I played this campaign as a player many, many years ago, but our game ended before we finished it. I had rather liked it and picked it up to play around, but never did much with it. After binging Critical Role, I got into my head that I'd like to give running this campaign a try again.
I remember when I had played the game feeling like the riots when we left the Fishery was abrupt, and thought it had been my DM rushing things. I was shocked to discover it's in the campaign book like that. Well, I have read pretty much every post in this part of the forum and have taken a great deal of notes.
While I plan on mostly running the Campaign as-is, there are some changes I want to do. First, to bring in NPCs earlier/foreshadow characters/events. I want to connect some of the random events to the main story more. And I want to give some more breathing room between some of the events. Oh, and include some ideas that are just fun.
So I've tweaked Ileosa and Gaedran Lamm's stories a bit, and added a few extra missions here and there.
Here's what I'm planning for Book 1:
Ileosa came to a “backwater” town like Korvosa for the sole reason of learning more of the Runelord Sorshen and following her footsteps to become eternally young and beautiful. Due to her naturally charming presence, Ileosa quickly seduced the king and became queen. The title might not mean much to Chileax, but it’s still a title, and that’s more than she could have back home. Besides, the doty old cote would be dead soon enough. Besides, marriage into the ‘royal’ family gives her access to everything in the castle, and more importantly, everything underneath it.
[The Sunken Queen/Pool are in the Pyramid under the Castle. The Pool, the holy relic, is the reason the pyramid was built. Sorshen perverted the Pool, but was eventually defeated and sealed up. When the Shoanti shaman brought the Fangs back to the area, they added them to the Pyramid, where they already had a system for guarding. (Unfortunately the Chelix invaded and most of the guardians who knew what was in the Pyramid were killed. At least one minor guard family survived, who only know they have to stay by the pyramid and keep watch, not about what they're watching or the signs that something is going wrong. They don't recognize the Muse Artists as a sign Kazavon has been released.]
But in the years since she’s been in the castle, she finds she doesn’t have enough power to break the seal to get into Sorshen’s section of the tower, or to the Everdeep pool even further below. However, in her thorough searching of the vaults, she does find a powerful artifact sealed up: the fangs of Kazavon.
Breaking the seal on the Fangs allows Kazavon to reach out and spread his influence to those around him. Primarily, of course, is Ileosa, but he also reaches out and touches others, notably the muse-artists. For these artists, his influence speaks of art—dark, disturbing, but art.
For Ileosa, he inspires dark and terrible plans.
While she had always been a terribly selfish and vain woman, with Kazavon’s influence, she is ready for more direct action to get what she wants.
Her husband has not been kind enough to see himself dead yet, so she makes plans to rectify this oversight. Similarly, the Seneschal must also die, for he could prevent her from declaring herself the ruler of the city. She begins to make plans for what will need to be done to activate the Everdeep Pool—the blood of her citizens.
And she has a craftsman secretly build a crown for the Fangs, so that they may always be with her, giving her their power and wisdom…
Meanwhile, while Bahor is content to play as Glorio Arkona and his gradual plans for more power, his sister Meliya chafes at always living in her brother’s shadow. She decides to taking up her own pieces to move about in the game of politics. Her current piece is a minor crimelord, Gaedran Lamm. While Bahor’s influence is strongest in Old Korvosa, Meliya, as Vimanda Arkona, hopes to build a stronger base on the mainland, and she thinks Lamm is the way to start her own crime empire.
With Meliya paving his way, Lamm’s minor crime sphere exponentially grows. He is able to entice his wayward son, Rolth Lamm, back into the business, at least for a little while. For Rolth, always a brilliant man, tinkering with the formula for the drug Shiver, developing a new variant known as Shudder, it’s a waste of his talents. Still, in exchange for his help making Shudder, Rolth gets access to other ingredients for his own particular research interests.
