In the far reaches of a long-lost wilderness, there stands a forgotten town inhabited only by children. Though they appear normal enough, their eyes burn with madness, and they speak in a foreign, archaic tongue. Nearly a millenia ago, a powerful spell had gone awry, or maybe it had succeeded - in any case, it ended up blessing, or cursing, an entire generation of children with agelessness. However, as the centuries passed, the children's parents grew old and died, the buildings of the town crumbled to earth, and even the civilization itself faded into history, becoming lost to time. All that remained were the children, driven mad by the psychological toll of living for hundreds of years beyond their age. In time, most children died, killed off by fighting amongst themselves, while many others were driven to suicide. Only a small handful remain, and they are a strange people indeed.
On a certain continent, nearly all kingdoms worship under the same pantheon. However, in the southern reaches the peoples take a much more...liberal stance on their Gods. Statues are nude, and very anatomically correct, and icons are often startlingly brazen. For instance, the icon of (insert name), the goddess of love, is an image of two nude twins embracing in a passionate kiss, signifying the love of both family and partner. This is a source of unending outrage and offense for the Northern churches, whose traditional and modest take on religion is constantly at odds with the near-blasphemous ideals of the Southerners. While this is not enough to provoke outright conflict, there is more than enough simmering discontent and long-held grudges between the two hemispheres.
In a long-lost age, a party of adventurers are frozen into stone by the stare of some gorgon-like creature. An unscrupulous rogue, coming across the frozen party several centuries later, decides to haul off two of the statues to decorate his den. Upon his death, an artisan friend of his claims a statue and sells it to a rich merchant, passing it off as his own work. Years later, the merchant gilds the statue in bronze and re-sells it at a much higher price. After passing through the art markets for many decades, the statue ends up in the hallways of a mage academy. Imagine the chaos and confusion when a young mage's spell happens to break the curse of stone, returning the adventurer to life several centuries after his petrification! Is he interrogated by historians? Driven mad by the change of times? Or does he set off on a quest to find and liberate his other frozen party-members?
Pirates' many bejeweled rings and piercings actually had a practical purpose - when the pirate or sailor died, the rings could be taken off as payment for a proper burial, saving him from a watery grave. This could be tied into regional culture, or made into a quest (The Pirate's Lost Rings, etc.). Also gives treasure-seeking divers another thing to look for besides crusty old chests.
A slow, stupid creature that crawls onto people and latches onto them, often on feet, hands, and other extremities, numbing down the area and slowly feeding on it. It's easy to avoid while awake, but nearly impossible to remove once attached. Many an adventurer has been forced to hack off an arm or leg after waking with a Stoneleech wrapped around it. Sleep with one eye open! (This idea came from "Wizard's Rule")
Except, it doesn't have to be. Nighttime can be a relaxing, peaceful time in the world, when nature rests and soft shadows cover the ground. Not every night has to be filled with vampires, ghosts, beasts, and things jumping out from dark places.
A society in which people believe that the hundreds of stars that dot the sky are the dreams of the sleeping. When the sun goes down, and the people of the world rest, the dreams begin to seed the sky, disappearing in the morning as the populace awakes once more. It could be just a folk tale, or it could be real...
A world based not on light and dark in conflict, but light and dark in balance. A world governed by a giver and a taker, rather than a creator and a destroyer. A world where evil is as much a corruption of light as it is darkness. Conflict arises out of a will to upset the balance.
Surnames: The Chinese were among the very first cultures to adopt the use of hereditary surnames (around 2800 BC). But the custom didn't quite catch on in Europe - at least not until the Venetian aristocracy made it popular sometime between the 10th and 11th centuries AD. What culture made it popular in your setting and why?