Okay, so as alluded to a while back I was building two props for Aeon Horror’s game set inside the NFQ base called “Incident ###” and I kind of want to talk about them both. The longer one was the ECR computer system (that saw very little use in game, sometimes these things happen) the other was the background nose effects of foundling F5225 (aka The Suckerman).
I’ve built a few bits of sound background over the years, mostly stuff for games to be honest. I made a whole chunk of background jungle warfare sound effects for Room Thirteen’s Hill 936 which were pretty good (although plans fell through to get them out and following the player parties on the day). Game wise I’ve also built a few backgrounds for using for Kult where I’ve built background soundscapes for the Dreamlands, The Cities and Metropolis and also The Underground Tunnel Networks (if anyone wants links just ask), and finally I’ve built a few for various bits of guided meditative work which have been quite useful.
Anyway, this is going to be partially a ramble about how I go about building sounds, and partially a couple of links so you can listen to the two versions I made for NFQ and enjoy them (only one got used in game). Mostly my advice for people looking to make sound effects for roleplaying games is pretty simple as I’m not that good at it, I just kinda feel my way through it. The most important thing is to go get an account on Freesound.org who honestly have pretty much everything you could need for almost anything. The second is to get a copy of Audacity which is available for pretty much every platform, is free, and is pretty simple to do a lot of things with – it doesn’t behave too unexpectedly for things like layering multiple samples and applying filters (and undoing filters then adjusting them), just remember to save frequently as it can be crash prone sometimes :)
Once you’ve got those two things I normally try and look for a hook to kind of hang everything off. The brief I was given was that The Suckerman, a being of general long term badassery, would be unhappy and as soon as its containment field went down it would start to maul the door in an effort to get out. Based on the idea of something with a name like that, contained in like a four foot thick steel box I started work on the idea of what does metal sound like when its getting rent and attacked by … something, claws, tentacles, teeth, just general pressure of something inhuman. So the background noise I took and used as my base was in this case “Metal Screech” which is apparently “Dragging a metal lawn chair across concrete; processed with reverb”. I took the initial three scrapes, layered them up with themselves so they looped then slowed them down and added echoes and reverb to make it sound like it was coming through deeper layers of metal and distorting into echoing throughout the buildings infrastructure. That was the basis, and this was the result:
That was the initial version I gave to the Refs, in many ways I prefer it, but it wasn’t quite right for the game. I think in a more regular style of horror game it would have worked better, but it was kind of strange and possibly just disconnecting from the very immediate physical atmosphere of NFQ and would have aimed things more into a sort of distant “WTF is that?” kind of reaction, generating the idea of something spooky rather than something that will come through the door and rip peoples heads off :) They requested I try to make it a bit less musical and more metallic and industrial, so I dropped some of the more distorted metal grinding noises and created this:
Which actually uses most of the same samples and background noise, I simply muted some of the more distorted scrapes. This time I opted for something more immediate, the idea of instead of the Suckerman scraping and twisting its way out instead this was about direct applied pressure, this I think gives a more physical and immediate atmosphere, which I think fitted the game better. The main hook I used in this one was “Metal Boom” which is “Sound of a metal impact, explosion.”. Again I took it and made it loop, but the thing I’ve found is that brains are very good at detecting patterns and loops, and that robs something of its scaryness because it makes the brain aware its artificial. So what I did was created a couple of minutes of very very slightly arhythmic occurrences of the sound, with slightly different length gaps between each thump, then looped that into the 5 minute sample that got used on the day, which I feel really helped carry it.
So yeah, sound effects and noises, my suggestions are Freesound, Audacity, Having a main backdrop (rain, wind, city, thunderstorms are all good choices, but human heart beats and tolling bells work just fine) to layer things against will make your job easier :)