A horrible bag, a thing of blood and long dried gore covered burlap, hangs from a rusted iron peg. The bag itself is not horribly large, a bit smaller than a traveler's backpack, there is something both familiar and horrific about the shape suggested under it's rough surface. The aged fabric is dry, the end fibers crumbling against rough hands as the mouth of the bag is opened.
Inside the grim container is a single skeleton, the skull sitting atop twine bound ribs and limb bones. The eye sockets glare hollow into the eyes of the poor soul unfortunate enough to open the terrible, crumbling sack.
Not every corpse and skeleton that falls into the hands of a necromancer ends up as a soldier in his undead host. Some skeletons are deemed unworthy, perhaps their limbs are damaged, or are missing vital parts. The most common cause of skeletons and corpses being discarded by necromancers is the simple fact that a child zombie or child sized skeleton is not a very capable physical warrior.
The sack hits the ground with a brittle and dry clatter, the bag releasing a puff of age decayed dust. The skull lands upright, the eyes still facing the unfortunate who opened the sack and first gazed in. A mounting a nameless dread fills the unfortunate soul...
To create a terrible terrible bag, a necromancer places a ceremonially prepared skeleton, or rarely a child's preserved corpse, into a burlap sack. A malevolent spirit is then bound to the corpse as the sack is closed with a special knot using a seven braid rope. Once done, this trap can be left anywhere and lasts until the bag is opened. A bag can hang long past the time when a mundane burlap container would have long mouldered to nothing, perserved by the unwholesome magics that enchant it.
Sourbeard, scourge of the Flantzbad Goblins, Slayer of Grintleborz the God-Boar, shook in fear. The thing had been following him, never letting up, never relenting. His ax availed him naught against it and for not the first time he regretted opening the sack and scattering the bones when they turned out to not be treasure. He heard the soft laughter, the cold laughter of the dead, and his heart lurched. It was coming again and the only thing he could think to do was run...
Once the sack is opened, the malicious spirit within the corpse begins to haunt the unfortunate soul that opened the bag and triggered the trap. Once a target has been selected, the spirit, while metaphysically bound to the bones, beings to haunt the victim as an incorporeal ghost. This mostly includes creating minor illusions and ghost sounds that play on the victim's fears. Once the victim has become suitably paranoid, the spirit of the bones begins it's real work, leaving poisonous vermin for the victim to find, causing nightmares, and leaving blood stains on them and their possessions in a campaign of psychological terror.
Sourbeard shuddered as the thing entered the chamber, he burned with shame over the gutless sound of his own whimpering. It had finally come for him, a half sized skeleton barely as tall as his chin, but for all the world bigger than any dragon or troll. There was nowhere left to run, he was alone, and it had won. Tears filled his eyes as the black sockets met his glassy own, the bones of the thing's fingers were so small, so delicate. He convulsed as the bones wrapped around his neck and strangled him. He flailed at the thing but it's bony face was leering and impassive at the same time. He shuddered and was dead.
Once a bag trap has run it's course, the bound spirit is released from it's servitude and flees back to the formless realm of darkness from which it was summoned. There are several ways to deal with such bag traps, the most effective being not opening every single thing that is found in a dungeon. The second is that a competent necromancer should be able to recognize a bag trap for being some sort of necromantic vessel. A competent necromancer can set off the trap and use the skull of the child in question to summon the malevolent spirit and in a contest of wills, banish it and disable the trap.
Wilkes, most recently from Aastolan, examined the sack as it hung from it's peg. To his sorcerous sight, the container reminded him of a butterfly's chrysalis held up in front of the sun. though hazy and halfway opaque, he could make out a form writhing inside the vessel. It was a spiritual trap of some sort. He cut down the sack and opened it. Sure as death, he smelt the black magic as much as felt it's cold grasp. Grabbing out the skull, his left thumb derisively jammed into the eyesocket he summoned the ghost of the bones. The thing wailed as his will forced it into the torchlight. 'Little servant, you will tell me the name of the necromancer who placed you in this vessel. If you resist, I will destroy you. Submit and I will allow you to return hence the abyss from which you came...
Necromancers like to be left alone, and while nefarious death traps work well, when people go missing, their friends and family tend to come look for them. This gets messy when adventuresome types get involved and then minions get slain, contingencies are resorted to and evil plans are set back years or more. Now when a would be dungeoneer returns pale faced from a venture, and within a few days is either barking mad or found dead, fewer search parties are sent out. Whatever it was that got so-and-so got them, maybe it served him right for upsetting the dead, messing around in their graves and such.
