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RPG Background Loops MP3: Pharaoh's Tomb
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/11/2014 06:33:23
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/06/11/tabletop-review-rpg-bac-
kground-loops-mp3-pharaohs-tomb/

Last month I reviewed one of the many tracks generated by Plate Mail Game’s very successful Kickstarter. I enjoyed 1890′s Train Plateform (Or Platform as it has now been corrected into) and it felt like it would be a good fit for my Call of Cthulhu games, especially the upcoming Horror on the Orient Express remake. As many of you know by now, I’m a big mummy fan. Be they fantasy or World of Darkness style mummies, so when I saw that Plate Mail Games had released a track called Pharaoh’s Tomb, I decided to see what that one was like as well. After all, I do love to run adventures in the Har’akir domain of Ravenloft, so I thought this might be a good fit for a dungeon crawl. What did I think? Let’s take a look.

Like all Plate Mail Games tracks, Pharaoh’s Tomb is ten minutes in length and designed to be run as a loop, providing continuous background noise for you and your players. Now I use background noise rarely, mainly because a lot of tracks designed for this sort of thing actually seem to distract players rather than enforce the food the GM is trying to provide.

The track almost lost me at first with what sounds like a weird bit of feedback, but is probably a Theremin. The noise occurs regularly throughout the track and I’m not sure what it is supposed to be, except that it occurs frequently and is annoying, distracting and loud. Maybe it’s meant to be a ghost howling or something?

The other major sound you’ll hear with the track is wind. It’s the one constant throughout the ten minute piece. Of course, if you’ve been in a pyramid, you’ll know it’s deathly silent in there, but what they hey – it’s for effect and it is very ominous even if it’s not very accurate.

There are occasionally other noises like a guttural moan that occurs once or twice, rare footsteps and even the clanking of chains (which would be more appropriate in a haunted house than a tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh), but the track is mostly wind and the weird synth/Theremin howling that just doesn’t fit the tone or location of the piece.

What’s most notable in this piece are the things that are missing. I would have put in the shuffling of feet on stone. Perhaps some creaking or noises from locations settling. The grinding of stone on stone for a trap or secret door being activating. The scuttling and scurrying of bugs (probably scarab beetles) and other things that are actually reminiscent of a pyramid. The idea of the track had a lot of potential but what I actually got wasn’t at all what I was looking for.

