Barbarians of Heavy Metal (And Source Material That Drives You Wild)

So in case you haven’t been following along in the comments section of an older post, I thought I’d note that Nathaniel, the author/designer/chief mutant who brought us Barbarians of the Aftermath (from the majesty that is Simon Washbourne’s Barbarians of Lemuria) will soon be working towards bringing us Barbarians of Heavy Metal which looks to draw on a number of sources that really tickle my old school nerd itch.

I’d like to throw the comments to this post open to Nathaniel to let him talk a bit about the inspiration and design process that’s fueling BoHM as well as for anyone else to talk about the bits of source material that just keep gnawing away at their brains until they finally up and do something with ’em. I’ve already mentioned the album Warp Riders by The Sword as one of mine (and since infected Nathaniel with it!). What are some of yours?

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0 thoughts on “Barbarians of Heavy Metal (And Source Material That Drives You Wild)

  1. Nathaniel

    Ok, as VP has been such a great support for BotA, I’ve decide you guys get a first peek at the upcoming book. I’ll post in segments, adding more as I write more.

    This is pretty much the first thing I get straight in my mind when I design a game. In the case of BoHM, there are a number of influences that I plan to mix about to get the right feel for a heavy metal universe with decaying tech and a feudal civilization:

    Battletech: The basic idea behind the game is take the original BT game back to what I consider the ‘Good Ol’ Days,’ the dark age of technology before they started messing it up with the Clans, recovered tech, etc.

    Dune: The David Lynch version of the movie was terrible for the most part (especially how people ‘thought’ things you could obviously see right in front of your blinkin’ eyes), but the costumes and set design were so friggin’ weird yet strangely compelling that I love the look of the whole thing.

    Krull: Nothing says high tech, space-faring feudal society like Krull. In fact, I would say this is the ultimate D&D in space movie.

    Heavy Metal – The Movie: I know its just cartoon porn for the most part, but certain parts of it blend music, sci-fi and fantasy so well, that I have not been able to shake the image of this movie out of my head for 30 years. It just smacks of late 70’s early 80’s music and imagery and is, thusly, the main influence for any book that relies on that imagery.

    Warp Riders: I love this album as it is everything metal should be and it really speaks to the concept of piratical space raiders, heroic adventurers on mighty quests, and all the other mythical conceits that made the music of my distant youth so memorable. I plan to base some of the background around some of the concepts from this album, including adding a Warp Rider career, using the term Navigatrix for female ship captains and taking warp fold theory as the basis for interstellar travel. If I can get their permission, I might even detail Acheron as a planet.

    Brutal Legend: Heavy Metal warriors on mythic quests, driving the Heavy Metal version of tanks and using music to melt the faces off of their enemies. Nuff’ said.

    Every Fantasy and Sci-Fi Cover from the Seventies: This is the imagery of my youth. It wasn’t always precise or even technically competent, but the covers of 70’s paperbacks were always able to stir my imagination and transport me to other strange and fascinating places, even if they had nothing to do with the stories in the books themselves. They were always weird and defied the common perception of what space travel or fantasy should look like, the kind of stuff that inspired OD&D not the insipid, overdone half-anime art that dominates the modern market and informs 4E.

    Every Album Cover of the Seventies and Early Eighties: Look inside the jacket of Led Zeppelin IV and try not to be transported. Look at the cover of Bat Out of Hell. It is way out of tune with the music, but the imagery tells such a story! And who can think of Iron Maiden without alson thinking of Eddie coming out of a grave or all Cyber-ed up and travelling time? Many of the Rock artists of this period seemed to spend more time and attention on their album covers than their music, but the results were mind blowing in so many cases and well worth the one song you purchased the entire album for.

    These are the sights and sounds that will inform BoHM. And C7 and I are currently looking into hiring an artist who can truly realize this sort of imagery all mixed together. My first choice is a fantastic artist whose art fille the early Battletech and Shadowrun books of the eighties: Jeff Laubenstein. Let’s hope we can get him.

    Next Up: Book Breakdown…

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      Thank you, Nathaniel, for sharing this groovy sneak peak with me and the small cadre of readers who drop by from time to time. I’ve been downright giddy ever since I first heard you were working on BoHM, and getting to look behind the curtain a bit is a tremendous treat. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you and C7 can land Laubenstein because in addition to being a parrot lover (which goes a long way in my household), he’s one of a handful of artists who I think can really make the book sing the way it needs to.

