The adventure begins in the city of Wati, where the Asp and Crook Rivers converge to form the River Sphinx in southeastern Osirion. Your group is already present in Wati and are acquainted with one another, with an interest in exploring the tombs of Wati’s necropolis.
With the necropolis opened by royal decree, the priests of the local temple of Pharasma, the Grand Mausoleum, have been tasked with assigning sites ready for exploration to adventuring companies in a lottery.
[*The adventure assumes that the PCs have already formed an adventuring party and have registered for this lottery with the priesthood of the Grand Mausoleum. Registering is not difficult; there are no background checks or special fees or requirements. A priest simply records the name of the group and the names of its members, and gives them a token that they should present when the group receives its first assignment at the lottery’s opening ceremony.]
The lottery’s opening ceremony takes place in the Sunburst Market in the center of the living city of Wati, between the Grand Mausoleum and Abadar’s Sanctum of Silver and Gold. An array of other adventuring groups have assembled, and the ceremony has attracted throngs of local people as well as street vendors.
The bustling desert city of Wati is near bursting with excitement. Adventurers from every corner of the Inner Sea region have assembled here beneath the hot Osirian sun to explore the tombs of the city’s necropolis, waiting only to be assigned their fist sites for exploration.
Surrounding the participants, the public has gathered to observe the ceremony as well. There is a festival-like quality in the air, and numerous street vendors are hawking goods and refreshments to participants and spectators alike. Some merchants have even brought what can only be considered adventuring gear to sell as last minute convenience items to explorers, while others advertise that they’ll buy recovered treasures and antiquities from those who visit their establishments.
In front of the imposing edifice of the Grand Mausoleum, an immense awning has been erected between decorated pillars in the market to provide shade for the priests of Pharasma overseeing the lottery. Beneath the awning, two urns sit atop a table elevated a few feet above the ground on a wooden stage constructed for the event. The high priestess of the Grand Mausoleum, Sebti the Crocodile, sits behind the table, while two acolytes confer with her at either side.
Sebti the Crocodile
Numerous adventuring groups stand in small clusters near the stage, made up of multiple nationalities and races. Most keep to themselves, but some teams engage in quiet conversation with other teams, mostly speculating about what they’ll likely face in the necropolis.
The ceremony begins when the high priestess of the Grand Mausoleum, Sebti the Crocodile, rises to her feet and looks over the crowd. Sebti seems surprisingly young to hold such a distinguished position, but she has a confident air of authority.
After calling for silence, she begins with an invocation to the Lady of Graves, followed by a brief history of the founding of the necropolis. [*This information on the necropolis’s history can be found within the redacted info I sent out.]
Sebti concludes by saying the following, “Let the lottery begin! Although many of you have requested specific sites to explore, we must leave these matters to fate. The Lady of Graves is a far better judge of destiny than we of this mortal sphere. The gates of the necropolis will open at sunrise tomorrow.
Use this evening to prepare yourselves for the task ahead. Let these rules guide you in your endeavors in this holy place: remember how this came to pass, every slave’s hut is a memorial, and honor the departed. May you go with the Lady’s blessing.”
The priests of the Grand Mausoleum have decided on a lottery to distribute access to the tombs to make the process impartial and subject to the dictates of fate, in keeping with Pharasmin religious tenets. The church has mapped the necropolis and designated selected sites within it for exploration, dividing them into three pools, from the smallest and simplest of structures to the largest and potentially most complex.
Each party of explorers is assigned three sites, one at a time, so that a group must complete its exploration of one site before gaining access to another. This process wasn’t intended to simply be arbitrary. The church also seeks to avoid conflict between groups within the necropolis, the neglect of smaller sites in favor of those that might contain more wealth, and bribery and backroom deals with local officials to gain access to specific structures researched in advance.
The Grand Mausoleum is dedicated to remaining neutral throughout the entire affair. After Sebti returns to her seat, the two acolytes accompanying her each draw a wooden token from one of the urns on the table. The fist token identifies the adventuring group, matching the token that group received when it registered for the lottery. The second token determines which tomb is assigned to that group.
A single representative of the chosen group is then summoned to the stage to present the token his group received at registration to one of the acolytes. Once the group’s identity has been confirmed, Sebti shows the representative the location of that group’s fist exploration site on a map of the entire necropolis. She also gives the representative a smaller, sketched map that shows the site’s location in relation to the necropolis gates. Once a group has received its assignment, the process repeats with a new group.
The priests of the Grand Mausoleum expect groups exploring sites within the necropolis to follow three basic rules, as mentioned by High Priestess Sebti the Crocodile in her speech during the opening ceremony.
1) Remember How This Came to Pass: The Plague of Madness was unleashed upon the city of Wati while religious authorities were engaged in infighting. This rule is a reminder that the necropolis remains a holy place, and those who engage in needless conflict and banditry are not only criminals, but accursed.
2) Every Slave’s Hut Is a Memorial: Every structure within the necropolis is a testament to the people who lived and died in the city. Explorers must not desecrate or vandalize standing structures and tombs, but preserve them as the memorials they were intended to be. Some structures may be trapped or decrepit, but willful and unnecessary destruction will not be tolerated.
3) Honor the Departed: The dead should be treated with dignity and respect. If the interred need to be disturbed to recover an antiquity or relic, they should be returned to their resting places carefully. It is understood that the ancient dead are often brittle, but there is no need for the contents of a sarcophagus to be summarily dumped on the ground. This rule does not apply to the undead or other abominations.
Failure to comply with these rules can result in, but is not limited to, expulsion from the necropolis, a ban on continued exploration, seizure of recovered valuables, and arrest and prosecution by local authorities.
In practice, the church’s ability to enforce these rules is almost negligible. Most members of Wati’s city guard have no desire to patrol the necropolis, even if summoned by a priest. The church does send experienced priests or members of its militant wing, the Voices of the Spire, into the necropolis to make spot inspections, but it’s too woefully understaffed relative to the number of adventuring companies roaming the necropolis for this to be a strong deterrent.