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Category Archives: Tools

[Tools] Science Fiction Soundscapes

I just found the youtube channel of Ender4life, who put together some videos with background noises from various Star Trek and Star Wars series/movies. I think this stuff might be really good as a background for any science fiction RPG, or maybe if you yourself want to just relax and pretend to be somewhere in the future.
Some of them are a bit very Star Trekish (ever noticed how these beeps they have don’t show up too often in other places?), but a lot can be used to create a nice Science Fictiony feel.

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[Tools] Syrinscape

I liked Syrinscape when I last was looking for a soundscape program. It wasn’t the nicest looking of programs, and it had some bugs when running it over Wine, but it was functional, and most importantly, it allowed for the easy creation of my own soundscapes. So I did. I even had a few unfinished soundscapes ready that I was thinking about posting at one point. I was even in contact with it’s creator and he told me that the new version of the program would be even better. So I decided to wait with posting these extra soundscapes.
Then came the update.
Well, the creator advertised it as a vast improvement, as making it easier and better, and providing even better ways of creating soundscapes for games.
I noticed a few comments lately about the program and how great it is. So I guess it is actually a good program. I wouldn’t know though.

I didn’t have time to check on it though, even though I was aware that the new version was out. Then someone commented on my entry for the Tavern soundset today, wondering how to actually import this thing.
So I checked out the new version.

Some notes regarding this:
Note 1: it now costs money.

Not for the core version. That one has two soundsets and is free; but the soundsets which previously were available for free now cost money. Okay, I can live with that. He wants to make money with a software he put some effort into. And $3.99 per soundset is not so bad. I can’t say anything against that. After all I prefer making my own soundsets anyway.But…
Note 2: it’s not possible to create custom soundsets anymore.

After installing the core version it turns out that the files for the soundsets included seem to be hidden in a file I can’t open, making it pretty impossible to create new soundsets. According to that comment on my entry there isn’t any way to load new soundsets in either. The FAQ on the website now states “Once we get the the next version out, and the Tablet versions are stable we will move onto making the Syrinscape SoundSet Creator, which will be a fully fledged sound creator, arranger and conductor. Very powerful, and very easy to use.” But I might not hang around actually waiting for that, because…
Note 3: This new version of the program doesn’t  work on Linux

I only get an empty window when starting it. This isn’t a new problem. The reason I used Syrinscape in the first place was because I managed to get it running. All other similar programs ended up like this as well.

So, considering that I mostly was fond of the program because it worked on my system and allowed for easy creation of new soundscapes… well. Not happy here.
Does anyone know a program like this that might work on Linux?

Card Sleeves and other scourges of the common gamer

I bought myself Arkham Horror last week and right away noticed that there will have to be some special measures. Both my cats decided that the trial first game I set up was the most interesting thing since pigeons started nesting in front of our windows (there are few things that fascinate both of them equally as much as tasty flying rats and, obviously, eldritch horrors in cardboard).

So I decided to invest money into card sleeves, something I never did before. Most of my gaming is roleplaying, and even when I was playing Magic the Gathering (back in 3rd edition times) I never really was into it so much as to sleeve my cards.

Now, Łódż has this tiny problem with games as such: there just aren’t any places to actually buy games that are not mainstream. I am not kidding, there was one shop that opened a few months back on Narutowicza, which was more of a Warhammer place from how it looked, and as for the last few months the the complete area around it is more of a wasteland than anything else, the last thing I heard was that it closed again. No, the local authorities don’t give a shit about small local businesses. They also don’t give a shit about normal people having to go to work, transit traffic that has to go through the city, or large companies that want to settle in this city. The traffic authorities have had plans since the 1970s, and right now they think it’s the right time to execute exactly those plans. Which were intended for a communist country where the cars, if there were any, were glorified shoeboxes…

Aaaaaanyway… there is another shop in one of the shopping centres (Galeria Łódzka), which doesn’t even have a proper shop space but is rather a kiosk in front of the Tesco’s there. And there is always the possibility of going to rebel.pl, which is where I got the English version of Arkham Horror to begin with.

Now, I wasn’t going to order a delivery from Gdańsk again, mostly because it’s a pain in the ass to be at the right time at the right place to receive the package (I only ordered it because I had two weeks of holidays and knew exactly where I would be for two or three days). So I went to the small kiosk in Galeria.

I asked the guy there for card sleeves for Arkham Horror (at least I think I did, sometimes I am not sure what I actually say), and he promptly presented me with the right size of Mayfair Games sleeves. They are cheaper than the FFG ones, but I read on BBG that there might be problems with them. Well, I thought, if they don’t fit they won’t be so much of a loss and I have a few other games that I could sleeve as well.

Turns out most of them fit. Two of the three packages of larger sleeves I bought, and two of the smaller ones fit perfectly. Which made it weird that the other package… didn’t. Oh, I managed to force the cards in, after a while, but they didn’t quite fit, were awkward to hold, had air pockets, and sometimes just ripped apart.  I  find this specific incongruity a bit strange. They seem to have produced a batch of a hundred sleeves just half a millimetre or so too small.

