Last year, I ran Black Fang's Keep for some friends.. This year, I am doing a follow-up, with a lot of different players. So far, my lineup is:
Human Barbarian, returning from last year
Eleven Wizard, new, huge LOTR fan.
(Possibly) Elven Rogue, also returning. Probably not.
2 more, yet to create characters. Coincidentally, all my friends who are playing are girls. I have a weird social circle.
If the rogue returns, my brother will not play, which is a Good Thing. I am also advancing everyone to third level, so everyone gets fun feats to play with, and new spells. I am running an original plot, roughly as follows:
PCs have been around Sandpoint for around a year. Various members of the party have left, but others have appeared. They have dedicated themselves to hunting down Black Fang, and keeping the Dragonbane sword they found. Recently, it has been stolen.
They are approached by the Elven wizard Faerinill Sunigail, who tells them that the sword might have been stolen by orcs under the thrall of a Serpentfolk, Sasheeriz, and taken to an ancient Serpentfolk temple of Ydersius. However, he believes that the Serpentfolk has shapeshifter into the form of a half-elf, Alviriss Kaelborn, who is watching them from the corner of the tavern. Sunigail tells them quietly that the half-elf has stolen his wand, which he needs back.
That night, both the elf and the half-elf are gone. There are drunken men everywhere, the most prominent a huge tiefling fighter. While he appears very drunk, he is the partner of Kaelborn,and was told to watch the rooms upstairs. However, he decided to enjoy himself, but is still watching out. The PCs need to distract him, and break into the room and stealthy wand.
The next morning, Sunigail meets them and they head off to the Serpentfolk temple. They are ambushed by the former thralls of Sasheeriz, the orcs. At this point, I start dropping hints that the elf Sunigail is actually Sasheeriz in disguise, and that he is using them to subjugate the temple defenses and use for sacrifice. The half-elf and tiefling are actually investigators looking into the murder if the real Sunigail.
When they reach the temple, there are two encounters: a big trap which isolates party members and drops snakes, and the boss. While the party is separated, Sasheeriz gets away to the main chamber, where he uses to sword stowed there by the orcs to initiate a ceremony, something to do with Ydersius. He is joined by more snakes and an animated statue or two. Before the party storms in, the investigators show up, and try to explain what they know. If the PCs do not kill them or something else happens, the two join in the final battle, as a rogue-2 and fighter-2. After that they return to civilization and hear a rumor of Black Fang, or something to that line of effect.
If you post a rules question, you will get answers quickly because most of us can speak to rules.
If you post a question of mechanical advice for playing the game (which feat next, best class, elf or half elf), you will get some answers, though it may take awhile for people with opinion on the topic to see and compose their thoughts on question.
If you post a question of mechanical advice for GMing a game (how to stop diplomacy abuse, cool trap ideas), you will get less answers as fewer posters are actually GMs.
Lastly, if you post a story and want to know if the story sounds good, you're addressing the smallest contingent of posters; GMs who know enough about the background story to be able to speak on the topic and have something useful to add.
I'm not discounting your post; it is a perfectly fine one. I read it yesterday and thought it sounded fine but I've never run a game out of the Beginner's Box, so what can I add? The name wouldn't have really helped get attention from anyone that could give you useful advice.
Party looks fine; it is the quintessential D&D five player party. It has no blatant holes and should be able to contribute to any situation admirably. Advancing level to 3 should be fine given than they have played level 1 -> 2 already. The Wizard and Cleric have the biggest upgrade due to access to a new level of spells.
The story is rather involved, which I suppose is a good thing... the party certainly won't guess what is coming. It'll teach your players to be paranoid, which can be fun but also somewhat annoying at times, heh, when they start questioning if every NPC is a dupe.
Now, as per the adage "no plan survives contact with the enemy", here are a slew of questions you should consider. They are all of the less-than-expected situations that come off of your plot description. Basically anywhere something could go wrong. You should consider, to some extent, how to handle each of them.
The answers aren't too important to us, but it is vital that you think about it (and if you already have, awesome, as handling what to do when players deviate from the plot is the hardest part of GMing in my experience). You want to avoid saying 'no' when a player wants to go somewhere or do something not in keeping with your plot thread. There are many ways around these derailing events, but sometimes the best way around is through and next thing you know, the story is somewhere else and all your carefully laid plans are useless.
So what if they don't want to get the wand back or decide to keep it? What if they try to hire the tiefling? What if they kill the drunk tiefling? What if they confront the half-elf immediately? What if they don't wait until evening to get the wand back? What if they decide to tail the half-elf instead of getting the wand back? What if paranoia hits the party and they figure out who Sunigail is before they reach the temple? What if the players don't trust Sunigail and tie him to the barbarian before entering the temple? What if they avoid the trap?
Hope you all have some good fun with the adventure. Soon you'll be ready to upgrade to the full edition and run some adventure paths! There's at least one featuring the same town, which would be fun (you could turn this set of PCs into NPCs in the new game; local heroes and the like, heh).
Part of the thing I am planning is to have Sunigail himself asking the players to investigate the temple, leading them to the trap. I also plan on having the serpent say the wand is his bonded item, and that he is useless without it. I like to believe that I have covered my bases well.
Good points. I'd say watch out for the wizard checking the wand to see if it is magical (such as, say, a bonded item) and for the accidental murder of one or both of the investigators before the temple.
The hard part about inexperienced players is that they don't know the shape of things. They don't know not to split the party, not to go one on one with someone, etc. I could definitely imagine the group sending the rogue to steal the wand solo, the barbarian and fighter to follow the half-elf out of town, and the cleric and wizard act as look out/distraction/get some sleep so they can have spells prepared tomorrow.
Ok, in the temple of Ydersius, there are three chambers. One is a large puzzle room with three levers, one being partially stuck and requiring a STR check. When all are pulled, the door opens, but wooden bars come down around them separating the room into three parts. A snake comes down in each part.
Then there is a hallway, with nothing in it. When they reach the last chamber, Sasheeriz tells them to go back and secure the temple while he fiddles with some wards. Back in the entrance chamber, they meet the investigators. After that is resolved, they go to the altar room and have the last battle. Sound good?
Oof. We played today, and it was fun. They mostly went according to plan, the only thing that went slightly wrong was that my brother did not trust the Serpentfolk that was disguised, so he had to Suggest he leave, which worked. I must have rolled 7 critically, though, all confirmed... The Wizard player and Archer player did not show up, but the party managed fine.