A farmer passing by tells of a nearby villages that have been struck with plague. If pressed, he passes a rumor of a travelling carnival that visited both places.
The forest is on fire!
The nearest city gates are shut, with many soldiers stationed on the walls. All visitors are being turned away, but some locals pass along the story of rioting and murder.
A tinker's wagon has gone into a ditch and broken a wheel. The tinker passes many rumors (all false) of the surrounding area. He offers his services at a great discount if the party helps him right his spilled wagon and goods. All his trinkets are cursed.
A corpse strewn meadow, a handful of broken glass weapons, and a crow that speaks.
Some campers tell tale of a nearby cavern that has "some amazing waterfalls". The cavern is home to a small pack of Grell.
A stampede of wildlife, a bizarre mix of all species, burst out of a nearby forest
A local druid has posted signs asking for hunters to register their names with him before taking any game. 3 arrows are piercing one of them, and others are torn or ripped. A few stags antlers have been tied to tree trunks, as if in defiance.
A shipwreck on a nearby coast is swarming with orc raiders
A traveling family warns of swarms of mating stirge in the nearby area, and many angry farmers who are blaming the disinterest of the local ruler for their dead cattle (and children).
2 paladins have met in a field, each with a second, and a herald, to fight a duel of honor.
The party finds a fully charged (100 uses) Wand of Wonder. It cannot be thrown away, and compels the user to point the wand and shout the command word ("SHICKETYSHAK!") every time the owner enters combat or the boundaries of a village, town or city. Once 100 charges have been expended, the Wand teleports 100 miles away, and fully recharges.
Strangers report a dangerous section of road that passes through a dark wood. Murderous kenku have taken the road and are extorting every hapless traveler.
Every night ravenous swarms of Grimlocks boil up out of the Underdark to terrorize a village that is slowly losing the fight.
The hanging corpse of a local Ranger hangs from a tree, his hands and feet have been removed and cannot be found. A bloody carving in his naked chest may be identified as the feyclan mark of a family of Quicklings. There are skull-dangles throughout the forest and many traps.
A group of Githzerai suddenly teleport into the area, see the party and yell at them to run, flee! FLEE! A group of Githyanki teleport in 1 minute later
A sea journey is stopped by calm winds and the haunting predations of an angry revenant - the spirit of the true captain, a woman murdered 40 years previously.
A murderous cabal of Wereseals (yes they existed in 2e) have camped in some coastal caves. They are preying on passing ships as well as passing caravans. One of them wears a headband that keeps it in telepathic contact with its true master, an offshore Aboleth.
Two tribes of goblins engaged in murderous warfare on one another. One chieftain wears a cursed ring that drives the owner to obsessively eat the flesh of its own species.
A torrent of rain, high winds and lightning drive the party underground to take shelter. There they find a mysterious cave tucked away in a side passage - the bodies of two strange races held in stasis.
The party finds a ray gun. It fires twice reliably, and then only ever again if the owner is near death (under 1/4 of total HP). Range: 120 Damage: 2d6 necrotic and 5% chance to disintegrate target. This automatically works on a critical hit. The gun will function 1d20+1 times before burning out. It cannot be repaired. Its owner, a young Illithid hunter, may come looking for it.
A serial graffiti artist has been creating disturbing works of art on local buildings and the some of the residents have had psychological breaks after looking at them for too long.
The All Fool's Day Parade appears on the horizon. The King of Fools has many followers, all of them quite mad, but jolly. Some hundreds walking, riding, operating strange contraptions, come closer. Chaotic, wild music and singing, sinuous and whirling dancers may just draw the party along for a celebration that will last days, possibly weeks before the party is released, forever changed.
Two boys are fighting over a traveling satchel in the middle of the road. A squirrel is perched on the case and is watching the fight, very agitated, and chittering loudly. Overhead a jackdaw swoops one boy again and again, making lots of noise.
Reports of a girl lost in the nearby area. They say she had gone missing before, and had been found in a local valley, stone cold and refusing to speak.
