Thursday, March 2, 2017

Ghostwalk is Hard, Y'all.

Converting this is a bear. Many of its conceits are mired in the systemic chassis of 3rd Edition and it's been difficult to extricate the bits I need from the setting and keep them remotely familiar.

I've had some successes. I think the basic idea of the Eidolon class is solid enough, though its abilities need significant work. I wanted to talk more about other bits I've changed over into 5th Edition.

What is a Ghost?

Unlike the standard ghost monsters, Ghostwalk ghosts are not completely undead, but certainly not among the living. When someone refers to a ghost in Manifest, they do not mean a shrieking spirit of the damned that withers all who behold it -- such creatures are unknown in Manifest, though undead such as wraiths and specters still haunt defiled burial grounds.

Rather, ghosts of Ghostwalk are a unique manifestation of the deceased's will to carry on. For reasons unknown, only the souls of humanoids can endure in this fashion; monsters, outsiders, and dragons are not governed by this cosmological law, and their souls either immediately depart this world or are part of their physical remains.

So You're Dead. Now What?

A ghost is considered a humanoid of its corresponding type, though it also gains the ghost descriptor. Certain feats, spells, and creatures have special effects on ghosts, or can only be used while you are a ghost. Ghosts obviously do not age, do not require food and drink to survive, and are immune to diseases.

A ghost does not necessarily need to sleep during a long rest though they may willingly enter a sort of torpor. However, every ghost has a compulsion they must satisfy during this period of time. Some may need to listen to a particular tune, behold a certain sight or person, indulge physical pleasures such as eating or drinking while fully-manifested, or haunt a particular location. A ghost that fails to do this at least once a week risks succumbing to the Calling, which drags them to the True Afterlife.

A ghost exists in one of three states: ethereal, incorporeal, and fully-manifested. They may transition through one or more of these states as they adventure or are affected by certain magic.

An ethereal ghost is formless and invisible to all but ethereal creatures or those with magic to see into or transpose themselves onto the Ethereal Plane. Ethereal ghosts can pass through unwarded solid objects, but cannot harm or be harmed by creatures on the Material Plane. Ethereal ghosts cannot wear or use physical equipment unless it is present on the Ethereal Plane or possesses the ghost touch quality.

An incorporeal ghost is weak in both realms, and is considered in a state of flux. Incorporeal ghosts can pass through objects as though they were difficult terrain, and has resistance against damage from sources on the Material Plane. However, all creatures save other partially-manifested ghosts have resistance against damage from an incorporeal ghost. Inorporeal ghosts cannot wear or use physical equipment unless it is present on the Ethereal Plane or possesses the ghost touch quality.

A fully-manifested ghost is, for all intents and purposes, completely on the Material Plane. They suffer and deal full damage to creatures, though their appearance is still clearly that of a ghost -- slightly translucent flesh, a haunting gaze, and possibly the physical marks of their death.

While within the Manifest Ward, all ghosts are forced into a fully-manifested state. Some spells, magic items, or feats used outside of the Ward may temporarily duplicate this effect. Outside of the Ward, which extends above and below the surface of the city of Manifest as well as outward toward the ring of trees at its periphery, a ghost cannot willingly become fully-manifested without aforementioned magical aid.

The Ethereal Current and the Veil of Souls

When a humanoid dies, their soul appears on the Ethereal Plane a short time after (around ten minutes, if you require a specific time frame). Their soul is carried along a flow of otherworldly mist known as the Ethereal Current -- resisting this pull is possible, though most departed souls either lack the will or desire to do so.

These currents flow like a river toward Manifest and the entrance to the Land of the Dead. The Veil of Souls is a metaphysical barrier, and upon reaching it the soul can choose to remain on the Material Plane or pass into the True Afterlife -- a realm from which only resurrection magic can extract them.

Death and Resurrection

The cosmological proximity of the next world in relation to Manifest means that the rules of resurrection are somewhat more lax. Oft times, the cost of securing the services of a priest or druid capable of raising the dead is exorbitant, compounded by the expensive material components.

While within the boundaries of the Manifest Ward, the material component costs of spells such as raise dead, resurrection, and true resurrection are annulled when used on individuals in a ghost state. It is a relatively simple affair to raise the dead here, provided a spellcaster powerful enough can be located. For this reason, those with the power often do not advertise such; they would quickly find themselves overwhelmed with petitioners begging for loved ones to be returned to them, and not every deity smiles kindly on constant prayers to upset the natural order of life and death (however peculiar it may be in Manifest).

