View Full Version : NorSkull: Back in Buisness

Lord Loss
2010-07-16, 08:18 AM
Perhaps some of you remember the old norskull project I started a few years ago, but had to abandon because of schoolwork. With the help of many, many playgrounders, - special thanks to Realms of Chaos - , we made the beginnings of something really cool. Well, I figured we might as well finish what we started. So here's some of the more organized and fleshed out parts of the adventure. The general gist of things is PCs sent to a plane where undead are sentient and the dominant species. Morality is grey at best, and to defeat the undead they will need to commit countless evils...

Prologue: City of the Dead

This adventure is intended for four-five level 9 players.
At the start of this adventure, the parties are in or are led to a material plane in which undead and aberrations rule the world and humanoids make a sadly small majority.
More specifically, players find themselves in the undead nation of Corrigan, led by a vampiric-lich king from his castle near the town of Norskull.
This adventure path leads players through the grimwood forest to norskull, introduces them to a hidden cult in the city (likely the party’s only allies) and leads them on missions through the city until the party finds themselves ready to attack the castle itself.

If your party starts in a normal material plane, they need some reason to appear near Norskull. This miniature adventure will provide ample set-up for the campaign.

Three weeks ago, the small town of Werrisbir was mysteriously overrun by the undead. Half of the town was slain and the others escaped to the nearby town of Reals. A cry for heroes has gone out. It is your job to reclaim the town and put an end to the zombie menace.

Encounter 1: On the right path

Walking along the path to Werrisbir, you hear a loud growl off to the side of the road. Looking over, you see a couple of wolves fighting up against a zombie. The wolves are fairly bloody but the zombie has only taken minor wounds.

Wolf 1 (CR 1): 8 hp
Wolf 2 (CR 1): 9 hp
Human Zombie (CR 1/2): 12 hp

Course of Battle: If the wolves and zombies are ignored, they will leave the party alone.
If the wolves are attacked, they flee.
If the zombie is attacked, the wolves will attack the party, fearing that someone is going after their kill.

Rewards: 0 xp. No treasure.

Encounter 2: Welcome to Town

Milling through the streets and squares of Werrisbir are a total of fifty zombies, mostly human (though a few dwarves and elves exist).
42 Human/Dwarven Zombies (CR 1/2): 16 hp
8 Elven Zombies (As human zombies with +2 Dex, CR 1/2): 16 hp

Course of Battle: Generally speaking, a person can only see four or five of the zombies at a time. Unless handled in a quiet manner, however, the sounds of combat will draw more until all zombies have been dealt with.

Rewards: 0 xp. If their clothing is searched, a total of 900 cp, 600 sp, and 245 gp can be found among the zombies. Furthermore, unholy symbols of Nerull are found in the lining of seven zombies.

In addition, each of the sixty homes in Werrisbir have a 50% chance of housing 1d4 human zombies and each of the thirteen stores and other buildings have a 70% chance of housing 1d6+1 such zombies.

Each hour, an additional zombie enters the streets through the storm cellar of a single home. When investigated…

Encounter 3: In the Cellar

As you descend the cellar steps the scent of musk fills the air, mingling with an odor of decay. As you turn around a corner, you see a horrific sight. The unholy symbol of Nerull hangs on the opposite wall of cellar. Several corpses rest suspended from chains while a couple others clamber about. Three of them look more gaunt than the others, looking you over with a gleam of intelligence in their eyes. In one corner of the room, a mass of greenish slime lurches forwards, a few random bones lodged in its form. In another corner, an opaque oval of blackness floats a couple inches off of the ground

2 Human Zombies (CR 1/2): 16 hp. These zombies deal +1d6 acid damage with their natural attacks.
3 Deathlocks (Libris mortis, page 94) (CR 3): 19 hp
1 Graveyard Sludge (MM V, page 72) (CR 4): 63 hp

Course of Battle: Deathlocks alternate between casting summon monster 1, ghoul glyph, and magic missile while the zombies attack. The graveyard sludge empowers a deathlock each round, instead using spirit resurgence if there aren’t any left.
If all alone, the graveyard sludge moves through the portal in the corner.

Rewards: 365 xp (divided among players). 8000 sp, 900 gp, A bullseye lantern, a skill shard (knowledge [religion]), a potion of shield of faith +2, a scroll of ghost touch armor (Arcane), a masterwork silver dagger, a healing belt, powder of the black veil, and a hand of the mage.

As the battle is won, an additional human zombie emerges from the black portal, making it clear from where they are coming. Dimensional anchor spells make the portal shudder and quake but don’t make it collapse.
If the party confers with the refugees, they ask that the players go through the portal and stop the flow of undead from the other side.

