A common mistake when writing adventures set in deserts is to assume that the climate is too ferociously hot to wear armor. Historically, most battles in deserts involved troops dressed in protective armor. Although they would have been miserable during the hottest part of the day or the hottest part of the year, desert weather isn't intolerably hot 24/7.
The massive blade known as Consequences carries several potent enchantments of battle, but also has a frustrating quirk: Its wielder finds himself unable to put it down until he enters the presence of a magistrate or other authority. Even then, it instantly returns to his hands if he has committed murder and fails to confess. Unless he somehow resists the blade's magic, the weilder's hands then run with fresh blood; the judgmental blade fights his every motion until he confesses his crimes.
People argue about the true form of the beasts known as "Bloodtouches", since they seem to take dozens of forms. Unfortunately, their bite's effect isn't in doubt. Anyone bitten by the bright crimson beasts rapidly loses all hair; their skin color shifts to bloody red. Many people fear those under this curse; villages of blood-skinned outcasts huddle in the wilds.
A terrible affliction spreads through the land: A disease, highly contagious, which makes its victims mildly ill, but then permanently paralyzes the vocal cords. Dozens of reputed cures and protections are sold in the marketplaces, which gradually grow quieter and quieter...
Not every prophecy needs to be meaningful to effect a game. In the Lord Dunsany play, The Golden Doom, a child's scrawl has an entire kingdom struggling to puzzle out what sinister prophecy it portends.
The frozen wastes stretch for miles around. Something waddles through the snow. It's a penguin: An emperor penguin. It waddles slowly, meandering toward the sea. The ranger freezes. "Stay very still," he warns. "Don't move at all." "What is it?" I ask, breathlessly. "It's the most dangerous creature in the whole Yahoo Tundra, and that penguin's about to kick its butt..." (Sorry, Epi! I couldn't resist!)
The ancient Empire of the Golden Crystal fell so long ago that little is known of them besides their legendary magical power. Supposedly, in the Golden Age of the Crystal Empire, cities were filled with enchantment, spells far beyong the ability of modern magi.
A tomb robber has returned to civilization with something never seen before: Ceramic vials of reddish dust that supposedly enhance a magician's power tremendously when the dust is sprinkled upon the floor of his workroom. The rogue selling the vials claims that they were recovered from a ruin of the Crystal Empire, but can he be believed?
In some regions, various occupations might be exclusively staffed by members of a particular race or ethnic group. As examples, a city's butchers might tradtionally have orcish blood, or all the dwarves in an area could be expected to join the miners' guild (even if they personally have nothing to do with mining). Those who violate these stereotypes may find themselves in conflict with local customs or idiosyncratic laws.
"Look, lad! You see the streak of glowing green off the larboard bow? Them's the bright waters!"
While the lad peered intently at the eerie glow, the old salt continued. "Entire ships have been lost to the Bright, lad, for once you let it surround you, you'll never touch land again!"
A local sculptor of note has chosen to honor the adventurers by crafting lifelike statues of them. While he hopes to surprise them by setting the statues up in their home while they are off adventuring, he may have underestimated the paranoia of the typical adventurer. Provided that he can get in, is he likely to survive whatever precautions they have against intruders? Assuming he lives, what will they make of finding statues in their house?
In the dry steppelands, one of their most valuable exports is the dried sap of the Larthorn tree. These ugly plants are covered with vicious thorns, but the locals harvest the golden droplets that ooze from their bark each Autumn. This sap, once dried, is valued for its medicinal properties and as a spice. Since little gold or silver is found in the hinterland, the dried droplets of sap are often used as currency by the locals.
The Wizard-Brewers of the Old Empire stored memories in bottles of mead, passing their brightest ideas, most subtle magics, and most important decisions on to their heirs in bottles of oddly-flavored honey-wine. A cache of these ancient magical vintages has been unearthed, but does anyone dare drink from it? The ancient mead's creator is a complete mystery, as are the thoughts he left behind.
