The campaign, discussed the other day, started out on Shell at level 4, with a wizard, a rogue, and a swashbuckler/knight, who were all summoned to the mansion of Bob Varakas, a minor aristocrat. Varakas was concerned because trees were being poached from the tree farms at night (this in a world where the only sources of wood are the tree farms of Shell and the mangals of the elves), and he was concerned that his trees were next.
So the party kept watch over his farm and, sure enough, came across some tree poachers, casting Silence, chopping down trees, and bringing them back to their boat. The adventurers apprehended the poachers, then invaded their ship and defeated most of the crew (only actually killing one, though, leaving the rest alive).
At this point, the captain of the poachers/pirates, respecting combat prowess, offered to let the adventurers join the crew. This was a choice that could have coloured the flavour of the rest of the campaign, though the events would have remained largely the same.
Either a.) the adventurers would take the chaotic good choice to join the downtrodden pirates, or b.) they would take the lawful evil choice of turning all the pirates in to Varakas (I never quite established if he was really evil or merely kind of a dick), and he would finagle the laws of Shell to award the confiscated ship to the adventurers, and he would give them material support as they sailed around doing his bidding.
The adventurers chose to join the pirates. They tried, unsuccessfully, to rescue the prisoners they'd already captured, then sailed off.
It soon came to pass that the ship was periodically attacked by sahuagin.
One incident involved a gargantuan shark (actually a huge shark enlarged with a spell), which did more damage to itself when it bit itself after a fumble than the party did to it.
Another incident involved a sahuagin wizard who, once he got down to one or two hit points left, cast Dance Of Ruin (a Book of Vile Darkness spell), which does 2d20 damage to every creature in a substantial radius, including the caster. He rolled something like 4, defeating himself and none of the PCs.
Anyway, they figured out that the pirate crew had stolen a mysterious lead box, containing a mysterious orb, from a crew of engineers. It later became clear that the engineers had themselves stolen the orb from sahuagins, and forged the lead box to try to prevent Locate Object. Somehow, the sahuagin got a look at the box itself and started casting to locate it instead of its contents, and the engineers got sick of the constant sahuagin attacks and allowed a pirate crew to "steal" it.
At about this point, the crew got to the Disreputable City, and a cleric joined the party. They determined that the orb was inscribed with markings in qualith, the illithid written language. So they made an iron copy of the orb with a plaster cast, and decided to seek out an illithid to read it for them.
It transpired that a reclusive cleric of Ilsensine had his home deep in the Disreputable City, so they took it to him and asked him to share the story. He obligingly did, explaining an old legend that Quasxthe, the god of the Inundation, the world-spanning permanent flood, was once a mind flayer. Quasxthe used complex machinery to raise the oceans, machinery to which there were two keys. One of the keys was given to a sahuagin cult of Quasxthe for safekeeping, the other was stolen by followers of Vecna and hidden. (I had some amazingly great justification for why Vecna was Quasxthe's biggest foe, but I sadly can no longer recall it.) This orb was one of those keys (later determined to be the one kept by the sahuagin, that being where the engineers stole it from).
So the PCs found the nearest secret temple of Vecna to look for clues. The wizard used Charm Person, and one of the priests led him straight to the innermost sanctum of the temple, to the high priest himself. After blowing up the altar, the wizard barely escaped with his life, with a combination of Fly and Invisibility.
The party, minus the swashbuckler/knight because of player commitments, burned through the temple. For the duration of one session, they gained a druid and a fighter, who dropped out again immediately.
They found two mini-shrines of hate, one dedicated to how much Vecna's followers hate Kas, and one dedicated to how much they hate Quasxthe. The PCs grabbed some tomes and moved on. They defeated the high priest. They encountered a half-ogre mummy who challenged them to prove their worthiness by defeating some other mummies, and who then handed the PCs another orb, identical to the first. The PCs escaped the temple through a handy portal to the Deathly Plane of Shadow.
(To be continued...)