Section 1: Hamlet of the Dead

Having crossed the threshold of the portal, you find yourself in a strange new place. Judging by the sun, it appears to be dusk. Far more shocking than the time is a giant black tear ripping its way through the sky like an open wound. You are standing on top of a small building and as you look around, you see no entrance for the portal. Perhaps it was more erratic than it appeared. Below you, you hear a dull moaning noise.

Encounter 1: The Endless Swarm

One hundred zombies and skeletons shuffle along the avenues of the hamlet, paying little attention to the building themselves or what rests above their heads.
The hamlet has nothing more than fifty small homes. 1d4+1 planks of wood can be ripped from each roof with a dc 10 strength check (pulling more risks weakening the roof) and 20 feet of rope rests tangled on the weathervane of the home where the PCs start. Each home is 1d4 x 10 feet away from its neighbors.
70 human zombies (CR 1/2): 16 hp
30 human skeletons (CR 1/3): 6 hp
Any critical hit scored by a zombie or skeleton deals 1 additional point of vile damage (can only be healed in a hallowed or consecrated area).

To be read as the fight continues:

As you move along, you notice that most of the houses are in a terrible state of disrepair, as if they hadn’t been in use for years. Many of them have their doors and windows boarded shut. The town itself seems to rest against a mountain. You can see no familiar landmarks from your location.

Rewards: 0 xp. No treasure.
If the houses are all raided, however, the party finds a total of 1,100 sp, 857 gp, and 52 small diamonds worth 50 gp apiece.

If the town is thoroughly explored, two (or three) things are discovered. The first is one house with some primitive fortifications around it and a single window that isn’t boarded up. The second is a cave carved into the side of the mountain. With a DC 10 survival check, a small path is discovered leading away from town, heading down some foothills.

Encounter 2: The survivor

As you peer into the fortified house, you see a single man sitting on the ground. He is in the act of feasting upon a dog, crying as he does so. A bookshelf rests against the left wall and a shortsword rests on the ground near him. The man himself has a red beard and haunted look in his eyes. He is a thin, wiry man.
The man in the house is Howard Blackwell, the only survivor in the hamlet of Remwell. He and his hunting dog have survived for the past 5 years by jumping from roof to roof, gathering whatever materials he needed from the homes of others and then by sneaking food from nearby fields. His supplies have just run out, forcing him to eat his dog.
When the party first appears, Howard assumes that he has finally gone insane or that it is an undead or mindflayer trick, reaching for his weapon if anyone approaches him. It takes a DC 15 diplomacy or Charisma check to calm him down. Even when calm, he refuses to relinquish his meal and tries to run away (into another boarded up home) if the issue is pressed.

Mindflayers: he knows that they and other abominations like them were coming close to taking over when the undead came around. As far as he knows, however, Remwell was never bothered by them (he doesn’t know about the cave).
The Undead: right before the mindflayers could take over everything, the undead started appearing. They overran the town in under a day, leaving only five people and one dog alive. After all this time, Howard is the only one left. One thing he has learned is that killing undead doesn’t always keep them dead.
The Rift in the Sky: Howard has no idea where it comes from but says he sees things come out of it sometimes. He blames both the undead and the mindflayers for it, not knowing which is really responsible.
The Caves: They were built for mining diamonds. They were still producing when the undead attacked.
Is there a safe place/how does one leave town: Howard tells the party where the road out of town is and that the only safe place left is the town of Norwood, located just beyond the Grimwood forest. As proof of his claim, he pulls a letter from the bookshelf, in which a close friend of Howard’s tells him that Norwood is holding up against the undead attacks. The letter, however, is old and starting to yellow.

When the party tries to leave, Howard asks to accompany them. If not allowed, he attempts to follow the party, knowing that his odds are better dealing with their ire than living in that house with the undead all around him and no provisions. Howard, though stronger than an average person, is cowardly and far weaker than the PCs in combat.

Howard's Stats

Male Human Fighter 4; 34 hp; +6 Initiative; 30 feet; AC 13, touch 12, flat-footed 11; BAB +4, Grp +6; Shortsword +7 melee (1d6+4); 5 ft. reach; +6 Fort, +3 Ref, +1 Will; Str 15, Dex 14, Con 15, Int 13, Wis 11, Cha 9; +3 survival, +8 climb, +6 handle animal, +11 jump, -1 swim; skill focus (jump), improved initiative, weapon focus (shortsword), weapon specialization (shortsword), combat expertise, dodge; padded armor and shortsword.

Reward: If slain: 450 xp (distributed among players).
If dealt with peacefully: 200 xp per character.

