20 Things to Find in a Sarcophagus

Adventurers always seem to be breaking into ancient tombs and crypts in search of undead horrors (and their loot).

By Bradley K. McDevitt

By Bradley K. McDevitt


Of course, not all sarcophagi are filled with treasures or undead monstrosities. Some simply contain the bones of the long-dead (and their grave goods). The following table can be used to determine what the PCs find—beyond the occupant’s mouldering remains—when they search a sarcophagi, burial niche or crypt:

  1. The occupant’s head rests on a dusty and faded red pillow. A DC 15 Perception check made while searching the pillow reveals a small cache of old gold coins minted in a kingdom long since crumbled to dust. The fifteen oversized coins are worth 100 gp to a sage, collector or student of history. They depict the fallen kingdom’s heraldry on one side and the profile of its ruler on the other.
  2. Although it only contains the remains of one body, this sarcophagus holds two skulls. One clearly suffered a violent death.
  3. The occupant’s remains are covered by a fine white sheet edged in silver trim. The trim is worth 15 gp.
  4. The sarcophagus is filled with bones from many different individuals, all jumbled together. The sarcophagus itself has a hidden niche in the bottom (DC 20 Perception reveals) only accessible when the bulk of the bones have been removed. The secret niche holds the remains of an important individual still wearing two ornate golden bracers decorated with engravings of swooping birds of prey (worth 400 gp).
  5. The sarcophagus’ occupant clutches a mouldering scroll in his hands. It crumbles if touched, but an investigation of the remains reveals several indistinct religious symbols.
  6. The inside of the sarcophagus’ lid has scratch marks—as if the interred had tried to escape.
  7. The stench of decay greets explorers opening this sarcophagus; mould and strange fungi have taken root on the decomposing body within. Characters opening the sarcophagus must make a DC 12 Fortitude save or be nauseated by the smell for 2d6 minutes.
  8. The sarcophagus contains not only the skeleton of his intended occupant, but also the remains for four huge rats. A close inspection of the occupant’s skeletons reveals hundred of teeth marks.
  9. The skeleton (strangely) is lying on its front. Among its rotting clothes, perceptive adventurers spot a thin leather cord around its neck. A silver heart-shaped pendant (worth 30 gp) hangs from the cord.
  10. Curled at the feet of the sarcophagus’ inhabitant lie the remains of a small dog, cat or other small pet.
  11. The inside face of the sarcophagus’ lid has an illustrated prayer carved into it. The prayer speaks of peace in death and the illustrations depict angels carrying the deceased’s soul up to the clouds.
  12. The occupant has been decaptitated and staked through the heart.
  13. The sarcophagus has two occupants; they have been laid to rest holding hands.
  14. The sarcophagus holds a child’s remains. Several small worn and faded toys lie amid the dust.
  15. The sarcophagus’ bottom has many small holes bored through it. A slight breeze blows through these holes and when the sarcophagi’s lid is removed a great cloud of grave dust billows up around the PCs. The dust is essentially harmless, but the PCs won’t know that.
  16. Carvings from the deceased’s life decorate the inside of the sarcophagus. A perceptive PC (DC 20 Perception) notices several tiny imps among the carvings depicted in the midst of some form of mischief or trickery.
  17. Only a skull, resting on a faded black cushion, lies in the sarcophagus. Even casual observers note that all the skull’s teeth—and its jaw—have been smashed.
  18. This sarcophagus has never held a body—instead someone has used it as a secret storage place. It contains 236 gp, 478 sp and a pair of gleaming masterwork silver daggers. The daggers have a raven engraved on their pommels.
  19. The lid of this sarcophagus sits slightly askew. Amid the scattered bones and mouldering clothes within lair a half-dozen feral (hungry) rats.
  20. Lead lines the inside of this sarcophagus. The skeleton within wears faded fine robes in a style not common or popular for decades. She also wears a large golden ring set with a sharp shard of obsidian on one finger. The ring is valuable (200 gp) for its materials alone. The ring could be merely valuable or it could be the component of a special magic jar

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7 thoughts on “20 Things to Find in a Sarcophagus

  1. Liked the ideas here, very useful as a springboard, especially when needing random results for a big crypt or other burial complex, BUT distracting to keep seeing sarcophagus misspelled all the way down to number 17. Sarcophagi is the plural form, used in the singular through most of the piece.