There's a crypt. Inside there are lots of coffins and places where they put dead people, and valuables. Characters soon realize that robbing graves while they are down here doesn't hurt the dead any. So you either create specific treasure or a sort of randomized set of options.
We are all together on this point so far, yeah? But then you look at the actual contents and it's dull shit! Like, the precious moments of my life are slipping away, and I'm rolling on some crappy table full of uninteresting crap with my friends out of. . . what? Obligation to find a rotten string?
Well, it's complicated.
First, it's effectively a slot machine. Players pull the lever, possibly roll the hazard/encounter die, and then get the contents. It clearly is less exciting if it only returns danger or treasure. You want the uncertainty and excitement.
You also want the possibility of empty. The problem is, you want them in the right ratio.
Pulling a LeverI like to think of my players as rational actors. They are going to try to get money with the least amount of risk possible. Therefore, anything that doesn't present as profitable will likely be ignored.
I resolve this by having the first coffin they examine have a "Good" result. (No Quantum Ogre here—I don't care how they examine the first coffin, or even if they do)
I often think chances for something interesting to happen are far far too low. There's a problem of scale where people assume that certain things will be referenced more than they are. Random encounters are a good example. A ~15% chance of an encounter per roll that's made 3 times an hour, means you'll have 2, maybe 3 wandering encounters usually? And yet many (many many) products contain a table with 12 boring monster entries. 6 would make a lot more sense, more likely to give an idea of an ecosystem, and you could design more interesting encounters than (8-12 Bugbears, EL3).
So for crypts, how many will their be? 8? 12? In a session, perhaps, there could be more. If the players are actively engaged in this endeavor, then it should have value. If nearly every roll results in "nothing" then it becomes kind of a tedious task.
When designing a slot machine, you want the good to be good, the bad to be terrifying, and a neutral result to be a relief. Based on these results, the expected number of crypts or coffins you might find, I like to have a 1/3 chance of each option occuring. There's an additional cost if opening these crypts causes noise or a roll of the hazard die. If done quietly, robbing graves and crypts, One hazard die per 3 graves looted is rolled.
The original Numenhalla Contents of Crypt/Coffin table reads:
Contents of Crypts, Graves, Catacomb burial niches, and other corpse storage
|Roll||Result||Roll||1 in 6 chance of treasure|
|2)||dust||2)||Jewelry 1-2 pieces|
|3)||corpse||3)||1d4x100 coins + 1-4 gems|
Coins are 1-2 copper, 3-4 silver, 5 gold, 6 platinum.
This is simple and effective. However, it's also right near that random table quality we are talking about. Writing this down and adding it to your module isn't helping. we are looking for more evocative and flavorful text.
Not just text worth paying for, but a real opportunity to delve into the unknown of another human's mind. So yeah, it's worth it.
Numenhalla Crypt tableThe first crypt looted or investigating is filled with dust and a set of six pearl dice worth 100 gold each, they sell for 800 gold coins as a set. There's also a small cross set with tiny diamonds worth 900 gold coins.
Thereafter oll 2d6 when looting tombs. The first D6 determines the contents, the second D6 determines if there are valuables present (1 in 6). Conditions last until removed by the hazard die. Coins are 1-2 copper, 3-4 silver, 5 gold, 6 platinum.
1) Stuffed full of ash, swirls into room, 10-40 Ash Wraiths attack.
2) The corpse lurches free, flailing about. 1 zombie attacks.
3) The coffin contains a black ooze. Initially it stays motionless, lashing out to attack people at the most opportune moment.
4) While examining the crypt, spikes and shatters from the shadowplane burn through the area. These do 2d8 damage, with a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw for half (save versus breath weapon for half)
5) Ghouls have caught the scent of unearthed grave dust, 3d12 descend on the party.
6) Yellow mold bursts out of the crypt in a cloud 40 feet in diameter. It does 2d10 poison damage and grants the poison condition, unless a DC 15 Constitution saving throw is made. The character takes another 1d10 damage at the start of each of their turns. They may attempt a save at the end of every round. (save versus poison or die).
7) Winds and sand blow out of the crypt as a mummy lashes out at the party
8) When even gently disturbed, a swarm of crawling claws pushes open the crypt and attacks.
9) Inside this crypt lies a Helmed Horror that animates and attacks. 3d4 other Helmed Horrors arise and break through nearby shallow crypts within 20' of the party to attack.
10) The crypt ejects bones like a fountain that turn into 6d6 skeletons.
11) A heavily armored knight lies here, until red fire burns from his eyes. 1 Death Knight attacks.*
12) A Nezumi assassin lies in wait here, and will attack with his poisoned daggers, DC 15 Constitution save or fall to 0 hit points and start making death saves (save versus poison or die).*
* Options 11 and 12 can only occur once. After they both occur, roll a 1d10 on this table.
1) Energy swirls around the room as the corpse inside is exposed. Rapidly, the corpse draws in energy becoming more and more lifelike, until the tempest passes and the nude dark haired beauty awakes.
2) 3 colored beams emanate from the enclosure, striking 3 random characters. The blue beam raises the experience of the character to the midpoint of the next level, the red beam permanently increases strength by 2, the black beam causes the character to appear as a photographic negative, causing death and necromantic spells to be cast as if the caster were 2 levels higher, and granting a +4 bonus on saves versus death.
3) Though the crypt is empty, mist rises from the floor, restricting visibility to a maximum of 50'.
4) The corpse of a giant lizard lies well preserved in this crypt.
5) There is a cracking sound, and suddenly several areas nearby are flooded with a slick substance. All terrain is difficult. You may treat it as non-difficult terrain, but must succeed at a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw (save versus paralyzation) or fall prone.
