What do you get the evil genius in your life that already has everything? Nothing, because they are evil and you should not support that. And, as we established, they already have everything – including a garden full of Historic Detritus. What is the difference between a collectible item and historic detritus? The former would be a royal banner. The latter would be a piece of castle wall with a pole on which that banner flew when the monarchy fell.

Historic Detritus describes larger items, usually architecture, that have been lifted from elsewhere to be placed into a location where their new owner can saunter among them. Their purpose is more to praise their new owner than to preserve history. Or maybe their collection serves as another layer of security, a set of traps for adventurers, hidden in plain sight. That use case will feature in an upcoming article, so stay tuned for that.

historic detritus might even be the piece missing from that aqueduct!

How to Create Historic Detritus

A piece of Historic Detritus should fill a small clearing, a plot of land with a diameter of somewhere between 5 and 15 meters. Just large enough to contain a recognizable helping of architecture. It is perfectly okay for it to look out of place, mainly because it would be. It might be laid out to be walked around or, if the particular item of interest allows it, to be walked through.

Below, you will find detailed information on what this particular structure could look like, what it could have been and what it might be good for now. Just keep in mind that not every combination of dice rolls makes sense. You are free to reroll if something odd comes up, or just accept it as a historical quirk and roll with it.

In Advance or On-the-fly?

At first, I wanted to create a set of tables that would allow you to create something with a few die rolls (akin to the Potion Ingredients 101). The more I pondered the concept, the more I became convinced that it would not be as easy as rolling for a few characteristics. Instead, I recommend rolling or picking in advance, and substituting anything that does not “feel right”.

Not immediately recognizable as out of place, but still potential for historic detritus.

Different Types of Structures

Any historic detritus starts with a base type. This describes its function more than its form, even though there are some basic shapes that go with a certain structure. Keep in mind that detritus can also be a fragment of a building, harvested either after the original was laid to waste, or through some cunning form of architectural heist.

d12 Historic Detritus – Type of Structure
1Place of Worship, something dedicated to a deity or powerful entity (temple, shrine, altar)
2Place of Passage, something that allowed travel from one space to another (gate, archway, entrance)
3Support Structure, something that held up something else (buttress, pillar, cornerstone)
4Place of Death, something used in the treatment and remembrance of the dead (sarcophagus, graveyard)
5Place of Remembering, something created to commemorate a person’s deeds (plaque, obelisk, statue)
6Place of Tallness, something that is higher than wide, often used as vantage point (tower, spire, lighthouse)
7Place of Warfare, something that took part in violent conflict of some sort (war room, camp, ruins)
8Living Space, something that was used as an abode of sorts (cabin, cottage, cave)
9Place of Science, something where knowledge was kept or enhanced (laboratory, school, library)
10Seat of Power, something linked to any kind of ruler or noble (throne, crest, banner)
11Landmark, something naturally occurring that has seen some things (mountaintop, spring, tree)
12Magic, something permanently marked by tremendous use of arcane energies
Roll for a general structure.
Only roll twice if you are feeling architecturally brave.
an example of historic detritus made from marble.

Optional: Base Material

Different cultures use different building materials, and so do different periods or locations. This one is optional because you might already have something in mind for the structure you are designing. However, if you want something more random and possibly fancy, feel free to roll on this table and see if you like the result.

d12 Historic Detritus – Base Material
1softwood; more resinous, light brown or grey
2hardwood; darker in color, more heavy in grain
3granite; uniform grey stone, pretty sturdy
4sandstone; coarser texture, more easily worked
5marble; beautiful swirl pattern, very rigid
6bricks; come in different shapes and sizes
7clay; very natural material, usually requires support
8metal; can be put into different shapes, very sturdy
9precious metal; generally less sturdy but big pretty
10glass; easy to shatter, can be transparent, refracts light
11crystal; hard to shape, translucent, different colors
12bones; come in different sizes, may need supports
Roll for a base material.
Rolling multiple times can work but more than twice
might give an architect somewhere a headache.
ruins in a clearing

Non-Vital Architecture

While a structure’s intended use informs most of the design decisions that went into it, there is a lot of room for artistic freedom when it comes to actually building the thing. Here you can find a list of stylistic details and small decorative elements that can give your piece of historic detritus a certain feel.

d12 Historic Detritus – Additional Architecture
1every surface as smooth as possible
2complex handmade texture on every surface
3small claw-like outcroppings everywhere
4miniature turret-like decoration
5flowing curves along the edges
6blade-like edges, sharp enough to cut
7chamfers and roundovers everywhere
8geometric flexing, simple shapes are a no-go
9edge-banding in a different material
10sitting and lounging opportunities wherever possible
11engraved with complex writing, runes, and dedications
12complex murals on every surface
Roll for additional architecture.
Rolling multiple times adds to the eccentricity of the original builder.
Being historic detritus does not mean you are easy to reach or to obtain.

