The Age of Enlightenment-focused blog Cabinet of Wonders posted about ossuaries, which are “chest[s], building[s], well[s], or site[s] made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains.” Sometimes it’s a heap of bones, but other times an ossuary can be a beautiful use of mortal remains. Take the crypt pictured to the right, or the ossuary at Sedlec shown in Cabinet of Wonders‘ full article. Now that’s an amazing use of the materials at hand.
So the question is: how do I fit an ossuary into my next horror game?
Fueled by Tormented Souls
Aside from a macabre place for a clandestine meeting with your contact inside the Holy See’s secret police, an ossuary could be the foundation of a necromancer’s arcane power. Every bone carefully placed within the web of energy he’s constructed adds to his power. Like a lich’s phylactery, the necromancer’s Ossiferous Chapel would be his single most well-guarded asset, with all kinds of ensorceled defenders and cunning devices between it and any hearty adventurers.
The Honored Dead
Alternately, it could be a focus for good, honoring martyrs, saints and anyone else who sacrificed their life for the common by housing their bones. In this case, the PCs might quest on behalf of the church to recover the bones of a particularly pious individual from the floor of the dragon’s lair — in particular, I’m reminded of a Dungeons & Dragons adventure I played one year at OGC, where we played discoverers — and tenders, and recoverers — of the skull of St. McGuffin.
Gateway to the Next World
An ossuary could be an example of sympathetic magic, where like invokes like. In this case, the high concentration of mortal remains provide the base from which to travel to the realms of the dead. Some secret orders, like the Euthanatos, use this sort of thing for rites of passage and initiation. Or the player characters could be members of a group charged with policing the border between life and death and it’s part of their duties to travel between this world and the next.