Monday, February 13, 2017

Metal Monster Manual Monday - Volume 6

Continuing a weekly series of posts wherein I share several album covers (mostly by death metal bands!) as brainfood for encounters in your tabletop RPG. Expect this every Monday!

SOVEREIGNTY (Resist the Thought)
A lot of cool stuff going on in this one. (I've actually used this in my Metal Monster Manual campaign that I DM'd last spring!)

Obviously the central figure in this artwork is the (de-)horned woman. Some clues to piece together:
1) Her horns have been broken off (but are now being repaired?).
2) Both here hands have been pierced. (As if by crucifixion?)
3) Tattooed or branded on her forehead is a sign (perhaps a crucifix?).
4) Blood is around her mouth and running down her body (coughed up from internal bleeding, or sucked from her hand-wounds?).
5) She may have a chest wound (it is hard to tell, since her hands are in the way from this angle).
6) In her arms (not really clear how they are being held) is a bone and a dagger (or sword - the blade is long compared to the hilt).

Now consider the two figures flanking her:
1) Veiled, but in both cases the veil is stained with blood (either from the eyes, mouth, or nose?).
2) Emaciated (perhaps undead?).
3) Preparing to replace the central figure's broken horns.

Put this together how you will, of course, but here's what I think is going on:

The central figure is (or was) a deity or demi-goddess, defeated: horns (a symbol of power or authority) broken, and crucified. Some say gods cannot die, so it is only natural that a manifestation of her power would remain: broken, bleeding, but oh-so-thirsty for power (she has taken to drinking her own blood from her still-open wounds). Her veiled servants continually try to restore her power (repair her horns), but something more is needed.
Something the players can provide, perhaps?
Should the party speak with this broken deity, they might be asked (or compelled) to aid her, whether by acquiring a source of power to enable her recovery (blood sacrifice? magical McGuffin?) or to take revenge on her enemies (and thus break their symbolic domination of her?).
Should the party not like where this is going, they might have an opportunity to slay a (former) deity! Her horns have already been broken and her body already crucified, so those may not work. Perhaps exploiting the bloody hole in her chest, cutting her hair, or a good old-fashioned beheading would do the trick. (Watch out, though! She's armed with a slender sword and a bone wand, and her servants would die to defend her!)

In my campaign, the players ended up retrieving a baby god (her replacement) and returning it to her, restoring her lost deity. She then resumed her original form - a massive, horned, four-armed monster (note the cross on her forehead has four arms!) and attempted to destroy them. Rude.
(Both the infant god and her original form were also taken from other album artworks, of course - we may get to them with time!)
Edit: I've presented the artwork with her original (and final form) in Volume 10!

EMPIRES OF ASH (Sojourner)
Something a bit less grim and involved this time. What you see is what you get: a religious ruin (yes, religious, those massive windows wouldn't stand up to a siege for two minutes!) in a high-sloped veil. Very beautiful.
Interestingly, this structure looks remarkably two-dimensional, like a facade of stone with no interior (save that one door in the middle of the image). Was there a sanctuary hidden from view behind the building? (I think not - both grass and trees seem to butt right up to the ruins from what we can see - but the angle isn't optimal, so that may be the case).
Perhaps the whole edifice wasn't built to form an aboveground enclosure, but to mark and surmount an underground area! The stairway in that tall tower may continue downward as well as upward. (I find the suggestions of windowslits and masonry in the cliffs edging into the foreground to be suggestive.)
Also, I totally wanna run a fight scene on that precarious bridge or flying buttress on the right.

Alright, time for the BOSS BATTLE:

Ghouls, man. Ghouls.
Obviously these are forward-thinking ghouls, who string up corpses for later enjoyment rather than devouring them immediately. (Defeated players may even be hung upon butchers' hooks for later, rather than being eaten post-haste!)
King Ghoul sits on a wicked-cool throne in the center. (Notice his massive brain cranium. Can a ghoul be psionic? Sure!)
King Ghoul may command his retainers to refrain from attacking a party that blunders into his lair - perhaps he has a task for them, seeks news from other places, or is merely bored. (Take care his interest doesn't wane!)
If it comes to combat, the environment could work for or against the players. The ghouls may use the hanging chains and hooks as traps and weapons - snaring players and winching them helplessly toward the ceiling! (Perhaps our possibly-psionic King Ghoul might even animate the chains and hooks with his mind, creating a grasping maelstrom of metal!)
Perhaps it is worth considering where all the curved and spiked bits of metal in the background came from - some DMs would no doubt posit the remains of a crashed spaceship, but that's not really my style. Perhaps ruins from an older civilization - or perhaps metallic bones of some legendary creature(s). (What if its progeny still lurk in the area, waiting for tasty PCs to wander by?)

How would YOU use any/all of these monsters, encounters, and scenes in your game, Reader?
(Let me know how it goes if you do!)

Previous volumes:
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5

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