While doing some necromancy work, Rolth meets a like-minded ally in one Ileosa’s lady companions, Lady Andaisin. Realizing how Rolth could aid in carrying out the tasks Ileosa has charged her with, Lady Andaisin takes Rolth under her wing.
…And away from Lamm and his Shudder factory.
Lamm, never one to quietly accept rejection, first attempts to force Rolth back by stealing the clearly-important broach Lady Andaisin carries hidden on her person.
This is Ileosa’s brooch. Ileosa secretly gifted the brooch to Lady Andaisin to prove her affection. Ileosa seduces and uses everyone, but her charm is so great, that she is the sort that, even when caught with another, can convince you that while she might be using that other person, her feelings for you are genuine. Of course, none of them are; Ileosa only loves herself. Still, to reassure Lady Andaisin that she is the one Ileosa truly adores, not Sabine or any of the many others Ileosa might seem to favor, Ileosa gifted her with the brooch, so that Lady Andaisin could look at it and know of Ileosa’s love.
While Lamm might not have known the backstory, he was confident the brooch was important, and by stealing it, he could force Lady Andaisin to leave and Rolth would return to work in his Shudder labroratory.
Lamm, however, didn’t count on Lady Andaisin’s steely disposition. Instead of capitulating to his demands, she faked a theft and had the brooch reported as stolen—a move that spoke loud and clear “your move, b*++#.”
Well, Lamm, being of small mind and simple thoughts, decided his move would be to hire someone to kill Lady Andaisin.
His plan might have worked, but he didn’t contend for one of his other recent victims to have the power to reach from beyond the grave…
Zeeva Foxglove is fretting… Her good friend Zellara hasn’t come by the Green Market in a couple weeks, and on one rare chance when Zeeva was able to actually leave the Market, she swung by her friend’s place to check on her. There was no one home, and the place looked rather vacant. There was, however, a spread of Harrow cards upon the center table, and in the center of the spread was the Yellow Prophet, a clear sign of coming doom!
Back at the market, Zeeva continues to think about the cards, and what she can do to stop the terrible danger she knows is coming…
Zellera, using what powers she can still access despite her ghostly form, reaches out with everything she has to find people who have the potential to aid her friend, avert disaster, and maybe, give her ghost some peace.
The heroes find the Harrow guards with a mysterious message, but instead of leading them to Zellera’s place, they lead them to Zeeva Foxglove, as she’s pondering the Harrow spread. She enlists the aid of the heroes to prevent the tragedies the cards foretell.
[where should I have the heroes meet for meeting with Zeeva? I like the idea of giving them a few minutes to interact before MISSION starts, but it doesn't make sense for them to meet at Zellera's home first]
1. Portent’s Peril
In addition to the changes of backstory and situation as outlined above, the target for the assignation attempt isn’t Lady Qualstair, but Lady Andaisin, who for most of the world is simply a Chelixian lady companion to the young queen. Otherwise, this will run as written. Should the heroes fail to save her life, thankfully for me, Lady Andaisin is a priestess for the Goddess of Undead; she’ll just come back in book 2 as something Undead.
[Perhaps lady Andaisin was in the markets following a tip about the missing broach. That would be a clue for when the pcs find it later]
Mad prophet: “It’s about the blood! The blood! And the bones! The bones that chomp into your brain, and won’t let go!”
2. Zellera’s house
Upon (hopefully) successfully saving many lives, Zeeva tasks the heroes with one more thing: to check on her friend Zellera. When they go to her house, it mostly like the Adventure Path; the heroes might see through the illusion and realize she’s a ghost, or they might not. If they didn’t learn Gaedran Lamm’s name from the assassin, they’ll learn it from Zellera. She explains how Lamm had killed her son and stolen her Harrow deck. She tried to get justice from the Guard, but Lamm has a few Guards on his payroll, and she doesn’t know who she could trust, or if they could do anything about him. She asks the heroes to bring Lamm to justice and to please return the Harrow deck to her.
