An Ambush of Bards

I’ve been thinking about creating an encounter like this for a couple years now and finally got it down on paper – enjoy!

An Ambush of Bards (group, trio)
10 HP (total for all three)
0 Armor
1d3 dagger (close); 1d6-1 light crossbow (near)
Instinct: To enthuse, bemuse, and abuse…and steal your stuff
Special: (DM, play the trio as a unit)


“Hold. What’s that sound? Oh! Not to worry, it’s just a trio of jolly troubadours — how nice. Wait, Sir Galahad, what are you doing? You’re dancing like a madman! Stop this, oof! Now watch it! At once! Stop this music you fiends! EZRALA-ZAK-TICUS!!! BE g-! Oh, cough, cough, they’re gone…Ahm, Sir Galahad are you poorly? (Poor man, collapsed from exhaustion.) No need to wor-ry, they’ve gone in a poof of smoke (…he can’t hear me… Well, no matter. Now, let’s see)…hey, wait a minute…where’s the map?”


  • Catch them unaware
  • Perform a wicked jig:
    • Characters who can hear the song feel intense tingling, like fire ants crawling, up their arms and legs, and begin to dance unless they succeed on a Defy Danger roll (charisma, with modifiers for being surprised, at DM’s discretion).
    • On a 10+, they resist, a bit ruefully, the urge to dance.
    • On a 7 - 9, they cannot resist and begin to dance uncontrollably while still retaining their mental faculties.
    • On a 6-, they dance along wildly to the manic jig, losing all awareness outside of the melody. They may accidentally whap their comrades, if it is their tormentors’ whim.
  • Sing a song with a chorus like:
    • And you thought you were safe when we brought out guitars / We’re sad to disappoint you, / but it’s an ambush of bards / yes it’s an ambush of bards! / An ambush, / an ambush / of baaaaaaa-rds!
  • Steal your stuff and disappear in a poof of purple and yellow smoke.

What could go wrong ? for whom ? What’s the loot ?
I see that as a bad Luck roll in a gamebook. Consider that narratively, it’s very different if the bards steal some resources (as in the example) or the McGuffin (story hook).
In any case, I know I’d aim for maximum effect with 0 surprise, and get the players to play along, reassuring them that it’s not going to hurt much. Mechanically, that means I’d make the roll what the characters lose or win (gold coins ? the king’s sigil ? / allies ? guitars ?), so once it’s known, there’s nothing else but playing that result for laughs and glory. A conflict roll rather than an action roll.

My reasoning behind this is that an action roll would lead to players knitpicking every step of the scene, killing the tone - I believe. Understand that if they (think they) are playing for survival, it’s not a funny joke to play on them.


Thanks DeReel, I’ll let you know how the playtest turns out later this month. I’m thinking of including followers on both sides with the idea of it being more of a narrative scene than a “battle.” At least the way I’ve been playing Dungeon World, most battles really end up being more narrative than mechanical, and the transition between the story and the fighting is pretty fluid. Basically, I just try to make sure everyone is engaged, and I find that dice rolling tends to kill the vibe.