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The Art of Being a Monster: Poltergeist


Your weakness is not generally in combat because you can easily leave to engage under more favorable conditions. Resolve your conflicts in ambushes, traps, tricks, and even negotiation.

F: Men at arms are mostly harmless to you and can be safely ignored until and unless they possess magic weaponry. Even then, their attacks will do minimal damage and their direct attacks are easily avoided with your mobility and incorporeality. Slip past them to target greater threats and then destroy them later. Strike from angles they cannot counterattack, the floor, walls, ceilings, and large objects you can hide your form in.

T: Pesky and notoriously hard to pin down but altogether, thieves and rogues are never more than annoyances to you. Your lack of physiology and supreme maneuverability, including the ability to move in and through solid objects, nullifies their specialties of flanking and targeted strikes. Only with magic are they even able to harm you. Their minds and bodies are weak but their reflexes quick, so take them out with charms, poisons, and curses rather than traps.

R: Rangers are easily avoided by hiding in and on the other side of any solid objects. Their attacks, even when magical, will have trouble doing significant harm to you but they will pose a problem at being mobile and staying out of your reach. Surprise them by moving through the ground or ceiling so they cannot track your movements until you spring a trap, curse, or attack on them.

W: Wizards and spell users of all kinds will give you the most trouble, but their magic in most cases is only half as powerful against your incorporeal form as against material foes. Stay mobile so they cannot target you as easily, move through solid objects as well as their allies so the spells they do cast risk harming your other enemies. Close in and deliver direct curses and traps against their typically weak constitutions.

The Unstoppable Sweep of Spirits Presence

You must always keep the continuity of your mind and spirit in mind. Now that you have survived death, through whatever means, the only thing that can keep your goals from you is a lack of will and thought on your part. The most important first step is to unshackle yourself from the details of your birth as a poltergeist, ghast, ghost, or haunt to free yourself from mindless patterns. Once that is done, you should take heed of the advice below, which has stood the test of time with the most influential and accomplished spirits of those too important to die.

  • Protect your ties to the world. Hide your bones and bury them in places heroes and adventurers cannot reach.
  • Break from your expected patterns by mixing up different types of traps, hauntings, and curses that are not usually possible for your species.
  • Make a conspicuous effort to protect all corpses and bones, including ones with no ties to you or your allies.
  • Work on being able to vary your environment and behavior. If you are unable to, hire someone to help you change your binding or provide alternative tactics.
  • Modify your environment and make any terrain you are fixed to as random as possible. Windows should swing open to blow away salt lines. Floorboards should move to break up magic circles.
  • Prepare a contingency to leave your bonded terrain in case you are utterly routed. Never reveal the true limits to your haunt.
  • Keep up a materially bound disguise and try to connect with people, especially hunters of the supernatural, to stay apprised of current technology and tactics.
  • Create and maintain beneficial trade deals with powerful people both near and far to keep a political ally as an ace up your sleeve.

  • Present yourself as a purely pattern driven creature. Only break from that pattern when you are not observed or to utterly rout a foe. Leave no witnesses.
  • Make sure to hire looters and leave rumors of valuables in your haunt. Let a few treasure hunters search the place to find it empty or mostly empty. Sell the supposed treasures yourself to verify that your haunt has been fully plumbed for valuables.

  • Promote a sad backstory for yourself, one with a minorly bad secret you can reveal when pressed. This should hint at an incorrect weakness you have.
  • Find reputable scholars to correspond with via letters to stay on top of the modern winds of change. Utilize this conversation to incorporate technology and magics devised after your death to surprise enemies.
  • Work with other ghosts and spirits to mix up your signature effects and blind-side each other’s’ hunters.
  • Prepare a flashy fake death. A decent treasure hoard will help sell this.
  • Your minions and hirelings should not be immune to your abilities, but you should keep a method in mind to spare them your haunting effects when you need to.
  • Do not allow your lair and haunt to be a place easy to perform rituals in or cast spells near. Invest in magic to modify the weather, temperature, moisture, noise, and terrain to impede spellcasting.
  • Destroy the accessibility of any terrain where you might find yourself in combat. Jam doors, weaken floors, remove stairs, and set up ceilings to be ready to collapse. Anything that your incorporeality leaves you impervious to.
  • Disguise your traps and such with reapplied dust, cobwebs, and scurrying vermin. Raise your own spiders, rats, insects, and bats so you have a constant supply.
  • Low intensity, constant stressors and terrors are better at scaring away and defeating investigators rather than singular, intense stresses. Flickering lights, spooky sounds, and horrific, existential imagery will weaken hunters and get them to make mistakes.
  • Your story should have a plausible and convincing angle of empathy. At best, this will let you free of adventurers that will seek to help you, at worst it may by you enough time to set up your fake death and escape.

With these rituals and behaviors firmly embedded in your routine, your will shall be done. The forces that keep you tied to this world shall strengthen you rather than bind you to weakness.

4 thoughts on “The Art of Being a Monster: Poltergeist

  1. I wrote my own article on incorporal undead here in which I referenced your article to provide counterpoint to mine.


    1. I appreciate seeming someone else’s take on altering the common monster, and I will be stealing that d12 incorporeal undead empowerment table.


      1. Go ahead… But if you do, please make sure to direct people to my blog!


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