Monday, December 8, 2014

Graveyard Musings

I live two blocks form the Bohemian National Cemetery. I pass by it every day on the way to work. I've admired the stonework on the tombstones for years.

My girlfriend and I finally decided to take a walk through there.

First off, these Canadian Geese need to be taken care of. They have managed to leave their droppings on almost every section of that place. Foulness indeed!

Outside of that though, as I walked through, I had several thoughts flash through my mind.

Of interest to me, were the portraits of people, even on old tombstones.

I saw several such tombstones, where one of the images was missing. What if in a modern Vampire campaign, the image is missing because a vampire or other immortal creature doesn't want his visage being linked to one on a person that's supposedly dead?

Next up, several of the tombstones had decorative elements that were of animals.

While it's all too easy to blame the medusa when it's a full fledge statue of someone, what if a medusa that's not necessarily evil, sells her services to capture animals for ornamental purposes? While a druid of other nature protector might find the idea of squirrels and pigeons disappearing problematic, it's a low enough level threat that such an individual might even find welcome in a more progressive city. Imagine then if someone tried to frame the medusa?

On the other hand, what if in an evil society, the culture specifically breeds handsome and beautiful individuals, training them well and insuring them of physical perfection, only to turn them to stone when a patriarch of the family dies? Further evil would be killing said person with poison that acts as some type of ecstasy so that they die with a smile on their face and then turning that corpse into a statue. Heroes trying to reverse the process will find their efforts leaving only corpses.

Several of the tombs had places that looked like they could hold oil for flame. What if part of the standard duties of the attendants is to insure that at night, those flames are lit? In case any undead do show themselves, they can be spotted easier and set aflame easier. Perhaps it's a sacred white or blue flame that only affects the undead in addition to shedding light more than ample enough to see by?

And what of the unknown dead? What if the players have to find a specific headstone but the graveyard has suffered such vandalization that tombstones are missing?

Even on some of the older tombstones and inside some of the crypts, there was evidence that people were still honoring the dead with flowers. In a setting with long lived races, would those races make a pilgrimage to a famous site to show their respect to the dead? Would families follow rites and rituals to insure that their honored dead remained at peace?

The talent at display in some of these works is amazing. I can easily see famous artists having to carefully pick their patrons and in a fantasy game, some might even come under threat if they did not do as a powerful patron bid them.

Some of monuments towered well over ten feet tall. The Chicago weather though is most unkind and while several were still readable, many had lost their readability to the ravages of time.

I kept my eye out for different types of stonework to see how they look. I paint miniatures and I always like having reference points. Some of the tombs appeared to have copper doors that had long since become green. Some had locks where rust was evident and I doubt it would take more than a good pull to yank the chain open.