Monday, September 26, 2016

Monsters with a twist: Ghosts

In this post, I'll be presenting my rendition of ghosts.  First I describe the general classification, and then I give an example of one kind of ghost.  

Be aware that the terminology I use in this description is somewhat specific to my campaign.  In this context, glamours and illusions don't just create a "hologram" type of illusion, but rather, create a kind of pseudo-reality.  Illusions are effectively real for those who experience them, while they experience them, although they aren't able to affect purely physical aspects of the world (although they may seem to).  For instance, a person can feel the touch of an illusion, and even experience pain from one.  But an illusion could not actually make a wizard fly up a hundred-foot cliff.

I mention this because some ghosts are capable of manifesting as glamours.  These illusionary forms can still be quite deadly under certain circumstances.  Particularly powerful illusions can outright kill a man, although a more subtle illusion (like the one described below) could simply force a man underwater to drown him.


Ghosts are by far the most common kind of undead.  When a dead soul refuses or is unable to join the Lands of the Dead, it wanders the Dreaming, bodiless and often disoriented.  This dead soul has a limited ability to affect the real world, and once in this state, may end up trapped.  Strong emotional connections or magically powerful events can cause this kind of stranding.

Over time, the souls of the dead will typically go mad, and they often start that way, since great emotional energy is required to forestall the trip to the Lands of the Dead.  Typically, ghosts are very limited in their ability to affect the real world.  To the extent that they can, it is generally in the form of glamours.  In extreme cases, ancient and mighty ghosts might be able to evoke illusions of such power that they can drive the living mad or stop their hearts.  More often, though, these glamours will take the form of occasional sounds and images that hint at the otherworldly occupant.  Some ghosts of middling power are able to visit the dreams of the living.  Even the most powerful ghost is limited in terms of how often it can manifest, and there may be special conditions on when they can use their powers, such as they are.

In most cases, a ghost will have a very limited territory, and this territory will either be the general area of its death, or a place that was very important to it in life.  To the extent that they have abilities, these are mostly restricted to their territories.

A ghost will take form either through possession or some form of glamour.  Slaying a possessed body will accomplish nothing in terms of thwarting the ghost except by destroying that vessel; it will attempt to possess another as soon as it can.  Destroying the glamour form of the ghost has much the same effect, although it may take longer for a ghost to create such bodies.

There are two general ways of permanently getting rid of a ghost.  The first is to exorcise it with some form of spell.  The second is to do whatever is necessary to put the spirit to rest.  This may involve fulfilling some condition, such as avenging an injustice or even merely giving its remains a proper burial.  It may be difficult to determine what will accomplish this for a given ghost, and it is not always feasible.  However, burying the mortal remains of the ghost will at least, in the vast majority of cases, cause it to refrain from harming the one to do so, and perhaps even try to communicate its needs to that individual.

On the other hand, desecrating whatever binds a ghost to its territory can be very dangerous, as it will often curse the perpetrator to be haunted by said ghost.  The GM may or may not allow a saving throw in such cases.

Drowned Ghost, HD: 2, HP: 10, Move: 90’//90’ (swimming)
HC: 12, AC: total, Protection: 2 (cold dead flesh)
IM: -1, AM: -1, PM: +1
Ref: will not dodge, For: always pass, Will: 12, Wits: 16, Mind: 16
Attacks -
  • numbing touch - Damage: 1d3 Agility damage (save Fortitude for half damage rounding down); ignores armor; Agility cannot drop below 0
  • drowning - Damage: 1d6, only used against incapacitated opponents so it never misses; multiple drowning attacks do not stack damage in the same round

Notes: The ghosts wait until they have rendered a character helpless (i.e. Agility at zero) through their numbing touch before attempting their drowning attack.  Since they are slow-moving on land, they are liable to wait until they can ambush and corner their victims, emerging from the water in which they drowned to make surprise attacks.  Their relative speed in the water means they will try to wait for targets to themselves be at least wading through deep water before attacking.

These particular ghosts are the spirits of dead mariners; their ship becalmed, their turned to cannibalism before the last man starved. They can be permanently dispelled with an exorcism, or by giving them last rites, naming the ghosts to be set to rest. The names of the crew can be found in the waterlogged journal of the captain.

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