Over a year ago I had the chance to do a Q&A session with the team behind a little Kickstarter project trying to give us the auditory means to shape atmosphere at our gaming tables. Today the Battlebards website finds itself deep into its Beta launch with a slew of new options coming to the fore. Thus, though I’ve been using music and sound effects from the site ever since launch, I felt know was the perfect time to do a bit of a deep dive into the site and see just what new tools I can play around with.
Before I get into the music I wanted to give some props to the site’s blog (because of course I’d be interested in the blog portion of any site, even one dedicated to awesome musical additions to gaming). When crafting an article for the blog the site creators don’t simply note that a new track is available, or that an update has occurred. Instead the pieces are usually really engaging write-ups. Currently at the top of the page you’ll find a post that gives us insight into one of the composers used on the site. The composer is Stefan Totsev, who crafted the haunting\uplifting melody “Monks of the Sun God”. I love gaining insight into people’s backstories and this is just an excellent treat. Beyond that there are numerous mentions of new tracks, deals on the site, and even a few guest spots from other notables. Even if you aren’t a subscriber (yet), the blog has a lot going for it.
Let’s get into the music though, shall we? When I backed the project I actually purchased a decent chunk of tunes but after actually paying attention to the store I now see that my library of nearly 200 tracks is a paltry sum. There are currently 871 tracks available for purchase individually or you can pick them up in bundled forms by choosing from 77 albums. The albums are broken down into categories so you can easily pinpoint what you might want. If you just want mood music (the arena I’ve been most successful in) simply do a store search for “Music” under Albums. If you’re a bit better about adding actual sound effects to your games you can grab from things like “NPC Scripts”, or “Sound Effects” (Shields breaking, bowstrings, sword clangs etc.).
One thing Battlebards is not is stingy with their sampling. To my knowledge you can listen through the entirety of an album before deciding to purchase it. You can hit play on anything you wish to sample and throughout your stay on the site the track(s) will play using an audio player that remains stationary on the bottom of the site, until you decide to try out another sound. I’ve been listening to the Underground Lake City album the entire time I’ve been writing this, I own one of the four tracks and want to know if I need more (I was running Out of the Abyss at one point, the track “Underground Lake City – Lightness Shores” was used often). If you listen long enough you’ll notice the phrase “Battlebards dot com” being intermittently cropping up to break the immersion, can’t have you just playing from the site for game night eh?
I will say that the ease in which you can search for music in the store holds gives way to validating one of my frustrations with the site. In the section housing what you’ve purchased, the “Library” tab, you don’t get that same level of functionality. What I have on my end is a list of my 192 tracks, that appear to be sorted by artist, with no other method of sorting available. Granted, the idea is to download tracks into your own audio playing software, and I have done this, where you can sort with greater ease. It still bugged me that I couldn’t do a quick search for a specific track I wanted right then and there though. If you have a full albums of something you can go to the Albums tab where you can click on the “tracks” number to give an album breakdown, but I don’t think all of my tracks show up here. If I’m ever to make a playlist on the actual site to be used on their Soundboard, I’d really like to be able to break things down into smaller chunks.
Speaking of the Soundboard, it is one of the newer aspects of the site. In this area you’ll be able to bring up a fully completed playlist to incorporate into one of you games. I played around with this a ton and this is exactly what I’ve been missing when trying to have something on hand to incorporate multiple sounds at a time in my games. You can pull up to two playlists up at a time, perhaps one for Music and Soundscapes while the second incorporates your favorite Sound Effects. Here’s another deal, in the Soundboard there’s a MUCH easier way of adding to a playlist than using the Your Playlist tab. I can simply add tracks to a playlist using the option on the left, and lo and behold they actually have it broken down exactly how I wanted it done in my library too. So while my ire with the library still stands it is greatly lessened by the ease in which I can utilize the soundboard. There are still some bugs here though as it appears one of my recently chosen tracks seems to have disappeared behind the “Play All” banner in the second column. This is going to be a huge boon to my audio usage at the table though.
The last new item I wanted to talk about is the Mixer. This is something I’ve been very excited about since day one. I always pictured myself making some killer tracks on this thing and it seems I’m fully able to do so! That is…if I had a single skill in my body to do so. Seriously, I played around with this and it is apparent I’ve a long way to go in order to make use of it myself. That’s on me though, the mixer seems very intuitive. It is still in development so the ease of adding tracks can be tricky unless you know to actually create a mix first (would love to be able to play around with mixing then save a mix after, but that’s only a quibble). One of the mixes I did recently was adding a few extra sound effects to the Monsterscape track “Common Giant – Combat – Fighting the Hill Giant” It was a real simple mix that makes it sound as if an Arrow Barrage takes the giant down.
Obviously people are going to do far better than I at crafting some seriously awesome sounds with this mixer, even if I never do. Stands to be seen how exactly Battlebards allows the mixer to be used. Will we one day be able to import our own sounds and sell through the site? Either way, even if it is only ever for private use, I’m having a blast toying with it.
Frankly, I don’t know how much longer Battlebards will have the right to keep that word Beta on their site. Things are beginning to be very well polished over there. I imagine once they finalize the Mixer they are going to have to consider themselves fully fleshed out. I’ve had a blast on the site during this review and I think you will too. Signing up on the site is 100% free, i’d suggest anyone to so it if for no reason other than to listen to some of the cool works they have. Once signed up, you’ll probably want to buy a track or two and for that, you’re in luck.
There is currently a coupon code for some great free tracks on the Battlebards site, exclusively from The RPG Academy Network, to celebrate the upcoming release of an Album called “Pirates – And the Grand Ocean“, but you can’t get it right here sadly (don’t want to just throw a Coupon Code into the wilds of the net for easy Google searches!). Here’s what you need to do, check out one of many fine podcasts in the RPG Academy Network because this code is going to crop up in some, maybe all of their shows. I know for a fact that the newest line of podcast material from The RPG Academy called “Detention” (hosted by The Caleb G.) will house the code info soon, if not already.
Another way to get the code? Leave a comment below and I’ll get you the list of codes by another means!
The codes will get you the following discounts, they are good through the end of the year (Happy hunting!):
If you buy the $10 or $24 package, the first code gets you 1 free track
if you buy the $50 or $100 package, the second code gets you 5 free tracks
If you buy the $150 or $300 package, the third Code gets you 16 free tracks
You have to have a battle bards account to claim anything. it’s free to set up with an email
That’s all from me folks, let me know if you have any tidbits to share from your own Battlebards wanderings. Remember, comments will get you Codes!
P.S. Battlebards has also produced 16 videos thus far on their YouTube Channel, many of them go to great lengths to showcase how to use certain functions on their site. If you are having trouble with something they may have produced a video on it! I know I need to check out this video right here to learn more about mixing.