Nobody really cared much for the Lost Mines of Phandelver, so against all good sense we decided to switch to an urban-based campaign running on a sandbox/freeform basis keeping the characters but waving away the discontinuity/travel. Using Vornheim as a basis for generating the city, and a few random tables and an excellent one page dungeon by Matthew Adams to begin the adventure.
So the story picks up with everyone finding themselves in Zaira, a seemingly huge city with its warped and cobbled-together towers dominating the landscape and looming over its twisting streets. Everyone had the simultaneous feeling of knowing where they were yet knowing nothing about how they had gotten there, sensing that they had been there forever and that their previous adventures were some sort of dream.
The boys quickly sought out the nearest tavern, which upon entering was a wrecked, burned, fucked to death shell of a pub. Apparently there had been a fight between some local tough guys the previous week, but no one had any other details about that.
Dipping over to the Harmless Moon down the street, our party spied a mysterious noblewoman looking to hide from her parents, and a sobbing rat catcher begging them to help him with an infestation that was too great for his problems. The party agreed, but not before Tirias had his fortune read (“A card game will lead to an erotic encounter”) Fortunes told in Zaira always come true, eventually.
Following the rat catcher, our party descended into an old well long since dried out, the chain ringing and announcing their arrival to below. After having boiling oil and rocks thrown at them, Tirias and Guark were fairly convinced they were not dealing with rats until a giant rat wearing armor and wielding a mace ran screaming at them yelling “FOR SGROT!”
A room full of kidnapped people, mostly children. Many had already been taken away not to return. A promise to help.
Suicidelegs at one point hits a rat with the heart of another rat he just ripped out with his bare hands.
Many more guerrilla rats and several giant spiders later, our adventurers found a huge rat idol with crystal eyes (presumably Sgrot), where standing at the base of it was a nefarious bard, a piper, who had been controlling the rats and conducting sacrifices for some unknown purpose.
Negotiation failed and battle began, with our dashing trio dealing some outrageous damage to the Piper right off the bat; however they could not kill him soon enough, as the piper hummed a dissonant Dave Matthews Couplet in Guark’s ear, sending him shrieking with fear only to be stabbed in the back by the piper’s rapier.
That’s right, Guark died (well, mortally wounded and thankfully healed by Tirias)
Our enraged bowman and kung-fu master flew into a blind fury, avenging their comrade. The piper, himself grievously struck, blew a tune and fled combat, whereupon SGROT announced him/her/itself to the party as the rat god, freed by their actions from the piper’s spell.
Our heroes agreed to become Champions of Sgrot, lest the piper strike again or the city (home to rats and men) be threatened. Sgrot has allowed our heroes free use of the cavernous layer, and also handed out some sweet magical loot.
Goggles of rat vision (see in the dark! maybe other good stuff?)
A ring (or was it shoes?) of rat movement (climb up stuff! squeeze into impossibly tight spaces!)
Finally, our heroes went back to the tavern with the rescued children, walking past a group of wolves feasting on…something. At the tavern the boys got a free round of drinks and watched as Guark broke Raul the Ratcatcher’s thumbs.
Reflections: A variation on everyone's favorite level one clear the rats in the basement 'quest'. The pied piper thing here worked alright. I rolled up a level three bard who turned out to be deadly enough but unfortunately I forgot to adjust the hitpoints so he ended up dying a bit too quickly.