Posers Need Not Apply – Umläut: Game of Metal

Umläut: Game of Metal

Author: Rich Stokes
Publisher:  Lord of the Pies
Page Count: 76
Available Format: PDF (DTRPG) – $10

“Black magic rites, on this black evil night, begin with the slice of the blade. Metal and blood come together as one. Onlookers, they gasp in dismay. Taste the sweet blood of one another, sharing without any greed. Bang your head as if up from the dead. Intense metal is all that you need.

Murder in the front row—crowd begins to bang. And there’s blood upon the stage. Bang your head against the stage. And metal takes its price, Bonded by blood!” – Exodus

Umläut: Game of Metal is a story roleplaying game about heavy metal music bands. Each player creates their own heavy metal band to compete against each other, hoping to make it big. Players create scenes to further their Band’s careers or sabotage others to make climbing the ladder easier. Time is limited—normal gameplay is a single session. Ultimately, it is all about taking your Band to the highest levels of success and becoming metal messiahs within the short time span of the game.

Forming a Band

Each player creates their own heavy metal band. The first step to building a band is to decide on the style of heavy music the Band will perform. Four types of heavy metal bands are outlined in the rules: Classic, Thrash, Glam, and Death Metal. Classic Metal bands mimic the style of heavy metal bands of the late 60s & 70s—hard-bitting guitar riffs, denim jackets, spiked armbands, and melodic vocals. Thrash Metal bands play an aggressive style of heavy metal—fist flying, chipped tooth, head stomping, raw performances, extremely fast tempos, and violent themes. Glam Metal bands are the pretty boys of the scene—dressed to perfection, glamorous in their make-up, flashy guitar solos, and heart-warming ballads. Death Metal bands feed on the darkest of the dark—death, gloom, growling vocals, thumping stepped-down power chords, and dark imagery. The Band’s style has no mechanical advantage in Umläut. It is merely window dressing for players to use when describing their Band’s musical style in the game.

Next, the players populate their bands. Traditional metal bands have a lead singer, lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, bassist, and drummer. Obviously, this is not always the case, and players can form whatever musical arrangement they see fit. The size of the Band and its musical accompaniment has no bearing on the game mechanics, though naming band members (at least some of them) is necessary for the game.

Bands comprise four statistics, Hope, Ego, Fanbase, and Cash. Hope represents the Band’s optimism in succeeding in their endeavor. Ego is the attitude of the members of the Band. The higher the Ego, the more selfish and withdrawn band members act toward each other. Fanbase measures the Band’s popularity and following. Cash is a commodity earned and spent in-game to support and further the Band’s career to stardom.

On top of the four statistics, each Band has three Performance traits, Technique, Power, and Stagecraft. The Technique trait is the Band’s musical proficiency with their instruments and songwriting ability. Power represents the volume and intensity at which the Band performs at. Finally, Stagecraft is the Band’s showmanship—the ability to perform on stage.

Players are given points to place on their statistics and Performance traits that will increase or decrease these through gameplay. With the Band formed, the players are ready to melt the faces of their audiences.


Umläut does not use a gamemaster. Each player takes turns narrating scenes, “Rocking Out,” to further their Band’s career. There are eight different scenes a player can describe. The first scene is a work scene. Work scenes highlight members’ day jobs, the ones they must hold down to make ends meet and pay for band-related expenses, where they can increase their Cash. Cash is used throughout to pay for certain scenes. For a Band to increase its fan base, there is the Publicity Stunt Scene. Publicity Stunt Scene raises the Band’s profile and increases its brand. Bands looking to improve their chops can choose a Rehearsal Scene. In the Rehearsal Scene, the members of the Band come together to practice, acquire new equipment and write new songs. If the Band is losing faith and needs their Hope increased, players can choose a Band Member Scene. Band Member Scene revolves around a band member or members off stage, which increases their chances of making it big. It could be brushing up on their hotel trashing skills, checking into rehab, or ditching a Yoko Ono. If a band has twice as much Ego as their Hope, another band can challenge them in a Split Scene. Split Scenes attack the core of a band, driving a wedge between bandmates and causing a member to leave. Players can use a Split Scene to weaken other players’ bands. Players can also attack other bands through Clash Scenes. Clash Scenes are scenes in which a member or members of two bands have a public conflict with each other to trash their Ego and gain more fan appeal. The ultimate goal of each Band is to get on stage and perform. But before that can happen, a player must first invoke a Promotion Scene. Promotion Scene hypes a band’s upcoming performance. It also allows the player “Rocking Out” to choose another band to play against, assuming they don’t have a gig already lined up. Directly following a Promotion scene is the Gig Scene. Two bands go head to head to see who gains the audience’s awe and praise. The final scene is an Open Scene. Open Scenes are scenes in which the player is unsure how to proceed. These usually turn into one of the scenes mentioned above with the aid of the other players. Umläut is a story game where players, “Rocking Out” or not, can assist in their narratives if needed.

