A spritely little old fellow sat comfortably on a tree root not fifteen paces off. He was clad in a single garment made from the hide of some unidentifiable and long-dead animal. It covered him from neck to knees and was cinched around the middle with a wide belt with a brass buckle. From it hung several pouches, a double-edged knife, an old silver horn, and a crude but serviceable battle-axe, well-rusted and probably taken from a barrow.
Elizabeth Boyer – The Sword And The Satchel
The obscure corners of the D&D world are brimming with dungeons, barrows, and other ancient treasure caches. Occasionally, a peasant or woodsman will stumble upon a cave and emerge with an ancient, runed +1 sword or axe.
What will a peasant do with such a find? Some will sell it at the next county fair. Others live too far from commerce to find a willing buyer. And, jewels and runes or no, an axe +1 is better at chopping down trees than a regular axe.
This means that occasionally, PCs should find remote peasant families using ancient treasures in their labor. This might be an opportunity for the PCs to buy an item for less than market value, and it may tip the PCs off that there’s a source of ancient treasure nearby.
Here are some other possibilities (roll d20):
1- One of the ancient items is haunted! The peasant will give the PCs the treasure if they will take care of the evil, horse-sized cat in the barn.
2- The peasant is not what he seems! He is a barrow ghost in disguise, and only his magic weapon is undisguised.
3- The peasant is a mighty fighter who wrested the item from ferocious monsters. There are more treasures in the barrow, and more ferocious monsters. The PCs might be outclassed unless they bring the peasant along.
4- The peasant family acquires their treasures by murdering passing adventurers. They suggest that the PCs stay the night, and explore the barrow tomorrow. There is no barrow: the peasants will try to slit the PCs’ throats as they sleep. In the basement are graves.
5- The peasant asks for an exorbitant sum for either the treasure or the location of the ancient barrow.
6- The peasant is willing to sell and will adjust the price according to how big a deal the PCs make about the item.
7- The items are “cursed”: they love their peasant owners. While a PC has one of the items, all paths will bend so as to lead back to the peasants’ farm. Strange coincidences will occur so that the PCs keep meeting the peasants.
8- The item allows you to Turn werewolves using Turn Undead mechanics, and the peasant is afraid to sell it unless the local werewolves are destroyed.
9- The peasant is holding the weapon because it’s one of those ones that will not leave your hand until you kill a foe. The peasant can’t sell it until someone helps him kill a foe: apparently farm animals don’t count.
10- The peasant is waiting to hand off the item to a Chosen One, in accordance to an ancient prophecy about a Red Woman who will arrive from the east. The PCs are not the Chosen Ones, but the peasant is sick of his custodial duties. He keeps hinting to a female PC that she should go have a picnic in the East Pasture, and here, wear this red hat.
11-15: Just an ancient treasure the peasant found in a barrow. There is no more treasure to be found there.
16-20: Just an ancient treasure the peasant found in a barrow. There is more treasure in the barrow, and a guardian monster.