6) A pool of spiritstuff lies within the crypt. A wizard can perform an augary or clairvoyance here on a successful arcana roll. Death spells are enhanced near the pool.
7) As soon as the lid comes off, hundreds of ravens and other dark birds begin pouring out of the crypt. Several thousand eventually fly off.
8) The lid was keeping pressure on a pipe, and when disturbed, the crypt spews out a black cloud to 30 feet obscuring vision.
9) Inside the crypt is a stone passage that seems to lead to another area of the dungeon, through a 5' wide tunnel.
10) A strange vine lies in this crypt, growing through various skulls along its length. It is very resilient, but otherwise normal.
11) This 'Crypt' is actually the basic workings of a flesh vat. If the 15 stone monstrosity is extracted and it's repaired with 1,000 gold coins of augatic parts, you can be the proud owner of a medium sized flesh-vat.
12) Melted candles and wax are lining the bottom of this crypt
Treasure Table1) Leather straps that held this corpse inside this coffin glow with ancient runes. Binding these around yourself grants protection equivalent to leather +1, provides a +1 bonus to saves and prevents the user from having their soul removed from their body.
2) 2434 coins are precisely stacked in the form of a human merchant.
3) In the crypt is a dagger-shaped recess. If a dagger is sacrificed, a secret chamber snaps open, inside of which sit 4 magical daggers. The daggers return to their owner at the end of the combat round. Each does their normal damage, plus 2d4+3 elemental damage for a total of 3d4+3 damage. The elements are Pathos, Ice, Mirrors, and Shadow.
4) A leather strap with a hemispherical diamond set in the center, focuses the mind. It grants a +1 bonus to intelligence and access to either 2 sorcery points, 4 ki points, or a free second level slot.
5) Inside a small faded box, with a pattern of roses on the cover, lies a few dusty documents. These when presented to any official, military or government officer, or anyone inquiring into your business, will say whatever is necessary to pacify the official and convince him that you meet all his expectations.
6) An ancient amulet, with a bare space with a setting for a gem. It provides a +1 bonus to saving throws versus elements. If a gem is set into the amulet, it increases the bonus to saves by 1 per 5,000 gold pieces of the gem, up to a maximum of +4 to saving throws versus elemental damage
7) Two keys lie within the crypt, a 1"brass barrel key with a horse shaped bow (73), A 3" bronze barrel key, with a cross shaped hole in a flat bow.
8) A ceramic flask is engraved with the name Gilgithas. Gilgithas is a chain demon who's essence is trapped in the flask. If freed he will perform one service.
9) A set of 12 marbles made from gemstone, 100 gold each, 1500 for the set.
10) A large wooden plank, which encumbers 3 stone has delicate etching of a boar hunt in the woods. It is worth 1,200 gold.
11) Various silver trinkets, badly tarnished and set with semi-precious gems, all told worth about 300 gold coins.
12) A goblet that turns holy water into a liquid that cures disease and illness.
13) A 3" diameter jeweled loop that turns anything passed through it invisible until the next sunrise.
14) A vine necklace that exudes alteration magic. When donned, it comes to life and threads itself though the nasal cavity and sinuses of the wearer, looping around outside the back of the head. While worn, the wearer can breath water. Removing it takes a full round and leaves you stunned for the next round.
15) A crystal bracelet summons a suit of frozen armor that surrounds the bearer, granting them an armor class as chain, but without restricting their movement. Any fire damage will be nullified but cause the armor to dissipate for 1 minute.
16) A vial contains a pungent liquid. As an action, you can take a quaff and vomit a bolt of bile and acid in a 30' line that does 4d8 damage with a dexterity save equal to your constitution modifier, plus your proficiency bonus plus 8 for half (Save vs. Breath weapon). There are six doses in the bottle.
17) Inside this is a geomancers staff made of fragrant hickory. It has the head of a ram which is inlaid with 5 onyx. This acts as a +3 Quarterstaff with 10 charges, and it gains 1d6+4 charges at dawn. If you expend the last charge, roll a d20, with a roll of 1 indicating the staff is destroyed. Spells. You can use an action to expend 1 or more of the staffs charges to cast one of the following spells from it, using your spell save DC. Aura of Vitality (1 charge), Erupting Earth (2 charges), Banishing Smite (3 charges), Antimagic Field (8 Charges)
18) A greatbow made of yew wood, known as the Thorliusson Bow. The grip is wrapped in dull brown leather. The bowstring is actually a fine chain made of normal electrum. Accompanying the bow is a quiver of oiled brown leather with sheep fur trim. It contains 23 barbed +3 arrows with shafts of cypress wood painted yellow-orange and fletching of two mustard yellow feathers and one dark brown feather. It is a +2 bow, and any non-magical arrow fired through the bow can be used to cast entangle centered on the target once a day. The targets are ensnared with electrum chains.
19) A ray pistol sits discussed in this crypt. It shoots bolts of flame energy that do 1d8+1 points of damage. It has a 1d12 ammunition die.
20) This body is wearing two electrum gauntlets set with a rare white jade. They can be removed from the crumbling body without difficulty.
Replaced used entries with one of the following
A set of earrings with black agate, worth 150 gold coins.
A copper headband set with a malachite worth 80 gold coins.
An electrum mask of a tiger, vibrantly painted, worth 600 gold coins
A silver cloak pin, set with three tiny rubies worth 400 gold coins
A small leather sack containing 100-400 coins.
Six small tiger agates worth 30 gold coins each (180 total).
A diamond worth 1,000 gold coins.
A Professional Nod to Gus L, who does crypts right.