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 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.
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.
Jemas Lorne, the most celebrated poet of the age, was found dead, clutching a fragment of verse torn from his journal. The tantalizing fragment spoke of wealth:
Golden sands, empty and cold,
Treasure's crypt, forgotten gold.
Under stone, ancestor's doom,
Noble's prize, troubadour's tomb.
Rumours claim that the poet's father, an eccentric nobleman, had hidden much of his wealth before his death. Perhaps the missing journal has more clues?
The player characters, experienced and somewhat well known, hear rumors and travelers' tales about a distant area being overrun by dragons (or other terrifying monstrosities). The locals have sent them a message, begging for heroic aid.
When they investigate, they discover that nothing of the sort is going on. It turns out that a group of thieves wanted them out of the way so that they could rob them (or someone who would normally receive their protection).
Near a major city, a mirror image of the place has appeared. This strange double is infested with hostile insectoid humanoids that appear to match the city folk in numbers and armaments. The humans’ diviners have determined that the secret of the city’s appearance can be found within the double’s college of magic, so heroes are needed to explore within this mirror city and discover what has drawn it from its distant realm. There isn’t much time to spare, as the bug folk find their mammalian counterparts unnatural and blasphemous, and plan to destroy them.
Nearly every primitive culture has had rituals and celebrations to guarantee the proper passage of the seasons and to ensure the fertility of crops and animals. Oversight of these ceremonies was generally the provenance of local kings or priests.
Suppose that the adventurers dispatch one of these fellows. The local peasants may become hysterical, fearing famine and death will stalk the land. Alternatively, they may want one of the new heroes to become king. For a while, this can be a good thing, but the first time that the crops fail, the superstitious locals will want to sacrifice their new leader.
Hu was an ambassador of the Seventh Emperor of the Reng Dynasty. Throughout his life he traveled across many miles and lands to entreaty with neighboring kingdoms and the semi-savages who dwelled amidst the Metal Mountains.
During one such diplomatic mission, Hu was gifted a small iron marble as a gesture, by a shaman of the Kiy-Kiy tribe. Little else is known of Hu, but that marble was lost and is now somewhere out there for someone to find.
A tiny, shiny sphere, the marble has several properties. First and foremost it is a strong magnet, considerably stronger than its size and density would indicate.
Secondly, if thrown or rolled upon the ground and the command word is spoken, the iron ball will magically enlarge to either the size of an ogres's head or to that of a great globe, twelve feet in diameter. The rolling ball of either size will continue to roll or fly at the same relative speed it was when launched as a marble, and can thus cause great damage to anything in its path. The magnetic power of the ball will also magnify when enlarged.
Legends claim that the ball has been tossed from besieged castles upon attacking foes and rolled at marching armies in ages past. At the end of such rolls, the larger size globe has been known to not only crush soldiers underfoot, but to also "collect" many dozens of metallic weapons and bits of armor unto itself, appearing as an armored sphere, with swords and spears sticking out from it in all directions.
Owning this powerful marble has its drawbacks. Anyone carrying it on their person, will experience the iron ball's insidious effects after some time. The owner feels no worse for wear, but after two month's time they will suddenly awaken one morning to find that their hair has fallen out completely, their teeth loosened like baby's teeth ready to drop, and their fingernails simply shriveled and sliding off the fingers and toes. Perhaps unbeknownst to the owner at first, the iron ball also renders an owner sterile or barren by this time.
Regular clerical healing will not reverse this horrible malady. Only finding and beseeching a shaman of the Kiy-Kiy tribe to heal the iron ball's effects with their particular brand of magic, will work.
Hu's Iron Ball should be handled carefully by players and gms.