Roleplaying in a Rock Band

John F. Kadolph

Many of you have undoubtedly heard of or likely played one of the Rock Band franchise games.  How many of you have ROLE-PLAYED Rock Band? 

I can tell you that this author has, along with his whole family, been a worldwide sensational Rock Band known as "Wilhelm Scream".   We were so enchanted with Rock Band that I decided to incorporate it into a role playing experience that debuted at OwlCon a few years back and it was called "Rock-N-Roll Amber - LIVE!".

I took the idea of a interdimentional rock band from one of my best friends, Dave Nesbit.  Back at UW-Parkside, we played a game he created called "Rock-N-Roll Amber" using GURPS (I believe) in which we all played one of the sons of a Prince of Amber.  We formed a rock group and played different realities.  I can never forget my character being taken down by the internal defense system of the USS Enterprise as I raised my katana and shouted "DIE PRE-PUBESCENT SCUM!" at Wesley Crusher in the turbolift, fully intend on dividing him into two.  We had a blast shadow-walking and playing different sci-fi locations around the universe in a very "Hitchhiker's Guide"-esque manner.

I wanted to run a d20 version of Rock-N-Roll Amber at OwlCon, but needed to do something different.  I contacted Andy Solberg, the Coordinator of the Con and proposed my idea.  He seemed to like it; he let me have the Anime Room for a good part of the weekend!  (Sorry, Anime peeps!)  I ran two games, each four hours long and it was based in the Star Wars universe.  the party was to shadow walk to Tatooine in order to play at the Cantina - the same exact place that Luke, ben and the others met.  Little did they realize that they arrived just as Luke, Ben and the others were entering Mos Eisley.  While seeking a gig, they run into the characters just as Luke is about to get bashed by the meanies at the bar.  The party ends up saving Luke and garnering trust from Ben.  The Han/Greedo thing goes awry and two of the cantina band members get shot, leaving a vacuum of music in the bar.  The Amberite band scores their first gig!

Heres where Rock band came in.  On my queue, after the players choose instruments and get ready to RP their characters, the lights go down and the TV comes on, the familiar Rock Band logo on the screen.  The players actually don the instruments their PCs play and play a set of tunes LIVE in Rock Band!  They LOVED it.  We had smoke, lights, disco balls, etc. running and emulated a stage environment for the players, the likes no other RPer at a convention had seen before.  My son helped me create a huge Powerpoint multimedia show including clips from the movie, animation depicting their movements throughout the storyline as well as cut-scenes and end credits emulation those in the movie. 

The PCs follow the main characters of Star Wars through the entirety of A New Hope using d20 Space rules as well as miniature combat of my own design for the space battles.  Fun was had by all involved.  All-in-all the players played two sets of music (of their choice) during the event between role playing sessions and miniature combat.

I plan on doing it again, someday.  Perhaps with the newest incarnation of Rock Band.

Harmonix has closed the doors on this marvelous creation for now but vows to one day bring it back for a reunion event!

R.I.P. (for now) Rock Band.

I will ALWAYS come back for more.  My family and I played endless nights.  We dressed up in our best "Rocker Cabinetry" and used disco lights, smoke machines, whatever we could find to make our living room more like a stage! 
We had a 9.1 channel surround system that SHOOK THE HOUSE when we played, and my wife was my lone "groupie". 

We were a rock band.  We all created avatars that looked like us, right down to the tattoos.  We had dreams of acquiring outfits just like our avatars had, but never got around to it.  We were cool.  We even went downtown and took photos for "Album Covers".

It almost brings tears to my eyes that most of my kids have grown, moved to college and have "quit the band".  Just like so many garage band stories that end in a tear, a fist in the air, and a fading silhouette of a lone band member fading into the darkness.

"Wilhelm Scream" shall return for a reunion someday.  Oh yes, we will.

-John F Kadolph