Category Archives: Barbarians of Heavy Metal

The Barbarians of Heavy Metal Kickstarter Is Live

The Kickstarter for Barbarians of Heavy Metal is live. You know BoHM, right? It’s by Nathaniel, who also brought us Barbarians of the Aftermath. His design diaries are hosted right here at Strange Stones, too.

Anyway, here’s the basic pitch from the BoHM Kickstarter:

Barbarians of Heavy Metal (BoHM) is a Table-Top Roleplaying game set in the post-apocalyptic 31st century where sonic technology and centuries of warfare have created the Metalsphere: a series of interstellar feudal empires based around the veneration of the Rocktagon: the Eight Great Schools of Rock.

Players take on the role of Metalheads, knights of the 31st century who roam the Metalsphere in pursuit of fame and glory. They are sonic warrior-wizards who possess rare and powerful Superstring Manipulators, sonic weaponry in the shape of musical instruments that can vibrate the underlying structure of the universe, bending it to the whim of the virtuoso musician.

The most elite Metalheads are granted the privilege of ‘Riding the Heavy Metal’: Titans! These giant robot combat vehicles tower over the battlefield and possess the power of an entire tank battalion. The nobility of headbanger society, those who possess these massive behemoths are, by definition, more metal than everyone else: the rock stars idolized by a society of rock stars.

BoHM is a conversion of the very popular BoX system found in Barbarians of Lemuria by Simon Washbourne. It is a simple game with a lot of variety in character and adventure types. You can be a wandering Sonic Warrior, a Titan Rider, a Soldier, Groupie (31st century courtesans), Manager (the officers of the 31st century), Space Cowboy, Warp Rider, Inquisitor or any mix of 28 different careers. Add to that 8 attributes, eight different Schools of Rock and a wide variety of musical instruments to specialize in and equipment to outfit yourself with, and you open up a universe of possibilities.

So if you’re ready to rock, why not drop by the Barbarians of Heavy Metal Kickstarter page and do that thing you do when you do the Kickstarter thing?

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal 14: Game Slate Panel 1…


Just a quick update on the progress of BoHM, this time talking about the tablet interface for the Gameslate.

The interface is made up of multiple panels, accessed through a pull down menu bar (which can be seen at the top of the picture below). For the first, Kickstarter, release, we will be focusing on everything the player needs to play the game, so that means a Character Generation panel, an Action Panel, a Music Panel, a Gear Panel and a digital Rulebook reminiscent of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which can be pulled down and read at any time from any panel.

To illustrate, here is the first panel a player will use, the character generation panel, and a character that has been created using it – Nicodemus Bosch, a Ledite of House Capricorn (inspired by Jethro Tull, of course):


Using this panel, one can completely create a new character, save it, delete it or search through the database for other characters created on this tablet (we’ll be looking into transferring them over Bluetooth later this year).

The Bio Panel is the first stop, as this is where you create a name for your character. the six buttons, from left to right are: Search, which allows you to use the next two buttons, left and right, to flip through the various characters stored in the database; two buttons to delete or add/save a character, represented by a ‘-‘ and ‘+’; and finally a Text button that pulls up the keyboard so you can name or rename your character. The small number to the right of the name is the ‘Level’ indicator. Basically, this keeps track of how advanced the character is over a starting one. This makes it easy to manage experience on sight.

The Attribute and Combat Adds panels are fixed, as the names of the stats are constant, and only allow the rank of the relevant Attribute or Combat Add to be adjusted up or down by the use of the adjoining dial. BoL players will notice that there is no panel for secondary attributes built off of these, like Life Blood (or Fight in the case of BoHM). This is intentional, as these are automatically generated from the ratings on these panels and will show up, and be manipulated on the Action Panel.

The Career and Instrument panels are three part: the top allows you to dial through the relevant careers, and by hitting the text button on the bottom right edge, even allows you to add custom ones. This is particularly important for instruments, which aside from the standard grouping of Axe, Bass, Percussion and Voice, can include a wide variety of other sonic devices, as Nicodemus shows with his preferences for Flutes, Keyboards and Mandolins.

The second part of these panels allows you to dial in a rank for said Career or Instrument and then add it with the down arrow button, to your skill list or, if you want to remove a career or instrument, take it away again. Very simple.

The third, bottommost panel simply shows you the careers you have chosen along with their appropriate ranks. If you end up with more than 4, the handy dial will let you scroll through them.

The final part of our character generation panel is the Style Dial. This large central construct determines three things for your character: their School of Rock, which is indicated by turning the metal Roctagon so that the character’s school is at the top; the character’s ranking in various styles, indicated by the number in the radiating Rank Indicators adjacent to each schools position on the interior Rocktagon; and the opposition school, at the bottom, which is the only place on the dial without a radiating Rank indicator.

Ranking various styles is done by turing the central selection dial so that the arrow is pointing towards the appropriate school and then using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons at the base to change the number in the indicator.

The controls are all designed to look good and prevent accidental mishandling, hence the use of dials for a large number of selection points. I like dials on a touchscreen because they require a three step process to use: touch – drag – release. Unlike a plain button, which is simply touch, this means it is harder to accidentally change something by a simple misplacement of the finger.

There are buttons of course, but in accordance with the way people hold tablets,  they are kept towards the center of the design so that any movement of the hand to access them will be largely deliberate (in theory, or course). This is also why the dial controls are mirrored on the left and right edges. Ease of use for the thumbs. And of course, mixing it up a bit helps to make the design more varied, hence the use of buttons for Style Ranks instead of Dials.

Once the character is created, all these numbers will be fed into the approriate spots on the  other panels. The only place to change them, however (except in temporary cases, as when using equipment) is on this panel. This avoids accidental changes to the character during play and also allows the information to be presented in a more compact manner on the other panels, which is hugely important from a mobile platform perspective.

