Démon_d'assassinatBlood draws crowds. From back alley brawls held by torchlight to the regimented pageantry of a knight’s tourney, people come to feast their eyes on the most basic of human impulses. No matter how much rouge you put on a fight, though, or how pretty you dress it up, the mob knows what it’s looking at. That’s why people flock to these controlled combats like flies, eager to feast on the raw, savage hunger of battle.

For some, though, it isn’t enough to watch the common races fight each other. Elves, orcs, men… it’s all so pedestrian. Even wizard’s duels—where the powers of magic are wielded as weapons—can’t scratch the particular itch these individuals possess. They wish to see something truly unique. A sight that no mortal eye could behold without feeling the cracks grow in their rational minds. Sights that, according to whispers and rumors in fighting pits and battlefields across the world, can only be seen at the Devil’s Dance.

What Is The Devil’s Dance?

The Devil’s Dance is a legend to most fighters. According to the myth, it’s a tournament run by a shadowy cabal who will buy, cajole, trick, and kidnap the most competent warriors in the world and bring them to a secret location. The warriors are provided with everything they need to practice their trade, be it armor, weapons, or material components, and then, they’re led into a cavern. Hooded, masked figures watch from boxes and balconies, sipping wine and devouring carefully prepared sweetmeats, as monsters are turned loose onto the battlefield. Hordes of demons straight from the black heart of the abyss, named devils retained from the infernal pit, aberrant horrors, and forgotten, alien gods can all be found at the Devil’s Dance… or so anyone recounting the story over a pitcher of wine will tell you.

The tournament takes on different aspects, depending on the teller. It might be about the true fate of the Shining Knight, who lost his faith in the black arena and who embraced darkness to survive the grueling trials heaped on him. It might be used as a way to explain what happened to certain champions who, having won fame and accolades as masters of the ring, simply vanished from the public eye. The one similarity all the tales have in common, though, is that no one survives the Devil’s Dance with their mind, soul, and body truly intact.

What Do The Winners Receive?

The most lurid descriptions in these tales are reserved for the reward these fighters are striving for. In some, the masked leader of the tournament offers to resurrect a fighter’s lover or companion. In others, it’s the promise of an ancient treasure or a life that of ease after this one final bloodletting. For some very few, the promise of redemption for a past wrong, for vengeance, for the path to true power is the bait that makes them take the hook.

And why does the cabal do this? Those reasons vary as much as the motivations of the fighters. Some suggest that the Devil’s Dance is a blood ritual to honor a dark, forgotten god who becomes more powerful with every death. Some claim that the event takes place in hell itself and that it is a form of blood sport enjoyed by the denizens of the infernal plane. In a few stories, the claim is that the tournament is actually the soul trying to fight free of the underworld and that fighters are recruited not while they’re alive, but only after they’ve abandoned their corporeal bodies.

The Devil’s Dance in Your Game

How you choose to use the Devil’s Dance in your campaign is completely up to you. If you want to kidnap your party and have them fight their way to freedom as an exciting adventure, then you can do that. If you’d rather have them investigating this bizarre event, trying to find out where it is, what it is, and how it’s remained an open secret for so long, that’s another option. It might even be the end goal of a party member or the party as a whole. As glue to hold disparate adventurers together, all of them seeking the same secret works as well as any other motivation.

For more information on adding a cult-like atmosphere to your Devil’s Dance, check out Demon Cults.

Neal F. Litherland provides more gaming insights at his blog Improved Initiative.

 

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