Now that I'm 11 posts into this project about writing an entire Pathfinder Second Edition adventure path, I'm ready to start! That is, I'm ready to take a look at how I'm going to design the first adventure, which will launch this adventure path right. The start of an adventure path needs to do these things:

* Establish the Theme. The way the adventure path feels should be established in the first adventure. If the adventure path is going to be a gritty, urban, noir theme, the first adventure should provide that. Not every adventure must stay on-theme, but the first one should include the themes of the adventure path so the players don't feel that some switch has been pulled on them mid-AP (this was one of the criticisms of Paizo's Second Darkness Adventure Path). My theme is about evil in the forest in a quasi-Viking setting, so I'll need my first adventure to have (i) stuff going on in a forest, (ii) nature turned evil, and (iii) some notable Viking things, even if just names.

* Use a Compelling Location. Many adventure paths start with a small town; that's intentional because it's useful to ground the heroes in a place they can call home, at least for the first few levels. I already know that a small town called Fallinghollow is important in the 3rd adventure, so I should probably make it the place the heroes start out in the 1st adventure.

* Introduce People and Plot Points. The starting adventure should actually start things, rather than standing on its own. It should introduce people that will be important later, and establish plot threads that aren't resolved until later. In fact, a first adventure can probably end on something of a cliffhanger or a mystery, to propel action into the early adventure path. Its mysteries shouldn't dangle for more than a couple of levels (to be replaced by other mysteries, of course). In my case, I want to establish the scholar Gendal as being someone the villains want to silence, marking him as important to the overall plot. 

* Start with a Bang. The first encounter of the first adventure should be something compelling and interesting. I noticed that my 3rd level adventure doesn't have a sheriff or law enforcement leader in Fallinghollow. Maybe it's because that person is dead, killed in the very first encounter of the adventure path. That sets up a theme of "against the forces of Law" early on, although maybe that's a little subtle. Perhaps I should work in a literal "bang," or explosion. Those aren't subtle! 

However, the start of an adventure path doesn't need to do these things:

* Establish the Villain. The villain of the adventure path--here, Treerazer--isn't necessarily something the heroes need to know right at the start. This is something that should be gradually revealed. 

* Be Frantic. There can be sequential encounters or urgency in the first adventure, but this is where the players are just settling into their characters. Ample time to rest, heal, and interact with NPCs is an important thing to build in to these levels. Rather than make an adventure with lots of little parts, I think I want to have two big parts in the first adventure, with resting places in the middle of each and a sort of "mandated" rest in between them (that is, there isn't anything that happens right away after the first half is over, allowing the heroes to celebrate a job well done). 

So! Here's my thinking about this first adventure.

It starts in the town of Fallinghollow, and establishes potential character connections with several NPCs, including a mayor, a (doomed) sheriff, the scholar Gendal, and so on. 

The back half should take place in the forests outside the town. A good Level 4 foe is an arboreal warden (who is probably evil), and that'll be the main enemy of this adventure. This second half is about confronting threats outside of town, and culminates in a battle against this arboreal. I'll call him Briarbough.

This means my first half should place in town. I've already planned an "animals attack the town" in the 3rd adventure, so this one shouldn't be animals. Evil humanoids, maybe. Goblins? Kobolds? I like the thinking of using kobolds; I think goblins are a bit overused. Assorted groups of kobolds work great in Level 1 encounters, too.

Since I want to start with a bang, maybe the kobolds are trying to blow something up, and are going from location to location to get the ingredients to do that. The sheriff got in their way, and got killed for it. The heroes stumble upon the murdered sheriff, leaving them as the obvious people to find out what's going on. The heroes must follow along the kobolds and stop them. I want the explosion to be stopped by quick-thinking heroes, as saving a town from a tragedy or disaster naturally creates some "ownership" or "investment" in it. The mini-boss of the kobolds is probably a kobold dragon mage, with kobold warriors for support. I'll call her Vevik.

So! First half is in Fallinghollow, chasing around kobolds that want to blow something up (a landmark or tower, probably) and putting a stop to that. There should be NPCs to meet along the way. The second half draws the action into the forest, probably by jeopardizing outlying farms or something. I'll frame out the 12 encounters, connect it with story, and seed in some treasure. The final result will be next time!