A ghost can be injured and driven to a state of "true death." When a ghost is killed, their soul immediately departs for the True Afterlife as though they succumbed to the calling, and must be raised from the dead via magic.

The Calling

The Calling is the need for the departed to gravitate toward the True Afterlife. Even ghosts with a strong will can find themselves yearning to venture to the beyond.

Certain spells or effects in the world may trigger the Calling, as well as a ghost failing to satisfy its compulsion after a period of one week. When such a situation occurs, the ghost must make a Charisma saving throw with a DC equal to 10 + its current level of the Calling or advance one further step on the track.

You reduce your level on the Calling track by one after completing a long rest while satisfying your compulsion, being subjected to certain restorative magic, or completing a task that cements your grasp on the Material Plane such as vanquishing a powerful foe.

The Calling Track

  1. You can no longer grasp objects given to you from this point on, and they pass straight through your body when you try to grab them. This does not affect equipment you are already carrying or wearing, or attacks meant to cause you harm.
  2. Your will wavers as you struggle to fend off the Calling, and you suffer disadvantage on all Wisdom saving throws.
  3. The Calling forces you into a partially-manifested state if you are fully-manifested. You can no longer fully manifest.
  4. As you fall deeper under the sway of the Calling, you become closer to a state of undeath. You may be turned or commanded by clerics, and are vulnerable to radiant damage.
  5. The Calling weakens your grasp on the world even further, forcing you into an incorporeal state. You can no longer partially or fully manifest in the Material Plane.
  6. You are drawn to the True Afterlife, no longer able to resist the Calling.

Elves and the True Afterlife
Unlike most humanoids, the souls of elves and half-elves that submit to the Calling or do not choose to become ghosts meld with one of the spirit trees surrounding the city of Manifest. This does not affect the ability to later raise the elf from the dead, but elves may not want to return to life after achieving such a state of oneness with the souls of their people.

Ghost Appearances

When a ghost appears on the Ethereal Plane after its death, it looks much like its corpse at the moment of its death. Depending on the circumstances, the appearance of a ghost can be merely unsettling or completely horrifying. This appearance persists across different states of manifestation; there is no way to repair any apparent damage, nor does this result in a loss of hit points for the ghost while they exist on the Material Plane. Any severe damage, such as the loss of a limb, may impair the ghost in significant ways.

Should the cause of death not bear hallmarks of severe trauma, such as death by natural causes, a heart attack, or spells that kill the target with psychic damage, the ghost does not suffer any inconveniences aside from being dead.

Most adventurers, however, tend to die due to terrible injuries such as sword wounds and magical spells. When attempting Charisma skill checks using Deception, Performance, or Persuasion on creatures not used to dealing with ghosts, you suffer disadvantage on the roll.

The most unfortunate ghosts are those that suffer grievous and terrible deaths from massive weapons, being devoured by dragons or other monsters, being consumed by fireballs or dissolved by acid, or dying due to aggressive flesh-consuming diseases. Even to those citizens of Manifest that deal with ghosts on a daily basis, beholding one of these poor souls causes instant revulsion. You suffer disadvantage on all Charisma skill checks made to positively influence creatures, though you have advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks. It is advisable for such a ghost to hide their features when possible so as to avoid creating public disturbances.

What Next?

Obviously this is all just converted material. I need to determine the degree of awfulness surrounding the level-swapping mechanic from the Life Epiphany (that is, when you are dead, you only gain levels as eidolon or eidoloncer, and when raised you can trade out levels for another class that is not one of those two). It has the potential to bog down play a lot unless you bank XP rewards when players take downtime.

I also need to do some minor setting stuff like giving Ghostwalk's pantheon of deities appropriate domain selections. The eidolon and eidoloncer obviously need to be completed and polished up.

I backed off of creating new demihuman subraces. I feel like there are so many of those out there now that adding more for this setting would be superfluous. Even in Birthright I felt like I could justify it, but here I don't feel like it's needed after some consideration.

As always, I like feedback and constructive criticism. I haven't done anything risky here yet, just converted known quantities.

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