Another day with many options. Considered a B/X class first; wrote it on my Dicember scratch sheet of ideas. Started thinking about a bunch of gimmicks and it ended up being pretty neat but also pretty involved and, naturally, of questionable utility and pretty brutal on the DM besides. So I moved on over down the line to doing art, possibly redoing a doodle (an Allip seen here as #3 Undead) from the very earliest days of this blog when Larry Hamilton and Jordan Trager encouraged me to make a blog to house my SummerKnightsDraw artwork. Finally, I settled on a straightforward suite of gimmicks to use and abuse.
Ghost Mechanics for B/X D&D and OSR Games
Becoming A Ghost
Any character who is at least fifth level and dies could become a ghost, with gigantic caveats as follows:
- The DM has to be okay with this, but I presume this is a low bar to hop over or you wouldn’t be here.
- Only until they receive an honorable burial (or equivalent rites).
- Only if they are not otherwise bound to a specific afterlife torment in some way, such as having sold their soul to Satan or trapped at the moment of death in some wizard prison or something awesome like that.
Provided the two above in-universe issues do not apply, the character is fifth level or higher, and the DM is on board, then the fallen PC becomes a ghost for awhile. It’s kind of like how you retire a Fighter after they reach domain level or whenever you feel like and they become an NPC tavern owner or quest patron or whatever, except for dead characters. Their soul remains tethered to this mortal coil by unfinished business and unfulfilled rites, rituals, or requirements related to the treatment of the dead according to their customs.
As a ghost, your dead PC is a spirit who may appear to your new PC and their party if the following is true:
- The DM’s discretion is still big kahuna here.
- The spirit of your dead PC has a vested interest (“unfinished business”) in your quest, e.g. she died trying to clear the reptile cult of Explictica Defilus out of Orlane and surrounds, and Orlane remains so endangered.
- They wish to exchange information gleaned from their vantage as a ghost for a service (likely related to tending to their body, or their family, or their quest, or something similar).
When Can I See My Dead Pal Again?
You may encounter the ghostly apparition of your ex-PC when the DM deems it appropriate, and it will likely be beneficial to the living PCs. Much as many clergymen of the medieval Catholic Church claimed to have seen ghosts and spirits who brought important lessons or information back to living compatriots which had been revealed to them in the Great Beyond, these dead PCs may appear with useful information.
Examples of this would be the ghost appearing in the dungeon where he died, when the rest of the party is confronted with a puzzle later on or perhaps even to forewarn threats or solutions to threats. Suitably thematic “WooooOOOOooo I am the ghost of Erdeleron the Elf… Tarry not on the invisible bridge for I have seen it as a floating apparition and it is super dangerousssssss wooOOOOOO avenge me and pay off my bar tab in townnnnnn WoooooOOOOOOOOO” is appropriate here. You might also see the specter of your dead Elf many adventures later, something like “WoooooOOOOoo I come to you, my former comrades, to warn you of the machinations of devils in the forests south of here, whose actions besmirch the sacred groves of my god, Rillifane Rallithil woooOOOOOO burymybody“.
The catch here is that the spirit will ask you for your aid in exchange. Pay my bar tab. Bury my body. Keep my mom from marrying the suitor who plans to mistreat her and steal our ancestral lands. Kill the lich who killed me instead of getting distracted with a side hustle of domesticating and selling wild horses. And you will be expected to do this. Or else.
Or Else… What?
Those who fail to heed the requests of their fallen allies and party members when receiving important news and hints in exchange shall be harried by increasingly concerned ghost-PCs who may enlist the aid of corporeal or spectral beings of considerable power, all of whom place great importance on the bonds between the living world and dead world and who may be willing to visit violence or otherwise conspire against the living PCs. Don’t pay the bar tab? Your dead buddy convinces a local witch to hex you. Don’t bury your buddy? Her soul drags haunting wraiths out of a graveyard and sets them upon the party to drain levels. Don’t save your pal’s mom from her evil suitor? Angels come to castigate you and it’s not the chill Christmas angels it’s the messed up Biblical deep cut angels with flaming eye-covered wheels and whatnot. You don’t even want to find out what happens if you don’t leave the horses alone and get to work killing that lich already.
And that’s all for this! There’s only a little bit of Dicember left; I hope you make good use of this installment or some of the others. It’s not too late to join in on it with those of us doing it – just start with the 29th or the 30th and put the word out on Twitter or something like that so the rest of us can find our way there. Until then!