Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Folk Dance Adventure Hooks

You've got villages full of people, there's going to be dancing.  Here are some ideas of how to use folk dance to give players reasons to explore the sandbox and talk to some npcs.

There is an important ritual dance to drive off plague, but too many people in this village are sick.  They need performers.  Can you tour local villages looking for possible dancers (yeah, don't worry about spreading the disease, those other villages don't have any miasma surrounding them).  Maybe the dance requires mother-daughter combos that know the proper steps.  Maybe it requires sister pairs and players have to:

  • convince a reluctant daughter to take part.
  • talk to the elders to see if an adoptive daughter would work (sure, why not)
  • settle an argument about which younger sister would get to come perform from a family with lots of sisters.

In the end the dance might look something like this:

The village was recently raided by bandits and they smashed or stole some props the village needs for the upcoming festival dance. Players might have to 

  • talk to dancers to find out the exact specifications of these props.
  • find the bandits and get the props back.
  • find an old craftsman that can make the props or has some on hand.
  • find materials needed to make the props.
  • convince a rival village to lend their props.

The props might be something like these Banga pots used here:

Or the props could be elaborate costumes like these the scissor dancers wear:

This is just participants on hard mode, but maybe this particular folk dance requires superb skill or rare knowledge.  Maybe they need you to find another fighter for their fighting duel dances and:

  • convince an old fighter to teach the skill to youngsters.
  • convince dancers that hate each other to not actually hurt each other.
  • convince a troupe to let a younger fighter have a go at it.
  • rescue them from bandits (not a real fighter)

the dance could look something like this:

Or maybe the village needs you to find a particular dancer who knows their secret "floating step"and:

  • convince the dancer to come back and perform one last time.
  • convince an aristocrat to let them have time off to come back and perform.
  • convince the dancer to teach the secret to a rival village.
  • convince the dancer to teach one of the player characters.

the dance in the end could look something like this:

Other Ideas
Maybe the dance is not something traditional performed the same way each time, but more a competition between several villages to out do each other in choreography.  And the players will have to:

  • find a legendary choreographer.
  • spy on a rival villages practices.
  • find participants of various ages or sizes to complete the ensemble.

Maybe these folk dances need to take place in a particular location and players need to:

  • clear the area of monsters
  • find the lost location of the mountain meadow or forest clearing.
  • find someone to bless the cursed spring or fountain before the dance.

And, hell, all these dances require music!  We haven't talked about traditional instruments or musicians.  Where are we going to find them in time . . .


  1. Hmmm. What if the dance ceremony determines which of several villages are favored by the local fey, nature spirits, or perhaps a religious order or mundane (but very traditional) nobility? Perhaps the competition will play things straight - or will one or all the participants resort to sabotage? Will the PCs pick a side? Or play the Fistful of Dollars game and play them all against each other? Will the big final ceremony collapse be a disaster invoking the wrath of the patrons on everyone involved? Or a farce, resulting in a new tradition revolving around a lowbrow comedy of errors dressed up as a dance festival? Or maybe that's actually the case already, and the villagers compete to see how serious they can play things for the clueless outsiders until the big reveal?

    1. Thanks for this! I really like the idea of the folk dances taking place in a big event, something you can build toward and have a bit of spectacle. I wrote a bit about event here: https://recedingrules.blogspot.com/2014/10/imagining-city.html
      I've done a parade, and auction, a trial, and was building toward a wedding when we stopped playing last.

      But now I can add folk dance festival as something to do next. The other ideas a great too. I think the Jenga mechanic might work well for performances right on the brink of disaster (https://recedingrules.blogspot.com/2011/05/jenga-mechanic.html). Maybe have the players choose difficult moves for one of the troupes which gain them points if them manage it, but the players have to pull Jenga tiles each time.

      One thing I learned from my auction is that I would avoid the players competing against each other. One of the things that makes D&D unique is that is the only collaborative parlor game I know of, so I hate to undo that. I'd probably let the players perform themselves, or try to help an underdog troupe, or sabotage a hated one. But all together.

    2. The whole concept seems a very good fit for Pelgrane's Dying Earth RPG, which has done some similar published adventures revolving around village/hamlet-level contests involving food preparation, strange animal shows, and similar oddness. It being Dying Earth there's usually some questionable ethics and devious shenanigans involved, whether it stems from the PCs or others.