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Cantankerous
2005-07-04, 04:27 PM
Nocta, city of night

Introduction (if PC’s have entered by day): *

After having traveled at a rather leisurely rate through these relatively safe hills, you finally come upon the fabled city of Nocta. *It is daytime, but there is a light drizzle falling right over the city, as if the rain were meant for the city itself. *Strangely, however, the guard who let you in looks tired and lethargic. *As you enter the market, you notice that the place is practically deserted. *The few vendors are like the guard, seeming all very weary and unresponsive. *Oddest of all, all the natives of the city seem to be somewhat pale and thin. *Strange indeed.

Introduction (if PC’s have entered by night): *

After having wandered through these hills, you finally come upon the fabled city of Nocta. *Although it is only a few hours after nightfall, Nocta seems to be lit up by a thousand bright lights, and the sky is amazingly clear, bringing an unearthly moonlight upon the city – odd, as this morning rain seemed to be over this region. *The people at the market seem lively, business seems bustling, and all sorts of vendors and peddlers hawk their wares at you. *A number of caravans here suggests that numerous individuals here are merchants. *As you look further, you can tell that in some areas, the people are furiously celebrating the night away, some among them adventurers. *All this revelry and bustling under the night sky and the numerous torch-fires – strange indeed.

Statistics:

Size: Large city
Population: 23,000 (92% humans, 2% half-elves, 1% dwarves, 1% elves, 1% gnomes, 1% halflings, 1% half-orcs, 1% other)
Alignment: Lawful neutral
Religion: Wee Jas, St. Cuthbert
Power centers: Lawful neutral town council, lawful neutral church of Wee Jas, neutral good sorcerer
Gold piece limit: 28,000 gp
Sheriff: Male human Fighter11
Full-time guards: 230
Conscriptable individuals: 1,150 (Nocta has rarely been attacked, and cannot practically make war on others)

Background Information: *

Nocta, to understate, is a somewhat unusual city, for all its citizens who have been born within its walls sleep during the day and trade, talk, and celebrate during the night. *This is not out of any religious ideal, nor are they undead masquerading as humans. *The people of Nocta are under the power of an ancient curse.

About 500 years ago, the High Lich, an immensely powerful undead wizard, had had his fill of conquering and terrorizing the local lands. *He and his followers, which consisted of thousands of humans and undead, built a great city in which the High Lich was the undisputed ruler. *He built great catacombs in which to perform his vile magical experiments, and even constructed a great obelisk to commemorate his own power. *However, the High Lich had always been fair to his followers, but his arrogance grew, and eventually, he began to abuse his powers, killing many of his own minions.

Only about fifty years after the establishment of Nocta, then, was the High Lich, as well as most of his undead servants, destroyed at the hands of his own followers. *Nocta may have very well become a deserted city, except that the undead despot, realizing his destruction, placed a cursed upon the entire city.

“Curse you! *You shall stay within these walls forever! *You will be like the unliving, and sleep in daytime, and walk in nighttime – you, and your children, and your children’s children!”

Since then, anyone born in Nocta is tired when the sun is up, and awake during night. *This effect has even extended to foreigners who have stayed in the city for at least ten years.

However, the High Lich’s minions were not only skillful craftsmen and artisans (for they furnished many tools and weapons of his army), they were also smart enough to decide if that they would be cursed, they would at least make the most of it. *The city’s people drove back the rest of the undead into the catacombs beneath Nocta, and proceed to forge new relations with the local towns that had once suffered so terribly under the High Lich’s undead hand.

It was a success. *Merchants from all cover, curious to see this bizarre city, came. *Wizards, eager to learn whatever the High Lich might have stored, came. *Adventurers, ready to battle the remainder of undead that lurked below the city, came. *Within another fifty years, the city grew into a small city, and grew into a large one after a hundred years. *Now, it has stabilized with a considerable population, a good percentage of which consist of travelers. * *

The people under Nocta’s curse have this game effect: they are fatigued from sunrise to sunset, and for every day a citizen stays 5 miles from Nocta, he gains a negative level. *The negative level remains as the person is outside and disappears when he returns. This negative level never results in actual level loss, but it cannot be overcome in any way (including restoration spells) while the person is outside. *The curse also grants darkvision out to 60 ft. *The few dwarves and half-orcs under the curse have their darkvision extended to 120 ft.

