Folk Heroes

At taverns and around campfires, common folk gather to tell the tales that may never make it to a noble’s court. After all, the victories won by the heroes of these tales are often victories against the establishment, or victories in spite of the establishment. The heroes also may not have cast themselves in that roll. They’re common folk, themselves, or they’ve fallen on hard times. One perceived good deed or one moment when they acted selflessly, was all it took. They’re folk heroes now.


Folk Heroes come in many shapes and sizes, but their stories often center around helping those who are overlooked or dismissed by society at large. A noble might not care that farmers haven’t been able to pay their taxes because of a curse on their lands that prevents crops from thriving, but the folk heroes hear the plight and take up the cause. Some folk heroes come from humble roots and decide that if no one else is going to help those around them, they might as well step in and do it themselves. Some used to be part of high society but had a falling out–framed for a crime they didn’t commit, or all too aware of corruption within the system. Some are part of a criminal enterprise and just happen to do more to contribute to the wellbeing of the common folk than any law-abiding member of high society ever has. Often, a band of folk heroes forms into a found family, understanding each other and accepting each other despite past flaws and mistakes. 

Suggested Core Traits



Folk Heroes are inventive. What they don’t own outright, they can piece together one way or another.



Folk Heroes have an almost uncanny way of making connections with others–or others seek to make connections with them



Downside of being famous: Everyone always seems to know way more about you than you wish they did

Potential Party Techniques

This is why this is a fragment. Circle back and fill this in, Stephanie!

Quests and Campaigns

Folk Hero quests are about the wellbeing of the common folk, addressing wrongs and threats, facing off against the things that no one else seems to be willing to deal with. Sometimes, folk heroes start out just trying to protect themselves and in the process they coincidentally protect others, too. Other folk heroes start out on the right moral side, but systems of power don’t care so much about their morality. The threat to the common folk may seem, on the surface, to be a minor thing–a noble taxing the people too harshly, the sudden appearance of aberrant creatures along a common merchant road, a shortage of supplies, a mysterious disease. As the party investigates, they might discover a greater plot at work.

Folk Heroes may be altruistic, genuinely interested in helping, but they can also act out of personal interests or vendettas. In “The Princess Bride,” Inigo Montoya only helps reunite Westley and Buttercup because of his personal vendetta against the six-fingered man who killed his father. They may start out genuinely wanting to help, then grow jaded as they learn how deeply an injustice is rooted into their society. Or, they might be trying to do good to make up for past mistakes.

For a Folk Hero Party, some thematic questions you might explore:

  • How do moral people behave in the face of immoral laws and systems?
  • Who listens to the plight of those ignored by society? What do you gain by helping those in need?
  • What responsibility do you have to care for your community? What makes a thankless sacrifice worthwhile?
  • How do power, wealth, and status change people?
  • When society says you are beyond redemption, why bother doing good?

Quests for Folk Heroes most often come from the voices of common folk in need–people with nowhere else to turn. Some quests may be straightforward, or at least appear straightforward on the surface. Children have been vanishing, taken into the forest, so the party goes into the forest intent on rescuing the children. At other times, the problem presented to the Folk Heroes requires careful consideration. If the party wants to maintain their status as lawful citizens, but they also want to put a stop to over-taxation of the hungry commoners, what do they do?

Folk Heroes often must walk a careful line between an overall favorable view of their actions from the common folk and a distaste toward their actions from the upper class. Their quests may place them between a rock and a hard place–if they are too criminal, they lose the favor of the people, but if they stay perfectly within the lines of societal expectation, they may not be able to help enough to keep the favor of the people.

Over the course of the campaign, they will come into conflict with many kinds of factions and attempt to forge alliances in unexpected places. 

Examples in Media

Robin Hood, Beowulf, Xena: Warrior Princess, Leverage, Burn Notice, Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy

Session Zero Discussion Points

During your session zero, discuss the thematic questions above and consider the position you want your folk hero party to be in over the course of the quest. Especially when you are dealing with themes of social injustice and systemic corruption, talk together about the tone of the campaign–whether you want a more lighthearted experience where good and evil are black and white, with occasional delving into darker moments, or you want your characters more consistently exploring moral gray areas and facing challenges where maybe there isn’t a good guy and a bad guy.

You might also discuss the potential for betrayal. If someone the party is close to turns out to be working for an adversary, would the players prefer to know up front, receive some subtle hints but not direct knowledge, or do they want to be taken entirely by surprise when it happens?

Potential Party Contacts

  • Bertio, a reputable local farmer
  • Harda, a barkeep
  • Elean, a member of the city guard
  • Theny, a retired burglar

Other Party Types

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