20 Things to Find Inside a Ruined Castle

Many things are attracted to ruined castles—for even in their decrepit state they offer shelter and protection from both the elements and enemies. Sometimes organised bands of bandits or raiders inhabit a castle while other times the above-ground portion of the ruins is home to vermin and other—four-legged or winged—predators.

Use the table below, to add minor points of interest to the PCs’ exploration:

  1. Scratches and marks on the wall record the names of the folk that once dwelled here. Some of the names appear with a date alongside. Some are surprisingly recent.
  2. Charcoal smudges on the wall show where someone once stubbed out a torch.
  3. The faint smell of mould and rot hangs in the air. Shortly thereafter, the party discover a pile of rotting wood and fabric mouldering away against a wall. (It looks like a tapestry fell over a piece of furniture).
  4. The flagged floor is rough and uneven—some of the flagstones have shifted with the passing of the years.
  5. A dry, rust-coloured stain on the floor and one wall show where someone lost a lot of blood long ago. It is doubtful the injured person could have survived such a terrible wound without magical aid.
  6. Crumbling mortar has made the archway above this doorway dangerously unstable. Incautious movement through the opening could result in several stones falling (onto the unfortunate passing through).
  7. The next door the PCs encounter is intact, but horribly swollen in place, making it difficult to open.
  8. The pungent smell of mildew fills the area around an open and upturned chest. A thin whitish coating—minute fungi—covers the empty chest.
  9. Dust-shrouded cobwebs hang thickly from the ceiling. Thin tendrils of the web—long enough to caress the PCs’ shoulders— waft gently in the breeze.
  10. Indistinct marks in the dust hint at the presence of small scuttling creatures—perhaps rats or monstrously large centipedes—in the vicinity.
  11. The mouldering bones of a large piece of wooden furniture lie overturned in the dust. Its panels are smashed; much of the whole is missing. Shortly afterwards, the PCs discover the burnt-out remains of a campfire below a soot-blackened ceiling.
  12. The pungent smell of rot presages the discovery of several sacks of rotting grain and other foodstuffs. Near the spoiled food, the stench is particularly intense.
  13. A small wall niche holds the partially burnt remains of several candles. A dusty flint and steel also fill the niche.
  14. Shards of broken pottery cover the floor. In a corridor, the shards cover the floor from wall to wall. In a room, they ward a doorway. (The PCs could theorise the shards were placed this way to serve as makeshift caltrops).
  15. The remains of an ineffectively set tripwire stretch across the next doorway the PCs discover. The wire wraps around a small peg on one side of the door and is attached to a precariously balanced metal shield on the other.
  16. Faded, yellowing whitewash peels from the walls in this locale.
  17. While the tapestry decorating this wall is long gone, the thick, long rusting hooks which once held it in place are still evident high up near the ceiling.
  18. A pile of old, dry dung sits incongruously on the floor in this area. Rangers, druids and the like can tell the muck came from a large animal.
  19. A spidery network of cracks run through the walls of this place’ none are structurally significant.
  20. The next door the PCs discover is intact and locked. Luckily, the door’s key is in the lock. Unluckily, the key and lock have rusted together. The door is also slightly swollen and thus challenging to open.

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This article appears in 20 Things #27: Ruined Castle. Members of our Patreon campaign got 20 Things #27: Ruined Castle completely free as a thank you for their awesome support. Join today!

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