This panel is being broken up and the graphics added to the underlying code this week, and I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the Action Panel and Splash Screen panel (the in-progress version of which I placed at the top of the page). Hopefully, the Gear and Music panels will be finished by the end of the month so that we can get everything the player needs, sans Titans, ready for beginning of May. The Titan screen will probably have to wait until we can figure out how to get the tablets to communicate through Android, which might be a post Kickstarter deal, but progress is apace and I’m very happy with how it is turning out…

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I have, this very day, put the finishing touches on Character Generation (I have an alpha presentation of the game and tablet functionality due Tuesday) and will now take you through the character generation process by making a couple of sample characters.


The first and most important thing is to name the character and determine exactly which School of Rock they were brought up in. Schools of Rock, as I have mentioned, are more than just simple music schools, they define a way of life for a whole section of the inhabited universe.

The characters we are going to create here will be a pair of rival Titan Riders: Keneniah, a Nazarite; and Asmodeus, a Sabbathite. The names fit the schools, the Nazarites taking names from angels and Biblical heroes and the Sabbathites taking names from fallen angels and bastardized Latin names.

The Schools themselves will affect the rest of character generation (and I’ll talk more on them in detail in a future post), so we’ll move along and show their character by example.


In BoHM we use the same four attributes as BoL, but we’ve reskinned them to sound more Metal: for Strength we have Might; for Agility we have Celerity; for Mind we have Savvy; and finally, Appeal is now measured in Cool. We still distribute 4 points amongst the Attributes, as with BoL. One attribute can be reduced to -1 to gain an extra point for another.

For Keneniah, we are going for a more well rounded character, so we will be placing 1 point in each Attribute.


For Asmodeus, we are going to focus more on Might and Cool, so 2 points in each of those. In addition, the Sabbathite School provides a +1 to Might, so Asmodeus’ final Attributes look like this:


Every School of Rock has a Bonus in either an Attribute or Combat Ability, meaning that the average character will have 5 points in one or the other. This is intentional as it further delineates the strengths and weaknesses of the various schools and fits in well with the extended range of difficulty set forth in the previous post.


Again, we have reskinned these to fit the thematic qualities of the Metalpshere: Brawl is now Rumble; Melee is now Shred; Ranged is now Fire, and Defense is still pretty close to the original as Defend, which fits in better with the other CAs, from a tense perspective. Again, our characters have 4 points to spend. Like attributes, one Combat Ability can be reduced to -1 to raise another by 1 point.

Keneniah gets the School bonus here, adding +1 to Defend, and sticking with our drive to be well-rounded, his Combat Abilities come out thusly:


Asmodeus’ stats are going to lean more heavily on personal combat, to take advantage of his heavy might, and he’ll probably wear heavy armor to make up for his average defense:



There are 24 Careers currently in the game, and our characters have 4 points to spread amongst 4 careers, with no career starting out with a rating greater than 3.

Keneniah is going to take advantage of a special ability of his School and take a career normally not allowed to anyone but The Church: Priest. Along with that, he’s going to want to be able to fight in Titan combat, so he takes Titan Rider. He wants to play up the leadership side of his character, so he takes Manager. Finally, he wants to be able to do some basic repairs on his Titan and other equipment, but cannot take Tek (another Career only available to the Church), so he takes Roadie. He spreads his 4 points amongst those four careers thusly:


Asmodeus, coming from a very different school has very different interests. He is fascinated with the Occult and so he takes Occultist. He also wants to ride the ‘Heavy Metal’ and takes Titan Rider. His final two skills reflect his dedication to his School’s Style: Inquisitor, because only the most dedicated deserve to be a Sabbathite in his eyes; and Warlord, to indicate that he is Sabbathite nobility. He takes an even spread in those careers.



Our characters must now choose 4 Styles of Rock to play in. They receive 4 points, as above, to distribute amongst these styles, with the following restrictions:

  • They must take their School as their first Style.
  • They cannot take a Style that is opposed to their School of Rock.
  • They cannot have more points in a Style than they do the Style of their school.

As mentioned in the previous post, Styles are more than just musical characteristics and make up one third of every resolution test. They are therefore important when determining what sorts of tasks your Headbanger will be proficient in.

Keneniah’s main Style will be Nazarite, Christ Rock. He won’t even touch Sabbathite music, which is opposed to Nazarite music, but he does appreciate both Dedite power shredding (and has an affinity with the application of force) and Yngwie virtuosity (along with a bent towards skills that require precision and timing), so he takes those. For his final Style, he chooses Ledite, as he finds the blues driven but contemplative style to be very cool (and his slightly intellectual nature is derived form this). He spends his 4 points in these styles in an even manner, with no style being greater than the other:


Asmodeus prefers the upper half of the Rocktagon with a little wild chaos thrown in, so he goes for the party-hard Glamling style (which enhances his vitality and makes him somewhat fearless), the Dedite style (for the raw destructive power it provides) and throws in some Punk for flavor (he is highly adaptable and good at sorting through chaos), but he makes sure that his main style is his first and most potent style:



Every Headbanger is proficient to some degree in 4 instrumental styles (and has 4 points to spread around those instruments). There are 5 to choose from: Axe, the ubiquitous guitar; Bass, the bass guitar which provides a pounding rhythm; Percussion, the use of drums; Vocal, including singing or spoken rap; and Other, which covers a wide range of other instruments which must be chosen separately.

Keneniah is going the frontman route and chooses:


Asmodeus goes for the might of pounding rhythm with a bit of back up vocals and an instrument designed to unnerve his enemies:



Every Headbanger starts off with 1 Harmonic and 1 Discord from their School of Rock, which, if you will recall, are activated by hitting the Harmonic or Discord numbers on the Rocktohedron. Headbangers may take an additional Harmonic, but must either take another Discord or reduce their starting Fortune to 3.

Keneniah’s Harmonic number is 1. He has the following choices:

  • You Are I Am: The Nazarite is infused with the Holy Spirit and gains 1 Fortune. This may take them above their maximum.
  • Reborn: The Nazarite is filled with the breath of life and regains 3 Fight.
  • Seventh Angel: A guardian angel intervenes, aiding the band in small, almost imperceptible way. The Nazarite generates 3 Bonus Dice that can be added to any of their Band’s rolls until the end of the scene.

