|Elbuagnin - Idea Man|
He thought of it first --->
The basic idea is to set up an adventure where the PCs stumble upon events that are turns of phrase acted out literally. The first would just seem strange, but the mystery builds as more and more are encountered. Are the town's people cursed? Is it magic?
This seems like a perfect fit for my Dreaming Gods campaign. I don't want the Dreaming Gods to be defined only by their portals to other realms, or some random wild magic zones. I want them to influence the world only very rarely, and in strange unexpected ways. This set up is perfect for one such instance. It's an effect that's obviously set into motion by some kind of intellect, but the reasoning behind it seems to make no logical sense. More on that later.
I'd start with the PCs traveling along a road leading to the town. Just before they get into town they see a fork in the road, literally. A big metal fork, like a carving fork sticking into the road.
A little further along the PCs see some of the events described in the post I linked above, a mother throwing out her baby with the bathwater, a performer gets his leg broken, ect.
The people might seem surprised by their actions afterward, but they aren't in a daze or stupor at the time. It is more like temporary insanity than any sort of charm spell. They may not remember their strange actions at all.
A man buys a pig in a poke (sack), but discovers that he has been swindled when he lets the cat out of the bag.
The blacksmith grumbles and berates his apprentice while grinding an axe, eventually yelling loudly at the young man for his laziness, grappling with him, and trying to force his nose into the grindstone. Once the PCs intervene (I hope), the blacksmith will snap out of it and be full of remorse and guilt.
A dishonest merchant cooks the books, but he gets burned and is caught red handed.
A magistrate of the local lord is trying to help stop these odd events as best he can. He keeps saying "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help" but invariably causes even more problems, because he is compelled to do things "by the book". He is constantly flipping through his book of laws and trying to punish every minor crime he sees. No one can seem to stop him though, because his pen in mightier than the sword.
By this time I imagine that the PCs will be trying to get to the bottom of all the craziness. I'm not sure how they would start to investigate, but I'll see what they come up with, it could be useful. The PCs won't have to spend much time investigating, because a little bird will fly up and tell them what's causing all the trouble.
All the troubles stem from a man named Swoop. Swoop is the local animal trainer, but unbeknownst to the townspeople he's also a grim killer who takes delight bashing people with a hammer while making awful, awful jokes about "hitting the nail on the head". His last victim cursed him with her dying breath. Though the Dreaming Gods aren't conscious per se, even They sometimes take notice of extreme emotions... especially when mixed with blood. They're moved by the dying woman's basic desire to punish Swoop, but Their reaction is unfocused and dreamlike, causing turns of phrase to be acted out in literal ways in a wide area around the killer.
Swoop can no longer sleep at all because there is "no rest for the wicked" so he is now "barking mad". If confronted he will "cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war". Obviously the dogs he trained are this man's best friends.
The solution to this town's problem is a "no-brainer", the killer just needs to be decapitated. Then all of these troubles can be wrapped up neatly with "one felled Swoop".
Some other things that may be worth including:
A nest of vipers
Bats in a belfry
A skeleton in the closet
Frog in the throat
A fish out of water
I heard it through the grapevine
Go out on a limb
Paint the town red
A wolf in sheep's clothing
Beating around the bush
Raining cats and dogs
Apple of my eye
A pot calling the kettle black
Pulling the wool over your eyes
Spill the beans
A sight for sore eyes
Bury the hatchet
A sick puppy
Saved by the bell
Dead Ringer (but not the real McCoy)
Music's charms sooth the savage beast
Fruit of your loins (yeah... maybe not this one)