Zellera doesn’t know where to find Lamm, but he’s notable these days for his Shudder drug, a stronger version of Shiver. If the heroes follow the trail of Shudder, they should be able to find Lamm
(if the heroes do some investigating around, they’ll learn Zellera is well liked, but hasn’t been seen much lately. The neighbor’s are glad that creepy old man who’d been hanging around, harassing Zellera hasn’t been seen recently either.)
3. St. Casperian’s Salvation (From the end of Second Darkness AP – 1)
I really liked Olondir and Askren’s modification (https://paizo.com/threads/rzs2rib2?Taking-down-Gaedren-modifying-the-opene r-to), and am looking into following their lead. Basically, from my understanding of their plans, St. Casperian’s Salvation is basically a drug house where the heroes can easily find and from there, follow the drugs to their source.
I haven’t gotten this module yet and I’m a little uncertain if this little adventure is what I think it is. But I do like the idea of a step before the Old Fishery, and I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel if there’s already a good set piece developed that I can use.
Olondir's notes for this:
Run pretty much run as written. The only modification involves making this place a shiver den. Perhaps describe this place with a bit more broken needles and stuff. (see my advice about giving shiver a smell.)
Optionally, add a few of Gaedren’s Little Lambs as lookouts. (Think about the kids and what they do in HBOs the Wire.)
Really though, nothing really changes here except in the treasure, I’d include some doses of shiver, a few fishballs, and perhaps a note about fishery location in Westpier 17 for a reup.”
4. Old Fishery
From the drug den, the heroes can track things back to the Old Fishery. This again, will run more or less like the Adventure Path, except Lamm won’t be there and, in addition to the fishcakes, the Fishery also serves as a distribution hub for Lamm’s Shiver/Shudder business, because the fish smell masks the drug smell, and because the legitimate business adds to the cover of the drug business.
(Note on Lamm’s Lambs: the ones who go off into the city, they are Shiver/Shudder dealers. They sell the drugs on the streets. Lamm and Yargin sell the drugs to the Lambs at a reduced price, allowing the Lambs to have a small profit, enough to eat well and to feel rich, not enough that they can live independently. So the Lambs keep coming back to Lamm, despite his harsh treatment, because having some wealth is better than not. Lamm takes the small hit on sales that the Lambs make because the goal for the Lamb’s selling is to get people into Shiver/Shudder and into the dens, where the real money is to be made.)
When the heroes get through the Old Fishery, there are a couple ways they can find the next lead to Lamm (either get Yagrin to talk, or figure out his ledger, or get some of the Lambs to talk…) and they learn of the shipments from the secret warehouse to the Old Fishery and can follow it back.
Like Olondir and Askren suggest, the warehouse is the one that will eventually become the Hospice of Seven Days to the Grave. It is, of course, a gift by Meliya. I don’t think I’ll reveal the smuggling tunnels yet; I’ll keep the action up on the main floor.
Lamm is staying at the warehouse, instead of his ‘comfy’ place in the Old Fishery, because he’s pushing his replacement mad scientist to replicate Rolth’s Shudder recipe. With Rolth not coming back, Lamm’s Shudder stock is dwindling, and nobody else knows how to make Shudder. Lamm’s got someone who can maybe figure it out, but he keeps wasting time doing things like sleeping and eating and not getting it done already! [Will need to create stats for the Shudder mad scientist]
The heroes defeat Lamm, they find the brooch, the Harrow deck, and Zellera’s severed head.
As the heroes are finishing up, the Guard arrive, either responding to reports of some sort of fighting going on, or coming in on their own tip of the drug warehouse. This group is led by Grau, giving the heroes a chance to meet him first when he’s on the job so they can know and like him (hopefully). Unless the players completely sneak out, avoiding all contact with the Guard, this will get them on the Guard’s radar as heroic types.