Many games draw moral lines in bold colors, where the real world is not so easy to categorize. Suppose that the player characters are faced with an overwhelming foe? Even unsavory allies such as orcish barbarians may be better than no allies at all. More disturbing, these allies may be honestly friendly to the PCs when all is done, overcoming barriers of race and religion. Will the PCs remain friendly with the bloodthirsty humanoid tribesmen when their mutual foes are defeated? Some would expect the tribes to betray them, but after the characters have honestly won their respect, even orcs may not be all bad.
What if the sources of precious metal in the realm all failed, so that the only sources for gold and other precious metal were hostile foreign lands? Gold coinage might become increasingly rare, resulting in hoarding. Player characters that appear with masses of treasure might be suspected of being in the pay of foreign powers.
The villages around the capital have a strange new disease cropping up. Spread by a fungus (much like ergot poisoning), it causes its victims to be very sensitive to sunlight. Hundreds of peasants are hiding from the sun, only coming out in the darkness to labor in the fields. Unfortunately, rumor makes their behavior sound more sinister and secretive than it really is.
On some of the islands off the coast, the rites of the local fertility god revolve around ceremonial death and rebirth. The religion's priests have overcome this cycle, however: Each of them is actually undead, ceremonially slain and "reborn"! Their religion is otherwise unremarkable, being an odd offshoot of the mainland's religions. The priests vow to resist their undead cravings, seeing these as the "cycle of life" attempting to reclaim their spirits.
According to the Journals of Lord Goidol, the people of the Southern Cities wear heavy coats all the year round, despite the stifling tropical heat. They claim that to do otherwise angers the gods, and it is true that visitors who refuse to don the local garb are often struck down with a paralytic fever.
A girl living in an isolated hamlet is cursed: So beautiful and sweet-natured that no man can resist loving her, but she has never met the man she could love in return.
Imagine that all the humanoid and demi-human laguages are actually the same, but pronounced with outrageous accents and bizarre idiom. All the elves have a French accent, all the Dwarves have Swedish, Dragons have a Pakistani accent...
is a lovely golden necklace that gradually transforms its wearer's skin into gold. Given enough time, this will prove fatal, but the wearer cannot remove the deadly jewelry without assistance. Some might be cruel and greedy enough to leave it on its victim...
While setting up camp for the night, the PC's are aproached by another group of adventurers who seem nice enough. The road is somewhat dangerous and the other group suggests camping together. The two bands split watches, one adventurer from each group watching at once. The night goes by without incident, the next day the PC's travel with the other group as they are going the same way.
The group consists of Hordel the ranger, who is skilled with the bow. Hordel is a quiet man who speaks little but appears quite skilled. Dremar is a barbarian who is a little excentric, he seems to be an excasive drinker and thiunk that battle is the solution to everything. He appears to be a stout and powerful fighter with his greataxe. Ferrin is the leader of the group, a rouge by trade. He is daft and witty, speaking with the PCs often and asking many questions. He fights with finesse with his rapier. Preminitat as a cleric but he will not say which god he worships. He uses his spells to empower and heal his party and fights with a club. He sticks close to Ferrin. Ferrin is a great talker and tells much of himself and his party, but asks even more about the history and capabilities of the PCs. He tells of some adventures his party has had, and they seem like an interesting group of mercenaries. Hordel is quite and has little interest in speaking with the PCs, he ignores most questions. He spends a lot of time with Dremar and sometimes Ferrin. Dremar seems to not care about any questions ansked to him, nor does he seem to know the answers. He seems battle hardened and is a simple man. Preminitat rarely starts conversations but will speak with the PCs. However, some of his accounts of the party's history seem to condradict those of Ferrin.
The Party spends another night and day with Ferrin's group. One of four things can happen on the third night.
1: While eating dinner around the fire, Ferrin gets into an argument with one of the PCs when he/she mentions the discepincies between Ferrin's stories and Preminitat's.
2: Hordel gets mad after repeated questioning about his life from the PCs.
3. Preminitat gets mad after repeated questioning from the PCs about what god he worships.
4: One of the PCs rejects the offer of a drink from Dremar and he takes it as an insult.
All of these scenarios result in a battle between the parties. If Ferrin's party is defeated and still lives he swears vengance. His party may then cross paths with the adventurers again.