But Arkham Horror is sleeved. Now I can start playing it. Most likely with the doors closed though. Cats…

[Tools] Old School Tool

Now that is something nice I came across today when looking through the categories at Sourceforge (I was looking for a task managing tool that could sync with Google Tasks, I ended up in the Games section…): a Java based  GM screen tool for AD&D or OSRIC (although it can be adapted for 2e and 3e). Java-based means it will run pretty much on every system that has Java on it, and GM Screen tool means it is supposed to replace the usual paper one with some additional functionality.

Even better it is actually quite customizable, with all the tables in the program being changeable and extensible as far as I have seen. So if I wanted, for example, to use the whole thing for my campaign and I had specific armour for my campaign that was not in the OSRIC book, I could add it easily via the main window to have it accessible in the GM screen window during actual play.

That GM screen window is actually what this is about: the window can be used as a convenient GM screen that allows to look up stuff and calculate things on the fly. The combat and save tables can be found in there, as can the magic item tables, and the latter ones can generate treasures on the fly. Neat. I might think about using this during my next game.

What the whole program is not is a replacement for actual rules, or for a real campaign planner. This program is only there to help during the game. Considering that I already have been using my notebook as a DM screen I think this program might make the whole thing a bit easier.

[Tools] Tavern Soundset for Syrinscape

Medieval Tavern

Medieval Tavern

Remember when I wrote about Syrinscape last week? It’s a soundscape program for RPGs that allows to create background noises for your RPG sessions. It already comes with a nice amount of different soundscapes that can be used for different uses, but at least one was a blatant omission: there was no soundset for a tavern or inn. The place where the whole adventure starts in, or at least stops by at one point or another.

But do not fret, I was sick the last week and spent a lot of time playing around with my computer. So here it is: the Tavern soundset.

Download (zip) 42mb (downloads from Dropbox)

Some notes about it:

1. To use it in Syrinscape it has to be unpacked  into the Syrinscape folder. After that it can be chosen as normal from inside the program

2. I originally created this with the Tavern music from Dungeons and Dragons Online in the background. Of course I can’t put that one on here for copyright reasons. If you want to use it then just download the DDO tavern music into the folder, maybe convert it to .ogg, and rename it so the additional files start with “e4”. The program then uses them in the music channel.

3. the soundset does use sounds found on freesound.org and CC-licensed music found on Jamendo.com (specifically from Fatzwerk, ENoz, and The Racoons, check them out!)

WARNING: as of the latest version of Syrinscape this does not seem to work anymore. It might actually work for you with some skilled trickery, but I can’t even get the new version to work, so there is that.

[Tools] OSR Search

By the way, did anyone already mention the OSR Search to you?

It’s a search engine that searches only Old School Renaissance sources (mostly blogs). So if anyone would like to find if anyone else has already written about a specific topic already (very likely by the way…), it might be interesting to look here first.

Not that it should keep you from writing about the topic, but it might give some insight into what other people have said about that topic before.

[RPG Music] More RPG Ambiance Music

EVE Online - Caldari Freighters

EVE Online – Caldari Freighters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t really been playing MMORPGs lately, not since I switched over to a Linux system in 2006, and so I am not really current with a whole lot of things here. MMORPGs never really caught my interest that much anyway. The only thing I ever played for longer was The Empire of Martial Heroes, and that one switched off it’s non-Korean servers in 2010. So there is that.

But I have been sickand bound to my bed for two weeks, and during that time I played a lot with my PC. Well, playing in this case was more trying to see if I can get Windows games running on Linux and then losing interest once it works.

I never said I was exactly normal.

Anyway, one of the things I found during that time was that there are a lot of games which put the music from their game online. Maybe for marketing purposes, maybe just as a bonus for fans, but the fun thing is: these things are wonderful for normal roleplaying games as well. Most of them are loopable to some extent, a lot capture the whole fantasy world sound quite effectively, and they are free. What more do we want?

Dungeons and Dragons Online: especially the tavern/bar sounds here are really nice for some unobtrusive background music in bar scenes. There are even different sets of those for different styles of bars. And the rest isn’t bad either. Will definitely use that one.

Star Wars – The Old Republic: made a large part of it’s soundtrack available for free just before their launch. Sounds pretty much like a Star Wars soundtrack should sound like

Eve Online: something more futuristic, synth sounds for space ambience; quite good as well

Lord of the Rings Online: the made the soundtrack available for a while, and it still is online. One of the most impressive ones around actually, I can definitely see me using that one in the next session

Allods Online: this one is a bit strange, as the official website links to a fansite and a torrent because they themselves can’t get to the files themselves. Huh? How is that even possible? Anyway, some nice atmospheric music.

Anarchy Online -Shadowlands and Anarchy Online 2: I don’t know much about these games, but the soundtracks are online and might be useful

Planeshift: well, I wasn’t too impressed the last few times I tried this game. But the soundtrack is quite nice.