If the party chooses to enter the cave in the side of the town, they instead contend with a very different situation

Encounter 3: Illithid’s Last Stand

bits of glittering minerals line the walls of the cave, suggesting that it may have been a mine in the past. In the back of the cave are a couple of motionless bodies. One is large and grey, a mass of rotting muscle. The others look mostly humanoid in shape, although their skin is violet in hue and their mouths possess tentacles. Several small metal spheres litter the floor. As you approach, the bodies seem to spring to life, walking towards you.

This is where mindflayers recently tried to fight off a gray render zombie while inspecting Remwell. The spheres on the ground function as blast discs (Magic Item Compendium, page 152).

3 Mind Flayer Zombies (CR 5): 107 hp
Gray Render Zombie (CR 6): 133 hp

Course of Battle: Zombies mindlessly wander towards the PCs, setting off any blast discs in their path. If at least three blast discs are set off, a cave-in is triggered (DMG, page 66).

Rewards: 731 xp (split among players). 500 gp hidden on the person of the mindflayers.

From this battlefield, the party can hear pitched combat going on a bit further in
Encounter 4: Ilithid’s Last Stand, part 2

In the middle of the road is a large pit dropping away into the darkness. At the bottom of the pit, you can hear the sounds of combat. You can see someone or something fighting on a small earthen ledge and you can hear something splashing through water. To those with darkvision/low light vision: You see another ilithid, still alive this time, fighting up against some form of zombie in an underground pool that resembles a primeval fish with slitted eyes and tentacles. With a DC 20 spot check: You spot a small canister at the ilithid’s feet; something grey is suspended within it.

Down a 60-foot pit, a mind flayer is fighting up against an aboleth zombie, having little luck on his own.

Aboleth zombie (CR 5): 107 hp
Mind Flayer (CR 7): 36 hp

Course of battle: Any attempts to help the mind flayer are appreciated and the ilithid is willing to work with others. The zombie, however, being mindless as it is, won’t notice if the party helps to kill the mind flayer.

Rewards: 168 xp for slaying aboleth (shared among party) or 506 if the mind flayer is slain as well. The mind flayer has bracers of armor +2, a pouch with 500 gp, and a brain canister (currently full).

Aftermath: If the mind flayer (Sleznak) is allowed to survive, it is truly grateful (something rare for ilithids), at least enough to half-heartedly thank the party, eat the brain in the brain canister, and not ignore party questions before parting ways. The mind flayer can be coerced into joining the party but it may try to eat a PC’s (or Howard’s) brain while they sleep or to betray them in combat, dominating one PC and running off with his slave.

Mindflayers: quite a bit, actually. On the topic of their near dominance, they has 80% of the world under their thumb before the undead appeared, routing them into defensive bunkers set up for emergencies.
The Undead: the entire plague of undead is actually the fault of a human cult. Fearing ilithid domination, they called the undead, one of the few things that mind flayers have a hard time fighting. The ritual went overboard, however, and is close to driving humanoids into extinction.
The Rift in the Sky: That is the fault of the mind flayers. Some cultists among the ilithids tried to call upon their alien god when the rift opened up.
The Caves: Sleznak doesn’t know anything about the cave. Him and his associates were chased into the caves by the undead and he was running too fast to notice the hole in the ground.
Can you take us to a bunker: with fresh brains so rare nowadays, even slaves don’t last long in the bunkers. Taking the party with him would be a death sentence.

Mining For Diamonds: 10,000 gp of diamonds remain (relatively) easily accessible in the mine. For each hour of work, a miner makes a profession (miner) check, getting 100 gp of diamonds per point by which the check exceeds 9.
As the party leaves town via the mountain path, they witness something astounding:

Peals of thunder fill your ears as the rift in the sky shakes and shudders. A gigantic flying beast of endless mouths and eyes descends from the rift, black-clad figures barely visible on its back. As it descends from the sky, a zombiefied dragon flies up from the forest canopy, catching the beast in mid-air. The two of them fall back down to the ground together, shaking the earth as they land.

Section 2: Grimwood Forest

As you walk through the forest, nothing seems quite as it should be. The canopy is thick, blocking out the sun but yet letting some light through. The forest carries the silence of death, free from the sounds of chirping birds and even rustling leaves. Though the road is clearly marked, it suffers from nearly no wear.

In one portion of the forest, real trees have been replaced by close look-alikes. All players are entitled to spot and knowledge (nature) checks.
Spot DC 15: you notice that some of the trees seem a bit odd.
Their leaves stick out at odd angles and their bark seems flesh-like.
Knowledge DC 16: You note that there are only two or three types of
trees around you and that there aren’t any other plants in the area, as if
they have been cleared away.
Either way, the following event occurs:
You suddenly notice that a few trees have curtains hanging around
their roots, concealing their undergrowth. You think you can hear low
murmering from behind these curtains.
This is the illusory lure ability of boneleaves, disbelieved with a DC 14 will save. If the PCs investigate or leave it alone, the Treants and Boneleaves in the area attack.