It also publicly calls out that the warehouse was an Arkonas building. Bahor, as Glorio, realizes his sister’s playing games and doing it terribly, and does what he can for damage control; he sends out a public apology letter in the Korvosa Chronicle, explaining it had been an old warehouse they’ve had vacant for ages, but he should have been more careful with it. He will donate the building to the city (which is how and why it gets used later as the hospice. This donation will come to bite him on the butt later when the queen spins that the Urgathoa cult and plague as of his doing, and not hers)
6. Return to Zellera’s house
Presumably the heroes will want to return to confront Zellera, and they’ll learn she is indeed a ghost. She thanks them for returning her Harrow deck. She can’t quite rest in peace though; the Yellow Prophet she drew wasn’t about the assassination attempt of a noble woman, or the other, tragic events the heroes hopefully stopped; it’s about something big going to hit the city. She doesn’t know what, but it’s big and its coming. With her deck, maybe she can find out more about it?
This gives them a house to use if they want it, an ally to help if they want, or Zellera could be dropped if they don’t want to utilize her place/her, as the players see fit.
7. The Brooch/Heroe’s welcome
At some point, the heroes should find out that the brooch they have is the queen’s, and that it’s been stolen and there is a large reward for its return. When they go to return it, they’ll be ushered in to the Castle where they will be greeted by the king and queen. Elodred is clearly sick, but gives a nice speech for their aid in returning his beloved queen’s brooch.
Ileosa is very excited to have it returned to her. If the heroes saved Lady Andaisin’s life, she’ll also recall that they were the ones that helped her friend. She’s very grateful for their help. She tells Elodred he should ask the heroes to help them. He tries to demure; they have the Sable Marines to do that sort of thing, but she (childishly) insists that the heroes are here now and the Sable Company will be needed for the coming festival, and the heroes are clearly go-getters. The king is sick and tired but smiles indulgently at his wife and lets her have her way. He asks the heroes if they might be willing to give further aid to the crown. There is a task he could use their aid on. They would be well compensated, of course, if the heroes could go check on a problem they are having on the development of a new trade route.
This allows the heroes to meet some of the important NPCs, and get a mission that gets them out of the city for the couple weeks for the king to die and the city to fall apart.
[Perhaps, also to feed the idea that Ileosa is childish and a bit out of touch, she says that the heroes should hold off on going to Kroft because that evening is a celebration for the unveiling of a new portrait of the queen! The heroes simply MUST stay for it! This introduces Trinia and amongst the other art is also one from Salvator Scream, introducing him and his art and the idea of the artist-muses some. Have another piece of art inspired by the Blackjack story, to feed that myth into the story. Maybe have Vencarlo their handler during the art show, giving them a chance to meet and like him. Can include some other notable nobles, like the Carowyns.]
8. Bloodsworn Vale Trade Route, via Skeld's game thread: https://paizo.com/threads/rzs2ucyw?Skelds-Curse-of-the-Crimson-Throne-Spoil ers#4)
Or Golden Goblin scenes from Second Darkness' 'Shadow in the Sky.', as suggested by Fletch
This sends the heroes out of the city for a week, long enough for the city to really get nuts. (as they leave the city they'll hear some bells tolling, but won't find out what that was about until they get back.)
9. City gone made/Riots
Event 1: Getting back into the city. The heroes are stopped at the gate by guards who are reluctant to let heavily-armed people into a city actively rioting. The heroes have to use skills to get past guard. Bluff/Diplomacy/Intimidate. First chance to learn the king is dead, Senschel is missing, and city is rioting.
Event 2: Mad Prophet. As they are making their way through the city, they get accosted by the mad prophet shortly upon their entering into to the city. (maybe same guy as the one from Portent Peril?)
Event 3: From the prophet, they run into a mob.
Event: Completing the contract.
