Ok, so now we have a concept of what we want to work with, let's come of with a travelling troupe of performers.
Clan FyreTwiste is comprised of five dwarves that perform various acts for the amusement of crowds the realm over. Although dwarves appear as a dour lot, clan Fyretwiste is a contrast to that, performing their acts with zeal and mirth. Intermixing comedy into their acts, the group plays on the popular misconceptions of dwarven society. Ironically, this funny to both dwarves and non-dwarves alike. Where non-dwarves see stubborn taciturn dwarves, dwarves see frivolous unthinking non-dwarves. This allows the troupe to play in most cities and they know enough to not make fun of the local politics. Below is a list of the five key members of Clan Fyretwiste, although you can add more members to suit your campaign.
Kharnov the Magnificent
Kharnov is an illusionist skilled in the ways of deception. Kharnov has found that the best way to use his illusions is to aid others to make their actions more 'miraculous'. Flames burn higher and hotter; escapes are narrower, and the acts are more death defying in Kharnov's shows. Kharnov never uses his illusions to suspend disbeliefs and all of his troupe are able to perform their acts if he is not up to casting spells.
Dwimli Firefoot is Kharnov's cousin. Once an apprentice to royal weapon-smith, Dwimli accidentally dropped a hot coal on to his boots and did not notice until it burned through the leather to his foot. His 'fire-dance' not only ruined the weapon being created for the prince, but cost Dwimli his station. Enthralled by fire, Dwimili spent several years studying with the firemages of his clan but proved not to have the aptitude to be a firemage. Setting out in the world, Dwimli traded his knowledge of fire and smithing for work while travelling. Upon returning to his clan, he had learned much about fire from other cultures and claimed the title of 'fire-eater' from the Far East. He performed what he had learned for the king, including an elaborate firedance with a firestaff and blowing large gouts of fire. He had also learned the secret of flame and smoke powder in the Far East. When asked to reveal his secret, he declined saying he was honor bound to keep the secret from non fire-eaters. Dwimli was exiled from his clan, but not before Kharnov saw his worth and left the clan with him.
Rizzo the Sword Dancer
Until Kharnov found Rizzo, he was your typical dwarven mercenary. A hired sword to the highest bidder. Although he had a weakness for dwarven ale, Rizzo was not to be trifled with when sober. Kharnov found Rizzo in a fight between three human thugs and what Kharnov noticed was that Rizzo had a flare for the dramatic and almost appeared to dance when he fought. This was contrary to the dwarf teachings of a staunch defense and a rooted stance. After the fight, and several rounds of ale, Rizzo admitted to training with elves and learned to blend elven sword dancing with dwarven defense stances, the result was a unique style that appeared unrelated to either.
Ghenna was slave performer for wealthy human merchant. Being a slave since birth, Ghenna has never known another lifestyle than that of servant. She was trained in many dance techniques, and was one of her owners favorite dancers. She was often overlooked for other activities, like dinner companion, where usually a more attractive slave of human or elf disposition was chosen. This forced Ghenna to excel in her speciality, but never brought her the attention she desired. When Kharnov had business with Ghenna's master, he was insulted at the disrespect the human showed dwarves. Not willing to face him openly, Kharnov baited the merchant into a illegal deal and double crossed him to the town guard. He had already cut a deal with the town magistrate and the merchant willingly released Ghenna to the Magistrate rather than loose his business. Kharnov released Ghenna from servitude, but she did not know what to do with her new freedom. Kharnov allowed her to stay with the troupe and soon found she was indispensable for luring the crowd. Her frame was lithe for a dwarf and her exotic dancing was always a crowd pleaser. She is fiercely loyal to Kharnov, who shows her more attention than her last owner, but still calls him master against his wishes.
Airgo is the main performer of Kharnov's show. He is classically trained in performance and his talents range from acrobatics, to juggling, to comedy. He often coaches the the other members on how to perform in various acts. Airgo is also the only member that Kharnov didn't find, but showed up one day and offered his services. Before meeting Kharnov, Airgo was an out of work performer who turned to thievery to support himself. After a particular heist went bad, Airgo needed to get out of town quickly. After running into to the troup, Airgo quickly realized he could offer his skills in trade of some companions to share the road with. Since then he has grown accustomed to the group and enjoys being looked up to by the other performers. While he often butts head with Kharnov, he recognizes kharnov's talents and the loyalty the other members show him.
So next we'll look at plot hooks, these are general plot hooks on how you may use Clan Fyretwiste in your game. I divided them up into three categories; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Each category has a brief descriptions on the troupes outlook to help define how to role-play them.
On the good side, the travelling troupe are honest people who like to entertain. They make their living on the goodwill of strangers, but not everyone is as welcoming as they like.
In League With the Devil
Clan FyreTwiste has chosen a bad time to visit a village. One of the villagers has killed another member of the community. Seeking to diffuse blame, the performers are strangers to community and the perfect scapegoats. The players are approached Kharnov and asked to help clear their name. Now the players must find the truth before the village turns violent.
