Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 4

Editor’s Note: The content that follows was written by Nathaniel, the author of Barbarians of the Aftermath and the forthcoming Barbarians of Heavy Metal. The original post (and the comments thereupon) can be found here. I’m separating out the design diary portions themselves for easy indexing. -tvp-

The Rocktagon (Draft)

Ok, this is the central thematic thrust of the book and, considering the vast breadth of the subject material, is the one most folks will have questions about. After all, if you like Psychobilly music, you might want to know where it fits in to the Rocktagon, why it isn’t represented as a major school and why The Reverand Horton Heat isn’t a major saint. Let me clarify a few things for the music lovers out there:

1. The Rocktagon is designed to create interesting gaming mechanics out of easily identifiable styles. It isn’t a properly academic discussion of rock and its family tree, but a way to get players interacting with the universe and provide them with eight very clear and interesting alternatives for characters (and many more besides that if you count the ‘posers’ and the fact that you can mix licks to create an incredibly diverse set of styles).

2. While you and I might know the subtle differences between Thrash, Death and other types of metal, to the outside world, they all represent speed, emotion and raw destructive power over melody and precision. This creates a good general idea of what the character sounds like, encompasses a number of styles in a tight grouping that keeps the options simple for the layman (the Rocktagon would become a Rocktadodecahedron just for the various styles encompassed in Death alone), and also provides a clear opposition school, in this case Yngwie, which is all about classical precision and complex melodies.

3. The names are all pretty much temporary at this point. I’m pretty set on Sabbathites and Nazarites, but the others are all in flux. The idea is to name them something that really encompasses the general feel of that type of music, but has a more metal name that sounds somewhat like a mystical derivative of the band that best represents that school.

Well, with those explanations out of the way, here is a brief description of the various Books of Rock that make up our Rocktagon and the schools of Martial Music training that are set up around them…

Sabbathite: The original Heavy Metal style symbolized by Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Dio. Heavily identified with occultism, Sabbathites try to cultivate a demonic image in their music and style.

Patron Saint: The Great OZ AKA The Prince of Darkness

Imagery: Ozzy with his arms folded over holding a headless bat in one hand and a headless dove in the other.

Opposition School: The Nazarites. The Judeo-Christian belief system stands opposed to everything truly dark and metal, in the Sabbathite’s eyes.

Great House: House Dio

Hayre: Metal popularized in the late 70′s, early eighties including Motley Crue, Poison and, most importantly, KISS. Very upbeat celebratory anthems with a bacchanal theme.

Patron Saint: The 4-Fold One AKA The God of Thunder

Imagery: A KISS amalgam wearing a combination of the 4 original members costumes and a head with the 4 faces of the original members. Arms are crossed, with an Hookah in one hand and a bottle in the other.

Opposition School: The Nihilists. The followers of Hayre have an intense dislike of killjoys and party-crashers.

Great House: House Simmons

Led: Blues based heavy rock popularized by Led Zepplin, AC/DC and Deep Purple. Lyrically Deep and musically diverse.

Patron Saint: Zoso AKA The Hermetic Twins

Imagery: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant as conjoined twins. Page has an Axe and Bow, Plant is giving a banshee wail of great power and holds a Book with 4 mystical symbols on it.

Opposition School: The Punks. The followers of Zoso find the brash, anarchistic Punks antithetical to harmony in the metalsphere, a disharmonious rejection of the hermetical order of the universe.

Great House: House Bron-Y Aur

Yngwie: Named for Ygnwie Malmsteen, the patron saint of Virtuoso Metal and including the likes of Randy Rhodes and other Guitar Gods.

Patron Saint: Yngwie AKA The Axe Master

Imagery: Yngwie Malmsteen holding an Axe.

Opposition School: The Deadites. The Yngwies are the ultimate musicians (as far as they’re concerned) and the unlovely noise and imprecision of Death disturbs them to no end.

Great House: House Rhodes

Nazarite: Christian Rock like Petra, White Lion and Stryper. Has a mix from all the other styles (except Sabbathite) but the underlying theme is worship of the Judeo-Christian God.

Patron Saint: Gabriel AKA The Messenger

Imagery: An Arch-angel wreathed in fire and holding a Trumpet.

Opposition School: The Sabbathites are evil incarnate in the Nazarite’s eyes, witches, sorcerers and satanic cohorts who stand between them and the salvation of the metalsphere.

Great House: House Luther

Nihilist (Formerly Alt): Alternative Rock from Nirvana to Goth rock. Basically nihilistic and obsessed with ‘new’ sounds.

Patron Saint: The Suicide King AKA The Gloom

Imagery: Kurt Cobain, arms crossed, with a shotgun in one hand and a joint in the other OR Robert Smith of the Cure, crying blood, with arms crossed holding a pistol in one hand and an Ankh in the other. Haven’t decided which, yet.

Opposition School: Hayre. To the typical Nihilist, the simple, catchy, live fast and party hard rhythms of Hayre smack of commercialism, the ultimate evil to the Nihilist who sees life for what it truly is.

Great House: House Nirvana

Punk: Anarchistic and unlovely, Punk is the music of the ‘true’ rebels (at least as far as they’re concerned).

Patron Saint: The Rotten One AKA The Anarchist

Imagery: Johnny Rotten looking suitably crazed with a nimbus of light around his head giving a banshee wail.

Opposition School: Led. The followers of Zoso are dinosaur rockers, old farts who try to impose order and beauty on an a decidedly random and uncaring universe. This galls the Punks whose main goal is to give the universe the finger and try to take it down with them.

Great House: There is no House representing Punk as that would require an organization and leadership than is totally antithetical in Punk ethos. There is a section of the galaxy known as Punk Space, but it is actually nothing more than a whole swath of Star Systems with ever shifting borders totally dominated by anarchy and dedicated to the punk ideal. Occasionally, the pent up energy of this area will spill out into the rest of the universe as Punk Crusades, massive raids to pillage, vandalize and occasionally (when luck is on their side) conquer neighboring star systems.

Deadite: Death, Thrash and other types of Speed Metal. Long on noise, speed, emotion and raw destructive power over melody and precision.

Patron Saint: The Cowboy from Hell AKA The Sound & The Fury

Imagery: Dimebag Darrell with a Cowboy hat on, grinning maniacally with one hand holding an axe and another stroking a Panther.

Opposition School: Yngwie. Prancing, wussies with their finger exercises and their scales piss off the Deadites to no end, as they revel in the pure sound and fury of musical weaponry over artsy-fartsy technique.

Great House: House Pantera

Each house will have its own Heroic Backgrounds for each musical position a band might have, so you’ll be able to be a ‘Sabbithite Axe’ or a ‘Punk Beater.’

In addition, there will be a set of musical ‘Licks’ that represent some of the musical styles of that School, like the Sabbithite’s ‘Devil’s Triad’ or the ‘Arpeggio’ of the Yngwie school. These will be used in the musical dueling rules.

Finally, there will be a ninth school which will be for the lesser musical schools like Hip Hop, Funk, Country, etc. It will contain a set of generic backgrounds and Licks that you can mix and match to create these custom musical schools, but those of the ninth school will have flaws that make it harder for them to get along in headbanger society.

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