Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Common Culture

Over the last few days, old school blogs and forums have been ablaze with tributes to the late heavy metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio, who died on Sunday from stomach cancer at the age of 67. I've talked before about how, when I was a younger man, roleplaying was one of the few places where metalheads and geeks rubbed shoulders amicably. My friend's headbanging older brother was an early gaming mentor of mine and it was through him that I first became acquainted with heavy metal music and culture.

I can't say that I had much liking for it; my musical tastes, then and now, are too staid to appreciate metal, I think. But I am at least more than passingly familiar with the music, bands, and personalities of heavy metal from the late 70s to mid-80s. Unsurprisingly, this period coincides with my formative years in the hobby. In those days, D&D and metal went hand in hand, both in the popular imagination and in reality. It was rare to find a gamer who either wasn't into heavy metal or had gamers in his group who weren't.

This association doesn't seem to exist anymore or, if it does, it's much less strong than it had been in my youth. Or maybe I'm just not paying close enough attention. Regardless, I find myself thinking back to the older guys and teenagers I met in those early days, the ones who inducted me into this "secret society" we call roleplaying. They're the ones who introduced me to Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft and Fritz Leiber and all these other authors "you have to read," because, according to my elders, "these games are all based on what they wrote." It was their way of sharing a common culture and a common vocabulary, so that, even when someone was slagging Lovecraft's stories in the heat of an argument, you knew at least that he had read them. He'd earned the right to criticize old HPL, because he was "one of us." I too wanted to be "one of us," so I immersed myself in all these writers and dutifully observed the ways of the grognards ...

And the metalheads too. Most of these guys were younger than the wargamers -- teenagers or college students generally -- but they were just as into Conan and Cthulhu as the bearded, middle aged Avalon Hill/SPI crowd. These were the guys who had Frazetta on their walls right next to their Black Sabbath concert posters. A lot of them were big into Tolkien too, oddly enough. They definitely had style gaming-wise: their characters were always interesting and their dungeons always deadly. Though they could be scary, at least to me and my buddies, they really did seem to possess a strange kind of ardor, sparks of adolescent brilliance that I found strangely compelling. And far from fulfilling the stereotype of teenagers who believe they are immortal, many of these guys had a peculiar melancholy way about them that came through in their doomed yet heroic characters. It's heady stuff when you're an introverted, nerdy kid in the early 1980s.

The metalheads were a big part of the common culture of the hobby when I entered it. Though I never shared their love for the music, they rarely made me feel as if I were an outsider. Many of my earliest gaming memories include a heavy metal gaming soundtrack, not because I was into the music myself but because my friends were and it was part of what it meant to be a gamer back then -- just like Conan or Cthulhu or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. I really cherish those memories; they remind me of a time when the hobby was smaller and yet somehow felt broader than it does now. They were good times and I often miss them. So, I bid farewell to Ronnie James Dio alongside my fellow old schoolers and offer the horns in salute to him and to his many fans who gamed with me so long ago.

62 comments:

  1. I guess I never saw the "shared culture" connection, because the few people I knew as Gamers disliked Heavy Metal/Hard Rock.

    I understand what you mean by Shared Culture, though I think that was based on the majority of the fans (and "regular culture" at the time), rather than the gamer culture. I usually dislike the term "D&D was metal" mostly because I don't believe either Gary or Dave ever listened or were fans of that music.

    Though the link between Fantasy and Metal has been explored in a few ways.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastard%E2%80%BC

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brutal_Legend

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  2. In my youth, D&D was culturally linked with metal and several other things because they were readily graspable identifiers of not belonging to the religious majority where I lived. It served as a cultural badge. People in my schools partitioned rather well into D&D players and members of the church.

    Strangely, everyone read Tolkien and many read Tolkien derived fantasy. I guess this is one of many possible reasons that the association with pulp fantasy that you like to emphasize here was never a large part of my gaming culture, but one which I explored myself. Reading Moorcock and Lovecraft didn't carry same status as cultural identifier. In fact, I recall some D&D buddies of my ridiculing Elric (which they had not read). People simply didn't know about them.