Keneniah doesn’t plan on doing much fighting outside of his Titan, so Reborn is not very useful for him. You Are I Am is very useful, but only once in awhile (you can only activate each Harmonic or Discord once per session) and Seventh Angel fits in more with his concept of a Band Leader, so he takes the latter.

His Discord Number is 5 and he must choose one of the following:

  • Abyss: The Adversary takes a personal interest in the Nazarite and their band. The enemy gains D6 Penalty Dice that they may apply to the entire Band for the rest of the scene.
  • Holy War: The Nazarite becomes wrathful and divisively sanctimonious. They take a Penalty Die on any Cool rolls for the rest of the scene.
  • Lamentations: The Nazarite has a crisis of Fath that  reduces his Nazarite Style to -1 for the rest of the scene.

As a leader, Keneniah would be a poor example if he suffered Lamentations, so he gives that a quick miss. The same could be said of Holy War. Abyss sounds perfect, as it fits in with the idea of Satan trying to bring the whole Band down by messing with its leader.

Asmodeus has an entirely opposite set of Harmonic and Disocrd realities. His Harmonic number is 5 (the opposite of Keneniah, which is appropriate as they are of opposing schools), and he has the following Harmonic choices:

  • Iron Man: The power of the abyss seems to fill the Sabbathite with unholy vigor and they regain D6 Fight.
  • Sabbra Cadabra: The Sabbathite sometimes pulls off miraculous feats that seem for all the world like true Magick. The roll is counted as a Success, even if it is a Failure or Critical Failure.
  • Hand of Doom: Those around the Sabbathite feel the hand of The Adversary himself interfering with their actions. The Sabbathite gains D6 Penalty Dice that can be added to any roll from any character until the end of the scene.

At first glance, Iron Man would seem to be ideal for a close combatant like Asmodeus, but he loves the thought of the Devil himself interfering on his behalf as well as the ability to pull a success out of certain failure. He dices to take two Harmonics, forgoing Iron Man, as he is already fairly robust, in favor of the other two.

Again, Asmodeus Discord is opposite that of his rival Keneniah, a 1, and he has the following Discords from which he must choose 2 to make up for his bonus Harmonic:

  • Paranoid: The Sabbathite is distracted by what they think are demons eyeing them with diabolical intent flitting about with just outside of their direct  line of vision. They suffer a cumulative -1 modifier to all rolls for the rest of the session.
  • Faeries Wear Boots: The Sabbathite is convinced that demonic gremlins in massive Doc Marten boots are interfering with their actions by hobbling gear and stomping on their feet. This roll becomes a Critical Failure automatically and cannot be rerolled or modified in any way.
  • Crazy Train: The Sabbathite sees demons of madness swirling around the heads of D6 Band-Mates and allies, who suffer an automatic Discord on their next roll, even if they roll a Harmonic.

Faeries Wear Boots just happens to be a favorite song of mine, and its effect, while critical in the moment, is not as long-standing as Paranoid, so we’ll take FWB. Crazy Train is definitely more punishing, but it punishes others, not Asmodeus, so [two-ginger salute] those guys! ROCK & ROLLLLLLL! (translation: we’ll take Crazy Train).


In BoL we have Lifeblood, which is called Fight in BoHM (as in ‘having the fight beaten out of you’). It is figured the same way: 10 + Might.

Next we have Fortune, which are like Hero Points and have a similar function. You start with 6 in BoHM, as they have an additional use that will see them spent a bit more freely, that of negating Discords.

Fame is a new Secondary Characteristic, and it represents a pool of influence that can be used during an adventure to add 1 point to any Cool roll to influence others. Like Fortune, it only recovers at the end of an adventure, so it is a dwindling resource. Fame is equal to Cool during character creation, but may be raised using advancement points, to represent the Headbanger’s increased notoriety spreading their reputation throughout the Metalsphere. If there were a single number that represents ‘winning,’ in the Charlie Sheen sense of the word, this would be it and the Headbanger with the highest Fame should lord it over the other, lesser players.

There is a fourth characteristic that will be introduced in a later expansion: Freak. For those who want Sabbathites to cast real sorcery, Priests to get actual miracles from God, and Punks to disrupt their foes with Psychic screams while Ledite Yogis levitate above the fray, this is the power source of those sorts of things, which will be an option in the expansion, which will cover all sorts of alternate wrinkles for the universe of the Metalsphere, and it will be equal to 10+Savvy.

Keneniah’s Secondary Characteristics come out as follows:


Asmodeus comes out a bit tougher and a bit more notorious:



Ok, so I fibbed a bit, as I still haven’t worked out the way Gear will be distributed. the general idea however is to restrict it in a way similar to BotA, as this is a post-apocalyptic universe, but not so severely and without the between-adventure attrition found in that game.

Career will play a large roll in what you can have and you will gain a number of free points, + career points + special items that are granted by your school to equip your Headbanger. I imagine that, as both the above Headbangers have Titan 2 a careers, they will be able to pick up a Medium Titan as part of their equipment.


So there are your two sample BoHM characters. Hope that gives you a taste of how they differ from other BoL games and a feel for the type of people you might meet living in the Metalsphere. Next time I’ll try and go into depth about the Revised Rocktagon and the Schools of Rock themselves…


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After a long pause, during which time I have written, designed and laid out an entire supplement for Doctor Who; wrote, recorded and engineered a 45 minute science fiction audio-play; created an alpha prototype for a Sword & Sorcery boardgame; experimented with publishing tabel-top RPGs as fully functional apps and have generally been kept hopping by my graduate degree *DEEP BREATH* I am back at work on Barbarians of Heavy Metal. And about time, too.

The game will be designed specifically for the Gameslate format, with a cheap text only version of the rules going up for distribution after the full app is finished. It is part of my experimental game design class, so the player’s version of the app should be ready by Summer, to be quickly followed up by the full game.

