The premise is simple: the Land of the Dead is a real place, miles beneath the earth, and the spirits of the dead travel there when they cannot or will not leave the world of the living. These souls become ghosts, which aren't the horrific undead monsters of other D&D campaign settings, but are instead a form of playable pseudo-race/pseudo-class that can be player characters.
Written by the infamous Monte Cook, with assistance from buffed bald betamale Sean K. Reynolds, Ghostwalk adds some interesting new concepts and classes to the standard Third Edition roster, while complicating things by allowing the transfer of levels between ghost and living states of being. There are a lot of updates to skills and feats from base 3e that are updated in the sourcebook due to the oddities of Ghostwalk ghosts, and the setting as a whole really does add a lot of weird new things to the Third Edition.
It really does need some more notice and love. I don't know who made this article, but you're a goddamn beautiful bastard for doing it. Going to go dig up my book, you can get a copy from Paizo for like five bucks. There is no reason to not gobble up this sweet ass setting.
- 1 Geography
The World of the Living
The scope of the setting covers a far smaller region than most settings, mostly due to the fact that it was designed to be dropped into any DM's campaign rather than being a full-fledged world all on its own. Still, it packs an unreasonable number of nations, conflicts, and plot hooks into its small region.
The City of Manifest
Located amidst the sea and woods of the Hikirian Peninsula, the City of Manifest is built at the heart of the Land of the Dead. Beneath its sprawling congestion are a series of caves, ready-made for dungeon crawling. These lead to the realm of the Deathwarden Dwarves who guard the Veil of Souls, the gate between the worlds of life and death. The path to the Veil is the titular Ghostwalk.
Above the dwarves is Manifest. Once a simple camp established amidst the woods of the Elvish dead, known as the Spirit Wood, it has become a thriving metropolis built on the trade of the Ghostwalk. Thousands of people around the world send their bodies to Manifest, where they send them through the Veil into the afterlife in the hopes of easing their passing through the afterlife. Others travel to meet ghosts of loved ones taken before their time, to say their goodbyes. And those goodbyes can be long, leading to the gradual growth of the city.
Ghosts are drawn to Manifest, and the Veil of Souls, from all over the world when they die. Within the city's boundaries, they are able to manifest as corporeal entities made out of ectoplasm, able to interact with the world in a shadow of their mortal lives. Outside it, they are intangible and capable of using some illusory abilities. In Ghostwalk, a ghost is simply the soul of the dead waiting to pass on into the afterlife; unintelligent creatures and certain magical sentients like dragons or fey simply pass on to the "True Afterlife" which awaits all souls beyond the Veil.
The Human Nations
- Bazareene: Think Rashemen, if it was ruled by green-eyed femi-Nazis (not to be confused with Feminazis). Native sorcerers rule over ranks of well-fed, well-trained martial fighters, while druids are mocked as the backwater idiot's version of clerics. At the very bottom are wizards, fools without the natural talent to use magic and have to prance around like fools waving their hands and babbling nonsense. While much of the nation is ruled by a pretty tight-fisted dictatorship of women, the barbarians to the south fear the sorcerer-ladies and have fought many wars with them in the past. One of these wars is why sorcerers rule; ancient sorcerers developed spells to transform many unborn children into sorcerers. Male sorcerers are bodyguards of the females. While they supposedly have a very powerful military just waiting to be used, they are more famous for being really, really great cooks.
- Salkiria: The land closest to the city of Manifest, they're the human cultural mecca thanks to the fact that the titular Ghostwalk passes through their lands, bringing vast amounts of trade into contact with their gypsy, gem-mining, dancing and song-obsessed culture. They're the token "good" human nation of the setting, apparently because their last two kings really want to be god-fearing lawful goods despite ruling a nation of chaotic good, tambourine-playing bards. In contrast to Bazareene, Salkiria despises sorcerers and wizards alike thanks to the necromantic studies of former mad kings, while bards and fighters are held in high regard for their role as lorekeeping troubadours and expert "dancing blades" who entertain wandering bands of laboring peasants. Because of all the trade, the Salak language has become the lingua franca of the setting.
- Tereppek: Tereppek is Candlekeep writ large. Sharing territory with the Dwarven monarchy of the Grumnyr Clan, it's a pedocracy, a nation ruled by the young, of wizards, bureaucrats, and well-educated and entirely civilized commoners. It is a nation of former horse-riding nomads turned chair-sitting scholars. Being the most educated civilization around the Ghostwalk, there are no native barbarians in this land. While civilian bureaucrats rule everyday life, Tereppek's true power rests in the hands of its many wizards and other arcane spellcasters (but not sorcerers), who use their magic to defend Tereppek, maintain law and order, and pursue the higher mysteries. Everyone is afraid of Tereppek because they could wipe all the other nations off the face of the world if they wanted to; fortunately for everyone, the people of Tereppek are generally peace-loving, and the only times they've fought wars are when they themselves have been invaded. Basically it would be a civilization of wizardly Mary Sues (thanks Monte Cook), but given the nature of it being a pedocracy, and knowing how most college students operate in close quarters during finals week, it's a powder keg waiting to go off. This is only made worse by the threat of hedonistic sycophants pushing to expand its military presence in Manifest.
- Thurkasia: Once a colony of Salkiria, it is the home of the horse-riding nomad. Or it was, until Salkiria brought civilization to the barbarian hordes. Now ruled by a democratically-elected council of land barons, Thurkasia is unique among the Ghostwalk nations in that dwarves and gnomes have equal status with the majority humans and have barons of their own. The humans of Thurkasia share many cultural quirks with Salkiria, with a special importance placed on traditional songs and dances and an open-hearted and welcoming nature. However, unlike Salkiria, druids have always been held in special esteem as communers with the spirits of nature, and they remain the agents of Thurkasia's religious faith.
