Funerary Practices
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Basic Information

A funeral is a ceremony for the recently dead. A memorial service is a similar to a funeral but conducted without access to the body, such as when the departed has been lost at sea. Funerary practices is a catch-all term to include those ceremonies and all related religious, cultural, or sanitary considerations for the respecting the dead and/or disposal of human corpses.

This page serves largely as an index to death-, funeral- and cemetery- related pages on this wiki.

Burial Practices and Ephemera:

Alternatives to Burial

Burial Site Categories and Variants:

Specific Named Burial Sites:

News and Events:


See Also:



Game and Story Use

  • This page is mainly an index, follow the links above for more specific ideas on how to use the various topics mentioned.
  • Contrasting funerary rites can be an interesting way to add color to your campaign, and/or to differentiate between various cultural groups.
  • The PCs arrive the day after a village is massacred by some humanoid tribe. What those monsters did with their own dead - burying, burning, abandoning, or butchering - and how it contrasts to those of the slain villagers may be the only clues the PCs have to what tribe or species of goblinoid did this, and their motives for the attack. Are the Orcs framing the local Hobgoblin tribe for this attack in order to provoke a war that will eliminate their competition?
    • Values Dissonance may also be amusing: for example, English troops were routinely horrified by the Zulu custom of disembowelling enemy corpses on the battlefield, regarding it as mutilation and desecration of the fallen. To the Zulu it was an essential measure to allow the dead man's spirit to depart this world and not get trapped in the corpse and become a ghost (or worse). Likewise the Romans and Greeks alike regarded the Persian habit of leaving the dead of a battle where they lay as barbaric, whilst the Zoroastrian Persians practiced sky burial as a matter of course and were horrified by the Roman and Greek practices of profaning earth and fire by burning or burying corpses in them.
  • In a high-magic setting, funerary practices may be very important, not just culturally, but also in terms of whether or not the dead rise as vengeful or enslaved undead, whether or not resurrection is possible, and whether or not the Gods themselves are angered by what has transpired.
    • In some settings, funerary practices may not be a one off thing per corpse - many real world cultures have a festival which includes tending the graves of their ancestors.
  • Where undead are an issue, remember that in many places burial grounds, especially consecrated ones where the correct rites have been observed, may be very poor sources of recruits - in many cosmologies those dead will be at rest, or otherwise protected from reanimation and the sort of spirits often given to animating dead bodies are probably extremely uncomfortable in such places. A properly maintained graveyard may be one of the least spooky places under the right circumstances.
    • In an oriental sort of cosmology, those dead who are treated with respect by their descendants may actually be actively hostile to evil forces.
  • PCs should probably perform appropriate funeral rites for their own dead - many players simply have the other characters loot the corpse of anything useful and then leave it there like a dead dog. If they do, take full advantage of this to punish them - both with angry relatives and undead/clones.
    • The BBEG could raise a dead character as undead, resurrect them (or at least bind their spirit) and torture them for information, clone them or just eat them and adsorb their likeness. Clones and similar counterfeits could either pursue the party directly or go to others complaining that the PCs betrayed them and tried to murder them/sold them as a slave/whatever.
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