Reviewing Syrinscape – A Tabletop Evolution

One of the brilliant things about writing The Pathfinder Chronicles is talking to people that love our craft. That is what I found when I spoke to Benjamin Loomes of Syrinscape.  Ben (as I found out he prefers via his YouTube channel DiceStormers) is the creator of Syrinscape, an application for your desktop, laptop or mobile device designed to enrich your game at the table in a simple and elegant way.  Ben is a self described Pathfinder tragic and after looking at some of his videos, he is a fine GM and an avid gamer who uses innovative solutions to enhance his game at the table.

What a beautiful, simple interface.

So what is Syrinscape?  Well, apart from brilliant, Syrinscape is in essence a soundboard that offers packs of sound-sets to play at the gaming table made by an Australian company out of Sydney.  Each sound set comes with a range of pre-programmed settings to set up a desired background soundboard that matches play at the time as well as offering a range of ad-lib sounds that can be added in to the soundscape at the click of an icon.  Mage casts a fireball?  Click and the sound effect is there!  Lightning bolt?  No worries!  The bugbear bears down with a war cry?  It is there!  I personally have used sound effects in game once or twice, as well as playing themed music via my iPod in the background but this program takes it to another step.

The interface is brilliant.  As a GM the tools are all there at my fingertips and ready to be used with minimal distraction.  The program uses random noises in the category of what you click on meaning that the sounds that loop through differ and therefore do not become repetitive!  As at the writing of this blog there are twenty one sound packs available ranging from the two that ship “out of the box” of Bugbear Battle and Witchwood through to my favourites of the High Seas and High Seas Battle. There are even a couple of space styled sci-fi additions in the mix for a differing genre.

Once you purchase the application you can use it on any machine that is connected to the internet.  You sign into the application and you can download the soundscapes you have purchased onto the machine.  You do not need a current internet link to use the program though once the sounds are already downloaded.  In the near future (possibly next month) Syrinscape will be offering a subscription fee that will allow any new soundscapes (and the ones already created) to all be available for the subscription fee as well as all other products from the company open and available to you!  You can hold on to the way Syrinscape is though and only purchase the sound sets that you require if you prefer it that way!

Above are some examples of use in my own game.
The cricket was in the room, not part of the soundtrack!

In fact next month is set to see in a new era for the product as Ben advised me that there are a lot of new stuff coming to Syrinscape.  The first is very close to my heart as it is Pathfinder soundscapes that work in with Adventure Path’s for the Pathfinder game.  That is an awesome addition that came out of Syrinscape’s visit to Paizo Con last year and showing the makers their product on an iPad.  Now as the people at Pathfinder are just gamers wanting to have the best game they can they got excited and have been working with Syrinscape closely to produce soundsets that will match their Adventure Paths.

Included in the next update they are offering up the Beta of their sound editor which will allow a great deal of control over the way that you can play and even queue your sounds in game.  Also, the new update will allow you to choose what soundscapes are available in the left menu bar as the list now requires some manipulation while playing (scrolling it to find what you need).  With the next update you will be able to take only the soundscapes that you need for the game which will reduce the need for searching the various sounds for exactly what you need.

It is a staple at my gaming table now 🙂

The future of the tool will see a second version concentrate on sci-fi music with a specific sci-fi skinning to the application.  Syrinscape have gotten in Gil Luna who has been building some ambient backing tracks for tabletop RPG’s and delivering them successfully for some time now.  Gil has been having a ball with the algorithms that sit behind Syrinscape and their ability to provide a randomised soundscape as opposed to a set soundscape that repeats and can become tiring at the table because of the sameness of it.

I have included a couple of YouTube links in here of me using this tool at the table from my last game.  I can tell you now that this tool will be a regular at my tabletop games.  The players loved it and once it was up and running it was brilliant.  There was not a moment that the soundscapes stopped and I was amazed at the flexibility of it.  While the characters (a group of pirates) were out to sea they came across what seemed to be a Ghost Ship and so I wanted some spooky sound effects to go with my High Seas effects.  While playing the sea material I slipped into spooky and added the music, thus layering a couple of sets of sounds together from two soundscapes and the application did not miss a beat.

Have a look at this video too!

But what about online applications I can hear you saying?  I do a lot of my gaming online so of course I asked about this.  I asked Ben if there was any plan to integrate this into some of the popular virtual tabletops, hangouts or other similar situations?  There is a focus that they intend to provide a solution to this in the longer term.  It is actually a limitation of the tool that has been used to build Syrinscape that it does not have the capability to manipulate the sound driver of your machine.  In layman’s terms that means the application cannot redirect your sound driver to the web application as opposed to your speakers or headphones.  As we discussed this Ben mentioned a couple of possible solutions to this issue that makes me think that this is not going to be an issue for too much longer.

Evocative images and great sounds!

I can not recommend this product enough.  The soundscapes are brilliant.  The enhancement to our game was fantastic!  The players loved it.  I have only used it in one game but I can now not imagine running my game without it.  It took my iPod playing  days and made me feel ashamed at its use.  This is a dynamic, exciting addition to any game.  It is easy to use in a beautiful interface that I think every role player should try at the table, and when it becomes available, at the virtual table.  If you want to see it used in a much more professional way (I hate to admit it but Ben is a better GM than I) make sure you check out the DiceStormers website or channel for some amusing games.  They are also on Facebook where you can follow all the latest news.

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