4 treants (CR 8): 66 hp
6 boneleaves (heroes of horror, page 143) (CR 6): 73 hp
8 controlled trees (CR -): 66 hp

Course of Battle: Throughout this battle, treants and controlled trees attempt to sunder weapons and armor while boneleaves attempt to grapple and constrict.

Treasure: 3150 xp (to split among party). No treasure.

Shortly after this encounter, the road reaches a fork. If Howard is with the party, he tells everyone that both paths eventually reach town but that the right path (a wider one) was built more recently to accommodate halfling caravan.

Down the left path:

Encounter 2: Spider Ambush

Two bone widows are waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass by their tree (DC 26 spot check spots them).

2 Bone Widows (CR 10): 100 hp

Bone Widow Statistics:

Bone Widow
Large Undead
Hit Dice: 8d12 plus 48 (100 hp)
Initiative: +4
Speed: 60 ft. (12 squares), climb 60 ft.
Armor Class: 21, touch 13, flat-footed 21 (-1 size, +4 deflection, +8 natural)
Base Attack/Grapple: +4/+14
Attack: Spear +10 melee (1d8+8) or spit +4 ranged (1d4 plus poison)
Full Attack: Two spears +10 melee (1d8+8) or spit +4 ranged (1d4 plus poison)
Space/Reach: 10 feet/10 feet
Special Attacks: Lunge, Poison, Snatch Prey
Special Qualities: Damage Reduction 10/- , Undead Traits, Unholy Toughness
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +6 Will+7
Abilities: Str 22, Dex 10, Con -, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 22
Skills: Jump +22, Hide +10 (+16 in forests), Spot +12, Listen +12, Move Silently +10 (+16 in forests)
Feats: Improved initiative; Weapon Focus Spit, Weapon Focus Spear, Lightning Reflexes
Environment: Forests, negative energy planes
Organization: Pack 2-5 or Gang 4-10(2d4 +2)
CR: 10
Treasure: 1/2 standard (no coins or goods)
Alignment: Always Chaotic Evil

In front of you stands a large spider with thick black skin that shines under its matted, blood stained fur. Its massive red eyes peer down at you and you could swear you see a smile spreading on its face. Thick green foam hangs from its mouth, and you can see dried blood caked on its front legs. As it moves, you see that its legs are purely skeletal, dyed black by bile.

The Bone Widow is a fearsome beast that stalks the forests near places of negative energy. They are the result of granting sentience to reanimated monstrous spiders. Though they no longer need to eat, they hunt for the pure joy of watching their prey’s life fade from their bodies.

Combat: Bone Widows often rely on ambushes, hiding until their prey has approached. Their front two legs, sharpened into spears, pierce their foe and allow them to drag their prey away. Failing that, they can still produce some venom as they did in life.
If they have the upper hand on their opponents, they drag out the battle and take their time killing their prey
Lunge (Ex): When a Bone Widow charges, they may make any number of turns. Furthermore, at the end of their charge, they make a single attack roll for two spear attacks (if the attack hits, snatch prey works as normal).
Poison (Su): Contact, Fortitude DC 24, initial and secondary damage 1d6+2 Con drain. Any creature drained to 0 Constitution in this way make a DC 24 Will save or be revived 1d4+1 rounds later with the undead type, a chaotic evil alignment, and none of their memories intact. Such creatures may not take offensive action against bone widows but need not serve their creators.
Snatch Prey (Ex): Whenever a Bone Widow hits with two spear attacks in the same round, they may initiate a grapple check as a free action without provoking attacks of opportunity.
Unholy Toughness (Ex): Bone Widows gain extra hit points equal to their Charisma modifier x their hit dice.

Course of Battle: The bone widows descend from their trees, lunging at pcs before dragging anyone they have grappled back up trees to deal with them.

Rewards: 2025 xp (for party to split). No treasure.

Encounter 3: Cry the Little Children

Two slaymates siblings whimper and cry on a treestump near some bloodleaves. Beneath the bloodleaves rest the detritus of their victims, a small hoard of tomb motes.

As you walk along, you hear a soft whimpering noise off to your left.
As you continue, you see a small boy and girl sitting on a treestump, hugging
and crying. As they see you approach, they stop their crying and rub their
eyes, as if to make sure that they aren’t dreaming. Content in what they’ve
seen, they stand up and run towards you, arms outstretched, sobbing a bit
once more.
Once more, the bloodleaves are concealing the true appearance of the slaymates underneath a major image (DC 14 will save disbelieves). The slaymates run to either side of a random player, tugging at their shirt before letting out a wail and biting into the player (taking advantage of flanking). This signals the start of the battle.

