Domain of the Month
Third edition: RL3E / RLPH, Gaz 2
I regretted the changes to Il Aluk and the formation of Necropolis. Death is a fairly interesting character, but Necropolis is of limited interest to anybody not playing an undead character.
Rather than say it never happened, I am trying to think up of a grand plot where Azalin and his numerically superior army of Kargat operatives are infiltrating Necropolis with an eye to overthrowing Lowellyn Dachine and his minions.
I think the state of mind might be very much like the Soviets operating in Poland, or the political intrigues of the Qing dynasty manipulating the Vietnamese or Burmese kingdoms - a large nation is trying to enforce its will on a smaller nation where the defiant leader is ensconced in a strong power base and difficult to remove.
Azalin might be able to send undead operatives armed with newborn paraphernalia to knock out the Necropolitan leadership. Perhaps this would make for a dramatic capstone adventure, when the PCs know their heroes are doomed to become undead, but are sacrificed for a good cause.
In an Invasion campaign, the only creatures that can get into and out of Necropolis are undead. Perhaps the Kargat are busy harvesting powerful sorcerers, mages, priests, and warriors to become undead soldiers who can use their old class skills in an assault on Necropolis. The older Kargat would certainly be eager to regain the Grim Fastness and expunge the stain of treachery. Maybe the PCs fall afoul of this, and are part of the mortal constabulary trying to figure out what is going on.
Another thing I was unable to figure out is how Death would ever have a vulnerability to the cry of a newborn. It makes sense that he's vulnerable, but given the parameters of the Shroud, no newborn can make it in alive.
Perhaps Azalin has decided to employ an undead child? Maybe the PCs get to see a Kargat member sneaking into an orphanage at night and "embracing" all the babies - definite cause for a horror check. Whether these newborn vampires would count as babies for the purpose of immobilizing Death is uncertain.
Another poster suggested that the Positive Planar energy created by the Rift Spanner device could reverse the Shroud or even destroy Necropolis entirely if the device is overcharged.
If the PCs are part of the plot, it could make for an interesting decision: do they hijack the device to try to leave Ravenloft on their own? Or do they sacrifice the device to bring down the Shroud? (Of course, to even be in a position for that sort of decision, they may well have failed several Powers checks, especially if they were involved in charging it up.)
These are all ideas for eliminating Necropolis. However, I'm sure the designers included the realm because they wanted to have a playground for undead PCs. Maybe the PCs are the spearhead of the overthrow - perhaps they have encountered an accident in Darkon and become undead, and instead of giving up their characters, they want to go out in a blaze of glory and try to take down the darklord instead. Or, just maybe, they find companionship amongst the other lost souls and Death is able to turn them into a weapon to use against Azalin...
ScS of the Fraternity
Well, Necropolis may not be very gothic, but it is an ideal location for borrowing post-apocalyptic scenarios:
Escape from Necropolis
The PCs are arrested by the Darkonese for various crimes. They are sentenced to death and await execution. However, a powerful Kargat agent approaches them with an offer they can't refuse.
A noblewoman of great importance was passing through northern Darkon by convoy, when it was attacked by the minions of Death. Death has since sent back a finger with a signet ring - proving that the dread lord still has his hostage.
Naturally, the kargat wants the noblewoman back, but they dare not send their own agents into the shroud, for Death has ways of sensing the residue of Azalin's control. The only viable solution is to send outsiders into the city to find and recover the missing noblewoman. They are warned that because of Death's influence, she will resist. Still, the kargat requires her alive (or undead) and unharmed.
The players are disguised as zombies and put through a magical ritual to protect their life-forces. Of course, the disguises and rituals are all fake - they are merely intended to keep the pcs ignorant of their own deaths in the shroud.
Contrary to the Kargat's story, the noblewoman in question is not Death's hostage. She is in fact a spy sent from an enemy kingdom (Barovia? Falkovnia? Borca?) She had uncovered some of the deepest secrets of the Kargat through a contact, before being discovered. She fled into Necropolis, knowing that it was the one place she could hide. For their part, the Kargat need her alive so that they can extract the name of her contact within their organization.
What's worse, the contact is, in fact, privy the rescue mission. Counter-agents are shadowing the PCs, waiting for them to find the agent so that they can silence her once and for all.
Meanwhile, the Unholy Order of the Grave is out in force. Death is aware of the intrusion of foreign bodies and is determined to root out the intruders and discover what plot is at hand.
Between deathless assassins and unholy armies, the players must find the truth if they are to escape. And this time, what the PCs don't know, can kill them.
