When a soul is not allowed to rest due to some great injustice, either real or perceived, it sometimes comes back as a ghost. Such beings are in eternal anguish, lacking in substance and unable to set things right. Although ghosts can be any alignment, the majority cling to the living world out of a powerful sense of rage and hatred, and as a result are chaotic evil—even the ghost of a good or lawful creature can become hateful and cruel in its afterlife.
More than most of the monsters in this book, a ghost benefits from a strong and detailed backstory. Why did this character become a ghost? What are the legends surrounding the ghost? An encounter with a ghost should never happen completely out of the blue—there are plenty of other incorporeal undead like wraiths and spectres to fill that role. A proper encounter with a ghost should be a climactic scene after a lengthy period of tension building with lesser minions or manifestations of the undead spirit. The sample ghost above is that of a human princess who was murdered by an unfaithful lover—after she confronted him, he murdered her by wrapping her in chains and throwing her into the castle well, where she drowned. The ghost’s abilities were selected to fit this backstory, and it shows how potent a villain you can create with a simple NPC class. Applying the template to creatures with class levels or creatures with significant racial abilities can create even more powerful ghosts.
When a ghost is created, it retains incorporeal “copies” of any items that it particularly valued in life (provided the originals are not in another creature’s possession). The equipment works normally for the ghost but passes harmlessly through material objects or creatures. A weapon of +1 or better magical enhancement, however, can harm material creatures, but any such attack deals only half as much damage (50%) unless it is a ghost touch weapon. A ghost can use shields or armor only if they have the ghost touch quality.
The original items remain behind, just as the ghost’s physical remains do. If another creature seizes the original, the incorporeal copy fades away. This loss invariably angers the ghost, who stops at nothing to return the item to its original resting place (and thus regain the item’s use).
Creating a Ghost
“Ghost” is an acquired template that can be added to any living creature that has a Charisma score of at least 6. A ghost retains all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
Challenge Rating: Same as the base creature +2.
Type: The creature’s type changes to undead. Do not recalculate the creature’s base attack bonus, saves, or skill points. It gains the incorporeal subtype.
Armor Class: A ghost gains a deflection bonus equal to its Charisma modifier. It loses the base creature’s natural armor bonus, as well as all armor and shield bonuses not from force effects or ghost touch items.
Hit Dice: Change all of the creature’s racial Hit Dice to d8s. All Hit Dice derived from class levels remain unchanged. Ghosts use their Charisma modifiers to determine bonus hit points (instead of Constitution).
Defensive Abilities: A ghost retains all of the defensive abilities of the base creature save those that rely on a corporeal form to function. Ghosts gain channel resistance +4, darkvision 60 ft., the incorporeal ability, and all of the immunities granted by its undead traits.. Ghosts also gain the rejuvenation ability.
- In most cases, it’s difficult to destroy a ghost through simple combat: the “destroyed” spirit restores itself in 2d4 days. Even the most powerful spells are usually only temporary solutions. The only way to permanently destroy a ghost is to determine the reason for its existence and set right whatever prevents it from resting in peace. The exact means varies with each spirit and may require a good deal of research, and should be created specifically for each different ghost by the GM.
Speed: Ghosts lose their previous speeds and gain a fly speed of 30 feet (perfect), unless the base creature has a higher fly speed.
Melee and Ranged Attacks: A ghost loses all of the base creature’s attacks. If it could wield weapons in life, it can wield ghost touch weapons as a ghost.
Special Attacks: A ghost retains all the special attacks of the base creature, but any relying on physical contact do not function. In addition, a ghost gains one ghost special attack from the list below for every 3 points of CR (minimum 1—the first ability chosen must always be corrupting touch). The save DC against a ghost’s special attack is equal to 10 + 1/2 ghost’s HD + ghost’s Charisma modifier unless otherwise noted. Additional ghost abilities beyond these can be designed at the GM’s discretion.
Corrupting Gaze (Su)
- The ghost is disfigured through age or violence, and has a gaze attack with a range of 30 feet that causes 2d10 damage and 1d4 Charisma damage (Fortitude save negates Charisma damage but not physical damage).
Corrupting Touch (Su)
- All ghosts gain this incorporeal touch attack. By passing part of its incorporeal body through a foe’s body as a standard action, the ghost inflicts a number of d6s equal to its CR in damage. This damage is not negative energy—it manifests in the form of physical wounds and aches from supernatural aging. Creatures immune to magical aging are immune to this damage, but otherwise the damage bypasses all forms of damage reduction. A Fortitude save halves the damage inflicted.
