Adventurers are in need of a rather rare reagent sold by one merchant in the city — who’s fresh out of stock. Apparently, his supplier is a weirdo who arrives randomly guarded by animated armor. Fortunately, the merchant knows roughly where he is from. So, instruction are given and the party heads out.
Investigating around the general region, the party does spot a small town, surrounded at a distance from the center by unshapely stone walls. From a distance, it looks lively.
When they reach the gates — which are also connected to unshapely walls (that can be revealed as Wall of Stones made permanent at this distance by one knowledgable in Arcana), they meet the guards: A pair of animated armor and an armor stand dressed in diplomat’s clothing, enhanced with a magic mouth spell. “We do not want outsiders, please leave.” it says.
In the likely event that the players fight or find another way through, they’ll notice something even more peculiar: The population of the “lively” town seems to be all animated objects. Blacksmiths forge items, butchers have fresh meat to sell, animated cloths walk around, pay attention to each other and even stand near each other gesturing so naturally that you can almost hear them. But there are no bodies.
The party can find the reagant merchant and bail out. But will they resist the temptation to learn more? How did this town came to be? Where are the actual residents? Who animated all these objects?
I didn’t try to write the whole adventure this time but instead provide a concept/template to build on. I had one of two scenarios in mind. One, a wizard did an oopsie and caused the deaths of everyone, something happened in his absence etc. Maybe someone died of a disease and folks appreciated the wizard doing an animation of the person but then the disease spread. Important thing is, the wizard slowly or suddenly loses it. The other story is that there was never a real town to begin with. Either case, the wizard isn’t stable but also is harmless.
A way to go about it could be that there are places important to the wizard and those locations he guards with stronger versions of animated armor. His own location is guarded by something beyond the party’s power or maybe a ward/portal arch that can only be reached with a particular item or phrase. The party needs to “discover” what these points are and what happened and figure out the key to make it to the wizard.
It could be the case that the party needs something from the wizard and they need to help him see the truth. It could be the case that the wizard starts building an army in the future (maybe after being attacked — it could even be after the party talks about the town, so they feel guilty)
By itself, this is likely to be simply a part of a bigger adventure, but it can be built into an actual adventure and there are good opportunities to plug it to expand the world and add a recurring character.