A group of thieves have set up a traveling medicine show, selling patent medicines and manuals of healthy living. They are drugging the wealthy who stop by, and replacing them with members of a tribe of dopplegangers who have threatened the gang with death if they do not comply.
One of the party wakes up with bloody hands and a letter in their pocket. The letter is written in a rare language, and is printed on human skin. Its contents are a lie, and are just the beginning of a campaign of psychological torture by a leprechaun that has latched onto the player and who remains nearby, invisible.
A huge blackened circle of scorched and burnt earth and trees. In the center of the circle is the body of a paladin. In his hand is a Holy Avenger. The Avenger is awakened. Its name is <insert cool name here>
A collector has decided one of the party members should belong to her collection of beautiful specimens. The collector starts leaving gifts for the party member to find, becoming increasingly romantic, until one night when the collector (use an intelligent outsider) comes for her prize.
A drunken sailor tells tale of his ship that was taken by "reavers", murderous cannibals who ripped his crewmates apart. He is lying. It wasn't his ship. But a pack of kuo-toa have been plundering the local shipping lanes and soon they will grow bored of waiting for prey and attack the nearby population.
A local pie-eating contest is being held. The prize is a small Bag of Pies, a minor magic item that conjures 1 type of any kind of fruit pie per day. The entry price is 20 coins.
A dog barks at the party, insistently. Tries to get the party to follow. If they do, the dog will lead them to a ramshackle cabin where the dogs friends, a group of Jackalwere (use stats, but just describe as particular dog breed), who have been doing this to travelers for a while, and have amassed a decent pile of treasure.
A dimensional gate opens and a contingent of 255 Modrons spill forth, measuring and collecting samples of everything (including lifeforms)
A planar resonance occurs and forces open a True Gate to the demi-plane of Ravenloft (The Mists)
A smear of 3 grey oozes pick up the party's trail in civilization and are pursued relentlessly
At a crossroads, on a hill, near a forest, a family of Ankheg are engaged in an all out war with a large force of Aarakocra. The bird-folk send a scout to determine the party's intentions.
A bronze dagger, rusty with age, is lying in the dirt of a wilderness crossroads. It is the last memory of a Nothic, bound to the old blade. The dagger is actually +1 due to its masterwork quality, but the Nothic will whisper insane threats and ramblings of nonsense, while promising untold power if the user will only free him. This cursed blade can be destroyed as any artifact would.
The Dance of the Skeletons, a celebration of the Deity of the Dead, marked by debauchery and music, has been interrupted by a huge swarm of Peryton, come to feed in the breeding season.
A noise, getting louder and louder becomes a human falling towards the party's position at terminal velocity. The human misses the party when hitting the ground, creating a 10' hole and knocking the party prone. 50/50% chance the human has actually survived.
A group of men burst out of the nearby tavern, fighting bloodily with knives and skillets, chairs and broken tankards. The fighting engulfs the party.
A small boy appears in the party's camp one night, sitting by the fire. He never speaks and cannot be touched, not through being incorporeal, but through a repulsion field that is beyond 30th level magic. The boy stays one hour and then vanishes. This event occurs every night for a week. On the last night one of the players finds a ring on their finger. This ring contains 1 dose of a poison that will kill any creature in the known realms without a saving throw. It also kills the poisoner.
A bard's camp has been set up, and a wooden stage is filled with a group of 6 minstrels singing and playing music. A large crowd has gathered and are clapping and stomping. An 18th level rogue is in the crowd. He has been hired to steal something from each of the party members. His boss is a Medusa.
A purple worm hole opens in civilization overnight. If explored, a new campaign should begin.
An old woman approaches the party on the road. She is marked with deformity and is overburdened with baggage. If the party approaches, the ruse will be revealed to be a Doppleganger who is carrying 2 (or 4) Mimics. They have been doing this a long time, but the DG hates his slavery and will flee, leaving the mimics behind if the battle turns.
A local wood-elf tribe, known to be friendly in trade, have suddenly shut their forest-gates and are turning all visitors away. Rumors of a new sickness swirl.
