Back in the old days it wasn’t too uncommon to have encounters with “spirits” – “creatures” who usually didn’t possess much actual power, but couldn’t be dealt with by any conventional means. Spirits were annoyances, puzzles, and talking characters who’s conversations couldn’t be interrupted by a crossbow bolt. If you had to placate an angry spirit that was haunting someone, you usually had to find a way to satisfy it; exorcisms and containments were temporary measures at best. Still, most spirits had a rather limited range from whatever was anchoring them to the material world – the site of their death, their treasured sword, or a hated foe. Quite often the simplest way to escape one was to simply leave the immediate area or dispose of the anchoring creature or item. Of course if the anchor was someone that you didn’t want to kill, or an item that you didn’t want to abandon or destroy, you had to fall back on persuasion.
Spirits could reveal secrets, offer guidance, provide warnings, or even offer very (very) minor support if you did something for them – if you took a message to their surviving relatives, rescued their friends before they too died, or found adoptive parents for their children. More importantly, you couldn’t simply use blackmail, torture, mind-probes, or other means to bypass a spirit; you either made a deal or you got along without whatever information it had to supply.
While it may be unkind to imply that the only people who can safely bargain with adventurers are the ones who are already dead, it’s often true.
In those days most characters only occasionally dealt with spirits – but there were always a few spiritualists, shamans, and other specialists who made a routine of it.
Some of them used class-based abilities, some skills, and some specialized spells that linked spirits to them.
Thus, for example, we had an Ancestor or Guardian Spirit associated with a member of the Kwin family. Ancestor spirits are generally effectively third or fourth level; no matter how powerful they are, there’s only so much they can do working through subtle psychic influences.
Yang The Invincible, also known as the Wonderful, the Incomparable, the (Censored), the Barbarian, the Magnificent, the Mass Murderer, the Pillager, the Arsonist, and so on.
Yang was something of an interloper in the clan Kwin family tree; he was a Tsongi horseman / raider instead of a citizen of the Empire. How he got involved with the family doesn’t bear mentioning, but the damage to the village was pretty massive. Yang died about 220 years ago, some ten generations back. He is short and tends to appear in crummy chainmail and stained leather, which matches his greasy hair and general aura of dirt extremely well. He always smells a bit of horses. Yang is loud, crude, and in favor of his descendants getting back to the “basics” or “Three R’s” – Raiding, Raping, and Ravaging. Pillaging, murdering, and going berserk are optional extras, but are nice if they can be managed. Yang’s advice is utterly uninhibited by any notions of being honorable and is often throughly vicious – but it also tends to be crudely practical, very direct, and occasionally quite insightful.
As an Ancestor Spirit Yang possesses several powers:
- Limited telekinesis. He can move small objects within sixty feet of his contact. If it should matter, treat this as Str 2.
- He grants 1d6 extra points of psychic strength to his contact.
- He provides a +1 bonus on his contact’s defense rating (armor class) while present.
- He can “scout” areas from the empyrean (ethereal) plane.
- He can appear to, communicate with, and offer advice to, his contact as desired.
- He can manifest for up to (Contacts Wis/3 + Level) rounds daily while within sixty feet of his contact.
- He can share his senses with his contact with a range of sixty feet.
- He may take limited possession of unresisting subjects – using their body until they either want to do something themselves or want him to leave.
Yang himself was fourth level. He was proficient with light armor and all weapons, knew a bit of unarmed combat, was a good horseman, and possessed several minor psychokinetic knacks – minor pyrokinesis (1d4 damage) and flame control, telekinetic missile control (+2/+2), and a personal force shield. Sadly, he has a psychic strength of a mere six points on his own, which is why he normally works through his contact. His other skills include some ability to evaluate the worth of common kinds of loot, power drinking, and evading pursuit. Finally, his advice on tactics is usually fairly decent. He’s picked up a bit of finesse since he died. (He was jumped by six armed men while he was in bed with someone else’s wife)
Now in first edition there was no problem with a spell that provided long-term special powers for the caster – such as being able to link up with several ancestor spirits. When mages could only learn a very limited number of spells, might never be able to learn particular spells, and obtaining new spells was difficult (making a captured spellbook a great treasure and a spellbook which had original spells in it a legendary treasure) finding a rare spell that offered special powers… worked just fine. In d20 games – where spells of all types are easily available and come in standardized levels of power – that approach doesn’t work properly. To make the same sort of resource-choice mean something we’re going to have to go with Feats – or, in Eclipse, Character points.
Ergo, to get some spirits invest in Leadership with Exotic Type (Spirits), Corrupted/Spirits ONLY and they definitely have minds of their own (6 CP).
That will get you a few spirits working for you.
So what can spirits do in d20?
Well, being nigh-indestructible is hard in d20. About the only way to manage that is not to get involved in the fight to begin with. Ergo, here’s a basic package for Spirits.
- Sanctum/Appropriate Outer Plane (6 CP). Most of a spirits powers – or at least the ones that we’re interested in – only work on the appropriate outer plane where it can manifest itself easily.
- While on an appropriate Outer Plane, a Spirit may maintain a link with some individual or item on the Prime Material – although this must be established through a magical summons or at the moment of death. That’s Mystic Link with Communications II (allows sensory sharing) Power Links, and Transferable, Specialized/may be temporarily disrupted or blocked by exorcisms, spirit wards, and similar effects, involves hallucinations of the character actually being present (9 CP).
- Spirits are pretty safe on their Outer Plane, and need not worry about things like making a living. That’s Privilege/Safe Residence on Alignment Plane (3 CP).
- Spirits are naturally psychic; it comes of being creatures of mind and magical energy – but it’s harder to tap into that when they’re on less cooperative planes. That’s +3d6 Power (6).
- Spirits need not sleep, and are generally available most of the time. That’s Immunity/Sleep (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP).
- All Spirits – or at least the ones we’re interested in – possess Witchcraft II (including three basic witchcraft abilities), with the Summoning, Blessing, and Possession (Specialized for increased effect (minimal cost)/target must be and remain unresisting) advanced abilities. They are, however, bound by the Pact of Souls (they must attempt to recruit descendants for their plane of residence) and Spell Failure (their witchery will not work against characters or areas with spirit wards) (Net 18 CP)
- Spirits can easily recognize their descendants. That’s Occult Sense/Kinfolk (6 CP).
With a net cost of 30 CP we have a +0 ECL race/+1 ECL Template. That will come out of their assigned levels of course.
That package… allows them to use witchcraft powers on their “anchor” with ease and to spend a 3 Power surcharge to use witchery in the immediate vicinity of their anchor. While each spirits powers will vary, some can lend their anchor strength and healing, others can assault targets in the vicinity with pyrokinesis, some can whisper suggestions, or use illusions to “manifest”, and so on. Their very limited psychic strength will keep them from doing too much of that sort of thing – but they can still be pretty versatile. If they specialize minor telekinetic powers properly they can even play at animating “zombies” – or at least using corpses and puppets.
Spirits can serve as mentors, training partners, or aides, can possess small, properly trained animals, consulting experts, or scouts. As their anchors power increases their effective levels will go up – and their abilities will increase.
Is this “Balanced”? It will give you access to a fair amount of Witchcraft rather cheaply and it makes your followers pretty nearly indestructible.
Of course, there are lots of ways to arrange that. If you’re willing to allow the use of Leadership, this is hardly the most abusive way to use it.