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Physical Description: *Nocta lies in temperate hills, slightly to the north, although its location is adaptable to most places in your (the DM’s) campaign. *It is not near a river or pond. *However, the High Lich ensured plenty of water through his magic, this of which remains today: during the day, it usually rains (about once every three days). *The people keep barrels out during the day to collect rainwater. *(Curiously as a result, barrel-stealing has become a serious offense in Nocta, as it undermines trust between neighbors.) *The area surrounding Nocta has a few trees and vegetation, and it is mostly unremarkable. *

By day, Nocta seems almost deserted. *The stray dogs and cats come out into the open, eating the scraps from last night, and strutting around like they own the place. *The few people that have to work during day, such as guards, appear tired and lethargic, even though they have slept the previous night. *It often rains during the day, but rarely during the night.

By night, Nocta is as busy as any other large city is during day. *

Districts: There are five districts of Nocta: the Crown district, the Temple district, the Slums district, the Market district, and the Masonry district.

Crown district: This is where the city council gathers, as well as where the city’s officials conduct day-to-day business. *The nobility also makes most of their homes here. *The buildings here are all built in the most elaborate architectural fashions and are lavishly decorated, for Nocta’s nobility is rich indeed. *Formerly, this is where the High Lich ruled. *This district also houses a few high-class stores where one can find more potent magic items or expensive spell components.

Temple district: The church of Wee Jas is the most prominent church here, although most other religions are present here. * *The Temple district houses numerous elaborate temples, and is the second richest district, after the Crown district. *Many spellcasters reside here, and this is where one usually goes to find a spell to research, utilize, or have cast for oneself.

Slums district: This is the poorest district, and it is hardly lit at all, as magical fires (often present in the Crown, Temple, and Market district) are not at all here, and regular fires are often poorly maintained. *The poor live here because no one else wants to, since the obelisk that commemorates the High Lich’s victories still stands here, and gives off an unpleasant aura. *Black markets can be found here, but there is nothing otherwise besides severe poverty. *As Nocta’s wealthy are particularly wealthy, so Nocta’s impoverished are particularly impoverished.

Market district: This is where most people enter the city. *At night, it’s extremely festive, with bright lights, much revelry, and very brisk trade. *The majority of inns, taverns, and of course, stores are located here. *This district is also where just over a third of Nocta’s citizens reside. *Most things adventurers need, including minor magic items, are found here.

Masonry district: Nocta is well-known for its decent masons and blacksmiths. *As proof, all the architecture here is very stark and imposing, and also very complex and elaborate. *However, most people here are laborers and workers. *Like the slums district, it sees little light because the poorer reside here, and because it sees little trade. *Almost as much people reside here as they do in the Market district.

Other areas: Nocta is home to a vast labyrinth of catacombs and sewers as large as the city itself. *Due to the fact that most rainwater is collected, the underground is fairly dry, but far from dangerous. *Numerous undead, who usually do not bother the surfacers, lurk as well. *However, the more insidious evil of cults of the undead or of demons gather here too. *Finally rumors abound of powerful magic items lying here, left over from the days of the High Lich, drawing many an adventurer and treasure hunter. *The underground Nocta is an ideal place for a DM to place dungeons. *Sewer grates across the city lead to the underground.

The graveyard area in Nocta is fairly big, and some crypts are the size of houses there, and some graves even lead to the catacombs. *By day, this place is empty; by night, the stray animals (which are numerous in Nocta) sleep here – everywhere else is full of people, and they dare not set foot beneath the city.

Significant places: Look here for places the PC’s might visit.

Regulus Way: In the Market district, this is the street where an adventurer can find weapons, armor, alchemical items, and potions. *More expensive things will have to be found elsewhere, such as the Crown or Temple district.

The Jabbering Jawbone: In the Market district, this is an enormous (the biggest) inn and tavern in Nocta. *By night, much (often debauched) revelry and drinking goes on here, as most of its patrons are travelers, merchants, and adventurers in need of excitement. *By day, a squad of twenty tired-looking young men and women cleans up the whole mess.

