(So much more than just another bloke in a dress.)
“Lord, you are weary, rest awhile and allow me, your impling, to provide a modicum of gloss to the journey that commences tonight’s adventures. Though the journey is a long one, and the villages along the way are plentiful, a collection of hovels may appear more amusing if they have suitable local legends. Or mayhap, great master, they may aid you in devising side-treks for the journeying.
And whilst you sleep, I shall torment your dreamings with this toasting-fork…”
Often, an adventure can span many places in one sitting, offering many overnight stops. Here are 20 village and hamlet rumors to spice up travel. Use them as simply background, as starting points for side-treks, or as whole adventures on the road.
These legends can be discovered as red herrings when gathering information or simply as background detail. Their truth or falsity is left to you: perhaps the ghost of a giant really does appear to those who spend the night in his cave, perhaps it’s just the prank of some old mad hermit, anxious for either privacy, or to keep a treasure horde hidden…
1 The village changed its name from Fob’s Barrow years ago to hide its grizzly past. They say the whole place is built on the graves of the dead, and it’s true that plows occasionally turn up corpses from a battle centuries ago. Some say that two local farmers jealously guard objects they have dug from the earth, treasures that talk or sing as though calling.
2 The annual cheese-rolling race will take place at Papper’s Mount tomorrow. A crowd of farmers has already gathered in the village, and rooms are hard to find. This year’s contest could be fierce, as both the Hat and Hanger families have vowed to win, going so far as to stake their own eldest sons as a wager. The losing son will become a virtual slave of the other family. The families have been in training for weeks, and whoever loses may not take defeat well.
3 Quarut’s Spire, a famous dolmen in the center of the village green, sits in a pool whose waters are said to cure the bite of lycanthropes. Some say, however, that the friends of those who take the waters themselves become cursed with lycanthropy in their stead.
4 The Rocking Stone, lying half a mile above the village, is said to rotate of its own volition at the end of each year. Although a child can turn the 20-ft.-wide stone, no one has ever been able to make it topple. Stories say that if it falls from the cliff, it becomes a stone golem bent on vengeance.
5 The Cloven Oak at the heart of the village is rumored to moan during a blue moon.
6 The white bulls peculiar to the village are said to be descendants of a huge bull once owned by a farmer at nearby Fallow Farm. Long ago, Farmer Arno Fallow struck and subsequently broke a bargain with a powerful devil. The bull saw the devil and turned white overnight; its master was less fortunate and was never seen again.
7 The Staggered Man, a leaning standing stone in a field near the village, is said to have been pushed over by a giant called Gaping Grog who terrorized these parts once. The stone stands nearly 30 ft. high, leans alarmingly, and is rumored to crush those who sleep under it who have impure souls. Those of pure heart who dare spend the night beneath its shadow are said to be blessed with a year’s good fortune.
8 The Witching Well, an ebbing and flowing well, fills with water only when people with evil intentions arrive at the village. Just before the PCs arrived, it began to fill.
9 Bodkin’s Brook lies in a meadow near the village and was once haunted by a trio of hags. A cave called Hag’s Sanctuary lies nearby and has been carved to resemble a noble dining hall with stone tables, chairs, and even a chandelier.
10 The Raven Tree, which stands by the main track out of town, has never had less than 100 raven’s nests in it. If the number of birds drops below that figure, dire calamities will occur.
11 The Gaping Maw, a cave above the village, was once the home of a giant. Legend states that anyone who dares spend the night there alone is visited by his ghost and never seen again.
12 Great Crob, a huge ram belonging to farmer Hab at Hab Meadow Farm, is 8 ft. high at the shoulder. Hab charges folks a gold coin to see his remarkably vast sheep. He is anxiously searching for a yew of similar size to enable him to breed colossal sheep that, he believes, would make his fortune.
13 The village green has been undisturbed for 10 centuries and is rumored to be protected by a trio of invisible fey. This morning it has been found ploughed up—what disrespectful strangers would do such a thing and risk the faerie folk’s wrath?
14 The Anvil Stone, a huge stone trough lying at the entrance to the village, was stolen from the halls of a famous frost giant jarl called Jaimit Storl. Bards claim that under the stone lies a great treasure. Sadly, no one has ever been able to move the Anvil Stone—despite the use of carts, shire horses, and magic.
15 The village is plagued by toads this year; they pop up everywhere—even in travelers’ beds. Two villagers claim that they have seen a trio of dire toads in a pond outside of the village. The dire toads, they claim, were talking…
16 The hamlet armory has existed for over 300 years. The great anvil, which the armorer uses on special occasions, is said to bring luck to any weapon forged on it, although those who order weapons for greed are said to be cursed.
17 The Pilfering Ferret, the village’s best inn, is fabled throughout the lands for its warm hospitality, fine ales, and disturbing ghost cat called Wake-Me-Not. This spectral cat curls up beside those it takes a fancy to and spends the night in bed with them. Waking the cat is said to risk death at the hands of an avenging cat monster known as the Feaster with Teeth.
18 The Black Ford, which separates the north side of the village from the south, is said to run with black blood during the dark winter nights. Those of pure soul who drink the waters at this time are blessed with long life; the wicked are covered in warts when morning comes.
19 Haber’s Ghost Owl allegedly haunts the night air above the village. It has a particular hunger for familiars and is known to swoop and snatch any familiar found alone or separated from its master for even a moment.
20 The Green Bog lies a mile outside the village and is said to be bottomless. The local landlord of the Eighty Hart’s Inn has promised free ale for a year to anyone who dares walk across it carrying an anvil. Tomorrow, Yurl Queeby intends to try.