20 Minor Hauntings to Encounter in an Ancient Necropolis

Vestiges of the dead wander the necropolis—fleeting spirits mirroring their past lives or lashing out at intruders disturbing their rest. Sometimes these lost spirits partially manifest into the world, and the PCs encounter the fleeting vestige of their lives.

By William McAusland (Outland Art)

By William McAusland (Outland Art)


Use the table below, to generate details of the hauntings the PCs encounter:

  1. A ghostly procession of priests drags a screaming servant down a tunnel leading further into the necropolis.
  2. The vacant eye sockets of a pillar of skulls glow red and scream in an ancient language when the party passes by.
  3. A shimmering, translucent group wearing robes of ancient cut kneel before a sarcophagus. As one, they draw long daggers, thrusting them into their hearts before disappearing. Their brittle bones remain among the dust.
  4. A noble woman drags the corpse of a man, stabbed many times, behind her before dumping the body in a corner and sneering as she fades away. A dust-shrouded skeleton remains to bear witness to her crime.
  5. Spectral people blink in and out of existence along a row of bone-filled niches piercing the wall.
  6. Two armoured figures clash violently in front of the tattered remains of an ancient tapestry depicting them.
  7. A translucent, roguish figure flashes a smile at the nearest creature before disappearing into a wall (which reveals the location of a hidden secret door to observant PCs).
  8. Skulls fill numerous shelves bored into the wall. They begin to chatter and moan when any living creature comes within 5 ft.
  9. A regal figure rests within an open coffin, appearing to be alive but asleep. Touching the body causes a spirit in the figure’s likeness to rise up, scream and then dissipate, leaving nothing but a mouldering corpse behind.
  10. Shadowy figures hound the footsteps of anyone within the room, appearing just out of sight.
  11. Bones skitter madly across the floor, rising up briefly before clattering back down.
  12. Lids swing open on a number of coffins before suddenly slamming shut. Muffled screams come from the coffins.
  13. Phantasmal figures feast at a ghostly table on fine food and wine before a shrieking wind sweeps them—and the table—away.
  14. The sounds of laughter, sobbing and screaming swirl through the air around piles of stacked skulls. As quickly as the sounds begin, they end.
  15. Pale figures fly from a series of urns, streaking towards any living creature, their mouths rent with fury, before disappearing with a cackle.
  16. A family of five transparent figures watches intruders, their eyes vacant black holes of swirling energy.
  17. The temperature drops abruptly to freezing and any living creature feels hands trying to pull them down through the floor.
  18. The temperature rises to sweltering levels as if the explorers have entered a fire. Blackened, writhing figures flicker just out of sight.
  19. Blood appears to spurt out from niches along the wall, accompanied by a torrent of screams.
  20. Everyone feels claustrophobic, as if the room is no larger than a coffin.

Sometimes, when explorers encounter haunts they suffer ill effects. Sample effects include:

  1. The sight of the haunt leaves the PC shaken for half an hour.
  2. The intense emotions radiating from the haunt leaves the PC dazed for half an hour.
  3. Sickened by the otherworldly suffering of the haunt, the PC feels intensely sick until he eats his next meal.
  4. Wisps of the haunt cling to the PC and suckle upon his warmth. These leaves the PC sluggish and tired for an hour.
  5. The sight of the haunt damages the PC’s sanity. He temporarily loses 1 point of Wisdom. It returns after a day or complete rest.
  6. Contact with the otherworldly nature of the haunt inflicts 1d6 damage upon the PC.

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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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