Ogres have gathered in a nearby valley in their teeming hundreds. They have come to choose a new King, and the blood-games are about to begin. They will last for 10 days and after the King is crowned, they will rampage on the surrounding area, concentrating on live slaves and food for the coronation feast. The King's name is always Bubba.
Zombies, risen from a nearby graveyard are bothering travelers. If the party intervenes they discover the zombies are asking for parley. They are not mindless. They are not hungry. They are something new. They need help.
A threesome of Shadows have taken up residence in civilization. They have been unable to keep their hunger under control, and they have been seen. The party discovers this when they enter the streets and find the city in a religious fervor, the Temples preaching overtime at the Evil in their Midst.
A drunken musician tells one of the party that if they can play his instrument (I swear this isnt entendre) as well as he can, he'll pay them a large sum of money. If they agree, they have a 5% chance to actually win. The musician goes first and always rolls a 20. If the player loses, the musician becomes enraged and insults the player. If they win, the musician laughs and screams and jumps up and down and runs off leaving the player with the instrument. An angry (cursed) Pixie is attached to the instrument. She will threaten and emasculate the user in a tiny voice only the user can hear, and will only be silenced with music. The cursed instrument can be cleansed by a high level divine caster.
A Gibbering Mouther rolls out of somewhere. It's delighted to see the party, calling out "Hey! HEY FILTH! C'mere you filthy fucker! YEAH YOU YA MEATBAG! FILTH! Hey, WAIT!". It will pursue the party until dawn, and will fade with the rising sun, returning to the Demi-Plane of Hunger. It will pursue the party for a week, appearing at dusk.
A party of adventurers, bedraggled and bloodied, comes limping down the road. They tell tale of a Formorian giant who has demanded a toll of all who pass, and has killed every attempt to drive it out. A large bounty is on the Formorian's head, offered by the head of a local merchant's guild.
Satyr's Gone Wild - its a hot summer night and the moon is full. A large pack of Satyr are caught in a Bacchanalia, and are gathering up stragglers as they go, but what the traveling party will soon find out is that they are being hunted by a hunting tribe of Slaadi, who have breached the plane nearby, with a Timed Gate.
As the party is breaking camp, they are overrun by a huge group of Crawling Claws. A nearby Necromancer (3 levels above party) is watching nearby, and this is a test of his new creations. If spotted or the Claws are defeated, he will flee to a nearby tower and attempt to contact his master, an Oni.
Ettercap have taken over a village. They have nearly all the humans in a protected larder, and are watching for rescue. There is a nearby Dryad who will aid the party if they look like they will aid the village.
One of the party members wakes up with a disease. It is highly contageous, but will not kill the original host. The disease kills in 1 week, but if anyone who is infected remains in close proximity to the original host after 7 days have gone by, they will benefit from the change in the disease's chemistry, and be cured.
A woman is blowing a whistle and screaming that someone has stolen her daughter. She is pointing "that way" and will tell any who listen that her little girl's name is Binta and she is only 6 years old. She will try to accompany anyone who says they will help search. She will keep thinking she sees her daughter. She is delusional. She has no daughter.
One morning a thick fog rolls in, ice cold and lingering. With it brings a hunting pack of Merfolk. They are hunting "swine" as payback for the Coast Wars in the distant past. The Merfolk's village is in a nearby bay, and their predations will continue for several months. The leader of the Merfolk is quite mad, driven so by the attempts to woo a sexy fishlady. She is unimpressed with his antics.
A merchant caravan is being swarmed with Goblin raiders. There are hundreds of them, attacking at least 10 wagons. If chased off, they flee towards an old wooden fort moldering in the forest. A hobgoblin band of exiles commands them.
Everyone in the town is afflicted by horrible nightmares, night after night, including the party. Its always the same dream for everyone. The entire town burns to the ground and everyone devoured by shadowy forms, unless the town sacrifices their children in a nearby cave system. In a cavern under the town sits an imprisoned Yugoloth. It's trapped in a circle of Binding, an impressive one, as the spell has persisted after its owner's death (whose body lays just meters from the trapped demon). The demon will hound the town until the townfolk perform the Unbinding for him, and he can escape. The demon's true name is Emman-Gutsucker
While the party is trying to be stealthy, they come across a small swarm of Flumph flitting about, some resting on any nearby walls or objects. A triad of Illithid is nearby, interrogating a local prisoner for information on an artifact. The Flumph are simply feeding, and will flee if interfered with or attacked. The three Mind Flayers are close by, perhaps underground.
