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RPG Background Loops MP3: Superhero Hover Fortress
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 14:14:54
Once you get over the misspelling in the track title and realize that this is not about superheroes hanging out with vacuum cleaner salespeople, you can appreciate the track for what it is: a fine background soundscape for the control room of an orbiting superhero base. I think I've heard of at least one decidedly courageous team with one of those.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Superhero Hover Fortress
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RPG Background Loops MP3: 1890s Train Station Platform
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 14:10:01
In this loop you can hear almost everything you'd expect to hear on the titular 1890s train station platform: train brakes, bells, whistles, turning wheels, puffing bellows. There's only one thing missing, and it's a fairly significant oversight: people. Where are the passengers? The conductors? Judging by the apparent number of whistles and trains, this would seem to be a fairly busy station, but there's no crowd noise. There might be a faint hint of footsteps now and again, but they're so faint I had to turn the volume up fairly high to hear them, and they didn't imply more than one or two people. I wouldn't want to hear distinct conversations, of course, but more evidence of a crowd on the platform would make this a five-star track.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: 1890s Train Station Platform
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Deep in the Jungle
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 13:52:33
The worst thing one can say about this loop is that it seems misnamed. The soundscape actually puts one in mind more of the aviary at a zoo than the deep jungle. When my son heard it, he actually thought it was my bird-sounds morning alarm sounding. The key shortcoming in the track, relative to its title, is the fact that you hear nothing but birds. Where are the monkeys/apes? The reptiles? The mammals? And most tellingly, the sounds of wind and animals acting on the foliage? If you're looking for a soundscape for a scene set in a deep jungle or rainforest, I would suggest looking elsewhere. But this track would make fine backing for a trip through an elven glen, a bird sanctuary, a lively but lightly wooded forest, or the aforementioned zoo.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Deep in the Jungle
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Villain's Spaceship Bridge
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 13:31:37
This loop is very unobtrusive—perhaps even too unobtrusive, if that's possible. I would describe the sensation more as a derelict spaceship bridge, barely functional, than a villain's spaceship bridge. A bed of white noise is interrupted occasionally by twittering sounds that might remind you of R2-D2 or a Star Trek communicator pin's chirp, and that's pretty much it. I don't hear a bustling villain's lair; I hear a ghost ship. Reframe the expectations set by the title and you get a good track for playing under a scene of exploring an abandoned (or haunted) spaceship. Think Ripley aboard the crashed ship in "Aliens," not Spock aboard the Narada in "Star Trek."

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Villain's Spaceship Bridge
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Steampunk Zeppelin
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 12:47:28
I'm not altogether sure how you'd know this soundscape was supposed to evoke a zeppelin if not for the title. But maybe that's actually a strength in this case, because it means that the loop isn't locked into just one use. There is a steady background thrum that does sound vaguely like a propellor; otherwise, the ambience consists mainly of ticking clockworks. That makes it useful for many different types of situations where the adventures are in or near any number of clockwork contraptions. (If you're not familiar with this series of background loops, be forewarned that by design there is no music here, just sound effects.) Finally, a quick proofreading note to Plate Mail Games, the "P" in "steampunk" shouldn't be capitalized.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Steampunk Zeppelin
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Ambient Environments - Abandoned Carnival
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2014 12:37:58
A noticeable but unobtrusive sound of wind, as if from a fan, sits at the base of this track, as it does so often when Gil Luna wants to convey a sense of abandonment or desolation. The sounds of creaking metal and rhythmic thumps suggest the “carnival” atmosphere. I was already “primed” to envision a carnival by the title, but those sounds really do make me think of an empty roller coaster, Ferris wheel, or similar ride—empty and stuck in an endless loop. Which means there’s either live electricity or some kind of mystical motive force around here somewhere. Soundscapes like this one inspire me to want to set RPG encounters in the locations they suggest, thereby earning my highest ratings.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Abandoned Carnival
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Ambient Environments - Ghost Town
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2014 12:26:12
What would you expect a ghost town to sound like? Wouldn’t it be practically silent, since it has been abandoned? This track somehow manages to make that desolation audible. The track consists essentially of the dull sound of a constant wind, lightly accented with an occasional low “thrum” or breathy “moan” and crackly/chittery sound that makes me think of tumbleweeds, but that’s probably the track name imposing itself on my imagination. It’s spooky and nonintrusive, setting the mood without drawing attention to itself.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Ghost Town
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Ambient Environments - Haunted Forest
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2014 11:21:45
