Fairy tales and folk lore provide great inspiration for Dungeons & Dragons. Most fantasy fiction borrows from what has come before it in some shape or form. It is only the rare work that is truly unique that redefines our expectations. When creating your adventures borrowing from fairy tales is a way to take something old and familiar, twist it, and use it against your players.
The movie The Brothers Grimm provides an interesting take on some classic tales. While it might have some steampunk elements it can still be easily adapted to a D&D story. Provided below is the synopsis of three fairy tales, followed by some bullet points on how the tale could be twisted or reworded for your campaign.
The Seven Ravens
There once were seven brothers who had a younger sister. The girl was weak and her health was frail. The brothers were sent to fetch some water, however they were gone for too long. The father lamented on this fact and then noted seven ravens above him. The daughter grows up strong, but is never told of her brothers until one day a neighbour lets it slip. The girl went searching for her brothers taking only a ring given by her parents. She came to a place where the ravens lived, they recognized her and everyone lived happily ever after.
- The brothers are not happy about dying and becoming ravens. They choose to haunt the girl and her parents.
- Rather than living happily ever after the girl is kidnapped and now needs to be rescued by the heroes.
Magic mirrors, jealous step-mothers, princes and dwarves. What’s not to like in this story? For those not aware Snow White surpasses her step-mother in beauty, or so says the magic mirror. The girl runs away and ends up living with some dwarves. The step-mother tracks her down, poisons her with an apple and the only way to save her is with the kiss from a prince.
- In the tale the magic mirror only tells the truth. What if the mirror is intelligent and has an agenda? Perhaps an ancient dragon or wizard is trapped within its confines.
- The dwarves are no ordinary bunch. They are the last kings of an ancient dwarven empire. When the step-mother goes to poison Snow White she overhears the dwarves discussing an ancient artifact buried in the mines. The magic mirror confirms the artifact’s worth.
Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood goes to visit her grandmother. Along the way a crafty wolf learns of this and runs ahead to set an ambush. The wolf does away with grandmother and tricks Red Riding Hood into coming close enough that he can eat her. In some versions the axeman enters at this point and kills the wolf, in other versions Red Riding Hood gets eaten.
- The wolf is really a lycanthrope, he happens to be in human form when he tricks Red Riding Hood.
- The party can easily replace the axeman and save Red Riding Hood. What they need to determine now is whether the wolf was working alone.
The samples listed above are but a small taste of the totality of all fairy tales that are available. Some are better than others for adapting to D&D. Whether you borrow only small elements or adapt a larger tale for your campaign the fairy tale is a great place to start looking for interesting plot hooks.
Have you ever drawn inspiration from fairy tales for your campaign? Which tale did you use and how well did it adapt to D&D?