6 boneleaves (Heroes of Horror, page 143) (CR 6): 73 hp
2 Slaymates (Libris Mortis, page 122) (CR 2): 26 hp
12 Tomb Motes (Libris Mortis, page 128) (CR 2): 13 hp

Course of Battle:
The boneleaves are part of the same pervasive sentience as those that the party faced before, meaning that they know what tactics the party uses and who is most of a threat.
Both the slaymates and the tomb motes carry particularly virulent diseases, gaining ability focus in their disease as a bonus feat.
The slaymates try to stay close together (in adjacent squares if possible) throughout the combat while the tomb motes swarm.

Rewards: 1237 xp (to split among party).
After the battle is over, the female slaymate, previously thought slain, crawls over to her brother’s side, weakly points towards the treestump where they were sitting, and mouths out the words “thank you” before finally dying.
Behind the treestump is an old book that is labeled, in bad spelling, as an adventure book. It is filled with bad drawings of all sorts of childish adventures but within the book is an old platinum piece as well as a small jade, worth at least 40 gp.
Hidden in the trunk of a boneleaf is a +1 Plant Bane Longsword.

Also along the right path is another opponent to face:

Encounter 4: Plan Nine from Outer Space

As the party continues along, they see, a good thirty feet to the right, the remains of the zombified dragon and the alien creature it fought. Among the wreckage are several beings, humanoid in shape, wearing some kind of black suit.
If the party chooses to leave or investigate, one of these black-suited figures shakily rises up, his helmet partially shattered to reveal an alien and monstrous visage. It charges the party with reckless abandon.

Koarti (Fiend Folio, page 108) (CR 1): 9 hp

Course of Battle: The koarti fights to the death, regardless of the danger.

Rewards: 0 xp. Ribbon dagger.

The Paths Reunite
After these encounters, both of the roads meet up once more and continue. One more hurdle lies in front of the PCs, however.

Encounter 5: Not Out of the Woods Just Yet

Eight intelligent flesh golems are fighting up against two treants and their animated trees. Due to damage reduction, however, the fight is going pretty slowly.

Up ahead on the road, eight automatons seemingly formed from
humanoid flesh fight off against another two treants and their allied trees.
Unlike other golems, however, these automatons seem to be using tactics. A
couple seem to notice you but continue fighting.

2 Treants (CR 8): 66 hp
4 controlled trees (CR -): 66 hp
8 flesh golems (CR 7): 79 hp

Course of Battle: Both the treants and the golems know that the other will absorb some of their attacks, making them more likely to direct their wrath towards interlopers (who are more likely to get the full brunt of the attack).

Rewards: 3,600 xp (to split among party). No treasure.
Shortly after the battle, the party comes across the town of Norwood (secretly now the town of Norskull).

At long last, you have reached the town of Norwood. To your right is a large lake, likely Norwood’s water supply. In front of you is the large town wall. It is clear that the town wall has taken a beating but you can still see a few signs of life on the other side. Smoke rises up from a few chimneys and candles burn in the windows of the castle held within the walls. Eventually, you find the large iron town gate. Scribed onto it are the words: “Welcome to the Norwood, our last sanctuary for all that is good, for all that is right, for all that is alive.” The gate is completely flat, devoid of even a knocker

If the party investigates the lake, what part of it they can see seems fresh, safe to drink, and free of undead infestation. They can even bathe without fear of attack.
If the party investigates the gate, read the following the moment they touch it.

As you touch the gate, you can feel a warmth spread through every inch of your body. The warms ebbs and flows in time with your heartbeat. After a few seconds, a small part of the gate seems to fade away, allowing you inside.

Here are some less organized ideas we had

Make it so that the plants in the maze are under a permanent Animate Plants spell. As the party enters the maze, it changes configuration, making walls appear behind them, leading them to traps and such. If they try to fly over it, a ceiling appears and impedes them from going through. Also, make it so that the plants have contact poison, so hacking and slashing through them is impossible. They have to traverse through the maze in traditional fashion, and figure out a way to know where they are even as the maze changes configuration and lead them to dead ends. The plants could be Corpse Vines (Vines that feed off of carrion), or they could be Vampiric Vines, that feed off of blood. Making this one of the possible entry methods to the BBEG castle is nice. It's also very proeminently featured in castles around the round IRL.

Maybe the central part of the maze could be the Royal Family Mausoleum, with crypts leading to the inside of the castle. One of the things that can be done are dog pens filled with Hellhounds, which can be released to hunt down the PC's when they enter the maze. Some of these mazes also feature several statues and works of art, why not Gargoyles then? I mean, just because it's a den of evil doesn't mean it can't have several works of art. Maybe the Lich who's in charge of the place also has artistic inclinations? (His immediate subordinate is, after all, a Bard.) Inside the maze, it's also really easy to separate the PC's, make them be by theirselves.

