Ghosts are the psychic imprints of the dead, the personalities and consciousnesses of creatures the deceased given an incorporeal form and magical abilities. Some believe that only certain people possess the psychic capability become ghosts after death, while others believe that anyone who dies with enough emotional energy can come back as a spirit. Still others believe that ghosts are not human at all, and are simply demons hijacking the psychic energies of a deceased person to manifest themselves on earth.But what traits do ghosts have, really? I absolutely don't agree with D&D's traditional interpretation of ghosts, as 10 HD powerhouses that are most easily able to be slain by phasing into the ethereal plane, and whose principal attack either takes away agency from a player (magic jar) or has a neat effect but no real explanation as to what it does (aging the character 10-40 years).
I like simple monsters, at least from a mechanical standpoint, and to me, a ghost should be no different. Sure, a ghost will have some special abilities seeing as it is the quasi-physical shadow of a dead human being, possibly being used by a demon as a vessel, but its attacks will still do damage, and it will still be able to be harmed (though magical weapons are required).
A typical ghost might have the following stats:
AC light + shield
More importantly is the following; all ghosts should be a little different. One ghost, for example, may have the weakness that if their bones are found and given proper burial rights, the monster is dispelled, while another may only be put to rest if immersed in running water.
Generally, however, ghosts should be incorporeal, allowing them to walk through walls and take no damage from non-magical means, as well as turn invisible at will. Beyond that, the sky is the limit.
Here are some d6 tables to help come up with a ghost:
How Does The Ghost Attack?
- Cuts are formed in the flesh of its victim without any logical reason behind it.
- The victim is frozen to death, suffering from acute frostbite on parts of their body in the shape of hand marks.
- The victim is burned to death, with scorch marks appearing on parts of their body in the shape of hand marks.
- Nearby objects are hurled at the victim at high velocity.
- Blood simply disappears from the victim's veins, causing them to feel tired and light headed before eventually dying.
- The victim appears to visibly age.
What Does The Ghost Look Like?
- Like a corporeal image of what the ghost looked like immediately after death.
- A translucent image of what the ghost looked like immediately after death.
- A hideously distorted version of what the ghost looked like in life.
- An amorphous, sheet-like entity that drifts as if it is submerged in water.
- A vague, glowing outline of a person.
- Nothing, the ghost is always completely invisible.
What Can The Ghost Do?
- Give its victims hallucinations.
- Paralyze its victims with its gaze.
- Teleport short distances.
- Cause small fires to start.
- Control peoples' bodies whilst they sleep.
- Communicate telepathically.
What Is The Ghost's Weakness?
1-2. It must haunt a specific person, and can only act within a 1 mile radius of them.
3-4. It can only haunt a specific location, and cannot leave the area.
5-6. It can only manifest at a certain time or day.
How Can It Be Dispelled?
- By giving the ghost's corpse proper burial rites.
- By immersing the ghost in running water.
- Prove to the ghost that it is dead.
- Perform a costly and dangerous ritual.
- Take a large amount of hallucinogenic drugs and combat the ghost on a different plane of existence.
- Fulfill a task that the ghost wants, but cannot directly state.
Using these tables, here is an example:
This is the ghost of a man named Henry Rice, who died in a fire. Its attacks cause the flesh of his victims to be scorched and burned. It appears as an amorphous sheet-like mass, and communicates telepathically. It can only manifest at night, and the only way to dispel it without killing it through magic is to prove to the ghost that it is really dead.