Giant mushrooms the size of trees. The stems and parts of the caps can be used in construction, and only the gills are soft enough to eat. An entire fungi-forest can grow in a matter of days, provided the correct conditions. Most fungus trees last about a month before collapsing, but not before a new generation sprouts to provide shade for the next spores.
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.
This ring keeps soul in the body even when the wearer is killed, making bringing life back to the wearer much easier. However, if it takes too long, the wearer will begin to rot and become undead. Removing the ring causes the spirit to pass on immediately.
The runoff from Mount "Evil Volcano" has turned an area of small lakes below into a vision of hell. The mixture of acids in the lakes is of such strength that virtually any organic material touching is quickly dissolved. It is a melange of sulfuric, nitric and hydrochloric acids.
However, the place does harbor life, and its very strange, and very dangerous....
The PCs are accosted in a major city containing at least one famous fortuneteller / prophet of the future. They are informed that their as-yet-unborn child will (insert terrible evil), and that, although they are very sorry, the PC must be executed to keep this from happening.
Culture/Religion: based on fear and respect. Gods are very dangerous creatures, sometimes friendly, often not. Temples are the way to make contact with them... if not easier, then at least more concentrated in one place. Were it not for the temples, gods could be running amok among the people. Therefore, mortals have to keep the gods close to temples, entertained and worshipped. It doesn't make the bad ones any friendlier, though (and is no guarantee some won't go on trips now and then). Still, there have to be priests that are hardy men, able to survive the rigours of their position, get a sufficient number of worshippers to make the gods feel important enough, and mediate the contact between mortals and immortals.
In the Middle Ages, and even up to the early twentieth century, most of Europe's executioners were related: the Sansons and Deiblers in France, the Pierrepoints in England, etc. The reason for this was that, it generally not being socially acceptable to, well, kill people, executioners and their children could, generally, only marry other executioners or their children.
The parallels with massively inbred, Hapsburg-style dynasties are obvious- imagine a rather clever but politically inept satirist noting this, and being sentenced by the latter to a meeting with the former; even worse, imagine a dynasty of deranged and deformed executioners- think Texas Chaisaw Massacre with government funding.
The idea of using tattoos to contain magic powers is not a new one. The Ink gauntlet follows the basic premise of using rare and precious inks to inscribe spells into the skin of a mage or would be spell-imbued person. Some of these inked spells might be permanent, while others might fade after being used once, or a preset number of times.
In the days of old, before the dominance of humanity, the giants were the supreme rulers of the world and their crafts were considered to be the best. These beings venerated the god of the forge above all others and their swords and armors were the best that could be had even in the days of their decline. A hero seeking a masterwork sword might have to voyage long and hard to find a surviving giant smith or cache of rare and valuable giantcraft weapons.
Historicly, we have had plenty of rl groups like the Taliban and the Puritans who supressed anything which was in any way fun. What if there was some group that was the opposite? (which in time would cause problems of it's own for the civilians under their control.)
In an isolated mountainous region, the local miners build their stone huts right next to the sarcophagi of their dead. In the winding tunnels of their mines, the spirits of their ancestors toil alongside them, sensing where the best deposits will be found and guiding their picks' strokes.
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.
Rich Romans raised fish in private pools at their villas. A favorite fish was lamprey, a parasitic fish which sucks off blood and flesh but made an excellent meal. A particuarly gruesome punishment for slaves was to be thrown into the lamprey pool, where their flesh was ripped from the bone by swarms of the jawless fish.
In ancient Rome, social appearance and respectability were everything. The most hated men were punished with damnatio memoriae, damnation of memory. Every trace that a person had ever lived was removed. Busts were shattered, freizes were marred, records were struck. Any sign of the hated figure was destroyed.
Pcs learn of high power magics that allow them to banish weapons and suits of armor to some 'elsewhere' place until such time as they need it. reduces encumberances, gets fewer questions, and when the PCs get jumped by thieves in the ally, they can summon their suits of full plate armor with weapons drawn.
Lesser powers would allow them to summon their weapons from another physical place, drawing them to their hands like Luke skywalker summoning his lightsaber on Hoth.
Medieval Britons didn't write contracts. Instead, men making agreements would clap their knives onto an altar and recite the agreement three times to seal a deal. Even after the Normans introduced written contracts, British nobles would wrap the parchment around a knife to authenticate it.
The religion believes in reincarnation, but that you will be reborn in the past. People of today are those re-born of tomorrow, with some discarded as trash. The most pure will be eventually reborn in the mythical paradise-like past, where people lived for hundreds, or maybe even thousands of years.
This goes nicely with beliefs into foresight (you know a little about the future because you have been there), but also to many complaints of how things are going always from bad to worse.
In 1500 B.C. in Egypt a shaved head was considered the ultimate in feminine beauty. Egyptian women removed every hair from their heads with special gold tweezers and polished their scalps to a high sheen with buffing cloths.
An example of a mythological worldview misinterpreting scientific practices occurred in Africa, where an aid organization, focusing on slowing and stabilizing population growth, distributed abacuses with red and white beads corresponding to a woman's menstrual cycle. Women were instructed to move one bead a day, only having intercourse on days represented by a white bead. However, the experiment failed, and the population grew in the households using the abacus. The women believed the abaci were magical, and that they would be protected from pregnancy by moving a white bead into the place of the red bead before intercourse.