This also gives me some ideas to the interior of the castle, which could feature several works of art, sculptures, paintings, afrescos, murals and whatnot. Maybe they're in most part dedicated to the god the Lich follows, there could be some depicting the day-to-day life of the undead village, the former patrons of the castle, etc... You could even borrow some ideas from the game Eternal Darkness, where some pictures change their landscape as your insanity grows. Maybe as the PC's get more and more frightened and deep into the reality of the place, they could change from beautiful barroque works of art, to mind-blowing lovecraftian horror dark landscapes and monsters. If the statues and artwork appear to be living, this could also lead to moments of tension, as the statues and paintings appear to be following the PC's with their heads and eyes. Localized gravity changes are also well and good. If you mess up with their sense of what's down/up things get interestings. Make it so that they see a door that is sideways, and as they approach it, it seems to twist and turn (Sort of like the Forest Temple in Ocarina of Time.) ultimately being right-side up.

Also, if you should feel inclined to really mess things up, you could abdicate from "normal" trap effects, and stitch some Symbols of Insanity in the murals, key some Charm Effects in the paintings, and maybe even a tome cursed with reverse alignment. If you can separate the PC's, you can also throw in a Shapechanger that takes the place of one of them. Make them doubt each other. When they're resting, make a Shadow steal the mage's Spellbook and put it on the Thief's pocket. Then make said spellbook fall from the pocket as the argument goes on. Use Ventriloquism, put words into their mouths. ABUSE ghost sound, make them go inside rooms that make it seem like a young maiden is being raped and tortured, only to close the door behind them and choke them with Mustard Gas. Put a golden crown in the back of a drawer and spill acid in their eyes if they grab it. Throw in some Wild Magic zones for good measure. Illusory walls concealing doors and illusory lava pits that are actually solid ground. If they can't trust their senses, themselves, or their members, who're they going to trust?

Tempt them with power. Show them tomes detailing just how much power can be gained by undeath... If you're really, really evil, you can also screw with their sense of morality...

WARNING: The following suggestions may offend some people for cruelty.

The pc's will be attacked by zombies and skeletons and whatnot the entire adventure. They will learn not to hold back and attack immediately and with strenght. Then, you put them against some zombies, only they're not zombies. They're CHILDREN. They're children under a Dominate Effect and a Veil. When the PC's kill the children, they'll realize they have just killed infants. Now what would you do? I know some people would go crazy. I know the sense of honor of some would lead them to take their own lives. Remember, the pc's are going against a Lich, an epitome of EVIL. Why wouldn't he use children to **** with the pc's sense of morality? I don't know how your players would react, and this is not something i would recommend to everyone. But if you pulled this off successfully, it could lead to a lot of interesting roleplaying. This is something i do on a regular basis on my campaigns. If the players are going up against a cave of goblins, i make it so that there are pregnant goblin womans frightened to their bones, infant goblins crying and trying to hit the PC's with their hands. I make the goblin chief give a speech about how they're the real evils and how they're being hunted and striped of the right of life. If you throw in some real world morality ambiguity issues, roleplay will get more and more intense. This kind of situation really touches the heart of a human being. This is one of those Kicking the Puppy moments of evil.
Assumptions about the town's power structure:
Vampilich rules as a king from the castle, often leaving power to a viceroy in his stead. The viceroy in turn leaves most administrative duties to someone else while letting districts of the cities rule themselves with sub-viceroys answerable to the viceroy, his assistant, and the king. Sources of martial and policing power in the town have no set area of power but can move about at will. Nobody but the vampilich (and possibly not him/her) knows about the true power running the kingdom.
I think this system works so that the party can explore the full town without worrying about running intot he vampilich for awhile, they learn of different leaders as they explore different parts of town, and no matter where they are, someone with the police or military might pass by and find them, a constant risk of adventure.

Vampilich (likely level 15-18) with intelligent phylactery (identity unknown, but I suggest making it the key to the gate leaving the town so that the party can't destroy it right away). Possibly a vampiric ilithilich (mindflayers can become both vampires and liches, strangely)?
Something to remember: There is no creature as frustrated as a vampilich. They likely became a lich to continue their arcane studies uninterrupted but the demand for blood keeps them on the run (unless the vampilich has a system for raising and slaughtering people/animals).