This track should probably bear the title “Outdoors in a Thunderstorm” instead of “Haunted Forest.” The cries of ravens (or a similar bird) punctuate the sounds of a thunderstorm throughout the soundscape. Only the ravens, though, imply any kind of “haunting” or, for that matter, any kind of “forest.” This could just as easily be a thunderstorm in a prairie wheatfield. If you’re looking for sounds of ghosts or spirits or whatever, look elsewhere. But if you reframe your expectations, you can put this track to great effect under a scene where travelers are caught in a thunderstorm in a desolate area frequented mostly by scavenger birds.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Haunted Forest
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Ambient Environments - Zombie Lab Outbreak
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2014 16:20:21
I’m really not much into zombies, but I could definitely imagine using this track during an RPG where zombies, genetically-engineered monstrosities, overly intelligent chimpanzees, or whatever escape from a high-security biocontainment facility. Any kind of modern horror game might find a use for this soundscape. Be forewarned, though: it’s noisy. A claxon sounds throughout, glass shatters, trapped people (?) pound on metal doors, and the zombies or demons (Buffy) or whatevers occasionally growl, grunt, or screech. The screams are presumably the zombies’ victims. I think there are even some fire extinguishers being fired off about halfway through. But that’s what happens in a zombie lab outbreak, isn’t it? One relatively minor technical complaint: the track name was encoded in the MP3 as “ZedLabOutbreak” rather than “Zombie Lab Outbreak.”

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Zombie Lab Outbreak
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Ambient Environments - Haunted Mansion
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2014 16:05:54
It’s raining when you enter this haunted mansion, judging by the crashes of lightning. Breathy sounds, spooky near-voices, creaky floorboards, rattling chains, and a scream or two punctuate the rain. The track is great for any haunted house scene. That scream I mentioned keeps it from being near-perfect, though. Distracting and it might come at just the wrong time at the gaming table. Otherwise, fantastic.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Haunted Mansion
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Ambient Environments - Evil Laboratory
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2014 15:56:26
Get your Frankenstein on with this well-crafted soundscape! From the opening crash of lightning through the heavy footfalls (is that Igor or the monster?), arcs of electricity climbing parallel electrodes, and strange breathy noises, you’ll find yourself in the titular “evil laboratory.” The mad scientist may have stepped out of the room for a moment, but he left plenty of equipment and maybe one or two of his experiments behind. Great mood-setter.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Evil Laboratory
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Ambient Environments - City in Ruin (modern)
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2014 14:47:00
This track consists mainly of a dull roar, like the sound of a fan or a heavy, steady wind, along with rainfall. If it’s raining in the city by the bay (a hard rain), this is a good soundscape for your scene. Especially if the city is pretty much abandoned, or as title says “in ruins,” since there is no sound of any other activity. This city is not a post-apocalyptic population center, but a bombed-out husk of its former self. The track is good for what it does; it meets its goal but doesn’t inspire.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - City in Ruin (modern)
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Ambient Environments - Riot!
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2014 00:05:26
Guns and screams, screams and guns, plus the occasional scream, shattering of a window, and that sort of thing. Whether the PCs are trying to bring down the government, squelch the uprising, or just get off the blood-soaked streets, this track can provide an appropriate background. It is maybe a bit intrusive and slightly hard on the ears, so you might not want to have it running too long, or you may want to keep the volume fairly low. In any case, it will do its job nicely if you take steps to keep it in the background.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Riot!
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Ambient Environments - Abandoned Building
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2014 22:58:36
Maybe the recording level on this track is too low, or maybe I have my volume turned down to low, but this track boils down to near-silence punctuated by footsteps and the occasional slamming door. I won’t say that it’s useless, but I can say that it doesn’t do much for me. I cannot really see myself using this track. But please don’t let that reflect poorly on Gil’s work in general; I really like most Ambient Environments offerings.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Abandoned Building
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks Chris. I\'ll review this track and see if I can resolve the level issues. ~g
Ambient Environments - City Under Martial Law
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2014 22:51:28
I normally love Gil Luna’s soundscapes, but this one commits what to me is a cardinal sin of RPG background tracks: it features recognizable speech. Thematically, it fits; you have a guy giving commands to a distressed town through a bullhorn. But this invites players to pay more attention to the background track, so that they can understand the words he’s saying, distracting them from the actual gaming scene at hand. And this is otherwise a very noisy track, too, as would be quite expected with a rioting crowd, sirens, even gunfire. The soundscape is of high quality and fits its title very well (although the sirens put me more in mind of a police crackdown than a military takeover), but I think it would be too distracting in actual play.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - City Under Martial Law
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