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Human characters with the Ghost Companion feat may acquire one or more ghost companions. A character may acquire one such companion at fifth level, another at tenth level, a third at fifteenth level, a fourth at twentieth level and so on. However, he may have only as many ghost companions as he has points in his Charisma bonus, if positive.
The Games Master, in consultation with the player, creates the ghost companion characters. Each one is limited to a minimum character level of the player’s own overall levels minus five, to a minimum of one. A fifteenth level character with the Ghost Companion feat could therefore have one ghost companion who was a tenth level fighter, one who was a fifth level sorcerer and another who had been a first level rogue. The ghosts do not advance in level as the player does. If they are destroyed, they attempt to return as per the usual rules for ghosts.
All of these characters must have had a close relationship with the player while they were alive. The most likely candidates to become ghost companions are the player’s parents or relatives. An ancestor who never encountered the player during life may also become a ghost companion, especially if he recognises in the player something of the qualities he used to prize in life.
Most of the time, ghost companions will accompany the character unseen, keeping watch on him from the ethereal plane. Their motivation is usually to assist him and keep him alive, though their motives will vary depending on the relationship they had with the character during life. They will use their powers to lend a hand, even going so far as to possess the character with their malevolence ability if a task calls for a skill that they do not have. For example, a fighter trapped behind a locked door in a room slowly filling with water might allow himself to be possessed by the ghost of his rogue brother, whose chance of picking the lock is much higher than the fighter’s.
Ghost companions are not servants. They will express disapproval, refuse to help if they do not like the course the character is taking and will use their telekinesis ability or even their malevolence ability to interfere with the character’s actions. This is the downside of having ghost companions. If the shade of your father does not want you to go drinking with your friends, he may pour himself into your body and steer it away, or knock bottles over on the tables of people sitting next to you, prompting angry accusations and the high probability of fisticuffs.
Ghost companions can also become jealous or resentful of other beings. They can fight and argue among themselves, causing headaches for the mortal whose life they are supposed to be helping to preserve, or interfere with the mortal’s attempts to find other sources of advice, comfort or love than the ghost. Sometimes, the ghost companion whose presence you welcomed because it meant that a loved one would never be far away from you begins to seem more like a prison sentence.
Communicating With Ghost Companions: A ghost companion cannot communicate anything to its human charge unless it manifests or takes possession of a mortal body. The ghost can hear anything the player says but does not have to respond or even acknowledge the player’s words. Manifestation is tiring for ghosts, as they have to channel some of their energy into forming an ectoplasmic vehicle on the material plane. Unless the ghost has an especially good reason to respond, a Charisma ability score check (DC 12) is necessary to persuade it to manifest and communicate with you. You may make this attempt once per hour.
Manifestation Of Ghost Companions: The kind of ghostly being who haunts a person on an ongoing basis is slightly different from that which haunts a place. Ordinary ghosts can manifest at will, for as long as they choose; theory has it that the psychic residue from their death imbues the place with a kind of energy which enables them to come and go from the material to the ethereal plane. Ghost companions are reliant upon their link with the person. This enables them to travel further afield than ordinary ghosts, who are usually limited to a specific area such as a graveyard or house but also limits their capacity for interaction with the material world. They can only manifest once per day, for a maximum of ten rounds; this manifestation is limited to a range of 30 feet from the character. Though they can travel further than this range once they have manifested, their initial manifestation must be within this area. If they have the malevolence ability, they can make one possession attempt per day. They may possess the character for up to one hour per day, or another person for a maximum of half an hour per day.
Perils Of Ghost Companions: There are a great many advantages to having ghost companions during life. You can ask the ghost to scout for you, to scare enemies or even to possess your body and do something you have no ability to do, such as cast a spell. However, there is one terrible danger associated with ghost companions. They are all, in their own way, waiting for you to die, though they do not want this event to happen any more than you do. Should you die, the ghost companions you had during life will attempt to keep you from returning to life. They will fight to keep your spirit with them in the afterworld.
A character who has ghost companions when he dies and who is targeted by a raise dead or resurrection spell must make a Will saving throw against DC 25 for each ghostly companion he had when he died. Failure to succeed at any one of these saving throws means that his soul now resides with the ghosts and is not free to return to life.