Well, obviously, we have our lich bard, probably level 12-14. Has the mask of gentility feat and a phylactery on their person. Though the vampilich rules over everything (or so the players think), the lich bard probably rules the town for all intensive purposes (unless the vampilich is putting a plan in motion).
phylactery is also alive (but weaker than vampilich's phylactery)
phylactery acts as perpetual glibness spell.
phylactery is disguised by perpetual nystul's magic aura to hide any necromantic aura.
phylactery is a pocketwatch, handkerchief, or other such item of gentility.

Quth-Maren: Probably in regular contact with the vampilich, answerable only to him and the bard-lich (he/she doesn't know of the true ruler hiding behind the scenes). As the bard is often "busy" (talking with the PCs, pretending to help them out, "living" the high life), most of the day-to-day matters probably fall upon the shoulders of the quth-maren.

Idea: Cadaver golem: from heroes of horror. In charge of the team of flesh golems. An amulet hidden in its torso grants it control of the golems. In charge of martial defense of the town. Whenever somebody dies, the cadaver golem "investigates" the murder himself (as natural deaths are very rare for undead). This is just a pretense to take the choicest bits of flesh for himself before the undead gets back up. Fittingly, he cares little about or ignores the death of incorporeal creatures (whom he can't assimilate) while rushing to the corpse of a previously living creature (whom he has yet to take any flesh from at all). By staging a murder, the party may be able to lure the cadaver golem away from his building or into an ambush (though he takes a couple golems with him to his "investigations").

Idea regarding flesh golem army: As far as numbers, between 25 and 50 sounds like a suitable force (considering that a single one can handle most average breaches of the peace). Also, one possible idea to consider is that their sentience may be located outside of their body. If this were so, consider having an equal number of brains in jars (libris mortis) held in a castle room. Though the jars are individually weak, if the party enters the room, the first person in gets spammed with 25+ dominate person spells. If they are slain, however, the flesh golems lose their intelligence, simultaneously losing the ability to effectively police the city autonomously (though they can still travel with others or get placed on guard duty).

Idea: Ghost Commander: A monk ghost with the corrupting touch, draining touch, and telekinesis abilities. Its lack of armor doesn't make a difference anymore (in fact, it now adds its charisma bonus to AC as well), its improved speed applies to flying, and you can rule that the monk unarmed damage applies modifies corrupting touch damage (not to mention how well draining touch comboes with flurry of blows). This guy would probably be in charge of another defense organization, running parallel with the golems but with more military purposes in mind. The ghost commander may have a grudge against or rivalry with the cadaver golem.

Bane Wraith?: Even if this guy is a free radical, running through town on his own, he probably isn't a leader (although he rules his spawn). If anything, this guy is probably something of a "pet" to the vampilich, usually kept in the castle and sent out when someone is deemed too annoying to deserve mere death.
If you send this guy out into the city, keep in mind that this guy gets ticked off at almost everybody (including other undead) but has no way to hurt other undead. In fact, characters may mistake him for an ally when he directs them to destroy another undead that it has held a grudge against for awhile.

A couple weaker leaders: The below are a couple of city officials that the players could probably kill the moment they got into town. The secret to them, however, is that they are more useful to the party alive than dead, if they can figure that out.

Idea: The Necropolitan: Assuming that the city is split into sections run by local politicians, some of these politicians may seem a bit... odd. One possibility is a simple necropolitan, a previously living aristocrat from the city (necropolitan aristocrat 6). When the town was overrun, he turned himself into a necropolitan rather than letting the other undead have their say with him, allowing him to retain his memories. Intrigued by his willingness (or something like that), the lich bard or quth-maren may have let this necropolitan continue running a small part of town.
Having memories of his past life and knowing how terrifying everything must seem for the resistance, the necropolitan has started a campaign to turn any willing subjects into necropolitans, saving them the horror of being torn to shred by undead. Continuing campaign strategies from his life, he might have even hung up posters ("Tired of life? Join us on the other side"). Though some citizens are a bit weary of necropolitans, a few souls have taken his offer, something that has earned him respect.

Now that we know his history, how does he fit into the campaign? Many ways. First of all, the players can seek to talk to the people he has already converted, trying to win them back to the side of the resistance (though they'll likely want assurance that they won't be destroyed). Alternately, an NPC or even a player can offer themselves up and become a spy in the undead ranks (the necropolitan leader, being a naive idealist, hasn't thought of this). Note that citizens keep a close eye on necropolitans and that the resistance may not want to deal with them, making this a delicate balance.

Furthermore, the necropolitan leader is probably the best person to speak to, being willing to talk peacably and even keep conversations private (at least as long as he thinks there is hope for convincing them to convert). After enough time, he may even be convinced to fight on behalf of the resistance.

Lastly, as cantidates need to stay alive until the end of the ritual turning them into a necropolitan, the leader keeps a large cache of healing potions on hand, a useful treat for the party to discover.

