rating: 0+x

Basic Information

From the Greek koimĂȘtĂȘrion or "resting place" a cemetery is an area of land designated for legal human burial but which is not attached to a specific place of worship (if it is attached to a place of worship then it is normally called a graveyard).

The character of a cemetery will depend a lot on the culture that it serves and what sort of use it sees - some cultures will fill their cemeteries with sculpture, burial vaults and all kinds of monuments, others will erect little except simple grave markers. The ur-example of a cemetery is probably the "potter's fields", operated by many communities to bury outcasts and strangers who didn't qualify for burial in a graveyard - one step up from burial at a crossroads perhaps, but still not much of a send off. Location may also be a factor - in places like New Orleans the dead tend to be buried above ground because the water table is high and coffins would float out of a standard burial. This can lead to some impressive funerary architecture.

Other structures found in a cemetery may include a memorial chapel, a columbarium (for the storage of funerary urns - assuming the host culture also practices cremation), a mausoleum or a bell tower. A garden of remembrance may also be included for the commemoration of those whose bodies were lost - or those who were cremated and their ashes scattered. Where graves are re-used there may also be an ossuary.

Maintenance is another issue - a cemetery that is used, maintained and visited, even if only for an annual Day of the Dead, will have a very different character from one that is overgrown and abandoned.

In some circumstances, a cemetery may also contain a mass grave.

The cultural element can be used as a basis for some very weird cemeteries indeed - winding alleys full of niche tombs cut into the rock, necropoli of burial vaults that resemble a town from a distance and even small forests in a culture that plants a tree on every grave…

If the whole place is underground then it becomes a catacomb instead.

Where grave goods are an issue, security may be somewhat more important to prevent grave robbery. Where supernatural security is a thing, a Church Grimm may be a useful precaution.


Famous Jewish cemetery in Prague

1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Being separate from places of worship these are increasingly often unsanctified ground - which may make magical meddling with the dead a lot easier.
    • Note, however, that in a pantheistic setting, graveyards may all, by definition, be considered the territory of the god of the dead or some similar character and/or the commons of venerated ancestors - either of whom may object at least as violently to anyone meddling in them as might the god of an attached temple.
  • They are also quite often distant from any kind of housing, again, letting those with malign intent work in peace.
  • A graveyard, by contrast, will share in the sanctity of it's associated place of worship … although there are always possibilities for subversion - for example, the dead congregation of a place of worship rising against those who have desecrated it.
  • There are also legends of battles between rival undead over funerary territory - for example, people pursued by pagan draugr fleeing to a graveyard where the Christian dead rose up to protect them.
    • This could be a serious problem in a "multicultural" burial ground.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License