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  3. "Sign of the Southern Cross," and "Falling Off the Edge of the World," both from the MOB RULES album, are inextricably linked with old school gaming for me.

    I hear them, and I immediately want to bust out the dice.

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  4. There is still a strong association between heavy metal and RPG, at least here in Brazil.

    Not to the point that "outsiders" believe the two are aspects of the same phenomenon, but there is connection.

    That does not mean too that all gamers like heavy metal, or the opposite, but both communities are highly interconnected.

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  5. The connection between D&D and metal is not only obvious, it's logical. Both have common foundation in fantasy fiction and iconagraphy. Progressive rock - which explores similar fantastic themes - carries the same association. This is why Rush, a band that straddles progressive rock and heavy metal, is often looked upon as the epitome of old school gamer bands. On top of this, these genres of music enjoyed the height of their popularity when D&D as we know it was also at its most popular. D&D and fantastical rock music are bound by their generation as well as their subject matter, no matter if Gary listened to it or not.

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  6. The metalheads of my youth wouldn't have liked D&D because it had words.

    However metal seems a lot more 'emo' nowdays, so I'd imagine the two interests could easily overlap.

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  7. No, it's not logical Wheggi. It's a logical fallacy. Specifically the famed Correlation does not imply causation, or cum hoc ergo propter hoc.

    Basically, you are saying the following:

    * We liked Progressive Rock.
    * We liked D&D.
    * D&D and Progressive Rock are related.

    That's not really provable, and that trends towards the "old school" being more about nostalgia and less about something quantifiable, at least where the "D&D is Metal" argument comes into play.

    At least from what I see, James is recognizing a shared culture without implying that D&D and Metal share actual roots. But that's a far cry from saying it's "logical".

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  8. I'm not an expert in the current state of metal, but it seemed as if in those days, metal had a stronger tie to fantasy and science fiction than it does now. For example, Iron Maiden penned songs about The Prisoner and Dune, Judas Priest had songs about murderous robots, Led Zeppelin made references to Middle-Earth, and Hawkwind was, well, Hawkwind.

    I'm planning a one-shot that draws heavily from heavy metal tropes from the late 70s to mid 80s, and one of my concerns is that the cultural gap is so wide that they'll sail over the heads of my younger players. But hopefully it'll be entertaining enough that their fun won't depend on getting the in-jokes.

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  9. Great stuff in the OP.

    As Daniel Dvorkin likes to say (SF author), "The correlation between ignorance of statistics and using 'correlation is not causation' as an argument is close to 1."

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  10. Actually, those two links I posted show some of that. Brutal Legend was perhaps the most example of the "shared fantasy roots" vibe. (Dio was either in it or going to be in it, I forget.)

    But people have to remember a lot of the love for Fantasy came from the 1960s rediscovery of Tolkien and maybe some of the Hippie or Druggy roots. Science Fiction as well, especially Moorcock.

    But I still don't see a lot of connection between the two directly, just the coincidence of a renewed interest in fantasy. That's the cultural background, but I don't see D&D's influences as much more than coincidence, especially consider the more pulpish roots of D&D. I think the connection is more emotional made by the players in their adolescence (where you have a stronger connection to fiction at that time then in any other time of your life).

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  11. My tribute to RJD will be an adventure called 'The Sacred Heart', which I hope to have ready in time for the next issue of Oubliette.

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  12. About half the gamers I know like metal.

    Metal doesn't seem to have quite as many fantasy elements these days, but there are some newer bands that do it, like The Sword. Their entire second album, Gods of the Earth, is pretty much one big tribute to R.E. Howard.

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  13. As Daniel Dvorkin likes to say (SF author), "The correlation between ignorance of statistics and using 'correlation is not causation' as an argument is close to 1.

    When I see a better argument that backs these claims up with statistics rather than appeals to emotions and just personal preferences, then I'll agree with you. I didn't see any discussion of mean, median, mode, standard deviation, or any graphs or charts.

