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The spirits and their world are incredibly rich and varied, and can be very confusing when encountered for the first time. As they should be. Spirits are walking enigmas, with the power of small gods but with none of the prerogatives, wielders of divine magic but ultimately servants to their own natures. This chapter is meant to help you, in your roles as Games Master, to better introduce the animae into your campaign world.
The World of Spirits
The first thing that complicates things is the Spirit World. It exists parallel to the Material Plane but is, at the same time, as unreachable as the astral plane.
The Spirit World Cosmology
The best way to understand the Spirit World is to consider it exactly as the ethereal plane: it covers the material world at every point, and its inhabitants can watch the comings and goings of material beings without ever actually being noticed. The similarities end there, for while the ethereal plane is a realm of grey nothingness, the Spirit World teems with life.
As the Plane of Shadows can be considered a distillation of negative energy, the Spirit World stands in the opposite end, as an expression of positive energies. It is a realm where the power of creation takes shape, and spirits are born from the dreams of both mortals and gods.
Creatures in the Spirit World cannot interact with those in the Material Plane and do not suffer from the vulnerabilities of etherealness, for they remain invisible and unaffected by magic that does not clearly target the Spirit World, even force effects that would normally work against ethereal creatures. The same applies the other way, for any magical and supernatural effect does not cross planar boundaries from the Spirit World to the Material Plane.
While creatures can perceive the Material Plane, they do so through the special filter that makes spirits so frustrated with their condition. All features of the everyday world are seen as their ideal, most perfect form, and it takes a trained eye to recognize them for what they are. Creatures need special magic to see and hear what actually happens in the ‘real’ world, and structures block the way in the same way they do in the Material Plane. Some structures may or may not exist in the Spirit World, and there might even be spiritual representations of buildings and features that no longer stand. Navigating the Spirit World is an unpredictable art.
Movement is restricted by normal gravity, though distances might be distorted by force of will or with special magic. The spell power walk is the easiest way to accomplish this, but other creatures without access to this magic can still try to shorten their travel distance by rolling a Will save (DC 20). For every point above the DC in the final result, the creature travels one mile in one minute. Thus if a character rolls 25 on his Will save, he travels five miles for five minutes in the Spirit World.
Some spirits have a power called projection that allows them to appear on the Material Plane as incorporeal creatures. Still, they are in the Spirit World, and another creature in that plane can interact normally with a projecting spirit. Powerful spirits can fully manifest in the Material Plane, leaving the Spirit World behind and thus unaffected by anything that happens there during their manifestation.
The Spirit World can be accessed at any point in the Material Plane with the appropriate magic. It is adjacent to the ethereal plane through certain, clearly identifiable gates. Any magic that needs the ethereal plane to work simply does not, because the planes touch, but do not overlap as each of them do with the Material Plane. Likewise, any magic or ability that employs exchange with the Plane of Shadows ceases to function, as the planes not only do not touch, but they are also an antithesis to each other.
The astral plane, however, envelops the Spirit World as well, and many spirits do travel through astral pathways to the realms of the deities they serve or with which they are aligned. Several gates exist in the Spirit World leading to such outer planes, and look very much like astral gates located in the ethereal and astral planes themselves. Spells and other abilities that depend on the astral plane work normally.
The Spirit Landscape
Colours are crisp and vibrant, covered by a soft haze that has nothing to do with the ethereal mists, but acts more like a shine that highlights the best aspects of any feature in the Spirit World. Forests are thicker and hum the primal song of nature, while buildings and other constructions may or may not exist, depending on the importance they hold in the hearts of the people of the material world, or the power they represent in relation with any deity.
The Spirit World is a reflection of the everyday world, and spirits and spiritual structures are solid and can be interacted with as if they were real. Natural landmarks are more likely to have a reflection in the Spirit World than constructions, but very old buildings may indeed exist too as a spiritual construct, reflecting its character.
All creatures in the Material Plane have a reflection in the Spirit World, although they look hazy and transparent. People with strong spirits (Wisdom and Charisma scores above 13) are more defined, and those able to wield magic in any form shine with arcane or divine light. This effect allows creatures and characters in the Spirit World to gain insights into material creatures and structures by analysing their spirit reflections. A reputedly haunted house may appear menacing and covered in shadows, even if there is no actual supernatural presence, while a candidate for sainthood might appear angelic in the Spirit World while he is hideous in reality. A Knowledge (spirits) check is needed to gain such information.
Spirit Insight Table
|Discerning a person’s alignment||15|
|Discerning a creature’s HD or class levels||10 + creature’s HD or levels|
|Identifying a possessing spirit or ghost||15 + spirit’s spell level or ghost’s CR|
|Finding secret or hidden passages, traps and structures||20|
|Discerning divine magic||12 + wielder’s caster level|
|Discerning arcane magic||14 + wielder’s caster level|
Playing with Spirits
The previous chapter gives guidelines for creating detailed spirits for encounters, but considering that shaman characters will be summoning and interacting with lots of spirits in the course of his career, the task of coming up with new spirits that may not become spirit allies adds to much to all the things a Games Master already has to keep track off.
Given that spirits can come in all shapes, sizes and power levels, players should not be able to predict what a particular spirit can do based on appearance alone. If they do, they deserve anything you throw at them, for they could easily defeat a minor hurricane spirit, but be trounced by the almighty power of Mouse.
Spirits are mercurial, and they can have any personality traits that you deem necessary for a particular encounter. Not all wolf spirits are stern and honourable, and ideal spirits are legion. A spirit’s attitude towards other creatures depends greatly on its spell level, for the stronger the magic they can muster, the higher the opinion about their station in the cosmology.
Above all, spirits are mysterious, capricious and unpredictable. You are free to portray them as best fits your campaign.
Quick Spirit Generation
For quick encounters or when the shaman only intends to bargain for the spirit to become his ally, you can use the following processes:
1. Decide the spirit’s Domain and spell level. This will define everything else, and it’s the most important information for spirit allies.
2. Select 1d6 additional spells for the spirit’s repertoire, not higher than its own spell level.
3. Write down the spirit’s ability scores, deciding on the numbers arbitrarily, remembering that Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma add the spirit’s spell level, and Wisdom is insanely high for most spirits.
4. Write down the spirit’s saving throw bonuses, again. Decide on them arbitrarily and take into account the modifiers for Constitution (Fortitude), Dexterity (Reflex) and Will (Wisdom). Again, spirits are very wilful, with their high Wisdom scores and their racial bonus to Will saves equal to half their spell level.
5. Depending on the spirit’s nature, come up with one or two extra special abilities, its Hit Dice (always d8) and Armour Class.
Active and Dormant Spirits
If an object, animal, place or anything else serves as a spirit’s material anchor, they hover around it or sleep within it. The former are considered active, while the latter are dormant. Active spirits behave normally, following their agenda and interacting with shamans and gifted individuals. Dormant spirits are slumbering, either resting from reforming after an unlucky encounter or just because it is their nature to do so. The only thing that can rouse a spirit from its slumber against its will is the awakening ritual shamans learn later in their life.
Dormant spirits are harder to detect, as they are merged inside their anchor. Even creatures can have their spirit deadened by evil influences. The awakening ritual has little effect on such creatures, except for giving them back the drive they had lost by having their spirits quietened and crushed.