In many dungeons - indeed, many locations that a bunch of adventurers might have cause to visit - various deities are worshipped. Central to many such places of worship are altars... and these can often tell you quite a lot about who or what is being venerated there. Not to mention that devotees often store valuable items there!
Sometimes there is such a strong connection between an altar and the being worshipped at it that there might be strange effects or a feeling of a 'presence' there. Glancing over this work, it seems to be aimed at the so-called 'evil' deities, demons, etc., worshipped by dark cults who practise unspeakable rites... but remember that those who worship there likely have as valid a reason for doing so as the devotees of the goodest-of-the-good deities. Many of the features presented here can be adapted to the place of worship of any deity, however wholesome, with little effort.
After mention of construction (usually stone, although some faiths make do with a wooden table and others prefer the bones of their enemies) and mention of traps - particularly if the altar contains valuable or sacred items, or if it can be moved to reveal a crypt or passageway - the first table presents options for major features. These are the sort of things that are immediately noticeable as soon as you look at the altar. Maybe the face of a demon is carved into the side, or it's covered in dried blood.
Next, what's on the altar? Books, weapons, holy symbols... or something less pleasant. Or maybe a bunch of flowers. The next table on Minor Altar Features and Dressing has plenty of suggestions if you are going a bit blank. Like all the tables, you can roll dice, or read the descriptions and pick whatever you feel is most appropriate. Or do both. Roll and if you don't like the result, pick something else. Some of the suggestions suit an altar that is still in use, others (like being covered in dust) are better for one that's been neglected for a while.
We then get on to tricks and traps, with several nasty devious ones being listed. One thing to bear in mind is that the faith that erected the altar doesn't want to trap their priests or devotees who are doing what they should... they are purely to keep inquisitive interlopers out! So there has to be a way for those in the know to bypass them. A good rogue may be able to figure them out.
Well, that's it. A selection of ideas to make the next altar a bit of a feature, especially if it is one used by an evil-aligned cult.
Return to Altars 2.0 page.
Reviewed: 16 September 2019