Types of Ghost Companion
This section gives examples of typical ghost companions that a human adventurer might have. Any companions created by the Games Master should follow the same lines. Having a ghost companion is, on balance, an advantage for the character (which is why it requires a feat) but it is not an easy ride. All ghost companions have clearly delineated advantages and disadvantages.
The human character is haunted by the ghost of his father or mother, or a foster parent.
Motive: Parents often haunt their human children because they feel that they are still needed. A parent may remain with a child out of a sense of unfulfilled duty, which can happen if the parent died early in the child’s life. They can also haunt a child who they feel has dishonoured them in some way, in the hope of turning them into a worthwhile person; this might happen if a good cleric had a child who proved to be the most rebellious, sadistic rogue around, or if a sorcerer of chaos had a child who was so disillusioned by his upbringing that he resolved to be a paladin. In either case, the parent would want to keep the child alive, just so that they could eventually see the change in the child’s life of which they had dreamed for so long.
Advantages: A parental ghost is likely to be practical and sensible, giving the character wise advice and keeping his spirits up in adversity. They are good at pre-empting difficulties, warning the character of dangers he is likely to face. A parental ghost will often use its Sense Motive skill to look out for the character, with statements like ‘Don’t trust that Watteel, I’ve seen his like before, they’re no good, any of them, we knew some Watteels when we lived back in Boddersley, the whole family are a bunch of rapscallions if you ask me.’ Such ghosts receive a +2 circumstance bonus to all Sense Motive and Spot checks made when looking out for the character’s interests, such as when watching his back or watching over him while he sleeps.
Disadvantages: Parental ghosts do not often respect the privacy of the human they are bound to and have difficulty seeing the character as anything other than a child. They still feel they have authority over the child’s life, as they were responsible for bringing him into the world. A parental ghost can make the character feel like he has no life of his own. They are more likely to intervene directly in the character’s life than any other kind of ghostly companion, making decisions for the character and sometimes ruining his chances to do something he had set his heart on. ‘I didn’t raise you to be a thief! Go back inside and put that jewel back, this instant!’ If the parent has the same alignment as the child, this will cause problems, as the parent will be trying to keep the child on the proper moral course; if the parent has a differing alignment, this will also cause problems, as the parent tries to impose his or her own view of what is right on to the character’s choices.
The character is haunted by the ghostly shade of a former paramour. This is usually a person who was in a happy relationship or marriage with the character before they died, though sometimes rejected lovers can become persistent ghosts. The most dreadful situation of all is when a rejected lover kills himself and then comes back as a ghost, haunting the person he was obsessed with during life.
Motive: In the majority of cases, ghostly lovers seek to protect the character from harm, as they are so devoted to them and do not wish them to suffer. Even if the ghost would prefer to be reunited with the character after death, they understand (most of the time, anyway) that the character still has some living left to do.
Advantages: Ghostly lovers are prepared to go to any lengths to help the character. Of all the ghost companions, they are the most helpful; by being useful to the character, they retain some contact with him or her and can maintain some semblance of a relationship. They like to help the character out in ‘romantic’ ways, such as by appearing without warning in all the splendour they can manage and distracting an opponent who was about to strike the character down, then fading away with an enigmatic smile. A character with a former lover on the other side has less to fear from death, as he knows there is someone who cares for him waiting for him to pass through the veil. A character with a ghostly lover for a companion always has a +2 circumstance bonus to his Charisma ability score check to make the ghost manifest and communicate with him.
Disadvantages: Dead lovers (much like live ones, really) are remarkably good at making living characters feel guilty. Passive-aggressive behaviour on the part of a ghost of this kind is all too common. The words ‘Don’t worry, you go and have fun, I’m sure I would be frequenting dockside taverns too if I still had a body,’ are frequently heard emanating from ghostly presences.
A ghost lover who is upset can be sullen, moody and uncooperative, while one who is jealous or angry can be flagrantly malicious. Depending on how possessive the departed lover is, if the living character enters into a liason with anyone else, or even forms an especially close friendship, the ghost can become bitterly resentful and go out of its way to sabotage the relationship. A truly resentful ghost will even go so far as to possess the body of its living rival during a moment of intimacy, so that it can enjoy the embrace of the mortal character once more.