Arrymynyn’s: Arrymynyn, a notable half-elf wizard, runs a library full of texts and magic scrolls in the Temple District. *He also can be consulted for problems concerning magic. *

The Council Hall: An elaborate building whose grandeur rivals those of most palaces, this is where the council of Nocta gathers to make decisions. *It is in the Crown district. *

Quimble’s Place: Quimble is a merchant of questionable repute operating in the Slums district. *Although not particularly wealthy, he knows a great deal about Nocta’s inner political workings. *

Flittershades Guildhall: A dark and imposing (but for its location, somewhat unremarkable) building in the Masonry district, this is the guildhall of the main thieves’ guild in the city. *PC’s can go here, if they know the right people or have enough money, to find out certain information or to buy illicit or fenced goods.

The Spire: The obelisk, or the monument of Nocta. *See below.

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Arts and Culture: For a place with such a macabre and morbid origin, art and culture has flourished in Nocta. * Art often takes the form of sculpting and masonry, and storytelling has also developed into something of an art form. *Stories about the High Lich are only told as tales to spook children who won’t clean their rooms. *The true stories concerning the High Lich, however, are either lost to time or far too horrible to even speak of. *Funerals (and anniversaries of them) are given an immense deal of importance – most are as, if not more, elaborate as weddings. *Finally, Nocta holds a great number of festivals every year, most of which celebrate the defeat of the occasional lich or necromancer who has attempted to overthrow the city. *Most of Nocta’s people participate in the rowdy festivals, which are often an excuse to simply have a good time.

Economics: Nocta has positive relations with the surrounding towns, all of which provide grain, wine, salt, and meat for the city. *Nocta itself produces a copious amount of jewelry, weapons, armor, tools, and other manufactured goods. *Many of the nobility are spellcasters (as the leaders of Nocta’s first citizens were necromancers and priests), and so Nocta exports a good amount of magic items as well, but these profits usually fall into the hands of the rich.

Religion: * Nocta sees many visitors and merchants, so deities of travel and trade are popular. *St. Cuthbert is somewhat popular too, as he has come to represent law and order in Nocta. *Evil deities, even deities of undead, like in other cities, are not openly worshipped. *However, the most powerful church is that of Wee Jas, as they attend to funerals, maintenance of graveyards, and most importantly of all, keeping the undead underneath at bay. *Very few followers of the goddess are evil. The church of Pelor is, appropriately, not at all present in Nocta. *

Government: *No single individual rules Nocta. *A council of thirty-three men runs the city, but most are of the nobility (a few are wealthy merchants or celebrated adventurers). *They are the official power in town, but the church of Wee Jas holds considerable power. *Furthermore, there is a new upstart cleric, who talks about scouring the city of undead and heathens, both of which pose a great city to the city. *He may soon become a member of the council, and many paladins and good-aligned people have allied themselves with him. *Nocta is on good terms with the surrounding towns and other nations, with which they trade quite a bit. *In general, though, it is regarded by most of the world as a strange curiosity, but rarely an enemy. *Whether or not it is part of a nation is up to the DM, but it should not be the capital city of one.
*
Crime: At one time, the thieves’ guild, only known colloquially as the Flittershades, had a sort of roguish charm, for they stole from the nobility and gave to the poor (and kept a sizable portion of the loot). *However, this is no longer the case, for rumors speak that the Flittershades have now turned to murder, kidnapping, and extortion of the lowest degree. *The wildest ones speak of a new leader with inhuman strength and power. *The other primary criminals in the city are the undead cults, who revere the undead and seek to turn Nocta back into a haven for the walking dead. *This has persisted for centuries, as many an undead or high priest has attempted to overthrow the city. *All have failed. *Fortunately for the undead, the citizens of Nocta are happy to not destroy the undead, but just to keep them where they are. *Unorganized crime is not rare, as many pickpockets and thieves steal many a coin in the Market district. *Furthermore, many thieves steal during the day, when most of Nocta’s citizens sleep, but they too can suffer from lethargy. *Finally, law enforcement in the city is not particularly strong, as many in the city are corrupt, and those who work in daytime are too tired. *Most of the crime works against travelers or adventurers, so the PC’s may have to be wary in Nocta.

The Monument: The Spire is an enormously tall obelisk made of very pale alabaster, so that it looks as if was carved from bone. *It was said to have been built by the High Lich to celebrate his victories, and the carvings upon the Spire corroborate, as a Decipher Script check (DC 25) will reveal poems and praises of the High Lich’s power and triumphs.

