Fearsome creatures caught between life and death, trapped in that twilight hour by their own hand or by an unceasing desire for retribution against those who wronged them, ghosts are a classic staple of many horror and fantasy campaigns. Beyond their terrifying wails and incorporeality, many ghosts can hold more than a few surprises for PCs up their translucent sleeves.
The ghost template offers GMs a handful of choices in customizing an undead foe for their players but few surprises for a group of experienced players. When creating a ghost for your game, try replacing one or more of its special attacks with an environment-focused one. Unless noted, a ghost’s special attack saving throw DC is equal to 10 +1/2 the ghost’s HD + Charisma modifier.
New Special Attacks for Ghosts
Breath Weapon (Su): Noxious fumes overtook this ghost in life, and they have stayed with it even in death. As a standard action, the ghost can breathe a cone of toxic gas half the ghost’s space in width and three times its space in length. Creatures in this area must make a Fortitude saving throw or become nauseated for 1 round, after which they are sickened for a number of rounds equal to the ghost’s Charisma modifier (minimum 1).
Chains of Avarice (Su): The pursuit of wealth led to this ghost’s first death, and it seeks to have others join its fate. As a standard action, the ghost can command translucent chains to surround and grip a single target. If the target is carrying any coins or gems, the target suffers the effects of slow (as the spell, Will save to resist) for a number of rounds equal to the ghost’s HD.
Desiccating Aura (Su): Surrounded by a halo of rippling heat, this ghost radiates an aura of enervating energy, draining the vitality of its victims. The aura varies in size depending on the ghost, equal to twice its reach. For every round that a creature remains in the ghost’s aura, it must make a Fortitude save or become exhausted. A creature already affected by a ghost’s desiccating aura cannot be affected again for 24 hours.
Despoiling Touch (Su): This ability causes vegetation to rot, food to spoil, and liquid to become undrinkable. As a standard action, the ghost can cause an area equal to the space it occupies to wither away, the plant life destroyed, or it can choose to target a creature. If the ghost targets a creature, it instead affects all of that creature’s belongings. Magic items such as potions, elixirs, salves, and ointments are particularly vulnerable to a ghost’s despoiling touch, but they are allowed a Fortitude saving throw to negate the effect. Plant creatures who fail a Fortitude saving throw are stunned for a number of rounds equal to the ghost’s Charisma modifier (minimum 1).
Dissonance (Su): Summoning all of its fury and sadness, the ghost lets out a soul-chilling sound filled with weeping and cries of anger. Creatures within a 30-ft. radius become disoriented as their hearing and vision blurs. All forms of sensory perception are disrupted for a number of rounds equal to the ghost’s Charisma modifier (minimum 1), making the targets blinded and deafened. This is a sonic, mind-affecting effect.
Ectoplasmic Embrace (Su): Calling upon the energies of the Astral Plane, the ghost can entangle a single target with a standard action (Reflex save to avoid). The silvery, hair-like strands are pernicious and grow back far too quickly to make cutting with a blade effective. The victim can attempt an Escape Artist check or pry themselves free with a Strength check (DC 20 + the ghost’s Charisma modifier). Once a subject is entangled, the ghost can, with a standard action, command the ectoplasm to constrict the captive, attempting to crush its opponent and drain its life away.
Ethereal Nightmare (Su): As a full round action, the ghost can concentrate on a single target, who must make a Will saving throw. If the target fails its saving throw, the ghost has tapped into the deepest, most primal fears of the target, summoning a shadow that haunts the target until it is destroyed. When the shadow first attacks the target, the target is allowed a Will save. If the target succeeds its saving throw, it is shaken; failure means the target is frightened and will attempt to flee the shadowy form of its terror. The ghost can only have a number of shadows active equal to its Charisma modifier (minimum 1). This is a mind-affecting effect.
Fetch (Su): This ghost usually appears as it did in life, though it completely lacks any facial features. As a full-round action, it can study a single living creature, whereupon it immediately assumes the appearance of its target. The effect is unnerving to the target, filling it with a deep sense of fear about its own mortality and causing it to become shaken. This is a fear and mind-affecting effect. For every 5 ranks that the ghost had in Disguise, increase the DC of this special attack by 2. The target is shaken for as long as the ghost assumes its likeness. The ghost can drop the facade as a free action.
