Monday, June 12, 2006

Themes X: Lyrics

I grew up listening to metal, particularly Rush, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden.

Never were there three greater bands for RPG fans for lyrical inspiration.

So many great adventures, names, and campaign themes owe their lineage to Rob Halford and Neil Peart.

So. Before I start the themes, let us say thanks to the lyricists (whomever you chose to admire) for making us love language and drawing us into this very very very literate hobby.



Enough pomp, here's the lyrics to all of Judas Priest's and the lyrics to all of Iron Maiden's songs.

Now. I'm going to use Revelations by Iron Maiden and Demonizer by Priest for today's post (chosen somewhat randomly).

The opening to Revelations is
"O God of Earth and Altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die,
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride."
(G.K. Chesterton: English Hymnal)

Just a babe in the black abyss,
No reason for a place like this,
The walls are cold and souls cry out in pain,
An easy way for the blind to go,
A clever path for the fools who know
The secret of the Hanged Man - the smile of his lips.
We don't need to use all of a song to get a great set up for an adventure. In Revelations, Maiden has done a great job of setting the tone of a dark, perhaps murderous adventure. Or an undead story set in a very religious world (cf. Raavnia). The opening indicates that the world is in peril, perhaps inspired by the actions of man (swords of scorn) or the fates. Whatever the case, rain no longer falls and crops die (Take not thy thunder from us), while people are still entombed in gold burial mounds.

There's a number of story angles there already. But the song continues.

The next stanza suggests that people are either being persecuted or taking their own lives in despair... the horrors of the world are too much.

We can stop here and write an adventure already, where the PCs must go to a dark, cold tomb and retreive an artifact that will restore the land. An entire campaign built around 16 lines from an Iron Maiden tune.

Not a bad afternoon.

But if you need more.

She came to me with a serpent's kiss,
As the Eye of the Sun rose on her lips,
Moonlight catches silver tears I cry,
We don't need much more than this to explain the visions of a single PC who knows where the artifact is hidden.
So we lay in a black embrace,
And the Seed is sown in a holy place
And I watched, and I waited for the Dawn.
Then again, DMs looking for another layer of drama now have a PC who is in love with a vision he's only seen in his dreams and should he encounter the serpent (who obviously needs the PC to awaken her... medusa?), is going to use that love/lust to twist him against his comrades.

The song ends with...
For the one who will be King
Is the Watcher in the Ring.
It is You.
Not to be confused with the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King.

Just saying.

Other Maiden song to inspire:

Powerslave, Fear of the Dark, Two Minutes to Midnight, To Tame a Land, Where Eagles Dare, the Trooper, anything from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Wrathchild, Purgatory, Invaders, a few lines from Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Alexander the Great, the Number of the Beast, Hallowed by the Name, Children of the Damned (certainly a winner), Judas Be My Guide, Sign of the Cross, Lord of the Flies, and almost anything from Brave New World.

Demonizer is an especially good song for Cthulhu or modern horror games, but we can use it for almost anything. [And contrary what one might think, the song is about exorcising demons that came here from another place, perhaps fallen from heaven.]
Born of the sun
Crashed to the earth
Tormented reviled
Engorged hate from birth

Hellions the steed
Bloods on the wing
Claws set to slice
Vengeance he'll bring

Cremating the land
In seek and destroy
Apocalypse slays
Napalm he'll deploy

The beast of a god
Regalled of his race
Prepared to onslaught
And bare face to face

Across the divide
The thresholds in flames
The painkiller rises again

The scream of the demon
There's evil about
They've come to possess us
Out demons out!
Okay. That's a mouthful. Halford has a knack for writing fast, hard metal lyrics. That's alot in one stanza.

Hellions of steel. It's possible these are demons made with metal bodies or they right wicked winged beasts. He's also thrown in painkiller (from an album) to indicate that this demon ends the suffering of the living. Lots of cool prophecizing in this song.
Blade of the wheel
Cuts deep in the bone
It's gideons quest
To take satan's throne

The critical mass
And power that they wield
Exterminate all
When vermin rebel

A maelstrom begins
To disintergrate
And pulverise all in its' wake
The line about Gideon is my favorite from the song and certainly an excellent instrument for exorcising a demon that could consume the earth (or destroy it in fire). This can be used for a Hellblazer style game to stop a powerful or low-level demon, or just shut a gate in a Cthulhu game that would wake Azathoth or Hastur.

The vermin are the other demons that serve the Demonizer and the final three lines tell us what's in store for mankind if the PCs, fail.

Other Priest songs to inspire:

Metals Gods, Anything from Sad Wings of Destiny, the Hellion, Screaming for Vengeance, the Rage, Steeler, Jawbreaker, the Sentinel, Judas is Rising, Painkiller, Touch of Evil, Beyond the Realms of Death, Green Manalishi, Lochness. Collect them all.

Some great bands to draw from (with rich lyrics):

Rush, Fates Warning, Dream Theatre, Tool, the Mars Volta, Halford, Bob Mould (more for contemporary RPGs), Trent Reznor, Rage Against the Machine, Megadeth, Slayer, any death metal (really), Helloween, Old Saxon, Metalica (before the black album), Jethro Tull, ELO, Zepplin, Black Sabbath, and others.

While there are lots and lots of songs I could have used, I grabbed these two and wrote this in about 20 minutes.


If someone wants to send in a favorite song and we can all analyze it together... that would be great.

I hope you enjoyed the post.


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