Down Among the Dead Men Part II – Spirit Riders

   To continue with that coming-up-on-Halloween request, here’ s the second installment on haunting and deathly abilities for characters who have had too many near-death experiences, have died and returned, or who have otherwise grown intimate with death. As before, the following clipse-style point-buy abilities have all been set up to cost six character points – exactly the same as any other feat.

   Characters who return from death or near-death have passed through a barrier that normally stands inviolate. They have glimpsed what lies beyond, and – whether by powerful magic, miraculous powers, sheer force of will, or simply having died so briefly that the lingering bond with their bodies sufficed to pull them back through a gateway that had not yet sealed when aid is given – have returned to bear witness to it.

   Such a dramatic or traumatic event in a characters life is also a good time to modify a characters personal disadvantages – possibly taking new ones (and getting more character points if not already at the limit for disadvantage-based bonus points), trading off old ones for new ones, or simply buying off old ones. This sort of thing usually has an impact.

   Sometimes it has effects beyond the psychological. When such a voyager simply remains linked to the realms beyond, purchasing some spooky power – perhaps something from the prior entry in this series – may be in order. In many settings, every so often, some spirit that lingers on the borders of life and death or some power from beyond will take advantage of the passage of such a transient voyager to hitch a ride back to the material world – or assist in their return in exchange for some “small price”.

   In some tales such a thing lies at the root of tales of the Living Dead – people who should have died, but instead – at the very point of death – bonded with some spirit from beyond, sharing their body with some power from beyond in exchange for the strength to survive. This is not in itself necessarily evil – a knight who takes a mortal wound on a quest might bond with an angelic spirit to gain the strength to complete it before passing on – but far darker entities are often all to ready to lend their strength to a dying mortal in exchange for a chance to wreak havoc in the material world.

   To represent the powers so gained, buy

   Spirit Rider: In returning from death, you have made yourself a channel for the power of the outer planes. Innate Enchantment (8000 GP and 640 XP net value. The character may spend XP to develop special powers (a sample list is provided below) up to that 640 XP limit. All powers are Caster Level One, Usable At Will, and – if applicable – Personal Only unless otherwise noted. Corrupted (6 CP total)/select one from:

  • Compulsions. There are some things that the character simply feels compelled to do – whether it’s drink blood, rescue children, commit strange thefts, run errands for the lords of fate, or whatever. Resisting such an urge requires a DC 18 will save.
  • Bans. These are broad restrictions, or a collection of narrower ones. A character might be forbidden from associating with priests of a particular faith, from crossing over the sea, from wearing armor, or from some other type of behavior. Violating such a restriction requires an hourly DC 18 will save.
  • Nemesis (the power which hitched a ride is not within the character, but loose in the world – although it cannot be permanently banished or bound while the character lives and remains free. It will create trouble for the character on a regular basis or – possibly – attract enemies who wish to either control the entity or break it’s link with the world by controlling or eliminating the character who acts as it’s anchor.

   Sample Effects:

  1. Abjurant Tongue: Your whispered words transverse the world of spirits rather than that of mortals, coming to the ears of those you wish to hear them without suffering from normal hindrances. As per Message (80 XP).
  2. Bestial Form: You may assume an animalistic form more suited to combat. A lesser, specific, variant of Alter Self that provides +2 Natural Armor (fur, scales, or hide), d6 Claws/Fangs, and an animalistic appearance without other game-mechanic alterations (Personal, 112 XP).
  3. Black Gaze: While you no longer fear death, you carry it’s essence about you – and may share some touch of that experience with those you gaze upon. As per Doom (160 XP).
  4. Call of the Grave: So long as you walk upon the earth, you will always know the path to the place of your death. Only there is true rest. As per Know Direction, except it points to the user’s place of death rather than to north. This usually allows the user to deduce which way is north though (80 XP).
  5. Charnel Breath: Your breath carries the decaying essence of the grave. As per Stinking Cloud, but only affects a single target at short range, and only lasts for one round (160 XP).
  6. Chill of the Grave: The user’s cold flesh is unaffected by normal extremes of temperature. As per Endure Elements (Personal, 112 CP).
  7. Cloak of Death: Your life force burns dim, forever mingled with the forces of death. As per Hide from Undead, but causes the undead to simply see the user as another undead, rather than rendering him or her undetectable. Saves apply normally, and undead will still act to prevent the user from doing things that they wouldn’t let another undead do, but even combat will not end the effect (112 XP).
  8. Corpse Puppet: As your own body dances to the whim of your spirit, so is other unoccupied flesh subject to your will. The user may mentally animate a single medium-sized corpse within 60 feet. It is as effective as a standard zombie in most ways, but the user must give it his or her own actions to allow it to act (160 XP).
  9. Disrupting Gaze: Those upon who you focus your gaze are battered by the cold ethereal winds of the otherwords. As per Magic Missile but the jarring impact inflicts no actual damage. Instead it forces a concentration check at a DC of (15 + the “Damage” rolled) to avoid having the target’s action interrupted (160 XP).
  10. Enduring Life: For those who have returned from death, mere injuries mean little. The user gains three temporary d6 hit dice, with appropriate constitution bonuses, but those extra hit points only apply towards resisting death. As an unlimited use-activated effect this is treated as (18 + 3 x Con Mod) extra hits (Personal, 112 CP).
  11. Ethereal Resonance: A small portion of the energies of the ethereal plane have wrapped themselves around you, their unearthly presences deflects many attacks, providing a +2 deflection bonus to your armor class. As per Shield of Faith, (Personal, 112 XP).
  12. Eyes of the Dead: The energies of both the living and the dead are open to the inspection of one who knowingly exists upon both the mortal and immortal planes. Detect Life (Personal, 112 XP). N alternate form which uses Detect Undead is available for the same cost. User’s may – and are encouraged to – buy both.
  13. Food of the Gods: Any food you prepare becomes infused with either hellish vigor or divine strength. However small the supply, each portion will provide the nourishment of a normal meal for a medium-sized creature and cure one point of damage if eaten within the day. A minor variation on Goodberry (160 XP).
  14. The Gate of Shadow: You may briefly imprint a portion of your will upon the stuff of darkness, giving it both form and purpose. You may form a part of your shadow into a particular kind of creature (select any one creature type normally available through Summon Nature’s Ally I and give it 60′ Darkvision, DR 3/Magic, and Spell Resistance 8). Such creatures will serve you for up to one minute, but you cannot have more than two of them in action at a time (160 XP).
  15. Hallow Weapon: With your spirit no longer so tightly bound to your body, you may infuse a nonmagical weapon of some type you are especially attuned to (choose a weapon type when this power is developed) with a shard of your essence, granting it some touch of otherworldly power – granting it a +1 enhancement bonus and causing it to do damage as if it’s size had been increased by two categories as long as you wield it. A minor variant on Shillelagh (160 XP).
  16. Icy Wrath: There are many in the planes beyond that cry out for vengeance, and many offenses against each man. The calm of death is no shelter from such icy fury – especially when you choose to channel it. As per the Wrath spell (from The Practical Enchanter); Morale bonuses of +2 Str, +2 Con, and +1 Will, and a penalty of -2 AC when in use (Personal, 112 XP).
  17. Light Foot: You spirit can carry your body with it, rather than relying on mere physical musculature, moving at speeds undreamed of by normal men. As per Expeditious Retreat (Personal, 112 XP).
  18. The Looming Presence: Having become intimate with death, you may sense its presence in the area. As per Deathwatch, but only lasts one minute per level and covers a 30′ radius rather than a cone (160 XP).
  19. Mist Sight: Seeing with the eyes of the dead, many things once obscure are clear. The user can see through mist and fog as if it was not there, negating any miss chance it might otherwise provide (Personal, 112 XP).
  20. Night Wind from the Soul: The forces flowing through you from the planes beyond can variously warp and twist the material world. You may accomplish many minor tasks – throwing open a row of windows, barring the doors to a room, extinguishing a group of lights, and many more such tasks, with a simple word or gesture. This is a variant on Unseen Servant, calling into being a dozen or so such servants – but restricting their duration to a mere couple of rounds (160 XP).
  21. Order of the Planes: The trickle of power from the outer planes which flows through your resurrected spirit into the material plane warps reality around you, slightly favoring your blows. You gain a +1 luck bonus on attacks and damage. As per Divine Favor (160 XP).
  22. Patience of Eternity: Your life is sustained by unnatural energies, and the demands of mere flesh are of little importance. Your need to eat, drink, or sleep is reduced to one-quarter normal. As per Sustenance (from The Practical Enchanter) (112 XP).