- Coil: Everything is snakes. The sky, the ground, the trees, the air itself... Okay, not really, but there are snakes everywhere. It is a demiplane roughly 50 miles long and 30 miles wide, surrounded by a wall of petrified snakes. Snakes grow out of the ground, swim in the lake, and form a mighty river. Every living creature on Coil is either a snake or a snake-like abomination, and the yuan-tiTM live in cities of stone that writhe like snakes. At their heart is Tragaash Daur, a yuan-ti cleric/sorcerer of... Orcus. (Yes, the undead mammalian humanoid Orcus. Why him? Dunno!) Unlike in other settings, it is abominations who rule the yuan-ti castes, and all yuan-ti can create vampire spawn-like slaves through the mingling of yuan-ti and victim blood (funnily enough, both of these would become the status quo for yuan-ti in 5e).
- Sura-Khiri: The besieged forest kingdom of the elves of Ghostwalk, Sura-Khiri has suffered for many long decades from an invasion of yuan-ti from Coil. Thanks to the vagaries of planar dynamics, Sura-Khiri's forests and jungles are the easiest place from which to access the Material Plane from Coil, where everything is infested with snakes and the yuan-ti lack for souls. Now, after many years, the elvish population has dwindled to the point of extinction, and the majority of the population train as fighters, rangers, and rogues. What few elves still bother with magic, which is ineffective against the naturally spell-resistant yuan-ti, tend towards the faster and more battle-ready sorcerer class rather than following the lengthy study of wizardry.
George Romero's Xaphan
Xaphan was once a human kingdom set on a small archipelago just off the coast of the Hikirian Peninsula. Originally known as Inuitea, it was conquered by Orcus, the demon prince of the Undead and the setting's greatest villain. Now it is ruled by a council of vampires and its "inhabitants" are almost exclusively evil undead, with a few human slaves kept around for sport and sacrifice. Xaphan constantly plots to invade Manifest and take control of the portal between life and death, but such plots often take a backseat to vampire politics. The primary import of Xaphan is slaves, and its primary export is undead.
The World of the Dead
Unique among the D&D settings, Ghostwalks establishes a completely separate and unusual Afterlife that can be explored by players and DMs. Beyond the Well of Souls, in what is known as the True Afterlife, the spirits of the dead live a hollow existence reminiscent of their past lives. They lose all memory of this existence and this world upon revival, but so long as they remain they retain their memories of the living world.
Small islands float atop an endless sea, which plunge to unknown depths. These islands are not attached to anything, they merely float atop the water, like a piece of pumice in the bath. Various factions claim control of a series of isles near the Well of Souls, but it is possible to swim out into the ocean and appear next to islands never before known, far from the Well and other beings. Strangely, there are even undead monsters in this world, who somehow smuggled themselves through the City of Manifest to appear in this World of the Dead.
Beings in this world can survive as long as they want. When they are hungry, food appears before them. A pale kind of sunlight pervades during the "daylight" hours, while pitch darkness fills the "night." Only when a soul is tired and ready to move on, to be consumed by Dracanesh, the Eater of the Dead, do they fade and experience true death.
All the standard D&D races are represented, but here we'll list those that are given some unique identity or flavor by the setting.
- Dwarves: They guard the doors to the Land of the Dead.
- Elves: They become one with the Spirit Wood and their ghosts merge into spirit trees.
- Ghosts: Physical beings made up of ectoplasm, which exist in the Material Plane rather than the Ethereal Plane. They are the alignment they were in life, rather than being wholly evil as in other settings, and are preyed upon by other evil undead.
- Yuan-Ti: Extradimensional invaders who come from a demiplane made of snakes. Literally, made of snakes. Like, the sky, the trees, the ground, all snakes. They also lack the right kind of soul to manifest in Manifest, so they hate Manifest and all the ghosts that live there, jealous of their ability to remain in the world after death.
- Vampires: Favored servants of Orcus, god of Undeath.
Ghosts are a special creature type in Ghostwalk. In general, a ghost is any intelligent humanoid who has the strength of will (such as player characters) to remain in the mortal world after death. In their unlife they have specific urges, called ghost traits, that they must indulge in at least once a week or suffer a -1 to attack rolls, saves, and skill and ability checks. Also, if you don't indulge your ghost trait, you must make a Will save against The Calling, the natural impulse of a dead soul to enter the True Afterlife.
- Arboreal Guardian: Exactly what it sounds like. You protect the Spirit Wood of the Elves, and are specifically bonded to a certain tree which gives you bonuses when you're around it. Generally limited to characters with elvish blood.
- Bone Collector: Gain strength by killing undead creatures and using their magically-empowered bones. You can also absorb negative energy attacks and store them for use as a one-time, at-will spell.
- Deathwarden: A member of an elite clan of dwarf warriors who protect the Veil of Souls using their undead-slaying special abilities and their list of magic runes, which can summon a high-level dwarven cleric spirit as in the planar ally spell. Limited to dwarfs.
- Ghost Slayer: A class that specializes in killing ghosts with ghost-harming abilities. You can only join if you're knocked unconscious or failed a saving throw against a ghost's attack.
|The deities of Ghostwalk|
|Good||Durann||Aluvan - Eanius||Soggelos - Wyst|
|Galaedros - Nessek||Tephaneron|
- Ghostwalk Da PDF One of the most obscure campaign sourcebooks is now available, courtesy of /rs/.
- Product Spotlight:Ghostwalk An in-depth interview from when the setting was published.
- Ghostwalk with Sean Reynolds The story of Ghostwalk and how it came to be, along with other information.