“The graveyard — the name sends chills up the spine of any who consider visiting it, day or night. Many stories are told around a village or town about who or what is buried there, powerful heroes and treasure to fit them; however, the tales also contain stories of lights floating mysteriously around a certain grave or of ghastly figures prowling over the grounds.”
– “Grave Encounters,” by Nick Kopsinis and Patrick Goshtigian (Dragon Magazine #114)
There comes a time in every adventurer’s life when he finds himself in some vile, creepy cemetery or graveyard at a most inopportune time of the night. Perhaps the party is in search of the undead, or maybe they’re taking advantage of the late hour to commit a few illicit acts (after all, what is buried with the dead may be valuable).
Regardless of their reasons for being in the area, few locations are as scarier late at night than a graveyard. Even a cemetery in which all of the bodies are resting and not up wandering the soil can be unnerving for the toughest of adventurers, and such groups often allow the shadows and sounds to play tricks on their minds. To help the GM bring some atmosphere to these light night graveyard adventures I present this short, basic table.
To use the table roll 1d20 at any time you’re ready to give the player characters a reason to stop what they’re doing and waste time investigating the cemetery. Whether the sound leads to anything or not will depend solely on your own sense of cruelty.
d20: Graveyard Sounds
- Creaking. Whether it’s the opening of a coffin or a hidden door you cannot be sure, but you are certain that somewhere in the distance something or other made a slow, barely audible creaking sound.
- Unknown Whispers. It may have just been the wind whispering through the branches overhead, but you could swear the sound that washed over you was that of two people whispering some cursed plot or other.
- Howling. Was it a lonely, dying wolf or something worse? There haven’t been reports of werewolves in the area, and the moon is not full, but the secrets of magic are uncertain and it is best to be prepared for anything.
- Chattering Teeth. There it is again! Wait. Listen. It’s just over there behind the fallen headstones we passed earlier.
- Crash! A harsh, loud crash just beyond the edge of the torchlight snaps everyone to attention. What was that?
- Ghostly Strings. Either the wind is carrying the sound of some musician’s song from the distant tavern or — you pray it cannot be — some spectral bard has been woken from his eternal slumber.
- Scratching. That scratching sound is muffled, faint, as if it was from somewhere far away. Or from something that was recently buried.
- Falling rain. The spot-drip-spot of rain hitting the soil suddenly surrounds you. But no rain touches the ground or your body.
- Laughter. That low, chilling laughter has to be a trick of the mind. If you say nothing of it then maybe it will just go away. Why are the others looking about with quizzical looks on their faces?
- Cries of Pain. That cannot just be imagination or a trick of the constantly-blowing wind. The sound was too loud, too near, and too pained to have been anything but a man under torturous pain.
- Whistling Winds. Why must the wind blow so strong tonight? See how the leaves shake over there? That’s the source of the whistle that’s spooking you so. Pay it no mind.
- Groans. The soil must be settling in the graves, the weight of the earth crushing the coffins and causing that sound.
- Muffled Sobbing. I swear it almost sounded like a beaten child. This way, the sound came from behind the trees just at the edge of the fence.
- Meow. Not the sound of a normal, happy cat, but instead the sound of a terrified cat that has come across something it cannot believe.
- Footsteps. Clearly heard and nearby, the sound of someone walking the cemetery fills the air for barely a moment. The steps grow closer and closer, marching directly toward you until they suddenly stop. You see no one.
- A deep rumble. The sound of distant thunder threatens to drop a storm on your heads, but the sky is clear and the omens whispered nothing of a storm.
- A Splintering Door. You have explored enough dungeons to know the sound of a wooden door being bashed to kindling. And that sound clearly came from one of those small buildings near the cemetery gates.
- Something is being dragged across the soil. It’s the unmistakable sound of someone wrestling with a heavy burden, the swish-slop of an object moving across the ground and often bumping some fallen branch or stone is coming from just behind your companions.
- A boiling pot. Whether a soup or a witches’ brew you cannot know, but that sound on the other side of the stone wall that surrounds the fence is just like that of boiling water. Listen! Did you hear that? Something was dropped into the pot. Something large.
- A bird’s song. Not a nighttime predator, but the voice of a sun-loving songbird. What could possibly possess such a creature to sing in such a terrible place at this time of night?
If simple sounds are not enough for your adventure needs then consider Ice Tomb of the Dwarf Lord, a location just waiting to bring the party nothing but adventure.