Fouled Presence (Su): The ghost leaves a trail of lukewarm congealed blood in its wake, smearing a wide swath of crimson on walls, furniture, and carpeting. Anybody who touches the blood risks contracting a disease called blackvein. Blackvein causes a victim’s skin to swell and split, rotting it from the inside out (injury or contact, incubation 1d3 days, 1d6 Dexterity damage). The save DC for blackvein is DC 10 + 1/2 the ghost’s HD + Charisma modifier.
Glacial Aura (Su): Common to those who had originally died from exposure in the cold mountains, these ghosts radiate a blisteringly cold aura. Creatures in a 10-ft. radius from the ghost take 1d6 cold damage, while opponents in melee combat with these mountain ghosts take 2d6 cold damage when they attack (whether they hit or not).
Lesser Malevolence (Su): A lesser form of a ghost’s malevolence special attack, this ability often appears in the recently deceased as a weaker, but potentially lethal attack. To use this ability, the ghost must be manifested and trying to move into the target’s space (which does not provoke attacks of opportunity). The target can attempt to resist the attack with a successful Will save (DC 15 + the ghost’s Charisma modifier). A creature that fails suffers 1d6 damage per Charisma modifier point that the ghost has (ex. 1d6 points for a +1 modifier, 2d6 for a +2 modifier). The ghost cannot maintain this state, though, and appears on the opposite side of its target at the end of the target’s next turn.
Poisoned Malevolence (Su): This ability only works if the ghost also has the malevolence special attack. While the ghost is possessing a creature, its shared body gains a poisonous touch ability (as the spell poison, CL equals the ghost’s HD) as well as immunity to poisons. All of the creature’s natural attacks gain this poison ability. Should the ghost leave its host creature, the creature suffers as if poison had just been cast upon it.
Unliving Rage (Su): Unrivalled hatred for all things alive consumes this ghost, so much so, they fly into a rage much like a barbarian. While raging, the ghost gains a +4 bonus to Strength and Charisma and +2 turn resistance but a -2 penalty to AC. The ghost gains an additional 2 hp per HD, but these points go away at the end of its rage. While raging, the ghost can neither use any other special attack, Dexterity- and Intelligence-based skills, or abilities that require patience or concentration nor cast spells or activate magic items. Unliving rage lasts for a number of rounds equal to 3 + the ghost’s new Charisma modifier. At the end of its rage, the ghost can only take partial actions for the duration of the current encounter. The ghost can only rage once per encounter.
Other Types of Ghosts
While the ghost template does not include constructs or outsiders, GMs might consider dropping that restriction to create a truly unique ghost for their campaign. Ghosts that have been around for a much longer period of time could have different (or more) abilities than a newer ghost, though GMs should consider increasing the CR of their ghost with more abilities that the ghost might acquire. With examples like our own Flying Dutchman, Scrooge’s partner Marley in A Christmas Carol, Banquo in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, just a little imagination on why a ghost is a ghost will make your PCs think twice about making assumptions about the next ghost they meet.
Happy Halloween! What better way to enjoy your spoils (that is candy) than to accompany it with Lilith’s own wonderfully versatile ghosts. This day just wouldn’t be the same without them. Got any good ghost tales? Let us know.
9 thoughts on “Monster Mayhem: Ghostly Powers”
These are awesome!
Ghost abilities have always been one of my favorite things, and you really made these useful and interesting.
Happy Halloween and thank you!
Yay! Liz Monster Mayhem! Huzza!
A really great piece, couldn’t be more appropriate for Halloween.
nice, Liz. good stuff. :)
Very Nice Liz.
Excellent new ghostly powers. I can’t wait to use them in my game. :)
A few years back, inspired by Ravenloft d20, I wrote up several of my own ghost (and vampire) abilities:
Haunt (Su): The ghost can create phantasms of changes in the surrounding environment. It does not need to manifest to use this power. As a move action, it can create the sensation of heat, cold, or a breeze within a radius equal to its rank times five feet. It can only create one of these effects at a time, but can switch from one to another as a move action. Once created, the effect moves with the ghost and persists until the ghost chooses to end it. It can vary the radius within the maximum limits determined by its rank, in increments of 5 feet. The ghost can choose to affect all creatures within the area of effect, or target a single creature, but cannot selectively target more than one creature at a time. This ability is usually found only in ghosts that are bound to a specific location.
