The Ruins of Trokair
The Ruins of Trokair is a dungeon I have been working on for years. The original idea came to me after reading an article in Dragon Magazine about the original Castle Greyhawk dungeon. And just as the original idea came from another source, a lot of what I have put into the Ruins of Trokair has come from other sources, like the name Ruins of Trokair, which is a card in Magic the Gathering.
The basic idea of the ruins of Trokair is a layered dungeon. On the surface are the actual ruins of Trokair, a city that has stood lifeless for about 100 years. The PCs would explore the surface ruins and find entrances into the sewers. In the sewers, PCs would find a series of secret rooms that connect to a hidden temple complex. This complex is carved from natural caves that cut beneath Trokair. A collapsed floor leads yet lower into the earth, revealing the ruined city of Ancient Trokair in the midst of a giant cavern. Beneath Ancient Trokair lie a huge expanse of catacombs and another temple, far older than the one above but bearing a great resemblance.
This ancient temple holds two key secrets in the history of both ruined cities. The first is that Ancient Trokair somehow sunk far into the earth (far enough that a natural cave system, sewer system, and another city could be built atop it without problem). The second has to do with the undead problem, which we will get to in a minute.
My original idea for the surface ruins was to have a few dangerous animals to harry the PCs as they sought out an entrance to the sewers; the sewers were to be the real point of the dungeon. I later decided against this. Why waste the only above-ground portion of the dungeon on a simple game of hide-and-seek? So I decided to add a few factions and make the surface a dungeon level of its own. I first added animal encounters to the forest that surrounded the southern half of the city. They would harry PCs as they went between the ruins and their base camp at a nearby settlement. I also added a mountain range north of the city, allowing for more dangerous monsters.
The first faction was a tribe of orcs who came down from the mountains seeking treasure in the ruins. Their main camp remained in the mountains and they sent teams down to forage. The second faction was a group of bandits. They lived in the southern ruins and raided caravans on the road past the forest. The third and fourth factions were both necromancers. One was a cleric of the goddess of death and the other was a wizard. They lived in the middle of the city ruins between the orcs and bandits. They did not work together (in fact, they hate each other).
The orcs seek treasure. The bandits seek refuge. Why are the necromancers in Trokair? Because of the undead problem. For decades, there have been scattered and sporadic accounts of the walking dead around the area of Trokair. The necromancers have come to investigate why. Unfortunately for them, the reason lies in the heart of the temple buried beneath the ruins of Ancient Trokair: an artifact of immense power called the Cup of Life. The Cup of Life has the ability to raise people from the dead. The cult that controlled the temple beneath Ancient Trokair sought to use the Cup to make themselves and the whole city immortal. They only half succeeded. The dead of Ancient Trokair, and those who die near the ruins of Trokair, can rise as undead. The further the body lies from the Cup, the longer the process takes (and not even those in Ancient Trokair have all risen). However, unlike the “normal” undead that are created by necromancy, these undead are not soulless husks animated by magic. The power of the Cup of Life, modified by rites performed in that ancient temple, ties the soul to the body. And so the cleric of the goddess of death seeks the reason why these people are kept from his Mistress while the wizard seeks the power that raises them.