If a fighter has a +1 sword that only gives that plus one if he does an exhausting practice routine in the morning, he's liable to ditch the magic sword and just use an old fashioned chunk of steel. Rather than being wore out and need to rest a couple hours before he gets started just in case he needs that plus one, he could just strap on a blade and ride off without having to deal with all the issues. (From Something Agar said)
What about a 'criminal' society with distinct laws - for stealing, the larger the value of something stolen, the less punishment the courageous thief recieves (but must return it of course). For this pirates(?) caught petty thieves deserve to be punished harshly. If you take, you better take a lot.
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.
I was in a game with a GM that had a Masters in History, who made is a point to mention that the local peasants didn't have wheelbarrows. The rest of the players just shrugged that off but I knew that the GM was trying to tell us the peasants were on the knife edge of starvation.
All that from wheelbarrows? Yes, because before the invention of the wheelbarrow it took two men to carry that load. In it's time the wheelbarrow was the most explosive production multiplier that the peasantry could get their hands on.
This is worth two tips: One about the power of the Wheelbarrow and the other is the moral of the story...that people need to know the point you are trying to make.
A place where a fertility spell has gone wrong.Kisses can lead to pregnancy, any fungus infection runs rampant, corn grows as soon as it is planted,ect.
A place where for those who sleep in it,the real life and dream world is blurred-so nightmares can be deadly.
"The Cetemi have a most curious custom that in their celebrations must all men don the garb of women and women... the garb of men, to the aim that none shall... know another." -An Account of Barbarian Lands, Lord Shakthur
A demagogue imimates the warrior-king or military officer of a long past age-his followers have the uniforms and weapons of that past time and are a dangerous group.
Carnival revelers wear masks and concealing clothes. (Wearing of masks in Venice was first documented in the late 1200s) It allows for the social classes to mix, easing social tensions.
One day a year is the Day of Turning where those on the bottom of the heap for the rest of the year get to live like Kings. Privates question Generals, the people get a say in running things and there is great merriment and gift giving.
A civilization which constructs of irregular shapes constructed of a light metal, heaped together so that they stand on each other; these structures rattle and bend in the wind or at a push, but ultimately hang together except under heavy force (such as cannonballs, falling stones, floods)
The Omen Star: In the West, in what appears to be an eccentric orbit, appears the Omen Star. The appearance of the Omen Star in the first house of the sky bodes "great things" for good or ill are about to happen. It is the rest of the stars that determine if it is for good and ill. Thus people are always looking for things to happen during the time of the Omen Star.
"It is said that among those people they have a loathsome custom- that they keep a spotted dog always waiting beside the gate of the yard where they bury the dead, and that in every funeral they allow this spotted dog to feast upon the dead, so that it grows fat and wise with the knowledge of the dead... Many necromancers do seek out these spotted dogs, and ask of them sciomantic knowledge, or take them as familiars." -Author unknown, "The Ways of the Necromancers"
A terrible teleportation incident makes inter-demihuman chimaera of all the PCs. Quoth Master Adams: 'I teleported home one night / with Ron and Sid and Meg / Ron stole Meg's heart away / and I got Sidney's leg.'
The PC's end up in a strange world where the very rocks are made of gold and jewels.As such gold and jewels is worth very little, but the iron in their swords and belt buckles is suddenly worth a LOT.
A cave full of what appears to be gold nuggets-the nuggets are in fact radioactive and will poison whoever takes them.
All spell casters gain their abilities through a form of demon possession. So in order to gain magical abilites, PCs must track down and trap demons. Of course there are some pretty powerful demons, if the demon is stronger than the PC, the PC could find themselves subjugated to the Demon's will.
It is dreadfully rude to carry a fishknife whilst talking to a Merman or Mermaid, as they think of them as we would think of thumbscrews or other torture devices.
The local band of 'nasties' (goblins / orcs / whatever) lives in relative peace with the local population.
Along come the PCs and go through their usual heroic monster bashing routine, wiping out the nasties and pinching all their stuff, then continue on their way.
Problem is, they don't kill ALL he nasties. The survivors want revenge and, after spending a few months recovering, start to take it in their own inimitable style (which is not unlike that of the PCs come to think of it).
Next time the PCs are in the area they find themselves VERY unpopular with the townsfolk.
A plague has hit the local area.
In humans it affects only the most vulnerable, the children and the very old, and even than it's little more than a summer cold. 24 hours of sniffles and then it's gone, barely noticeable really.
To sheep however it is fatal and the whole economy of the area is in serious trouble. If this keeps up the area could well be facing famine.
Somebody (enter the PCs) must find the rare herbs needed to make a cure.
Chekov's Spell -- This spell has a two-fold effect. The first is to make the target item almost-unnoticeable to anyone not specifically looking for it. The second is that someone who has seen the item will remember it when they encounter a situation that would be perfectly solved by use of said item.