In our first adventure, no one died to kobold falling rock traps. The players had their training wheels dungeon crawl, so now I get to start messing around with things. Our monk couldn't make it, but we had the addition of a bard by the friend who was the peanut gallery last time.
The towns folk are happy, the baby-stealing kobolds have been eradicated, and our neophite heroes can spend a few days resting on their laurels.
Until another baby goes missing.
Now, clearly I'm used to a specific type of gamer. The ones that decide to poke at everything. Instead I get the ones that go "Oh, there was a crime? Let's find the sheriff!" Come on guys, stop making me come up with characters on the fly
As indicated above, the players wanted to find the sheriff's deputy (the sheriff did show up, but they still wouldn't take the bait). So en-route they encountered a hysterical and panicked woman, babbling something about her brother, her sister-in-law, and her niece. Something's wrong with her brother, his wife is nowhere to be scene, he won't let her see his daughter, and there's something in the basement.
Our heroes are on a mission, to find the deputy. So they split the party, escorting Ravel to her brother's and retrieving the deputy.
I'm totally remembering that they're willing to split the party when then GM is clearly railroading them towards plot.
Arriving at the home of Randal and Verin Mostana, they find a home in disarray and something clearly wrong with Randal. Under the attention he breaks down sobbing, "I did what I had to. She's still in there. I can hear her. She's asking for Topha. I can't give her Topha."
Then they start hearing noises from the basement. Shrieks, gurgles, moans, pleading. And in the middle of it all, a woman's sing-song voice calling out. "Where's Topha? It's not right to keep a girl from her mother. And I'm so hungry."
While the party searches for the trap door to the basement, Ravel has clearly had enough of the situation, blows by everyone to go upstairs, to grab her niece, and leave. The rest of the party arrive with the deputy in tow.
The monster du jour was what D&D calls a "gibbering mouther," but may more recognizable under the name "shoggoth." As soon as I saw the creature in the Monster Manual I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it before even the first game was outlined. In this case, send the party off hunting "baby eating kobolds" only to have it all end up being children kidnapped by a man who's wife was consumed by a shoggoth that was calling out in her voice to be fed their child. Add into this the monster has terror effects, this was going to be lots of fun.
I can say I succeeded in creeping out my players.
Now, I did modify the gibbering mouther. The MM lists it as a Challenge Rating 2, but considering it could pretty easily one-shot the player with the highest health, I whittled down the damage and increased it's health. For players with slightly less benevolent DMs, if you encounter one of these things do not get within melee range unless you're not phased by 5d6 damage. I didn't want to actually kill them all off yet.
Also, that terror effect I mentioned? My players had a lot of trouble making the DC10 wisdom check (the deputy botched his first check which allowed me to neatly remove him entirely). Where I started to get creative is when players failed the wisdom check multiple times in a row, and came up with customized hallucinations.
In the end, the monster was vanquished and the players explored the basement, finding the workshop. Clues indicated that Verin was something of an arcanist, crafting potions and scrolls, who summoned (and failed to properly contain) the shoggoth that ultimately consumed her. I figured this was a good excuse to supply the party with a number of potions in lieu having a healer with a few extra bennies since I'm planning on several games at least before any more potions or scrolls drop as loot.
Next up is journeying, messing with a certain dragonborn who's gotten on a god's shit list, advancing plot, and building up towards the big jump that most classes hit at level three.