Draining Touch (Su)
- The ghost died while insane or diseased. It gains a touch attack that drains 1d4 points from any one ability score it selects on a hit. On each such successful attack, the ghost heals 5 points of damage to itself. When a ghost makes a draining touch attack, it cannot use its standard ghostly touch attack.
Frightful Moan (Su)
- The ghost died in the throes of crippling terror. It can emit a frightful moan as a standard action. All living creatures within a 30-foot spread must succeed on a Will save or become panicked for 2d4 rounds. This is a sonic mind-affecting fear effect. A creature that successfully saves against the moan cannot be affected by the same ghost’s moan for 24 hours.
- The ghost’s jealousy of the living is particularly potent. Once per round, the ghost can merge its body with a creature on the Material Plane. This ability is similar to a magic jar spell (caster level 10th or the ghost’s Hit Dice, whichever is higher), except that it does not require a receptacle. To use this ability, the ghost must be adjacent to the target. The target can resist the attack with a successful Will save. A creature that successfully saves is immune to that same ghost’s malevolence for 24 hours.
- The ghost’s death involved great physical trauma. The ghost can use telekinesis as a standard action once every 1d4 rounds (caster level 12th or equal to the ghost’s HD, whichever is higher).
Abilities: Cha +4; as an incorporeal undead creature, a ghost has no Strength or Constitution score.
Skills: Ghosts have a +8 racial bonus on Perception and Stealth skill checks. A ghost always treats Climb, Disguise, Fly, Intimidate, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (religion), Perception, Sense Motive, Spellcraft, and Stealth as class skills. Otherwise, skills are the same as the base creature.
Variant Special Attacks
Just as the reasons for ghostly materialization differ wildly, so too do the abilities manifested by the disembodied dead. Upon creating a ghost, GMs choose from a range of special attacks, each representative of the spirit’s cause of death or undead intentions.
Presented here are a variety of additional special attacks, available to further tailor the tales and powers of these lost souls. As with all other ghostly abilities, the DCs for these special attacks are equal to 10 + 1/2 the ghost’s HD + the ghost’s Charisma modifier.
- When the ghost died, it laid a curse upon its enemies which never came to fruition. It now spits magical curses nearly as easily as it speaks. As a move action, the ghost can lay a curse on a target within 60 feet with one of the following effects: –2 to one ability score, –2 on attack and damage rolls, –2 on all saving throws, –4 on concentration checks, or reduce the target’s speed by half. The target can resist being cursed with a successful Will save. There is a 20% chance every time the ghost uses this ability that the target gains a boon instead of being cursed; this comes in the form of a +1 luck bonus to attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. The effects of this ability (be it a curse or a boon) lasts for a number of round equal to the ghost’s HD. No target can be affected by more that one of these curses at a time; if it becomes cursed again, the previous curse ends.
Deathly Delusion (Su)
- The ghost died suddenly or unexpectedly. Not even realizing it’s dead, this spirit goes about the routines of its daily life, ignoring the living in a state of undead denial. Should a ghost with this ability pass through the square of a living being, that creature must make a Will save or fall into a fitful sleep full of nightmares that aren’t its own for 1d4 minutes. For a number of following nights equal to the ghost’s Charisma modifier, the victim must make an additional Will save or be affected as per the spell nightmare..
Eternal Warrior (Su)
- The ghost died in righteous battle. The ghost may choose to treat any weapon, armor, or shield with which it is proficient as though it had the ghost touch weapon quality.
Fatal Fate (Su)
- The ghost died with some work undone or desire unfulfilled. In its desire to see its efforts completed, once per day, a ghost can lay a compulsive curse upon the living, forcing them to either take up its work or face a terrible end. A ghost can lay this curse by making a touch attack, which forces the target to make a Will save or be stunned for 1 round. During this round, the target receives a flood of images suggesting a course of action—though such might remain vague or require research into the ghost’s history to discern an exact meaning. The target has a number of days to fulfill the ghost’s intentions equal to 14 days minus the ghost’s Charisma modifier, to a minimum of 7 days. If the target does not fulfill the course of action suggested by the vision within this set period, he takes 1d4 points of Constitution drain per day. This effect can be overcome via the spell remove curse, requiring a caster level check with a DC equal to this effect’s initial DC.
- The ghost’s unique personality manifests even in death. The ghost gains a number of spell-like abilities equal to its Charisma modifier. It may select these abilities from the following list: animate rope, chill metal, control undead, dancing lights, entangle, faerie fire, fog cloud, ghost sound, heat metal, hideous laughter, invisibility, minor image, open/close, pyrotechnics, scare, sleep, spiritual weapon, soften earth and stone, summon swarm, warp wood, or whispering wind. A ghost may use each of these abilities 3 times per day. The DCs are 10 + spell level + the ghost’s Charisma modifier.
