The local queen, governor, mayor, or other liege is touring the area in secret. She’s dressed as a tradeswoman, tinker, peddler, or rag seller. She needs to sound out the locals about a problem – a diplomatic issue, or maybe the nature of a monster affecting the village on the eastern border. Adventurers who give her valuable information may find themselves invited suddenly to visit the liege within the next week for further discussion. Or, if things go poorly, that invitation might be delivered by a couple members of her personal guard bearing sour countenances.
A beholder / vampire / your mom has been geased by a powerful clerical / fae type to spread good / gently guard the oldest tree in the forest / research and write a book about why helpless villagers are so adorable. The geas forces it to approach anyone it meets to accomplish its goal.
A traveling troupe of tumbling kobolds in a stage caravan put on entertaining shows at a roadside waystation. They use a fairy lamp as their stage light; it charms the audience into paying close attention to the feats of acrobatics and legerdemain occurring before them – and thus they miss the one or two members of the troupe wandering among them, legerdemaining the valuables from their pockets. If caught and confronted, they’ll use smoke bombs to obfuscate their escape; their stage is on a hair trigger to snap back into a caravan cart. So that’s why they kept their ponies yoked.
A dryad is willing to exchange information about local monsters / politics / adventure sites. She offers to let the party spend the night in the shelter of her tree where it’s safe. She’s sly – she’ll use social engineering or sleight of hand to get hexable materials from the party, like hair or personal items. The dryad is friends with a local green witch who can use those items to make compulsion charms. If the tree’s ever in trouble, the hexed party members will be inexorably drawn to its defense, to the exclusion of all else.
A cluster of standing stones marks the site of an ancient battle. Touching any of the stones infodumps one hour of the battle into the toucher’s mind: the two commanders had challenged each other to personal combat as a proxy for the battle to avoid shedding the blood of their armies for such a pointless purpose (whatever the purpose was), but one of the combatants broke the rules of engagement and generated a bloody, awful mess. The knightly order whose member was responsible for the tragedy set up the standing stones as atonement, warning, and remembrance.
The party is called to testify in a trial against a criminal fugitive they apprehended in the past for the local constabulary; the felon is charged with another crime, and the party will serve as witnesses to his methods and character. There’s a twist: in fleeing from the scene of the latest outrage, the felon stumbled into a fairy dance / magic fountain / trickster enchantress’s home and was sex-swapped. Now s/he claims his/her fundamental nature has also changed; s/he wants a reduced sentence / a vacation of charges / a mistrial / to make amends.
A clerical type wants to teach a lesson to one, some, or all of the party and casts an object lesson curse. An indelible mark will appear on the affected persons’ skin for every sentient creature they have wounded or killed, regardless of purpose, alignment, or justification. When asked, the affected persons must reply truthfully as to the nature of the marks. Egregious examples may appear on the face and hands.
Many years ago, a unicorn provided assistance to a village. Since then, to express their gratitude, the villagers meet her every May eve / spring equinox / Tuesday and bestow flowers / salt licks / a fatted calf upon her. This time, the anniversary came and went without the unicorn’s appearance, and the villagers are worried about the unicorn’s safety and the ramifications for their own village as well as the forest nearby. The unicorn is fine, but cannot approach the site of the meeting, as a black-hearted wizard / dark priest / insurance salesperson met a grisly end on the ritual path, and an oozing curse has taken root in that spot.
Some members of a village are acting oddly. They dress in rags but adopt the airs of nobility. Not everyone is affected, and those who aren’t wonder what’s going on. They’re affected by an elven book of stories which an adventurer found in some forgotten place in the forest. He gave it to a family in a village as thanks for the food, clothes, and shelter they gave him when he was in trouble. What he didn’t realize was that the book was ensorcelled so that those failing their Will save / those with the mind of a child / those with a touch of Elven blood would not only read or hear the words, but would also experience the events in their minds. But without the magical discipline of elven society, the humans’ minds have integrated the events of the book with their everyday reality.
A couple of teenagers from disparate class backgrounds / “incompatible racial origins” / political affiliation have become emotionally involved. Tensions are running high throughout town, including among people the characters know / trade with / serve. The characters are seen as neutral third parties by everyone, so they’re constantly solicited for their opinion. There may be negative consequences for taking sides or even the appearance of becoming involved.
A village in a valley bridging two narrow mountain passes celebrates the return of the geese every fall’s end. The fowl overwinter at a lake in the valley, where the villagers feed them and protect them. The villagers get fertilizer in return. Last summer, the local liege hired a mage to erect two enormous windmills at the mouth of one of the passes to take advantage of the natural wind tunnel. The windmills are a major boon to the village, but the following winter brought an unexpected consequence: after a couple of geese were killed by the windmills, the remainder of the flock stayed away. Now the villagers want the windmills locked during winter so that the geese will come back. Unfortunately, the liege is away at the capital for a crisis, and her steward won’t make any major decisions until her return.
A young mage’s spell went horribly wrong, and her dire celestial badgershark wrecked the fence surrounding the King’s pasture. Now the King’s golden space cattle are running through the village, including several angry golden space bulls. The dire celestial badgershark has been unsummoned, but the cattle are still causing problems. They must be contained – gently, lest the villagers suffer for any harm dealt to the cattle.