20 March 2021

Ruined Graveyard Battlemap - With 8 Themed Encounters

After a few darker encounters in our last battlemap post, we decided that it was high time for a properly dark battlemap installment. This week, that takes the form of a ruined graveyard, along with the ruins of some kind of building (most likely a church). What led to the place being deserted? Did the cliffs begin to erode, growing too close to the building? Was there some kind of disaster, wherein the building burned/crumbled, killing many, becoming a tomb of its own? Did the dead begin to grow restless, and take their grievances out on those that buried them? So many unanswered questions... .

The possibilities for storytelling and encounter design are endless with this map, and we really had a lot of fun making it/writing them this week. Each encounter is, as always, themed to the locale, and I’m sure you can guess where a lot of them are headed thematically.

The Map

Besides the gravestones, the ruined remains of the building, and the cliff face, the map this week is actually very basic. There are no special features like lava pools or icy lakes. Just a few short walls, some natural cover from trees and the gravestones, and a short cliff face leading into the ocean (or whatever body of water you wish to make it).

The Map

Encounter 1: Night of the Living Dead (Level 1-3) Easy/Average

Whether they have been tasked with clearing the graveyard by a member of the local clergy, or they happen to stumble across the graveyard along their travels, the party will find themselves standing just on the outskirts of a ruined churchyard at night. The only sounds they can hear being the crash of waves below, the wind blowing across the cliff, and the rattle of bones, as a small group of skeletons patrol the area.

In the graveyard, seemingly keeping watch, are 2d2+3 Skeletons (basic rules - p152). They do not seem aware that the entire church is in ruins, and continue to wander the area. Any living creature that enters their sight, however, is instantly considered hostile, and they will not relent until their target is either dead like them, or gone.

Encounter 2: Rot Flies, When You’re Having Fun (Level 1-3) Average/Hard

When they ask about the ruins on the clifftop, the party hear strange, and horrible rumours. Something about an infestation, being brought into the church inside a body. As the priest began to make preparations for the internment, they couldn’t help but notice that something underneath the skin was still moving. In the hopes of finding life, the priest quickly leaned in to check for a pulse, only to find the skin tear open, as a small swarm of Rot Grubs began to burrow into his skin, from the corpse. He was said to have burned down the building with himself in it to prevent the infestation from spreading.

That was nearly 50 years ago, and the site has remained mostly untouched since. Unfortunately, a traveller passing through recently hadn’t heeded warnings, and after visiting, has not been seen since. Should they investigate, the party will find the corpse of the traveller, with an infestation of rot grubs. The rot grubs will attempt to burrow into any party member that comes into contact with the corpse, who must succeed a DC 12 dexterity saving throw or have 1d4 rot grubs burrow into their skin.At the start of each of the target's turns, the target takes 1d6 piercing damage per rot grub infesting it. Applying fire to the bite wound before the end of the target's next turn deals 1 fire damage to the target and kills these rot grubs. After this time, these rot grubs are too far under the skin to be burned. If a target infested by rot grubs ends its turn with 0 hit points, it dies as the rot grubs burrow into its heart and kill it. Any effect that cures disease kills all rot grubs infesting the target.

Even if the party does not get close to the body, they will notice its chest beginning to swell. After a few seconds, 1d3+1 Rot Flies (statblock below) will emerge. These Rot Flies will attempt to lay eggs into as many targets as possible, and then feed afterwards. Should the party be careless, one may even head into the village below...

Encounter 3: Lingering Emotions (Level 4-6) Average/Hard

Along their travels, the party find themselves arriving at the site of an abandoned, ruined, church. Even though they have no ties to the place, they find themselves overcome with an overwhelming feeling of sadness at the sight of the rubble, and the long since forgotten graves littering the churchyard. Despite themselves, they find it hard to muster up the energy or resolve to leave the area, and as they stand looking, they notice a number of black shapes beginning to rise from the broken headstones.

1d2+2 Vestigial Sadness will rise from headstones, and attempt to prevent the party from leaving, and will resort to hostility to achieve their goal. Another spirit is still better company than they are used to, after all.

