Years ago, I ran a D&D campaign in which the heroes were tasked with stopping an evil kobold necromancer from resurrecting the god of vampires. For the first half of the campaign, they spent their time trying to locate the little bastard. Finally, they located the necromancer’s lair…a practically impenetrable fortress in the mountains (where else would it be?) filled with undead minions that needed to be destroyed (because really, what else do you do with undead minions?).
The paladin initially tried to use his Detect Evil ability to help locate the necromancer, but the castle was filled with evil to the point that the lair itself radiated evil (as evil impenetrable fortresses are prone to do). The paladin had to turn off his Detect Evil ability simply because he was becoming overwhelmed by the amount of evil and couldn’t pinpoint any specific evil (this will be important later. Pay attention).
The ranger, who had smartly chosen kobolds as a favored enemy, then became tasked with tracking the little monster through the fortress. They found him and chased him through the fortress, with various minor battles ensuing as the necromancer summoned his undead minions to cover his escape.
The chase went into the bowels of the dungeon (well, of COURSE it did! Where else would it go?) As they entered the dungeon, down the corridor they heard a woman screaming for help. The paladin, being a paladin, rushes forward to find a young woman locked in a cell (and of course disrupting the ranger’s ability to track). There are a few skeletons that attack the party, but they dispose of them quickly.
The rogue unlocks the cell, and the young woman throws herself, sobbing, into the Paladin. The necromancer had killed her brother and turned him into one of the skeletons that the party had just destroyed! He was planning on sacrificing her to some vampire god before they rescued her.
The ranger wanted to resume tracking the necromancer, but the girl pleads with the paladin to get her out of this terrible place. This of course leads to an argument between the party members. They can’t take the girl with them deeper into the dungeon, and it probably isn’t safe to leave her where she is. But if they escort her out, the necromancer will get away! It’s one of those inconvenient moral choices I often throw at my players. The Paladin finally just insists that they take the girl out of the fortress and they can leave her with his squire (who was left outside to tend to the horses).
So they go back out of the fortress and leave the girl with the squire, then the ranger resumes his tracking which leads them…
…right back to the cell they just rescued the girl from.
After spending a few moments looking for a secret door or something, it occurs to them all that they never did ask the girl if she had seen the necromancer recently. So back out they go to question the girl and…
The squire is dead, most of the horses are dead, and one other horse is missing and the girl is gone.
Oh, and the ranger finds kobold-size footprints.
Their initial thought is the kobold must have doubled-back, kidnapped the girl, and stolen a horse (this is what you think when your entire party fails an intelligence check!). So they go BACK into the fortress to look for clues to the kobold’s other lairs.
They find the kobold’s main study in which they find magical tomes, some magic treasure, and an assortment of…wigs and other items useful for disguises. It seems that besides being a necromancer, the kobold also dabbled some in illusionary magic. They also find some notes that explain the spell components needed for the ritual.
Well, throughout the first half of the campaign, the party came across a lot of side quests. Again, this is something I throw into the games. There is always more to do in the world than just the main quest. They have an assortment of side adventures available to them to gain loot, build alliances, and establish their reputations.
Some of these side quests included: Helping a dwarf destroy a mob of yellow musk zombies that had slaughtered his companions, helping an elf avenge her brother’s death by killing the peryton that killed him, helping a gnome clear out some plant monsters from a cave, etc. etc.
As they slowly realized that they had been helping the kobold gather spell components all along, the look of sheer horror on their faces is something I will treasure forever.
And then one of the classic moments from all of my games is when the wizard looks at the rogue and says “Ew, you kissed the kobold!” because the rogue had tried to hook up with the elf during the peryton mission.
”I feel sick.” was all the rogue could say.