll be using the feedback from these demos (and we’re getting great responses, thanks everyone!) to improve the game as we work towards publishing it. Steve (Mr. Blood) will be posting a series of After-Action reports on the demos, so you can get a sense of the game, and follow its development. The first one is on his blog.
Years ago, we took an afternoon off and shot some tongue-in-cheek commercials for our Game Masters and Battles products, as well as the DVD for the Bag Witch Project. We put ’em on a DVD and played them at the convention booths, and then kinda forgot about them.
Going through the office this week in search of something that might sound like an ejector seat, we stumbled on the master tape of those spots. Shameless goofs that we are, we put them up on our YouTube channel. No one’s seen these since GenCon 2001…enjoy!
More embarrassing old Toxic Bag vids at our YouTube channel.
1) Use your sounds to keep the game moving forward. I know it’s role playing, and the players love to make a fancy plan every time, but really, do they think that the pack of skeletons that just charged into the cave are gonna wait while the party huddles up and draws a play in the dirt? No, and you shouldn’t either! Playing the skeleton screech to signal that the fight is on can keep the action moving. Side note: our 5-minute “Self-Destruct Sequence” track from the Strange Places disc was conceived specifically for this purpose. They say they’re gonna blow up the ship on a 5-minute timer, give ‘em exactly 5 minutes to figure out their escape.
2) Don’t be afraid to replay your sounds. Gaming tables are noisy places, and some of the more subtle things can be missed. It’s not unreasonable to replay a sound (particularly the shorter ones) a time or two. On the other hand, if your party is just too noisy to hear that group of Deep Ones waddling up behind them…too bad for them.
3) Deception is key. Throughout the game, randomly take each player aside and let them listen to a sound in the headphones. These sounds can have little or nothing to do with the story (the wind blowing, or a coyote howling in the distance). This way they can grow accustomed to the headphones, but they will think that the soundfiles are just going to be a small part of the game. Then you can hit one of the players with the ghostly message or dream sequence and blow their minds – kinda like it would do in real life!
4) Volume is your friend. Beasties have indoor voices too, so don’t be afraid to play the quiet parts quiet and the loud parts loud.
5) Have fun with it. Remember, this is your story. You’re the one who spent the last few months crafting it. The soundfiles are just another tool to help you tell it. Not every sound will work exactly like you imagined it would. (in this regard they’re just like any other prop, supplement, old yellowed photo, ancient document…) All you can do is enjoy the sounds that worked well, and learn from the ones that don’t for next time.
For over 200 sounds to use in your RPG, go to toxicbag.com.
1) Be organized. This is first because it addresses the number one concern we hear from GMs when the subject of sound comes up. Go through your story beforehand, pick the sounds you want and know where/when they should come up. Make a playlist on iTunes or the Game Masters app with the sounds, in approximate order, and have your playback device close to hand so you’re not fumbling around for a sound when the moment arrives.
2) Hide the speakers. Having a sound that comes from another room, or just behind the players, can be very effective and surprising. For one game, I prepared a special soundfile with 15 minutes of silence in front, so I was able to walk across the room, sneakily hit “play,” and sit back down – and not only did the players not really take notice of what I was doing, they’d forgotten all about it by time the sound actually played.
3) Use headphones. Playing a sound for just one player is the equivalent of taking a player aside to give him proprietary information or a secret agenda. How will a character react if he’s the only one who can hear the monster?
4) Moderation. You can’t have a sound ready for every place the players go, or every thing they run into. Instead, have one or two encounters set up before hand. make them the show stoppers of the adventure. Choose the final showdown with the beastie or the first time the party meets the evil bandit king in his palace or when they find the magical sword of awesomeness. Any of these can be set piece encounters that you can really build up with sound to expand and heighten the experience.
5) Let the players know beforehand that sound is going to be a part of the game. That way, when they hear the snarling beastie noise coming from your hidden speaker (see number 2 above) they will react accordingly and not just say, “huh, cool sound.”
For over 200 sounds to use in your RPG, go to toxicbag.com.
Two of the sounds in our new Soundpack (available for the Game Masters iPhone/iPad app or as mp3 downloads) are called “Soul Gem claims a victim.” The sound is available in male-victim and female-victim varieties, in the interest of gamer equality…but what is a “Soul Gem,” and what game system uses it?
