Heavy Metal Roleplaying by Zak Arntson
Version Three


What is Metal Öpera?

Metal Öpera is a game of blunt passion given an electric voice. You play an angry Rocker fighting against the oppression of the State with violence both musical and physical. A Rocker is typified by the leather-clad bad-ass weilding a smoking shotgun (with a broadsword bayonet), sparking guitar slung over his shoulder. He stands atop a pile of downed foes, a rumbling storm approaching from behind lit within by fierce lightning and without from the hellish fires below.

Your World

The world of Metal Öpera is your own, as your group hammers out most of the details during play. What should remain consistent is this: It is the far-flung future and the galaxy is run by The State. A trio of corrupt Tyrants command three terrible armies, all to further The State's iron grip on its people. Their rule was absolute and unquestioned until recently, with the discovery of a burning passion within a few of the masses. These self-named Rockers found in themselves the desire for Freedom and soon learned they could stir this emotion in the downtrodden masses through their deeds.

Tyrant of Souls

From the church-world of Goldspirit, gothic towers and massive domes reach up towards the heavens. The Tyrant of Souls commands his army, the Grigorans, against all who exercise the sins of free-will, compassion and doubt. It is said that the Tyrant's command come from the immortal Source; a source the Tyrant insists is divine.

The Tyrant of Souls is a massive machine called the Malignant Crypt. The elite of the church's ranks, upon death, are placed into the Crypt where technology keeps their souls bound to their earthly frames. The machine then uses the collective thoughts of these Crypt-bound souls to issue commands to its flock.

Tyrant of Flesh

The headquarters of the Flesh Tyrant lies in Ironheart, a planet encased in a twisting web of steel. It is from here that all that which dulls the masses is born. Drugs which lull the spirit, pleasure drones who keep the masses complacent, and more. The secretive Magdaleen are the Tyrant's shadow army, acting against any who incite passion within the complacent people.

The Tyrant of Flesh runs Ironheart, and thus all commercial enterprise, as a dictator, working day and night to keep his hold on the masses complete. Strangely, nobody has seen the Tyrant in person: The reclusive man conducts all business through holographic proxies or subordinates.

Tyrant of Mind

The churning government which seeks to dominate the rests within an entire solar system, every planet hollowed out for the vast human machine that adjudicates, represents and governs the masses. Each stellar body within the system is known only by its department's name. The enforcers of the Mind Tyrant's will are the Legionnares, and range from uneducated brute squads to elite interstellar shock troops.

The Tyrant of Mind is, and always has been, the same man. Strangely, he has not aged a year in the centuries of his command over the government. Many say he is only a figurehead, answering to the myriad Secretaries of State, Senators and Department Heads.

Forging Your Rockers

Your Band

Your group must first come up with a band name. The only rule here is that your band's name must rock.

Pool of Destiny

Somewhere on the table, designate a spot to place special dice. These dice are your Pool of Destiny; a bunch of dice that you can give to another player for their roll. See Rocking Your Rolls below for more information. At the beginning of the game, the Pool of Destiny holds one die per Rocker.

Your Rocker

Your Rocker embodies the principles of Freedom; a concept antithetical to the Tyrants. Give your Rocker a bitchin' name. Your Rocker is then defined by a Style, an Axe and three scores.


A Rocker's Style is one or two words that sum up the Rocker's passion for Freedom. Picture your Rocker emerging from a wrecked starship, wiping the soot from his brow, readying himself for the squadron of footsoldiers closing in. How does he react? This should help you pick your Style.


Every Rocker owns a signature weapon, called his Axe. During play, unless you as the Player narrate or agree to it, your Rocker can never lose his Axe. It can be anything from a smoking chainsword to a shoulder-mounted missile rack. Most Rockers affix speakers to their Axes, both to intimidate their enemies and inspire the masses. Some go so far as to convert an instrument into an Axe, letting them wail the sounds of Freedom as they fight.

You are highly encouraged to draw your Axe, preferably held by your Rocker.


Scores in Metal Öpera are a measurement of how effectively you, as the Player, can change the story. Decide on which Score is the most important to your Rocker's Style: It receives five points. The least important Score gets two points, while the remaining Score is set to three.

Each Score has two parts: The Rocking Score and the Maximum Score. Your Maximum Scores are always given the point values described below. At the beginning of each session, your Rocking Scores are zero.

Assign a 5 to your Rocker's most important Score. Assign 2 to your least important Stat. The remaining one gets 3 points. These are your Maximum Scores. Beside each Stat write a zero. This is the Rocking Stat that will grow from zero on up during play. Your Rocking Score can never go above your Maximum Score.

Rock 'n Roll

Finesse in all things. Complex guitar solos, fancy dueling with your Axe, jury-rigging a Magdaleen ship to transmit your latest track. Anything requiring coordination and skill is governed by Rock 'n Roll.

Kicking Ass

Raw power. Pound out deafening chords, stomping Legionnare heads, ripping a steel door off its hinges to free your loyal fans. Kicking Ass covers everything it sounds like it should.

Metal Soul

Conviction, heart and steadfastness in the face of oppression. Soulful lyrics to turn a Grigoran toward your cause, fighting ten-to-one against a Tyrant's goon squad powered only by your drive for Metal, shouldering off a piercing hail of gunfire to rescue a comrade. These things are all under the domain of Metal Soul.


