20 Curses to Encounter in an Ancient Necropolis

The dead lie mouldering in coffins, tombs and sarcophagi often surrounded by treasures tempting grave robbers and foolhardy adventures. Disturbing these objects often comes with a price as the dead do not part with their treasures so easily. Even disturbing their sanctuary can bring down the curses of the deceased.

By Matt Morrow

By Matt Morrow


Use the table below, to generate details of the curse the PCs suffer:

  1. Rows of bleached skulls form the lintel of a stone doorway. Anyone passing underneath alerts any undead within 60 ft. to its presence for 1d4 days.
  2. Ancient, but valuable, silver coins (worth 30 gp) cover the eyes of a mummified humanoid. Taking the coins inflicts blindness on the thieving PC for 1d4 hours.
  3. The funeral shroud of a mummy lies inscribed with deeds describing its former life.  Anyone reading the script acts out the mummy’s life while sleepwalking for one week.
  4. A jewelled vase (worth 150 gp) lies at the foot of a sarcophagus inscribed with the visage of a beautiful woman. Disturbing the vase transforms any nonmagical liquids within the room into bitter tears. This change is not immediately obvious and only comes to light when the liquid is drunk or used.
  5. A golden necklace (worth 200 gp) found amongst a pile of brittle bones causes whoever takes it to sob inconsolably for five minutes after committing violence against another living creature.
  6. An inscription on the floor, if not intoned properly and placated with an offering of blood, causes anyone passing over it to feel a tangible sadness, effectively doubling their weight for 24 hours.
  7. A skeleton grips a bejewelled dagger (worth 145 gp). Whoever removes the dagger begins suffering mysterious cuts, taking 1d4 points of damage every 6 hours until the weapon is discarded.
  8. A small pearl (worth 100 gp) rests in the mouth of a skull. Removing the pearl causes the person to speak only in an ancient language for 1d6 days. This does not affect spell casting.
  9. A silver skull (worth 250 gp) nestles within the lid of a sarcophagus. Anyone touching the skull has vivid and horrific nightmares that night and is unable to gain the benefits of a food night’s rest.
  10. A ring (worth 50 gp) worn on a mummy’s hand causes the hand of anyone touch it to become paralyzed for 2d4 hours.
  11. Bas-reliefs of underworld spirits guard a doorway. Crossing the threshold causes offenders to be attacked by a wraith the next time his hit points drop below half.
  12. An ornate funerary urn (worth 65 gp) causes the skin of those who touch it to become brittle (all damage taken is doubled) for 1d4 hours.
  13. A stack of 50 ancient gold coins creates feelings of intense greed and paranoia in anyone who takes it for 1d6 days.
  14. A golden crown (worth 300 gp), perched on a skeleton’s head, temporarily possesses whoever removes it with the deceased’s spirit for 1d4 hours.
  15. A bloodstained pit filled with bones (and three enticingly placed gems worth 50 gp each) causes whoever enters it to hear the screams of dying creatures for 3d4 hours.
  16. An ornate golden goblet (worth 225 gp) lies entombed with a skeleton. Anyone taking the goblet tastes blood in their mouth and is unable to drink any liquids for 2d4 hours—doing so makes the drinker violently—even explosively—sick.
  17. A small, cracked silver mirror (worth 35 gp) creates a hate-filled, murderous doppelganger of whoever stares into it. The doppelgänger emerges 1d20 minutes after the PCs leave the area or discard the mirror. It then begins to hunt the PC down.
  18. Any person passing by a row of upright sarcophagi has to reroll the next roll made to avoid or mitigate damage within the next 24 hours, as the spirits of the dead cluster around them.
  19. A bone strewn floor causes whoever disturbs the debris to move at half-speed for 1d4 hours as if dragged down by innumerable ghostly hands.
  20. A golden bracelet (worth 75 gp) adorning a skeleton fuses to the arm of whoever touches for 1d3 days. The arm has a will of its own and cannot be controlled. It doesn’t try to harm the PC, but often does strange or inappropriate things.

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20Front_#6_220This article appears in 20 Things #6: Ancient Necropolis, which is available now. It will also appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things II, available in March 2017.

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John Bennett makes his lair in the tree-cloaked hills of New Hampshire. He enjoys heavy metal, beer and cigars as much as he enjoys playing RPGs. John has been writing since the age of 6 when he would narrate stories about dinosaurs and robots to his mother. He has a degree in film production and a pile of reject letters to go with his scripts. Currently, he is pursuing his Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership. He is also striving to achieve at least one skill rank in Perform (guitar) but too little avail. Coerced into playing 1st edition D&D by an older (and bigger) kid in the neighbourhood at the age of 8, he would like to take a moment to thank his friend, Danny, for introducing him to the world of gaming many long years ago. While his friends and players know what he is talking about, John has been unsuccessful in explaining what bugbears are to his family and co-workers, the latter fleeing his office when he begins rambling.

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