Haunted By Ghosts
I figure there’s a 98.3% chance that Jed’s player is going to metaphorically tackle me, sometime over the next few weeks, and start asking lots of pointed questions about undead in general, and ghosts in specific, while shaking his Research skill in a menacing manner. So, I’m a-gonna head ‘im off at the pass.
It has been mention many times that there’s something about the New World that causes the dead to be… frisky. The people of Tembladera keep a continual watch over their cemetery, both to keep out those who would steal the bodies, and to keep in any bodies that try to steal themselves. During the trip when Alric picked up Dobby, and Dobby killed a bunch of his former comrades, the party left a bunch of goblin corpses behind; the next time they checked, they found a bunch of goblin zombies. Mongo went down the hole. Zomb-Mongo came back.
There are forces that can keep a corpse in its grave, including the divine powers of clerics and holy warriors. Short of those, though, you can’t be sure any thinking creature is going to stay dead, unless it’s burnt to ashes, or comes back and gets itself killed a second time.
Speaking of which: that ghoul couldn’t have actually been Gort, since Gort was killed by TKotBO. When TKotBO puts a critter down, that critter stays down. It’s one of the promises Saturn made him. Most likely, it was one of the other goblins who died in the same fight, turned ghoul, and it was just Jed’s guilty conscience that made him think it was Gort. (Guilty conscience, and those cheap goblin cigarettes without any tax stamps that he’s been getting.) Seriously, when you’re looking through a magically-transparent door into a dimly-lit room, one half-decayed goblin with his face pressed up against the door looks much like another. And, of course, after they opened the door, identification would be a question of dental records.
Sometimes, a corpse will lie quiet for a long time. That’s where you get wandering skeletons. Sometimes, they’ll re-animate earlier, and then you get random zombies and ghouls. But, every once in a rare while, the conditions are right to get other kinds of undead…
For instance, ghosts. When a thinking being dies in the throes of obsession, that being can come back as a ghost. Since they don’t need a body to re-animate, this can even happen if the corpse is entirely destroyed. According to the sages, ghosts are manifestations of pure willpower. The need to get the job done, whatever that job was, drives them to action. The lack of a physical body generally makes it impossible to finish the job. Madness follows in short order. But, in madness, the ghost’s will to perform its impossible task grows even stronger.
Thus, the usual progression is that a new ghost will start off very weak. They can only manifest themselves for short periods of time, and only in the most minor of ways. For the most part, they’re limited to frightening people. As time goes on, and their will sharpens, they gain other powers. Some can possess the bodies of the living. Older, more powerful ghosts can move physical objects with their minds. A ghost can be kept at bay through faith, but only an exorcism can put them to rest without fulfilling their obsession. Luckily, they are always quite attached to their place of death, and so they don’t usually chase those who flee from them.
An adventuring party without a cleric or holy warrior would be wise to avoid any ghosts they encounter. A young, weak ghost is little more than a nuisance, but an older and more subtle one can cause all manner of trouble. That said, even a party without a cleric can put a ghost to rest. There are documented cases where a ghost was put down by the fulfillment of their final mission.