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  14. The guys on a local (Seattle) talk radio station were talking yesterday about album covers, and how back in the day a band like Molly Hatchet could use a cool piece of art to sell a record, even if they weren't a "real" heavy metal group.

    My group (of 25+ years now) has a pretty wide musical range, as far as genres are concerned. But we listened to our share of metal, and I imagine when we gather this weekend for a session, we'll play a few RJD tunes in tribute.

    *horns*

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  15. Well, our group certainly listened to a lot of metal and hard rock back in the junior high/high school days... and we were playing D&D as well. At first I want to think the pairing of the two had less to do with any natural affinity between them and more to do about our age group and the particular era it was. Though in contrast I would also say that there is probably more kinship between D&D and aggressive rock music than there is with, say, '80s pop... another form of music that was going on at the time. (Or hip-hop, which we were also starting to get into.)
    My musical palette is significantly broader these days, but still, I must say nothing quite gets the blood up for some D&D mugging and looting of monsters like Black Sabbath!

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  16. "Metal doesn't seem to have quite as many fantasy elements these days."

    Total nonsense. What metal are you even talking about? Sure, maybe Nu MEtal/mallcore crap doesn;t have a fantasy streak to it, but honestly it's just pop rock with screaming and blast beat.

    There's science fiction and fantasy all over the power metal and prog metal scenes, to the point that they gat derisively called "D&D metal." And not to mention folk metal bands like Tyr and Ensiferum, or melodeath bands like Amon Amarth sing about norse mythology and vikings. Even the black metal scene is all about darkness and the occult.

    And all those bands "back in those days" like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest who sang about that kind of thing are for the most part still churning out album after album. Their subject matter has largely not changed.

    Even Ronnie James Dio was cranking out fantasy metal pretty much until the day he died.

    Don't talk about stuff you don't know about. the "metal" that "seems more emo" "these days" is not even metal.

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  17. @byzantium:

    Your post reminded me of another common aspect of metal and gamer culture...

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  18. Unfortunately I don't have the time or really the interest to go debate this for who knows how many posts, but I will say this: saying that something isn't synonymous with D&D simply because 'Gary and Dave didn't like it' is myopic hero worship. The game grew way beyond their small midwestern town and became something much larger than what was at their table.

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  19. @ Bysantium-

    Ha ha, I feel kind of dumb. I love Amon Amarth, Tyr, and such, and somehow I forgot about mythological metal bands. I guess since I look at them as being more about pagan faiths I don't think of them when I think D&D.

    All the same, the more mainstream groups, the ones you read about in Revolver Magazine, seem less apt to write about fantasy.

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  20. I'm with Wade Rockett above: it's not just metal, but also Prog and other proto-metal genres (Led Zeppelin et al) that had the fantasy vibe going on, starting in the late 60s and probably reaching its height in the late 70s.

    To say that there isn't SOME kind of link between these musical genres and fantasy RPGs would require some sort of demonstration that other musical scenes at the time -- funk/soul? rockabilly? jazz? -- were just as likely to conjure up images of elves, vikings, and wizards as metal/prog was. That's obviously not the case, unless there's an Elric-themed Creedence album that nobody told me about...

    As a kid, my first exposure to RPGs was all mixed up with rock and roll album covers and pulp fantasy paperbacks: there was a common aesthetic to all of it, and I think it's very difficult to argue that nature-loving elves and anti-social barbarians are not products of the same culture that produced hippies and metalheads.

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  21. In Southern California the connection was not so obvious, unless you call Led Zep Heavy Metal. In the late 70's and early 80's in LA, Zep, Jethro Tull, Michael Oldsfield (of Tubular Bells fame) and Grateful Dead ruled the day when music was listened to during games. I actually like a lot of metal, but more these days than as a youth.

    Oh, the Heavy Metal movie soundtrack, both the orchestral stuff and the great old school metal tunes, got a lot of play in our games (the soundtrack was not actually legally available till the 90's, but we had some bootlegs).

