Here’s an adventure idea that should be easy to adapt to most Savage Soul campaigns:
The PCs will learn that a nearby sorcerer (Dmitri Vorlov) is a “master of the dead” and that, in addition to providing certain services (such as “Raise Dead” and “Restore Fallen”), Vorlov is willing to pay good money for “fresh” human corpses (up to 5,000 credits each). By conducting some investigation (or visiting Vorlov), the PCs will learn that Vorlov makes his money by selling “the most obedient slaves.” It should then become apparent that Vorlov is buying corpses whose Silver Threads remain intact and then performing Zombify rituals upon those corpses to resurrect them as mute, mindless, and completely loyal servants. As if this weren’t bad enough, the PCs will likely realize that, due to the nature of the Zombify spell, each individual whose corpse has been Zombified remains conscious and aware, but completely incapable of controlling his or her body or communicating in any way. Thus, being trapped inside the body of a Zombified servant is often considered a fate worse than death.
Because of Vorlov’s business, he cannot afford to be reclusive. He must necessarily meet with those seeking to sell fresh corpses and with those wishing to purchase slaves. As a result, the characters should easily be able to arrange a meeting with Vorlov by posing as corpse sellers, slave buyers, etc. (assuming the PCs don’t simply choose to attack Vorlov’s lair, sneak in, etc., which are also viable options).
Vorlov’s lair is very luxurious, with the exception of the private rooms where he conducts his ghastly rituals and keeps his Zombified guards (which protect Vorlov’s lair along with Flesh Constructs and Command Dead skeletons). None of these guards will take any action against the PCs unless Vorlov orders them to, or the PCs engage in hostilities (or any other “forbidden” conduct). Vorlov also has two very old women serving him (as cook, maid, secretary, receptionist, etc.) Both of these women (Martha and Gretchen) are able to think and speak; but because they are subject to the “Alter Soul” Ritual, they are absolutely loyal to Vorlov. If the players seek to meet with Vorlov, they will likely meet with either or both of these women first. If the PCs are able to convince the women that they mean no harm to Vorlv, the women will invite the PCs into Vorlov’s lair, make them comfortable, and fetch Vorlov.
The final residents of Vorlov’s lair are four young girls, ranging in age from about 9 to about 12. The girls are well-dressed and appear to be well cared for . . . but they have obviously been Zombified. In actuality, Vorlov considers the Zombified girls his daughters and refers to them as his “little ladies.” Other than keeping them against their will (which is bad), Vorlov does not abuse the girls in any way; but the PCs are likely to assume the worst. Note: If this suspected abuse causes real-life concern among the players, the GM should have Vorlov (or one of the old women) convincing explain that Vorlov is very respectful of the girls and treats them like princesses. This obviously doesn’t make what he is doing right; but it may keep the adventure from becoming too dark for certain players.
Assuming the PCs meet with Vorlov, he will invite them to dinner (or lunch or breakfast), which will be exquisite. But the main course will be what Vorlov calls “special meat,” prepared especially for the PCs. Vorlov will be very secretive about what exactly the meat is, claiming it’s a “secret recipe.” And, unless the characters openly suggest that it is human flesh, Vorlov will remain playfully evasive. The meat is not actually human flesh (it is the meat of a rare mutant animal); but, if the GM plays the scene cleverly, the PCs will likely be convinced Vorlov is trying to feed them human flesh (thereby enhancing the creepiness and uncertainty of the dinner scene).
The “little ladies” will also attend the meal. They will arrive in lockstep, sit in unison, display impeccable table manners, but never speak. This is likely the first time the PCs will meet the “little ladies” and Vorlov will gush about how wonderful they are (just as a parent might brag about actual children).
If confronted or questioned about buying corpses (however subtly), Vorlov will explain that he never kills anyone and never encourages murder. In fact, he will insist (disingenuously) that, if he knew someone had been killed just so the corpse could be sold to Vorlov, Vorlov would refuse to buy it. In reality, Vorlov turns a blind eye to such activities in order to maintain plausible deniability; but he is actually well aware that some of his less scrupulous corpse vendors are murdering people. If confronted about the wrongfulness of slavery, Vorlov will insist that he is doing a good thing by bringing those “poor souls” back from the dead and providing them “new lives.” This is also something Vorlov doesn’t actually believe; but he maintains the story to grant his “business” some legitimacy.
While this adventure is designed to convince the PCs that the world would be a better place without Dmitri Vorlov, how the characters actually go about dealing with Vorlov is entirely up to them. Should they choose to put an end to Vorlov’s evil ways, they will find themselves set upon by all of the lair’s undead guardians . . . and will likely find that getting out of Vorlov’s lair is much harder than getting in.
Should the PCs prevail against Vorlov and his servants, the PCs will find a reasonable amount of money and some magical components in the lair. Vorlov keeps the vast majority of his significant wealth in a “Loot Locker” that only he can access. If Vorlov dies, the Loot Locker will be nearly impossible to access (primarily to keep the PCs from becoming suddenly wealthy).
As far as Vorlov’s servants and the “little ladies,” restoring them, learning their identities, and returning them to proper homes might make for interesting follow-on adventures/activities. In the alternative, the PCs could simply turn these unfortunate victims over to local authorities (entirely at the option of the PCs and the GM).
As a player, I can attest to the awesomeness (and serious creepiness) of this adventure! Of course, we had Bogo GMing and he brought Vorlov’s personality, coyness and feigned-goodness to life. Fortunately for our group, Kelly Black is merciless and Vorlov (and minions) didn’t have a chance, but it would have been nice to crack the loot locker!