Player character rogues and thieves seem to want to pickpocket random NPCs at the most inopportune times. This can be a headache for you, the beleaguered GM, if you need to come up with something interesting for the pickpocket to lift than just another bag of 10 gold pieces. To ease the burden, I have compiled a list of nine items for the prospective pickpocket to steal. The items look innocuous when first inspected, but, at your discretion they can serve as adventure hooks. Have fun with them.
A Small Book
The pocket-sized journal is filled with handwritten notes, diagrams, maps and prayers – to a particularly vicious evil deity. The book’s owner might be the leader of an underground cult that worships the deity and is recruiting members in the area. The notes in the book provide clues to the owner’s identity, as well as to the location of the cult’s hidden temple. Of course, if the pickpocket asks questions of the wrong people or starts snooping around, he might well find himself a leading candidate to become the cult’s next sacrificial victim. The book might also have been carried by a religious inquisitor that is working undercover to hunt down the members of the cult. Of course, the inquisitor will probably want the book back and might be willing to take it by force.
A Metal Box
The box appears to be made of steel and is about an inch long on each side. It has no obvious openings, but rattles when shaken. The box can be opened with magic or perhaps a great deal of physical force. When finally opened, it’s found to contain a small red bead that has cracks all along its surface (perhaps from all that shaking). The bead is actually a ‘demon ball’ and the cracks in it have started to release its contents - a very angry extra planar creature. Fun for all involved will surely follow. (Yes. The Wormy reference is intentional.)
A Brass Key
The brass key is finely crafted and appears to be designed to fit a complex lock. The lock is on a vault owned by a prominent merchant. A crest on the key can be used to identify the merchant. The merchant has important papers in the vault that he desperately wants. They might be needed to close a sensitive business deal or perhaps for something more sinister like blackmail. He wants the key back badly enough to pay handsomely for it. On the other hand, if the pickpocket is too greedy or slow to deal, the merchant might be content to send an assassin to retrieve it.
A Piece of Bread (Wrapped in Paper)
The bread is just a piece of moldy bread. The paper, however, appears to be an old and faded piece of parchment torn from a book. The writing might require translation or even magic to be read. Once it is, the parchment is found to contain directions to the location of an ancient crypt. The crypt might contain any number of treasures – and terrors or it might have been emptied long ago. As an added complication, if the pickpocket uses an NPC to translate the parchment, the NPC may tip off another group of adventurers that might be interested in exploring the crypt themselves.
A Wooden Whistle
The whistle is simply carved from animal bone. When blown, it makes a high-pitched, almost imperceptible tone. The whistle could summon a guardian animal of some kind that might – or might not be friendly to the whistle’s new owner. It might even magically summon a horde of small animals or insects. Alternately, the whistle might be the key that unlocks a secret door or even a portal to another plane.
A Sealed Letter
The letter is folded and closed with a wax seal. If read, it is found to be a steamy love letter from a well respected (and married) female member of the local nobility to a much younger captain of the local guard or militia. She is very keen to not have the letter become public of course and is willing to pay a reasonable amount of blackmail to prevent it. Of course, she also might pull some strings and have the pickpocket arrested and thrown into the local dungeon until he turns it over.
A Dirty Handkerchief
The handkerchief is made from fine silk. Unfortunately, it has also been heavily used. Even more unfortunately, the owner was infected with some sort of contagious disease that the pickpocket has now contracted. As a less dangerous alternative, handling the handkerchief might leave the pickpocket with a strange red rash on his hands. The rash is harmless, but of course the pickpocket won’t know that.
A Mysterious Marble
The marble is approximately an inch in diameter and appears to be made of glass. It is initially clear when found, but as it is examined later it will turn various colors and even appear to glow from within. It is actually just a toy created by a mage to amuse a child, but the pickpocket might well mistake it for something else. And of course it might very well be something more powerful (or sinister) at the GM’s discretion.
A Yellowed Fang
The fang or tooth is nearly six inches long. A character with the proper skill can identify it as the incisor of a large animal or monster. It is yellowed and dark and looks smooth as if from years of handling. The fang might be the component for a spell, a spell focus, etc. It might even turn into a powerful monster if the proper spell is cast on it or perhaps if it is planted in the ground, ala Jason and the Argonauts. Of course it might also just be an old tooth and nothing more.