There are crimes for which a man is not killed, but chased into the wilds, away from his home and country, to not return or be killed on the spot. In one culture is the condemned mutilated, and even his vocal cords are damaged so that the voice is unrecognizable to his friends and family. This is the punishment for people too obsessed with their own prestige.
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.
Hu was an ambassador of the Seventh Emperor of the Reng Dynasty. Throughout his life he traveled across many miles and lands to entreaty with neighboring kingdoms and the semi-savages who dwelled amidst the Metal Mountains.
During one such diplomatic mission, Hu was gifted a small iron marble as a gesture, by a shaman of the Kiy-Kiy tribe. Little else is known of Hu, but that marble was lost and is now somewhere out there for someone to find.
A tiny, shiny sphere, the marble has several properties. First and foremost it is a strong magnet, considerably stronger than its size and density would indicate.
Secondly, if thrown or rolled upon the ground and the command word is spoken, the iron ball will magically enlarge to either the size of an ogres's head or to that of a great globe, twelve feet in diameter. The rolling ball of either size will continue to roll or fly at the same relative speed it was when launched as a marble, and can thus cause great damage to anything in its path. The magnetic power of the ball will also magnify when enlarged.
Legends claim that the ball has been tossed from besieged castles upon attacking foes and rolled at marching armies in ages past. At the end of such rolls, the larger size globe has been known to not only crush soldiers underfoot, but to also "collect" many dozens of metallic weapons and bits of armor unto itself, appearing as an armored sphere, with swords and spears sticking out from it in all directions.
Owning this powerful marble has its drawbacks. Anyone carrying it on their person, will experience the iron ball's insidious effects after some time. The owner feels no worse for wear, but after two month's time they will suddenly awaken one morning to find that their hair has fallen out completely, their teeth loosened like baby's teeth ready to drop, and their fingernails simply shriveled and sliding off the fingers and toes. Perhaps unbeknownst to the owner at first, the iron ball also renders an owner sterile or barren by this time.
Regular clerical healing will not reverse this horrible malady. Only finding and beseeching a shaman of the Kiy-Kiy tribe to heal the iron ball's effects with their particular brand of magic, will work.
Hu's Iron Ball should be handled carefully by players and gms.