The party comes across a pair of mating Owlbears, and a group of Rangers who warn the party off and threaten violence if they interfere. The Rangers give no names and will say no more, but attack if necessary and flee to warn others if hard-pressed. The Rangers are, in fact, Rogue/Wizards, who are trying to breed new aberrant species, and the two "Owlbears" are, in fact, an Ettin and an Umber Hulk (yegods that's a memorystain you can't erase), under a mass Illusion spell. This trick will become apparent if the creatures are attacked.
A pseudodragon appears in the party's camp, begging their help with a terrible disaster to have befallen a local racial outpost. The dragon makes wild and imaginative accusations of crazy mixed up creatures with goofy, cartoon powers. IF the party decides to help, the PDragon leads them on a wild goose chase, playing pranks on them and berating them for moving so slowly. If the party declines, the PDragon takes immediate offense, goes invisible, and actively interferes in the party's lives (in the form of a -1 to every roll) for the next 7 days.
A traveler on the road passes the news that the local mining concern has put out a reward for anyone who will clean out their mines from an infestation of Rust Monsters (and possibly a Roper (or two)). The reward is substantial and a Wand of Ice (3 charges) will be given to the party directly when they accept the challenge.
A group of lost boys. A series of flyers asking for help, in multiple towns. Then rumors they have returned, and sickness follows them. A dread pestilence that causes all loss of appetite. This is just the latest is a series of "pranks"by a Jubilex, the Faceless Lord (pg. 52 PHB 5e)
During the night there is an explosion and a flash of light brighter than daylight. A crater is nearby, and the body of a Planetar is imbedded at the core. It's Fiendquencher blade is missing. The Planetar looks as if it has been torn apart by a million tiny cuts. There is a handful of tiny machine parts, cogs and gears and flywheels near the body, scattered about. It appears that a CE Tinker Gnome has, incredibly, completed his Life Goal and slain one of the Celestial Elites. The Gnome's army of micro-machines and the Gnome himself are nearby, gloating.
Hobgoblins have decided to lay siege to a local fortified town. Their lines are loose for now, but will firm up over the next week and their leader, a cunning Ogre, will definitely win this fight if no outside help comes. It's the first of many campaigns by this growing army.
The party comes across a huge tumbled wagon and the bodies of many dead dwarves. A few are struggling in the wreckage and the ear-splitting cries of the captured Hippogriff nearly deafens everyone. The Hippogriff will break free soon, and the remaining dwarves are terrified. They work for a circus, one camped 3 days away. The circus leader is a Dragonborn named Ohpa Tuntunndrentington
A passing train of wagons (at least 10) has very friendly passengers. They urge the party to join them and save themselves the trouble of walking. They are heading into the wilderness to start a new village. Which is true. But the leaders of the caravan have hosts being controlled by Intellect Devourers, and their true master, an Illithid, is waiting for them to arrive.
A lover's fight has gotten out of hand, and now the town is on fire. The area where the party is staying is completely ablaze. Magmin can be seen scampering in the inferno.
The local bard's troupe are a band of Wererats, and one of them has contracted a disease which prevents her from returning to her human form. In panic, the infected Wererat/Bard stumbles into the party and begs their help.
A party member wakes up to find themselves surrounded by small wildlife. The animals may be driven off, but will always return. After 10 days, the party member will begin to show minor physical signs of plant-like changes. After 20 days the wildlife will disappear and only 1 will remain as a True companion.
Two words. Crashed. Spaceship.
A local Hill Giant is demanding tribute again. The request this time is 3 virgins ("this time"... ahem) and the town is refusing. So far 14 boulders the size of wagons have come crashing over the walls. The town is desperate. The giant is hungry and has a Wand of Fireballs (2 charges).