The character is followed around by the shade of a former friend or adventuring colleague. This category of ghost companion is also suitable for brothers and sisters of the character. Former player characters who have died are not good choices for ghostly companions unless the player who controlled them forfeits any option to ever play them again; the possibility of resurrection is simply too strong for a departed player character, so a non-player character should be used whenever possible.
Motive: The ghosts of friends stay with their mortal companions out of dogged loyalty, both to the person and to what he stands for. They feel they still have something to contribute to the character’s cause. When the ghost was a former adventuring colleague, it often feels reluctant to ‘break up the team’ and tries as best it can to resume its old role in the party. Some deceased friends are keen for the character to investigate their deaths and avenge them if possible, which always makes for a good adventure hook.
Advantages: The ghosts of friends are not as prone to malicious interference, sorrow, jealousy or rage as other spirits are; they are more likely to deal with the character as if nothing much had changed, treating their own death as a minor inconvenience that can be worked around. Friend ghosts are more trustworthy than others and tend to be as sensible as they were in life. In addition, the close bonds of amity and mental sympathy between the character and the ghost mean that a friend ghost with the malevolence ability can take possession of the character for up to four hours per day instead of one hour.
Disadvantages: The very attitude that says ‘nothing has really changed’ can make for problems. Ghosts of friends want to have a say in what the character, or sometimes what the whole party, should do. They refuse, if you will pardon the pun, to lie down and die. They give their help only so long as their advice is listened to and acted on. Being dead is very frustrating for this kind of ghost. They try to live vicariously through the character, urging him to try new experiences or do challenging things, because they cannot do these things themselves any more.
The ghost of someone the character has killed, whether the death was accidental or intentional, accompanies him. This is an especially good option for good or neutral characters who have killed someone by mistake, as the responsibility for the killing still lies with the character but there is not necessarily any animosity between him and the ghost. Evil characters, or those who have to carry out a lot of killings in their line of work (such as fighters or barbarians) can find that the ghosts of those they slay without mercy can haunt them afterwards. Assassins in particular can find that a retinue of their victims builds up as they advance in level.
Motive: Victims who were of good alignment usually help good and neutral characters because they find themselves bound to their slayers and decide to do the best they can in the situation. It is expected that the character will make amends for killing the person who became the ghost, if they have not already done so. The motives of characters murdered by evil players are less clear. It is not always obvious in these cases why such a ghost would want to keep the character alive or help him but the overwhelming reason is usually a deal made between the character and the ghost; if the ghost gives assistance, the character will not cause even further misery for those the ghost cares about on the earthly plane.
Some ghosts are simply so innocent or pure that they assist the character in the hope of redeeming him eventually. They will not help him to do any evil deed, though they will keep him alive as best they can, while constantly urging him to repent of his evil ways before death comes and makes it too late.
Advantages: There are not many advantages to being followed around by one or more of your victims, especially if they are still bloody from the final gash your blade inflicted upon them, or smoking from the fireball you could have sworn they were a safe distance away from when you cast it. However, there is one powerful advantage. Victims are the closest of all the ghostly companions to the conventional kind of ghost. They have been taken, violently, before their time and the person with blood on his hands – the character – is still alive. They can therefore manifest as many times in the day as they choose, as the link between them and the character is very strong. They may not remain manifest for longer than thirty minutes at a time and must remain wholly ethereal for at least ten minutes after any one manifestation is finished.
Disadvantages: Victims are often more than a little bitter. After all, they had their lives ahead of them before the character brought them to an abrupt close. Some are forgiving, while others are outright vengeful and would slay the character themselves were it not for the fact that his death would bring their own end upon them and they are scared to go into the endless dark. The ghosts of victims are just as likely to interfere with the character’s affairs as they are to help him, though they are not likely to do anything that would put him in direct peril for the reasons given above. The bond between slayer and slain is intimate as well as strong, allowing the ghost to take over the character’s body more easily even if the character is not willing; characters with victims as ghostly companions suffer a –3 circumstance penalty to their saving throws to resist the ghost’s malevolence ability.
This kind of ghost companion is one who has died because of the character, though not by his hand. There is always an element of guilt by association on the character’s part, though not nearly as severe as that associated with the victim type of ghost. Casualties are people such as a favourite innkeeper who was killed by enemies who were trying to find out your location, a random bystander who stopped to help you and took an arrow meant for you, a henchman who was killed by a trap you failed to detect, a person you accidentally sent into danger because of a detail you had forgotten, or even someone you knowingly betrayed or failed to warn, so that although others slew them, you still bear the responsibility.