However, the Spire also holds another, darker secret. *A Decipher Script check (DC 40) shows that the carvings on the wall also show worship of demons. *The most knowledgeable of Nocta know this, and have even suggested that the Spire may have the power to open a gate to the Abyss, releasing all sorts of fiends into the city.

The Monument has artifact-level magic. *All attempts to destroy or damage it have failed. *Undead receive a +6 turn resistance, and outsiders with the evil subtype are treated as having 6 more hit dice for the purpose of avoiding being banished to their home plane. *Undead and outsiders with the evil subtype enjoy a +2 bonus to all attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws. These effects apply for these creatures 200 ft. or closer from the Spire.

Regardless, a cold, clammy feeling lingers around the Spire, and many who simply look at or walk past it feel a chill run down their spine. *This has no game effect, but the Spire is nonetheless a terrible but majestic piece of work. *No one willingly lives there, but those that do seem to grow increasingly pale and sick.
*

Cantankerous
2005-07-04, 04:29 PM
(Nocta continued. *Sorry for the double post.)

Power Centers: *There are three power centers in Nocta: the city council, the church of Wee Jas, and the followers of the sorcerer Effern. *

The city council is essentially keeping things the way they are. *If they sense a threat to the city, they will crush it, but the main matter on their hands is the upstart sorcerer. *The council has good relations with the church of Wee Jas, which are reciprocated.

The church of Wee Jas shares the city council’s views, but is also less interested in the welfare of the populace and more interested in their private affairs, as their influence is waning, in part due to this new upstart.

This upstart is a sorcerer a named Effern Silverhand. *He is a genuinely good individual in a place where the people in power are mostly focused on maintaining the city’s wealth and welfare. *Effern is deeply concerned about the monsters lurking beneath Nocta, and is calling for the council to pay more attention to the matter. *Effern, who is not a native, would be quickly dismissed, but he has found the support of many paladins and good-aligned priests, and many of the neglected poor of the city have begun to admire him. *Politically, he has become the primary mover and shaker in Nocta.

Monsters: Nocta has a great deal of monsters plotting within its very heart. *Most prominent are the undead and demons, both of which have many mortal followers.

The undead cults have appeared to most as dormant, if not fallen apart, now. *However, they are mounting yet again in an effort to overthrow Nocta. *They are worried about the efforts of the new priest Effern Silverhand and even more so about the followers of the demons and the thieves’ guild, both of which seem to be intent on destroying them. *However, the undead cults have found (and made) a great deal of undead minions, and have a mighty leader in the form of a great dread wraith.

The demonic cults are a new force, but definitely one to be reckoned with. *Their leader, a powerful babau, has not only gathered many loyal minions, but has taken control of the thieves’ guild. *They hate the undead, for reasons unknown, and want them out of the picture before they finish their final plan: to figure out how to get the Spire to open up a gate to the Abyss.

Other monsters within Nocta’s catacombs include a small clan of mind flayers, a number of goblins (usually enslaved by the cults or mind flayers), and oozes and slimes. *Monsters outside the city are very few, but bandits are a problem in the countryside because the city can only hire mercenaries or adventurers to stop them.

Power Struggles: The power struggles occur politically between Effern and his followers and the city council and the church. *And of course, the undead and demonic cults both threaten the city.

Effern is currently attempting to get on the council. *Another, smaller council of seven people decide who is on the city council, and they have begun to sway in his favor. *If he does gain this political power, it would be the first time a Nocta non-native has been on the council.

The cults of undead and demons currently oppose each other; neither has even thought about working together. *Fortunately for them, few of the populace above is ready to recognize the danger they pose, nor the power they truly wield.

-Cornelius Grankle (Male LN human Aristocrat15) is the most prominent figure on the city council. *He would like to see things stay as they are. *Grankle is overweight and balding, but holds a dignified and esteemed air about him. *He supports his city with all his heart, but is also a staunch conservative, and somewhat unwilling to see any real danger to it.

-Lessa Palerpalm (Female LN human Cleric13) is the high priest of Wee Jas. *She is a stern, no-nonsense woman of about forty years. *She is not exactly attractive or imposing, but those in Nocta do well to respect her. *She is currently busy trying to organize the faltering internal structure of the church and to increase Wee Jas’ popularity in Nocta – too many see the church as far too serious and forbidding.