Metal Öpera uses a system that not only allows for success and failure, but also a Player's control of the story. Before the game begins, your group should discuss what is acceptable as far as Player control. Some groups opt for tight reigns, where only plausible and predictable outcomes occur. Other groups enjoy a narrative free-for-all with no restrictions. It is up to you and your group to decide on a comfortable level of Player control.

Rolling the Dice

You grab some dice whenever there is a chance for your Rocker to do something impressive. You roll the dice to spice up a dull moment, figure the outcome of an already-gripping scene, or whenever you want to show off.

You grab a number of dice equal to your Rocking Score (never your Maximum Score). If you are using your Style, add another die. If you are the GM, give the Player another die if she gets a round of laughter, awe, applause or some other gut reaction from her actions.

Roll all the dice in your hand. First, you find the highest-rolled value: This is your Power. Second, count up the number of matching dice: This value is your Control. For example, if you roll a 1,2,2,6, you have a Power of 6 and a Control of 2. All matches count, so if you roll a 2,3,3,5,5 you have a Power of 5 and a Control of 4.

Now your group is ready to narrate the outcome.

Reading your Roll

Your roll's Power is a measure of how good or bad the outcome will be. The Control is who actually narrates the outcome. Remember: There is no such thing as a boring result! Even a marginal failure should somehow move the story along by hindering the Rockers.

Remember that no matter what the outcome, you cannot yet overcome the initial hardship introduced at the beginning of play (see In the Crapper, below). Your Rockers are only allowed to 'get out of the Crapper' when they have achieved the Power of Metal, described below.

6Rocking unbelievably, heroic success and add one to the Rocking Score used.
5Awesome Power, impressive success just short of jaw-dropping.
4Marginal Power, mostly successful with some drawback.
3Feeble Power, a solid failure.
2No Power, your Rocker sucks.
1Power Vacuum causes a miserable failure, further complicating the story and subtracting one point from your Rocking Score (minimum of zero).
3+Player Narrates the outcome in full.
2Player Narrates with a GM-provided fact.
0GM Narrates the outcome, with the Player providing a single fact.

Rocking your Rolls

Throwing the Horns

If your action is used to help another player and you roll Marginal Power or better, you give that player an extra die (grab a die right then and hand it to the player). If there are dice in the Pool of Destiny, you can also take as many of those you like and hand them to the player you're helping. So long as that player accommodates your help in their action, they can use the dice you've given.


By taking an action that does not resolve any conflict, you can avoid any ill effects. This is called vamping. The GM is not allowed to increase the danger you're in and you can't benefit other than looking cool. Here's the kicker: Any six rolled adds a die to the Pool of Destiny. Here's the catch: You cannot vamp twice in a row.

The Power of Metal

You should notice that a Power of 6 increases your Rocking Score by one point. When your Rocking Score hits its maximum, any die coming up a six adds a die to the Pool of Destiny. When every Rocker's Rocking Score equals his Maximum Score, the group achieves the legendary Power of Metal. It is only when the Power of Metal is granted, that the Players may overcome the initial trouble of the session. Any Player who rolls a Power 6 and a Control 2 or higher may narrate the explosive and climactic ending, complete with exploding planets, loud music and cheering masses.

Let the Hammer Fall

Now you know the rules, it's time to launch your Rockers into the world of Metal Öpera! Each session follows a set path, moving from one section of play to another. Each section and how to move from one to the next is described below.

In the Crapper

Every game of Metal Öpera begins with your Rockers somehow getting screwed. The fun part is figuring out how it all begins. Each game begins with each Player rolling a die. From highest to lowest, each Player gives a fact about how badly the group is in trouble. Each fact cannot contradict the one given before it. That's it. Players self-hose and the GM runs with it. Once the trouble has been established, it's time to move on to the next step.

Crawling Out

Your Players try to get out of the Crapper. Keep the rolls coming, and remember your Rockers need to achieve the Power of Metal before you can move to the next step. If it looks like you might be in the clear, either you or the GM should move things in a worse direction. If you need more guidance during this step, you can split it up into two sections, described below.

A Nail in the Coffin

Open a scene with a single piece of trouble. Each Player rolls a die, whoever rolls the highest presents a single fact to hinder the Rockers. The GM then uses this fact to present some obstacle. This obstacle may be overcome by any roll, and play moves to Small Victory.

Small Victory

The Rockers solve the immediate problem, though the GM or Players should work together to keep tension high. The small victory should lead to deeper trouble or allow for a quick breather scene before another Nail in the Coffin.

Up in Flames

Now that you have the Power of Metal, at anytime, you can end the game if your roll has a Power 6 and Control 2 or 3. All you need to know is that you must end with a bang. Seriously, just sticking a knife in Commander Emoz's eye won't do. You've got to shower him with sparks thrown from your Axe while blasting his bones to jelly with a visible wall of sound.

In Closing


Jared Sorensen
Both for advice on metal and For pointing out the best way to categorize heroes: Picture your Character in action. What's he doing?
Ron Edwards
I use so much of his input, it's hard not to credit him with any game I design.
Some editing advice. It's fixed, now!
Getting me to reexamine the Scores.


Copyright Notice

This entire document and all contents is Copyright © 2002, by Zak Arntson. Permission to duplicate for personal use and captions for review purposes is granted. You must receive explicit permission from the author (email: zak@harlekin-maus.com) to use this game and any portion therein for public use, such as publication or convention play.