Some locations—the wizard’s tower, the sunken temple, the haunted house—appear repeatedly in stories and adventures. In this series, we’ll explore these archetypal locations, playing with or defying tropes and presenting rules and ideas to bring these locales to life and to set you up for success when incorporating them into your game.
Whether a windswept manor on the moors, a dilapidated hut outside of town, or a castle on the verge of ruin, haunted locations are ripe areas to introduce backstory, side plots, clues, atmosphere, or some undead bashing.
This section focuses on some thematic NPCs who could be allies (or complications!) for PCs dealing with a haunted locale scenario. Meet the friendly ghost who—if the PCs can refrain from attacking it—can be a useful haunting guide that the PCs could take along if they want. All you have to do is give them a name, flavor them for your story, and drop them in for your PCs to meet. After that, meet the medium, who can help guide the PCs on what they might need to do to resolve a haunting… or a charlatan who makes things worse.
A friendly ghost is a variant of the typical ghost.
Peaceful Death. Friendly ghosts typically had peaceful deaths and weren’t unhappy but still died young or with enough unfinished business to call them back. Otherwise, they may be spirits intentionally summoned by the living for help. Friendly ghosts tend to be proactive and less frightening than their more aggressive ilk, able to exude some of their calm natures to hostile undead nearby.
Helpful Ghosts. A friendly ghost is willing to be helpful in order to elicit aid for whatever cause has called it back. They can be a boon in navigating undead-infested locations. Friendly ghosts do not possess others but can inhabit a willing target to shield it from harm and get into a different perspective to gather clues or information to solve dilemmas.
Undead Nature. A friendly ghost doesn’t require air, food, drink, or sleep.
Medium undead, neutral good
Armor Class 11
Hit Points 45 (10d8)
Speed 0 ft., fly 40 ft. (hover)
|7 (−2)||13 (+1)||10 (+0)||10 (+0)||12 (+1)||17 (+3)|
Damage Resistances acid, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages any languages it knew in life
Challenge 3 (700 XP)
Ethereal Sight. The friendly ghost can see 60 feet into the Ethereal Plane when it is on the Material Plane and vice versa.
Incorporeal Movement. The friendly ghost can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object.
Cold Touch. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (4d6 + 3) necrotic damage.
Etherealness. The friendly ghost enters the Ethereal Plane from the Material Plane or vice versa. It is visible on the Material Plane while it is in the Border Ethereal and vice versa, yet it can’t affect or be affected by anything on the other plane.
Calming Visage. Each creature within 60 feet of the friendly ghost that see it must make a DC 13 Charisma saving throw. (Non-undead creatures may choose to fail this saving throw.) On a failure, the target is calmed (as calm emotions). Undead creatures affected also become indifferent toward living creatures for 1 minute, though harming a calmed undead breaks the effect for all affected undead. Non-undead creatures who fail also have any charmed or frightened condition on them suppressed for 1 minute, after which the condition returns unless its duration has expired. If a target’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the target is immune to this friendly ghost’s Calming Visage for the next 24 hours.
Ride Along. One willing humanoid that the friendly ghost can see within 5 feet can choose to allow the ghost to inhabit them. The friendly ghost disappears and now shares the target’s body and senses, though does not control them. It retains awareness and can communicate telepathically with the target. The friendly ghost can’t be targeted by any attack, spell, or other effect, except ones that turn undead, and it retains its alignment, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and immunity to being charmed and frightened.
The co-habitation lasts until the target drops to 0 hit points, the ghost ends it as a bonus action, or the ghost is turned or forced out by an effect like the dispel evil and good spell. When the inhabitance ends, the friendly ghost reappears in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of the target. The target cannot be the subject of this friendly ghost’s Ride Along for 24 hours after the inhabitance ends.
The medium has a knack for talking to the “dearly departed”—and for putting on a show for their customers.
Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment
Armor Class 11 (14 with mage armor)
Hit Points 18 (4d8)
Speed 30 ft.
|10 (+0)||13 (+1)||11 (+0)||14 (+2)||12 (+1)||14 (+2)|
Skills Arcana +4, Deception +7, Persuasion +4, Religion +7
Senses passive Perception 11
Languages any one language (usually Common)
Challenge 1 (200 XP)
Expertise. The medium doubles their proficiency bonus for any ability checks made using Deception or Religion.
Otherworldly Channel. The medium can cast speak with dead once per day as if it were a spell known. This does not use any of the medium’s spell slots.
(Optionally, replace speak with dead with the séance spell described earlier. The medium can cast séance once per day as a ritual only.)
Spellcasting. The medium is a 4th-level spellcaster. Their spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 12, +4 to hit with spell attacks). The medium has the following bard spells prepared:
- Cantrips (at will): dancing lights, minor illusion, prestidigitation
- 1st Level (4 slots): detect magic, faerie fire, illusory script, unseen servant
- 2nd Level (3 slots): detect thoughts, invisibility, phantasmal force
Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one creature. Hit: 2 (1d4) piercing damage.