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  22. Saying that something isn't synonymous with D&D simply because 'Gary and Dave didn't like it' is myopic hero worship.

    It has nothing to do with them "not liking it" or myopic hero worship, but rather them not being influenced from it, and there not being any common theme linking the two directly other than the links made in the fans minds.

    I saw precious little in Dragon, Early TSR stuff, or any other articles that even hinted at any connection to the "metal culture". The only possible connection you could see that maybe the artists who did metal covers might have done some D&D covers. Even the younger crowd didn't have that connection. None of the work was really influenced by that. The only time I saw the "metal" actually come into the creative process was perhaps during the rise of White Wolf, but that definately isn't "old school".

    Keep in mind that most of the D&D creators were equivalent to "our parents", and had different heroes and influences.

    D&D was based on War Gaming and Pulp-influenced fantasy.

    Metal was inspired by musical tastes, drugs, rebellion, goth-leanings, etc.

    The only connection was at the time of the 70s a common theme where fantasy was in the background and on people's minds.

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  23. I think I am going to agree with James, that while metal and D&D didn't share roots, they did come together for a lot of people (consumers/listeners/players).

    In my '80s days, we listened to metal (among other things) while we played, or talked about playing. We also had MTV in the background a lot, so that's a stronger association for me-- '80s pop and gaming.

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  24. First, I would like to commend you on a fabulous article. I really liked your insights into the overlap of grognards, metal and RPGs.

    Back in 1974 I discovered Avalon Hill/SPI wargames (started with Afrika Korps). I was already into "Heavy Metal" even though it would be a few years before it really separated from mainstream Rock.

    By late '75 I was introduced to D&D. I really do see the overlap. Heavy Metal, especially my favorite band - Iron Maiden - is quite different from standard Rock. There's more of a ballad style, and often a literary source to the lyrics.

    In '79 I took an entire semester course in "The Lord of the Rings" as part of Senior English. D&D and Heavy Metal were what led me into that.

    In the past week, Frank Frazetta and Ronnie James Dio have died. Two great artists from my youth have passed away. Sad times.

    Keep bringing your insights. I look forward to them every day.

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  25. I read a music review once that pointed out that Metal and science fiction were similar in that they both tended to be multi-level fantasy worlds obsessed with minutiae (technicality and specificity of terminology vs. technicality and specificity of The Riff).

    The sentiment extends to D&D.

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  26. I started playing D&D in High School, when 1st edition came out, around 1977 or 78. None of us were into heavy metal. I never made any connection between the 2.

    It seems like ½ the people in the tread are talking about Fantasy being a fairly prevalent theme in Metal music, and the other ½ are discussing whether D&D and metal are related, which is 2 different things.

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  27. Good post. At least where I come from, the cultures were aligned for awhile before the D&D boys got into computers and the metal boys got into drugs. I miss their influence on the hobby. To be honest, they had better imaginations and a better sense of drama. Sometimes they come back: after all, Ritchie Blackmore is a trad musician now.

    PS Richard, remember the Bo Hansson "Lord of the Rings" album? He died recently too.

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  28. If you can't see the relationship between Blue Oyster Cult, Hawkwind, Led Zeppelin, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, etc. and D&D, you either know very little about those bands, or you know very little about D&D.

    It's not so much that game designers of the 70's liked metal. It's that the game designers liked writers like Michael Moorcock and thus wrote games about his works. Metal bands liked writers like Michael Moorcock and wrote songs about their works (or in B.O.C.'s case had Moorcock write some of their lyrics). Fans of D&D became fans of the metal that had the same literary roots as D&D and vice versa.

    I don't understand why it's either mysterious or controversial.

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  29. @Scott - I was unfamiliar with Bo Hansson; my archaic teacher didn't seem to have as varied and eclectic interests as I. I learned a lot about Tolkein, and The Lord of the Rings in particular, but little outside of that narrow window.

    @Chris - it's those literary elements that keep me hooked on metal. It's intellectual rock at 900 miles an hour.

