As usual, let's start a new week with an idea for a scenario. Rather than an actual event, this one is based on a genuine bit of slightly odd folklore: let's consider the peculiar practice of Tyromancy.
The briefest bit of research reveals a dizzying number of methods of foretelling the future: historically, people have used everything from the sound of croaking frogs to the patterns left in the road by wheel ruts to help them predict what's going to happen. Tyromancy is one of these methods, although it lacks something of the cool elegance of Tarot card reading or surveying the heavens: Tyromancers discover the future by watching cheese coagulate. It sounds ridiculous. It probably is ridiculous. But what if it works?
The Cheese-maker's Apprentice
So here's the scenario seed. This lends itself to quite a wide range of settings and styles, depending on how you run it. It could take place in a 'real world' setting and have a serious tone, or occur in a fantasy setting and be a little more light-hearted. The only essential requirement is that people consume dairy products in the setting (and the blue milk from Star Wars might very well qualify).
A cheese-making business in a small town has been doing okay for itself, but recently odd things have been occurring. The owner of the cheese shop has been blessed with the most extraordinary good luck - either he's won the local lottery (or equivalent) three times on the trot, or he miraculously avoided being caught up in a recent disaster. People are starting to notice. So what's going on?
If pressed, the owner reveals he has mastered the art of tyromancy (as he is a master cheese-maker, this idea is not quite as totally nuts as it sounds) and can now foretell the future. However, he is lying: the actual prophet is his apprentice, a pleasant but not exactly quick-witted lad who works behind-the-scenes in the cheese workshop.
How does this odd occurence spell excitement and intrigue for the player-characters? Well, there are two main approaches: the problems caused by the tyromancer's gift, and the mystery of where this power has come from.
Image by Jez Timms.
A Gift More Precious Than Rubies (Or Pule*)
Regardless of its source, the power to foresee the future has immense potential, and there are doubtless other individuals around seeking to exploit it. Maybe the cheese workshop owner wants to take over the town, and has no qualms about bullying the apprentice into helping him. Even if he just wants to get rich, local villains may hear of the new prophet and seek to bend him to their will (which could lead to complications if they get the wrong man and kidnap the master rather than the apprentice).
If you're playing in a setting where magical (and quasi-magical) or supernatural powers are a fact of life, the existence of a genuine source of prophecy or prediction shouldn't be that much of a surprise to the players or their characters (which is not to say it can't still cause trouble). However, in a more realistic setting the source of the power may become a story element too.
The Fungal Connection
People put some weird stuff in cheese. Here's a fascinating (and fairly disgusting) cheese fact: Sardinian casu martzu cheese has live maggots crawling around in it (Sardinian cheese-lovers consider this stuff unsafe to eat if the maggots have died). For the purposes of our scenario, maybe the owner or the apprentice has been pushing the boat out with their cheese-making ambitions and putting something very weird in the cheese, and it's exposure to this that has given the apprentice his unusual new faculties.
If you're playing this in a Lovecraftian setting, then they may have been making cheese using (very dilute quantities of) the milk of Shub-Niggurath, or liao (the Plutonian drug of the Tcho-Tcho, which grants those who use it visions of the past and future). Or maybe they're making Blue cheese, but instead of the usual mould, they're using an additive derived from the Fungi from Yuggoth themselves, the Mi-Go (who, let's remember, are time-travellers).
In all of these cases, a more serious scenario develops: is extended exposure to the tainted cheese going to have any further effects on the apprentice? What's going to happen to anyone actually eating the cheese they produce? (Never mind the usual nightmares, they may be due a visitation from the Hounds of Tindalos.) And what's the source of their special ingredient? Is the cheese factory secretly being manipulated by one of the Mythos factions, and if so, why?
I hope there's something in these ideas you find useful for your own scenarios. If you decide to use them, I hope you have fun!
*Pule cheese is the world's most expensive kind, costing over £400 per kilo. You're welcome.