Motive: Casualties tend (with reason) to see the character as a liability. They assist him in order to prevent him causing any further damage to other people’s lives. They also turn up in order to remind him of his responsibilities. Few ghosts are better at causing guilt for a character than a casualty; all they have to do is to manifest and look at him reproachfully, as if to say ‘Look what you did.’ A character who has several casualties for ghost companions can soon begin to think of himself as a jinx, who brings death and destruction to people without meaning to.
Advantages: As the prime motive of a casualty ghost is to prevent further harm coming to others because of the character’s negligence or treachery, they tend to act on their own initiative without being asked to first. They will use their telekinesis abilities to protect those around the character or associated with him. This can, ironically, cause the character to be seen as a lucky presence, as people who would otherwise have met with accidents feel ‘unseen hands’ pushing them out of the way. A casualty ghost that has a chance to use its telekinesis ability on a target who is attempting a Reflex saving throw to avoid damage can give the target a +1 circumstance bonus to this saving throw, as the extra telekinetic push can help them to avoid damage. Casualty ghosts also have a wider range of manifestation available, because they are used to looking out for those close to the character as well as the character himself. Accordingly, a casualty ghost can manifest within 60 feet of the character, rather than the usual limit of 30 feet.
Disadvantages: A casualty is more interested in helping others than it is in helping the character. It will still manifest on occasion and assist the character but it is harder to persuade it to manifest than other ghosts. Accordingly, the character suffers a –2 circumstance penalty to the Charisma ability score check needed to force the ghost to manifest and take action.
The ghost of a distant relative, such as a grandparent or even some legendary hero from former times, haunts the character. Ancestors have rarely met the character during their mortal life. They usually have a tie to the bloodline rather than the individual, having sworn to guard their descendants down all the ages. Their interest in the character is because of what he is (a descendant of the same line) not who he is. Ancestor ghosts are not generally interested in the personal traits of the character. They are much more concerned with how the character’s conduct and aspirations reflect upon the family as a whole. Ancestor ghosts will often attach themselves to the last surviving member of their bloodline, as this person represents the only chance for the whole family not to die out, an eventuality that the ancestor is desperate to prevent.
Motive: The ancestor is usually driven by a sense of responsibility to his family. He was in his time a dedicated upholder of the family’s reputation and wants to make sure that the character lives up to the same standards. His role is to help the character, just as an elder is supposed to, giving the benefit of his guidance and wisdom.
There is a wholly different kind of ancestor, the sort who usually patronises evil characters. This is the ‘black sheep’ variety of ancestor, the family shame. Many families will have one of these, a person who is not spoken of in polite company and who was either mad, twisted, debauched or all of the above. A ‘black sheep’ can sometimes graft himself on to a descendant out of approval, being happy to see someone as ghastly as himself emerge from the bloodline at last, or out of a wish to corrupt a character further who is already taking the first steps down the dark road.
Advantages: An ancestor ghost is the least likely of all the spirits to act in a way that would sabotage the character’s interests, however he defines them. Even if they disapprove of the course a character is taking, they will never actively meddle, unlike a lover or a parent. Ancestor spirits have been walking between the worlds for many years. The character is, in all probability, not the first human being that they have counselled and protected. As a result of this, they are considerably more learned than other phantoms. An ancestor ghost receives a +2 insight bonus to all Knowledge skill checks. Ancestor ghosts are also much more adept at the arts of possession than other ghosts, having had many centuries (in most cases) to refine their talents. They may use malevolence to possess the character without having to manifest fully in order to do so; they manifest in the character’s space and enter his body in one move.
Disadvantages: Ancestor ghosts are used to being called upon to take possession of their charges. They regard this as a privilege of their position. They will not cause outright trouble for the character but they will insist on using his body as a matter of course, in order to experience the sweet things of the world that they have left behind. Unfortunately, many ancestor ghosts are of a martial temperament and consider fighting to be one of the most sorely missed activities in their nonlives. They will often attempt to possess the character just so that they can get into a scrap. Whenever the character makes a Charisma check to call the ghost to manifestation, the ghost has a 1 in 4 chance to make an immediate possession attempt, using its malevolence ability.