20 Things to Find in a Ruined Monastery

Abandoned monasteries are often the sites of exciting adventures. Mad priests, lurking undead and lost relics seem to draw adventurers like offal draws flies.


Often, however, the monastery itself receives little extra design time. Use the table below, to add depth and flavour to an abandoned monastery:

  1. A scorched and splintered holy symbol lies discarded against one wall. Close examination reveals splatters of blood on the remains of the symbol.
  2. Great rents in a floor mosaic depicting the monastery’s heraldic symbol bear mute witness to some terrible act of violence.
  3. Smashed furniture—perhaps the remains of tables and benches—lies scattered about the chamber; explorers must carefully pick their way through the mess.
  4. The glass windows in this area—if indeed there ever were any—are missing; only one wooden shutter remains, and it hangs crazily from a single hinge.
  5. A stretch of blackened stone surrounds a pile of ash and shards of burnt wood. Soot stains the ceiling.
  6. The mouldy, shredded remains of a once grand tapestry yet hang from the wall here. Mould grows thickly upon the remaining fabric.
  7. Rubble and brickwork lies scattered about the floor. Dust covers everything. In places, water drips down from holes in the ceiling.
  8. A statue—perhaps of a saint or notable clergyman—lies smashed on the floor near to the plinth on which it once stood.
  9. The door leading out of this area yet stands in its frame, but is swollen with moisture. It is stuck fast and must be forced open. It cannot be closed again.
  10. Pale sunlight shines into this area from a small window high up on one wall; the light’s wan rays illuminates the dust floating gently in the air.
  11. A book’s spine—along with a few scraps of mildewed parchment lies discarded under an overturned table. The book’s remains are illegible.
  12. An indefinable feeling of sorrow and loss hangs in the air. Nearby, under the hacked and splintered remains of a table or bench lies the yellowing bones of a priest or other resident of the monastery. His plain robes are similarly hacked and torn, and the unfortunate’s head is missing.
  13. The peculiar acoustic properties of this area amplify even the quietest sounds.
  14. Patches of whitewash are peeling away from the walls and ceiling.
  15. Moss and lichens grow thickly upon the walls. Similarly weeds have grown up through the cracks in the flagstoned floor.
  16. A trail of footsteps leads through the dust and the rubble covering the floor.
  17. Here, someone has prised up a flagstone in one corner of the room. A secret niche below may have once held glittering treasures but it is now—sadly—empty.
  18. A cast iron chandler—little more than a gigantic iron ring suspended from chains—hangs from the ceiling. Candle stubs and dried wax decorate the chandelier, which gently sways in a faint breeze.
  19. Part of this door’s lintel has crumbled and fallen away. The remainder of the door frame is similarly unstable; incautious exploration could cause it to collapse.
  20. Shadows and grime fill this area. On one wall, someone has written in big chalk letters, “VIV”.

This article will appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things II, available in March 2017.

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