The party comes across a battle between Treants and Thri-Kreen. They are both being controlled from afar by a powerful evil Druid, who wishes to stir up and break all the old alliances here. His minions, some Sprites, can be seen hanging around the battlefield. They will flee if attacked, reporting back to their master.
The party is attacked in their rooms by every object present, including their own weapons and armor (treat every item as an Animated Object). A local teenager has just discovered they are a powerful Wild Mage, and the entire town is experiencing the same. Every day some new strange occurrence will confront the populace.
The party disturbs the napping place of a Xorn. It is the pet of a Stone Giant who has gone to look for food. If the Xorn is killed, the Giant will go on a rampage.
Three words. Giant. Pink. Bunnies. You decide why :)
A cabal of Wizards has gathered to perform a ritual of Permanency on a local building. They need some fresh corpses to complete it. They send out scouts to ambush the locals. One of the scouts attacks a party member.
A mixed collection of Golems are rampaging across the countryside. They appear to be free-willed.
Blizzard! or Flood! or Sea/Sandstorm!
A famous and beautiful actor/tress has come to town to perform. The celebrity takes a shine to one or more of the party members. After many meetings over several nights, she invites her new fans to attend a party on her yacht. The celebrity is a Night Hag and she mighty damn hungry. On the ship are Sahuagin disguised as sailors with illusions.
Wights from a nearby cemetery have been given orders by a Will O' Wisp (with 20 INT) to start taking slaves from the local area. The Wisp needs bodies for a ritual that it wants to do to try and transfer itself into the body of a host.
A unicorn appears from the Feywild, and warns the party of a great approaching evil, and the confluence between the Shadowfell, the Prime Material Plane, and the Feywild. This is all a lie, the trick of an Enchanter who likes to see how adventurers plan to destroy a great evil, and then helps them destroy themselves.
A vampire comes to the party in broad daylight and begs the party to help him die. Nothing will work. He is truly condemned to immortality, but begs the party to find a great beast that can devour him whole.
A pack of Mephits (appropriate to the terrain) stalks and terrorizes the party until destroyed or driven off. They delight in theft and traps that injure.
A poltergeist gets attached to one of the party's items.
A troll appears from under a bridge, demanding a toll. It's wearing an armband enscribed with the symbol of the Deity of the Road/Explorers/Travelers. It will not attack if not paid, but will defend itself. If the toll is not paid, the Troll will send an Invisible Stalker after the offender, by using a Ring of Stalkers (that I just made up) that has (4) charges left.
The party hears the panicked scream of a horse, but discovers a tribe of orcs who have somehow managed to capture a Pegasus in a heavy wired net.
A local druid enclave is so desperate they have put up signs asking for help with the Vegetable Menace, a self-styled King of Shamblers. The druid's sacred grove has been taken over by a powerful Shambling Mound and its been creating human-vegan thralls to serve it.
A house of Drow have taken over the nearest town and are capturing all who visit. They plan on selling the inhabitants to a stronger House, in exchange for larger trade sanctions and a seat on the Council. They have Driders.
One morning one of the party member's weapons decides to speak.
On a rocky field a pack of Displacer Beasts and Blink Dogs wage the oldest war known to their species. If the party intervenes on behalf of the Dogs, they will give the True location to a cache of treasure nearby.
A local falsely accuses a party member of theft and blackmail. The local is wealthy, but not well liked. The town guards get involved.
In a tavern, an attractive person approaches one of the party members. They give the party member an invitation to an exclusive party in a nearby secret location. The attractive person wants to go now. The party is a recruitment drive for the Deity of Love/Pleasure/Procreation/Etc.. and is very hedonistic and lasts 2 days. The party member may or may not be asked to join as a Seeker of the Faith.
A group of dwarves are over-logging a nearby wood. Some of their hanging corpses have been found near a common byway. A local bandit gang is behind it, worried the dwarves' activity will bring Rangers to the area, or worse, Druids.
A group of CG goblins have set up a trader's camp, and have some wares on display. They speak limited Common, and will haggle over every purchase, if they are not just slaughtered on sight by roaming bands of murderhobos.
A gold dragon lands nearby and asks the party if they want to hear a joke.