Self-mummification is a real (and kind of squicky) practice. But what could possibly be better fodder for a RPG MacGuffin then a statue of a dead monk covered in gold? The following uses generic terms that could fit into any sort of campaign.
Resembling a man sitting in the lotus position, the Golden Monk is actually a combination of lacquer, copper, and gold-leaf painted on the form of a desiccated corpse whose internal organs have been removed and the rest of his body allowed to dry over several years. The base is made of ceder wood which has been lacquered as well.
At least a thousand years old, the statue holds the earthly remains of Xi Quo Shan, a Buddhist monk of some renown. Before he died, Shan realized he still had more to teach his students and in a final act of fortitude used his very bones to create a conduit that he could communicate with others from beyond death. Passed down through the years, the Golden Monk has been in the hands of paupers and princes alike and is said to harness thoughts and still the mind. It has been in the hands of madmen, tyrants, and musicians who all claim that it’s given them some special insight into their craft.
Depending on the campaign, any number of complications
Action: Recently, it’s come up on a auction and their are multiple interested buyers who are not interested in actually buying it, but stealing it. Its “insight” granting abilities are purely a placebo effect – though one rich (and dying) billionaire Thomas Reva believes in. He hires the PCs to steal it for him (or to stop others from stealing it so he can outright buy it). Can the PCs work up the perfect plan to get in and out of the auction house before being seen? Will they live long enough to claim their promised reward?
Dungeon Fantasy: The delvers have just found the Golden Monk hidden in the recesses of a ruined monastery (or are going after it!). They’ve been charged by the Master of the West Wind to bring this holy relic back to the Order, but find in doing so they have given a corrupt martial artist access to unfettered power. The statue contains not only the soul of a powerful martial artist – but a demon who possessed the body of the martial artist (resulting in the monk mummifying himself to contain its spirit forever). Unleashing his wrath on his temple the Master of the West Wind summons demons and chaos monks to get rid of his brethren. Can the delvers assault the temple and stop this mad man from raining his wrath across the land? Or will they succumb to the temptation of power that the Golden Monk offers?
Monster Hunters: The Golden Monk is the tether for a powerful ghost who helps those he considers worthy (whatever his criteria are they must be odd, because he’s helped master vampires and vampire hunters alike). He can teach any sort of supernatural ability including psionic powers, mysticism abilities, and magical Paths. The champions can even benefit from such teaching, but learn the secret of whom he considers worthy: they must beat him in a duel. If they succeed he’ll teach them whatever they wish to know, but if they fail…well, it’s not pretty.
Pulp: As for Action, but the statue is rumored to hold a map hidden on its surface to a famous lost city. Regardless of whether it has power or not, people want it for the map that can lead them to a place of untold riches. GMs wanting to complicate matters can have the statue contain the spirit of a enlightened monk who can teach things like psionic powers, secret martial arts techniques, etc.