The sound of rushing wind in your ears rings like the peal of a bell. Your head strikes the earth as the roar of the dragon flying overhead turns your bones to jelly—and when you awaken, all that remains of the village is the faint crackling of burning timbers and the crowing of buzzards.
You could describe this to your players… or you could let them experience it firsthand. Enter Syrinscape, a digital soundboard with hundreds of sound effects, ambient backgrounds, and musical tracks. You can watch their preview video below, or just read the TL;DW (too long; didn’t watch) below.
Syrinscape is an app for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android by professional composer Benjamin Loomes, originally made for his personal tabletop games. It includes extensive original music, as well as dozens and dozens of ambient sounds, like crows cawing, rain and thunder, war cries, steel-on-steel, and so on. There are even sound effects for fireballs, cheers, and sad trombone “wah-wahs” you can play at the press of a button.
How Good is Syrinscape?
Short version. It rocks.
Long version. It’s got great aesthetics, it does on-the-fly soundtracking better than any other app out there, and it just plain works.
Longest version. The app’s user interface is intuitive and pretty, and it uses a surprisingly low amount of resources, so it doesn’t lag my middle-of-the-line laptop at all. The app has an excellent response time—clicking into a new soundscape gradually fades out the old one and swiftly fades in the new without any jagged transitions. My favorite soundscape feature is that each pack has four or five different presets, with clear names like “Battle Begins,” “Defeat is Imminent,” “Something’s Out There,” etc., each of which adjusts the volume and looping of the pack’s 7–10 simultaneous audio tracks.
The Syrinscape app is free to download, and offers two free sound packs for immediate use, as well as the ability to upload your own sounds and create your own custom soundscapes. The two free packs are Bugbear Battle, featuring tense music, the sounds of screams and swords, and guttural grunting, and the Witchwood, featuring eerie music on the wind, thunder, and the cries of distant creatures. There are dozens of sound packs in both fantasy and sci-fi genres for every conceivable encounter or locale.
That alone makes it great for GMs running homebrew campaigns, but one of Syrinscape’s coolest features is their partnership with Paizo Publishing, creators of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Syrinscape creates a brand new set of soundscapes for each new Pathfinder adventure path. Check out the soundscape they created for the Burnt Offerings chapter of Pathfinder’s Rise of the Runelords adventure path!
Syrinscape’s pricing model is very similar to other digital tabletop tools like Fantasy Grounds, in that you can buy individual sound packs for a flat rate (and own them forever) or pay a monthly subscription for access to all of their soundscapes. The subscription is the best deal, in my opinion. Essentially, you have the option of paying $6.50 each month for all their fantasy sounds or paying about $4 for unlimited access to a single pack. (The full Rise of the Runelords package worth of sound costs about $90 up front, to give you an idea of how much audio goes into each adventure path.) I pay about $10 each month for my Fantasy Grounds subscription, and the cost of Syrinscape doesn’t bother me at all. That said, Syrinscape doesn’t play nice with Virtual Tabletops (Roll20, Fantasy Grounds), since you really would prefer to have a nice sound system playing their high-quality samples. Piping it through Skype doesn’t do it justice.
After exploring their catalogue, the top 5 Syrinscape’s best sound packs are:
- SoundSet Starter Pack – Contains six iconic, always-useful soundscapes. The Dragon Battle pack is one of my all-time favorites.
- Rise of the Runelords – Expensive, but there’s so much variety of content in this pack, from goblins to stampeding Aurochs and seaside towns to flesh-warping laboratories, that you don’t even need to be running Pathfinder’s Rise of the Runelords to get insane mileage out of this megapack.
- Friendly Tavern and Tavern Brawl – Taverns are so ubiquitous that you will always have a use for these. I don’t know when or where your next tavern will be, but you will have one, guaranteed.
- Haunted House 3-Pack – This one pairs perfectly with Death House, the free introduction to D&D’s latest adventure path, Curse of Strahd.
- Dungeon Depths – Do I have to explain this one? Dungeon delves are one of the most common types of adventure, and the atmosphere in this sound pack is top notch.
Have you tried Syrinscape? What do you think of it? If you haven’t, do you think it’s worth trying? Let us know in the comments or tweet your thoughts to us at @geekandsundry!