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Ambient Environments - Apocalyptic Sewer
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2014 22:43:06
The water in this apocalyptic sewer runs pretty rapidly, it seems—or else the dripping water sounds almost like a heavy rain. I almost expect a canoe to come floating down the corridor. I think I hear rats scrabbling around, and maybe something even more threatening. The track is skillfully executed, but I have a slight concern that it might be too distracting. A GM using this soundscape should keep that in mind and monitor the volume carefully. But other than that, it’s got a wide range of applications, and would work just fine not only in the post-apocalyptic setting suggested in the title, but in any adventure that takes the characters into the sewers.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Apocalyptic Sewer
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Ambient Environments - Radioactive Wasteland
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2014 22:25:57
Bleak, depressing, godforsaken—that’s what I expect from a “radioactive wasteland,” and that’s what I got from this track. I picture this playing under a scene like, say, the one where Charlton Heston discovers the bomb-worshiping cult in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes.” Although the name suggests a post-apocalyptic setting, there’s no overt technology level embedded in the track except for a crackling that I associate with a Geiger counter, so I could even imagine this being used for visiting a mad scientist’s lab in a Cthulhu game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Radioactive Wasteland
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Ambient Environments - Summoning Circle (encounter)
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2014 17:55:00
I like most of the "Adventurer's Soundtrack" pieces quite a lot—but not this one. Part of the reason is just that the track implies too much of a storyline that might fit poorly with the pacing of a summoning scene during gameplay. A larger part of the reason is all the screaming in the first half of the track, and the very quiet chanting about 3/4 of the way through. The ups and downs in the volume and "body" of the piece draw attention to themselves, at least for me, and this diminishes the track's usefulness as RPG background music.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Summoning Circle (encounter)
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Ambient Environments - Elven City (with music)
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2014 17:43:47
The musical line in this track has a peaceful, almost lullaby-like quality to it. The light and airy vocals and sounds of songbirds add beautifully to the ambience. The occasional sequences of more distinct dialogue in some kind of Elvish dialect, however, beckon listeners to try to focus on them and understand the words, which could be very distracting at the gaming table.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Elven City (with music)
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Ambient Environments - The Dark Forest
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2014 17:30:58
This track strongly resembles "The Dead Marshes," track 9 of "The Adventurer's Soundtrack," except that the animal sounds here are forest creatures like wolves and bears, or perhaps other things more exotic, and there is no sound of water. Next time the PCs at your table venture into a haunted forest or the like, start this track going to heighten the sense of spookiness and vague threat. I wish this track didn't have the human scream and the large-animal snarl, which lock down your story a bit. But I like everything else about it!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - The Dark Forest
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Ambient Environments - The Dead Marshes
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2014 17:20:16
I think there must be alligators in this swamp! I can definitely hear bullfrogs and plenty of insects—and the crickets make me think it's nighttime. but near the beginning and middle of the track, some significantly larger, threatening creature makes noises. I wish those sound effects were more subtle, or even absent, as I find them a bit disruptive. Otherwise, the track is great. Use it to give your table a spooky ambience when the adventurers find themselves exploring a black dragon's swamp or a Cajun bayou.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - The Dead Marshes
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Ambient Environments - Dwarven City
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/12/2014 19:50:41
This does not sound like a very friendly place! "Duergar City" might be more like it. Barking dogs give you the sense that you're not really welcome here. Gruff voices, soft cries, and the sounds of pickaxes working away at ore deposits might give you the sense of slave labor. The track is pretty well done and relatively non-intrusive, even with the voices. But I don't see myself using it that often, unless the PCs at my table get captured by dark dwarf slavers or something like that.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Dwarven City
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Ambient Environments - Battlefield Ruins
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/12/2014 19:15:08
Melancholy and haunting, this track could serve as decent backing for almost any RPG scene of exploring ruins that are open to the sky. Only a few drumbeats give you the sense of a "battlefield," per the title; the track surely works for such a setting, but you're definitely not locked into that description. However, bird cries near the beginning do pretty much limit you to outdoor scenes.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Battlefield Ruins
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Ambient Environments - The Sea of Shadows
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/12/2014 16:54:07
The cawing of seabirds implies that you’re not too far from land, but the light, melancholy instrumentals give you a sense of hopelessness. The creaking of wooden planks abounds; once in a while the ship’s bell rings lightly. This piece makes me want to write up a skill challenge for sailing through haunted waters or getting out of a dead calm (although a "gust of wind" spell makes the latter a bit less challenging). This track runs unobtrusively in the background, enhances the mood, loops perfectly, and inspires the DM—hard to beat all that!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - The Sea of Shadows
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Ambient Environments - The Frozen Tundra
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/08/2013 00:12:16
I wish I’d had this track back when my home D&D campaign went through an antarctic story arc. It makes me want to find another frozen clime just to use it! The howling winds and howling wolves give a good sense of the dangers of the tundra: the weather and the wildlife. The track isn’t perfect, though. It took me a while to realize that the crunching sounds at the beginning were supposed to be footsteps in the ice and snow, and the track doesn’t loop as well as I’d like. It’s not too disruptive, but the beginning and ending are rather distinct and there are about 3 seconds of silence at the end. Still, a good addition to your soundscape library for any RPG that might include a cold-weather adventure. I could easily imagine using this with any fantasy RPG or with horror titles like Call of Cthulhu (maybe some of those sounds presage an encounter with Ithaqua).