Joël of the Fraternity
An idea I work with for my campaign:
Some afflicted PCs with lycanthropy hear of a particular aspect of the Shroud: non magical diseases do not survive the Shroud. Is it their last hope to get rid of this dreaded affliction?
How will they get the Amaranth plant?
What else will they encounter within Death's territory?
I hated Necropolis when it first appeared. I have since begrudgingly accepted it, but still decided never to have the requiem occur in my campaign. Necropolitan Amaranth was the single greatest invention in a Gazetteer, for taking a whole domain from unusable to usable in my mind.
The Amaranth could be used to get a live baby inside, so that weakness isn't totally useless.
Another great use of Necropolis doesn't even take place there: The Dunkel Kralle adventure from The Forgotten Children is highly recomended.
David of the FoS
He lived in Il Aluk all his life saves for a brief trip to Lamordia. It was his home and home to his family for generations. Then the Requiem came and everyone died, the land was ruled (in name only) by the being known only as Death. But it was still his home. He died in the Requiem becoming a rotting husk of a man but his life continued much as it had before, even the dead needed furniture and thus a carpenter made his dues. Then came the year of the Horsemen and upheaval when the king return and the Necropolis became a true land to itself, but that was not his concern, Il Aluk always was and always would be his home.
Until the Darkonian memory effect faded, he was no longer within the borders of that land. His past returned slowly and he was not home. He hadn’t been home for years. He’d left his life in Lamordia behind for a fantasy. Everything he’s fought and struggled and died for has been a lie!
He needs help to gather together the pieces of his life: help to escape from the land of the dead, help to find his scattered family and help to tie up his forgotten loose ends. But who would help a corpse?
Il Aluk, like most major cities, was built atop older cities. Choice real estate has never varied over the centuries. Ruins atop ruins sink into the depths of the city with the lowest levels of the sewers breaking into the upper levels of the ancient structures.
There are rumours of forgotten magics from Ages past when the wizard-kings ruled and Artifacts that could drive back the night or bring glory to the wielder. Or so the legends go.
How deep does the Shroud go? Miles underground or just meters? The tunnels might even be safe for a time, but what are the effects of prolonged expose to the Shroud? Could there be side-effects other than death and resurrection?
There’s a feat, in Champions of Darkness I believe, where the character is immune to level drain and the Shroud (according to ask Azalin) at the price of having no soul.
A trader with this makes his living moving in between Darkon and Necropolis supplying one with the goods of the other.
Unfortunately, both sides (Azalin and Death) have learned of his existence and both see the benefits of having a living agent able to survive in the Shroud. Now he need protection to escape the grasp of not one, but two darklords!
Death has penetrated through to the Dark Vault -Azalin's inner sanctum and storage for his most valued possessions.
Inside Death finds many tools for the Undead Order, weapons of horror, biological plagues contained in magical fields and vast experiments including notes relating to the original spread of the 'Crimson Death' plague. But what is most intriguing is within a single cell at the very pits of the vault. Locked away inside is a madman. Someone claiming to be a multitude of personalities that often change from disturbingly peaceful and precise to outrageous extremes. This man says he knows about the secret of the world's creation and how to tune it right so to make it sing his masters music. He has great knowledge that should not exist including information on who Azalin really is -what will Death do with him? What is this man's connection to Azalin? (or ol' Firan as the lunatic sometimes calls him) and how does he know so much?
Death has consorted with the greatest minds of the core (through whatever means the DM wishes as this itself may form an investigative part of the adventure) and has created a device capable of erasing Lowellyn Dachine from Death's mind.
Lowellyn has now taken on incorporeal form as he taunts and replays his life's most memorable scenes in front of his ever more twisted reality of himself.
As the device activates the PCs are sucked into the mind of Death and Lowellyn. Inside they see events of Lowellyn's life replaying themselves up to his transformation. They realise Lowellyn was not so bad but was made to be that way through the conditioning of the Kargat and that through messages left by the subconscious of Lowellyn -he wants there help in changing his mind's past so that his current self can change.
But is this all a game? Does the true Lowellyn just wish to escape the negative energy prison of 'Death' and give rebirth to the Eternal Order. To be its true messiah?
And what of Death? He stalks the inner memories of Lowellyn himself with intent on destroying the human within.
What can happen in a man's mind? Are the rules of reality even boundaries there? The PCs will have to find out...
Just what would happen if the negative energy barrier began to fail? Currently it is the only thing stopping a Darkonian army from retaking the once 'Jewel of Darkon'. Well as all energy eventually fades (perhaps being slowly used up over time by animating the dead of Necropolis and feeding Death itself) Death has devised several contingencies.