They key is that the victim will have moved on some time before the spirit begins it's torment so that in many cases, the victims never knew what was after them until they saw the diminutive skeleton standing over their hiding place.
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? Responses (20)-20
'Ware, ye absent-minded necromancers. Yer trade will be the death of ye.
While not quite as fear-inspiring as some relentless pursuers I can imagine, I like it nonetheless. Perhaps the PCs will finally learn that some stones are better left unturned.
I can think of a bunch of adventure ideas for this one.
If, once the spell was cast and the bag closed, there were an equal chance that opening the bag would fail or create your circumstances you could have called it Schrödinger's Sack.
It is a fun item to use on the players and a could also be used in an area as a bedtime/tavern legend overheard as atmoshphere to a location. Once they hear it they may be timid to open any sack.
Excellent, and as Strolen mentions, a great way to build a foreboding atmosphere. The italicised story really brings it alive too!
One or two of these things could be placed amongst sacks of gold in a treasure room. The owner of the treasure knows which bag/s NOT to open.
wow. Awesome. Great original twist on old-fashioned 'mystery sacks'! Plus what Strolen said.
Idea and execution is, as I have come to expect of you, excellent.
The only thing that strikes me is: "Why?"
Sure, you provided some sort of rationale with the prevent tomb looters approach, but the effect is slow working and to me seems more like "prevent adventurers from tomb raiding ever again" rather than "prevent adventurers from killing me and taking my stuff". For when the heavy effects start working, the necromancer is likely dead and his precious works scattered to the wind.
But your rationale does have a certain logic: It could be that a necromancer, in spite and paranoia, places this thing amongst his possessions as a sort of slow working booby trap that will kill those that everything else failed to kill.
Also, the sack could be created by the necromancers dying curse, as he binds a spirit to the backpack of a PC.
Well done 4.5/5
To answer why? The terrible sacks are a low level deterent primarily designed to limit nosy locals and such from exploring too close to a necromancer's lair.
Necromancer's lair? Don't know nothing about that. I do know that a couple years ago some kids went up to the old caves and kicked over some jars and vandalized some stuff. Must have stirred up something curse like. They came back fine, but one of the kids was found dead of fright. Best stay away from it lad.
as opposed to...
Some kids went up the the Sighing Cave and didn't come back, so a few of the locals, lumberjacks mostly went to find them, and one of them fellows came back talking about skeletons and zombies up in the cave. Might need to send a boy to fetch some professionals from the Adventurers Guild.
Okay, I will buy it. And I will certainly use it. My players are inquisitive and arrest me whenever logical flaws are apparent, so I will keep the explanation nearby! :)
Me likes! I mean, there is time and place for rotting zombies, murderous skeletons, and other monsters from beyond the nether realms, but this is an equally important part of the evil necromancer's work: terror achieved by the simplest of means.
The thing has a clear purpose, and it fulfills the purpose well. Great submission.
Oh, and I can't help but think a priest would be able to lay the spirit to rest, if it was buried quickly enough after opening, the last rites performed to the letter.
Not only the necromancers can deal with undead.
Well said, and I heartily agree!
Father Melcom received an Insight. In the small sack they opened was nothing but a few bones. His partners were unimpressed. But he saw the fine black tendrils shoot at the man who opened it. Stout Hendrik grew pale and tried to suppress the scare. It was all Melcom needed.
"Drop it!" he yelled. He invoked the name of his god and slashed with his sacred symbol like a sword, cutting the invisible tendrils. More of them followed.
"Start digging." he said to the confused adventurers. "We need a grave."
It is an interesting post and a kind of "rat trap" for adventurers.
Why does this have the Halloween freetext? If it is just because it has bones and spells, then hundreds of things should have it.
It has the Halloween freetext because this submission was inspired by an awesome prop I found in a Halloween specialty store. After finding a half-sized bag of bones, I was assailed by this idea and had to come home and write it out. Plus Halloween is my favorite holiday.
PS - delete your double posts, don't edit them to say you double posted.
I like mystery sacks, nice twist.
Excellent, twisted, and over all perfect for any campaign magic is present in. (I've got plans to use this in a shadow run adventure in the near future. Replace the sack with a spell and mag locked briefcase and it's the perfect bit of extra "loot" they'll eagerly run off with from the next corporation.)
Love the name, first of all. The submission could have ended up being just a sack of rotten apples, but I still would have known that the apples were just terrible! I love things which play on fear and mental trauma rather than brute strength, so I enjoy this. I also like how simple the item is - just a bag of bones - yet it holds a purpose which any unsuspecting person would not imagine; until they opened the sack.
A very, very creepy item. Very dreadful. Very good.