-Effern Silverhand (NG human Sorcerer 14) is the sorcerer calling for the removal of the undead below the city. *He is nearly thirty, but still possesses his striking looks and unfaltering courage. *The poor see him as something of a hero, and the young girls in Nocta swoon at his presence. *The more jaded people, though, see him pretentious at best, and a troublemaker at worst.

-Hejgad’dagjeh (LE advanced dread wraith [20 HD, elite ability score array]) is the leader of the undead cult. *He rules with a strict and unyielding hand, and so his followers fear and respect him. *He considers undeath to be the pinnacle of existence, and is therefore somewhat picky about who gets to be one of his spawn and who doesn’t. *Many specters and wraiths gather around him, although he has yet to see a lich or vampire in his ranks. *Unbeknownst to anyone, Hejgad’dagjeh is bound to his headquarters, a great underground temple of Nerull, and cannot leave the place. *His crony, Maljernal (CE mohrg Fighter 2) does much of his dirty work. *

-Sutekh (CE babau Assassin7) is the leader of the demonic cult. *He slew the head of the thieves’ guild, and now the guild obeys him, cooperating with the demonologists. *He, like his rival Hejgad’dagjeh, is waiting for the right time to strike, but is wondering how to remove the other, as well as Effern. *Sutekh is as debased and cruel as any demon, and possesses a few succubi consorts, several half-fiend children, and a hezrou for a bodyguard. *Sutekh harbors a deep distaste for the undead; he once served under Orcus for several centuries, and then decided undead were disgusting, weak, and garbage compared to the perfect evil demons embodied.

Adventure Hooks: *

-The PC’s, who are good-aligned characters, want to help Nocta rid of its undead (and its other monsters below the city). *They find allies in Effern, but by doing so, find themselves quickly opposed by the city council and the church of Wee Jas. *They will help the good-intentioned Effern gain more prominence in the city. *Of course, not only do powerful political figures stand in their way, but they may find themselves disliked by many of Nocta’s merchants and citizens for causing too much social ruckus. *Of course, they will also find themselves attacked by the thieves’ guild or the citizens of Nocta who serve the evils beneath.

-Mysterious reports of people going missing are increasing, though no one is seeming to notice. *A friend or relative of the PC’s has been captured by the undead cult, and must be quickly rescued. *Of course, a number of necromancers, dark priests, and undead stand in their way – they’ve captured quite a number of mortals, and they’re not willing to give one up so easily.

-During an exciting nighttime party in Nocta, a mysterious figure approaches the PC’s. *He offers them a considerable deal of money to go to the catacombs and destroy any undead and cultists they find there. *This stranger also guarantees contact with the thieves’ guild, who can provide them with various equipment. *This stranger, though, is simply a demonic cultist trying to use the PC’s to get the undead out of the picture. *Eventually, the demonologists’ own plans of bringing forth a gate to the Abyss must be foiled.

-The High Lich did not die, for he with such power was only hampered by the destruction of his phylactery. *He has, in truth, been pulling all the strings – he will attempt goad the cultists and the citizens (inspired by Effern) to attack each other in a great bloodbath, while the High Lich watches back and enjoys the carnage. *Or is the High Lich in fact not there at all, and in truth an insane impersonator behind the scenes? *The PC’s will have to plumb Nocta’s deepest catacombs to find out what’s going on.

-Of course, you may wish to present no overarching adventure or plot. *You can simply make Nocta a fun and curious place in your campaign setting, although I personally think it is best to add a touch of mystery, macabre, and suspense in this place. *After all, nighttime is when things are happening here. *Please, enjoy.

Personal Notes: In retrospect, this city probably resembles Ghostwalk a bit. *I assure you it’s just a coincidence. *However, I did get inspiration for the city's layout from Baldur's Gate II's Athkatla. *Although I put deities from the PHB here, you can probably change apply it to Forgotten Realms or your personal campaign. *For all its quirks, Nocta is simply meant to be a strange place in a generic campaign setting.

Supplements: While no specific book is needed to help you run Nocta, certain books like Libris Mortis and Book of Vile Darkness may help you further work on the presence of undead and fiends in the city.

Cantankerous
2005-07-07, 07:13 PM
Note: added the Supplements part.