Now that I’ve had a year to digest the idea, I’ve started realizing the mechanics. The core mechanic of Barbarians of Lemuria is intact, but modified in a number of ways to fit the genre:

Roll 2D6+D8, Base Difficulty 13

The D8 is called ‘the Rocktohedron’ and it is something special for BoHM. First, it adds a 3rd die to the roll to extend the spread between character ability and difficulty and prevent characters from becoming too powerful too quickly. But more importantly, it ties into your School of Rock, your school of musical martial arts.

By rolling your school’s sacred number on the Rocktohedron, you activate a Harmonic effect. By rolling the sacred number of your opposing school, the one opposite yours on the Rocktagon, you instead generate Discord, or some sort of penalty. These will be described in further detail in the next post.

Mighty Successes, Legendary Successes and Critical Failures still exist, and are generated on the 2D6 part of the roll, as normal, but are now called Hardcore Success, Thrashing Success and Bollocks. They work pretty much the same way except now they are organized into a ‘Results Ladder’ that goes Bollocks-Failure-Success-Hardcore-Thrashing. The reason for this will be explained when we talk about Harmonics and Discord, but suffice to say, striking certain Harmonics or Discords can move a result up and down the ladder without need for Hero Points.

Another change comes in the area of Opposed Rolls. In BoHM all opposed rolls will involve bidding wars, similar to the system used in the old James Bond RPG chase system, with both sides gradually increasing their risk to borderline ridiculous levels to outperform their opponents.

Another possible change, one which I need to see in action to judge the effectiveness of, is to add in three factors to the characters roll, instead of the two normally allowed in BoL. So, instead of Celerity+Fire being used for ranged combat, I might allow Celerity+Fire +Appropriate Career. This allows for a wider spread of difficulties, a wider range of character ability and a whole lot more variety in the mix of Attributes, Combat Abilities, Careers, Styles and Instruments. A virtuoso guitar performance would use Celerity+Yngwie+Guitar, for instance, a crushing drum solo would use Might+Deadite+Percussion and firing a Titan’s weapons would use Celerity+Fire+Titan Rider.

Regular Career use would add an appropriate Style, assuming that certain Schools of Rock are more adept at certain tasks. So trying to fly an aerospace fighter through an asteroid field, which requires precision and virtuoso piloting, would be rolled using Celerity+Yngwie+Flyboy.

So as you can see, in BoHM, your School of Rock is more than just a musical style. It is a way of life that affects every aspect of the game and helps to further define your character and their place in the Metalsphere.

Now that you understand the basic mechanical modifications, the next post will discuss the ins and outs of BoHM characters…

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 9


Nathaniel here, again, this time with Random thoughts that are rattling around my head and new developments for Barbarians of Heavy Metal.

Things are afoot with BoHM, with a spot on my very busy schedule and a tentative release date set for the end of March or beginning of April. This game isn’t going to be your standard RPG release in a number of ways, however, and I’ve been probing the RPG community, thinking aobut new design and distribution models and otherwise looking for ways to make it more widespread than your average indie RPG. Outside of a uniquely entertaining setting and the evocative but easy to learn and use rules, the best way to do that is to present the game in a larger variety of cheap and easy to access formats outside of the standard Printed or PDF Book.

Considering this, BoHM will be released in three formats (hopefully simultaneously), and I’m considering a fourth:


This is part of my thesis project as well as an attempt to come up with a post-digital format that can move the RPG Industry into the 21st century, hopefully attracting new blood that will revitalize our hobby.

Some of you may already know what this is about, but for those who don’t, the Playbook line is a series of RPG Boxed Sets in a digital format. Think the old (or new) D&D Red Box, with everything you need to play right in the package (rules, dice, character sheets, etc.), but completely automated and portable so that you can take it anywhere including the park or the car. No stacks of paper, broken pencils, dice rolling all over the place or miniatures getting knocked down and no internet needed to play. For more info you can go to this design thread.

BoHM will be the first game designed from day 1 to be used in the Playbook format and the rules writing and programming will go hand in hand. It will be the first playbook with a map and miniature function for playing out Titan, vehicle and personal combat. Both Player and Full versions will be available. What’s more, the new build of the Playbook software will be available in a number of formats, from iPad to Android to CD for those who are stubbornly clinging to your lap and desktops.


This is by far the easiest format to get a game out quickly, to the largest number of people and for a low price point. Pretty much the current standard in the industry, AFAIC. The thing is, I think the Boxed Set is king over your standard RPG book and BoHM will be sold as a PDF Boxed Set, with a copy of the Player’s Guide, the GM’s Guide and maps, fold out minis, a GM Screen, character sheets and any other chotchkie I can put into a Portable Document Format. You will also be able to buy the Player’s Guide and the GM’s Guide separately for the cash conscious folks.

The interior will be clean and B&W with only a single piece of art per page, if that, so that it will be very easy to print out for the average printer and to keep art and, by extension, product costs down.


I have come to realize is that in a niche industry with a highly fragmented market, it is no longer really feasible for an independent designer, such as myself, to go the traditional route of creating a product, getting it printed and then distributed to brick & mortar stores. There really isn’t a huge market for this sort of thing anymore and you can count the number of  RPG publishers who are still capable of doing so on the hand of an incompetent shop-teacher.

That being said, however, recent threads in which I have posed the ‘Print is Dead-ish, Long Live Digital Media’ theory have revealed that there are still a number of people that prefer dead-tree to digital for a number of reasons. This means a suitable print format must be made available as well.

The most obvious choice is Print on Demand, and I’ll be using Lulu or something similar, as it doesn’t cost me anything up front, although it can get a bit pricey for those who are purchasing overseas. The print versions will be B&W to keep the cost low, because If I’ve learned anything about this industry, pretty pictures are all fine and dandy but what you’re really selling is a game, not a picture book. Experience with the BotA print edition has shown me that even those folks who demand a lavishly illustrated full color hardback will often bypass it for something less pretty but easier on the wallet (usually complaining all the while about the expense of RPG products).