What’s here just in no way shape or form makes me think of a “Pharaoh's Tomb.” It’s too distracting and off-base for me to ever contemplate using in a mummy based adventure or campaign. Now your mileage may vary. The weird echo feedback playing every few seconds might be up your alley and you might not find the repletion and loudness of the track as distracting or annoying as I did. Taken on its own outside of the theme it is meant to portray, Pharaoh’s Tomb is technically sound and a decent deal considering it’s ten minutes in length for only a buck-fifty. While it doesn’t fit my needs or desires it the slightest, you can listen to the audio preview for the track over at DriveThruRPG.com and see if it is more your cup of tea than it is mine. In the end, while well priced and proficiently made, Pharaoh’s Tomb just didn’t work for me.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Pharaoh's Tomb
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Dungeon Realm 3
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/04/2014 19:28:05
The drippy water, the occasional closing of a door, and the violin solo lightly playing in the background of this track all put me in mind of a "dungeon" in the sense of "prison in the cellar" rather than a "dungeon" in the sense of "mad wizard's underground menagerie." The overwhelming sense I get from this track is one of utter loneliness. Very effective, although the water dripping limits the range of situations in which you could use the track.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Dungeon Realm 3
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Desert Cave
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/04/2014 19:10:24
Mostly what you hear in this track is wind. Occasionally some rocks or pebbles will skitter along a hard surface. There's also quite a bit of chittering from some kind of animal—bats, perhaps, judging by the occasional flapping of wings. The overall effect is … well, not one of Wes Otis's better efforts. The chittering gets annoying pretty quickly, and the rest is primarily white noise. It seems to do what the composer/engineer intended, but the overall effect is just bland in my judgment.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Desert Cave
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Underwater World
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/04/2014 18:25:29
This track sounds like just what you might hear in a film while characters are scuba diving or even an exterior shot of a submarine: water and bubbles, along with occasional sounds that resemble the "ping" of a movie submarine's sonar. Very simple and very effective, useful in multiple genres: fantasy, sci-fi, modern military, and superhero being the most obvious.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Underwater World
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Seashore
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/04/2014 16:01:29
This track is absolutely straightforward: the sound of waves lapping up on the beach, with some sea birds calling out now and again. That's all there is, and that's all you need to evoke the sense of being on a seashore. It does seem to be a lonely seashore; there are no ship bells or foghorns or anything like that to suggest a lighthouse, port, or even sunbathers.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Seashore
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Alien World 2
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/04/2014 12:18:55
This alien world is teeming with wildlife, so I assume the PCs are out in a wilderness area of some sort. The strange animal noises convey a sense of alienness, and occasional musical tones make the whole thing seem a bit eerie. You could probably even use this for a warped terrestrial jungle of some kind.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Alien World 2
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Alien World 3
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/04/2014 12:02:21
Haunting winds carry along the chirping of rather earth-like birds throughout the bulk of this track. Occasional "electric" swells and other tones add to the ambience. Although hampered slightly by the familiarity of the birdsongs, the track does a good job of evoking a mysterious alien setting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Alien World 3
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Old West Saloon
by Alex R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/04/2014 11:08:18
Very good sound loop. Really like what Wes is doing!
Improvable: too much cling&clang sounds like in nearly every of his ambient soundscapes.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Old West Saloon
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Elven Forest
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/03/2014 12:42:10
To break down the title, the sense of a forest is achieved in this track primarily by the sounds of chirping birds; some rustling of foliage would probably enhance the atmosphere. The sense of elvishness is achieved primarily by some ethereal music, sounding as if wind chimes could hold out their notes. The entire effect is very pleasing, although if you play the track too loud, the "wind chimes" may begin to sound shrill, so keep the volume low.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Elven Forest
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Viking Dining Hall
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/01/2014 00:19:51
The title offers a viking dining hall, and the track delivers a viking dining hall. Lots of voices, but they're not saying anything in discernible English. A bit of light instrumentation, some laughter, some clinking of tankards (or maybe small cymbals or something along those lines). Very well done and not too distracting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Viking Dining Hall
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Haunted Mars
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2014 15:01:53
This loop evokes a mysterious, barren, windswept plain. You could be standing in a Martian desert; you could be standing in Egypt next to a broken statue of Ozymandias. There are some strange noises in the background that add to the sense of wonder and mystery; I suppose these might imply a haunting. Whatever they suggest to you, the track is very effective at setting a "haunted" (either literally or metaphorically) mood in a desolate place.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Haunted Mars
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Black Mud Swamp
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2014 14:45:25
How do you know this soundscape represents a swamp, other than the title? Mainly from the buzzing insects. The mud is implied by occasional "sticky" footfalls. Why is the mud black? Well, because the title says so, and because it's nighttime, as you can tell from the crickets. Unlike most of Plate Mail Games's background loops, this one also has touches of "music" in the form of sustained, relatively high-pitched tones. The sound is sometimes almost like an electrical hum. These long notes add a touch of mystery, making this an excellent loop to play under any swamp scene, such as (but not limited to!) a visit to a black dragon's swamp in a fantasy RPG or the Louisiana bayou in Call/Trail of Cthulhu scenarios.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Black Mud Swamp
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Fantasy Medieval Battleground
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2014 14:38:29
Clashes of swords and shouts of warriors resound through this battlefield, implying a rather large number of combatants. What makes this a *fantasy* medieval battleground is the fire-breathing dragon (or inarticulate fire giant, perhaps). Very effective and enjoyable.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Fantasy Medieval Battleground
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Superhero Hover Fortress
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
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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