Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Necropolis

Welcome to the Tower of the Archmage’s April A to Z Challenge!

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “N” the number “14” and the support of readers like you.

Thank you.


It’s a stirring word. A city of the dead. The place where shadows and spirits dwell. In ancient times on our world, a necropolis would be next to or near a city of the living. Today our dead are amongst us, and should the dead rise, we’re all in for a world of pain. Back in the old days the dead were contained within their own city!

Is a Necropolis even a valid feature in Dungeons and Dragons? In a world where necromancers are a dime a dozen how likely is it that the dead would be buried as opposed to cremated? I know I’d rather be toasty than a mindless puppet to some magic user with delusions of grandeur!

Lets presume for a moment that burial or internment in tombs is, for whatever reason, the cultural norm, in spite of ALL of the reasons why it shouldn’t be. Besides, if it wasn’t, there would be a whole lot fewer places for adventurers to plunder!

So besides giving our players someplace to poke around in with their characters, what would one expect from a necropolis? In this case we will define a necropolis as a separate resting place for a large number of dead bodies. The village graveyard doesn’t count, it has to be a significant city sized location, distinct from any area where living being inhabit.

An active Necropolis would likely be patrolled regularly by specially trained guards, along with novice paladins and clerics in lawful areas. It will likely be similar to living on a Hellmouth (a missed opportunity for an “H” post, perhaps to be revisited!) with frequent spontaneous creation of lesser undead and the natural attraction of more dangerous unwelcome elements (Necromancers, intelligent undead, etc.). Actually, this could make for an interesting side campaign. Adventures could range from dealing with zombies, families that are being attacked by grandma, thieves trying to get grandma’s jewelry, necromancers who want to control grandma, ghouls that want to eat grandma (and mom, dad, the kids, cousins...), dealing with a VIP internment and the circus that goes with it. Thinking more on it, it sounds like it might actually work better with BESM or a similar system.

The real interesting things happen when you start dealing with a necropolis what isn’t active! For whatever reason people stopped coming to visit the graves of their loved ones and new bodies aren’t interred anymore. Maybe the city was wiped out by a plague or war, or abandoned when something happened in the necropolis, or maybe people wisely started cremating their dead, but then unwisely stopped keeping an eye on the Necropolis. Whatever the reason this city of the dead is now ruled by the dead, and more frighteningly, the undead! It maybe that the boarders of the Necropolis are warded well enough that at this point they can’t really get out... until they can, or at least start to.

There is also no reason to presume that the necropolis is even on the surface! A dungeon necropolis is a perfectly valid locale, and in fact may be more fitting, as it will never see the light of day!

Hmmm.. Looks like I’ll be adding a Necropolis to my Megadungeon.


  1. Nice to meet you through the A-Z challenge! Hope to see you around!

  2. My today post also will be about Necropolis :-)

  3. If there is magic to animate dead bodies, why can there not be magic to keep bodies from being animated? Now, as to why to keep bodies around: Maybe you need a body to enjoy the afterlife properly. Maybe at some future time spirits are suppose to return to their bodies (a 'good' sort of undead). Perhaps there just in not enough burnables to cremate all of the bodies.