Category Archives: Barbarians of Heavy Metal

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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Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 3

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-

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…

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 2

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 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…

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal Design Diary 1

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-

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…

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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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