While trying to think up a cheap alternative to traditional printing, it occurred to me that a game done in a cheap pulp format, like a reader’s Digest or Sci-Fi Anthology magazine, would be cheap to produce and offer a number of advantages to the consumer. First it is cheap to purchase, with the average rulebook costing a fraction of the cost of your standard hardcover high gloss 4/4 affair, allowing everyone at the table to get one. Second, it is cheap to replace if you spill a drink on it, tear it or the cat takes a whizz on it. Third, it can be sold in places that sell comics or magazines, but not normally RPG books.

I might do a limited run batch of player’s Guides and Gm Guides for sale at conventions to see how folks like the format, but that is up in the air at the moment as I investigate the costs and quality of an RPComix line.

Up Next: Random Musings – A Brief Treatise on the Thousand Psychic Wars…

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 8


Hey, Nathaniel here. After a bit of a delay due to a host of other stuff on my plate, I am now ready to divulge the basic tenants of Warp travel in the BoHM universe. This is important because any adventure game on an interstellar scale needs a coherent underlying rationale for the ability to travel faster than light in order to fully flesh out the ramifications of that technology on the rest of society. In our case in particular, what exactly led to an intergalactic society of rockers, punks and metalheads in general? Remember, what is being put down here is still in a rough, conceptual stage, but it should give you a good idea of the direction I’m going in. As always, comments are appreciated.

Now, I have to say that there has been a LOT of thought going on behind the final ideas presented here (a there will probably be a great deal more once writing commences) and not just on my end. I have to give a big shout out to two folks, Aaron Smith, whose comments have constantly kept me from drifting too far from the thematic basis of the game,  and LTCMDR Tom Mays, my oldest friend and Mister Physics, who helped me ground it in some basic ‘reality.’

With those necessary credits issued (and the both of you will be included in the credits of the game as well), here’s the nitty-gritty on riding the warp of space…

How It All Came About – The Birth of the Precogs

‘Back in the Day’ (the term used by the modern headbanger to refer to the pre-war past) scientists started to discover more and more about the ‘superstrings’ that formed the underlying superstructure of the universe. Eventually, Harmonic Resonance Technology came about allowing the scientists to ‘pluck’ those strings and affect the physical universe in a variety of ways using special ‘Forks’ whose vibrations resonated in a ultra-high frequency that transcended physical dimensions.

It was during these experiments that certain researchers started having vivid audio and visual ‘hallucinations.’ It turned out that certain people (almost uniquely women, as the mutation required two X chromosomes to function properly) had a very special ability which allowed them to see and hear the disturbances in real space caused by the manipulation of superstrings.

Once they had these initial hallucinations and their ‘hyperspatial sense’ had been stimulated even further by further experimentation, their perceptions got sharper and they could eventually, with concentration, even see and hear the basic harmonics behind the universe itself. With this ability they could perceive the flow of local events and this gave them a predictive power, bordering on actual precognition,  that made them very useful indeed (and which would eventually lead the universe into the apocalyptic horror of  the Thousand Psychic Wars).

Into The Warp

Of the many things the Precogs could see, the most useful of all was the warping of space caused by the manipulation of superstrings in the ultra- ultra-high frequency range. These folds, being of space and not inside it, could be set to move at incredible speeds that transcended all the physical limitations of interstellar travel.

Eventually the scientists and the emerging precog class learned how to move a ship ‘between the curves’ of this warp in space, into a hyperspatial interface generated by two layers of space-time in close proximity to each other, and travel across vast interstellar distances became possible.

This travel was not without its dangers, however. A Warp travels through a universe of mass and energy that vibrates on numerous frequencies and creates harmonic disturbances that can throw it all over the place like a leaf on the wind. It was here that the true value of Precogs was recognized as they could see these disturbances and, by manipulating the Harmonic Forks empowering the warp, steer it in the right direction. Thus interstellar travel was established and the Warp Riders became a power in their own right (eventually dividing into three competing Sisterhoods: Ouranos’ Daughters; Hermes’ Brides; and the Mistresses of the Mysteries).

Warp Mechanics

Warp ships are made up of three very important parts. The first is an array of rather specialized harmonic resonator forks that not only generate the fold in space, but create the wormhole that allows the ship to pass into the hyperspatial interface between the folds.

The second is a hull made up of Vibranium, an extremely specialized  alloy used in the creation of Harmonic Resonance Forks. This acts to help amplify the forks function and protect the ship in Hyperspace and outside it [Ed. I’m still working out the ramifications and possibilities of Vibranium].

The third is the Warp Rider herself, the Precog who can hear the music of the universe inside her head, see the waves of  convergence and dissonance and then play her 6 Dimensional String Manipulator (which takes the form of some sort of musical instrument) to move the warp.

Controlling a Warp Ship in flight in real-space is done by normal stellar navigation. To transcend physical space a Warp Rider must play the Superstrings to create a fold. Once the fold is created, the Warp Rider uses a discordance to rip a hole through space-time and into the Hyperspatial interface so that the ship can maneuver inside it. After that, they begin the musical manipulation of the superstrings in earnest and the Warp Fold is set in motion, like a wave in space-time.

Once in the fold of space, it is the musical virtuosity of the Warp Rider that controls the direction and speed of the Warp Fold. The harder the music rocks, the tighter the fold, the faster  the potential flight. They have to take care, however, as too tight a fold will cause the two sides of the warp to touch and become a singularity which crushes the ship and everything within 1000+ kilometers of it into a point before (assuming it wasn’t foolishly created close to a large stellar mass) dispersing.

