20 Things to Find Outside In a Ruined Castle

Ruined castles are ripe with the possibilities of adventure, but present different challenges to those of a normal dungeon for adventurers to overcome. One of those challenges is the abundance of outdoor, open space. A castle likely has a courtyard, outbuildings and more; it’s likely the PCs will choose to explore all such areas in search of loot.

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

  1. Moss and lichens grow in patches across the castle’s crumbling walls. In places, the growths entirely obscure the stonework.
  2. A scattering of rubble mars the mud and weeds of the castle’s courtyard. Here and there stands of taller grass, tangled brambles and small bushes complete the look of decrepitude.
  3. The blackened, crumbling carcass of a cart lie amid the rubble and ruin. One of its wheels is missing. Perceptive PCs find the wheel’s shattered remains a short distance away, languishing in a patch of thick weeds.
  4. The battlements atop this section of wall look to be in particularly bad repair. Moss grows thick across the wall here—and could be the only thing holding the crenelations in place!
  5. Weeds grow thickly between the pitted, tilted flags comprising the floor. Some of the flagstones have shifted and moved as a result of subsidence, and rock gently when walked upon. Paranoid PCs may suspect a trap.
  6. Doorways and windows gape wide—their doors and shutters rotting away. Deep shadows cluster thickly beyond; perhaps within lurk the castle’s hungry, feral denizens…
  7. The splintered remains of the crenellations atop the wall look like the jagged, broken teeth of some gigantic beast.
  8. A chunk of partly buried masonry lies at the base of the wall. Thick weeds grow around the stone block. Perceptive PCs spot two skeletal legs concealed in the weeds. The skeletal legs protrude from under the chunk of masonry suggesting the rest of the body may lie underneath.
  9. Fresh tracks in the mud show where an explorer—or castle denizen—has recently walked. Judging by the footprints’ depth, the individual was heavily laden. Additional investigation reveals the tracks go in both directions.
  10. A ramshackle wooden building—perhaps once a wood store—leans drunkenly against the castle wall. The structure is dangerously unstable and could collapse at an inopportune moment.
  11. A rotting wolf’s corpse sprawls in a building’s shadow. The remains are clearly old and has been worried by scavengers. The wolf’s cause of death is unclear.
  12. The ragged remains of a flag or banner yet cling to the castle’s flagpole atop a high tower. The shredded flag still flutters forlornly in the breeze.
  13. Blackened stones and scorch marks around a doorway show where intruders set a fire to gain entry into the building. The door is long gone, but its partially melted and twisted hinges remain.
  14. A rusting longsword lies hidden in the weeds. Its blade is pitted and weatherworn, and the sword’s leather grip has rotted away. The weapon falls apart, if used in combat.
  15. Wind-blown leaves form a waist-high drift against one wall. The leaves hide several small, rotting crates and barrels. The barrels once held provisions, but the food is now nothing but a foul-smelling suppurating mess. Attracted by the rotting food, all manner of vermin infest the “leaf drift”.
  16. Scratches low down on one wall list the names of several men-at-arms who served at the castle.
  17. A low, narrow hole in a wall provides an impromptu means of entering one of the castle’s buildings. The hole is jagged, and rubble lies scattered about. Nearby rests a large chunk of masonry.
  18. One of the castle’s towers has developed a distinct list and leans outwards from the abutting walls.
  19. The defaced and scratched crest of the castle’s original owner yet decorates the wall above an empty doorway.
  20. Partially hidden by a fallen, now rotting, door a warrior’s skeletal remains—still clad in rusting scale mail—sprawl on the ground.

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This article appears in 20 Things #27: Ruined Castle. Members of our Patreon campaign got 20 Things #27: Ruined Castle completely free as a thank you for their awesome support. Join today!

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