Haunted ones are mortals who share their bodies with strange intelligences of supernatural origin. While technically undead, these disembodied intellects exist only as thought—they cannot directly interact with the world until they find a host willing to share both body and mind.
In essence, a haunted one is two creatures—a living host (almost always a humanoid with at least a modicum of intelligence) and its rider (the unbodied entity). The term “haunted one” specifically refers to the host as influenced by its rider.
While all riders possess their own intelligence and have unique goals and motivations, they are similar enough to present them as related entities. Riders attempt to influence their hosts by disseminating cryptic ideas and motivations among the host’s own thoughts and memories. A rider’s methods of inf luencing its host are subtle yet effective, though ultimately it has no ability to override the host creature. It cannot take control of the host’s body, and throughout the “possession” the host retains its free will.
Instead, the rider can strong-arm its host, much like when casting geas/quest—a host who fails to act upon the rider’s “requests” suffers increasingly adverse physical and mental ailments. These effects can, at their most potent, cause the host permanent damage or even death. Typically, the rider departs after its host perishes, though it is unclear whether the adverse effects are produced to attempt to further sway the host, or as a result of the rider choosing to depart because the host continually disregards its suggestions. Still, being a haunted one is not without some benefits. Haunted ones possess the uncanny ability to recall fantastic amounts of knowledge in areas of study previously unknown to them, often including information beyond the scope of the greatest scholars.
Typically, this knowledge concerns something ancient and occult, forbidden things that most would find horrifying and maddening, which the host feels compelled to seek out and explore. Similarly, riders inherently sense the presence of others like themselves, and often use the host to track their rivals down. While these urges are not inherently beneficial, hosts who appease them begin to develop stronger connections with their riders. As a result, the rider becomes more efficient at transferring greater amounts of lost knowledge to the host.
The circumstances by which a creature can be exposed to an unbodied entity capable of transforming it into a haunted one are numerous, but if the targeted creature wishes to resist the attempt by the rider to invade its mind, the host-to-be can attempt a DC 15 Will save. If the save is successful, the unbodied entity fails to possess the host, and may not try again for 24 hours.
Creating a Haunted One
“Haunted one” is an acquired template that can be added to any corporeal creature of average intellect or better (Intelligence 10 or higher). Typically, the base creature is a humanoid—although other creatures are not unheard of.
Challenge Rating: As base creature +1.
Alignment: All riders have an alignment—most are chaotic, evil, or both. When a host becomes a haunted one, its alignment changes to match the rider’s. Typically, when a host attempts an act out of keeping with this alignment, the rider punishes the host (see “Weaknesses” below).
Weaknesses: A haunted one gains the following weakness.
Haunted (Ex): If at any point a haunted one’s rider spirit feels the haunted one needs “persuasion” to follow its demands, the spirit can inflict 1d6 points of Constitution damage upon the haunted one as a free action, up to once per round. The haunted one can resist this Constitution damage by making a DC 20 Fortitude save—with a successful save, the spirit cannot attempt to harm the haunted one in this manner again for 24 hours.
Special Abilities: A haunted one gains the following four special abilities.
True Lore (Su): Once per day, a haunted one can gain a +20 insight bonus on any Knowledge skill check that it makes, provided that the haunted one possesses at least one skill rank in that Knowledge skill. Every 5 HD possessed by the haunted one grants an additional daily use of this ability.
Vision (Sp): Once a day, a haunted one can use vision as a spell-like ability (Caster Level equals the haunted one’s HD). Every 5 HD possessed by the haunted one grants an additional daily use of this ability.
Skills: Knowledge skills are always class skills for a haunted one.
Abilities: Con +4, Int +2, Wis +2, Cha +2.
Languages: A haunted one gains a bonus language possessed by the rider—unless otherwise specified, this bonus language is Aklo. Additionally, haunted ones possess telepathy with other haunted ones, to a range of 100 feet.
At any time, as a free action, a rider may choose to vacate its host—doing so immediately causes 3d6 points of Constitution and Intelligence drain to the host (DC 20 Fort halves). Once a haunted one’s rider departs, the base creature can never again be the host of a rider, and can thus never again become a haunted one.
An atonement spell cast on a haunted one by a spellcaster of the same alignment that the host had before becoming a haunted one allows the host a new DC 15 Will save to expel the rider, if the haunted one so wishes. In this case, the host loses the template as if the rider had departed the host voluntarily, but does not suffer the ability drain effect.