Along with plotting a flight to distant stars and knowing how to compensate for interstellar movement and the like, The Warp Rider also listens to the harmonics of the universe and watches the waves of discordance as they pass around the warp and then plays to compensate and push the warp in the right direction. On smaller ships a single Warp Rider can control the miniscule fold created relatively easy, but the Harmonic Resonance needed to push folds that can encompass larger ships or even entire fleets requires a whole band or even a choir of Warp Riders to play in unison, with a leader known as the Navigatrix acting as the band leader. The whole group functions in a manner very similar to a jazz ensemble, playing to a set path, but also improvising to counter unexpected distortion from the universe.

Once the Warp Fold reaches its destination just outside a star system (going into a system can potentially collapse the fold with the ship still inside it as the extreme masses of the planets and suns overwhelm the Warp Riders ability to compensate, although the more talented they are, the closer in they can get) the Warp Rider slowly releases the fold, flattening it out and then moving the ship out of the Hyperspatial Interface and back into real-space.

The Silence & The Fury

There are pockets of space where, for whatever reason, the superstrings of the universe are so flaccid or broken that no sound can be brought forth from them. Initially, these pockets were rare, constrained to areas where dark matter is in such abundance that it collapses any waveforms before they can be created, like a universal sound cancelling effect or an interstellar calm. These areas said to be ‘Cursed by The Silence.’ There are other areas where the noise from extreme stellar phenomena like massive quasars drowns out all other attempts to manipulate the superstrings. These areas are said to be ‘Ravaged by The Fury.’ Black Holes can qualify as both Silence and Fury, flipping from one to another at random intervals.

Both of these areas can have adverse effects on a Warp Fold. The Silence will prevent any manipulation of the fold causing the Warp to move uncontrollably towards an unknown destination. Even worse than that, the cancellation of all harmonic resonance will sometimes cause the fold to flatten out, forcing the ships inside to make an emergency re-entry into real-space where they will remain stranded until they can leave the Silence behind by way of real-space travel (which can take decades or even centuries).

The Fury will blind a Warp Rider and send the Warp off in Lord only knows what direction, sometimes in several different directions in rapid succession, so that by the time they emerge, they could be anywhere. It can also cause singularity collapse and a host of other problems, as the insane vibrations of the strings around the disturbance cause energy discharges in the Hyperspatial Interface analogous to the electrical storms on Jupiter. Again, a ship can be forced out of the Warp Fold and into a real-space from which they can only escape by slow physical travel or by risking their own destruction trying to create and enter into a new Warp Fold.

Pockets of The Silence and The Fury occur naturally, but they can also be caused artificially. This occurs in areas in which Harmonic Resonance is used as a weapon on such a scale that it tears space-time apart, breaking or stretching out the strings or setting them to vibrate eternally without end. The Thousand Psychic Wars saw just such a scale of universal destruction and for that reason, travel between the stars has been reduced to limited routes of known ‘clear’ space, which are meticulously marked on astronavigational charts. This has led to interstellar trade routes and borders being formed, restricting the ability of the various petty baronies, kingdoms and fiefdoms to engage in all out war without a well established route to attack along (which often requires such a large number of temporary alliances, sweet deals and pacts of non-aggression that the initial diplomacy to clear the way can be more difficult and costly than the actual conflict itself).

The destruction in some areas of space was so complete that some systems are cut off entirely from any kind of interstellar travel, the Earth in particular, which no one has been able to visit in over 300 years. While there may, indeed, be paths to these lost systems, it takes a great expedition to find and chart them again, and while there are entire companies devoted to re-forging these paths across the galaxy, most believe Earth to be lost forever, as the few who have set out to find a way back to humanities home-world have never returned.

Up Next: Random Subjects of Interest

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 7

Hi folks, Nathaniel here again for my weekly BoHM update. The conceptual design is moving along quite swimmingly and I’d like to thank TVP again for letting me host this Diary on his blog. It has been very useful for gathering my thoughts and getting feedback on them. Now onto…


Any GM section must do three things:

1. Instruct GMs in their duties and provide examples of running the game.

This is pretty standard stuff and doesn’t require a lot in the way of explanation. Tell them their role, show a few examples of play, etc. What a lot of modern games fail to do, however, is to emphasize the total freedom the GM really has to make stuff up on the fly and how to play fast and loose with the rules. I plan to approach this discussion from the old school ‘Rulings, Not Rules’ approach, and provide ample examples of that as well.

2. Provide tools for managing the game.

Those of you who are familiar with Barbarians of the Aftermath will know that I favor utility and love to automate the GM’s duties wherever and whenever possible so the contents of this section should be of little surprise to you.

The Force Generator: A series of charts to generate anything form small groups of bandits to full on military forces, PC and NPC alike.

The Mission Generator: An adventure generator for creating missions, their objectives and a random event table that will spice up any mission.

The Stellar Generator: For developing a Star System, it’s planets and their resources. For those who have seen my Planet and Alien generators in the DW:AiTaS Aliens & Creatures supplement, you’ll have some idea of what it will look like (only more Metal of course).

The Petty Kingdom Generator: For creating a feudal empire, including it’s political resources, for both PCs and NPCs. The Stellar Generator can then be used to flesh out the individual systems.

3. Provide ideas on adventure design and adventures to get them started.

Discussion of creating an adventure will be approached from the ‘less is more’ school of thought, with outlines and brief write-ups being the basic building block of BoHM adventure design. This will encourage GMs to approach the game from the ‘Rulings, not Rules’ perspective I mentioned earlier.

Along with that, I will be introducing the ‘Campaign Album’ approach to adventure design for BoHM. Basically, I’ll show how to take any record and turn it into a short campaign with the song titles being used as the basis for short adventures within the campaign. To illustrate, I plan on using the Warp Riders album by The Sword as an example, providing a general outline and adventure seeds for a campaign set on Acheron (assuming I can get The Sword’s blessing to do so). Of course, it’s easy to make a campaign out of a concept album like Warp Riders, but it also is the best example of a BoHM style campaign that I can think of.

