Every time a dwelling is finished, a new spirit comes to claim it as their own. If the building stands on its own, the spirit will keep its dominion and, depending on its nature, may offer either assistance or threats to the house’s inhabitants. If the house is part of a larger grouping, however, the existing spirit of the community will slowly expand its influence to include the new building, subsuming the smaller spirit in the process.
In the case of two new dwellings built next to each other, one of three things may happen. The first is that both spirits keep to themselves, as neither wants to risk being subsumed. The second is that one spirit is more powerful than the other, and takes over both houses. This can be either forcefully without the other spirit’s consent (in the case of an evil spirit), as a service to the other spirit and the inhabitants of its dwelling (for a good spirit), or simply as a matter of necessity (neutral spirits). The third case is when the spirits use their people to decide. Lawful or good spirits commonly use diplomacy to work out deals between the houses and spirits that benefit all; evil spirits will use sabotage, trickery, and outright murder to undermine the other spirit’s strength; chaotic spirits often use methods that are a competition of some kind, which can vary from a simple running race around both houses to ritualistic duels. Neutral spirits can use any of the above.
The size of a spirit has an effect on how many different traits its people may embody. Small spirits may only be known for a single quirk, whether that be nervousness, sadism, kindheartedness, or something else; while a small spirit does have a full personality, it is limited to expressing its strongest trait through its people. Larger spirits are more powerful, and all of their traits are similarly greater in scope. Because of this, their lesser traits can be strong enough to be embodied by an inhabitant of the larger spirit’s town. Of course, the inhabitant in question still inherits the spirit’s dominant trait as well, though in a reduced capacity.
The spirits have no physical body whatsoever, and are creatures of thought and emotion alone. This is why they are “tuned” to their people – in a short-lived race like humans, thoughts and feelings are much more intense, and tend to bleed over into the spirits. Those who care for settlements other than human exhibit much less variation in temperament, as their centuries-long vigil has turned them almost completely into a member of the species they watch.
As truly incorporeal creatures, no mundane nor magical method of detection can cause a spirit to become visible. The see invisibility spell has no effect on spirits as they are not actually invisible, and a true seeing spell reveals only a faint glow encompassing the spirit’s area of influence. Some spirits work around the restriction of not having a body – Strom of Yarad Crossing has had a specially prepared steel golem built so that he may walk the streets of his town, and the people of Tanoi’s Caravan carry her from place to place.
Because they are creatures of thought, there is no known way to resurrect a spirit that has died. In death, a spirit returns to wherever it came from, leaving nothing behind. This includes divine powers granted to clerics that worshipped the spirit, and any magical effects that the spirit put into place. These effects include such things as the continual flame spell in the town square of Sparks Hill, and the enchantments granted to the soil of nearby farms – the current harvest will still benefit from the magic, but any after that will be simply the fruit of the land itself.
There are two known ways to destroy a spirit – the first is the spell created by ancient sorcerers, jealous of the spirits’ hold over the people and seeking a way to “free” them, whether they wanted it or not; the second is simply time. A spirit starved of the life force it needs to survive will grow smaller and smaller, its powers waning along with its visible presence, until eventually it reaches a point where it can no longer affect anything in the world around it. A spirit in this state is pitiful to behold, as the only thing it can do is cry, plead, or rage impotently – while shrinking into oblivion.
Fortunately, neither of these happen often any more – the spell has been lost to the mists of time (although recently recovered and accidentally used by a wizard in Kwona), and the small spirits work together to keep each other alive, no matter what their differences (sort of a mutual non-extinction pact).
The spirits live in a world that has only a tenuous connection to our own. The life energy of intelligent beings thins the barrier, and allows the spirits an existence that is more strongly tied with this world. In addition, the spirits gain their own energy from having intelligent life nearby. The more lives, the stronger the spirit. Partaking of the energy of the people is not without its dangers, though, as the energy is never entirely pure of thought, deed, and intent. The spirits, creating their energy from that which is provided, cannot reduce these “flavours” from their sustenance, and so gradually change to become like the people they watch over.
More will be revealed when adventurers travel to the world of the spirits. This does not necessarily mean the players, but it’d certainly be more exciting if they were the first.
Many corporeal undead (zombies, ghouls, skeletons, etc) are created when a spirit takes over the corpse of a deceased creature or person. These are still mostly evil, but unlike traditional undead who are evil because they have no higher brain functions, the controlled undead are evil because of the spirits inhabiting them.
Taking over a dead body is often only used as a last resort, as once a spirit has taken control they are unable to extricate themselves, and must continue to live inside their fleshy prison forevermore. The only release that can be gained is if the body is destroyed. This greatly weakens the spirit (which in many cases was not strong to begin with), usually resulting in the death of the spirit as well.
By the time they become desperate enough to inhabit the dead, some spirits have gone mad with hunger. As a rough fraction, one in four behave like regular mindless undead – intent on spilling the lifeblood of living creatures, no matter the cost. The rest usually hide near inhabited areas and attack travellers or residents, killing them and feeding directly from their life-force. As time passes, these “hunting” undead become fearful and paranoid from subsisting on the emotions of murder victims.
On rare occasions, a more powerful spirit may animate the bodies of a number of creatures at the same time. The swarms of undead created in this fashion are almost exactly like regular undead, because the spirit is spread so thin that it has only rudimentary control over each individual creature. However, as each creature is destroyed, the remaining undead divide the spirit’s attention between them. If only a few are left, the spirit’s will is strong enough to control those in a less mindless fashion, and they will start to employ tactics other than “hit the nearest foe until it stops moving”.
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