The Show Must Go On
Two of the members the troupe have gone carousing and have yet to turn up; this works best in a larger town. Kharnov is in a panic because several premier seats to the show have been sold. One of the missing members is Rizzo the Sword Dancer. Kharnov sees one of the player characters that appears to be able to handle a sword and hires him to take Rizzo's place. Rizzo, who is slightly inebriated, returns to see the PC performing his act. Thinking the PC is trying to steal his place, Rizzo hops on stage and challenges the PC to a duel. Now the PC must finish the act without loosing face, hurting the drunk sword dancer, or disappoint the crowd.
We Are Poor and Simple Performers
Kharnov and his troupe are accosted by bandits and, not having enough money to pay the road tax, are taken prison and forced to play for the bandit's amusement. Kharnov is able to escape with his illusions, but he refuses to leave his friends to the bandits. After several days he comes across the PC's camp and beseeches their aid. Although he is unable to offer any significant sum of money, he agrees to pay them with the profits of their next several shows.
On the contrary, if the Clan FyreTwiste performers are on the bad side, they are more interested in making money than actually performing. As long as the money is good, the troupe sticks to the routine. If the village poor or refuses to pay, the troupe uses alternate methods to increase their cash flow.
With Torches and Pitchforks
The party is met on the road to a village and asked by Kharnov to assist the troupe as guards and general grunt labor. The pay is reasonable and seems a simple break from adventuring. At the next village, the meagre donation is not enough to appease the performers and they case the village for high value items. The last night they play a show that keeps the entire village out late and they steal what they can before high tailing it out of town in the middle of the night. The PCs awake the next morning to find the troupe gone and angry villagers seeking an explanation.
Dwimli Firefoot is not only an adept fire eater, but his glibness has proved to be just as lucrative as his act. On the side, Dwimli sells a potion called Firesnake Tonic. Dwimli uses his fast talking skills to convince people that the tonic will cure what ever ails them. The tonic, which is nothing more than colored water with a few drops of firesnake venom, is actually a slight hallucinogenic that will make the person believe that it does, when he expects it to do. Kharnov is aware of the gambit, and uses his illusions to make the physical indicators more realistic. The problem with the tonic is that some people become violently ill up to a day after drinking it. The PCs are hired as guards and are forced defend the troupe as the beat a hasty retreat after too many people in the village become sick from the tonic.
What is Rightfully Ours
After the party stumbles into a village after many days on the road, a village elder asks the PCs to retrieve an item of religious significance from a band of performers who left earlier that morning. The PC must track the troupe and get back the holy object of the village. The only catch, blood spilt in the name of the idol brings bad luck.
In this scenario, the travelling band of performers work for a more nefarious entity. It can be anything that fits into your campaign, but usually works best if it is an other worldly entity that personifies evil. The troupe will appear genuine is all aspects and may even serve the being unwittingly, but that acts that are performed are atrocious by any civilized community.
The Pied Piper
The troupe performs acts for several nights and, if the PCs are in the village long enough, appear that village does not really have the coin to support the performers. The troupe is happy to play anyway. Kharnov's illusions are empowered to entrance the children of the village. The illusions are re-enforced each night until the final night when the children rise in sleep-like state and walk to one of the farming fields. There the troupe prepares the children for a ritual sacrifice before disappearing into the night. Unbeknownst to the performers, one of the PCs was captured by the illusion and sleep walks to the site. The PCs following him must now fight the troupe, and any of the entity's minions they have, in order to save their friend and the town children.
By The Pricking of My Thumb
In this scenario, the entity appears to offer people what they need, or want, but the price for such services is high. The troupe facilitates the demonic pact while trying to down play the cost of the service. Kharnov is very selective about who they approach and are sure to convince the mark that he does not want to share the information. The troupe may go as far as approaching others who care for the original mark to make additional infernal bargains. PCs leaving a town where the band has recently performed may noticed a child aged unnaturally beyond her years to take the payment of her father that sold years of his life to ensure his family had crops that year; the land is lush and green where it was brown and dying when they had come into town. A powerful lightning storms adds to the mood of the story while justify the crops renewed growth. The PCs are not asked to help against the performs, but can they let such evil run rampant through the country side.
The Hills Have Eyes
Every now and again Evil is trapped and unable to spread across the world. When trapped, it sits; it plans; in festers. In this scenario, a great evil had been plotting its escape for a long time, it has discovered the troupe as an instrument of its escape. Perhaps the troupe must travel to different village and perform sacrifices in the shape of some esoteric symbol around where the entity is trapped. Perhaps there is an item that the troupe must get, or replace, that will free the entity. If the party is around the performers for any length of time, they will notice that something is not right in the towns that troupe visits; death and mayhem appear to follow the performers. The PCs can follow the troupe to find out what is going on, but may have to battle an infernal beast for their troubles.
I am curious as to your others ideas for this concept, so please feel free to add members or plot hooks to this post.