20 Things to Find in an Ancient Necropolis

The final resting place of perhaps hundreds or thousands of bodies, an ancient necropolis can be a strange place to explore. A necropolis is death’s house. While undoubtably a necropolis holds a great number of dead bodies along with many objects and decorations of religious significance it will also hold other features of interest to explorers.

Artwork by Claudio Pozas, copyright Expeditious Retreat Press, used with permission.

Artwork by Claudio Pozas, copyright Expeditious Retreat Press, used with permission.

 

Use the table below, to add points of minor interest to the party’s explorations.

  1. Strange markings in the dust suggest something was pushed or dragged through this area. What it might have been, however, is unknown.
  2. Part of the doorway ahead has collapsed, dumping rubble onto the floor. The door itself lies splintered and broken under the rubble.
  3. This mural depicts an idealised external view of the necropolis being approached by a long column of people. It has been defaced by several heavy blows from a blunt object.
  4. A burnt out torch stub lies discarded on the floor. A smudge of charcoal on the stone flooring shows where it guttered out.
  5. Thick, dusty cobwebs cloak the ceiling. Dark shapes—cocooned insects and dead spiders—hang amid the webs. The spiders may be simply dead, or the necrotic energies of the nearby buried dead could have transformed them into a swarm of tiny zombie spiders hungry for warm flesh!
  6. Strange carvings of various hideous demonic heads leer down over this area from several stone half-height pillars standing against one wall. The pillars and heads are painted in various lurid colours to appear more terrifying. The paint is dulled with age and peeling.
  7. Runes depicting death, damnation and doom decorate an archway leading away from this area.
  8. Clad in wisps of burial shroud, the skeleton of some poor unfortunate soul lies sprawled across the floor.
  9. Several bricks have fallen—or been pried away—from the wall to reveal a small dusty cavity; within, lies a rusting lever, but it is not immediately obvious what it operates. From its condition it doesn’t look like it has been used in years.
  10. A rusty portcullis fills an archway, blocking access to what lies beyond. The portcullis itself has been forged to look like a web of intertwined vipers. Cobwebs hang from the portcullis and dust lies thickly upon the intricately forged serpents, blurring their finer detailing.
  11. A lurid collection of yellow skulls glowers down at intruders from a high niche cut into the wall. Investigation of the shelf reveals a deep, but narrow space cut into the wall behind and below the niche; it is filled with bones.
  12. A mosaic of black, purple and red tiles covers the floor. The mosaic’s pattern seems entirely random, but a viewer looking down on it from a decent height can see it actually comprises the death god’s sigil intertwined with symbols of protection and vengeance.
  13. Faded murals depicted the souls of the departed being judged in the death god’s halls decorate the walls.
  14. The inscription over this doorway speaks of the dire curses and agonising deaths waiting for any who would disturb the dead resting beyond. However, part of the inscription has crumbled away (or perhaps it was defaced by previous explorers); thus its full meaning may not be clear. This could also mean that any magic lurking in the inscription—perhaps some dire trap—has long since faded.
  15. An ancient rust-coloured stain mars the floor. The stain is—of course—long dried blood and it looks like from its size whatever bled here probably died here.
  16. A thick grey gloop slowly oozes though cracks in the ceiling and splatters onto the floor. This constant, but slow, accumulation of gunk has created a semi-solid slurry pile of thick, odourless slime covering most of the floor.
  17. A sudden gust of wind blows the dust of ages past into the party’s faces and creates swirling dust devils that swirl around the chamber for a few moments before subsiding.
  18. A faint breeze caresses the party’s faces. The breeze creates swirling eddies of dust that swirl around the party’s ankles, seeming to grasp at their warm, life-filled flesh.
  19. The floor ahead is cracked and pitted. Several flagstones have clearly shifted upwards creating an area of uneven flooring. The area smells of damp and mould.
  20. The wind sighs through the necropolis’ abandoned passages and chambers. To the paranoid, nervous or confused it almost sounds like the building itself is breathing…

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This article will appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things II, available in March 2017. For more, check out our Free Resources page.

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