When we take the time to play games, it’s usually because we want or need a break from the grind. Game time is often one of the few times when we mentally and physically escape from harsh realities and fully engage in something fun.
Premier audio tools such as Syrinscape and Battlebards allow us immersion into our game time, and in whatever game we’re playing. They offer ambient sounds and music we can tailor to fit games, locations, and moods. While they are both excellent tools, their services come with a price.
The Internet has a multitude of free ambient tools that can and will do just about everything you want one of those premium tools for. So, if you’re gaming on a tight budget, but still want to soak your game time in quality ambiance, check out the following websites for the solutions you need.
A Soft Murmur
A Soft Murmur offers a basic and minimalist selection of ambient sounds, currently only ten, and without music. If simple is all you need, this site may work quite well for you and your game times.
The ten sounds include outdoor environment sounds, such as rain, wind, and birds, along with a couple indoor sounds, such as coffee shop. The fire sound could double as an indoor fireplace, or an outdoor campfire. Each sound also comes with three pre-programmed sound levels, toggled by clicking on the sound’s icon. This is a nice option for when you want to quickly increase the intensity of an ambient sound without having to click and drag on the volume slider.
The timer button at the top of the site is useful if you want an ambiance to play for a few minutes only before automatically shutting off. The meander button next to the timer button will randomly slide the volume levels of sounds you turn on. So, if you wanted to make a storm ambiance (rain, thunder, wind) that sounds more natural, the meander option will do that.
Noisli is another minimalist ambient site without music, but with sixteen sounds. It works much like the previous ambient site, with large icons to turn on and off sounds, volume sliders, and a timer feature.
Noisli offers more than A Soft Murmur when you sign up for a free account. Doing so unlocks five Favorites slots. Select the sounds you want, set their volume levels, and click the Favorites button to save them with a unique name. And if you’re using Noisli as background ambiance while you work on your next RPG encounter, you can use the handy distraction-free text editor that’s built in.
MyNoise is an advanced site compared to the previous sites. Its sleek, high-quality look and sounds were created by Stéphane Pigeon, who holds a Ph.D. in signal processing, and owns and operates three other audio-related websites.
MyNoise has an abundant selection of ambient sounds and music, called generators, each with a unique title, and grouped into thirteen categories. Just look for a category which sounds like it’s a fit for your game, then click through the individual titles for the generator you want. If you’re looking for a specific keyword, such as ‘waves’, you can use the search bar, and it’ll highlight the generators that include the sound of waves.
Notable generators: RPG Dark Forest, RPG Battlefield, Dark Water
Ambient Mixer offers a variety of ambient sound effects and atmospheres grouped in thirteen categories, including Games, Nature, and Unreal. The thumbnail pics make it easy to scan over and select a soundscape you want.
There are many great selections here, but the Game category is of particular interest. It is further divided into Board Games, Video Games, RPG, and Other sections, marking it as the category to start in for your gaming ambiance needs. The number of atmospheres available here are plentiful, enough to take up 71 pages worth. You’re sure to find a few to your liking.
Notable atmospheres: Gibbering Mouther, Silent Hill No Escape, Ravenloft
Tabletop Audio looks and works much like Ambient Mixer, but was created specifically “as a resource for players and GMs of tabletop role-playing games”. A deluge of public opinion swayed the site’s creator to expand the number of available ambiences, which are spread across seven categories.
Clicking on a category header will slot all the matching ambiences underneath, all on one site page, and never taking you to another. Hovering your cursor over an ambience thumbnail shows a brief description of it, along with Play, Add, and Save choices. Play will add the ambience to the sites’ playlist and play it automatically. Add will just add the ambience to the playlist, but not auto-play it; useful for queuing up a playlist of multiple ambiences. Save will save the ambience sound file to your device so you can listen to it offline.
Notable ambiences: Middle Earth: Dawn, Los Vangeles 3030, Weirder Things
These five sites should do you well in adding the perfect ambiance to your game times. Tabletop Audio, myNoise, and Ambient Mixer are set up to receive donations, if you indeed find them helpful. Bookmark these sites and have them ready for your next game!