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  30. I never gamed with any metalheads where I lived as it was too small a town to support a population of them

    When I was young I gamed with very sheltered kids I grew up with or later (as a young adult) soldiers and civilians from the city.

    However it is true there is a shared live of fantasy in both hobbies (look at the covers of bands like Battelaxe) though not everyone has been exposed to it and the cultures don't always cross pollinate.

    Ironically of all of my gaming circle I was the nearly only metalhead. In later years I became quite an SMF.

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  31. @Chris: thank you. I thought I may have stepped into a World Gone Mad.

    @JRT: I really doubt Gary and Co. were the equivalent to "our" parents, unless your dad listened to Jethro Tull on the 8-track while smoking dope from his teakwood pipe in his shag carpet-lined Chevy van.

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  32. A few suggestions that blur the lines:

    - Listen to Dio's lyrics for songs such as "Lock up the wolves" or "Temple of the King". DnD adventure imagery better than most modules written.
    - Watch Dio's original "Holy Diver" video as he assails a dungeon sword in hand; or better yet, Savatage's "Hall of the Mountain King"
    - Much Metal album artwork is better than anything on an RPG cover in terms of evocative scene
    - Bands such as Blind Guardian and Nightwish with songs straight out of Tolkien

    Most of the friends I've gamed with over 30 years had at least an appreciation for Metal. They were also the most imaginative players, immersing themselves in role.

    Until we roll dice together, "up the irons" mates!

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  33. For the record, most of the bands you see in places like Revolver aren't really metal. Mainstream media outlets have the worst way with confusing hardcore punk, emo, hard rock, and metal, to the point where, and I'm not kidding, I saw grunge bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana referred to as metal. Rediculous but true.

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  34. @JRT: I really doubt Gary and Co. were the equivalent to "our" parents, unless your dad listened to Jethro Tull on the 8-track while smoking dope from his teakwood pipe in his shag carpet-lined Chevy van.

    Well as far as I know, EGG didn't listen to Jethro Tull, as he was a Country and Western fan (back when it was called that) and Classical.

    Any experimentation with drugs happened in his teen/college years (I asked point blank about the Cocaine Rumor, after he once admitted to taking LSD in a public chat room--something he only tried once and called "Lousy Stupid Drug". No to Coke, yes to "Benzies and Dexdries", which is beatnik terminology).

    If he had a van, it was to carry his five kids.

    Again, like James said, the creators really didn't have the metal connection. If you feel sympatico with Metal, go ahead, but don't try to say the initial creative writers were part of that. They were a lot more like your parents than your peers.

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  35. The only person saying that the initial creative writers were part of the metal community is you. And with the exception of age I think my parents were much more like my peers than like Gary Gygax.

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  36. Actually, there is a connection between roleplaying-gamers and a certain kind of metal fan (a kind whose discovery corelates directly to the 'obscurity' and denial of compromises to commercial sucess of the preferred variety): Both roleplaying gamers and this kind of metal fans share the same amount of geekness, if you consider the latter to be the combination of social awkwardness, introversion, a certain inclination towards intellectualism and the ability to immerse yourself utterly into a subject of your choice (generally regarded with suspiciousness or contempt) and pursuing everything connected with it (even the most weird details) with an eagerness that leaves the rest of the world baffled. Put all of this together without specifying the subject of your choice, and you have a generic geekdom.

    Another point why metal fans and wargamers/rpg-gys mix very well may be a gender issue: Basically, all of them are 'Männerbünde', create a situation supporting male bonding - quite rare an opportunity, if you exclude anti-intellectual circles (just as sports, the other last source for this conduct). This may be not the sole explanation, but I wouldn't be surprised at all, if it worked as an amplifier,

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  37. @Wheggi,

    This is what you said in your last post. I really doubt Gary and Co. were the equivalent to "our" parents, unless your dad listened to Jethro Tull on the 8-track while smoking dope from his teakwood pipe in his shag carpet-lined Chevy van. So, you were implying that they were metal-heads (or hippies, or 70s van cruisers) in that sentence, right?

