The city of Sadaren sets upon the shore of a lake, effectively securing water for the city. However, trade here is small, for the rivers one would expect to feed such a lake are not present here. The lake is fed from a handful of underground springs, and though there are many acres of tilled lands surrounding it, a days travel in any direction from the lake will land one in mountainous, rugged terrain.
The city itself is not impressively large, and has an average of 15 000 to 25 000 people in any given generation, depending on how the wars have gone recently. The streets are broad and generally cleanly, though, oddly, the main street of the city is a great spiral, linked by cross streets like the spokes of a wheel, with the palace at the center of the spiral. As the city has expanded over the years, so has the length of the road, the spiral ending where it would go into the lake, but always picking up againg where it would exit if it was unbroken.
The ruling family here bears the name of the city, and are relatively unique against the surrounding nations in giving hereditary rulership to the female line, rather than to the male. The Queen is often referred to as the Matriarch, though the titles are generally interchangeable here. Her Prince Consort is generally an accomplished warrior, although wizards and priests are not unknown, and there are no qualifications to ascend to the position, other than fertility and the favor of the Matriarch. The current Matriarch is Saria, and it is unfortunate for the people of Sadaren that she is not a particularly competant ruler. She tries her best, however, the more delicate parts of politics and the economy lie just beyond the grasp of her warrior’s mind. Her husband, Ayan, is mystically inclined, and she often defers to his judgement, which is usually more balanced than hers. Her heir-apparant, Crysta, shows great promise, despite being only 16, and though she keeps it a secret, Queen Saria plans to abdicate to the eldest of her three daughters once she has come of age.
With its mountains providing a difficult to penetrate defense, the Matriarchs of Sadaren never felt terribly at risk when sending armies into the outside world, and it was frequent that they would conquer their neighbors, but be unable to hold cities for any real period of time. They had persisted in this fruitlessness for centuries, but now it has ended.
Something has awoken in the caverns deep beneath Sadaren, something dark and vile. Its first act was to curse the water of Sadaren, so that those who drink of it forget that there is an outside world to escape to. Beyond the mountains, after all, there is nothing but the edge of the world and death. It’s next act was to begin the creation of an army. Feeding off fear and suffering, the demonic creature twists the natural animals of the land, turning them into horrible, corrupted parodies of life, and it is these creatures he has turned against first the outlying farms, and then the city itself. Those who fall against them rise again, in a sickening parody of unlife, to torture and consume friends and family. For five years now, the people of Sadaren have been fighting a losing battle against the forces of the demon, and Saria and Crysta would do anything to put and end to him. Unfortunately, it is not easy for mortal man to do battle with an elder demon, and without help, Sadaren is doomed within the next two generations.
Suitable for both epic and lower level campaigns, Sadaren provides an environment with a clear cut good guys and bad guys. It’s better suited to a combat oriented group than a political intrigue group, and because of this ‘clear cut’ nature of the setting, it’s probably best that adventurers visit, do something, and leave… and don’t drink the water.
Lower level campaigns should concentrate on defeating knots of the undead and corrupted creatures, saving farmer families, and the like. PCs may also be asked to aid the princess in arming herself with specific weapons of legend to fight the demon.
Alternatively, PCs could be sent into the kingdom by neighbors in order to find out what the hell’s going on, and why the last 5 scouting parties didn’t come back.
Epic level campaigns can descend into the tunnels beneath the city, and confront the demon. An elder demon of great power, this will be no lightly accomplished task. At least one PC or important NPC with the party should probably die during the fight, and rise up within 1d4 turns as a revanant or lich-equivalent undead creature, and turn against his companions. Should his physical form be defeated, Sadaren will be granted one millenia of respite from the curse of the lake, and the animating force behind all the undead will fail. The corrupted will still need cleansed from the land, however, their victims will no longer rise up and fight. The demon has memory of this happening 5 times, and there may be powerfully armed, dead adventurers left to rise to his beckoning in the area of confrontation. To fully defeat the demon, the PCs must destroy the altar in the center of his underground citadel. The demon will, however, attempt to engage the PCs away from this altar, and will even attempt to keep them from learning of its very existance. If the alter is shattered, the demon will be freed of the things that bind it to this plane of existance, and will be forced back to the hellish dimensions where it belongs.