It’s whatever you want it to be, really. We conceived of a magical stone that opened a portal to some other dimension and would capture the spirit of some unlucky character, trapping it in that dimension…but of course in your game it doesn’t need to be a stone, or open up another dimension…it could just be a spell that destroys your opponent. We made a cool sound and had to call it something, and that’s what we came up with. It’s not specifically the Soul Gem from Elder Scrolls or World of Warcraft or any number of other games/comics etc. that use the term.
This is the same concept we employ on our “Monsters” and “Strange Places” effects collections as well: we made a bunch of awesome sounds for you to use for whatever you like…and we had to call them something.
“A pretty creepy collection…Made the hair on my neck stand on end…a must have!” –review of “Monsters,” Brian’s Small Press Picks, Knights of the Dinner Table
Monsters, our second volume of sound effects for role-playing games is now available for individual track download. You can download the entire disc if you like, but if all you need is the Hellhound track, you can now grab if for 49¢.
Individual track downloads are also available for Volume One: The Twentieth Century, Volume Three: Fantasy, and Battles. We’ll be adding individual downloads for Volume Four: Strange Places soon, but the full album download for that is available.
“Are you one of those DMs who can mimic a fabulous array of voices and make convincing sound effects during the game? Me, neither. For those of us with a limited vocal range, Toxic Bag Productions has come to the rescue with a series of sound effects for your roleplaying campaign.”
–Dragon Magazine #284
We try to keep the sales-y language to a minimum around here, but I’d like to announce that we’re dropping the prices of our Game Masters Collection and Battles CDs by 40%. If you buy from the Toxic Bag online store, individual Game Masters CDs (The Twentieth Century, Monsters, Fantasy and Strange Places) and the Battles CD are now $9.00, and the 4-disc Game Masters Collection is now $30.
In case you’re not familiar with the Game Masters and Battles discs:
The Game Masters Collection is a collection of unique sound effects, suited for all genre RPG and LARP games, effects for a small theatrical production, or a creepy Halloween party. These sound effects are available on four compact discs:
All four Game Masters CDs are also available (in a handsome cardboard slipcase) as the Complete Collection.
This price drop doesn’t apply to physical Toxic Bag products on Amazon.com, or to the downloadable versions of the products.
Here’s another blogger talking about using sound effects in your RPG. He raises some good logistic points, specifically about positioning your laptop behind a DM screen to better hide your actions, and using a playlist program like iTunes.
I love seeing this sort of thing. It tells me that the conversation we were working on back in 1996 is still going on in many places (the previous blog entry I linked to is more recent, but still…). Keep it going!
So, you’ve just ordered our Game Masters Complete Collection as part of our annual “Not Going to GenCon” sale, or you’ve just downloaded the Battles background sounds from our website. But maybe you don’t have an iPhone or iPad to play back those sounds for your gamers with our new app.
What to do?
Windows Media Player or iTunes are great tools for playing single effects, but if you’d like to get fancier, here are some ideas from D&D Nerd.com on how to start incorporating sound effects and music into your RPG.
I’ve written here before about “The Bag Witch Project,” the short film we made in 1999 as a marketing gimmick, that went on to be unexpectedly successful for us. And I’ve told you about the follow-up, 2000’s “Curse of the Bag Witch,” which was based on the TV special “Curse of the Blair Witch,” which was part of the marketing push for “The Blair Witch Project.”
Since this is the tenth anniversary of the release of “Curse,” and since we’ve had more than a couple of requests for it, we’re releasing “Curse of the Bag Witch” as a downloadable iPod-compatible movie. Featuring guest appearances by frequent Toxic Bag cohorts Alan Vuchichevich, Dan Hitzemann and Heidi Miller, as well as cameos by the “Bag Witch” cast and clips from the original movie, “Curse” is available from our website for about a buck and a half.
The blurb from the original VHS tape:
The Unnecessary Investigation
That Takes Over Where the Parody Left Off!
This shocking mockumentary, created by the producers of the parody sensation “The Bag Witch Project,” further examines the odd legacy of stupidity that has occasionally bothered the gaming community of Milwaukee for the last three decades. Tracing the history of events that make up the legend, this silly story chronicles the origin of the Bag Witch, the embarrassing Harrison Barker junk food “massacre” of 1988, and the final, confused days of the three role-playing gamers who disappeared while looking for the legendary game tournament in 1998. This wholly unneeded investigation includes additional interviews with friends, authorities and experts involved in the case that were not seen in the original parody film. Before you see the hilarious “Bag Witch Project,” find out the ridiculous history of events that just might be the CURSE OF THE BAG WITCH!