Where it came from

While it may not be the reason why a bit of detritus is interesting, its origin definitely informs a lot about its appearance and what makes it historic. This can lead to a bit of circular reasoning – you just rolled a structure and some material(s). Now you might get an origin that is hard to reconcile with that.

In such a case, you have two options. Either go back and adapt the materials to the origin, or find a creative and, if possible, weird explanation for why this particular structure stood where it stood before it was taken. Either way, do not let one roll or two diminish your fun with historic detritus. Pick what feels right and everything should be okay.

d12 Historic Detritus – Origins
1a rural temperate town
2a desert oasis
3an overgrown jungle
4a well-guarded mountaintop keep
5a brackish moor
6a deep cave system
7an archipelago settlement
8a mirror world to the material
9a slightly out of sync parallel world
10another plane of existence
11a celestial domain
12a drifting pocket dimension
Roll for an origin.
Roll twice to combine elements.
Doesn't everyone want a ruined building in their back yard?

Why is it so cool to have?

Some things are without question and outright cool. There is no way that anyone with half a chance would not want to possess them. This could be a shrine made of glowing crystal or the sentient cosmic projectile that destroyed the cathedral of the sun god. Okay, I admit, maybe there are good reasons not to want those things in your back yard. But you are not a megalomaniac genius of any kind, right?

There is a reason for every piece of historic detritus to end up in a private collection. From very personal ones, like a deep adoration for a particular scholar that leads to stealing their thinking cottage, to more general motivations, like having the bigger fiendish lookout from the hells than your neighbor, there is always something that sparks the desire to possess a bit of history.

d12 Historic Detritus – Reason
1A historic figure spent a lot of time there, living or working
2A historic event was planned or orchestrated from or near it
3It survived an important event
4It was destroyed/wrecked by a historic figure
5It was destroyed/wrecked in an important event
6It played a pivotal role in a war or conflict
7It was marked by intentional magic
8It was marked by unintentional/cataclysmic magic
9It was taken to another plane by external forces
10It witnessed severe destruction or death
11It survived a natural disaster
12It survived a cosmic disaster
Roll for a reason to want it.
Rolling multiple times can make things weird.
Go for it.
Carts are a decent way to go when it comes to hauling architecture across the landscape.

How was it repossessed?

A piece of historic detritus should be interesting in its own right. However, the real adventure begins when it makes its way to its new destination. Granted, it can be as mundane as walking up to the owner and asking, possibly paying a measly sum, then literally carting it off. With a cart. But it can also be so much more interesting than that.

If whatever the table provides sparks an idea, you should roll with it. It might even become more infamous than the detritus itself. There is also the option that tales of a near-impossible heist make the rounds in local taverns. Bards would be prone to flesh out the sparse details known about how a local landmark was stolen and nobody knows who was behind it.

I recommend rolling twice on the table to combine different methods of ownership and transportation. Most of them beg to be expanded upon, and you should do so. Alternatively, the players’ investigation will turn up interesting ideas that you can include into the detritus’ lore after the fact.

d12 Historic Detritus – Obtaining
1It was given for free – and taken in pieces by donkey cart.
2It was given as payment – and hauled off by a gathering of strong individuals.
3It was taken as collateral – and the new owner moved in next to it.
4It was given in exchange for a favor – and carried away by earth elementals.
5It was wished for from a spirit – and went up in flames to appear at its destination.
6It was obtained through blackmail – and transported by a giant eagle.
7It was stolen when the owner was away – and dragged by dire horses.
8It was taken in a proper heist – and carried in a number of small pockets.
9It was bargained for with a demon lord – and came on a river of churning blood.
10It was bestowed by a deity – and placed by celestials.
11It was taken without warning – and moved with a high magic teleport spell
12It was taken under false pretenses – and transported using planar crystals.
Roll for a way this was obtained.
Combine a way to ownership and a method by rolling twice.
Rather than rolling multiple times you should pick what thrills you!
Now that's a proper display for historic detritus.


I hope the ideas and tables provided here will inspire you. There might be a sequel to this at some point, but until then, you can check out the other roleplaying inspiration here on my site.

Thanks for stopping by, and remember to Be Inspired!