20 Magic Effects Affecting an Evil Altar

During their adventures, heroes often invade fanes dedicated to evil gods and slay the degenerate worshippers lurking therein.

By Matt Morrow

By Matt Morrow


Such shrines always have an altar at their heart. The site of horrific sacrifices and debauched rites, many altars are protected or augmented with magical effects. Some are of relatively minor power while others could spell the doom of those investigating the fane.

Use the table below to determine what effects lurk on the altars in your campaign.

  1. Heatless flames writhe atop the altar providing illumination equivalent to a bonfire. The flames leap 5 ft. into the air and never go out. They obscure the altar top itself, making it hard to see the hidden secret niche hidden therein.
  2. This overly tall altar is of mortared stone upon mortared stone. The mortar comprises the ground down bones of several champions of good, which binds the heroes’ souls to the altar. Destroying the altar releases these spirits. Any sentient creature coming within 20 ft. of the altar hears pain-laden whisperings emanating from its stones.
  3. The area around the altar is intensely cold. Frost clings to the altar itself and surrounding floor, making the floor slippery. Cold-based spell cast within 30 ft. of the altar take effect as if the caster was one level higher than normal.
  4. Four balls of obviously magical light hover in the air above the altar. They give off a lurid, green glow each equivalent to a torch. Anyone touching the altar can mentally command the four globes to fly anywhere in the chamber.
  5. Strange whisperings emanate from the altar. These whispers grow louder or fade away depending on how many evil aligned creatures are in the chamber. However they never completely cease and explorers may believe the altar is possessed. If they grow loud enough to be heard, listeners can ascertain the whispers are tinged with pain and are a litany of praise for an evil god.
  6. A line of skulls is mortared into the altar about three-foot above the ground. Unnatural, magical darkness lingers within the skulls’ eye sockets.
  7. Lurid, disturbing frescos depicting horrific acts of violence and torture decorate the sides of this altar. Further augmented by a powerful permanent illusion, the figures in the frescos seem to shudder and writhe in pain.
  8. Powerful magics pervade the altar and the area immediately surrounding it. Within this zone, all sound is greatly amplified making even the quietest whisper or groan of pain as loud as a shout.
  9. The smell of ozone hangs heavily in the air around this altar adorned with thick manacles. An obsidian dagger lies on the altar. Anyone approaching the altar carrying or wearing metal armour or weapons is struck by a minor electrical discharge (2d6 electrical damage).
  10. A permanent darkness spell is fixed to the altar; no nonmagical light sources can illuminate the surrounding area.
  11. A permanent illusion cast around the altar creates the illusion of mist continually rising from the floor. The mist provides concealment for objects and creatures further than 5 ft. away and cannot be dispersed by normal means (such as conjured wind and so on). Individuals who know of the illusion can see through the mist without penalty.
  12. A prayer dedicated to the dark powers of the fane is etched into the stone of the altar. Anyone reading the prayer is affected by a suggestion to kneel and worship.
  13. A faint, sickly purple glow illuminates the altar providing light as a candle. This glow expands to cloak anything or anyone touching, or placed on, the altar.
  14. Small holes in the altar top expel a strong breeze causing the permanently flaming torches set in wrought iron sconces atop the altar to dance wildly.
  15. A protective circle is carved into the floor around the altar. Picked out with silver, it acts as a magic circle against good. Damaging the silver ends the affect.
  16. A tall banner hangs from the ceiling directly above the altar, depicting the symbol of the altar’s deity. A gust of wind spell continually affects the banner making it writhe and flap. Consequently, it is slightly colder around the altar than normal.
  17. The altar is constructed of nothing but dozens—perhaps hundreds—of closely packed leg and arm bones. These fell remains emanate a constant unhallow
  18. The altar is the site of many castings of contact other plane. The repeated use of such powerful magic in the locality has created a bridge of sorts to certain powerful, alien beings. A character asking questions within 15 ft. of the altar is assaulted with strange visions, alien thoughts and terrible feelings. He must make a DC 12 Will save or his Intelligence and Charisma scores fall to 8 for three weeks.
  19. A variant stone shape spell affects the altar. The spell runs continuously and the altar’s form is in a constant state of flux. While it always retains the general form of an altar, small details such as carvings, channels to catch the blood of sacrifices and so on appear and disappear seemingly at random.
  20. A highly polished skull sits on a black velvet cushion atop the altar. A shard of obsidian fills one of the skull’s eye socket. The obsidian is the material component for a permanent variant magic jar spell used to imprison a paladin caught here long ago. Even dastardlier, a magic circle against good surrounds the altar which stops the paladin’s soul escaping…

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2 thoughts on “20 Magic Effects Affecting an Evil Altar

  1. Very interesting stuff, I liked #12 and #18 best. These books have many idea’s to help the DM/GM to flesh out their home worlds or add flavor to pre-made games.