Battlebards – The Center of EPIC Tabletop Audio in Gaming

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We at 3-sided-die had the pleasure of sitting down with a couple of the guys from Battlebards and discuss their Tabletop Audio campaign, which we think you are ALL going to love.  They are currently hosting a kickstarter and I implore you to check it out.  You WON’T be disappointed.  So let’s get started…

Jinx:  Why don’t you guys tell me all about Battlebards…who you are, how you came together and what you’re all about.

BB (Battlebards):  Alright, let’s dive right on in!  Battlebards is gearing up to be the center of audio in gaming, with a MASSIVE library of gaming music, sound effects, soundscapes, monsterscapes, fantasy languages, and NPC voice-overs.  It’s not just about quantity, quality is paramount.  Each track or pack of SFX takes about 50 hours of work to make sure we’re offering pieces with a ton of detail and specific for use in games.  Audio is half of the formula, without the tools to bring that audio closer to the GM, even the best music in the world will fall flat.  Battlebards will feature a customizable soundboard to allow GM’s to quickly find and organize all of the audio they need for the next gaming session; no more multiple media players, buffering wait times, etc.  Throw the mixer in there and now you have the means to easily mix not only Battlebards audio together but even throw your own audio ‘into the mix’ as it were.  Without needing to be a practicing sound engineer, you’ll be able say, sprinkle spell effects along with an intense battle track featuring a rampaging demon, layer multiple fireball blasts over the sounds of a massive marching army to showcase an epic battleground, whatever the scene calls for.  Accessible completely through a browser, you’ll be able to take all of this audio and mixes everywhere, even if you don’t have access to internet thanks to an offline mode!

Whew, that’s pretty long-winded for a Battlebards overview. ☺  So who are we?  Well, simply put, a bunch of passionate gamers.  Each of us has decades of experience in PC games, console games, causal games, board games, and so on.  Tabletop gaming is where our passion burns the brightest with over 50 years of cumulative experience in the core team.  And it’s gaming that led us all to become friends.  Mike met Alex when he joined Alex’s D&D gaming group in Orange County and Kyn met Alex when they were in grad school, bonding over, what else, gaming.

We’re all about evolving the tabletop gaming experience through the introduction of incredible, professionally made audio; we share that drive to make the experience more immersive.  It’s all about the collective storytelling experience and just like you would not want to watch the Star Wars opening crawl without John Williams famous score, you shouldn’t have to explore the hidden depths of the Underdark without the perfect ambiance!

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Jinx:  Your kickstarter is boasting over 500 audio tracks by professional composers and voice talent…that sounds EPIC.  You also have some of the OCGG founders of a recently funded KS for Realmsound 2.0 working with you.  How do these tie together?

BB:  EPIC INDEED!  We can’t wait!!

Our first Kickstarter, the Realmsound Project, was an effort by a bunch of friends who simply wanted to see if others out there wanted to band together to bring mind blowing audio to gaming and develop tools to actually make that audio easy to use.  With the overwhelming success of that project, we found out that, whoa, there are LOTS of GM’s out there that love what we’re doing.

During Realmsound, it was brutal for us to only get to make ONE choice for each need since so many auditions were absolutely outstanding.  Thus enter Battlebards.  We want to have our cake and eat it too by bringing in all of those auditions that made it through our insanely tough shortlisting process, let gamers choose which vision of a Druid’s Grove resonates most with them!  Let’s give GM’s options of different forest soundscapes to fit their campaign.  Battlebards is the engine to build this library, to bring seasoned pros to produce more content for games month after month.

Jinx:  What exactly is this kickstarter going to entail?  How is the web service going to work?

BB:  The Kickstarter will allow backers to get in on the ground floor participating in activities you’d expect from a service that wants to cater to gamers.  Deciding what tracks we’re going to offer, Alpha and Beta access to help shape the tools in development, and Kickstarter only rewards that will allow the download of exclusive tracks.

