10 Things to Find Outside a Ruined Castle

A ruined castle’s approaches are an excellent place to start building the atmosphere and flavour of the upcoming adventure. It’s also a great place for the GM to sow hints about the castle’s history and what might currently lurk within.

Use the table below, to add minor points of interest to the PCs’ exploration:

  1. Thick stands of brambles and bushes ward the ruin’s approaches. Here and there, game trails force their way through the dense undergrowth.
  2. Tracks in the dried mud betray the presence of animals—perhaps deer, foxes and wolves—along with other more dangerous bipedal predators.
  3. Partially hidden by thorny bushes, and the boughs of two youngish saplings, a tumbled pile of moss-covered stones hints at an ancient burial.
  4. The mouldering remains of a brown cloak are snagged on a thorny bush. They flutter in the breeze; inattentive—or paranoid—PCs may assume the cloak is a lurking enemy.
  5. A decaying arrow, its fletching long since rotten away, juts from a tree trunk.
  6. A humanoid’s yellowing bones sprawl among the weeds. A crushed skull and the total absence of the unfortunate’s legs hint at a violent and grizzly death. Rusting fragments of equipment lie scattered around the remains.
  7. Bushes and trees crowd thickly along the rutted and overgrown trail leading to the castle’s gate.
  8. The blackened, scorched ruin of an ancient tree looms hard against the trail. Its skeletal branches arch high overhead as if to fend off any younger, healthier trees daring to encroach on its territory.
  9. A campfire’s wind-scattered remains hint that previous explorers dared not camp with the castle’s crumbling walls; perhaps they feared the ghosts of those who once dwelled—and died—within.
  10. Bones—threaded together with twine—hang from tree branches and clack together gently in the breeze. Nearby, a skull leers down at travellers from its perch atop a spear thrust deeply into the ground. A blackbird perches atop the skull and tries to smash a snail’s shell open by banging it on the skull’s forehead.

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