      I’m looking forward to the next glimpse of what you’ve got on tap for us. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. Nathaniel

    The next part of my typical Organizational Phase is to break down the contents of the book into a rough outline, which is listed below along with short descriptions of the contents of each section. The relevant names are in flux and will likely be replaced with something more metal as I go along.

    Introduction:: The standard ‘What is this and how do you use it?’ section, including my usual admonitions to treat the rulebook as an inspiration, not a tyrannical overlord.

    Setting:Unlike BotA, which was largely a game toolkit that helped you to create your own setting, BoHM has a dedicated setting and that requires some brief description of the universe in which our Heavy Metal Heroes wander. It won’t, however, be the overwhelming descriptive opus one typically finds in this case and only speaks of the universe in the most general terms for two reasons: first, there will be a lot of this information spread about the book in relevant sections (how starflight works will be covered in the Warp Ships chapter, for instance); and secondly, I still want the universe to be flexible enough to mould to the GM’s vision without too much effort.

    Heavy Metal Heroes: The character generation chapter, with all new careers like the Titant Rider (mechwarrior), the Roadie (land vehicle and heavy equipment expert), the Groupie (courtesan), the Manager (leader of bands in battle) and the Warp Rider (star pilot). I’m still going through the various careers trying to change the names out for more ‘metal’ names, but that is a work in progress which I will discuss in the next segment.

    New Heroic Backgrounds will be covered in the next chapter. I had thought about keeping them in this chapter, but as they are very important to the themes and structure of the BoHM universe, I moved them. You’ll see why in a second.

    The Books of Rock: This section will have a very similar feel to the ‘clans’ or ‘classes’ of other games in that it describes the society of the future which is divided up on the basis of the ‘Rocktagon,’ a symbol of the eight divisions of Rock. Each of these divisions has a separate Book of Rock to represent it which details the Patron Saint of that style of music, the type of people that follow it and the behavioral strictures they abide by to be the purest examples of it (which allows them to claim things like ‘I’m more metal than you!’), Heroic Backgrounds based around band positions, rules for using that specific style of music in music duels (Licks, special advantages and disadvantages, etc.) and finally, the Great House that represents the largest kingdom representing that style of music in the universe.

    And as if that were not enough, there will be an additional section for the ‘Posers,’ which is the name general society uses for those who play other forms of music (country, hip-hop, classical, etc.) besides Rock. These folks typically live on the fringes of the universe and typically act as mercenaries who are hired to disturb and annoy the enemy. I’m thinking of making a selection of ‘generic’ abilities that you can choose to create custom heroic backgrounds for these folks, but they have a very set series of Flaws that revolve around their difficulty in dealing with Headbanger society.

    Rules: How to play the game, of course. Specifically…

    The BoX System: The only major complaint that folks had about my previous book is that it required the core rules to use it. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, I was the first to make supplements for the system, and Simon and I agreed that it would be a good structure at the time to allow others to publish for the system while maintaining sales of the main book. Since that time, things have changed, however, so this game will have the complete rules inside! Huzzah!

    Now, when I say complete rules, I mean those that fit this universe, so if you want sorcery rules ,you’ll still need the BoL:Legendary Edition still and if you want mutation rules, you’ll want to pick up a copy of BotA. But you will now have another option for a core book along with BoL, Legends of Steel and Dogs of WAR and the setting material is unique enough that it will still be a worthwhile purchase even if you have those other fabulous books.

    Firearms: These will be a variation on the Aftermath rules, with Ammo Checks, multiple shots and PEN values. I’m still considering changes to these, however, so opinions are welcome.

    The Sound & The Fury: One of the core concepts of the setting is that the introduction of sonic weapons in the distant past gave rise to the headbanger society that exists in the present and many of the rites and societal values are based around ones affinity with them. One of the main uses of these weapons is to ‘duel’ with the safeties off, proving your musical superiority to your opponent as you are killing them with it. These rules allow you to do that in a one on one, band vs band or mass battle situation.

    Rides: New vehicle rules for land and air vehicles.