One of these options is creating replicas of itself to confuse his enemies. Through a rift created by his routine of liches he has leaked more negative energy into his plane of existence and is slowly 'cloning' himself. The problem is that as with his own mind -each believes itself the 'real' Death.
Death has also thought to transfer himself back in time. This would greatly weaken him even after extensive preparations, reducing him to a shade of himself. In this form he would retreat to a tomb he has recently become aware of in his current time and there his shade would go into a deep sleep for many years until he was strong enough to begin feeding.
Feeding is also something new Death may have learned. He has gained knowledge of the connection between the plane of Ravenloft and of the enigmatic 'Grim Reapers' (from Denizens of Darkness). Now in possible control of them he uses them as agents through out the core or by process of an altered planar 'transposition' plans to exchange his current position for that of a reaper itself.
As his Darklord status falls away more options become open to Death. In perhaps all of Darkon he may be unique in being the only thing immune to Azalin's power of memory alteration and undead command. This places him in an interesting position as he begins researching his nemeses' weaknesses. The Eternal Order -once a sociological tool for mass control has fallen out of favour with Azalin and is in tatters. If the lich can alter memories perhaps in an irony only the Dark Powers could know -the reverse is true. Azalin is nothing without his minions and pawns. Should Death arise and become the prophet of The Eternal Order he might begin to alter the written history of Darkon, to replace Azalin and the laws and past he has so carefully constructed. To in turn replace the lies the lich has cast around himself with new half-truths and falsehoods that serve Death's purpose.
As Azalin struggles to maintain control of his empire his own memories leak into those minds he touches. By means of soul harvesting Death accumulates this knowledge to his own advantage and keeps Azalin busy and away from other machinations.
Death also secretly knows he is no match for Azalin, so he may retreat to another domain so to gain more power for what he knows will one day be a final confrontation with his 'father'. This need to prove himself as the Death that comes for all drives him while inside his bottled emotions are troubled as his soulless eyes watch the humanity he never had but inwardly wishes he could experience. This causes much self loathing as the two personalities of Death and Lowellyn struggle.
In an attempt to claim Darkon, Death has begun to rebuild the Doomsday Machine. He has his agents kidnapping scientists and mages from across the Core and beyond in order to use their knowledge to adjust the machine. He plans to use it to drain the energy of the Shroud directly into himself, gaining ultimate power and enabling him to bring about the end of all things living.
The Necropolitan Barrier is experimented on by the Fraternity of Shadows (or a consortium of Hazlani mages) in an attempt to discern its nature and find a possible application of it for themselves.
The magic they inflict on the bubble has a strange and unforeseen effect. By a strange combination 'time alteration resonation sequence' occurs which turns the negative energy barrier into a barrier in time. Within which time moves much faster than outside. Evolution of the undead takes place and Necropolis changes until such time as the resonations cease, the mages stop it or those within evolve/find a way out.
Necropolis in this way becomes 'the unknown' armies of cloned undead troops could emerge, invasion plans drawn up over hundreds or thousands of years are implemented before Darkon and the Core have only a comparative number of weeks or possibly days to prepare.
Could this be the Dark Powers final plan brought forward by the folly of mortals? Or simply the herald of the time of unparalleled darkness?
Many people lost families in Il Aluk (now Necropolis) some are still alive due to being outside the city when the twilight fell. Some have come to a realisation and have mourned their friends and kin. Others still seek revenge, while a few have turned to reversing the effect.
Negative energy can be neutralized with positive energy. So if a large explosion of negative energy can do this an equally sized release of positive energy (released all at once in circumstances similar to the Twilight) might destroy the barrier and return the city to life.
A man or woman from a civilized domain who studied in the University of Il Aluk and married there lost all they had ever loved when Azalin's plans were foiled. Now they have spent the time needed to gather the instruments of 're-establishment' (not the least of which is their own child!)
What is the greatest source of positive energy? Ancient Undead and Clerics capable of channelling it. Turning their own child into an Ancient Undead and using them as a vessel for the positive energy gathered by Clerics around the core (each from a different religion) they will sacrificed their own child into a device capable of magnifying the energy and bringing down Necropolis for good.
How are the other religions conspiring in what is obviously an evil act of murder to gather the positive energy? Well each religion has shady dealings and many may be mis-guided in seeing the ends justify the means if it is possible to rid the world of the blighted city. It is a global conspiracy linking each major religion for the first common goal they have ever had.