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - The Frozen Tundra
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[ICONS] Defy the Prophecy: A Stark City Adventure
Publisher: Fainting Goat Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2013 23:58:33
“Defy the Prophecy,” an ICONS adventure for the Stark City setting, has a rather cliché core plot: the bad guys are stealing objects to perform a dark ritual they must not be allowed to complete. What keeps the adventure from being hackneyed is the nature of the thieves—a bit of mystery that actually shouldn’t take the heroes too long to unravel—and the main villain’s motivation. The best thing about the adventure plot is the tie-in to Stark City lore.

Unfortunately, the text’s references to the game mechanics are imperfect, possibly even downright confusing. For example, there is no such thing as a “Know Test” (p. 3) in ICONS; rather, you make an Intellect test to find out if your PC knows something. Similarly, ICONS has no “Occult test” (p. 5), though it does have an Occult specialty that can give PCs bonuses on Intellect tests when dealing with occult matters. I can easily imagine a new GM reading this adventure and wondering, “What on earth is a [whatever]?” when the terminology doesn’t follow the core rules. On the other hand, grammatical errors and inconsistencies are few and minor.

The cover art by Jon Gibbons and the interior art by Jacob Blackmon are quite good. In fact, the cover art is almost too good, as it depicts a scene unlikely to occur during the adventure!

If you consider the “stop the ritual before it’s too late” plot to be “tried and true” rather than “overdone,” you should be able to give a group of ICONS players a fun evening of play with “Defy the Prophecy.” On top of that, if you’re kicking off a Stark City campaign, the adventure provides a good way to introduce players to a major potential threat in the campaign world. Adapting the adventure to non-Stark settings would be difficult, I think, unless you want to adopt the whole Gloriana storyline into your world as well.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[ICONS] Defy the Prophecy: A Stark City Adventure
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Ambient Environments - On the River (encounter version)
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2013 23:02:14
From the raptor’s cry at the beginning of the track to the rapids or waterfall at its end, this track is inspiringly creepy. It’s a great combination of natural beauty and otherworldly mystery, and in general would make great backing for a brief trek through a haunted forest or something like that. I say “brief,” though, because this is the first Ambient Environments track I’ve heard that doesn’t loop well. The sound of the water, in particular, builds throughout the piece in a way that makes looping feel disruptive when the river becomes peaceful again after its fever pitch. The sound effects are great and well executed, but the non-loopability really limits its usefulness at the gaming table and accounts for my rating.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - On the River (encounter version)
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Halls of the Mountain King
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2013 22:51:37
Like all of Fat Dragon’s 3D terrain sets, “Halls of the Mountain King” features beautiful artwork that will really make your miniatures-scale battle scenes pop. In this case, however, the word “halls” in the title might be slightly misleading. In fact, you get some great dressing for something like an “audience hall,” and indeed the props will put you in mind of the great throne room in Gauntlgrym if you’ve read those novels. But you cannot construct “halls” in the sense of “corridors” with this product, because it doesn’t include walls (except for flanking pieces integrating the large statue into standard-sized E-Z Lock walls. You’ll need additional sets if you want to build a full scene. The set includes exactly what the product description states, so know what you’re getting before you buy. It’s definitely a worthwhile purchase if you’re into paper modeling for your tabletop.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Halls of the Mountain King
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Ambient Environments - Forest of the Fae
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2013 22:33:50
Imagine a beautiful, perhaps slightly mysterious forest. Birds chirp in the trees, the wind blows softly, and a brook babbles nearby. Add some musical accents and you’ve got “Forest of the Fae.” This track is very peaceful, even beautiful, and loops perfectly. I left it running for well over an hour earlier today and never got tired of it. The only “downside” to this piece is that RPG sessions don’t usually feature extended scenes in lovely, peaceful locales …

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Forest of the Fae
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Publisher Reply:
Love this review! Especially the last part, which is why this is one of the only "peaceful" ambient tracks in the collection.
Ambient Environments - Lost in the Dunes
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2013 18:39:29
“Lost in the Dunes” definitely achieves its goal of providing a soundtrack for a journey through a windswept sandy desert wasteland—think the Sahara, not Arizona. Vague moans might lead your players to believe the desert is haunted, but otherwise the soundscape suggests a “desert of desolation.” Note that you can save a dollar by purchasing “Lost in the Dunes” together with three other tracks in the Adventurer’s Soundtrack 1 bundle (http://bit.ly/19ebUHs).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Lost in the Dunes
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