I had a bit of spare time today, so I set a challenge for myself: hit the "Random Trope" button on TVTropes and come up with something interesting for use in D&D based on the result. At best, it'd give lead to some neat ideas. At worst, it should be worth a laugh.
Rolling the digital dice gave me Animals Hate Him
So, taken at face value, the obvious course of action would be to make an NPC who's hated by animals despite their best efforts and try to tempt the players into helping them. It'd probably be boring if the NPC was just some rich person offering an absurd reward, though. Perhaps not so much if it was a very unusual reward (like some kind of magical artifact), but still, that feels uninspired, if not exactly dull. Let’s do better, shall we?
1. Instant Idea, Just Add Magic (Item)
Pick a magic item. Make sure it’s something desirable. Add animal antipathy to it as a drawback. Always keep that in mind. ALWAYS.
2. Antipathetic Druid
There's a druid 'round these parts. The villagers all know the druid by reputation and deed, if not by name and face, for the druid has protected our land for several decades. Recently, however, the druid took to all but living in a tavern, piss-drunk day and night, doing nothing while the wildlife has been assaulting people on the fringes. To make matters worse, horses and other beasts of burden now shy away from the tavern, and any smaller animals forced inside turn feral immediately. Whatever could've happened?
3. Lonely Wizard
Legends abound about the terrors lurking in the woods, stories of great bears with screeching owl heads that destroy all in their path, giant spiders with glistening metallic legs that can leap from out of sight to impale a helpless victim, ovoid-bodied bats that hover silently at the edges of campfires in quiet anticipation of their burning out, huge colorful frogs with articulated hands and feet that have learned to craft weapons poisoned with their deadly secretions, and many more horrors beyond imagining.
Yet another legend says that, hidden within the dark heart of the forest, there stands a stone tower, the singular construction of human hands within a dozen miles. Within the tower lives a wizard. The isolated location had made it seem like an excellent haven for sorcerous research, free of unwanted distractions, but arcane knowledge takes long years to develop, years which the mortal mind is ill-equipped to bear alone. The wizard tried attracting pets from the woods, but no normal creature could stand the rife stench of magic within its walls, and even those charmed to obey the wizard fled at the first opportunity. Frustrated, the wizard turned to spellcraft to conjure better pets; nay, true companions; but playing at creation only thickened the unnatural charge in the bastion's air, driving anything trying to live in the tower insane in short order.
Over the course of years, the aberrant beings have been growing more numerous, turning the once-bountiful forest into a land of living nightmares. Those who've come to depend on it for sustenance and livelihood doubt how much longer they can survive. Some few have ventured deeper, either looking for a solution to the problem or else motivated by more avaricious desires for the secrets of the fabled wizard's tower. None have yet returned.
The universe abhors imbalance. As campaigns waged by storied heroes bring peace and prosperity, such gains must be offset by danger and discord on other fronts. The proliferation of sedentary living, giving rise to animal husbandry and domestication, has gone unopposed for too long, and so the time has come for the cosmic pendulum to swing back, stirring forgotten savagery and viciousness in the hearts of those hamstrung by the shackles of civilization.
Some few are able to hear the desires of the universe, whether it be a blessing or a curse. They have set out to right the imbalance. Nothing ties them together. Nothing tips their hand. So far as any can tell, they are normal people, going about their normal lives. Out of sight, however, they hear the cosmic call and act to obey it. Farming families are slain wholesale, crushed and buried under the hooves of stampeding herds. Children are torn apart by dogs that had watched over them since infancy. Cats allow rats to spread their diseases in food stocks. Left unchecked, there's no telling how far the destruction will spread, nor who'll be left alive in its wake.
5. False Flag
The girl grew up alone, and nobody cared for her. The townspeople beat her and chased her off when she begged them for alms, and they warned travelers not to fall for her tricks. One day, she was too slow in clearing the road for a noble procession, and she was trampled underfoot. Nobody tended her wounds, and nobody missed her when she crawled away. Many years passed since then, and everyone forgot about the girl.
One night, a covered carriage pulled into the town. A beautiful woman stepped down from it, so pale that she seemed to glow in the moonlight. The townspeople were captivated, but as soon as she opened her mouth to speak, they saw her fangs and ran away, screaming. Without saying a word, the woman returned to the carriage and rode away.
Each night for a week, someone was killed, drained of all their blood. The following morning, however, a woman walked into town, wrapped in rags from head to toe to protect her from the dirt and grit of the road. She said that she’d dealt with the vampire terrorizing the town. The townspeople scoffed at first and threatened to stone her if there was another attack, but no more came. After two days passed peacefully, the elated townspeople had a celebration in her honor. Many suitors approached her, and she said it would only be fair to give each one a chance, so they let her stay in the old keep at the edge of town, where she could spend time with each suitor privately.
Nobody noticed that the woman had the same eyes as the beggar girl who was forgotten. Nobody noticed that the keep has been devoid of vermin ever since the vampire's first attack. Nobody has raised an alarm that each suitor she has called on has never been seen again, fearful of what it might portend.
A man came to market. He was a curious man, but he was very nice. The man paid handsomely for everything he touched and left with all the wares that he could carry.
The man came to market again. The merchants perked up when they recognized him and made sure to offer the most luxurious items that they could. The man paid handsomely for everything he touched and left with all the wares he could carry.
The man came to market for the third day in a row. The merchants were starting to run low on goods to tempt him with, but they put forth everything that they could. The man paid handsomely for everything he touched and left with all the wares he could carry.
The man came to market for the fourth day in a row. One of the merchants had nothing left to offer. The man said he was disappointed, and a crow swooped down to pluck out the merchant's eyes. The other merchants sold what they could from their homes to appease the man. The man paid handsomely for everything he touched and left with all the wares that he could carry.
The man came to market for the fifth day in a row. Two of the merchants had nothing left to offer. The man said he was disappointed, and snakes sprang from under both merchants' stalls to bite them, dropping them dead. Panicked, the other merchants broke into the nearest house and offered everything within to appease the man. The man paid handsomely for everything he touched and left with all the wares that he could carry.
The man came to market for the fifth day in a row. On seeing his approach, the remaining merchants felt too guilty about the previous day to repeat their actions. After some deliberation, they drew straws. The one who won apologized to the others before selling them to the man as well. The man paid handsomely for everything he touched and left with all the wares that he could carry.
The man came to market for the sixth day in a row. The final merchant told the man that all he had left was himself. The man was not satisfied with the offering until after a swarm of locusts swept through to eat all of the exposed food. The man paid handsomely for everything he touched and left with all the wares that he could carry.
This is the seventh day, and I can hear him coming again. Help me.
…yes, I know the last few deviated quite far from the trope. I only said that I was using it for inspiration, not that I felt bound to include it in each idea. Call me out in the comments if you disagree, though, and I'll aim to make up for it.