In the distant past, the magocracy of Gremos found itself the unwitting target of the Hordes of Kedion, who wreaked their path of destruction and chaos upon any who happened to be in the way, in pursuit of as yet unclear goals. The nation of Gremos, without a realistic and plausible defense of their borders readily available, enlisted the aid of every accomplished wizard in their domain to deal with the threat that Kedion represented in a final battle for the safety of Gremos. With a touch of luck and a lot of magic, the Hordes were repelled from entry, along the southern border of Gremos.
In their desire to avoid this problem in the future, and knowing their landâ€™s fragile military predicament, the wizards of Gremos enchanted the area surrounding their southern border, a significant tract of land, placing their previous enemies in a deathly bind to their service. Legions of undead soldiers patrol the area, in blind service to the wizards of Gremos, and one wizard in particular, the wizard Prosarius.
During the process of enchantment, it was discovered that one of their own must be sacrificed in the process, that person damned to eternal life in the service of the god Hel, to provide some semblance of control to the earthly minions, and provide their soul in defense of the borders of the tiny kingdom. Prosarius was this wizard.
A kindly and scholarly wizard of the Gremos elite in life, he was transformed in the process to the status of Lich King of the Androgari Moor. He has ultimate control over the area and all who wish to cross his territory, and was instantly turned from a kindly wizard to the epitome of corruption.
The term â€œmoorâ€ is a bit of a misnomer. At the time of the battle, the blood from the fallen had turned the ground somewhat less firm, as if from a long and hard rain. When the incantations were uttered, the area was frozen in a state of perpetual timelessness. The ground could not take up the blood from the fallen any longer. The ground is in a perpetual blood-soaked state, soiled to the point that puddles of blood dot the countryside, giving the appearance of a bog or moor.
The bodies of the fallen were transformed to various forms of undead in the process of enchantment, and everything once alive within the borders of the area were instantly transformed into servants of Hel, condemned to walk the earth as undead for eternity. This includes the living creatures that were not involved in the combat, such as herd creatures, animal predators, even the horses that were involved in the battle. To be especially feared are the vampiric mosquitoes, which rarely announce their presence until the time to be concerned about them has long since passed. Enough bites from these insidious vermin will turn any creature walking in the area into a vampire after a long enough time, unless precautions are taken to prevent it.
There are, of course, many riches to be had in this area. In order to maintain the enchantment over time, Hel demanded a sacrifice of wealth to be delivered from time to time, including coin, gems, magical treasures, and other earthly possessions. They were to be accompanied by an appropriate live sacrifice to maintain the enchantment of the spell, the sacrifice to be inducted into the illustrious Discipline of Safety, a legion of undead soldiers much more powerful than the creatures around them. The Lich King Prosarius conducts these rituals personally on behalf of his master Hel. Many illustrious sacrifices have been made to guarantee the safety of the nation, those sacrifices often being unwilling it is worthy to note.
The sacrifices are taken into the center of the Moor by well-prepared and brave souls, all of whom must be attired in Gremos heraldic symbols for fear of being attacked on sight. Even the heraldic symbols only serve to save them from the lesser undead there, it is the higher undead that pose the greatest risk, and they are, of course, all surrounding the very place that the sacrifices must be taken. Many a brave Gremosian has died a horrific death in the protection of their borders over the years, but great pains have been taken by survivors to ensure that the Lich King Prosarius and his ilk will respect the time of the sacrifice, but even still, â€œaccidentsâ€ happen.
The need for this border protection exists to this day, for without it, there is a straight line from the Kedion Hordes to the very heart of the tiny kingdom. They must maintain the enchantment or be consumed by the Hordes. Such is the life of a Gremosian.
- Unwilling Sacrifice: someone near and dear to the party has been selected for ritual sacrifice. The clock is ticking, time is running out!
- Prosarius Has A Needed Magic Item: A special magical item, sacrificed in the past to the area, is required for the accomplishment of another goal. There’s only one place to find it, and that’s deep inside the Androgari Moor. Good luck, brave adventurers!
- The Hordes Are Defeated, End the Curse: Perhaps during the course of a campaign goal, the evil hordes are destroyed, thus negating the need for the Moor’s continued existance. You must find a way to bring the enchantment to a safe end. Simply leaving the enchantment to expire(by not sacrificing appropriately) will release the undead from Prosarius’ domination, leaving them to be the new horde to be dealt with, a much greater enemy than any can face. There must be a way to break the enchantment safely, after all, mustn’t there? This is left to the imagination, goals, and tenor of the campaign, of course, but could include researching a spell, defeating the Lich, finding an artifact for sacrifice, any of a number of things.
- Find the Wacky Undead Thing: There is a need for an undead critter of an unusual sort to be captured, perhaps an undead griffon or something equally unusual. Where’s the best place to find something like that? The Androgari Moor, of course. The need can be for a spell component, perhaps to free it from it’s curse, whatever the case may be.
- Turn the Lich: Prosarius wasn’t ALWAYS like this, he wasn’t always corrupt. At some point, he was a good man. The need for the enchantment has ended, the curse should be lifted, and Prosarius should be returned to his normal self. This could require deity-interference, so this one is just a "maybe it could be so" type of thing. Maybe, just maybe, there is someone more evil than the current Lich King who needs to be a servant of the god Hel more than Prosarius does, and the deity could be convinced to trade. Maybe.
- X marks the Spot: What more do you need? They’ve been pumping treasure into that area for years, and none of it has come out again, it’s all still in there. Greed is a powerful motivator. This is a scalable one, you can make the outer sections of the moor be inhabited by the lesser undead, with less treasure, with more and more found as you get closer to the center. Adventurers go until they are overwhelmed.
- Fallen Comrade: The Moor turns anyone killed inside it’s borders into a form of undead appropriate to the power of the indivdual, bound to serve for all eternity. Someone has died in the Moor who probably shouldn’t have, and needs "rescuing". Capture the errant undead, and return it to normal state somehow. Left to the imagination as to the actual process involved.
Personal Note: I’ve found this setting to be cliche’d, yes, but it has a lot of hack and slash available, but at the same time allowing for political intrigue, especially when it comes to the interaction of the Wizards of Gremos and the Lich King. This is the particular angle that I took in our game, and it had a lot of staying power, because of the combination of different styles, allowing for the hack n slashers to get their due, and the political intrigue types to have their fun as well.
(A bit of meta-game information supplied in parentheses.)
How did Hel get involved?
(Our campaign uses Norse gods, insert appropriate god of death and destruction for personal use.)
Enchantments of this magnitude almost certainly require divine intervention to enact, and Hel was more than willing to provide that intervention if an appropriate sacrifice was made to honor her. In exchange for creating this border zone of the walking dead, she demanded the sacrifice of the most powerful wizard, Prosarius, and further sacrifices worthy of her continued support. As such, the sacrifices are almost always people of some significance to Gremos, even if the ones selected from the ruling elite tend to be the black sheep of the fold.
How did the wizards defeat the Hordes?
In short, they lined up a mess of high level wizards and unleashed magical hell for as long as possible, until a retreat was sounded by the hordes. It was at this point that the enchantment was discussed as a real option, because they knew the hordes were simply regrouping.
I will expand upon this in a plot description that I will post either tonight or tomorrow night. (Side Note: I had precisely one day to come up with a campaign goal, so, out of sheer lack of time to come up with something innovative, I went with something tried and true, if a bit stale. I tried to make it more interesting than usual, but you can, of course, judge for yourself.)