Small identical wooden or metal discs with a strange pattern engraved upon them (do not appear to be coinage). The discs can be found all over the continent; a farmer typically overturns several dozen when ploughing a field. Though they are unnaturally hard to break, they have no known use and are widely used as good-luck charms: almost all households would have them on the doors and on mantle pieces; many people carry one or more on them, bound on to a belt, necklace or sewn on to their clothes.
What if some crazy wizard created an artifact that empowered rodents that touched it with one random supernatural power? Preferly right out of the pages of your favorite four-color. (But only one power!) This item does not convey any sort of intelligence boost.
Somewhere along the line, someone very powerful lost their marbles. Literally. Possessing a marble allows incredible clarity of thought about a particular related subject.
The characters are given the task of transporting a flask of highly volatile liquid a long distance. The flask cannot be shaken too much or it will explode. The adventure involves stormy sea-voyages, bumpy cart rides through densely populated towns and horseback combat. In short there are many opportunities for it to break and explode.
Poison can only ever be the tool of a murderer - as such, alchemists are tightly regulated by the Crown, and anyone found in posession of an unknown substance is forced to taste it themselves.
Real World: some Indians in the Amazon treat their eyes with a traditional potion applied with palm leaves. Brutally painful, the drug alters vision, giving the jungle's dense green walls greater texture and dimension. You could adapt this to desert or swamps, or other hard to navigate regions.
To purify the water from a certain river the monks have carved a section of the river that goes over a stone bed. Through holy carvings of gods, godesses, and holy symbols and then the river flowing over them, it purifies the water making it safe for drinking and/or makes it holy water. For rivers that do not have natural rock bottoms, large smooth stones can be carved and added to the water to fully cover the bottom.
One of the standard peices of equipment for an adventurer is a sword. But swords were actually very complicated to manufacture. Therefore, an adventurer who owned a sword might have had it passed down through the generations or might have been rewarded by some influential figure. Or simply looted it from a tomb.
Ten powerful magic rings created by an Archmage have scattered to ten random people (suggest only one is PC). This happened when he died in battle. Whoever gets all ten rings inherites all the power the Archmage invested to them over his 200 year life.
You find a book in the library, then when you start to read it, seems to change from pages of words to pages of images that seem to live and move. If you touch the page after the images appear, you travel into the story and now live in that world.
There is a book on that world, that leads back to this one.
Faerie foods with unusual effects. Like faerie sausages that turn the eaters into wiener dogs, faerie wines that make the drinker whiny, etc. There's a table in Palladium Fantasy RPG which has a table of ideas.
Other improvisational weapons/tools:
Icicles are useful as daggers,
Bag Of Holding filled with copper pieces used by chucking the contents at foes, (by strolen)
sleeves make useful garrotes. Ya can't cut anyone's neck, but you sure can choke 'em!
Flaming Logs make great clubs, (any Barbarians out there?)
and Bee hives are very effective when thrown at a mob of enemies. :-)
The Chinese, when attacking a castle or fort, flew kites over the city wall and used the length of string it took to get it there as a measurement to know how far they had to dig a tunnel to get under the wall.
Silk Armor? The Mongols wore silk undergarments under layers of leather armor. Why? Because silk is very strong. If an arrow hit them and made it through their armor, it would usually not have enough energy to puncture the silk. It could still enter their body but, because the silk would not break, the arrow's barbs could not do their work and the arrow could easily be removed leaving a relatively clean wound considering normal arrow wounds.
A new substance is found in an out of the way area and kept very quiet. It is found to make a perfect counterfeit diamond. Only the most expert of expert appraisers would even have a hope of noticing that it is fake. Only one problem: if it gets wet it starts to slime and if it is saturated, it turns into a glob of gel.
The lengthy process to do something necessary or a magical scroll needed is inscribed on the other side of a great tapestry and can't be removed. For more fun it could be in the kings throne room. Try to hide in shadows with a 20*5 (yards/meters) monstrosity!
A tree was given as a gift at one time to a city. Every year the tree is the center of a large parade as the tree is towed by oxen or large horses in a large wagon through town.
Village has a nearby natural substance that comes from the ground and burns well when lit. They use it only locally and try not to let the secret get out.
Stormbound, the ship rolls hard over to once side. All that is not strapped down is tossed violently overboard in a splash of freezing water.
There, on the horizon- a tower. Squat, it stands alone on a tiny island. However, it's the only land in sight, and any more of this ferocious storm will crush the boat to splinters.
Taking shelter within the ornate entryway of the squat tor, the party notes with interest that no signs of life break the silence of the stone tower. As they take another step forward, they realise why.
This is the fabled tower of Brenji, a rich merchant who wished none to share his enormous wealth. He constructed this tower to store his gold- trapped and ready for any potential thieves. But the ingenious pitfalls and scything walls are not the only dangers within the silent walls of the building. A guardian, left behind by Brenji, still stalks these very halls.
A rattling hiss echoes somewhere from below...