The web service will be subscription based, giving access to an ever growing list of audio as it’s released.  Created around a browser based platform, GM’s will essentially be able to have constant access to EVERYTHING wherever there’s an internet connection, whether through a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.  Even for those playing in areas with no internet, we still have you covered.  GM’s will be able to synch audio to their laptops for offline mode, making sure that the audio you have prepped before a session is ready to go, even in the deepest basement or largest park!

Jinx:  I’m curious to know how you approached these professionals and why they were specifically chosen for this venture?

BB:  Competition.  Each and every track admitted to the Battlebards library has to fight to get in since we crowdsource everything.  There are artists that we commonly work with but it’s not because we hand them Gigs, they consistently earn it.  It’s this aspect to how we approach the building of our library that has led us to produce the best fantasy gaming audio in the world.

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Jinx:  What kind of stretch goals do you have planned?  Can you give us a little sneak peak of what’s to come?

BB:  OK, see how you’re getting us all worked up!  Whew!  So, we’re always going to be producing audio that’s ‘mainstream’ or would find its way into almost any game like weapon and spell sound effects, Dwarf inspired music tracks, etc.  Every now and again, we’ll produce tracks so unique to gaming, nothing even CLOSE exists anywhere.  In one of the close stretch goals, we’re going to explore the sounds one would hear in a Bardic College and a Monk Monastery.  Alex, our Audio Director, is bouncing off the walls with ideas for those creative briefs!

Jinx:  I know this will be a perfect fit for games like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, etc, but what TTRPG’s do you and the OCGG group currently play and feel will get the most use out of the Battlebards web based service?  For example, are we talking only Fantasy/Medieval games that this service will support or do you have audio tracks available for sci-fi as well?

BB:  Excellent question!  We’re quite inclusive at OCGG when it comes to gaming systems.  Primarily, we play D&D 3.5 / Pathfinder and more and more we’re getting some 5E in there.  These are no brainers for this audio, being the inspiration for this venture.  Every now and again, we’ll get in a game of Shadowrun, Star Wars Edge of the Empire, and Paranoia, which is amazing!  The crazy thing is even apart from tabletop games, we’ll use our audio for board games and even card games like Magic: The Gathering just to spice things up.  There’s nothing like finishing off a player with a lightning bolt card coupled with the sound effect!

We will ABSOLUTELY offer other genres of audio and with Sci-fi, modern, and cyberpunk in our crosshairs.  However, before we start swimming in those pools, we want to make sure we’re offering the fantasy community an attractive enough offering to enjoy Battlebards.

Jinx:  I’d love to hear an example of a audio track mix you’ve created and used for an in game session.  Also, how did you manage it as a GM?  I know that I wouldn’t want to be fumbling through the laptop trying to find the clash of a sword on armor or a resounding thump of a club coming down on a players head, losing it’s value in the heat of the moment…so how user friendly is the mixer to use in real time?

​​BB:  As a GM using audio extensively for 15 years, I have to tell you that you can’t be more right about how quickly the energy falls off the table when the GM pauses the action to find a SFX or ambiance track.  Know what’s worse?  A darn Geico ad coming up in the middle of a dramatic scene when you have to use YouTube for some OST’s (Original Sound Tracks).  UGH!  The soundboard and mixer makes the audio more accessible, getting everything that you’re going to need right there on the screen.  As dice are rolling, as you’re narrating, as Orcs hit the floor, a keystroke, touch, or mouse click gets you what you need.  Think you might need 10, 20 different SFX on command?  OK, put them on your soundboard and you’re ready.  Heck, in a future version of the soundboard already in development, you won’t even need to look at your laptop to play audio but we’ll keep that as a teaser for now. ☺

We know talk is cheap, we need to show people how this is done so we’re producing a series of videos under the title, Audio in Gaming, where we show GM’s the various ways audio can be used at the table.  Two videos are in post right now but they’ll be up on YouTube as soon as possible.

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​​Jinx:  In our previous discussions, we talked more in depth about the​ soundboard and mixer.  Why don’t you tell us all about it, including its capabilities and estimated storage space.  I’m someone who really likes to plan ahead and would probably have at least 3-5 game sessions mixes readily available.