Game Mechanics

Narrating a scene sets the stage, but resolving conflicts provides the results. Umläut uses a normal deck of cards with the jokers removed to settle conflicts. Scenes where bands are against each other, or its members are resolved with a draw of cards. The type of confrontation and stats or traits used dictate the number of cards the player can pull. Each conflict resolution has two phases, winning the scene and narrating the outcome. The player with the most black cards (spades or clubs) wins the scene. The player with the highest valued card wins the narrative outcome of the scene. The highest card value is determined by suit and the card value described in the rules. The Ace of Spades is the highest-value card. A player, “Rocking Out,” can win the scene but lose the narrative outcome and vice versa. When the player is not going against another band or member, the person sitting to their left, known as a Roadie, makes all opposing rolls for that scene.


The main goal of Umläut is to make it big in the music industry, but you need to get out and perform before you reach stardom. Playing gigs is your Band’s road to success. Once a band has enacted a Promotion Scene or pulled into one by another player, a Gig Scence can take place. Gigs take place in three rounds, intro, middle, and finale. Each Band has a set of four Style Cards. Style Cards are theatrical styles the Band adopts for the show, Ballad, Solid Performance, Showboating, and Face Melter! Each provides varying degrees of shredding to poetic lyrics. Each player decides which Style Card to play and places its face down in front of them.

Next, the audience’s attention and impression of each Band are tested. Players draw the number of cards matching their Poetry score listed on their Style Cards plus their Technique trait for the audience’s attention. The winner has the advantage in the next challenge, the audience’s impression. There the winner of the last battle uses their Shred number, plus Power trait against the opposing Band’s Stagecraft. The player that wins gains Glory points based on the number of black cards minus their opponents. If they finish with five or more black cards, the show is over, and they are the winners of the gig. If the number is less than five, the person with the highest values card, combining both rounds of card pulling, gets to narrate the outcome.

Some additional things to note about gigs, the Band with the lowest EGO value cannot use their Style Card “Showboating.” This card will allow the most cards to be pulled, but if the narrative is not won, the Band suffers a humiliating defeat by going too big and underwhelming their audience. It is a go big or go home move. The Band with the biggest EGO can try and earn extra Glory points by performing an Encore. It can be hazardous to go for an Encore. If the Band loses, they don’t receive any extra Glory Points, and their EGO increases.

Glory points collectively build up over gameplay. The players determine the length of an Umläut game. Normal games of Umläut span three hours. When the game ends, each Band’s Glory points are counted, and anyone who has reached 11 or more has successfully made it in the music industry. Bands with Hope values greater than their Ego score have bright futures; opposite results lead to obscurity, eventually splitting up, and there is more amusing end-of-game scoring to be had.

Final Thought

Umläut: Game of Metal presents a unique gaming experience. Through storytelling and card resolution mechanics, players live the highs and lows of a heavy metal band, looking to make it big in the music industry. The rules are very simple to follow, and typical gameplay is regulated to a single gaming session. It is perfect for heavy metal enthusiasts hungry to live out their rock-n-roll fantasies without learning a note. The gameplay is arranged for heavy metal music but could be adapted for any musical genre with a little work. The game mechanics were adapted quite nicely from the roleplaying game Contender, an award-winning boxing RPG by Joe Prince. The rules are very easy to follow and quick to learn. Umläut is great as a pick-up game or an alternative to the normal type of game your group plays. Bang your head, let your hair fly, send devil horns forth, and wipe the blood from your ears as you elevate your Band to superstardom in Umläut.
~Stephen Pennisi
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