While they might stop first to sleep, eventually the heroes should want to go to the castle to get paid. The guards at the castle tell them the castle is closed, no entry. He’s not inclined to help them out. Second guard approaches, unless they totally botch the talk, this guard is more inclined to listen and help. The castle is closed up, no entry but for the queen and the advisory council. The seneschel is missing. But the heroes did do a mission, they should get paid. The captain of the guard might be able to help. (first is dismissive of this idea, but second guard is liking this idea more) Guard just got on duty, but if the heroes go to the guard’s headquarters tomorrow, after guard has had a chance to talk with Kroft for them, they shouldn’t have any problems.
City Gone Mad 2
Event 4: Imps & Dragons, as they leave the castle, they get accosted by some imps and dragons.
Event 5: Menagerie/Goblin Monkees (next day, on way towards guard. If they’re staying in Zellara’s, the Varisian Menagerie group goes to the house seeking Zellera’s aid. If they aren’t staying in the house, they run into the group as they start their way through city, or otherwise awakened by the group outside?) The Menagarie group wanted Zellera’s aid in finding some of the escaped animals (so a bit of RP fun of the two groups surprised to see each other). More skill checks! The last of the missing animals are the group of Goblin Monkeys causing trouble in an alchemist potions shop. (if not staying at Zellera, the PCs are woken up by the Menagerie group trying to catch one of their escaped critters, and get roped into the event from there.)
Based on ideas: https://paizo.com/threads/rzs2o8e2?Extra-encounters-in-Edge-of-Anarchy
Welcome to the Guard,
City Gone Mad 3
Event 6: - the PCs have to face down plunderers who want to rob a baker;
Depending on what time they meet up with Kroft and what time they decide to go to All the World’s Meet (and how they go about it, if they investigate, if they go straight there or not…) another mob type encounter, showing the growing scarcity of food and common people’s growing anxiety for getting food. If not appropriate before All the World’s Meet encounter, happens after. (Similarly, if they are being very slow and careful in their investigations, add Drunk Guard encounter before All the World’s Meat, otherwise, afterwards)
All The World’s Meat
Plays as written, with a bit more info around, regarding Verik and Meliya.
(Balor is able to spin things and deflect that they were just trying to help the poor masses; he is completely ready to throw Verik under the bus. Kroft (and Ileosa) doesn’t believe him, but there isn’t yet enough evidence on taking down the Arkonas. Bahor dismisses the idea that someone of the stature of his sister could possible be involved with a simple guard? This is all just a plot by one of the other families to try to discredit him, his family, and their attempts to do good, like making sure all the people have food.)
City Gone Mad 4
Event 7: Drunk Guard
Drunk guard can happen either after All the World or in a sense, during, if they PCs are taking their time with the investigations. But most likely, this will be after the mission is done and the PCs have reported back to Kroft. Depending how the PCs handle Verik, if they bring him (and the others back alive), if they can provide any info, and how they talk to Kroft, she might be starting to thaw on them. If they take care of Grau and bring him safely back she’ll definitely be better inclined towards them.
After All the World and Drunk guard, Kroft will give PCs some time, a few days while she investigates/interrogates Verik. In this time, they heroes will have the Hellknight encounter which leads in to Veteran’s Vault.
Event 8: Hell Knight Encounter. the PCs have to stop the Hellknight from slaughtering protesters;
Leads in to:
Veteran's Vault, (not sure if level 3 pcs should be handing this at the low or high tier for the scaling. Might do sort of a mix, seeing what seems appropriate as they go)
During the riots, the Hell Knights have been taking a 'no-tolerance' policy and are arresting or killing for even the slightest of provocations. Sascha Antif-Arah, an older, now-retired, adventurer, steps in and stops such an execution while the PCs are in the area.
No matter what the PCs try to do to help, Sascha will kill the Hellknight. She then warns the heroes that they all need to get out of the area, FAST.
When they're in a safe alleyway a bit away, Sascha will explain that since she made the killing blow (not matter if the other PCs had been fighting as well), the Hellknights will only be looking for her, so they should be safe, but she will need to get out of the city, and soon.