[Tools] Creating soundscapes with Syrinscape

I was looking for some interesting programs a while ago, and this popped up on my radar. I came across it when I was looking for ambient music for my games last year, but right now the creator of the software promises an upcoming release of a new version with loads of new features.

Very well…

Syrinscape is a soundscape program that allows the creation of dynamic soundscapes for RPG games. There are a few of that kind around, but Syrinscape is both free and more or less easy to configure. A soundscape in Syrinscape can be created by dropping the sound effects and music one wants to have in it into a folder and renaming them slightly so they are associated with certain channels in the program. Seems a bit daunting at first, but is not really much work. I decided to create a Tavern soundset yesterday and behold, it’s nearly finished today. So, not really hard to use.

The website offers a few different soundscapes that should give a good point to start from, even though some of them are a bit weird (Battle for example has mostly animal noises, and Bells has…  bells). One of the nicer things about it is that ambient music for the game can be added by simply copying it into the soundscape folder and renaming it. In that way one could actually create nice variant soundscapes by simply replacing the playlist for different locales (e.g. music 1 for the catacombs and music 2 for the orc warrens, while both of them have otherwise the same soundset otherwise in it).

One feature that does not seem to see too much use yet are one-off sound effects, or rather: current soundsets barely have one-off effects in them. The only one that actually has nice ones is the Dungeon set that has interesting things like an alarm bell, fireballs, dragon roars, etc. I think it would be nice to have a certain one-off soundset at hand in a few places though, just to make my players jump when they hear it. The howl of wolves in the wilderness, the cackling of a witch in the  distance,  the sound of footsteps coming from somewhere behind them. Hmm…

Syrinscape (Website)

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[Tools] How To Use Usenet: A Biased Introduction

trn usenet client

trn usenet client (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Usenet was the first discussion board on the Internet, way before there were things like the world wide web or anything really graphical. Yes, there was a time when the internet existed that was there before there was HTML.

A lot of people seem to forget that, but the net did not just pop into being in the beginning of the 90s to provide us with the unlimited stream of cat pictures and porn that we have now.
Usenet is actually a very interesting concept, not quite the same as email technically, but not so different either.

When connected to a server one can download a stream of messages connected with a certain newsgroup, not unlike one would download mails, then disconnect, read through the messages, write responses that also would be posted to this group, and the next time one connected to the server those would be posted to the group, and then distributed to all other servers that carried the group in question. At the same time one would download a new batch of mails.
For me this is one of the most well designed technologies of the last 40 years. It is decentralized (one does only connect to a server, which in turn connects to others), it allows for discussions even with unsteady internet connections (less of a problem today than it was before), and it is low resource (all the messages are barely altered plain text and can be worked on in most email programs).
Unfortunately it also is a little bit more complicated getting it running that a simple click on the browser and navigation to some message board is. That is also one of the reasons why it has been dying a slow death for the last 15 years or so.
But then again, it’s still there. It still survived the onslaught of spammers and distractions by shiny new HTML pages over time quite nicely. Right now most of it is used for file sharing, so at least part of the Usenet is brimming with activity: One can, in certain groups, attach files (so called binaries) to the messages, and distribute them like normal messages. This is used as an easy and secure way for file sharing, but it is rather resource intensive for the server, so most of the services that allow this have to be paid.
I am not really interested in that part of the Usenet anyway, I am more interested in the discussion forums. So this article will talk about those.
There are a lot of them, and not all of them are active. Actually quite a lot of them are not and never were. Estimates as to how much of Usenet is  still in use vary, but technically there are hundreds of thousands of groups, and the amount of really active ones is about 800-1000, with around 10.000-20.000 having at least sporadic messages. But those statistics are a few years old, so take them with a grain of salt.
But even then, there are a lot of groups that are still active, in use, and which still get a lot of messages. Well, comparatively a lot at least. There used to be so much more each day, but that was a long time ago. Read more of this post

Usenet Archeology

trn usenet client

trn usenet client (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This might be of interest for at least some people:

I recently came across http://olduse.net/ which is a historical exhibit.

It posts Usenet posts as they were posted exactly 30 years ago. The whole thing is also available as nntp.olduse.net, emulating the this time as a real time news server.

The interesting thing for me here is the roleplaying group: net.games.frp (yes, it emulates the group structure before the great renaming as well).

What we have here is, basically, the first internet forum about fantasy roleplaying.
Most of these things are of course available in the Google Groups archives (I guess at least. Google Groups is a terrible interface), but the server is nice for slowly reading the whole discussion along as it happens/happened, already with a lot of interesting topics, and a certain cuteness long before the big satanic panic.
Right now it slowly is picking up, it had some nice tables for AD&D posted on it, some people were discussing the merits of AD&D against other systems like C&S and RQ, and other people were asking confused questions what the hell the abbreviations C&S and RQ actually meant. Meanwhile in net.sf-lovers someone had to ask what LOTR stood for, and another person was looking forward to new Xanth books. Right now it’s September 3rd, 1982 on the server, and it feels weird, and a bit exciting to read the whole thing. Like time travel, just without the touching and killing grandfathers.