Now that the PCs have been in Necrocarcerus for a while, one of the ones whose character died is creating a character familiar with the place. Therefore, I wrote the following primer to the inhabitants Necrocarcerus for his use:
Necrocarcerus is a vast city the size of Australia which serves as the temporary afterlife for twenty-one worlds. The identity of its creator is not known, though many assume it was one or more of the various gods of those twenty-one worlds. That there are more than twenty-one worlds is known to those who study such things, though what happens to the souls of the dying on those worlds is not. Though many of those worlds have sentient life forms other than humans, almost all souls in Necrocarcerus are human, with only a few unusual exceptions.
The Necrocarcerus "Program" takes place over a span of ten thousand years, at which point everything is destroyed, the Guardians and Necrocarcerus are recreated, and all citizens who did not manage to transcend are set back into the rotation to wait for a second incarnation. The current year is 9995, though the general population is not widely aware of this. The twenty-one linked worlds are not destroyed, so far as anyone can tell, though why not is unclear.
The dead souls who come to Necrocarcerus, whatever time they may die in their own world, are incarnated on the schedule of the Guardians, which mean that two people who died several thousand years apart may awaken at the same time. All times in Necrocarcerus are coterminous with all times in the twenty-one worlds, so that one moving across the Chorismos, the gap between worlds, can enter or exit Necrocarcerus at any point in its history, to enter any point in the destination's history, and vice versa.
The particular area of Necrocarcerus that the campaign is set in is known as the Lythmarch, after a particularly troublesome rogue who operates in the area. The primary temporal geographic periods its inhabitants are incarnated from are Lirnthians during the eight hundred years of the Empire of Shothon, Zuraithi from between the founding of the church of Solok the Mighty and the fall of its successor cult the Order of Ukal-Solok two thousand years later, and Dorivites while Thazul is active, some four hundred years.
Inhabitants of Necrocarcerus
The population of Necrocarcerus breaks down into several major groups, with a small number of outliers.
Citizens of Necrocarcerus are those people who Necrocarcerus was intended for, those inhabitants of the twenty-one worlds who have died without strong moral alignment. Their bodies, like almost everything else in Necrocarcerus, are made of a substance known as "hyle". They lack most internal organs other than lungs, a brain, a heart and a small cavity in their chest that serves as a storage chamber for blood. Upon incarnation in Necrocarcerus, citizens are drained of the memories of their lives by the Guardians, which becomes the drug known as "Nepenthe". The soul of an incarnated citizen becomes their actual breath, which is known as "pneuma".
Cutting one open releases pneuma, instead of blood, and the total dissipation of one's pneuma is the total destruction of one's soul. Citizens who have lost pneuma slowly regain it over time by breathing. As already dead, citizens are killed only by the loss of their pneuma - cutting off heads, arms, disembowling or impaling them are not inherently fatal. Detached arms, heads, etc. can be repaired like any other wound, by being bolted or sewn back on. This crude measure also allows the "corpses" of slain citizens to be harvested, so that it is not uncommon to find citizens with multiple arms, eyes, etc. Other than the occasional dose of blood, citizens do not need to eat, though they do enjoy doing so. They sleep as if they were still alive, and dream of their lives, even if they were drained of their memories successfully.
Citizens are incarnated in vast halls created for this purpose by the Guardians, as hyle becomes available (there is a finite amount, and much is needed elsewhere). They are given a short explanation of their new situation, including a tour of the local area of Necrocarcerus they are in, and an explanation of transcendence as the local Guardians understand it, and then set free in the city. Depending on the area, they may be hired as cheap labour, enslaved, destroyed, ignored, or proselytised by one or more cults as they step out of the incarnation hall. In the Lythmarch, Lyth has recruiters who try to tempt them to serve him, which many do.
Transcendence is the process by which a soul leaves Necrocarcerus, and is the goal all citizens are given by the Guardians who incarnate them. Some transcend within moments of being incarnated, but for most the process is centuries long, if it happens at all. To transcend, one must fully align one's self with good or evil, expressed through repeated action. Across twenty-one worlds, there are many different moral systems, and there is a great deal of debate about which one is most "true", or at least most effective at causing one to transcend. There is no definitive answer.