But back in her adventuring days, she and her buddies took out an old Zun-kuloth cult under the city, and the team has used the old vault as a hiding place for the wealth they'd gained in their adventuring days. Her team is gone now, but her share is still in the vault. Things aren't worth her life, and she'd be fine leaving it all behind, but for an old locket of sentimental value.
She'll give the heroes instructions on how to find the vault, and they can keep anything they want from it, if they could go and retrieve the locket for her, before she must leave the city for good.
[I want to do something more with this encounter. I would like it to tie more into either what has already been done in game, or setting up something for future payout. The unconnected random ambassador just feels out of place. Also, I think I'll have Pilt at the Eel's End, having an argument with Devargo, giving the PCs a chance to meet him before they MEET him in book 3)
(Possible idea: With both Lamm's Warehouse, and now World's Meat, this TWO times Arkonas have come up, with them seemingly involved in something shady. Suggestion of going to Eel's End, to a known associate? So instead of the ambassador's embarrassing letters, they go asking about Arkonas. Devargo was annoyed with Vimindia's setting up Lamm, competition, so he spills that sibling rivalry. Sets up early the siblings have problems for book3?)
(Eel’s end isn’t hunting up notes about a love affair with the ambassador but maybe trying to get some info that one of the 5 families is encouraging people to riot?
I’m not sure. I’m still not quite happy with the Eel’s end situation; worse comes i’ll leave it as stated, but i do still want to tweak it.)
[depending on if World's Meat leads into this or not, might do this before Veteran's Vault.]
The rest of the events, Queen's Scapegoat/Into the Shingles, Finding the body,
A lovely day for an Execution, will all be run more or less as in the book.
That's book 1. I haven't gone yet in depth into the rest yet. I do know I want to add a few things, as noted below.
Are there other future NPCs I should try to get at least a cameo in book 1?
Green Market, level 5-9
When should I add this, before, during, or after 7 Days?
Before, they start book 2 at level 4, so this module might be too tough. During might be possible, though I don't want to disrupt their rhythm in dealing with the plague. After wards might be good, to give a little space before the Escape from Old Korvosa adventure.
take out the Aspis Consortium guys, and have Galdron Greenheart upset by 1) Kazavon's rising and 2) the rioting and violence that has been breaking out in the city around his market, (and if during or after 7-days, 3), the pollution of the unnatural plague)
If the PCs still shop regularly at Green Market, they'll be around for a Haunting. Otherwise, Zeeva sends for them, since they had helped her out before during the Portent's Peril adventure.
Should I add House on Hook Street? Can it be mixed in with 7Days? Or Escape?
Any other adventures that might slip in well between 7days and Escape?
Add encounter: Fortress of Nail, bring in after Escape from Old Korvosa, before Ashes; Seneschel asks about Marcus; learning that he attempted to kill the queen and has been imprisoned by the Hellknights. The Seneschel asks the heroes on their way to the Shoanti lands to free Marcus.
This adventure also gives us more on Sascha. She was captured in her escape attempt and has been her ever since. Hopefully the heroes will agree to rescue her and help her escape!
Add encounter: Academy of Secrets
I think I want Academy of Secrets to fall immediately after Maidens and Mantis (They rescue Kroft and she points them to the Academae). But is this before or after Scarwell? Before; when the heroes fight Cinnabar and the Mantis, the assassin, in an attempt to rattle the heroes, brags about how they have Kroft captured. The shoati shaman urges the heroes to go help their friend before going after the sword. After all, the sword isn’t going anywhere.
They might be too high level for this to run as is if taking place after Scarwell, and I think when they get the sword they're going to want to finish things.
Other major changes, as referenced above, the Everdeep pool situation is under the pyramid in Korvosa. I want to keep the final action in the city and I'm not planning on an epic campaigns after this one wraps up.
