Tabletop Review: Abandoned Keep

Abandoned Keep
Publisher: Toxic Bag Productions
Cost: $1.50
Time: 10:01
Release Date: 09/03/2014
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

Every so often I review an audio track for tabletop gaming because I have time or our site is in need of filler. It generally has to have an interesting title or pertain to something else I am reviewing. Sometimes these pieces are really good like Train Ride Into Darkness or Train Station Platform. Other times they are a bit mediocre like Pharoah’s Tomb. Most of the time ambient tabletop soundtracks are extremely distracting, forgetting that they are meant to be background tracks that enhance the mood rather than taking center stage. These pieces tend to be distracting and even unusable because they take attention away from the game. So I’m very picky when I use background noises and music with my tabletop games. That said, it’s getting close to Halloween and I saw a review code for Abandoned Keep in my inbox so I thought, “What the hey?” and decided to review it.

Abandoned Keep is ten minutes and one second long. The piece is designed to wrap seamlessly so you can just use it over and over without a break in the noise. I can definitely confirm that the piece transitions without the slightest hiccup after playing it several times in a row. The piece is described by the creators as, “is a background sound of a desolate outdoor location with light wind and a large group of crows nearby.” This is fairly accurate. However instead of large group of crows, it really should read, “A MASSIVE MURDER OF CROWS THAT GETS LOUDER AS THE PIECE GOES ON.” That’s really what the entire piece is. The piece is crows (that sometimes sound like frogs) cawing and little else. You can hear wind, crickets and occasionally footsteps if you turn the volume up really loud, but these are still overshadowed by the constant cawing of the crows. Besides, to turn it up to hear the other sound effects, the piece becomes exceptionally distracting and annoying and would not be something you would want to actually use while trying to game. At a regular background noise volume, the crows are still pretty loud and never really shut up. It’s just “CAW CAW CAW” for ten minutes. Which means this piece really doesn’t feel like an “abandoned keep” to me. It’s more like a cornfield or whatever you would call a bird get-together.

There’s nothing about Abandoned Keep that made me think of a location by the same name. I would have added footsteps from people walking around the keep, the sound of wind going through holes in the building. Maybe some spooky ghostly noises or the like. Instead, it’s just wind and crows. There’s no indication that the sounds are anywhere near a keep – just some random place outside.

Now, just because Abandoned Keep doesn’t really live up to its name, doesn’t mean the piece is bad at all. It would work great for an adventure set in a field or farm – especially if you are playing a horror game. The constant cawing would keep players off their games and be appropriate noise-wise to boot. So while Abandoned Keep doesn’t work at all as a creepy building piece for me, it can still be salvaged by enterprising GMs willing to match the piece to an adventure, rather than forcing it to be its namesake. With a price tag of $1.50, Abandoned Keep is long enough that you can get your money’s worth if you have a specific crow-filled adventure you want to use it with (Maybe even were-ravens or corvax?) but it just doesn’t work as the piece it was intended to be.

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