10 Things to Find in an Open Grave

Adventurers exploring graveyards often discover open graves waiting to be filled. Most such graves are ordinary, but a few may have minor features of interest.

By Maciej Zagorski (The Forge Studios)

By Maciej Zagorski (The Forge Studios)


Such features may be completely innocent, or they could be a clue to darker goings on in the graveyard.

Use the table below, to generate items of minor interest found in an open grave.

  1. A spade stands at a crazy angle at the bottom of the graveyard. A soft cloth hat hangs from its handle, but of the gravedigger there is no sign. A close inspection of the handle reveals a small smudge of blood.
  2. A bunch of wild flowers fashioned into a crude wreath lies in the mud at the bottom of the grave.
  3. Muddy water has seeped into the grave, turning the bottom into a dank, cloying sludge. A trapped rat swims in the water, but try as it might it can’t climb up the slippery muddy sides of the grave to escape.
  4. Heaped earth stands next to the open grave. Nearby lies a headstone ready to be erected once the grave is filled.
  5. An unattended coffin of stout pine lies in the grave. No one is filling in the grave—in fact no one seems to be anywhere near the grave.
  6. At first glance, this grave seems normal and unremarkable. However, a perceptive PC notices the faint outline of a long bulky object obscured by earth. Investigations reveal it is another coffin. It is rotten and has obviously been buried for years.
  7. At first glance, this grave seems normal and unremarkable. However, a perceptive PC notices an amulet half buried in the mud. PCs retrieving the amulet discover it bears the symbol of a particularly reviled evil deity.
  8. Someone has sprinkled salt over the bottom of the grave and on the mound of earth beside it.
  9. The open grave stands near an old tree. The tree’s roots break through the grave’s walls and floor in several places. Imaginative souls could imagine the roots look like a huge grasping hand ready to receive the coffin.
  10. As #5, but the coffin lid is splintered and broken as if from several heavy blows with an axe. The coffin itself is empty.

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6 thoughts on “10 Things to Find in an Open Grave

  1. I love these little lists. This one very much reminds me of entering a graveyard in Daggerfall when the flavor text pops up. This is great visual and atmospheric story telling. Keep up the great work!

  2. great timing for me on this one. i’m building an encounter that starts with the players waking up entombed inside a mastaba, which is a kind of egyptian mausoleum. not as posh as the pyramids or other royal tombs, but still a significant step up from the mass graves of the commoners. when the PCs escape from the mastaba though they’ll be in a graveyard which stands between an orcish refugee camp in one direction and a small village oasis in the other direction. the village oasis, actually, draws its inspiration heavily from a toned-down version of raging swan’s Idyll. its still a kind-of planar “witness protection program” location, just without quite as many special features. i’m really enjoying the work you and your fellow writing swashbucklers are putting out, Creighton. thanks for all the inspiration.