Dustwood is technically not a wood from a specific tree. It is an created fuel for fires.
Starting with the sawdust from a sawmill, adding a mixture of wax or pitch, and a few other things, the mixture is pounded or pressed toghether tightly. It is normally smashed into a round container, so when it is slipped out, it looks like a small perfectly round "log". (actually a lathed log, but you get the idea). It can either be used as a log or slices of a log can be used for a fire.
When was the last time a character caught a cold or flu? Real people get them every now and again even with solid heating and dry interiors. Your characters are out in the cold and wet, and even inside is not always dry and warm. Imagine having to stop your dungeon crawl, sitting in a tight defensive position, while you all are feverish.
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)
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.
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.
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.
Patterns in surnames: There are many ways a surname could have evolved over centuries. One possibility is migration. A Roman name may have traveled to France and hence to England where it was later Anglicized. Case in point - the surname Lawrence went from Laurentius (Roman) to Laurent (French) to Lawrence (English) and then to Lowry (Scottish). There is also natural etymological evolution. For example, a Middle English spelling may have evolved to a modern English spelling (e.g. Stiward to Stewart). Where did your character's Surname come from?
Surnames: Most surnames fall into one of four categories. Patronymic surnames such as Johnson pass from father to son (literally, 'Son of John'). Occupational surnames such as Cook or Miller stem from an individual's livelihood. Topographic names such as Forest or Ford identify habitation. There are also a few surnames that derive from individual characteristics or nicknames...Small and Stern for example.
Surnames: The Chinese were among the very first cultures to adopt the use of hereditary surnames (around 2800 BC). But the custom didn't quite catch on in Europe - at least not until the Venetian aristocracy made it popular sometime between the 10th and 11th centuries AD. What culture made it popular in your setting and why?
In cultures and langauges with very few acceptable personal and family names, nicknames will be used. These nicknames will be based on their physical traits and personalities. So instead of five Ryon Khans, you have Big Ryon, Little Ryon, Fast Ryon, Ryon the Priest, and Ryon with coin. It will make finding people, for an outsider, difficult.
Want to avoid fighter types focusing on swords? Make Longswords and Bastardswords the weapon of the Noble class, with a death penalty for other to carry. These weapons will be ornate and finally crafted. Adventurers will be stuck with cheaply made broad and shortswords, while professional fighters might use two handed swords.
It looks like a cook's book. It is a cook's book. It is also where the cook, who happened to be a master spy, encoded all his secrets and contacts. The book has innocently fallen into your group's hands. Everyone wants it, and many are not subtle or peaceful in their attempts.
If you want to add a "supernatural" touch to your campaign, define the rules of magic and the universe. Make your players comfortable with those rules. Then your new supernatural creatures must then break those rules.
The local temple is known for putting words of wisdom of stele, in and anround the temple. These words of wisdom are normally temple proverbs or wise words, but sometimes they are "singing the praises" of any large contributor or a noble who grants them a special law. If you need proverbs and quotes for them, search a few quote and proverb sites, concentrating on religions like the temples. Put these quotes in a word doc or list, that way you can always "whip out" a bit of wisdom.
No one is allowed to do harm to those of Highest/ Imperial rank, those of the Imperial household or those related within two steps of blood. The second tradition is an executioner must be of a higher rank than those he executes. This leads to "issues" when someone tries to harm a member of the Imperial clan or when these members are subversive. Such people are often killed by the being chained under a giant bell. They die within a day or so from the vibration, but they die untouched by Human hands.
Magic should have side effects, both expected and unexpected - fortuitous and deplorable. Expected side effects add anticipation, while unexpected ones increase the drama of the scene. The result can be comedic or dire, it dpends on which circumstances work best for your game.
Believable magic, like ordinary physicis, operates according to some invariable laws that always result in some kind of cost or "bounce back". The grater the magic, the more it should cost the character physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Arune Spheres are hollow, blue reflective metallic spheres about 25 cm/ 10" in diameter (though some are larger). They are made of a thickish glass mirrored on the inside. When magical energies are flowed through the sphere, it produces a haunting tone, which can be varied by the type, intensity, and harmonics of energies passed through it. (It sounds like an electronic organ.) If multiple energy flows are generated, multiple sounds can be generated, some of which sound like mundane instruments. Masters of The Craft can replicate almost any sound in their memory with one. Though originally used as a training tools for those with The Power, it has been adapted to be a musical instrument. All it takes is someone with patience, medative training, and a touch of the Power, to use it. (Thus becoming the favorite instrument of anyone who was tested to the first level of the Craft, but failed to advance).
MoonInk: This alchemical product has 101 uses. The Ink/Paint dries to be totally clear and almost unnoticable. Under moonlight, it comes forth as a silver ink. It was originally used by the Elventi to enhance certain pieces of art. It is used by espionage types to produce secret messages, nobles for hiddle plots, and diabolical cultists to write their spell books (usually in books of holy texts, to throw off people reading it).
It seemed like a great place to camp. The clearing was good sized and sheltered from the wind. The brook just a few feet away. There is a natural hallow to keep the horses.
Then the night came.
It was like it became a different place. The temperature dropped. The wind, which does not seem to disturb cloth, almost cuts through you like an arctic wind. No one can sleep, as the soft ground has turned hard. The horses are uneasy. The Bats are flying over and stopping in the trees.
And then there is the eyes. There are glowing eyes just inside the tree line watching your group. The mages and clerics can detect nothing, but there is still something there.
(yet there is nothing at all... The Darkness will do nothing unless the players do something to it. And even then it will all seem to be a conincidence.)
Of course, in the morning, it all becomes sweet and light.
Oazduke's Vengeful Head.
The head haunts all headsman and executioners.
A floating, bloody head, long separated from its body, is a particular legend among a very particular group of people, executioners, specifically those that chop heads from a block for a living. It was that infamous highway robber, Oazduke the Vengeful, who when finally captured and put to the axe, screamed his foul hex, seconds before his head flew off.
"You will know it is me when I'm through
A curse on your ilk and on you!
May my severed head haunt you eternal
Frightening you headsmen infernal!"
Years later, not one but two(!) weary, puffy-eyed, spooked, headsmen, haunted day and night by Oazduke's insufferable severed head, approach the party cleric in order to hire him to exorcise the ghost head once and for all.