The party is invited to a stand-up comedy show at a local tavern (a half-elf in clown makeup is handing out free tickets to any even vaguely interested passerby).
“We do improv and prop comedy too!” he says, beaming from ear to ear. “Just stop by this evening and see for yourselves!”
If the players do drop by the tavern, they can settle in and watch the show over a pint of ale. The warm-up acts are simple routines, like jugglers and sword-swallowers. Then, the MC says, “and now, ladies in gentlemen, put your hands together for a man who needs no introduction…some of the finest talent to ever graduate from the College of Clowning…the Jokester!”
There’s a roaring applause as a bard, his face caked in white clown make-up and wearing a purple suit, hops up onto the stage. Just as he is about to deliver his first joke, the candlelight in the room flickers, and the bottles on the shelf behind the bar rattle ominously.
Immediately, the players feel a difference in the air: the crowd has gotten quieter, the giggling has ceased, and a few nearby townsfolk begin whispering to one another:
“Is he here?”
“Oh goodness, I certainly hope not.”
“Everyone, please,” the Jokester says, trying to regain the audience’s attention and lighten the mood. “We’re here to laugh. Let’s not go getting spooked by stupid urban legends.”
Suddenly, from up in the rafters of the tavern, a small metallic sphere drops. As soon as it hits the ground, it explodes, releasing a cloud of foul-smelling smoke. Immediately, the crowd springs up from their barstools and pushes toward the doors, coughing and gagging from the odor.
DM Note: These fumes are non-toxic and won’t have any lasting effects on the patrons.
The party can, at this point, try to roll a perception check, at disadvantage, to catch sight of a shadowy figure leaping from the beams above before throwing itself out of a far window. The figure could even shout something, in a deep, gravelly voice: “I am vengeance! I am the night!“
“It’s him!” The Jokester yells. “The Batman! After him!”
The Night is Darkest…
The players can roll acrobatics checks to determine how easily they can squeeze past the crowd and out the door; they could, alternatively, attempt to fly/climb and exit through the high window used by the Batman during his escape.
The party needs to move fast to track their target down; the figure seems to favor the rooftops, leaping from one to another with incredible agility. Once the players corner the vigilante, the figure dubbed “The Batman” turns to face his pursuers.
“I am justice!” the figure growls through gritted teeth. “Do not stand in the way of my vendetta.”
The Batman will not initiate combat, preferring instead to find an opportunity to flee. The party, of course, can choose to attack the figure anyway, subdue him, and bring him to justice, thereby helping the Jokester and the local Bardic College of Clowning. If so, here is a stat block that can be used for him:
DM Note: If your party attempts to fight the Batman and finds themselves seriously overpowered, they can easily escape; the Batman would sooner disappear into the darkness and avoid confrontation rather than TPKO the innocent.
If the players try and talk to the Batman, the hooded figure will explain his motivation:
“I just wanted to be a clown and make people laugh,” he says in a deep, raspy voice, “but I wasn’t cut out for it, I guess. I signed up for classes at the College of Clowning, but the other bards teased me mercilessly. They complained that I was too deadpan and monotonous with my delivery…told me that my brooding, depressing demeanor had no business being onstage…they bullied me right out of school.”
The hooded figure sweeps his cape to the side, revealing the various items and tools on his belt. “Well, if they were going to crush my dreams, then I was going to make it my mission to crush all of their dreams too. It only seemed fair.”
If players ask him “why a bat?”, Batman can tell them, “when I left the college, no one wanted to listen to me perform, so I ended up reciting my routine to sleeping bats in a nearby cave. They weren’t particularly great with feedback, but their ears were so big and sensitive…I knew they must be listening to me and, in their tiny hearts, appreciating my comedy on, at least, some simple, primitive level.”
To continue this encounter without simply turning the Batman in, the players can offer to help him work on his routine and find the confidence to return to the stage.
Get the Last Laugh
The Batman hands the party a folded-up flyer. “There’s an open-mic night tomorrow over at Roz L. Ghoul’s Cantina. I’ve been debating going and giving it a shot, but I need help coming up with my ‘tight five’ (e.g. a standup routine that lasts about 5 minutes).”
To help prepare the Batman, players must offer up possible jokes/bits/routines to help complete his “set.” Here are some options to consider, which could be proposed by the Batman and expanded on by the players:
- Knock-knock jokes or witty one-liners: The Batman will explain that the clientele at Roz’s place are primarily undead, so jokes related to “death” would land really well and register with the crowd. They also love puns.
- Prop comedy: If the party has an artificer in their midst, they can help build some silly contraption that the Batman can use to evoke some laughter.
- Ventriloquism: A weird idea, but one of the players (maybe a halfling?) can pretend to be a ventriloquist’s dummy and engage in witty puppet-themed banter for all/part of the performance.
- Satire: For some high-brow comedy, consider writing jokes about various local politicians/social issues in [Name of City/Realm]. This could be a great way to pull in more of the local lore from your campaign.
- Comedic play: For something more low-brow, and a chance to get everyone involved, the Batman and the party can put on a silly 5-minute play that has a lot of slapstick comedy, bodily-humor jokes, etc.
When the players/the Batman are ready, they can wait until night and meet up at the cantina.
If the players are actively involved in the standup comedy routine, they can roll performance checks to determine how well they deliver each joke/perform each act.
If the players are mostly just there as moral support, then make sure (as DM) you give them things to do during the performance to keep them actively involved:
- Serve a round of drinks to make sure the audience is toasty and ready to laugh.
- Covertly handle hecklers and those who are trying to throw off the Batman’s performance.
- Feed the Batman his punchlines when he nervously blanks out, either from behind the curtain, through “Message”, or some other more clever way; the Batman could also take out his “cheat sheet” only to have it be caught in a small gust of wind and disappear somewhere in the audience.
DM Note: I’m not sure how this would work, but you could have the event end with the Jokester making a reappearance in the cantina. It’s clear, immediately, that he was one of the Batman’s biggest bullies, and so he starts to roast him. The players can join the Batman onstage and engage in an epic back-and-forth roast/battle with the Jokester (if you and your players feel like freestyling some banter).
Provided that the night goes well for the Batman, he will descend the stage and tell the players how exhilarating it felt being up there again.
“It felt so good to hear them laughing with me instead of at me,” he says, with tears of joy stuck in his eyes.
Suddenly, a man approaches the Batman. He could be a talent scout from the realm, offering Batman a chance to go on a comedy tour with some other performers, or it could be someone from the Bardic College of Clowning offering Batman a full-ride scholarship to come back to school and finish honing his craft.
Either way, the Batman will gratefully accept and, as thanks to the party, offer up his cowl, smoke bombs, batarangs, and other miscellaneous gear from his old life: the angry vigilante days that he’s happily leaving behind.