To sum up: the GM section is about providing GMs not only with the right tools to run a game, but the right attitude as well: BoHM isn’t about endlessly poring over rules and details, its about grabbing the game by the balls and using it to rock & roll…

Up Next: Warp Ships (no, really, I mean it this time)…

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 6

Editor’s Note: The following post is from Nathaniel, he of Barbarians of the Aftermath and Barbarians of Heavy Metal fame. It should indicate that right up there below the title. I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew he wrote this, not me 🙂


Ok, so I promised info on Warp Ships and interstellar travel. Unfortunately (on fortunately from my point of view) Aaron Smith has pointed out a number of good additions to my basic concepts and pointed out a few flaws as well, and as our conversation on the subject is still ongoing, I’m going to give that a miss for now and talk on the equipment of the setting instead.

Equipment in the 31st century will fall into the same four categories as BotA: Common, Uncommon, Rare and Unique. This is to not only keep them inline with the alchemy structure set forth in BoL but to make the ability to exchange equipment between the three games easier. So if you want a Stratoblaster in your BotA setting or a plasma gun to turn up in Lemuria, you’re set.

The biggest difference will be that the various categories also describe what knowledge has been lost to the people’s of the future after the widespread destruction of the 1000 Psychic Wars that tore the galaxy apart and reduced the once great Earth Empire into a collection of petty kingdoms and warring factions. The categories are:

Common: Items that are easily reproduced using the common level of technology available to those in the Dark Ages. This is the highest level of availability on barbarian worlds for the most part, although the occasional ‘hero’ finds, or is given a ‘weapon’ of the gods which might be of any tech level.

Uncommon: Items that are easily reproduced using the common level of technology available to the 21st century. This is the highest level of tech on most common worlds.

Rare: These items can only be reproduced with knowledge possessed only by Monks or the Sisterhood and are typically only available to the extremely wealthy or well-connected individual. Although basic maintenance can be carried out by highly skilled Roadies, repairs and replacement can only be done through a representative of the Church. This includes basic Titan Parts and most advanced equipment of the 22nd or later centuries.

Unique: These knowledge behind these items was lost in the 1000 Psychic Wars. There are still automated factories (AIFacs) that produce these items in limited quantities and these factories are highly prized targets for raids and invasions, although no one dares to harm them for fear of Excommunication by the Church (which means no technical assistance, no warp flight and no high tech goodies). Only the most skilled Monks and Sisters can do basic repairs on these items, but they are so advanced that even the Church holds them in awe as relics of  religious significance. This includes key parts of Titan function, high energy weapons, the Harmonic Forks that power sonic technology and, of course, Singularity Generators.

Technology can vary from world to world, with the main worlds of the Great Houses having modern 21st century style cities with a smattering of Rare tech to feudal worlds where the slave-peasants have cell phones and heavy equipment for farming but are only permitted primitive pre-gunpowder weaponry and live in primitive huts with no electricity. Barbaric worlds on the fringes of the metalsphere might not even know there is a universe outside their world and still carry on like a bunch of Dark Age savages, occasionally visited by ‘gods’ in ‘sky chariots’ who trade ‘magic weapons’ to them for raw resources (like Acheron).

One of the signature pieces of BoHM equipment is the Harmonic Fork. It makes everything from musical weapons to communications gear to  Warp Ships possible. They are incredibly tough, surviving the destruction of their host technology many times, and are highly sought after as, even though each fork has a specific tuning that gives it a specific functional specialty, they can be used interchangeably in almost any piece of sonic equipment and can even give primitive equipment special abilities (like the Vibrosword or the Harmonic Arrow) with a little work.

The other signature piece of equipment is the Titan. While many of the systems are within the scope of skilled Roadies to maintain, some of them can only be attended to by Monks and the critical systems like the neural net gear, artificial musculature and high energy weaponry cannot be recreated and must be scavenged or purchased from one of the remaining AIFacs at incredible cost. Titans were covered in the previous Design Diary, but just think about giant fighting robots pimped out by metalheads and you’ll get the general idea.

Another signature piece of equipment, and one that is essential to the central thematic thrust of the game, is the sonic weapon. Each weapon is a work of art, hand crafted by the monks of the Great Church and is a highly cherished heirloom of great power. They function as normal instruments in most cases, but by taking the safeties off and engaging their internal Harmonic Forks, they can create vibrations in reality that can alter moods, cause unreasoning terror, give unique abilities like flight to the user or just blast away at one’s mortal enemies. I’ll talk more on these in the Diary on Musical Duelling.

BoHM will use the firearms rules from BotA, including ammo checks, Penetration and all the rules for explosive ordinance. This will make it easy to transfer weapons back and forth from one game to the next. Vehicle construction and vehicle equipment will be different in BoHM to fit into the new vehicle combat rules for Titans in this game, but there should be minimal work needed to convert for use with either system.

Purchasing Equipment will be handled differently to BoTA, with your careers determining what you are likely to start out with at character creation. Almost everyone will receive some sort of close combat weapon, for instance, but only Titan Riders will have access to Titans, and their rank will determine the size and functionality of that Titan. Every PC will have the option of taking a Sonic Weapon, of course, because not allowing them to would make me incredibly un-metal in the eyes of the Inquisition, who would see me reduced to the rank of slave, as death would be too good for me.

The rules for purchasing equipment will only really concern really useful manufactured stuff and weapons, as it is assumed that everyone has a ‘Credit Pick’ that will allow them to eat, drink and otherwise supply themselves at a particular level based on their highest career. So Nobles will always be able to spend the night in the swankiest joints a planet has to offer, but the Barbarians will likely end up sleeping outside and Scavengers will be eating out of dumpsters. Of course, if you are out on a mission and stuck far outside your supply line, you’ll be thanking your Patron Saint that you have a Barbarian or Scavenger along for the ride…

Next Up: The GM Section…

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 5

Editor’s Note: We’re trying a different approach here. Nathaniel sent me his content and I’m posting it up as a proper blog entry rather than as comments following on. Hopefully this makes things easier for everyone. The comments section below is open as usual, though. And remember, what follows is from Nathaniel, not me 🙂 -tvp-


Coming up for air from my work on the DW:AiTaS core revision layout, I thought I’d share a few notes on the main rules section. I won’t be laboring to do these in any order, preferring to hit on subjects as they coalesce in my head.

