Belgar Nakaleth is completely buried city, and finding it requires several steps.
The location of the lost city has to be divined one way or another, which should only be a modestly difficult task. It was a city, so there are records of it, and it does appear on maps, but these are old and out of date maps, and the records are all but lost in old archives, hidden in castle libraries, and the possession of monsters that hoard things beyond gold or bones. This can provide a path from any modern city, through the wilderness, to arrive at the vicinity of the lost city. Alternate sources could include memoirs from other adventurers, rumors in the tavern, a task from a patron, and so forth.
Once the vicinity of the city is reached, there is a more difficult tracking and wilderness task required to find the actual entrance to the ruin.
The access way into Belgar Nakaleth is a fissure in the earth, and the way down requires entering the top of a collapsed tower and then descending through it's interior. The tower is in poor condition and there is ample opportunity for accident or damage from the environment. The base of the tower opens to the first common area of the ruin.
The Narrative section of Belgar Nakaleth is presented for roleplay opportunity, though there are many, many opportunities for combat, traps, accidents, and more.
The city of Nakaleth was a thriving metropolis and was not originally underground. Rather, the city was besieged, and the conflict was staggeringly violent. Great siege engines were brought in, battles were fought in the street, and the city was eventually destroyed when a circle of archmagi invoked a powerful earth elemental spell and caused the ground to fissure open and engulf Nakaleth.
Zone I: From the records, the level of destruction is perfectly expected, shattered walls, burnt husks of houses, and even the bones and durable possessions of those who fell and died in the streets.
Encounters: general undead, animated skeletons, dry zombies
Traps: unexploded ordnance from the siege, magical wards and defenses that still have a charge or two left in them
Hazards: deadfalls, poisoned water supplies
Rewards: superficial looting
Zone II: surprisingly untouched by the war and the fissure, the second zone of the Narrative is that certain parts of the city appear completely untouched. There is no structural damage, no fading of paint or wallpaper, the windows are unbroken, and the doors are still solid. This is only going to be found in residential areas, and the untouched pristine structures are all personal residences, or small crafts workshops. Some of the structures are still occupied.
Encounters: Dopplegangers, level similar to PCs or lower, they have a culture living in the ruins mimicking each other, original city residents, and past heroes who've entered zone II. It is NOT immediately obvious they are dopplegangers and they will be initially friendly. They will lure heroes into a false sense of security before waiting for a moment of weakness to descent on them and eat them. Mimics, mimics are common, like disturbingly common. Lurkers and Trappers (appearing as tapestries, rugs, decorative ceilings, etc) are also frighteningly common in Zone II. These creatures are more commonly encountered in larger buildings and ruins, and never inside the individual residences. Greater Mimics aka House Mimics, are actually the houses, and the dopplegangers are living in a symbiotic relationship with the greater mimics.
Traps: plenty, many dropping into acid pits aka the stomach of greater mimics.
Hazards: everything wants to eat the PCs
Rewards: loot from defeated past heroes, including magic items, magic weapons, etc
Zone III: The center of the narrative section is the Ruined Castle. The castle still retains impressive magical protections, including spells and wardings that still prevent scrying and teleportation inside. Entering the castle requires finding a way to breach the wall, access a hidden door, or a frontal assault against the main. The PCs should not have access to siege engines, having a secret way in would be fantastic, and should require a very difficult research task, or secret item like Thorin's map into the Lonely Mountain. The final option is fraught with danger, but there is a chance the PCs could parlay with the ruined castle defenders.
Encounters: dopplegangers trying to get in, skeletons, dry zombies, random mimics though these should be far fewer. There are Nakalethi Revenants, once human but now undead who are still dedicated to holding their castle against attack, be it dopplegangers, heroes, or random undead. They retain some intelligence, and plenty of organization and discipline.
Traps: boiling oil traps, murder holes, pit traps, spike traps, etc.
Hazards: some spells did penetrate the castle so there are places where fire spells still burn, random elemental artillery summons wait for further orders or being attacked. Some places in the castle are suffering from structural failure so some doors open to collapsed halls, and some rooms tilt and fall away into bottomless chasms.
Rewards: ample, the castle was well stocked with weapons, armor, and magical items.
The Final Confrontation
One of the things that is overlooked is the reason for Nakaleth being besieged, and this is where the PCs learn why. The lords of the city used mimicry magic and mimicry summons in their covert actions against their enemies, backed up with necromantic magics.
The Lord of Nakaleth, Dyron Kradd, Undead Warlord
Dyron Kradd was many things, a knight, a lord, a necromancer, and a man of near bottomless ability to carry a grudge. He keeps the Nakalethi Revenants active, and maintains the spells on the castle.
The Lady of Nakaleth, Malenkar the Malleable, Dragon Mimic
Malenkar the Malleable is a massive sentient mimic that frequently copies the appearance of dragons, large worms, fell beasts, etc. It is technically female and is the source of the ruin's many mimics, they are all Malenkar's spawn. The lords of Nakaleth summoned Malenkar, bound it, and used it to create their mimicry magics and potions, and then for crafting very specific mimics.
There is no love lost between Dyron and Malenkar, and if given a chance, the dragon mimic would gladly turn on the undead knight and his revenants, then leave the castle to either dominate it's spawn, or possibly consume them. Dyron has a magic item/crystal/dingus that allows him to keep Malenkar under his control. In draconic form, Malenkar can appear as any dragon, but only has an acidic bile 'breath weapon'.
Encounters: Revenant Captains, Revenant Magi, Revenant Archers, Revenant Knights, horse mimics, warhound mimics, the bosses.
Traps: binding traps on Malenkar
Hazards: pools of acidic bile, degenerate mimics that are constantly sloughing their mass and are hungry to the point of being rabid.
Rewards: Dyron should have a suitably powerful magic weapon, magic armor, etc.
The Heart of Belgar Nakaleth is a necromantic crystal aka dungeon core. This is a very powerful, very versatile magic item. If the Heart is left, the city will repopulate and reset itself. If Malenkar is slain, when the dungeon regenerates it will do so without mimics and only the dopplegangers that survived the attack will still be present. If Dyron is slain and the core is fed a mimic, it will change from a Dark Core to a Fae/Mutable Core, and the dungeon will repopulate with just mimics, dopplegangers, and all the asshole monsters that emulate houses, floors, ceilings, carnivorous clothing, etc.
Belgar Nakaleth and the DungeonVerse
Nakaleth is a dungeon city, and is quite strong. If not curtailed, it is close to entering a fruiting phase. Should this happen, the Castle will 'erupt' from the ground and project itself again, and start growing. Three things will start leaving the dungeon in numbers enough to influence the local ecosystem: mimics, dopplegangers, and undead. Animals will start picking up mimic traits, there will be animal dopplegangers, and a proliferation of undead who are tolerant/neutral towards the mutable creatures.
The upper level danger is Dyron elevating to a Death King, and unleashing an iron clad undead army. After this is that as power levels increase, Malankar could start 'breeding true' and laying dragon mimic eggs, that hatch into lesser dragon mimics, or mimic dragonkin.
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? Responses (1)
I would hate to see a first time party get thrown into this hellhole.
Definitely a setting for higher level characters.
I have no criticism to level against the submission itself; it is well written, detailed enough to become engrossed, and with just the right amount of generality where it can be slotted into comfortably into almost any sort of high fantasy or medieval fantasy setting. 5/5
I do find myself rooting for Dyron to rise up and start conquering the nearby regions again XD