    Heavy Metal: Rules for piloting Titans, 60 foot tall anthropomorphic killing machines which represent the best the battlefield has to offer. Including rules for the scarcity of parts and lost technology that makes them so expensive and rare on said battlefield.

    Titan units are divided into ‘Bands’ with one Titan representing the ‘lead’ with a general all purpose weapon layout, an ‘axe’ with long ranged weaponry, and the ‘rhythm section’ consisting of a ‘bass’ with close ranged weaponry and a ‘beat’ which has heavy artillery and supporting electronics.

    In terms of force representation, think OGRE, where there will typically be on ‘Band’ of Titans per company. I know this is more rare than original Battletech, but the idea is to keep the other elements of the setting interesting and in play, especially massed musical confrontations between infantry. Opinions are welcome on this…

    Warp Riders: Rules for starships and interstellar travel base on the concept of warping space. I’ll detail more on this later, but the basic conceit is to have ‘singularity generators’ that link star systems by creating folds between them, allowing ships to slip through the intervening ‘hyperspace’ using the talents of Navigators and Navigatrixes who can see the folds in their minds eye and navigate the hyperspace in between through some strange psychic ability which used to be well understood but is now treated with mysticism.

    This allows strategic positioning of systems to be important as linkages are typically line of sight and must travel between unobstructed space (no large masses like planets and suns). So defensible ‘kingdoms’ can be created by blockading the system linkages. These generators are lost tech and are never harmed by anyone for fear of cutting off space travel for good. Some areas, like the Earth, have already been cut off from the rest of the universe after the great wars destroyed all of the linkage points into their systems.

    On a side note, I arranged the system of travel like this because I wanted starships to be able to fight freely, unlike the Battletech universe. So piratical raids and so on are an additional option for this universe.

    GM Section: All therelevant stuff for a GM to run a campaign will be here, including random generators for NPC forces, Planets, Fiefdoms and Missions.

    Also included will be alternate setting ideas, allowing you to add rules from the other BoL products to make an entirely unique version of the universe. Want to have the Sabbathites be actual sorcerors and their enemies the Christian Rockers to have the power of actual Priests? Then use the rules from BoL. Want there to be aliens and mutants in your universe? Use the rulers from BotA. Find out what happened to Earth by using the Setting generator in the same book. All of these and more will be listed as options for the main game.

    Up Next: New Careers…

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      Yet more tantalizing tastes of what’s to come. Huzzah! When can we see the layout for the Rocktagon? I need to know where I stand 🙂

      1. Nathaniel

        Well, I was going to wait until I got to that section to show it, but here is a link for those who want a preview (if you can, post it here as a picture):

        This is a first draft of the Rocktagon, so the names are not final, I won’t be calling Hair metal ‘Hair’ for example, and I’ve already changed the alternative to ‘Grim,’ but the structure of divisions and oppositions is fixed. I’ll explain my choices in the relevant Design Diary (which should be after Careers)…

      1. the venomous pao Post author

        I’m something of an odd duck, it would seem. I’m definitely not Death, and yet I’m kind of between Punk and Sabbathite (closer to Punk, but not firmly so), with a chunk of Led and a generous handful of Alt throw into the mix. I guess if I have to pick one, though, it’s gonna be Punk.

        1. Nathaniel

          A character in BoHM can use Licks from any side of the Rocktagon except the opposition side, so you could have bits and pieces from all of those styles except Led, which is opposed to Punk and vice-versa. Headbanger society is very serious about oppositions on the Rocktagon and while they will begrudgingly serve alongside headbangers of the opposition in bands, they won’t like them or play their music.

          Your societal outlook and behavior (and the resulting choices in Heroic Backgrounds) would be straight out of Punk, as would the Patron Saint you pay homage to, in your case, The Rotten One.

          One of the ‘rules’ of Punk is ‘if you can’t beat it, vandalize it’ which essentially means that you must always leave your tag on your enemy before running from battle.

          1. the venomous pao Post author

            Interesting! This is an important question, then. Where would Blue Oyster Cult fit? Sabbathite? Led? Somewhere else I’m not giving proper credit to? I ask because if they’re in the Led camp I may have to adjust where I stand and call myself a Sabbathite with strong punk leanings 🙂

          2. Nathaniel

            I’d say it would fall into the Led School, which represents heavily blues influenced Hard Rock.

