According to the Meritocrat's version of history, Ancient Rome became corrupted by dark magic and at the height of its power, the Meritocrats intervened to prevent the destruction of the world. However, as we learn from the Ancient Rome sidequest, the ancient Romans kept six dragons imprisoned beneath their city - in a pit in the atrium - to be used as living weapons. They were guarded by the Cult of Jupiter. The dragons were poorly treated. During the time of the emperor Nero they were released by the what seemed to be the Cult of Mars, and they lose control of the dragons who immediately began to utterly destroy the city of Rome.
Rome is now a disaster zone of ruins. In the current time, the borders of the site are guarded by the Cult of Mars. Paladins of the Cult of Apollo are required as a part of their training to undertake a pilgrimage to the borders to see the destruction first-hand.
Inside, the ruins of Rome are home to a terrifying array of creatures, and magic behaves bizarrely. Paladins have great difficulty calling on their god. The sun never moves across the sky, so shadows are freezing, sunbeams are scorching, and it is hard to say how much time has passed.
As the party continues to make their way through the ruins, the buildings shift from commercial to more formal. Rome (or at least the ruins) doesn't seem to have been as divided by function as modern cities.
The party takes shelter in an abandoned tavern. Due to the weirdness around Rome, the basement is completely freezing. There's a hole to get into the basement from the tavern.
The villa (Palace of Nero)
The villa is sprawling. There's a slope that clearly used to hold gardens and fountains, with a crumbled wall that leads up to the central building. There are monsters around the building. It's a large building; the front seems to still be intact, but the back has been completely destroyed. Around the back, Sasha climbs to the roof and finds a massive, domed skylight, with most of the glass gone. Most of the city is visible from this area. It's clearly the epicenter of whatever destruction occurred, even though it's more intact than most of the buildings surrounding it. In the distance, there are some less-destroyed buildings as well. The skylight looks into an atrium, where there's a broken and discolored mosaic upon the floor. In the center of the atrium is a magical, vibrating thing that Sasha isn't able to make out.
When the rest of the party run in, they see the atrium from a different angle: the atrium is huge, with large pillars at the front and four robed figures standing in the middle. The magic thing that Sasha sees appears to be a tear in the world, 10ft high and 3ft wide. There's a route down from the roof to the highest floor.
The palace itself is old, and empty. There are glints of light and color, that are tiny copies of the gate. They get denser the closer they get to the atrium. In the basement, there's a collection of mundane supplies, such as climbing equipment, clothes for humans, food, and a collection of "magical" things (incense, pieces of paper).
Ancient Rome is on the verge of being destructed. It's a large, sprawling city, with a wall stretching around it. The poorer areas of the city are located closer to the wall. There's a heavy guard presence within the city, although it's more clerics and paladins than actual guards. There's a temple district, where all the different temples sit, and a trade district on the way to the palace. The streets are crowded, as guards are beginning to evacuate the city. Multiple military forces patrol the streets, heading toward the outer walls of the city.
After the dragons are freed, it’s absolute devastation on the roads of Rome. The destruction is completely wholesale. The wall that used to stretch around the city is destroyed. Everything is broken. There are shattered remnants of buildings, and a few still-living people picking their way through the rubble. There’s a huge gash in the wall. Dragons are still swooping around the city and completely razing it to the ground. Some are just flying by and glassing it; the black one is ripping at individual buildings. At the edge of the wall, there's the shattered remnants of a gatehouse.
Temple of Hades
The temple is a large, austere building, set apart from the rest of the temples. There’s a large fountain in front of it that depicts the story of Persephone, and the iconography on the temple reflects the seasons changing. There’s a Latin inscription over the top; what they’re able to make out is “Pluto...forever...trust”. Architecturally speaking, it’s quite simplistic. The doors are wide open; people clearly left in a hurry. There’s a small atrium, with a number of open doors leading off. There’s a waiting room off to the side, and then a cloakroom on the other side with a number of cowls hung up. There’s also a large tablet on one side of the atrium, written in Latin, but they can make out the name ‘Pluto’ and the word ‘death’. The temple itself is completely empty. There is no iconography of Hades; however, there are numerous depictions of Persephone, looking to someone or something implied to be elsewhere. There are a number of funeral items (tables, embalming fluid, etc.) and also a staircase leading down to the basement.