In addition, the focus here is more about what I plan to accomplish thematically and mechanically, so this is more of a look behind my conceptual goals rather than a list of hard and fast rules that you could play by using this diary alone.

That said, today’s topic concerns the Core Rules and the rules for Titan and vehicle combat.

The Core Rules
As I mentioned earlier, this book will be different from my previous BotA by having the basic rules for play included in the book so you can play without needing to buy another book beforehand. As I also mentioned, this will not be a complete set, but an expurgated set that provides you with everything you need for this setting. Including the rules for adjudicating actions, combat and so on, but not sorcery, alchemy or priests.

Of particular note, I will be using the armor rules from the Legendary Edition. I think the ‘variable armor’ rule is superior to the old set armor values. I will, however, have a couple of extra notches on the scale to account for high-tech armors and the like.

Combat will remain pretty much the same, but I will be adding a few things to make it different enough to provide something new for those who have bought the other books including: variation on Dodge and Parry that makes them more interesting/useful options; an optional Death & Dismemberment Chart (a cool idea I’ve used in my B/X D&D games) which will allow for scarring, missing limbs in combat, and other results that can occur after you hit 0 LB; and provide optional rules for map based combat based around the same system used for Titans and vehicles.

An interesting idea came up when I was thinking about Languages in BoHM. Instead of the usual languages, I thought that there would be three basic categories: Lingua Metallica, the universal language; Classical, covering all the languages spoken on Earth and now only known to the Monks, like English, Chinese, German and even Latin; and finally and most interestingly, the Tongues of Rock (with all the imagery that implies) which are specific dialects of Lingua Metallica spoken by the specific schools and which relies on a shared knowledge of the style to understand. The more knowledgeable you are in a Style, the better you understand that language that goes with it (you know your primary school’s tongue fluently, of course).

Other than these wrinkles, the basic rules remain largely the same.

Heavy Metal
BoHM will have different vehicle rules from BotA for two reason. The first is that giant robot combat requires more tactical detail than the average vehicle system in order to really get across the feel of fighting in a 60 foot walking tank that can jump, punch climb, etc. as opposed to fighting in just any old heavy vehicle.

The second is that I hate to repeat myself, and while it would be incredibly easy to just steal my own system from BotA and tweak it for giant robots, it wouldn’t be as thematic, fun, or as good a deal for the purchaser. After all, if you have two different systems in two different books, that adds value, IMO, as you now have twice the choices and don’t feel you are repurchasing the same material. Use the one you like or even combine the two (an option I will present in BoHM with appropriate rules tweaks) at your leisure.

The system won’t be as detailed as, say, BT, but it won’t be as abstract as my previous vehicle rules. Here are some basic details:

1. Hex movement is in, but the hexes are larger (we’re talking the scale of a Battleforce map rather than BT one) and represent the terrain and moving about in it on a more strategic scale, where long range fire and maneuver are important. Once Titans are in the same hex, the basic BoX combat rules will apply, shifting from a wargaming feel back to the close in mayhem only an RPG with a GM could allow without a massive tome of rules, like making strategic use of the terrain, jumping down on opponents from on high, etc.

I’m also going with a slightly different method of adjudicating movement through terrain, inspired in part by WFB 8th edition: terrain doesn’t slow down movement, it forces piloting checks instead with terrain density adding difficulty to the roll. I always thought that an elite giant robot pilot should be able to move faster through different terrains rather than be hobbled by the same penalty as the green guy in a tank, and in this case, that can happen, with the ace pilot being more likely to take the risk (i.e. make the piloting rolls) to move through dense terrain at full speed.

The style of movement I’m going with has a number of advantages. First and foremost, the ‘board’ will fit on an standard sheet of paper, not fill up a whole table. Second, the larger, more abstract scale reduces the fiddly bookkeeping for movement and allows you to have aircraft interact on the same map effortlessly. Third, you get the best of both worlds in wargame and RPG style action.

2. Titans will have enough detail to allow customization but not so much that every fiddly thing has to be kept track of. Basically, a Titan will have attributes, combat abilities that represent the various weapons systems, ‘careers’ that represent specialist equipment, a simplified damage system with similar armor rules to the main game and a Death and Dismemberment chart for their use, a simple heat scale and ammo checks ala BotA . Basically, they will be very similar to regular characters. Non-Titan vehicles will be even simpler.

By cutting down on the record keeping I hope to reduce the amount of time it takes to play a single battle between two bands of Titans, with a number of vehicles and infantry units, from the 4+ hour marathon it normally takes to 30 – 60 minutes, cut back on the amount of scribbling and erasing you’ll have to do and allow the GM to control a large number of enemies with a single sheet of paper and minimal fuss.

3. As for combat, we’re talking the same combat rules as the generic BoX system with a few tweaks to cover combat on Battlefield scales including strategic movement, weapons and vehicle/Titan damage.

Think of a level of detail between the Classic BT game and the BT Clicky game and you can see where I’m aiming for in the detail and difficulty department. Everything should be able to be handled with the sheet, a bead and the occasional recording of critical damage by checking a single box per result, but still provide enough options to make combat interesting in a strategic sense, especially for the GM who should be able to run massive conflicts in an hour or so with a single NPC record sheet and a couple of dice. That’s the goal, at any rate.

My main goal is to cleave as close to the simplicity of the BoX rules as possible, while adding crunch to them to provide variety and value in the product. I think I did a pretty good job of that with BotA and can achieve a similar result here.

In particular, I want the move from PC action to Titan action to be as seamless as possible, with few new rules to have to remember but still retaining the thematic variety the two experiences offer. By using, essentially, the same system with tweaks for a larger scale of conflict, I think this will happen. Only time and play-testing will tell…

Up Next: Warp Ships…

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