          3. the venomous pao Post author

            Well then, I definitely can’t claim punk as my home, since that kind of hard rock is rather key to who I am as a person (and a musician). Alas, categorizations. How I love to flummox thee 🙂

          4. Nathaniel

            Well, remember as well that we’re talking a character from the 31st century or so with an entirely different way of looking at music that is based on a societal and semi-religious viewpoint. To a Punk in BoHM, Johnny Rotten is a literal Saint and his strictures are (as contradictory as it sounds) the way you live if you are to be the greatest punk in the universe. To these people, Zoso (think Plant and Page as Siamese twins), the Patron Saint of Led, is the Devil’s Cabana Boy and all of his followers are about as welcome as a woman dressed in fur and eating a hamburger at a PETA convention. Only less so. That’s what it means to be in opposition in the BoHM universe.

            I’ll explain more when we get to the Books of Rock…

          5. the venomous pao Post author

            What? You want me to think about this stuff in context? That’s just silly, man 🙂

            But seriously, in the milieu, then, I’m probably a proper punk, then. Of course, I should hold off on that until I know the details of the rest of the Books. I can wait. Really. I’ll just be in the next room, wailing on my axe.

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      Indeed it does, amigo. I’m quivering in my combat boots and leather jacket! I hope Nathaniel gets us another hit before the weekend 🙂

  3. Nathaniel

    Ok, a short entry today, as the baby madness around the house is building to a crescendo that will only be nullified once the kid is born.

    Here is the list of careers for BoHM. There are 24 in all, and not all of them are Metal enough name-wise, so I’m open to suggestions about names as well as new careers.

    Assassin: Even in the 31st century, where being loud and brash is the status qou, there are those who forgo all of the killer noise for killer silence.

    Barbarian: It’s a BoX product, so there MUST be barbarians. In the game, these represent pretty much everyone living on the very fringes of headbanger society on primitive worlds so far off the beaten path that planetary society regressed ever further back than the feudal age, to a time of barbaric tribes and clans (that’s right. I said it. The Clans in this universe are actually less advanced than their BT counterparts! Take that, FASA!)…

    Beast Master: Somebody needs to be able to train all those rottweilers, snakes and pseudo dragons that headbangers buy to add to their metalocity. Oh, and they train beasts of burden as well, for those who want to be true ‘cowboys from hell…’

    Dok: The medical arts are still necessary, although most Docs, as are most educated classes, are typically traveling monks from the ‘Great Church,’ typically because few headbangers have the patience to learn anything beyond basic field medicine.

    Flyboy: Pilots of aero-fighters, aircraft that can also travel in space.

    Groupie: Basically Courtesans.

    Hunter: In a fuedal society, hunting is actually a main source of food. THe best hunters in the galaxy are the members of House Nugent.

    Interrogator:Inquisitors, basically, with an extreme dedication to their particular Book of Rock. Their main function is to seek out those who ‘aren’t metal’ enough for their particular segment of the Rocktagon and punish accordingly.

    Manager: These are the leaders of Titan Bands, officers of a sort with organizational skill in large scale battles who operate from command vehicles near the back of the line.

    Mercenary: There are a ton of military bodies who owe no allegiance to anyone but the highest bidder.

    Occultist: The Sabbathites in particular produce a number of mystics and cultists of old, dead religions. These religions are far cries from their antecedents, however, with rites and ‘traditions’ that are usually made up to make them more ‘Metal,’ such as biting the heads off bats or worshiping fictional monsters.

    Priest: The ‘Great Church’ is the last bastion of the morals and codes of the ‘old days’ before civilization fell and was taken over by the headbangers. They still send missionaries out into headbanger society, and are actually tolerated for the academic and technical skills they bring with them, skills which are usually unavailable to headbangers or are of no interest to anyone with a truly metal outlook.

    Raider: Pirates and planetary raiders are part of daily life in the petty kingdoms.

    Roadie: Technical support crew for Titan Bands, they are skilled in construction, heavy equipment usage and drive support vehicles from trucks to tanks. They can repair just about anything that isn’t AdTek, including doing repairs on Titans.