But will anyone stop them? And does this key player who set the plan in motion have other goals hidden from his/her partners?
A sabbatical (note extended adventure hook from Gaz 2):
The Fraternity of Shadows once had a powerful sect in the University of Il Aluk. Many of their prized works of research and theories still reside there. But that was years ago and they've since given up on trying to retrieve them -until now.
A necromantic plague is taking over books throughout Darkon, spreading diseased passages of the dark arts and hidden truths in independent passages. It began in the far east of Darkon and over time has spread like an epidemic. Book stores in Dementlieu now occasionally find debase descriptions of sacrifice in new and old shipments alike. And it is spreading further.
The Fraternity of Shadows is just one of the major players seeking to collect these books -hoping to pool all the strange knowledge and decrypt its message. But as the diseased books spread they begin to realize the plague is out of control and even reaching their own prized texts.
What is more, several authors of the newer books are committing suicide in strange acts of madness. This symptom then mutates as readers themselves begin to fall under the sway of books in isolated circumstances. Anyone could be a ticking time bomb waiting for orders in any text that appears (store signs? newspapers? or simply an ordinary book).
The Fraternity traces the true source of the disease to Necropolis. Death or someone else may be the cause. Perhaps the great books of the dead University itself seek revenge for being abandoned and left to the ravages of time. But what is the message behind the passages? And what is their overall goal?
The Lesser Evil
After a horrific battle between the party and a fiend, the demon subdues the party but does not kill them. Instead it takes them deep into the heart of Necropolis and demands them to do its bidding. That is if they want to live through the night. Now the party has to deal with the fiend in a city of undeath, but if they kill the demon, the reality wrinkle goes with it...
The Pickled Punk
A Lamordian scientist has developed a "positive energy" device, which he claims will allow humans to reclaim Necropolis from Death. The PCs are enlisted to test the device and enter the Shroud. Can the device (which may actually be a hoax) protect the PCs from an unpleasant death? Will they become Necropolitan undead? Is this the end of Zombie Shakespeare? It's all up to the DM!
David of the FoS
Oh wait... I can think of at least one new Necropolis adventure hook:
Death and the Unholy Order of the Grave tempt a member of the Fraternity of Shadows with immortality and get him to betray his brothers in exchange for plans for the Doomsday Device.
Whadya think? Too far fetched?
To fix necropolis - How would you rewrite it?
It seems whenever death is mentioned here, I here groans and not in the good scary way either. If ravenloft was to be rereleased, and necropolis was to stay but to be revamped. How would you go about it?
Personally necropolis to me, should be more like the necropolis litharge in the worlds end volume of sandman. A city dedicated to death, and who spend there lives learning the ways to preserve them could be a very cool city. With death, as maybe a more sinister hidden force in the city. Of course that would mean completely rewritting it, but thats how I would go about it.
Igor the Henchman :An adventure site featuring nothing but undead can quickly become dull, especially for the poor, sneak-attack-deprived rogue. Also, the presence of the Shroud makes most players afraid of setting foot in the place, Necropolitan Amarath or no. My rewrite would eliminate the "insta-kill" effect of the Shroud. Years of struggle between various undead types within the city would reduce the population down to a manageable level, with many spots completely deserted (read: places for the PCs to rest/hide during the adventure). Not all of the resident undead would have to be evil, or under Death's control, with some factions willing to help, or at least parley with, a band of living intruders. "Cancerous" bubbles of positive energy might allow for the existence of non-undead creatures, like oozes or magical beasts. Forward-thinking undead factions might begin to use, or even breed, living monsters with Shroud immunity, to augment their military strength. All this would probably get Death very worried about its future, and further nourish the seeds of doubt that constitute his curse. If I could change the city's location, I'd place it a wee bit away from the main traffic routes, so that it makes for an interesting, but not too obtrusive, adventure location.
BigBadQDaddy:I would make it an island. For such a place to exist in anything else, let alone the core just seems silly to me. I would definitely ditch the death shroud as that is such a deterrent for PCs (or a magnet to World of Darkness players) An idea I have kind of toyed around with is making the city the mirror of a living city. Sort of an anchored afterlife tied to one specific location that one can only access through dying. That way it could technically still exist in the core, but not be such a silly thing to have to avoid. In that scenario, death could be some malevolent being tying himself to the land, creating some form of pseudo afterlife and gaining some form of nourishment or power from the cities life numerous forces. The PCs could temporarily access the domain through the imbibing of Amaranth ala Flatliners (May that be the first and last time someone mentions a Julia Roberts movie on this site ) That way they could adventure in the domain and not be stuck as a spirit, vampire, zombie, republican, etc. Well anyway I am just babbling. Could be interesting though.
