7 Ways To Making Dancing Girls Plot Relevant
Dancing girls are an important - yea, indispensible - element of a good adventure movie.
What with movies being a visual medium and all, dancing girls don’t actually have to do anything plot-wise. But an RPG is primarily non-visual. So to fit this classic element in, you have to make it a little more story-relevant.
1. Oppressed Townspeople
When the Evil Occupiers have taken over the town/temple/castle, they force the female NPCs to dance for them - of course. This gives the PCs the opportunity to rush in, kick butt, and be heroes, which is especially good if they had any kind of relationship with these “oppressed townspeople” beforehand.
2. Narrative Dance
PCs are always learning important backstory from NPCs – it’s probably the primary purpose of NPCs – so why not have a dance accompany the story? Perhaps the party is getting this information from a culture where storytelling is always choreographed. Or maybe the information is a sacred story that has to be accompanied by ceremony. Whatever it is, dancing girls become the backdrop to a narration that’s directly plot relevant.
Another background dance is one where the PCs are the guests of a powerful NPC. This could be because he’s a plot point in their quest, he’s about to ask them to go on a quest, because they’ve just completed a quest for him – or even because he’s about to betray them. In any case, the girls are dressing on a the scene is the party’s relationship with the host, and where it will lead next.
4. Secret Message
One of the dancers is not a performer at all, but a spy, priestess, princess, or other Person Who Knows Something The Party Doesn’t. During the dance, she sidles up near one of the PCs (perhaps not unexpected, given the nature of the performance) and whispers that the party is in danger from the host or from someone else (“Don’t show that I'm speaking to you; don't drink the wine, meet me outside in ten minutes,” etc.). This turns a pretty pointless scene of luxury into a scene of intrigue and danger, and it introduces an NPC ally.
5. Ceremonial Dance
The dance is accomplishing something, either ceremonially or magically – something that the PCs are here to stop, or to prevent from being stopped. This could be a coronation, the delivery of an important prophecy, or the casting of a spell. Whatever it is, when this dance is over, something big will have changed. This makes the performace into an organic timing window during which either the party, or their enemies, may be trying to complete some objective.
6. Accidental Wedding
The party is the guests of a semi-barbaric culture. After dinner, a lone performer steps onto the floor and does a wild, fiery routine after which she collapses in a choreographed heap in front of the party – specifically in front of whichever party member these people would recognize as the leader. The room goes silent and everyone stares at the party, waiting to see their reaction. If this PC signals some kind of approval (clapping, say, because he thinks he’s supposed to), everyone explodes into riotous celebration.
The thing is, she wasn’t an entertainer, she was the king’s daughter. And by clapping, the party leader just became the king’s son in law. That ought to throw some kind of wrench into the campaign!
7. Siren Dance
The dance is actually a spell, that the PCs will think is just a background number. The girls begin to move and sway, and soon anyone who’s watching becomes unable to think about anything else. Your description may give your players a clue that something’s amiss. This could be as simple as you spending a little too much time describing their movements (using the theory that what you describe corresponds to what the players find themselves looking at), or something subtly odd about the descriptions of the location or in the NPC conversations that have come before.
Then have them roll a trait (IQ, Will, some kind of Magical Resistance, maybe even Lore – if this is the kind of thing they have heard of) to notice what’s happening. If they fail, they become enchanted for 24 hours, mindless pawns for whoever orchestrated the dance. For an added twist, the performance could result in an amnesic state (unless they pass a tough will save) during which NPCs can give them hypnotic instructions. This may happen repeatedly during a delirious stay in the area – when a player finally passes this will save, he’ll get to hear the instructions from you, instead of just coming to himself hours later, in the midst of a task he doesn’t understand.