    Scavenger: There are those who have been shunned by society for any number of reasons, but typically for not being ‘metal’ enough. They may eventually return to the good graces of the metal community by proving their worth (usually at the cost of proving themselves more metal than somebody else, who takes their place in the scavenger ranks), but most die scavenging scrap and other supplies to sell to survive or join the Great Church, rejoining headbanger society as monks with a different calling.

    Scholar: The Monks of the Great Church are the only ones with the patience to take on the more academic tasks that bore headbangers to tears. This is a catch all career that can be used for anything from Lawyers to Accountants to Programmers.

    Scout: A combination of forward observer and spy. Sneaky and observant.

    Slave: Scavengers are lucky they’re not slaves. Slaves are what prisoners of war become if they aren’t important or rich enough to be ransomed and the degrading life of a slave makes scavenging look like a worthy past time. The only way out of slavery is to escape and hope that you can find someone to take you in just to spit in the eye of your master, survive as a scavenger for a time until they can get back into society, or join the Church.

    Soldier: These are the regular troops of the Great Houses and Petty Fiefs and Kingdoms

    Tek: Only the monks of the Great Church possess the technical skills to repair AdTek, the lost tek of the ancients, although even they are unable to reproduce such technology and their skills are often shrouded in mysticism.

    Titan Rider: The nobility of headbanger society, those who own or can operate these massive behemoths are, by definition, more metal than everyone else. The rock stars idolized by a society of rock stars.

    Tradesman: This is a catch all category that allows one to take a career in basic trade skills, like leather working (leather being the preferred clothing of the 31st century second only to flame retardant spandex), farming (something so unmetal that its relegated to slaves) or vehicle detailing (which is how vehicles and Titans get their spikes, metal goblin faces and cool paint jobs).

    Warlord: These are the rulers of headbanger society, usually by noble bloodline, who command anything from aa small army to a petty kingdom of linked star systems.

    Warp Rider: The warp riders are all possessed of a rare psychic gift that allows them to ‘see’ disturbances caused by space-folds which allows them to steer a ship into hyperspace. They also have slight precognitive abilities which allow them to see a small way into the future, allowing them to plot a course over light years of distance. These individuals are usually identified in childhood and given to the Great Church who trains them in the extremely complex skills necessary for interstellar navigation so that they may keep interstellar commerce alive. As their gifts and skills strengthen they may make longer and longer jumps, and the most advanced Warp Riders, given the title of Navigator or Navigatrix, and can make jumps thousands of light years at a time.

    Due to the strange time dilation effects of warp-jumping, most Navigators and Navigatrixes are often centuries older than they look and there are still a few that remember the great war…

    Up Next: The Books of Rock…

    1. Nathaniel

      Some small changes I’ve already thought of:

      1. Change Priest to Monk. Sounds more… I don’t know… hermetic. Also, the Tek and various Scholar careers are only available to former Monks, and they may only take one of them for each Rank the character has in Monk. So a third rank Monk could be a Lawyer, Programmer and Tek, whereas a single rank Monk could only have one of those careers.

      2. The Dok career can only be taken at a level equal to 1 + your the level of your Monk career.

      3. All careers will be generally described and used as per the standard BoL rules, but I will also give each one a ‘special ability’ that specifies something they can use their skill for. Like the Assassin adding their Rank to damage if they strike from surprise, or the Mercenary gaining a Bonus Die when negotiating contracts.

      1. the venomous pao Post author

        Rockin’! I like how this is shaping up, especially with the additions above.

        Now, for more “metal” names…

        Assassin: Nightstalker
        Barbarian: Rager? Fringer?
        Dok: Dr. Feelgood
        Flyboy: Ace!
        Occultist: Hand of Satan
        Priest: Hand of God

        That’s all I’ve got at the moment. But I’ll flip through the Sabbath, BÖC, and other albums I’ve got handy to see if anything jumps out at me 🙂

      2. Nathaniel

        1. Barbarian is going to stay Barbarian for reasons of branding.

        2. Monk: Monk is my favourite for the priest as it really says church but still keeps that dark age imagery that is so popular.

        3. Occultist: Occultism is exactly what parents were afraid of with heavy metal and rpgs, so that will probably remain as is as well.

