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Battlefield Ruins - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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!]
Battlefield Ruins - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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The Sea of Shadows- from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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!]
The Sea of Shadows- from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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The Frozen Tundra - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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!]
The Frozen Tundra - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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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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On the River (encounter version) - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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!]
On the River (encounter version)   - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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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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Forest of the Fae - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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!]
Forest of the Fae  - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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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.
Lost in the Dunes - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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!]
Lost in the Dunes   - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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Egyptian Tomb (encounter) - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2013 18:34:49
“Ruins of the Pharaoh” ups the ante on its companion piece “Temple of Dread” with more distinct and forceful sound effects. Vague moans and sighs, hissing and slithering snakes, fluttering bats, and perhaps even the sound of dripping water populate this track. It could be really effective to use “Temple of Dread” when the PCs arrive at a lost temple in the desert and explore the outer reaches or upper floors, switching to “Ruins of the Pharaoh” as they get to the inner chambers but haven’t yet awakened the mummy. A few of the sound effects in “Ruins of the Pharaoh” seem to me too loud for the background, though, and could disrupt gameplay a bit. The publisher has populated the ID3 tags well, even embedding the cover art in the MP3. Note that you can save a dollar by purchasing “Ruins of the Pharaoh” together with three other tracks in the Adventurer’s Soundtrack 1 bundle (http://bit.ly/19ebUHs).

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Egyptian Tomb (encounter)  - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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Temple of Dread- from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2013 18:29:17
“Temple of Dread” does a great job of evoking a spooky, mysterious, vaguely threatening atmosphere. As the name and catalog description suggest, it would be perfect as the backdrop for exploration of an ancient temple in the desert. One minor glitch: the catalog description calls this “track 2 from the Adventurer’s Soundtrack,“ but it’s actually track 1 according to the illustration and the ID3 tags. Speaking of ID3 tags, Ambient Environments has done a good job of populating them fully, and has embedded the cover artwork in the MP3. Note that you can save a dollar by purchasing “Temple of Dread” together with three other tracks in the Adventurer’s Soundtrack 1 bundle (http://bit.ly/19ebUHs).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Temple of Dread- from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review! Also, thanks for catching that glitch. It has been fixed. Let us know what you think of the other tracks. Your reviews are very helpful to us. ~AE
Pro RPG Audio: Court of Azathoth
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2013 16:31:00
Spooky, unpleasant, disturbing, even grating on the ears—this track is perfect for Azathoth. Play this track in the background when you want your players to know that something is dreadfully wrong, but they don’t quite know why, or when everything in the PCs’ world has ceased to make sense.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: Court of Azathoth
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Pro RPG Audio: Pirate Ship on the Open Sea
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2013 14:24:55
This is a really nice soundscape, nonintrusive but flavorful. It loops seamlessly. Before you buy, be sure you understand this track consists only of sound effects (creaking planks, waves, birds), with no music.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: Pirate Ship on the Open Sea
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Stark City Soundtrack
Publisher: Fainting Goat Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2013 14:01:15
Your reaction to this soundtrack is likely to depend on your taste in music. Most of this soundtrack is simply too dance-techno for my own personal tastes. If you’re into more into EDM than I am, you’ll probably like the soundtrack a lot better than I did. But to me, most of the tracks evoke the feel of a dance hall or a low-budget ’80s crime drama rather than modern superhero epic. It’s hard for me to imagine any of these tracks behind scenes from any recent superhero movie, for example.

The two Geartown tracks, done in a more rock style, appeal to me more than the rest. But two tracks do not redeem the whole album for me, and “The Geartown Grinders” still has a considerable dose of EDM in it. My favorite track of the bunch is “Geartown Trouble”; I really like the rock style, quick tempo, and driving guitars, and it’s one of the better tracks with respect to looping. It could serve as good background music for a gritty Stark City fight scene, if it’s not too distracting (turn down the volume). However, it’s also very short (2:24).

Some of the tracks (“Crawling the Catacombs,” “Geartown Trouble,” “Platinum Coast Nightlife”) loop reasonably well if you don’t listen too closely, or if you set your player to eliminate the silence at the end. Others (“Freefall”) have beginnings and endings that are too definite for looping. None of the tracks sound like they were actually designed to loop, which is a big oversight in gaming background music. Also, the ID3 tags did not include an album name in the release that I downloaded, and the cover artwork provided separately (rather than embedded in the MP3s) has the rectangular aspect ratio of a letter-sized piece of paper (i.e., the cover of the Stark City sourcebook) rather than of a typical CD or MP3 album insert (square). This makes the cover art look odd and disruptive next to the other albums in my iTunes collection … and just trimming the cover artwork down isn’t a good option because of where the words are placed in the image.

To sum up, the quality of the music isn’t bad, but heavy dance-techno feel of the music clashes for me with the superhero genre.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Stark City Soundtrack
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WINTERHAWK: Church
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2013 02:57:26
This is another beautifully-illustrated and well-designed model from Fat Dragon Games! Assembly isn’t too difficult, and the results are very nice. Interior floorplan tiles (beyond just the very basic stone with trapdoor) would have been a great bonus; you’ll get very worthwhile mileage out of the exterior, though, and the cost is very reasonable.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
WINTERHAWK: Church
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HS1 The Slaying Stone (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2013 20:07:28
“The Slaying Stone” marked Wizards of the Coast’s second pass at heroic tier adventure modules for D&D 4e, and as such it incorporates several years’ worth of innovations and lessons learned. The whole thing is written in a way that is very helpful for beginning DMs but never patronizing or insulting to experienced DMs. The storyline is pretty much in the “search for a MacGuffin, with complications” mold, but there are enough interesting NPCs and competing factions to keep things interesting. The layout and presentation are very nice, and the module makes the transition to PDF well, with just a couple of caveats about that. First, the module was originally designed for print, with the assumption that the writeups for tactical encounters would span two facing pages. Thus, if you’re running the adventure from the printed book, you just lay it flat and you have everything you need—all the maps and stat blocks and such—right in front of you without having to flip pages. This gets slightly more complicated if you’re running the module from a computer screen where you have to scroll up and down a lot, or on a tablet where you’re seeing one page at a time. The other big limitation, of course, is that the PDF version does not include the poster map that came with the printed version, so you’ll have to find an alternate way to construct those tactical encounter areas on your tabletop. On the other hand, the PDF is well bookmarked, something that doesn’t apply in print. Each version uses its medium well, although WotC could have gone one better by including printable maps.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
HS1 The Slaying Stone (4e)
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