Grave Trappings (Su)
- The ghost died with a strong attachment to a specific item or set of objects. A ghost with this ability may choose a number of items it died with equal to its Charisma modifier to carry with it into death. The ghost continues to be able to use and benefit from these spectral duplicates just as though they were the real things. Weapons and armor are treated as having the ghost touch special ability, while other items act as being incorporeal themselves and can be manipulated by the ghost. Regardless of the type of object, all selected items are treated as being part of the ghost’s form and cannot be disarmed or removed from the ghost (even by the ghost). Should a ghost be destroyed, its equipment reappears with it upon rejuvenating. (CR +0) Occasionally, and at the GM’s discretion, the transition into death might imbue a single ghostly item with strange powers, granting it powers comparable to a magic item suited to the ghost’s character level.
- The ghost was killed in its sleep. In death, its touch saps its target’s will and lulls the target into a lethargic stupor. It gains a touch attack that deals 1d4 Wisdom damage and causes fatigue. If the target is fatigued, it instead becomes exhausted. If the target is exhausted, it instead falls into a magical sleep, as per the spell (no HD limit, caster level equal to the ghost’s HD). If the target is asleep, it instead rises, sleepwalking, under the ghost’s full control; treat the target as under the effects of the dominate person and slow spells for a number of rounds equal to the ghost’s HD (caster level 9th or equal to the ghost’s HD, whichever is greater); after the duration elapses, the creature falls into a magical sleep (see above). The target can resist the attack with a successful Will save. This is a mind-affecting effect.
- The ghost was betrayed by a trusted friend or ally. By whispering its suspicious, paranoid delusions to an opponent within 30 feet as a standard action, it can cause the target to become confused (caster level 7th or equal to the ghost’s HD, whichever is greater). The target can resist the attack with a successful Will save. A creature that successfully saves is immune to that same ghost’s paranoia for 24 hours. If the ghost attacks the target, it gets another save against this effect. If the target attacks a former ally while under this effect, it must make another Will save. If it fails, the confusion ends but it becomes charmed (as per the charm monster spell, caster level 7th or equal to the ghost’s HD, whichever is greater). This is a language-dependent mind-affecting effect.
- The ghost died as a victim of its own delusions or folly. A number of times per day equal to the ghost’s Charisma modifier, the ghost can create an elaborate illusion. This illusion functions similarly to the spell mirage arcana in combination with multiple major images, allowing the ghost to recreate any scene, setting, or characters it wishes. The ghost can even incorporate itself into the effect, appearing as it wishes within the illusion as if it were under the effects of alter self. The entire illusion can be disbelieved with a Will save. The illusion is treated as a 6th-level spell created by a caster with a level equal to the ghost’s CR. If any part of the illusion is dispelled, the entire illusion fades.
- The ghost died in the throes of a terrible fear, and is desperate for any way to escape its fate, both perceived and actual. Once per round a ghost can possess an adjacent corpse, merging with the remains and reanimating them as a skeleton or zombie. The skeleton or zombie animated by this ability may be no higher than the ghost’s CR minus 2. If the animated corpse is destroyed, the ghost reappears in the corpse’s square and cannot possess another body for 1d4 rounds.
Shroud of Despair (Su)
- The ghost died by its own hand. It gains the ability to consume its enemies with thoughts of the inevitability of death. As a standard action, the ghost evokes a thin shroud of smoke in a 10-foot radius burst centered on itself. This smoke remains for a number of rounds equal to the ghost’s HD. This smoke provides concealment from foes more than 5 feet away and, in addition, any living creature in the smoke or who enters it must make a Will save or be filled with despair as long as they remain in the shroud. Creatures affected in this way suffer the effects of crushing despair, always attempt the save against harmless spells and effects (such as cure light wounds), and refuse to leave the shroud willingly. Affected creatures can attempt a new save as a full-round action. A creature that successfully saves is immune to that same ghost’s shroud of despair for 24 hours. This is a mind-affecting effect.
- A ghost with a powerful connection to a specific location gains a measure of mastery over the objects in that place. Once per round, a ghost can possess an object of size Large or smaller, giving it life as an animated object. This animated object’s CR can be no higher than the ghost’s CR minus 2. If the target object is being held by a creature, the object can make a Will save using its bearer’s saving throw to resist possession. If the animated object is destroyed, the ghost reappears in its square and cannot possess another object for 1d4 rounds.