A small, primitive village has yet to discover fire, which is a good thing because there are highly flammable (but not otherwise dangerous) gasses in the air. The heroes, blissful in their ignorance, don't know that and think it a wonderful idea to show the locals open flame.
Unbeknownest to the character, he is in the royal bllodline. Suddenly the majority of royals fall ill and die, and the hero is left with the crown, but no experience or idea of what to do.
A Deity of some sort has unleashed a plague of bookworms or something like that in the area. Almost all spellbooks are destroyed, along with bardic and historical books.
Orcish currency is derived from glass beads. The art of glassworking is well beyond them, but perhaps the orcs have something of value to the civilized races, such as animal pelts, and well made axes, and bows. The humans trade beads for the goods, and the orcs will trade the beads amongst themselves as a form of their own currency. Perhaps they value blood red beads above all others, or animistic orcs favor beads in the colors of their gods.
Inspired by Indian trade beads, some of which could be quite ornate and beautiful. Most North American Indian beads were made in Italy. Surprise!