Nine times out of ten, it’s the undead that do the running.
Not strictly animal or vegetable, the Corpse bud is a peculiar individual that shares characteristics from multiple kingdoms and species. In appearance, all corpse buds bear a shape of a large rounded top bud divided into four lateral segments, and a much longer, narrower bottom bud, also divided into four segments. Between the two halves are a set of four radial limbs, rounded on top and flat on the bottom, covered with tiny serrated hooks facing towards the body. In overall size, it’s limbs reach as wide as a spread hand, with the body being as thick as a fist. It is as long as a human hand from top to bottom.
Internally, the top bud of the corpse bud contains a bacteria filled membrane that produces the hydrogen that the corpse bud uses to stay aloft, and a series of fungal gills for the dispersal of spores for reproduction. The lower half of the bud contains a number of fine filaments, as well as a sharp barbed stinger containing a powerful local anaesthesia.
The Corpse Bud mobilizes by inflating its top bud, and steers by rotating its arms rapidly about its body. The corpse bud ordinarily drifts with the wind, orienting towards the scent of recent decay and death. It preys on the recently dead, burrowing the lower bud into the victim, using the anaesthesia in case the victim is dying, and not truly deceased. Once embedded, it releases its filaments into the body, replacing the current nervous system. This gives it full animation of the body, and allows the corpse bud to direct it.
Corpse buds are not a malevolent species, being primarily concerned with breaking down the host body for food, and infecting the reproductive cycle with spores in order to mate with other corpse-bud bodies. To preserve the corpse for this purpose, Corpse buds will seek out dry locations to prevent bacteria from destroying the corpses. This often causes a large number of corpse buds to gather in a single location.
In culture, Corpse buds are used to repair broken spines or degenerative diseases, as the sentient mind will easily overcome the mind of the non-sentient corpse bud. Once infected by a corpse bud, however, removal is usually fatal, and the infected individual cannot reproduce, or risk infecting another. Thus, it is a technique often reserved for the elderly, or a last resort.
Necromancers and other dark sorcerers will often preserve the corpses of their victims magically, and infect them with corpse buds, creating traditional undead as well, so as to seed their lairs with undead both offensive and non, in order to throw their enemies off balance. They will also enslave the rudimentary minds of the corpse buds, and transform the docile things into a plague. There have also been accounts of magically transformed corpse buds with stronger minds and a taste for living flesh, but thus far all accounts are unproven rumors.
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.
Magic is like alcohol, the more that is used, the more it causes a hangover later on and the less judgement one has when using it. If one waits a while after casting a spell, things "detoxify." A cantrip or two is like a sip of weak beer, whilst a large creation spell is like a bottle of vodka. Cast something too big and you can die from magic intoxication.
The Lord of the Flies, the Muscimancer has studied magics that summon, control and otherwise deal with flies. The Fly Mage is an unwholesome character, also likely to have magics of disease, rot and pestilence up his sleeves. After fighting through his swarms of flies and his loyal acolytes and slaves, the Muscimancer reveals his final power, transforming into a giant half man half fly hybrid. He can fly, acid vomit, as well as continue to use spells, wield weaponry and command his swarms.
How Jayel became the proprietor of the Wanton Wench is more or less a hand-waved affair by the local officials. The facts known by 'upstanding' folk are that a fresh-faced young girl by the name of Jayel came into Gatewatch, disappeared, and reappeared the aged and stern woman she is today. The facts known by the night watch are a marked decrease in drug trafficking and battered women appearing on the streets. The fact known by Jayel is that she killed a man with her bare hands, and has never looked back.
A small band of squirrels seems to be fighting high up in a tree over a shiny nut-sized object. Can you retrieve the prize without scaring the squirrels into running off with it? If they do, can you manage to chase them down?
The soul of a mage has been trapped in his own bust for centuries. The bust is a foot in height and made of a dark silvery metal. It is well crafted, perfect in every detail of the mage's features. The frozen expression is one of shock. It was sold off in auction after the mage's unexplained disappearance and has been passed around as a curio ever since. The cause of his entrapment? He practiced in secret; none knew of his hobby. Being self taught, he was unable to tell that the spell he thought was for protection was actually for entrapment...
A group of humans living in a mountainous area have spent generations mining, drinking home made liquor, and generally not spreading the gene pool around enough. The end result is a sub-race of humans who no longer have necks, rather their heads protrude from the upper portion of the torso between the shoulders. They have beards, and lacking the ability to turn their heads, can only see what they are directly facing. They are simple and to the point, and direct to the point of bluntness.
