Fun read, lots of useful advice, and brought back many memories!
One thing I always stress is "give the players want they want". The key of course is to do this without them realizing it, and maybe even thinking the opposite--you're an evil GM out to get them. :)
For me, in this preparatory time-crunch scenario, the character creation bit is crucial. Listen to all the players, (stretch the process out if you have to). Pick up on every little tidbit of info your players share, as they ponder their characters and their places in the world. Use your GM-fu skills of psychology and perception, during this time. Start formulating ideas for every character's arc. Come up with potential (they don't all have to be used) scenes for every character. Mold the world around them. The game becomes easier for you. The campaign may be unfinished and your plot may be shaky or even non-existent, BUT, six hours later everyone had a great time! Go to Comment
Lovely, evocative, flower. Manfred's comment makes me ponder "night pollen" as a potential spell component. And of course can picture cults/followers of lunar deities, with fields of these delicate flowers around their holy sites. Go to Comment
The PCs are hired by undead to rid their village community of an invasive necromancer.
As the PCs make their way, wherever they are going, they spot two zombies. The zombies approach but before the cleric can turn them, one starts throwing coins at the PCs while the other pleads with them, unable to pronounce the letters "L" and "H" due to some missing gums. "Peeth issen...no 'arm...coin...peeth issen!"
If the PCs don't slaughter the two zombies immediately, they will eventually come to learn that the two were chosen to find help by their brethren. The zombies want to hire the PCs to rid their community of an unwanted pest. An opportunistic necromancer.
Apparently, a small benign community of undead have taken residence in an abandoned village, living out their undeath as peacefully as the undead can. Recently, a malicious necromancer has invaded the village, and plans to enslave the entire populace with his malignant spells, raising a small army.
The PCs must battle the vile necromancer, even as he animates the very folks who hired the PCs in the first place, to slaughter them.