Literally a "City of the Dead"1, a necropolis is a large and heavily built up cemetery so full of mausolea and burial vaults that it resembles a town or city in its own right. There will usually be a range of tombs, from simple memorials over graves to large and ornate buildings, but the emphasis will be on significant structures.
Arguably the most famous of these was constructed at Thebes in Egypt - although the Ancient Egyptians loved their funerary architecture and built a variety of necropoli throughout the country.
After a change in controlling culture, a necropolis may be re-used as housing by the living - the Cairo necropolis, also in Egypt, is currently home to over a million people living in converted tombs.
Conversely, in a fantasy or horror setting the term may be applied to a city inhabited by the undead - either one previously inhabited by mortals, one built as a conventional necropolis or one purpose built for its current function.
Game and Story Use
- Even without undead, these make a good lawless area - if active there is the prospect of grave-robbing and if inactive they make a good basis for a slum district (as in modern day Cairo).
- With undead they become potentially very dangerous, especially by night.
- In a divergent setting (or culture) where undead are tolerated or accepted, a necropolis might exist in parallel to a regular polis, perhaps with funerals consisting of the deceased being conveyed to the boundary between the neighbourhoods and handed over (or making their own way down there, depending on relative speed of reanimation).
- The boundary zone between the dead and living neighbourhoods could be an interesting place - with the right sort of undead, it might be the sort of place you meet up with your ancestors for a chat.
- The "dead city" variant is especially creepy.