For the people of Kuboloth, hell is not in the depths of the earth but in the cold of the windy air;heaven is in the warmth of the earth, lit by glowing jewels.
God has been slayed by a mortal man and his head is now worshipped and put on a pedestal. The PCs are hired to steal the head and bring it to a mystic that claims to have the power to revive God.
The old hermit living outside the village is rumoured to have a small rusty tin spoon that seems disturbingly ordinary but in reality is a magic spoon. If someone puts the spoon in their mouth will taste food. It can be any type of food, grilled meats, cheese, strawberry, bread and so on. The real bonus is that the food is real and with enough tastings can fill a hungry belly.
It is rumoured that a sort of little people living deep in the green woods have magic acorns. If they throw and hit someone with by one of these acorns the victim will experience temporary madness for a small duration of time, making the babbling victim easy to capture of kill.
Serpens Necto is a mask made of snake skins stitched together and crudely painted in white. With this on a person can bind people to their will under the right conditions. In darkness the effect of the mask is greatly enchanced by illumination from under by a candle.
When the campfires grow dim, stories are told. Stories of lost cities, great heroes and legends of old. One of these is the story of Knurlheim. Once the proud capital of the Dwarfs, now a ruin- abandoned long ago. Filled with vast riches and treasure. It’s secrets forgotten with the decline of the Dwarfs, long ago. No one knows is certain if it ever exsisted at all.
Inside a mad scientists laboratory the PCs find a short creature with smooth, oily and whale like skin. The head is faceless and smooth also. But hundreds of white eyes on the PCs from the fat belly of this creature. The PCs are about to kill it as it speaks to them in a feeble but intelligent voice, asking them to pour the contents of a green vial on it. Will they do so? And if so, what will happen?
Hate and vengeance are powerful forces. They dull the inhibitions, cloud the thoughts, and drive people to commit unspeakable acts. There are demons that reflect intense human emotion, taking shapes that best reflect the desire and experiences of their victims.
There are reports of a monster that lurks in the tops of trees and drops down on unsuspecting people. It causes them no damage but it frightens them with a hide-like face with big dead eyes, drooling and barking like a dog while unsuccessfully attempting to have intercourse. The PCs investigate and find that it is the local village moron that is doing the spelunking in the woods. How can they explain this otherwise pleasant and merry man that it is wrong to put on a mask, drop down from trees and attempt intercourse with relatives and neighbours.
The nations of the Kolm surpasses all other barbarians in their wilderness of life. Thoug they do just bear the likeness of men, of a very ugly pattern, they are so little advanced in civilization that they make no use of fire, nor any kind of relish, in the preparation of their food, but feed upon the roots which they find in the fields, and the half-raw flesh of any sort of animal. I say half-raw, because they give it a kind of cooking by placing it between their own thighs and the back of their horses. They fight in no regular order of battle but by being extremely swift and sudden in their movements, they disperse, and hen rapidly come toghether in loose array. They spread havoc over the vast plains and flying over the ramparts, they pillage the camp of their enemy almost before he has become aware of their approach. They are the most terrible warriors for when in close combat with swords and flails they fight without regard to their own safety, and while their enemy is intent upon parrying the thrust of the swords, they will entangle him with their chains so that he loses all power of walking or riding.
Excerpt from "The peoples of the world" By Taklamarian court-scholar Guliman Amon.
The PCs find a small green glass bottle, something can be seen writhing within the smoked glass. If the PCs open the bottle a repulsing form of life will pour forth and grow in size. A genderless beings of soft pliable purple flesh towers before the PCs, it has no detail, no distinguishing characteristics except for a narrow slit for a mouth that holds rows of inwardly curving teeth.
The babies of a small village has been disappearing lately, rumour has it that a demon living in the forest has taken them. The monster has the appearance of a shriveled old woman. A hag, disheveled, with maniacal appearance, wild-looking hair, and an oversized gaping mouth. Long pendelous breasts. The villagers say she eats the newborns and has sharp claws that are created for mangling. No one dears to challenge her, enter the PCs.
A few musicians play their instruments and a beatiful maiden dances to the music. Wonderful to look upon, you surely will spend a few coppers, will you? In addition, two thieves move through the on-looking crowd. "Spare the coppers - loose the silvers!" your father used to say.