A few weeks ago, I set up a Pandora station called “OSR Radio“. It plays music my buddies and I listened to while playing RPGs in the wayback. Think Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, etc. Lots of the songs sound like they could inspire some fun D&D adventures. I have tried to avoid the most iconic works because many of us already have very strong associations with some very popular songs. Nothing feels more D&D to me than remembering the first time I heard Black Sabbath and “Iron Man” in my best friend’s bedroom about 1am, reading D&D books that our parents didn’t allow us to have. And Metallica’s powerful “Wherever I May Roam” describes a party of chaotic “murder hoboes” better than anything else I can imagine.
Whether all the groups cited below qualify as “heavy metal” or belong to a particular period is beside the point in this particular case. The themes matter more than the specific musical genres. But in all honesty, you could just point at a random song in the discography for either of those bands, or Iron Maiden, or Judas Priest, or Megadeth, or Dio, or some other metal band I don’t even know about but you totally love. And from that random finger wiggle, you’ll generate d4 adventures just like that. You probably have ideas right now from thinking about your favorite song and have stopped reading. I could be writing “titty sprinkles” here and nobody would notice because you’ve already got your notebook open and have started scribbling ideas furiously.
So here I’ve listed a few ideas resulting from a fusion of Pandora selections and perusing the D&D 5e Monster Manual. Hopefully one or two of these can provide some inspiration for you. If nothing else, go listen to some tunes.
“Night Crawler”, Judas Priest
A specter terrorizes a small town, stalking its prey late at night and draining their souls when no one sees. The party becomes aware when a child witnesses one of the murders and talks to a local priest about it.
“The Last in Line”, Dio
Knaves, some with latent magical talent, escape from a dank and torturous prison. Once out, they flee the realm and travel to visit a faraway oracle. Perhaps they will discover something about themselves once they reach their destination. But more likely, the discovery will come on the journey.
“Dogs of War”, Pink Floyd
Death dogs (or perhaps hell hounds) set upon a diplomatic caravan headed to a delicate peace conference. Riots and disarray result in the kingdom when they blame their ancient foes. Can the adventurers prevent all-out war by uncovering the responsible party, the king of the deceased diplomats?
“Who Made Who”, AC/DC
A necromancer has perfected the art of flesh golem creation. Her constructs appear virtually indistinguishable from regular humanoids. They now have infiltrated districts throughout the city. The adventurers must identify the golems before the necromancer gives them their final, terrible instructions.
When a remote mountain outpost ceases communication with the outside world, everyone assumes plague or perhaps bandits. In fact, a demon lord has infiltrated the outpost and summoned hordes of her demon allies. But why have they not advanced? Perhaps their frenzied exploration of the catacombs beneath the keep provides a clue.
“Wrathchild”, Iron Maiden
Years ago, the local queen gave birth. Her court reported at the time that the child did not survive. But rumors persist that she actually produced something horrific. In reality, her union with an incubus produced a cambion. The dungeon housed the child, as she couldn’t bring herself to have it killed. It has now escaped and seeks to find its fiendish parent. The prime minister has begun to seek help with the utmost discretion.
“Disposable Heroes”, Metallica
A rogue hobgoblin warlord attempts a coup d’état in a bid for power. Normally, the humans and demihumans would look on with detachment if not glee as their enemies slaughter each other. But whispers of necromancy and armies of undead hobgoblins require investigation.
“Set the World Afire”, Megadeth
If this doesn’t immediately spawn images of arcane mages destroying entire nations in their internecine struggles, then we’re not playing the same game.