A columbarium is a piece of funerary architecture, designed to accomodate the ashes of those who have been cremated. The ashes will normally be sealed into an urn and placed in a niche in the side of the columbarium, but may be directly inserted and then sealed in with masonry or some other form of plug.
Columbaria vary in size and structure from things that are little more than a headstone with a slot for an urn, to mausoleum like buildings. Walls and small towers are frequent models.
Game and Story Use
- Due to the nature of the remains, grave goods are unlikely and necromancy is unlikely to prosper with materials which, in all honesty, are probably more wood ash than human remains. In fact, there is unlikely to be anything worth stealing in a columbarium unless you are after part of the structure itself.
- That doesn't mean that they can't be used as an (ahem) dead drop - the urn type being especially good for covert storage (assuming that you can avoid being caught messing about with it - or sucessfully pass yourself off as a relative performing some kind of grave sweeping).
- The "graveyards" which surrounded the roads leading into pretty much every Roman settlement were in fact mostly fields of columbaria. Many of which had a fearsome reputation as haunts of evil spirits and other dark things - and, more prosaically, as places from which bandits tended to leap out at you.
- For people that like to keep their dead close at hand, a private columbarium is far less of a problem than a private cemetery.
- Many columbaria may be a sign of a culture that, for one reason or another, abhors the idea of burial … in some settings, there may be a very good reason for this. Moving suddenly from a burying culture to one which takes great efforts to avoid burial should probably raise some eyebrows.