    They really weren't any of that. They might be cool, but they aren't "70s cool".

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  38. Up the Irons!

    I was very like James when I started playing. I thought Metal was crap. I was a teen and very snobbish about music. And for no reason! I was listening to Genesis and Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. "Real" music.

    I thought Rush was heavy metal for some reason. It wasn't until playing D&D (and A&A and lots of other games) that a friend of mine literally brainwashed me by making me listen to Rush over and over again until I "got it."

    Then the floodgates opened, and I fell in love with Iron Maiden (their 1980's stuff is great D&D music) and Dio and Dio's time with Sabbath. Great stuff.

    Some of the best GMs and players were Metal Heads. And it was amazing having something in common we could use to relate to each other by. As a kid, it really opened my eyes. These guys weren't the stereotype that THEY THEMSELVES embraced, they were just into metal. They were smart, funny, but they had their own perspective, their own sense of humor, their own priorities.

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  39. the creators really didn't have the metal connection.

    On some parallel Earth, Dave Arneson fronted an immensely popular metal band called Blackmoor. They were HUGE in Japan.

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  40. And Gary Gygax was the guitarist from Greyhawkwind.

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  41. Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell" album was my gateway into true metalheadness. Dio was always an amazing showman.

    A lot of bands across many genres played with themes drawn from fantasy and what could be termed "reimagined history" in the seventies. It hasn't stopped. Judas Priest released an entire double-CD album about Nostradamus and on their previous release had a song about Judas rising from Hell as the leader of Satan's army.

    I've run entire campaigns based on the music of the Grateful Dead, and wrote up one of their songs as a magical place here:

    http://gridlore.livejournal.com/1328514.html

    Also, a San Francisco area metal band did an entire album based on Traveller

    http://www.sloughfeg.com/disco/TRVLR.htm

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  42. PS On that same Earth, there's a gonzo rules-light system called Generic Wargaming Adventure Rules.

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  43. From 80 to 82. It seemed every gamer was listening to Sabbaths' " The Mob Rules" and BOCs' "Fire of Unknown Origin".

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  44. Crow: perfect for D&D, and also good advice for players - "when you listen to fools - the mob rules!"

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  45. Oh man, I forgot to mention Jean Michael Jarre as some of the best music to D&D to in the 80's...

    ...taking a copy of his "Equinoxe" to tonights game to listen to during my Night Below continuation.

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  46. @ Brunomac,
    Very true friend. Sadly, it seems The Mob these days only want's tp plays the current flavor of DnD at your local gamestore or local meetup.

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  47. @anarchist - Yes! Many's the evening we'd listen to Greyhawkwind on the stereo while playing a rousing game of GWAR.

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  48. I'm an avid gamer and an equally avid metalhead. For me, there are definite overlaps in appeal, and my love for the fantastic, morbid, eerie and otherwise over-the-top fuels my continued love for both.

    Metal has historically incorporated fantasy and occult themes and imagery. It's part of the culture. This is obvious in classic bands (Sabbath, Priest, Maiden and yes, Dio) but it continues undiluted to the current day. Some bands are more fantasy themed (Hammerfall, Rhapsody, Blind Guardian) while others are more folk/myth based (Finntroll, Korpiklaani, Tyr).

    Also, James, that was a great post. As a fan of both Dio and old school gaming, it spoke to me.

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  49. Gridlore said:
    "Also, a San Francisco area metal band did an entire album based on Traveller."

    It should also be mentioned that Slough Feg (the band in question) has had cover art done by the man himself. Erol Otus!

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  50. @Wade:

    or the more Arthurian alternative, Blackmore's Knight.

