With a title like “The Heavy Metal GM,” it’s no secret what kind of music I listen to and what kind of games I like. There’s this certain harmony that exists between these two things and I feel a lot of people aren’t aware. Metal and RPG’s are brothers, whether that’s at the forefront or not. For all of the non-metalheads that may be reading this and thinking, it’s just a bunch of noise, how does that stand up to real art, hold on to your seat because you’re in for a ride.
1). Both Groups Are Marginalized
“Marginalized” is a term that’s thrown around a lot nowadays, especially with the serious social issues that it seems like we people in the good ol’ US are facing. No, I’m not here to address that but there are some serious parallels. The stereotype for the typical role-player is a 30-something guy that lives in his mom’s basement; we know that. Stereotypes for metalheads include people who are self-loathing, lazy, jobless, angry, or maybe even homicidal depending on who you talk to. See the similarities? People of both groups are seen as rather worthless, when in reality we’re just normal people who like something a little different.
From what I’ve experienced, this makes it easier for me to relate to people from either group. It’s almost one big cool kids’ club. Getting on the train and seeing somebody with a Gorgoroth t-shirt gets the same reaction as seeing somebody carrying around an armful of RPG books. In passing, you should give them a compliment. It honestly makes the world that much of a better place. Encouraging people to engage with strangers, even if for a brief moment, creates this huge sense of family among the communities. As someone involved in both... man, what a feeling. From what I can tell, there is actually a lot of overlap too. With the “extreme” side of the spectrum of metal, not so much. Most role-players that I know are at least somewhat fond of bands like Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden etc. etc. In other words, more of the classic stuff. Perhaps that’s due to less exposure to the more nitty-gritty, or maybe people are less outspoken about it since being a role-player is already considered rather strange. Whatever the reason, it seems like we have one gigantic community between two seemingly unrelated things. The best part? We’re freaks together!
2). We’re Both Storytellers
Entirely, the point of role-playing is to tell a story with a group of friends. This isn’t the point of metal by any stretch of the imagination, but there are many bands that make this the sole purpose of their lyrical content. Bands specifically like Amon Amarth and Iron Maiden have entire concepts behind albums with very fantasy-like artwork. Not to plug stuff, but Amon Amarth’s new album Jomsviking is literally a Norse epic with their own twist to it. Fantasy, amazing drum work, skillful guitar playing... what else is there to desire?
To be more broad, if you look a little closer, even bands that have a more political agenda or what have you tend to have some pretty amazing artwork. It implies that there’s a story to be told, that the creativeness of the band/artists have this sort of symbiosis to create what they have. That same symbiosis is one of the most apparent things in role-playing. The GM and the players have to work together to build this work of art. Granted, the point is that role-playing is more internally sourced than externally like music, but even now people stream their games on services like Twitch. It’s honestly becoming a performance, much like metal, where the story is a means to engage your passionate fans.
3). Passionate to the Core
Probably the sole thing I’m proudest of as a metalhead and a role-player is that even as people who are ostracized by society, we can all agree on one thing: we’re passionate about what we do. Most role-players are all but devoted to a specific system, rules set or campaign setting. Even with that, we don’t knock on other role-players that are just as crazy about something else. Not seriously, anyhow. Believe, it or not, the metal community possesses an exact duplicate of that mentality. Whether it’s black metal, post hardcore, death metal, thrash, or speed metal, we all agree that as metalheads we are one.
That idea of passion doesn’t end there, there’s still another parallel. To paint with a broad brush, role players are content creators too. Whether it’s simply making things work for your home game, shouting into the void of the internet (like I do), or running a podcast, we all create something for someone. Some of us aspire to be game designers, some of us are just content living in our own little sphere of creativity. Metal? Yep, you guessed it, the same ordeal. Very rarely do I meet a metalhead that doesn’t have at least a 16th of an inch of their fingernail into playing an instrument, whether that be their vocals or something more hands on (heh, get it?) like a guitar. There’s varying degrees of seriousness, just like in gaming. Some people just sit around at home and mess with it, others go out and form bands to potentially make it a source of income.
Well, there you have it folks. We aren’t so different after all, huh? For the people who still think metal sucks by the end of this, I challenge you to pick up a guitar and play a Lamb of God song. Just kidding, it’s okay to not like the same stuff as everyone else, that’s why there’s people like us! For someone who hasn’t delved into the deeper side of metal, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Some great bands are: Korpiklaani (warning: not in English), Ensiferum, Amon Amarth, Behemoth, Satyricon, August Burns Red, Mayhem, Moonsorrow, Norma Jean, Oh Sleeper, Walls of Jericho Ektomorf, The Devil Wears Prada, and many many more. Starting with maybe three or four of these bands will help broaden your scopes, considering that there’s a multitude of different metal styles above. For this one, it’s a bit obligatory…
STAY METAL \m/
Sean is a BMW technician by day, the Heavy Metal GM by night, and loves everything about 13th Age. If the game interests you and you want to learn more, check out his 13th Age blog here.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.