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Rounding the corner we were finally able to see where the smell was coming from - the crossroads ahead was a shambles of human and near human corpses - hanged, caged and impaled in obscene profusion on the muddy knoll which the roads joined.
Above them a crude sign was burned onto a length of split rail:

"Any man or woman that lies with a beast shall be put to death, and the beast put to death also"
Simeon looked the corpses up and down in disgust: "Orcs and half-breeds for the most part. Looks like the Memnochians have been busy in these parts."

Basic Information

Crossroads are interesting places in the human imagination … ready made landmarks and meeting places on the road. A good place to make an appointment to meet someone on the way to a common destination … but a good place to meet strangers as well. And we all know what can come of trusting strangers…

In many mythii a crossroads was where you met tricksters and darker powers - in Vodoun tradition Papa Legba, who kept the gates of death, could be found there, whilst the ancient Greeks might have expected Hecate, who was altogether more sinister. In European and European/African fusion traditions, the Devil was thought to be found at crossroads, ready to make poorly balanced deals with desperate or ambitious people.

Historically people were hanged at crossroads - for visibility - and the unsanctified dead (suicides, murderers and the like) were buried there with the cross on their backs and the four ways to confuse them.

For anyone wanting to work magic that involves borders and boundaries a crossroads might be a good place to cast - if you can avoid the disruption.

In a more mundane world, you might expect to meet pedlars, traveling preachers and strolling players there, some or all of whom might not be what they seem.

Most of the above applies to rural crossroads, whilst to the Romans an urban crossroads was often a good place for a shrine to the spirits and minor gods of the area1. Such shrines were usually tended by nominally religious societies, which were also prone to be involved in politics and/or organised crime. These shrines replaced the rural boundary shrines venerated at Compitalia.


Game and Story Use

  • PCs in desperate need encounter a stranger at a crossroads, who just happens to be able to help…
  • Passing by a crossroads at night the PCs encounter a pale, distressed woman in need of assistance and begging someone to show her the way home. Unfortunately this particular crossroads is used for burying suicides and it's a good few years too late for anyone to help her - the consequences of taking her home could be dire indeed.
  • In a game that uses random encounters and wandering monsters, a crossroads or other road junction is as good a place as any to roll one up.
  • A gallows at a crossroads can convey an message about the lands PCs are about to enter, alternatively it can be a place to find someone they had been hoping to meet, or an undead creature hung there to keep watch.
  • A crossroads might be a good place to hide something - given the tradition of burying the unsanctified dead there, you have a place only a brave man would dare to dig. And of course if you get the wrong patch of disturbed earth…
  • If your setting has the sufficiently evil dead turn into demons, perhaps the person buried at a particular crossroads later offers people bargains there.
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