Thursday, April 21, 2011

R for Rush

[Note: Any non-gamers tuning in to this series of posts are invited to consult my New Reader Introduction for some RPG-specific definitions and a general introduction to the Lands of Ara blog.]

Rush: These Men Are Space Wizards!

Following Spawn of Endra's terrific post inaugurating an Emerson, Lake and Palmer-inspired campaign setting, Andrew asked for some D&D related comments regarding the AWESOME Canadian rock band, Rush.

I love Rush. I was first exposed to their music via one of my earliest D&D buddies, Sam Buckwalter. Moving Pictures was the first Rush album I ever heard, thanks to Sam, but my all-time favorite Rush album is 2112. While the climactic portion of this post will sketch out some campaign ideas inspired by the album's 20+ minute title track, I want to open with some words of praise for Side 2 of 2112.

The whole second side of the record is golden. "A Passage To Bangkok" is a Rush classic for a reason -- such a great hook! My favorite tune on Side 2 is "Lessons," with a terrific acoustic guitar progression and an uplifting vibe. "Tears" is quite pretty, but (for me) always pales in comparison to the other, greater Geddy Lee lyrical outing, "Entre Nous" from Permanent Waves. But I get ahead of myself; we will revisit Permanent Waves in a later post, to mine "Jacob's Ladder" for adventure ideas.

The 2112 album closes with one of the all-time best Rush songs, "Something for Nothing," which exemplifies all that is great about Rush. This song says: "My song can kick your song's ass any day of the week, buddy!"

But all these great songs are mostly useless as campaign fodder, unless you include trains or the intimate intricacies of tender romances in your D&D setting.

That's where the galactic epic "2112" comes in. Consisting of seven movements, the song tells the science-fantasy story of a solitary fellow who finds an "ancient wonder" which happens to be an electric guitar. He takes it to the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx, who tell him the artifact caused nothing but trouble for the elder race of man, and that the music it makes is beneath the priests' consideration. The Priests, who seem to be the Thought Police of this futuristic culture, dismiss the guitar-finder, who has a prophetic dream about an ancient but technologically advanced race, then commits suicide.  Soon after our protagonist's death, aliens (presumably the ones he saw in his dream) come to Earth and announce that they have assumed control of all the planets ruled by the Solar Federation.  The End.

What follows are some very brief sketches of campaign ideas inspired by each movement of "2112."

I. Overture - II. The Temples of Syrinx
Priests of Temples of Syrinx = Humans / Humanoids dominated by Mind Flayers (Thought Police) or devils (Lawful). Perhaps the Priests are themselves devils or mind flayers who can disguise themselves as humans.

III.  Discovery
Our Hero = Bard. Are bardic powers the dominant "White" magic vs. evil psionics in this setting?  Is some kind of pilgrimage or quest needed before the Bard finds / constructs an instrument of power?  Spellsinging bards would have to be powerful, and perhaps even the dominant form of PC magic, in this setting.

IV. Presentation
The POWERFUL bards (sort of like the Jedi in the original Star Wars trilogy, i.e. few and rare) are singers, and use magical lutes or guitars that could be "ancient artifacts" but function as Charisma amplifiers / focusers for use with major bardic powers.

V. Oracle: The Dream
The prophet's dream: Atop a spiral staircase, an oracle leads our bard/dreamer to cosmic revelation of ancient aliens, the elder race who left Earth long ago. This introduces a strong science-fiction element to the setting, one that almost suggests that the "2112" campaign could be played using Mutant Future with Bards. The thrust of the campaign could be to gather the technological artifacts left behind by the Elder Race. The Mind Flayers or Devils (Priests of Syrinx) could even be a competing faction of aliens or extraplanar beings who took over once the Elders left the planet for some reason.

VI. Soliloquy - VII. The Grand Finale
The death of the song's (unnamed) protagonist suggests that a bard martyr figures largely in the Lore of the current crop of spellsingers.  The story of that original Bard cast out by the Priests could be the key myth and unifying tale of the spellsinger resurgence movement. But all still await the return of the elder race; that portion of the prophecy has not yet come true.

Wow, this started out as a simple thought-experiment, but now I am starting to get genuinely intrigued by this campaign idea. I hope you have found it to be inspirational too.

P.S. If you are at all interested in Rush and haven't yet seen it, I highly recommend the comprehensive documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010). Or, for Rush concert films, Rush in Rio (2003) is probably the best one out there.


  1. I have to give Rush in Rio a 9.99 out of 10, but only because it was edited by someone with ADD. Which is kinda sorta D&D-ish for anyone looking for a sloppy pun.

    Loved the documentary, too.

  2. Agreed about the editing on RiR -- I saw the Snakes and Arrows tour live in 2007, and it ROCKED!

  3. I developed my campaign religion from the song 'Hemispheres' - it's nice to see a nod to the Men of Willowdale :)

    I saw them in Hamilton 2 nights ago on the Time Machine tour. Fantastic - they performed the frist two parts of 2112.

  4. Whilst I haven't yet mined the Rush back catalogue for gaming ideas, my group does like to listen to Rush as background music when we play. 2112 was the first CD I bought when I got a player in the 80's.

    How about a adventure featuring several species of Treant based on The Trees?

  5. @Oblieditor: GREAT idea about mining "The Trees" for an inter-species Treant scenario! Duly noted!