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  51. I think we're talking about co-existing interests, rather than causative relationships. Some groups had fantasy or sf influences. Some gamers liked those musical groups, usually because they recognized those influences and enjoyed them. At our games we listened to Steeleye Span, Jethro Tull, Yes, Renaissance, Black Sabbath (not Dio, sorry, it was Ozzy), Traffic and Led Zep. And some fans of that music may have coincidentally learned about rpg's and become gamers. Similar influences evident in those two forms of entertainment sometimes attracted the same fans.

    But I would never associate Metal with gamers, as a concrete relationship. Might as well say redheads like rpgs.

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  52. for me, metal seemed to be all about epic battles and kewl powers. it took my band, The Smiths to pen a song about stealing lead from the roof of a church-- reminding us that most characters are 1st level.

    not a great point, but my alignment requires that I take a stand here. because the real epic struggle is not evil vs. good or even law vs. chaos, but schlock vs. twee.

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  53. I think a list of early 70's to early 80's game inspired metal/ hard rock tracks needs be put together now.

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  54. that would be a long list. Personally I submit the greatest band of the last decade, Goblin Cock.

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  55. James, what do you like to listen to? I'm not sure if you've ever mentioned it. Do you tend to listen to music when you're working on adventure design, or playing?

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  56. I find it interesting that Dio is mentioned in the context of gaming. I was into metal, as were some of my closest friends, but the people I gamed were more diverse -- one might rock out to J-Pop, another may have listened to Poison or Madonna.

    Dio has a definite connection to fantasy and gaming -- his band in the '70s, Rainbow, is the most direct influence on a genre known as Power Metal. Power Metal contains almost exclusively fantasy and sci-fi elements. A station on Pandora devoted to it is called "Elfcore." If metal is your bag it provides a perfect backdrop for gaming, and I mine ideas from it,too.

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  57. In my group we have 2 metalheads, myself included, then 2 guys who listen to metal on occasion or used to me metal heads. And one of the current players wives who used to be in one of our older groups would randomly bust out some iron maiden at the table. All in all some good times. Oh and my fiance as well when she plays. It's still a strong undercurrent as far as I can tell. It's just that people don't call you a metalhead so much anymore unless you are long haired, black concert t-shirt wearing, knuckledragger.

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  58. Baron Greystone: "I think we're talking about co-existing interests, rather than causative relationships. Some groups had fantasy or sf influences. Some gamers liked those musical groups, usually because they recognized those influences and enjoyed them."

    I completely agree. Some metal and D&D have some similar imagery and themes, but they only converged by coincidence. Both went through a similar cultural anathema period, being associated with Satanism and the occult, at the same time, which strengthened the connection in the minds of some people; it even then it was a coincidental convergence, not one where metal and D&D were actually doing the same things for the same reasons. I never associated metal with D&D at all. Also: listening to metal while playing D&D? I can't imagine a more distracting, annoying way to bring the session down.

    *shrug*

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  59. Ave! RIP R.J.Dio.

    And, "Aye!" re the heavy metal soundtrack to the subcult of gamers united in the seventies and eighties. Many many great memories. Thanks for the post.

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  60. James, what do you like to listen to? I'm not sure if you've ever mentioned it. Do you tend to listen to music when you're working on adventure design, or playing?

    I'm a pretty un-musical person. I have a fondness for certain classical composers (Mozart, in particular) and I enjoy most 20th century music up through the late 1960s or so. But I rarely listen to music when I'm writing or gaming and only occasionally at other times.

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  61. I never got into Metal as music but the covers are part of what inspired many a Cthulhu or AD&D game. Many of my friends were Metalheads and I could only envy them for their wacked immagination...when playing Traveller...I was visualizing Foundation...they could already anticipate Dark Heresy/Warhammer 40K.

    However, I could only appreciate the convergence of Metal/Hard Rock and RPGs when I went to Scandinavia where they take both really seriously. I have partaken and witnessed LARP that would make Jackson's LOTR look like child's play. This was all organized through major rockers/metalists who were some of the nicest people once you got over their appearance.

    I wonder what were the influences that pushed the pastoral hippie Middle Earth lovers into Metal. These undoubtedly were some of the same social forces that propelled gaming in new and different directions.

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