  23. Phosphorescence: You may call forth a touch of the power of decay within any small group of creatures or objects, causing them to emit a pale glow for a time. As per Faerie Fire (160 XP).
  24. Rotting Touch: the entropic energies of decay can never be entirely dispelled once they have found entry into once-living flesh, but they can be directed outwards. This effect provides a touch attack which inflicts 2d4 damage on living creatures for one touch plus one touch per caster level (160 XP).
    1. Rotting Touch can be upgraded with the Elemental Manipulation Metamagic Theorem and the Streamline metamagic modifier (taken twice), both Specialized and Corrupted/only to add Infliction effects to the Rotting Touch. This will allow Rotting Touch to inflict a variety of special conditions on the victim for (6 CP). Further upgrades will allow more powerful effects. Similar modifiers can be used to enhance many of the other powers on this list.
  25. Shadow Wisp: You may form a bit of your shadow into a wispy swirl of force equivalent to an Unseen Servant (160 XP).
  26. Speak with Animals: Between spirits the barriers of language are but small things. Animals retain much of that simplicity even when incarnate, allowing those who are aware of the spirit world to communicate with them. As per Speak with Animals (160 XP).
  27. Spectral Steeds: You may call forth up to a dozen shadowy ectoplasmic steeds. While their appearance is strange, misty, and disquieting, they possess no special attributes. As per Mount (160 XP).
  28. Stern Resolve: Having died and returned, what lesser force can shake you resolve? As per Remove Fear (Personal, 112 CP).
  29. Talons: It is said that fingernails grow long in the grave, becoming twisted talons. Whatever the nature of the spirit that you have bonded with, so can your nails grow at a moments notice. The user’s hands and fingernails can inflict 1d8 lethal damage (Personal, 112 XP)
  30. Touch of the Higher Realms: The infusion of positive energy that jump-started your body upon your return has created a small reservoir of power within you, that can be tapped to aid yourself or others. This is equivalent to Cure Light Wounds usable five times per day (160 XP).
  31. Terrifying Visage: You may turn your gaze upon a nearby target, revealing the marks of death which scar your soul and terrifying the weak-minded. As per Cause Fear (160 XP).
  32. Vigor of the Dead: An unearthly vigor flows through your flesh, a remnant of the terrible energies of the realms beyond death – a mere spark of which grants the words of the dying power. The user gains a +2 enhancement bonus on an attribute of his or her choice (112 XP). This may be taken once per attribute, but remember that enhancement bonuses do not stack with other enhancement bonuses.
  33. Visage of Death: You may reveal the wounds which once claimed your life. A limited level one version of Alter Self, usable on to appear dead or horribly maimed, but granting a +15 bonus on such attempts (160 XP).
  34. Warding Aura: You radiate an aura of energies drawn from the outer planes which provides some protection against supernatural creatures. As per Protection from Chaos/Evil/Good/Law (Personal, 112 XP).
  35. Whispers from Beyond: You may send haunting dreams to those mortals who sleep nearby. While similar to Whispering Wind, Whispers from Beyond can target a named individual or an area within range. Unfortunately, it can only deliver a vague image or two, and even that will only appear as a fleeting, confused, and easily-forgotten dream (with no particular game effect) the next time the target sleeps. Still, it can be handy if someone is particularly impressionable. (160 XP).
  36. Wracking Eulogy: You may speak of the life and terrible fate of a nearby creature, drawing upon it the touch of the grave. The user may address a single target within 30′ and begin speaking of it’s awful fate. This uses an opposed Will check for the “attack”, but is otherwise identical to Ray of Enfeeblement (160 XP). A variant, Dexterity-affecting, version exists.
  37. Wraithfire: You may summon a seething mass of energy from the planes beyond, either wielding it or throwing it at opponents. Users choice of energy type when this ability is taken, otherwise as per Produce Flame (160 XP).
  38. Wraith Step: The dead touch lightly upon the world. You leave no footprints, no scent, no fingerprints, and no other physical trace of your passage. A level-zero single target only variant on Pass Without Trace (56 XP).
  39. Wraith Tongue: Once your spirit and your voice roamed free of your body; while your spirit has once more been bound to flesh, few such effects are directed at the voice – and from your voice, such freedom has not departed. As per Ventriloquism (160 XP).
  40. Wreathed in Mist: The energies of the ethereal realm still flow through you, and when you wish it you can release it’s ectoplasmic mist into the material world. A variant on Obscuring Mist, which only surrounds the target touched. The target appears to be dissolving into mist and attacks on or by the target suffer a 20% miss chance if they are visually directed (112 XP). A variant form which only affects incoming ranged attacks is based on Entropic Shield, but it’s costs are otherwise identical.

   Obviously enough, there are hordes of other spells out there that can be adapted for this purpose. In this case I’ve stuck fairly close to the SRD – with a few exceptions for spells which are pretty obvious – for ease of use.

   Characters who want to continue along this path will probably want to take:

   Spirit Mastery: Being of the spirit worlds rather than simple magic, such powers can swiftly become almost impossible to block or dispel. A character who takes this upgrade may spend another 320 XP (for a total 12,000 GP effective value and +3 CP) on Innate Enchantments and all of his or her powers will be considered Extraordinary, and will not be subject to being dispelled, counterspelled, or cancelled by antimagic unless the effects involved are exceptionally potent. Immunity to Dispelling, Antimagic, and Countermagic (Common, Minor, Major, Specialized in protecting Innate Enchantments only, Corrupted as per this entire power for increased effect (protects against countering effects of less than level eight) (3 CP) – for a grand total of +6 CP.

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One Response

  1. […] abilities for those who have returned from death: Deathly Feats and Spirit Riders (powers bestowed by symbiotic […]

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