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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Petty Kingdoms is a region consisting of hundreds of small states. Some are kingdoms, some are city states, some are large farming communities, some are duchesses and baronies and so on and so forth. Within a few miles the PCs might reach a new "country" with completely different rules and norms than the one they left behind. "What do you eat here? Humans ye say? Lets turn around fellas."
The old clock tower stands tall, but the bulk of the uppermost storey is crumbling and unsafe, with gaping cracks in the walls. The metal struts and girders supporting the great bronze bells are still intact, though, and the bells survive. The grotesque gargoyles and arabesques which decorated the original design have either fallen into the street (once or twice a year more bricks fall from the tower, prompting calls for its demolition) or have been defaced, but the main doors to the clock tower are still intact and show signs of being kept in working order. This is the home of The Captains, clad in raggedy clothes, with sooty faces, and perpetually runny noses. But behind each set of eyes is the look of a survivor. They live to stick together and make it through each day. Older than their years in many ways, the friendship they share with each other and Wims ghost keeps the core of a childs innocence and hope alive in each. But they are still very suspicious of outsiders. They are a group of street children who live in the clock tower. Some are orphans, some runaways, and some nomads who occasionally return to their homes. But they’re all poor, dirty and perpetually hungry, as well as being wily, unscrupulous and mischievous in a fairly brutal way. Enough of them have suffered at the hands of adults for all of them to be wary of any grown-ups, particularly ones who ask too many questions, although with hard work and a lot of food it might be possible to win the confidence or even the trust of a few of them.
A golden skull contains the spirit of a person who has been magically entrapped in an ethereal undead status by an ancient ritual. The person was boiled alive in a golden mixture until nothing remained of him except the bones, now covered by a golden layer. Whoever has these golden bones, controls the spirit and can command it. It can assault the living with wind and storm. Manipulate objects and communicate with the living. (Inspired by Anne Rice, Servant of the Bones)
A furry animal with human eyes and a trunk that devour dreams and nightmares.
It is possible to buy magical abilities. The process is very dangerous though, involving chemicals, rituals and surgery possibly leaving the aspiring mage insane, retarded or scarred for life.
In the inaccessible plateau of Hor-Nushan, there was always little crime. But in late autumn comes a maddening wind, that can drive the best man crazy, if only for a short time, make him turn on himself or others. For murder, the locals have devised a special punishment: the murderer has to dig a well for the family of his victim. The area is very dry, and having a good well is a source of wealth and prestige. In this way, the murderer atones for his deed and repays the family; perhaps they even find peace.
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.
The PCs are hired by undead to rid their village community of an invasive necromancer.
As the PCs make their way, wherever they are going, they spot two zombies. The zombies approach but before the cleric can turn them, one starts throwing coins at the PCs while the other pleads with them, unable to pronounce the letters "L" and "H" due to some missing gums. "Peeth issen...no 'arm...coin...peeth issen!"
If the PCs don't slaughter the two zombies immediately, they will eventually come to learn that the two were chosen to find help by their brethren. The zombies want to hire the PCs to rid their community of an unwanted pest. An opportunistic necromancer.
Apparently, a small benign community of undead have taken residence in an abandoned village, living out their undeath as peacefully as the undead can. Recently, a malicious necromancer has invaded the village, and plans to enslave the entire populace with his malignant spells, raising a small army.
The PCs must battle the vile necromancer, even as he animates the very folks who hired the PCs in the first place, to slaughter them.