While traveling through western Tyvak, the heroes (Jinvar the human paladin in search of redemption, Lander the tragedy-haunted & opportunistic half-elf warlock, and Garnet the grizzled old human soldier) came across the town of Hawksmith. Standing in the center of a belt of farmlands, the normally bustling town was plagued with mystery: a blight had affected the crops to the north, and the unexplained phenomena was draining the life from the land. Nothing would grow in the affected area - not even weeds - and the farmers in the region were becoming desperate as they began to feel the blight's effects on their coinpurses. Hawksmith itself had also been attacked a few times by goblins, a nuisance in the area that was quickly becoming a threat; a local bounty had been set for goblin ears at 5gp per pair and a defense wall was being built around the town.
The mystery deepened when Turnbull, the head of the local Agricultural Ministry Office, confided in the heroes that two teams of researchers had gone up to the most affected farms in the north to study the land and had not come back since. Pressure on Turnbull was mounting, from both the town and his superiors, and he offered the team a hefty sum of money to investigate the researchers' disappearance and to return any survivors they could find.
Motivated by their individual drives of redemption, battle, and coinage, Jinvar, Garnet, and Lander set off to the north toward "the deadlands". Stopping at the last known location of the researchers, the Varas potato farm, the adventurers decided to camp for the night. During their sleep they were attacked by a band of goblins, but were able to dispatch them with ease. After the attack, they moved inside the abandoned farmhouse and found splashes of old dried blood on the walls: this had been the scene of a massacre some time ago.
During their resumed rest, the adventurers were startled by a teenage boy and his wolf companion. The boy - whose name was Jedd - was the lone survivor of the goblin massacre that had killed the Varas family months ago, around the time the land began dying. Shunned by the town as a coward, the boy and his wolf decided to stay in the house's cellar. He had seen the second team of researchers and had witnessed their abduction at the hands of a band of goblin marauders. Jedd had seen the goblins take the researchers into the woods to the north and though he refused to take the team into the woods himself, he drew them a rough map of the area. There was a cave up there, he told them, and thought they might have been taken there by the goblins.
Upon discovering and entering the cave, the heroes discovered more goblins guarding its passages, which had been widened by chisels at some point. Still unsure of the cause of the strange blight on the deadlands, Jinvar the paladin attempted to sense undeath or the desecration of holy land. His attempts were in vain. They explored onward into the cave: deep inside, they discovered where a brick wall had been uncovered and the bricks pulled away revealing a dark hallway beyond...
Investigating the hallway, the heroes discovered the remnants of a building constructed by the ancient stratavar, or "crystal elves": they had once dominated the planet but fled in shame after causing an invasion from extra-planar creatures. A strange "humming" was in the air here, and the team discovered a balcony room that overlooked a massive arcane machine. Goblins were milling about in the room several stories below, and studying the machine was a mysterious human.
Lander the warlock attempted to attack the mysterious man with an eldritch blast spell but it missed its target. Alerted, the man cast a mage armor spell on himself. As the shimmery translucent armor formed around him, he ran for cover and snarled to his lackeys "Get them! My work mustn't be disturbed, not when I'm so close!"
The goblins ran from the room, and Garnet and Jinvar readied themselves for an assault as Lander tried another spell attack, this time targeting the huge machine. The attack struck one of the gears and bent it only slightly as the strange device continued to hum along.
Suddenly, the doors to the balcony burst open as several goblins and their bugbear captain roared into the room!
Behind the screen: Since this was my first time as a DM, I was naturally nervous, but I think I did okay. My players have assured me that it went down pretty well, and seemed genuinely interested in my world. I hope that keeps up.
Being a dungeon master is an odd experience: it's like writing, in that you craft a tale and the events within it but it's also like this improv theater/storytelling because the presence of variable events and rules can take the story in a different direction other than the way you planned it. Plus, the players' actions can limit or expand the smallest or most important parts of everything. I wish more of my fellow writers would try it, because there's really nothing like helming a story that shifts and evolves on its own as its happening.
Final prognosis: it went well enough to continue on to a second play-session, and I didn't puke. (thumbs up)