How to Defeat the Empty Page
Far be it from me to presume that I know anything more than anybody else…
As PCs we seem predisposed to disturbing burial grounds, graveyards, and the realms of the dead. Sometimes it’s not our fault. Perhaps the undead are getting up to stretch their legs or there’s a necromancer or mad scientist sending his minions to dig up some new (old) body parts… or maybe we think there’s buried treasure somewhere with only the spirits guarding it.
But I’ve noticed that we rarely stop to look at who is buried there. All graves and graveyards look alike, right? Every marker is shaped the same way. Old graveyards are surrounded by fences or overgrown with dark creepy plants. We’re just there to get in and get out. Why look around?
Well, maybe it’s because we as GMs don’t give our PCs anything to look *at* that’s the problem. What if we cook up a few cool stories about the folks residing in these memorials to the dead and see if perhaps they get a bit more spooked when we tell them that “Old Mrs. Cratchet” is the wight they just killed instead of some random, nameless ghoul?
We don’t want to get TOO crazy. But maybe come up with a handful of graves for the next place your PCs go to visit.
I’ll add some details to the Little Spaces that comes out of this article, but here’s a few things to get you started.
First, what style is the memorial?
Next, who’s buried there?
Now, what’s the memorial made of?
Let’s see what’s on the memorial…
And lastly, how old is it?
Now let’s put that all together to come up with a cool description.
Let’s say I roll Mausoleum (an above-ground crypt), Female, Onyx, Words + Name + Date + Symbol, and Millennia.
I might end up with:
A small, yet ancient mausoleum stands at the edge of what has always been a burial site. Each wall shimmers differently in the sun and in the moon, reflecting from parallel bands of color bound forever in stone. Spanning the two black doors at the front of the construct rises the faint outline of crossed swords with a flame behind them.
Three lines of carving circle the structure at the top, asking for forgiveness from the spirits at the edges of the world. The first line offers a specific devotion such as “Spirits of the East, please forgive my trespass and ignorance and light the way each morning.” “Spirits of the North, please grant these people the wind and water to bless their crops and keep the cycle turning.” “Spirits of the West, please watch o’er my people in the night and light the stars to guide their way.” “Spirits of the South, bless my people with your warmth in the days of summer.”
The second line uses a continuous line of runes of protection, though scholars have been unable to tell if they protect what is within the stone or protect the outside from what is inside.
And the third describes the lineage of the lady within… “Our Lady Iruhat, guardian of the ways who lost her way in the darkness in the third year of the Dragon on the third day…” The scholars have not been able to tell the age of the construct from the referenced date, but all agree it must be several hundred years old and possibly much older.
For more than a thousand years, this building has stood watching the sun rise and fall each day. Each time someone has sought to disturb the mausoleum, they have been turned away.
This offers some serious mood and story fodder for a GM as well as one of those impossible to avoid puzzles as a player. Do you open it and potentially unleash something horrific? Or do you leave it be… Hmmm.
Other tables I’m considering for the product will be: more styles, additional materials, type of death, number of bodies in the grave, and more.
Any other suggestions? I’m all ears (or eyes in this case, since I’m reading it visually, not listening to it)..
What cool grave sites can YOU come up with using this handful of tables?