cure :The Necropolitian problem would be a great way of moving the timeline of Ravenloft forward just a little. Azalin has at least two good reasons to strike into Necropolis. A book with his true name lingers there. And it is a blight at the heart of his realm. But other reasons to act might also be forth coming too . . . . So an adventure would be set to strike into the heart of the city of the dead. The Create Construct spell is one means Azalin is considering. But perhaps he sends two strike forces, one living and one constructed, one as a diversion, or something more insideous. The question of how to destroy Necropolis has been raised in the forum before. Opening a portal to the plane of positive energy is an old favourite. Obliging Death to assist at a birth is more thematic/gothic. A personal favourite involves Azalin tricking Death into attempting something akin to the ritual ascension but this time using negative energy. The ritual is flawed, however, and rather than giving Death dominion over all of Darkon and perhaps beyond, it blasts to inanimate dust every corporeal undead within Necropolis, Death's hands and skull included, and it sucks all of the negative energy out of the shroud and out of the incorporeal undead. Only ghosts would survive and they would lose the power of manifestation. Necropolis could then be reclaimed by the living, Il-Aluk would be reborn, but insane ghosts would torment the dreams of its new citizens.
JDCorley:Check out the Hollowfaust supplement from White Wolf's Scarred Lands for how I would do it. One of the big advantages of 3e Ravenloft is "native heroes", which makes Necropolis basically worthless and weird in the setting...Hollowfaust is a city drenched in death, but still functional.
Jester of the FoS:Nothing really wrong with Necropolis. It's all in presentation. I would diminish the Shroud, weaken it so the living can enter but would slowly weaken and eventually die. Although, there would be a rare few immune to the effects, or at least more resistant. The simplest way would be to greatly diminish the Shroud during day day so it only bestows a virtual negative level that returns when one leaves, but becomes drained if one stays overnight. Slowly, over a number of days, someone would waste away. It might manifest differently, possibly affecting constitution as a wasting sickness so it'd be independent of level. The city itself would be perpetually covered in heavy clouds that block the sun. It'd be a bleak, empty and barren place. Many of the intelligent dead would have hidden themselves, or keep themselves out of sight of travelers. All the undead who need flesh (vampires, cannibal zombies, etc) would have left or gone mad from starvation. I'd emphasis the unknown in the city. Why would the neighboring folk know it was filled with undead? They'd be no witnesses, no one who enters the city would leave. They'd likely think it filled with the plague: the cursed city no one can survive entering. They might even barricade it, block it off to prevent the "plague" from spreading. Depending on how DMs want to use it, it's simultaneously an abandoned city or one filled with the dead (who're only likely to come out at night). Think Dawn of the Dead or similar movies where the zombies have all but taken over. A small group might enter during the day then find themselves overwhelmed come nightfall. I'd probably emphasis the 'civilian' dead from the monsters. The Necropolitan from Libris Mortis is perfect for this. A small cloistered community of the dead who try to continue their lives. But they're under the tyrannical boot of the mad Death, plagued by insane ghouls hungering for the flesh of corpses, and cut off from any help from the outside world. Of course, there are the multiple boroughs with some safer and some less so. Death might have stationed generals or other small, petty lieutenants to rule in his stead in the more distant neighborhoods.
NykylaiHellray:I like that idea, another to consider, is fill the place with morticians. Run by the dead citizens of necropolis. Who better to preserve the dead, then the dead. So the necropolis mindset, is a people who look at life in a more contemplating way, with knowledge of all the funeral practices in the demiplane of dread, and many outsider funeral practices.
Jester of the FoS :I imagine the "survivors" who retail there sanity would almost become a culture of Goths, obsessed with life, the soul, death and the like. Some might live in cemeteries or make homes mimicking mausoleums. Other might wax philosophically about life and death and the thin border between. Some might very well learn all about preserving the dead, funerals, burials and the like.
Joël of the FoS
Let’s say humans take an Amaranth bloom and stick it on their skin. They enter the Shroud in Necropolis. But how do the other undead react to that? Less powerful undead like Skellies and Zombies might not care much, but what of wight and vampires? Ignore ? Curious? Attack on sight? Attack to feed?
Also, another question: can the light-fearing undead wander the city all day, or do they come out only at night? Are they protected by the Shroud?
I do not have the book with me now, but I do not recall reading anything to answer these two questions.
cure : Well, ghouls will love you, to death, as the poor things are starving.
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