Idea: Have you ever heard how the Roman Emperor Calligula made (or tried to make, I forget) his horse a consul so that everyone would be answerable to his horse? That seems like something that the bard-lich would do for fun. To that end, one leader is a generic, unintelligent human zombie.
the zombie has "chosen" (happened to point at) a ghast to interpret his groans and shakes as decrees for the small area that the zombie rules.
Not wanting to bow down to an inferior ruler, most powerful undead abandoned that area of town and no other leaders (other than the ghost and cadaver golem) have anything to do with it, though there are a long line of (far stronger) cantidates if either the zombie or ghast dies.

But of course, the party can kill both the zombie and his "interpreter" as soon as they enter town. However, this is a case of choosing the lesser of two evils. So long as the zombie rules, stronger undead leave the area alone and the leader can be dealt with at any time. Furthermore, it is possible for a ghast to be browbeat into following orders or to be bribed with food (ghasts, being greater ghouls, love dead flesh, something that the cult hordes in abundance), though there are inherent dangers with either option.
I have a new idea. I think it's the best idea i ever had. I mean it.

I'll begin with a rough description of what i envision should be described to the players...

"As you open the door, you come upon a large corridor, it's 5ft wide and 60ft deep. The walls of the corridor are rough and darkened, as though by fire or charcoal, and the air is dense and thick. As you walk through the corridor, the air begins to smell of rotten flesh, the air gets more and more damp, it's difficult to breath, the smell so pungent it seems to burn through your lungs."

"As you approach the door, you notice it's not locked, and it doesn't feel like wood, it feels like hardened flesh, it's smell and touch so awful you rather not think about it."

"As you open the door, you can see what appears to be a slaughterhouse of sorts... Tens and Tens of chains dangle from the ceiling, bodies of dwarf, human, and elf alike, ripped apart and dismembered, their eyeballs gouging and rotting, being chipped away by rats, that are scared away by your presence."

"The air is so damp, it's overpowering, the stench so awful that you think you'd rather not breath again then to put up with it... The sound of the chains pounding against each other seems like hammers at your eardrums... The bodies seem to move as the chains dangle here and there, it's hard to walk without bumping onto one of them, even harder is to see, with the dust and rotten gases"

"As you approach the middle of the room, sounds everywhere cease. The chains stand still, silence. Overpowering, overwhelming silence, deeper and darker than the soul of Asmodeus himself."

"Suddenly, a sound most horrific breaks the silence. The door slams shut. And then silence. For one, maybe 2 seconds, there is again that deep silence, there is no echo from the door. A sound, like that of a siren(Imagine here, silent hill the movie, i can't really describe that) goes on for about 10 seconds."

"Then, immediately as the siren dies slowly, you hear a dozen moanings, and then, the chains rippling and grappling your every arm, everywhere the chains are like snakes, those chains with their spikes at every other link, tearing down your flesh, and you know, you know that those sounds of metal and death, that smell of rotten and fear, may very well be, the last thing you'll ever hear."

So, maybe the ropes are animated objects, maybe just animated ropes, maybe the zombies are ghouls, maybe they are wights. But the main point is that the ropes can, and will bind the characters as the zombies lash and tear them. And they must break free from their bindings so as to fight back... I'm rusty on the rules on grapple and animated objects, but as i see it, just the description will give the chills and get the PC's at their bearings in no time. They'll learn to fear the very air, the very soul. They'll come to think the building is alive, that the world is against them. And that's what's fun!

I seriously HAVE to build an adventure just for that encounter as well.

Here was the base Idea for Norskull


In this world, the sun will Never Rise

Norskull is a large graveyard-city. At first, it simply seems like a huge graveyard, but the Graves are the residences of the poor, the large crypt underneath is home to the middle-class citizens as well as the market, and the Mausoleums are where the rich may be found. All undead here are sentient, even skeletons and zombies, and anyone to die in this area becomes a Neutral Evil Zombie with no memories of it's past life.

The Rulers of this city, however, are the inhabitants of the castle ,At lest the ones in the highest (or should it be lowest) parts of the castle. They should be Ahloon (Lich) Mind Flayers.

Vampiric mind flayers march the streets of the city, searching for living beings that they can quench their thirst with. The most elite missions in this town are carried out by a special force composed of intelligent Flesh Golems (They lose their intelligence if they go berserk, ravaging all around them).

Like it so far? Post more ideas (Not just suggestions, you can put text too)

Here's the original thread. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=112946)

Also, I was quite foolish and young (like 12 years old) when we first made it. My posts from back then are now atrociously embarassing. Please don't judge.

I figure we could work on statting out the town's gardens, the Graveyard and the Palace, as well as the somewhat less evil organization that fights the undead.