Well, it’s been fun thus far. Let’s do another. This one isn’t terribly clever, but it will have long lasting effects that will run perpetually through your campaign. The sort of thing that helps create continuity…the binding effect of an inside joke.
Have the party contacted by an assayer’s office, and feed them this story: while examining the collapsed remnants of a mine near town, a few of the company’s prospectors stumbled into a party of thieves hiding in the caves, in the middle of dividing up treasure. They recognized the thieves as local wanted toughs and took the law into their hands, apprehending them. But before they could successfully grab both the criminals and the loot, one thief threw the most valued treasure of the trove (the Idol of Gazoomba or some other fool name) into the mine’s central chasm, which is reported to be three or four hundred feet deep. The prospectors paled at the thought of going in themselves, so now the company is hiring the work out to freelancers. They company has bought the rights to sell the item if it can be recovered, and if recovered the party need not be worried about fencing the item. The item is not magical, but is made of a rare green stone. It would be nice if the party had a locate object spell, but if they don’t give them the needed scroll.
Great. Have the party practically kill themselves trying to get this object back. Once they’ve found it, point out that while the stone is green, it doesn’t seem that valuable. If detect magic or similar spell is cast, indicate that yes, the object does emanate with magic…but don’t tell them what the magic is. Let them find the secret catch that makes the idol vibrate, however.
On the way home, have the party stumble across a caravan or a roadside inn being attacked by bandits. During the combat, have a twelve-year-old boy (one of the defenders) flee from the battle with his arms wrapped around a blanket. At the end of the battle, have the party find the boy, who is holding the blanket for dear might, and make it clear that there seems to be something wrapped inside the blanket. Investigation will show a duplicate Idol of Gazoomba inside the blanket. Have the boy beg to have it returned. “I always wanted one,” the boy says. “Pleeeeeeeese!”
Upon examination, the party should discover that the two idols are virtually similar in every regard. The carving might differentiate a little, but in no way that seems to matter. Both objects emit the same magic and both objects have the secret vibrate-causing catch.
Let the party puzzle this out as they head back to town. Upon entering, point out that they must walk through the bazaar. They hear a voice, “Toys! Get ya toys here!” As they look at the table showing off the seller’s wares, they should see about 20 duplicate Gazoomba Idols, all for sale, cheap.
(This works also if they’ve chosen to keep the idol and go to another town)
If they return to find the assayer’s office, have it completely cleaned out. At that point, it’s up to you. You can either leave it a mystery forever, or let the party know somehow that it was all an elaborate ruse by old enemies to get them killed by the gelatinous cube colony that infested the bottom of the chasm. Whatever you like.
One way or the other, Gazoomba Idols can then be found occasionally throughout the rest of your campaign, whenever you want to make the party feel stupid. Fun fun fun.