Cyberkyd’s article “Unlimited Ideas for your RPG Storyline” gave me this idea, and I highly recommend reading his article for more information on stitching these patches of stories into your campaign.
Crack open a book of fairy tales and mythology next time you can’t figure out a new story to embed in your game. Stories passed down through oral tradition are sometimes the most complex and are made up of random bits of fantasy anyone can dig up. I took the liberty of sifting through some of the Grimm Brothers’ work on Wikipedia as well as some mythology, and pulled out these gems.
- A blue-bearded noble keeps marrying and his wives keep disappearing mysteriously. (Bluebeard)
- A witch in the woods changes maidens into birds, caging them up, and can halt people where they stand. A special flower is her only weakness. (Jorinde & Joringel)
- A noble magician divines out his son is destined to marry a peasant girl—and sends the order to kill her. (The Fish and the Ring)
- You are hired to figure out how twelve princesses— who are locked up at night—wear out their dancing shoes, as well as you must bring evidence of where they’ve been. (Twelve Dancing Princesses)
- When you put a little blood in a special well and jump in, you are transported into a different world where a kindly old lady will reward you for hard work in gold. Shaking out her bedclothes causes it to snow in the real world.(Mother Hulda)
- A miller accidentally promises his daughter to a devil in return for wealth. Turns out she is too pure to be taken and ends up getting her hands cut off by her father to fulfill the deal. She travels, being taken care of by an angel, and ends up marrying a king, who gives her silver hands. He goes off to war while she is with child. In a series of letters between them that were tampered with by the devil, the king learns his child is a changeling (lie) and he orders the child and his queen to be killed and her heart to be kept as proof(lie). (The Handless Maiden)
- A bird that only spoke the truth is kept by a giant that lives in the castle of Come-and-never-go. You can only get directions from a witch if you give her water from the fountain of many colors. Also, the Bird of Truth is indistinguishable from Birds of Ill Faith, who constantly surround it. Only an owl can tell the difference. (The Bird of Truth)
- A flute made from a bone of a dead man sings a tale of his murder. (The Singing Bone)
- A cabbage patch where, if eaten, the red cabbage turns people into donkeys and the white cabbage cures it. (Donkey Cabbage)
- A princess is held captive in the Castle of the Golden Sun, where she can only be free by a Crystal Ball. To find the ball, you have to go down to the foot of the mountains to a spring and fight a wild bull that is there. Once killed, a bird will come out of it, which can be forced to lay an egg, and the crystal ball is its yolk, but the egg itself will light everything about it on fire. (The Crystal Ball)
- Basically anything from Baba Yaga tales. Wiki it. She can be a benevolent or malevolent force in your campaign. You got a skull on a stick that gives off light that kills evil-hearted people, a log cabin on chicken legs, a doll that does impossible tasks, a hag that flies around on a mortar and pestle, three horse riders that represent the Day, the Sun, and the Night…it goes on and on. (Slavic Mythology, Vasillissa the Beautiful)
- BasCelik (or Bash Tchelik) is a similar character to Baba Yaga, but he’s always the villain. He is disguised as an old man bound to a wall, who asks the heroes to give him water. When he drinks, he regains power. He has a lich-like trait where he took his soul, hiding it in a crystal mountain, which is in an egg, which is in a bird, which is in a fox. Very similar to the Crystal Ball story. (Slavic Mythology)
- Another Slavic mythical figure is Koschei, who has the lich thing going for him as well. His soul is hidden in a needle, in an egg, in a duck, in a hare, in an iron chest, which is buried under an oak tree on the island of Buyan, in the middle of the ocean. Anyone who possesses the egg controls Koschei and he loses his magic and sickens. If you toss around the egg, his body will be tossed around as well, and if you break it or the needle, he’ll die. (Slavic Mythology)
Katelyn Sweigart is a journalism student, writer, and gamer from not-so-sunny California. She’s been playing tabletop RPGs since 2007 but has been dreaming up stories about dragons since the toddler days.