This is the DM recollection/commentary of Risus Monkey's "Katja's Diary". It covers his first entry.
Getting the PC's together is always hard, especially when exactly half the party had decided to play characters that wouldn't be immediately welcome in a small hamlet on the edge of civilization. Rather than hand-wave the fact that three PC's were semi-monstrous away, I decided to make their outsider status an important part of the early game. I am not sure this was the best course of action, as figuring out an in-game reason to actually let these PC's into town took awhile.
Risus Monkey can talk more about Katja's backstory if he wants; honestly, it's hard to remember all the details at this point. But a big part of the game was the uncovering of lost lore, much of it related to gods that weren't worshiped any longer. The Temple of Oghma was a big part of that, but so was Katja. I had always thought of druids as being really mysterious and a little scary (this is likely a holdover from 1st Edition), so the forces at work with and through Katja weren't always, well, nice. The poem Katja hears in her dream speaks to that a little; it directly foreshadowed the upcoming wolf-fight and the mysterious red-eyed creature Katja sees afterwards. Similarly, the "words in the woods" had direct and indirect references. Indirectly, it referred to the Oghma temple and the forgotten lore. More directly, it referred to both the standing stones in the White Grove and, well, something that comes up later.
Katja and Bix head off to the grove, meet everyone else, and fight some nasty wolves. Sunny is knocked unconscious, which is merely the first time someone in the party almost dies. This seemed to happen almost every combat session, especially early on. Granted, the party was less-than optimized for melee combat, but I think it also illustrates how wonky the CR/EL rules were in 3rd Edition. They presented themselves as a way to create appropriate challenges, but there were all these assumptions built into the math that simply didn't apply to the group. The party was above average in size (six), and way below average in combat ability if you don't count Kreed. He evens things out a bit, but that meant if he went down the party was screwed. It also meant that, if planned tough combat encounters, there was a good chance of some other party member getting killed or seriously injured while Kreed defeated the monsters. This plagued me for, well, the entire time Kreed was with the party.
I think I threw the micro-dungeon in there at the last minute. I realized the party had a tough encounter but had little to show for it, so I put this abandoned hollow there to give the PC's some needed coin. I also remember the PC's getting mauled by bugs and failing a bunch of saving throws. I wonder, though, if there wasn't something else down there I wanted the party to find. I'll need to check my notes (but I think they're in the attic).
This post also reminded me I was kind of a stickler initially. Note that not everyone speaks the same language. There was no "common tongue" and you had to buy extra languages with skill points, which is why folks are translating for other PC's all the time. That may have been a little mean.