Encounter 4: From Ghost to Ghost (Level 4-6) Easy/Very Hard

Originally neighbors who hated one another in life, two souls interred in the cemetery have continued their feud into undeath. Whilst neither of the two are intentionally causing harm to others or their surroundings, it would seem that neither of them are quite used to being Ghosts yet.

The party can attempt to negotiate with the two, and will receive an account from each ghost of the ways in which they were wronged in life (and death) by their neighbor. After hearing the stories, each ghost will ask the party to take the other’s body out of the grave site, and toss it into the river. Doing so will cause one ghost to pass on, their business now finished. Whilst the ghost whose body they decide to move will be annoyed - and understandably hostile to the party.

Should they, however, not think (as parties are known to do), and instead charge in headfirst, they will find themselves up against 2 Ghosts (basic rules - p129).

Encounter 5: A Grave Situation
(Level 7-9) Hard/Very Hard

Approached by a priest, the party are offered a job; help him reclaim his old church and graveyard, and rid the area of foul demons. He doesn’t have much to pay, but can offer them guidance and protection from his deity for their journeys (incorporate this however you see fit). He will explain that years ago, his church was the site of a breach by a small group of demons, which took up residence in his home, desecrated the grounds, and violated the bodies interred in his graves.

1d3+1 Grave Demons (statblock below) have taken up residence in the (now ruined) remains of his church, possibly hiding amongst the rubble, possibly hiding underground in a long buried coffin. Either way, the job is clear, clear the fiendish threat from the churchyard, and then help the priest bless the ground and bodies buried there.

Encounter 6: O Ye, of Little Wraith (Level 7-9) Hard/Very Hard

“When I offered him sanctuary, I never realised what a terrible man he was! He was dying, and asked the brotherhood of priests for a safe place to spend his final days. Obviously we couldn’t refuse. If we’d known, however, what he would become after he passed on, we would have never…” The elderly priest explains solemnly to the party, about how the man they provided care for turned into a Wraith after death, and quickly killed the entire clergy, save for the man the party are currently speaking to. Only a few days have passed since, but the creature has already destroyed the entire church, and has turned the souls of the priesthood into Specters to fight for him, twisted into unwilling servitude.

The party are tasked with going into the church, fighting the creatures inside, and releasing the priests souls from the torment they are currently trapped in, so they may at least pass over to peace. 1 Wraith (basic rules - p355) and 2d2+2 Specters (basic rules - p346) are terrorising the area, and may look towards the village soon… Unless some brave heroes help to keep them at bay?

Encounter 7: Bloodsuckers (Level 10-12) Very Hard/Deadly

Recently freed from the servitude of its master, a newly turned Vampire is looking for a lair. Whilst the ruined churchyard is certainly a step down from its masters castle, it at least has an abundance of coffins, and a good supply of fresh humans living close by. It will certainly do for now, at least until it can find somewhere a little… nicer.

1 Vampire (basic rules - p352) is ‘living’ in the old church on the cliff, and the villagers are scared. For obvious reasons, they don’t want to become dinner, and a couple of locals have already disappeared over the last few nights. To make the encounter more challenging, add either 1 or 2 Vampire Spawn (basic rules - p354) to the mix, as newly turned servitors of the vampire in question.

Encounter 8: Rot Dragon (Level 10-12) Hard/Very Hard

Even before they get close to the ruins they’ve been asked to investigate, the party are overcome by the stench of decay. It seems to float on the wind, and it carries a long way. They had heard rumours about the creature that had been spotted in the sky; a kind of dragon, they were told, with flesh and scales a necrotic blackish purple shade, and the stench of death following it closely. Such a creature cannot be allowed into a large population of people, and as such, the party are tasked with its removal.

Currently resting in the ruins of the old church, the party will encounter an Adult Rot Dragon (statblock below). It will instantly attempt to douse as many of them as possible in its Necrotic Gas Breath, and then immediately after take to the skies to attack from above.

Rot Fly Statblock
Vestigial Sadness Statblock

Grave Demon Statblock
Rot Dragon Statblock
The Map (Now with added Grid)
The Map during the daytime (in case you want it)
Day Map with Grid

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