As circuses move from place to place, they can make a great framework for long campaigns that use episodes. The party could comprise characters from the cast and crew. The owner or ringleader would be best as left as an important NPC for the GM to intervene with and drive plot. Their loyalty and personality traits will have unique effects on the player character’s relationship with the circus. There’s also a trade off of interest for the characters as their duties to the circus will interfere with their heroics. If the show is to go on and the characters are to keep their place in it they’ll have to choose carefully when to be absent.
Fantasy Crime Fighters
The performers in Sir Maximal’s Circus of Adventurers are a highly skilled group of performers. They’ve developed quite the reputation for getting involved in the welfare of the places the circus visits – by solving crime! Sir Maximal tolerates they extracurricular activities as it increases the profile of the circus and the people coming to ask for help stay to watch the show. He only really gets angry when the crime fighting disturbs the show or brings down the local politics on his head. The circus is often welcomed by groups of petitioners looking for aid from the roving band of do-gooders.
- A city is being plagued by not one, but three serial killers, engaged in some kind of hideous competition.
- A horde of giant squirrels have been unleashed on the town.
- Ghosts from the abandoned manor in the centre of town are giving everyone nightmares.
Terror in the Big Top
It’s the midst of the industrial revolution and Colonel Stafford’s Circus and Fair is heading to the colonies for their first overseas tour. They’ll be going up and down the coast by train, entertaining thousands with their old world antics. Waiting for them are more than just adoring fans. A most ancient cult has infiltrated the circus, lead by the house of horrors master. They seek to collect artefacts of an ancient one that are scattered across the new world. They hope bring a portions of their master’s power into themselves for their own selfish ends. The characters are ordinary circus member caught up in the plot.
- The train “breaks down” amidst a storm in the middle of a native reservation.
- All the animals with the circus have been quiet and subdued all day, but the dogs won’t stop howling at the big top.
- One of the gymnasts has gone missing on the night of a new moon.
On the Run Across the Stars
That last bank job went south and went south hard. The party got the cash, but half the team were killed in the escape. The characters are the survivors and are very wanted by the authorities. Fortunately, Papa Eric’s Flying Star Circus is in town and Papa Eric is an old contact and fence. He’ll hide the party until the heat dies down, but not for free. The characters will have to work in the circus to earn their keep. This will likely include all sorts of criminal activity at Papa Eric’s behest. The circus itself is a converted colony transport. It doesn’t need a dedicated landing pad and once on ground it folds itself out into the arena and attractions.
- A portmaster owe Papa Eric money as thus needs to be made a public example of.
- Raid and sabotage a rival circus when the two are on the same planet.
- Persuade a city mayor to let the ship land and perform.
Image Credit – Circus by Daniel Horacio Agostini – CC-BY-ND-NC-2.0