        As for the others, Nightstalker is good, but it makes me think more of horror (Kolchak: The Nightstalker) than metal. Ace definitely makes me think of Motorhead (Ace of Spades), but it is also has a potentially confusing specificity to a particular type of pilot (one who is very experienced). Dr. Feelgood is very metal but also, again, very specific sounding. Why not just call him Doctor?

        1. the venomous pao Post author

          Good reasons on all of those. And I wasn’t necessarily sold on any of them in particular, I just wanted to throw some ideas out. If I think of more I’ll toss ’em against the wall and see if they stick 🙂

          I do like “Reaper” for Assassin for sure. Any BÖC reference is a good one!

        2. Alex

          As a thought on how to make the Monk even *more* Metal, instead of just calling it monk, maybe calling them Druids instead. I know it’s not the same connotation as real-world Druids, but Monk makes me think of Brother Cadfael, while Druid makes me think of Spinal Tap, and the self-indulgent video sequence they had during the concert portion of The Song Remains The Same, and pro wrestler The Undertaker.

          As far as horror connotations go, those are probably okay. Metal and Horror have had some close ties in the past, with metal bands contributing music to horror films, and occasionally taking inspiration from horror films and novels. Which in turn reminds me – there’s going to be some sort of ritual magic and dark eldrich abominations to contend with, right (as dark eldrich abominations are pretty metal).

          1. Nathaniel

            The Monk is literally a Fransican type from the Great Church, so the Cadfael comparison is quite apt. In more ways than one, actually, as most of the Monks sent out to minister and give technical aid to the headbangers are usually mendicants who left that society to join the Church, as Cadfael was a soldier, sailor, etc. before he decided to settle down in the relatively peaceful monastic life.

            Again, think feudal society with an equally feudal Church. Druids wouldn’t exist, per se, except as Occultists who take what little is known about Druidic beliefs and then ‘metal’ them up.

            This goes for actual magic and monsters as well. They don’t actually exist outside of the fact that some folks believe in their power and act accordingly. There will, however, be a section in the GM portion of the book that gives you options for adding such things to the base universe by using other BoX books. In this case, there will be section detailing how supernatural forces are added to the setting, with Sabbathites using Sorcery, Nazarites functioning as Priests, Punks using Psychic Powers and Led being the masters of Alchemy.

          2. the venomous pao Post author

            Ah, Stonehenge. Where the demons dwell.

            That sequence was filmed right here in little ol’ Austin. Which lead to one of the funniest and subtlest bits of humor in the entire film. The suggestion that Ian is hard-working because he locates mandolin strings in Austin. Seriously, I think they sell them in every 7-11 and grocery store in town 🙂

            I definitely agree on the Horror/Metal connections, Alex. Any Iron Maiden cover should do as proof. That said, I don’t think tying in to Kolchak is the way to go. As much as I love that show, it’s pretty unmetal.

      3. Nathaniel

        Since you mentioned the Blue Oyyster Cult, I thought about renaming the Assassin as ‘Reaper.’ Sound cool?

        1. Nathaniel

          I’m thinking of changing Interrogator to Inquisitor. It just sounds so much more menacing and, well, METAL.

          Also, VP, I think this post is getting pretty long, too much so for convenient viewing. Time to start a Part II post, methinks.

          Perhaps we should stick to three dairies per post?

  4. Aaron Smith

    Thought I’d post a few thoughts as I had them.

    I love the name “Reaper” for the Assassin, that’s just spot on.
    I really feel that Dok should stay Dok. It has that slightly fallen ages/not quite right/futureslang feel that says “This Is Right” to me. A little post apoc, a lot of lost knowledge, and verbal drift.
    Lastly for priest, may I offer a surplus of possible synonyms. Cleric, Curate, Divine, Ecclesiastic, Confessor, Friar, Padre, Pontiff, Preacher Man, Rector, Vicar. Of these, I favor Confessor first, for the “metal horror” feel it inspires and Friar second, as it makes me think of Friar Tuck, a mythical medieval asskicker.

    1. Nathaniel

      Ooh, yeah, Friar has a great ring to it! Good’un! We already have a confessor, though, in the Inquisitor/Interrogator…

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