You receive a vision of a rooftop "somewhere close by", where a rare moss grows; in the vision, you know the moss is suitable for greatly enhancing the effects of certain types of potions. Now go and find that rooftop. Don't fall off. (Of course, rooftop runners *will* be taken for miscreants by the local City Watch....)
Among the assortment of organized criminals who live in the great city, few command greater fear the Moonbeard Order.
They of course do not call themselves that, but have earned the moniker from their fashion of dying their large beards with lye to produce a distinctive crescent shape running from earlobe to earlobe. This is meant as a taunt for their enemies, for it clearly outlines their throats.
They also wear garb similar to the northern tribesman, carefully tooled leather and showing multiple, colourful glyphs.
They are feared due to the intense discipline that their group maintains, due to their origins as a warrior-sect.
They serve as paid thugs, enforcers and assassins within the city, with the client simply ordering a service from the organization, not hiring an individual. Apart from making the request and providing payment in full in advance, the order completes the assignment themselves.
Their order has many moles through the organizations of the city, and more than a couple of nobles. As such, no organized move has been made against them since their chief activity is directed against other members of the crime world. It is said that their services have been useful for those in power as well, further protecting them from persecution.
Their religion holds that their time in this world is vanishingly brief, and largely unimportant except as training for the Great Battle.
The order is very utilitarian with weapons choice - they simply use the tool needed for the occasion, though not without having trained extensively with it beforehand. Daggers, garrottes, swords, bows, battle axes, polearms, wagons, even siege engines have been used to carry out their contracts.
A town has a festival every year in the dead of winter. The festival of birds. The towns folk dress in feathery robes and beaked masks and dance and frolic in the belief that the changes of the seasons are controlled by the presence of birds. According to tradition, the festival tricks Spring into coming early because the birds have returned.
The thieves guild of Mysantia has paid the stone masons guild to put a particular pattern into the stone of new multi story construction.
A small bonus to the climb skill is the result..
A floating city hovers over the capital, seemingly appearing out of nowhere. Its spires are blinking in the morning sun, revealing alien architecture. What will happen next? Rumours spread like wildfire that this is the ancient city that once stood at this very spot. Mystics proclaim that it will take root here once again, crushing the capital under it. Somebody needs to get up there and investigate.
A circus is in town and while parading down the main street the animals suddenly break free from the cages. After surviving and assisting during the breakout the PCs are hired to help with the investigation. Who did this and why?
There was a Beggar he was starring at me as if he is going to kill me but as I get nearer and nearer I found out his resisting something I don't know what but his really resisting something something un explainable and then I saw a knife on his hand and I though his going to kill me but when he raises the knife and then he stoped and said "run child" that I knew his resisting himself' his blood thirsty self, to stop, to stop killing people at the other day when I go were he was I saw him lying DEAD! and I saw a knife stabed strait throught the heart and that knife was the one he tried to stab on me last day and I knew he KILLED HIMSELF because its the only way to get out of his problems...
A small group of men stares intensely at something. Coming nearer, you see puppies, obviously still young, as they are small and only learn to walk. Cute as they are, the men look serious and exchange a comment here and there, making their mother nervous. But one man keeps her somewhat calm, while looking with others on the little ones.
The puppies are a completely new dog breed. The breeder hopes for better characteristics, the other men are mostly hunters and other dog-fanciers, that were called or came from own interest. If all looks well, they will have business. But now, they are just watching.
You realize a group of men is going right to you. The man in front has a hard determined look on his face, the two men behind follow him with some uneasiness. He stops before you, holding the handle of his sword in one hand, and slaps (choose person carefully) with leather gloves he carries in the other hand. "Rhadagald Thinvoice, I challenge You to a duel to dea..." Stopping abruptly, he realizes this is the wrong person.
In Azur, the streets are crowded, and the PCs' poor grasp of Azuran makes it hard for them to find out why. Still, they shoulder their way through the crowds, trying to get to the house of the renowned wizard they seek, when suddenly they realise they are standing very much alone. The crowds have ceased their talking and their gazes are fixed on the PCs. The imperiously clothed man standing before them smiles and speaks in Azuran: "Ah! Volunteers! And so eager too!"
In a crowded marketplace, a man is standing on a soapbox, orating. Some of the crowd are cheering, some hissing, some standing around saying "I can't hear a bl**dy word he's saying". It's a hustings for an election. The PCs can either leave, or stay and listen. If they do the latter, then they can vote too, and they might get quite involved in the cheering. Depending on who wins they might get quite involved in the post-election brawl too...
There are numerous possibilities with this encounter: the PCs might end up talking to one of the nervous candidates before their speech, and offer encouragement and support. Of course this candidate may well turn out to be someone with outspokenly unorthodox views, and the crowd don't take kindly to s/his supporters. Or maybe the seemingly innocuous candidate turns out to be a complete racist, and the PCs wander off embarrassedly, pretending they weren't talking to this person five minutes ago.
A fragment of letter drifts down to the street. You catch it, and unfold the charred edges.
"...know I will always lov..
..at never dies. It is th...
..f my passion that b...
...nd it cannot be ext..
....n heaven or....n hel..
....ill be by you...ide an...
...... yours foreve.........
... Mendates ........
Looking up from the fragmented text you glance around at the rooftops. There. A minute snowfall of scraps of letters is cascading from the chimney of a half-timbered house nearby.
The characters are wandering through the bustling crowds of Lasopolis. A street conjuror is performing a simple summoning spell, something for the kiddies. A bit of odious purple powder in the fire, an incantation and out pops a saak-lizard or a muhmentarsh, writhing from the flaming brazier. But the conjuror has only a poor grasp of the arcane magical tongue. A few stuttered syllables could lead to Other Things coming through the brazier and giving the crowd more entertainment than they had paid for...
"Ladies and Gentlemen of Worth, please come closer and have a look... " In a little stand with numerous maps, the human Advantos sells land-rights with a shining smile and jovial talk at bargain prices. He sells even squatter rights (first to settle is the owner). About 20% of the lands do not exist or belong to someone else. About 30% do not have even that value, or have other problems attached- swampy, cursed, haunted, Old Indian/Pet Cemetery (tm)... Be assured you will not see this man in the same city twice.
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.
The PC's enter a town amid a giant celebration, the Spring Wedding Festival. Unmarried men and women from all over the provinces gather her every spring to be matched by the most sacred matchmaker ever to live, Holly Lovard. Holly is now ancient and must be carried everywhere she visits and rumors are that this will be her last visit to the Wedding Festival so any matches made this spring will be doubley blessed.
Enter PC's, wrong place at the wrong time. Molly sees one of them, calls him/her out of the crowd and that are unable to resist the push and pull of the mob. Brought in front of Molly Lovard, the PC is declared the lifemate of
Could be the king's daughter, a peasant, member of the thieves guild. Could be anything to add a twist to an already building plot, or just throw the characters into an awkward situation.
When running a new party, get around the question of plot density by having the first discovery to be a deck of fate, or whatever you call it. If you use a real deck, you should definitely stack it to have the desired outcome, which is to curse the party to attract weird things to happen and involve them. This should not be told to the players at the time, so that they won't just up and try to get themselves 'decursed'. Though quite why they would want to is beyond me.