They had already encountered the halfling Diggwell Biffson (“Biff” as he is known), who is one of the henchmen of the famed wizard Melf of the Green Arrow. The party had been hired to recover a magic necklace stolen from Melf’s cousin Silverthorn. They did so, and thus came to be on good terms with Biff and agreed to be occasional agents for Melf; reporting odd happenings, etc.
That was several months ago (in real time) and I thought it would be a good hook to get them to see a little of the Flanaess. So last Friday they were approached by Biff with a very important mission; a pair of spies in the pay of Iuz were known to be leaving the city imminently with an item of great importance. What the tall skinny elf and wizened gnome (who will doubtless be familiar to fans of the “Gord the Rogue” books) carried was unknown, but it was known that the Old One prized it, and that was enough to attempt to deny it to him. The PCs were asked to canvass the inns and taverns of the River Quarter of Greyhawk, to see if they could scare up any information.
Long story short, the party managed to figure out what they were carrying (a scroll of some sort), how they were leaving the city (on a barge crewed by renegade Rhennee), and where they were going (Stoink, in the Bandit Kingdoms). Melf’s other operatives were off chasing down other leads, and it was still not certain that they weren’t on a wild goose chase themselves, so the party hired a ship of their own and struck off across the Nyr Dyv, catching up with their quarry at Radigast City after the requisite encounter with a sea monster.
I’ll let Mollie’s awesome-as-always rendition of events tell the rest of the story (click to embiggen), but suffice to say I personally found it a great change of pace, and hopefully the players did as well. Such jaunts won’t ever completely replace dungeon crawls beneath the Castle of the Mad Archmage, but I might encourage similar diversions a little more often than I have been, just to give the players more options.