Wow, it’s been a while hasn’t it? Life getting in the way. But here we go with part III…
The task before the players appears simple, venture into the vast cemetery of Necropolis on certain carefully determined nights and place enchanted capstones on 26 pre-prepared pillars. Of course if it was that simple there would be no need for the Council to hire heroes to do it.
There are a number of threats to be encountered in the crypts and avenues of Necropolis, the majority of which are detailed below…
Grave Robbers: Theft from the graves and tombs of Necropolis has always been a problem. Regular patrols and threats of eternal damnation have historically kept this to a minimum, but with sensible folk increasingly too wary to enter the grounds, the patrols have fallen off, and a variety of vultures have turned up to take advantage. Small bands of opportunistic scavengers are not likely to prove a problem – many of them will be dealt with by the other threats – but could slow the party down. More dangerous will be the two or three well organised and heavily armed gangs that have moved in and are competing with each other for salvage rights. They are more than capable of engaging in running battles among the tombs and could easily put some of the players in graves of their own if they’re not careful.
Wandering Monsters: The dark force that has moved in to the heart of Necropolis has lead to a variety of undead and other unwholesome creatures taking up residence. Some of these have been brought in deliberately, some have been attracted by the presence of evil, and some are the result of spontaneous ‘resurrections’ among the internees. The outer regions of the cemetery play host to scattered, weak willed, non-intelligent undead, but the closer to the Avenue of Heroes the players venture, the more powerful and numerous these creatures will become. Worse, when the force becomes aware of the players and what they are attempting, it will start directing its minions to harass them directly.
Perhaps the most unexpected of the entities to have found their way into Necropolis are the vast things that have moved into the lakes. Getting to the pillars on the islands may prove very ‘interesting’ for the players.
The Force: The biggest threat the players face is of course the evil force vying for control of Necropolis. This is an alliance of several powerful Vampire Lords and a Lich, who aim to turn the cemetery and town into a stronghold of the undead. They are headquartered in the catacombs beneath the avenue of heroes and are carrying out a series of powerful magical rituals to corrupt the site, while also building a network of informants in the town. This network is in its infancy and as such it will take some time for the alliance to discover the great enchantment and start moving against it.
While the Alliance work together, they do not trust each other and are constantly trying to manipulate each other to gain the upper hand. This division could perhaps be exploited by clever players…
Anti-Heroes: Once the Alliance becomes aware of the players and their scheme, it will not only send ghouls, ghasts and worse things after them, it will also take a more subtle route. While the Priests and Clerics on the Council are devoted men and women of faith, some of the merchants are not quite so pure, and gold – particularly in large quantities – can open a lot of doors. One or two members of the Council will be convinced that delaying the progress of the great enchantment would be a good way to line their own pockets, and will go out of their way to make things a little more difficult for the players.
It should be noted that none of these merchants are downright evil. The forces arrayed against Necropolis are subtle, convincing, and skilled at manipulation. The offer of a bag of gold for – for instance – delaying a meeting by a day sounds like a harmless way to make some cash on the side. If the merchants were to be shown exactly who was paying their extra income they would be horrified – although it should also be noted that they have pointedly gone out of their way not to ask such questions.
One way or another their duplicity will be exposed when the players are given a corrupted capstone – supplied though a series of middlemen by the Alliance. Rather than protecting an area of the cemetery this will make it a haven for evil and act as an beacon immediately summoning all monsters in the vicinity. It will also weaken the entire enchantment, opening previously protected areas of the cemetery to re-infestation. The corrupted Council members will be just as appalled by this as the loyal members – some will immediately confess, while some will flee. Chasing down and recovering these fugitives could prove an interesting side quest.
As well as corrupting the Council, the force will hire several teams of adventurers to take on the players directly with ambushes and attacks. While most of these will be made up of lowlifes and mercenaries, at least one party will be virtuous heroes who have been conned into thinking the players are the enemy. This group could prove a valuable ally if the players can sort out the confusion, but will be responsible for destroying several activated pillars (requiring them to be re-activated with new capstones) before any resolution can be bought about.
The Wildcard: There is one wildcard in the players’ quest, and his name is Marcus. Marcus is an ancient and powerful vampire who has occupied a neglected and swampy corner of the cemetery for upwards of 300 years. Unlike most of his kind, Marcus is a recluse who avoids other beings – even to feed – and simply wants to be left alone. His alignment is Lawful Neutral and he has developed a deep knowledge of magic, even though his undead state affects his ability to use it.
Marcus’s quiet existence was disrupted by the arrival of the Alliance. They were surprised to find a Vampire already occupying their chosen home, but quickly altered their plans to offer him a part. He completely rejected their entreaties and told them to leave. This lead to a number of attempts by the Alliance to drive Marcus out, all of which he completely repelled. The two sides have now settled into a state of resolutely ignoring each other, although both would be extremely happy if the other were to vanish.
One of the pillars is planned to be located right in the middle of Marcus’s territory. While he is not evil, the presence of such a powerful enchantment would require him to abandon his home and start over elsewhere, something he is reluctant to do, to say the least. As such he will sabotage the pillar as soon as it is set up, resulting in the capstone crumbling to dust as soon as it is placed. He will do his formidable best to frustrate any further attempts to extend the enchantment to his corner of Necropolis, all while attempting to conceal his presence as he has done for the previous three centuries.
Despite this, a confrontation with the players is inevitable. They have several options. Killing him is possible, but difficult. Driving him away by other means may also work, but will gain them a powerful enemy. Striking a deal with Marcus is the best option, although it will be difficult to gain his trust.
The best way to gain Marcus as an ally is to agree to conspire to place a modified capstone on the pillar. If a capstone is supplied to him he will be able to modify the enchantments so that it appears to function, but does nothing. This will not seriously impact on the overall enchantment and will allow him to continue his solitary existence.
Once this is done Marcus will lend the players substantial assistance in their fight against the Alliance. His catacomb – while somewhat unpleasant – is a safe refuge from the creatures inhabiting the cemetery, and he has some rudimentary healing skills. He will also be a valuable ally in any final confrontation with the Alliance, being skilled in both combat, and basic spellcasting.
So that’s it for Part III. Part IV will contain an overall summing up of the campaign and a conclusion.