BB:  You and Alex have a lot in common, he’s the same way when it comes to planning gaming sessions.  You can create as many playlists as you want, containing whatever audio you want, there’s no limit.  You want to create playlists according to what audio you think you’ll need for a gaming session, great, call that playlist “Session 34”.  You should also create some playlists of audio you think you’ll need at times like “Weapon Effects” and “DIE PC’S DIE” which you can quickly go to when you need it.  That’s the beauty of the “Playlist Centered Soundboard Design” that we’re working on.

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Jinx:  Now I’ve been lucky enough to hear a sampling of this audio and it is FANTASTIC.  Here are a couple audio track examples for our readers:

First the Dwarven Temple Soundscape…

 

Next up…The Swamp Soundscape

 

Or how about the sound effects for the spells we all know and love, like Lightning bolt…

 

Maybe you’re looking to add the flavor of a dark, infernal language…

Jinx:  Regardless…I am SOLD.

I do have one concern however and would love to hear your thoughts on it, not only from the point of view of this kickstarter, but as a GM as well.  Whenever my group gets together, there is always a lot of catching up, banter, laughing, talking about movie/video game/general geek references and most of all, BS’ing.  What do you think is the best way to utilize your service and effectively set the mood without impacting the camaraderie, which is one of the main reasons we all get together?

BB:  Oh boy, I’ve seen more than one GM storm out of a room when the players just could not be reigned in, when the jokes and banter, which is a key reason for getting together, starts to wreck that 10 page session masterpiece the poor GM is trying to go through.  Audio is the key!!! Being able to manage your player’s emotional states is one of the biggest challenges for the guy running the show and no one likes the heavy handed GM that screams at players when the fart jokes come out during a dramatic scene.  You could not hope for a better way to dial in that energy than audio.  Just last week, my players and I were bouncing off the walls with too much pizza and beer in their systems when I really needed everything to settle down long enough to run through a heavy scene.  As soon as I started playing Elven Dirge and started off with my narrative, the change was immediate, as not only they realized what was about to happen but the music focused all that energy into a dramatic wavelength.  It was magic.

Jinx:  What sets you guys apart from other audio tools out there?  What do you have that others do not?

BB:  We’re not going to lie, there’s a TON of great audio out there.  What sets us apart is that our audio is SPECIFICALLY made with tabletop gaming in mind.  What that means is that each track includes a ton of research to make sure that if we say something is supposed to be say, a Dwarf Temple, the resulting tracks exudes what most gamers will agree is iconic to Dwarves.  Special attention is also taken to provide a balance of specificity and flexibility, giving gamers as wide an array of uses for each track without compromising its original premise, not an easy thing to do.  Then there are the tools.  As a GM with enough on my plate, I don’t want to have to learn how to mix tracks like a sound engineer when putting together stuff for my games, give it to me simple.  Everything is click and drag making even the mixer super straight forward to use.   The soundboard follows the same KISS principle, allowing GM’s to put together their audio lists any way that’s most convenient for them.  The soundboard brings together the advantages of allowing gamers to plan for all the audio a script calls for while making any amount of it also available for off-the-cuff use, all, on a single customizable platform.

Jinx:  Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us here at 3-sided-die, it was a pleasure talking with you guys!  What is the best way for your fans to get in touch with you?

BB:  We can’t thank you enough for this opportunity.  Fans can reach us any way they like via Twitter (@Battlebards) and Facebook.  We’re also all over the comments and updates on the Kickstarter itself.  Don’t be shy, contact us, reach out, we’re just gamers like everyone else.

About jinx_the_bard

Longtime Dungeon Master, tabletop and video gamer. Been playing D&D and Shadowrun on and off most recently. Ran a post apocalyptic, paragon, 4th edition D&D campaign for a couple years. Running a 5th edition campaign now called “The Fall of Astia”. Enjoy Borderlands 1, 2 and even the Pre-sequel (which I tend to play with fellow author Ness), Fallout 3 and 4, Bioshock and Skyrim. (Games this good never get boring) I also indulge in Magic The Gathering, mostly in the Legacy and Modern formats. Please feel free to contact me at dungeonmaster.bm@gmail.com for any questions, thoughts or things you’d like to see featured on our site.

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