And of course, some things will be tweaked based on what races/classes my players pick, and their backstories.
So that's what I've got so far. Any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated.
Hrm. These are a lot of thoughts about the plot. What are your players like, actually? Because:
a) If they focus on combat mostly / entirely, the plot and characters need significantly less work. It can be quite frustrating to spend hours on an NPC and see him / her pretty much ignored by the players.
b) If they sign up for an AP, they might be willing to accept railroading and sudden plot changes. So there might be less need to justify and foreshade things.
c) If they want to level at usual AP speed, they are not openminded about slow XP progression. That means additional content can give them an edge at level and equipment, turning the encounters of the main campaign into jokes.
d) If they are not extremely reliable, chances are that you will never get to book 6. There are statistics for Pathfinder campaigns: Half of the PCs reach level 8 or less only. Meaning book 3 or less for an AP. 20% make it to level 14, and only 10% to level 17.
Usual recommendation is to have a session 0, where everyone talks about their plans and expectations, before actual play. This includes the GM, who can present what they are doing, like "this AP, with several modifications to make the story more consistent, and with some modules inserted, so we will end up at level X". The players will like it more when they know it beforehand - gives them a feeling of control as well as actual control because they can adapt their PC to it.
A) The players are my sister and a couple close friends. I had wanted to play this a year ago and had done a bunch of planning then but circumstances happened and the game never happened. My friends have heard me talking about the idea for this campaign for over a year now. Everyone’s on board with a role-play/plot heavy game.
B) The DM when I played the game was lovely but that game was definitely a ‘combat-focused’ group so I never got invested in the world/characters/story. It may be because I’ve watched too much Critical Role, but I’d really like to do a very story-based game (within the parameters of an adventure path). The extra modules will help the story breath some more, and by changing some names/situations in the added modules, I can add more cameos/references/information about main NPCs and settings in the main story.
C) I’m not keeping track of XP; leveling will be dictated by the progress of the story. They may go through some levels faster than others, but I’ve talked with them about this and everybody’s onboard with that. I’ll have to keep track of money/treasure so they aren’t overequiped for the main storyline, and that’s a good reminder for me!
D) My friends are very solid and we’ve been in talks about the scheduling. We’ve worked out something that should be solid for everyone. The worst thing that’ll happen, though, is that you’re right and we don’t finish, in which case I put the game aside for the time being and try it again at a future point with a different group.
We’ve been in talks for the past couple weeks in particular about when and how we’re going to play, as well as what we’re expecting out of the game. My players are in the process now of creating their characters, and as they work on them, we’ll continue our talks.
You brought up some really good points and though they’re not something I’m concerned about with this group, I appreciate your warnings. You’re right that it would suck to do all that work and it not be needed.
Ah, I see the social part of preparation is covered really well already.
Since you want to focus on story, add a lot of content and hope to finish the entire AP: You could skip some of the less interesting battles, to save time for other things.
I find it difficult to comment on individual changes, since I neither played or ran the AP (just thinking about the latter) and the changes are quite interwoven. Weaving so many things together has the chance for better immersion, but also the risk of being overwhelming for the players. Keeping the time between sessions short should help them to keep track, I guess.
If you want to create a really narrative-based campaign then I suggest you try a different approach.
The best stories come from player-GM collaboration and co-creation. When the players see the story emerge as a response to their characters actions the narrative starts to have weight. They become deeply invested in the story because it is their story.
The way to achieve this isn't by micro-pre-planning every detail. That is just putting in more rails. You run the risk with your approach of having your players feel that your story (the GM's story) is being forced upon them.
You can avoid this by merging a player-driven narrative with the pre-written campaign. Combine the NPC-driven story coming from the campaign (what Ileosa and others are up to) with stories that come from your PCs backstories and actions.
How to do this in practice? How to plan a campaign like this? There is a wonderful article by the Alexandrian about how to do this called 'don't prep plots'.