The basement is very cool and dry. There's a large number of bodies, laid out respectfully, and it looks like a morgue. At the very far end of it, there’s a raised dais, with a large, elaborate permanent layout of rituals around the slab (sort of like a pentacle, but nonspecific). There’s a lot of hanging incense around them, velvet cloths, etc. Where the rest of the temple was very simplistic, this is incredibly posh. The objects seem more to do with resurrection than anything else.
Temple of Mars
This temple is locked up. However, the locks (to Sasha) are incredibly primitive. In the middle of the room, there’s a large statue of Mars kicking the ass of the entire room. He’s in the middle of the fight with a dwarf, a human, and a centaur, and using two of them to beat up the other. Someone has taken the time to chisel spittle and a tooth flying from the centaurs mouth. There’s another tablet on the wall, with another inscription in Latin. There’s a large fresco on the ceiling, depicting a recognizable impression of Rome in the center, beset by enemies (barbarians, orcs, etc). Hovering over Rome is a massive dragon, burning everyone apart from Rome. The entire place reads as evil to Grizzop.
This is a random store that Cicero leads them to. It also has a lock on it, but Sasha makes short work of it. There’s a number of small perfume amphorae, about the size of a fist. This place is completely full of them, end to end, with some shelves in the middle as well. There’s some inscriptions under the flasks as well, in Latin. Cicero rifles through a few, and tosses a bunch to the ground as he searches. Colorful liquids spread out from them as they break, with some making whistling noises as they sail toward the ground.
The sewers are accessed through a door down a side alley. A narrow, sketchy set of stone stairs leads steeply down. There’s a nasty smell leading up from it. At the other end, there's another narrow set of stairs up that lead into Nero's palace. It’s quite cramped and narrow in the sewers. They weren’t built for humans, but they still have manhole covers and ladders leading down. After the dragons have been let out, each time they reach a manhole cover, there’s some drips of blood coming down, and the sounds of complete destruction and screams and roars and cries get louder. Intermittently, there are solid steel grates.
Nero's palace is up on a hill in the center of the city. The staircase up from the sewers leads to a corridor in the palace. It appears ominous; there are a lot of burning braziers and torches on the wall. There’s a mosaic on the floor that doesn’t seem to be depicting anything. It slopes down to the left and up to the right from the door they came in through. Down to the left, there's an intersection with two paths that lead down; Cicero picks one at random. There are a lot of alcoves in the corridors. There's a tunnel system that runs underneath the palace and connects to the sewer system.
After the dragons are set free, the palace is destroyed. There are a number of tears out of it. Lightning strikes two times on the palace, and then a sustained bolt pours into the palace.
Atrium: It’s a massive room; if they’re underground, then the hill that the palace is on is probably a bit hollow. The room is domed with some supporting pillars as well. There’s a massive hole in the center of the room, and Sasha is on a long walkway. The walkway has a railing and seems to go all the way around the room. The coloring is a lot of golds. Sasha can’t make out the other side of the room because it’s so big; she can see some of the braziers and torches, but they’re more pinpricks of light in the distance. She also sees an enormous set of chains running from the center of the ceiling stretching out to the sides, with large contraptions (they’re not incredibly complicated), and then they stretch down the edge of the hole. There are other tunnels leading out of the room. There’s a huge fresco on the ceiling, and a number of corpses on the ground. For every slain Mars member, there are 3 slain Jupiter members.
After the dragons are set free, the far side of the room is gone, completely melted away, and most of the stone is completely blasted. The room is a complete mess, and the skylight is shattered.
There’s a secluded, rural scene, with some mountains and woods, and a small river nearby. There’s an estate there, a combination farm and villa. There’s not really anything else within sight. Although it’s a farm, there are loads of people there, more than you’d expect. The main building is a calm and serene place; there are more weapons and armor in there than would normally be expected, just laying around. The second floor of the building has Sasha's office.