Designing the Orc Stabr Audio Edition
Orc Stabr is a game of many surprises, and one of the most fun to make was the audio version. I’ve really enjoyed making audio versions of my books for ages now, and seeing as the game itself is so short, it seemed like an obvious thing to record a fun audio version, both for accessibility reasons and also cause some people just like using audio books.
I don’t have a strong background in sound production, but I do have some experience podcasting and doing a few readings, so I was able to leverage those skills here. Those skills being “knowing where to get creative commons licensed beats and sound effects, and owning a good mic” mainly.
A part of a good audio book is, imo, setting. Without images and design, you have to build any kind of setting and theme in the soundscape (fancy words!). Orc Stabr is all about the rich theme, and I wanted to go similarly all-in with the audio version. I had this image of Limm in his cave recording the show, cracking fire nearby, some Orcs beating a big powerful war drum to introduce the recording, fading quietly into the background while Limm’s voice cuts through. One quick aside; I only used a background sound here cause the game is so short, its just a 6 minute audio, I would not recommend this for a full game or module where you’re gonna be recording potentially hours of stuff. Then the background music just gets annoying.
I went and found some free Taiko drum loops, but none of them really worked for that echoy, slow rhythmic drumming I wanted, so I had to slow them down in Audacity, added a very minor reverb and then tweaked the volume to just make it that much more mysterious. Throw in a fire loop I found and we have a real nice, cozy dramatic backing track to read our RPG over.
I also wanted a really cool intro that got everyone in the mood to hear an Orc babble about RPG rulesets, so I isolated two sections of the sample and slowed them down a lot more, added a more aggressive reverb and echo, then played with it till I had a good solid intro. I think it sounds pretty good!
So first of all, as always, this had to be in character. We talked about this a lil more over here, but its vital that every aspect of Orc Stabr as possible comes directly from the mouth of the orc, so to speak, so we had to do the Orc Voice, but I didn’t use any effects and I made sure to tone it down a lil bit so it’s a bit easier to understand what Limm is saying, clarity is important when you’re doing audio books folks!
One thing I made sure to do is loudly announce when a new section has begun, including a number for which part of the game we’re at – this helps people navigate the book easily, and I’d recommend for longer books to include a vocal and written table of contents to let people quickly skip around the audio at ease.
If you read the page along with listening the audio, you’ll see it sort of basically lines up, but there are some minor changes. Partially this is because I adlibbed some silly jokes, but it also opens up a good avenue to talk about structural changes – RPG books tend to be written as reference material first and foremost, and reference material doesn’t make for compelling audio content. Consider, for your own audiobook, changing the order of your chapters and content to emulate a sort of “narrative”, trim down on superfluous stuff or put them in an entirely separate section (Play Examples, asides, etc) and read the book as though you’re telling a story about the mechanics. Give people the information they need to play as it would naturally arise during a play session. Many books already do this to some degree, but being super aware of it while you write the audio version can save you a lot of headache and make it way more accessible to your listeners.
I sent this audio out to a handful of people, some who have trouble reading on the screen, some who are blind and some who just like audio books, and did some last minute tweaks, that’s about it!
The thing about audio versions of games is anyone can do it, it just takes a lil time and a $60 mic. I use a blue snowball mic with a cheap $5 pop filter, Audacity and free sound libraries. That’s really all you need. Be slow, methodical and take frequent breaks so that when you goose up a section, its easy to cut in a new take. Turn off your air con, move away from any windows, and record a couple seconds of silence so you can do a proper Noise Removal when you’re all done.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or would like some help with making an audio version of your own projects.