The Guardians were created by whomever created Necrocarcerus, and are the order of beings responsible for maintaining, preserving and defending it. The Guardians are not citizens, but a unique class of being also made of hyle. They begin as semi-sentient, and over decades and centuries they develop into full consciousness. The small number of fully conscious Guardians are the leaders of their society. They are capable of creating more of themselves, with responsibility for doing so given to the Blues. There are only a small number of them (77,777) compared to the vast extent of Necrocarcerus. The Guardians come in seven types, each associated with a colour and a function.
Red - Fire Control
Orange - Transport
Yellow - Population Management
Green - Repair
Blue - Production
Violet - Coordination
White - Design
Guardians resemble monks wearing heavy robes. Their hands and face are streaked with dye of the appropriate colour to their function. Guardians normally look more or less human, though changing their appearance is relatively trivial for them. The great power of the Guardians derives from their ability to work hyle through a process resembling magic or even mere will. They use this power to execute their specific function, and each type has a relatively specialised range of possible manipulations.
They can be killed, and while they can be recreated over time, the new version returns to the semi-sapient form, and a new personality will develop, so that conscious Guardians are as wary of death as any citizen. They are generally non-violent, though they recruit proxies amongst the citizens to serve their need for violence when it arises. This is not a philosophical commitment to non-violence, merely a recognition that it lies outside their talents.
The incarnation centres throughout Necrocarcerus serve as their "temples" and headquarters. The Guardians are split into factions under the small number of fully-sentient Violets and Yellows. The factions almost never fight directly, instead using citizen, projector and undead proxies against one another when differences have become so severe that violence cannot be avoided. The factional differences are philosophical ones about the correct role of the Guardians and what the purpose of transcendence is.
Some of the larger factions:
Expediters - This faction believes that the goal of Necrocarcerus is for all citizens to transcend to the next state of existence (whose nature is unclear) by aligning themselves to one moral state or another, and the correct role of the Guardians is to facilitate that happening as rapidly and intensely as possible. They strive to create situations in which citizens must make moral choices, pushing them to identify more and more with good or evil. This often creates chaos, which in turn they exploit to create further decisions. The Expediters have been extremely active over the last century, as the Necrocarcerus Program prepares for destruction and recreation. They believe that more souls they help transcend, the fewer they have to deal with next time around. They are decentralised, and often uncoordinated. Many Expediters are nearly indistinguishable from rogues in their behaviour.
Jailers - The Jailers believe that the purpose of Necrocarcerus is to punish and reform those who failed to satisfy the speculated desires of the Creator during life. The people who did transcend only moments after appearing in Necrocarcerus, leaving only the flawed and weak behind. The Jailers believe it is the correct purpose of the order of Guardians to reforge these flawed individuals into ones better suited for the Creator's purposes. The societies of citizens that they create tend to be stable and long-lasting compared to the other factions, as well as highly organised and severe. They seek to prevent chaos and disruption to the Necrocarcerus Program,. The reform programs they initiate vary, but tend to focus on productive labour and organised action, with factories, state-like institutions, and a functioning economy. They are the largest faction, and have a rigid, hierarchical internal structure, led by a council of 7 Violets at the highest level.
Theosadists - The Theosadists believe that the Guardians are themselves the souls of those who have transcended, given power over Necrocarcerus as reward for fulfilling the creators desires, and that the remaining citizens are therefore theirs to use and dispose of as they please. The theosadists create grand monuments to their own glory, pursue ingenious but whimsical plans, and otherwise make Necrocarcerus into a hell for those under their rule. The Theosadists are the smallest and most hated faction of all the Guardians.
Perfectionists - The Perfectionists believe that souls that transcend are reincarnated back on the twenty-one living worlds as a reward for the force of will they display, and that this reincarnation in turn brings those worlds closer and closer to perfect accordance with the will of the Creator. The role of the Guardians is to prevent any but the truly worthy from transcending, with "truly worthy" defined by them as "good". The Perfectionists attempt to destroy those they consider evil, which almost always include projectors, rogues and the undead. They combine the penchant for chaos of the Expediters with the organisation of the Jailers, and they are often responsible for the closest things to wars that Necrocarcerus sees.