Coffin
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Basic Information

A coffin is, essentially, a corpse box, used to contain the deceased up until - and possibly after - the point of disposal. Higher end coffins may be conflated with sarcophagi whilst the lower end of things may be more like a basket or stretcher. Useful properties of coffins include hiding the deceased - who may not be terribly pleasant to behold - containing the various effluvia generated by corpses and generally making handling easier. Where undead are a problem, a coffin may also serve to keep the deceased in their grave until they have decayed sufficiently to stop being a problem … or to prevent certain undead from snacking on the body1.

As noted, some cultures leave the deceased in the coffin for burial (or cremation - some other methods, for example sky burial are not compatible) whilst others remove the corpse to its final resting place and then recover the coffin. This may also be a function of wealth - in the pre-modern era, it was quite normal for the (previously) wealthy to be buried in a coffin and for the less well off to use a "parish coffin" belonging to their community for the funeral service and then be tipped out and buried in a shroud alone.

All manner of things may be used as improvised coffins - from barrels to wicker baskets. Indeed tradition may dictate some surprising things, for example as in the custom of canoe burial. A suitably sized ceramic container might also serve.

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Game and Story Use

  • These are common furniture for tombs. Also for undertakers shops and similar places where they make traditional hiding places.
  • Also they tend to make a handy storage container which, in the right context, people are unlikely to open lightly.
  • Weird, morbid or merely gothic characters may adapt a coffin for use as a bed.
    • According to popular legend, actor Bela Lugosi used to sleep in a coffin; although that was partially because he had back problems and needed to sleep on a hard surface.
  • Traditionally vampires need to rest in their coffins during daylight hours - although there is plenty of lore to the contrary as well.
  • Suitably ornate coffins may become tradable as artwork - for example, one culture may take a fancy to the coffins of another and raid their tombs for them, using the stolen items as coffee tables (or whatever).
    • Great as a source of conflict between a culture derived from the coffin makers and their conquerors - who may consider what they are doing legitimate archaeology or at any rate unremarkable collecting rather than grave robbing. Actually "the natives" may have no connection at all to the graves being desecrated, but may still object to the robbery.
    • High end coffins decorated with gemstones or precious metals - or carved from semi-precious stones may also look like treasure.
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