Greater Invisibility (Su): The ghost is naturally invisible, even while manifesting, and may attack without becoming visible. It may choose to become visible or invisible at will as a free action. This ability is not subject to the invisibility purge spell.
Mind Games (Su): Instead of visual effects, a ghost may use this ability to create auditory effects. These two options are mutually exclusive; a ghost cannot create both visual and auditory effects.
Rank one: Ghost sound
Rank two: Ventriloquism
Rank three: Silence
Rank four: Sculpt sound
Rank five: Song of discord
Spells (Su): The ghost can create effects that duplicate selected spells from the bardic spell list. These abilities are cumulative; thus, a ghost of the third rank can cast one spell from the rank one list, one from the rank two list, and one from the rank three list. It can only cast one spell from each list, and the spell cannot be changed once determined. Each spell can be cast three times per day with a caster level equal to the ghost’s rank plus hit dice, or the minimum level required to cast the spell as a bard, whichever is higher. Although these abilities mimic spells, they are supernatural abilities and thus do not provoke attacks of opportunity. A ghost must manifest to use this abilities on targets on the material plane.
Rank one: dancing lights, daze, detect magic, lullaby, mage hand, message, open/close, prestidigitation
Rank two: cause fear, charm person, disguise self, hideous laughter, hypnotism, lesser confusion, remove fear, sleep
Rank three: animal trance, blindness/deafness, calm emotions, daze monster, detect thoughts, enthrall, hold person, hypnotic pattern, silence, tongues (self only)
Rank four: charm monster, confusion, crushing despair, daylight (self only), deep slumber, fear, good hope, lesser geas, see invisibility
Rank five: break enchantment, detect scrying, dominate person, hallucinatory terrain, hold monster, modify memory, shadow conjuration
Voice of Doom (Su): The ghost’s voice reverberates unnaturally, creating a menacing effect. All humanoids within earshot must succeed at a Fear save or be shaken. This is a sonic, mind-affecting, fear effect. Those who successfully save cannot be affected by the same ghost’s voice of doom for one day. Those who fail their saves are affected for as long as the ghost continues speaking and for 2d4 rounds afterwards. If the ghost resumes speaking before the effect wears off, they do not gain another saving throw. The ghost does not have to speak intelligible words; maniacal laughter is just as effective. It may also choose to speak in a normal voice at will. The ghost can use this ability without manifesting.
Allergen Immunity (Ex): The vampire is unaffected by the presence of either garlic or mirrors (not both). This salient ability can be taken twice, selecting one allergen each time.
Flight (Su): The vampire can fly at its base speed with perfect maneuverability. This ability does not extend to any alternate forms.
Improved Damage Reduction (Su): The vampire’s damage reduction increases by 5. This is cumulative with any increase gained as the vampire ages.
Nondetection (Su): The vampire is permanently protected from scrying as if by a nondetection spell cast by a 6th-level sorcerer.
Regeneration (Ex): The vampire gains regeneration at the same rate as its fast healing ability. This replaces (does not stack with) the fast healing ability. It can reattach but cannot regrow limbs. It cannot regenerate while it has a stake through its heart, nor can it regenerate damage from holy water, sunlight, or sacred damage from spells such as flame strike. In addition, if its head is separated from its body, the body becomes inert and cannot regenerate. The head remains active but loses the use of all supernatural and spell-like abilities. It can roll at a speed of 10 ft/round, even up walls, and will seek to reattach itself to the body. It can only be stopped if either the head or the body is destroyed by fire, acid, sunlight or immersion in running water. The head can also be temporarily immobilized by filling its mouth with garlic or holy wafers.
I like these a lot, and have incorporated them into my ghost template.
However, I have a question about Unliving Rage. I don’t think we’ve had partial actions since 3rd edition (and I’m pretty sure Pathfinder didn’t put them back) … should the text refer to standard actions instead?
Wow, just getting back to this. Burt, think of the post-Unliving Rage much like a zombie – can only do one thing, standard action or move action.