The typical ghost is a nightmarish creature of dark emotion, with an undying thirst for justice or vengeance.
These ghosts are often warped by deep emotional turmoil, madness, or contact with the dark radiations of the Negative Energy Plane—sometimes all three. But such twisted, tormented creatures are not the only spirits that cling to traces of their former lives on the Material Plane.
There is another kind of ghost, just as dedicated, but more rational and often more subtle.
As a soul departs a body, it joins the great River of Souls winding its way through the Astral Plane and passes on to judgment in the Outer Planes. Sometimes such a soul, through force of will or an unquenchable desire to accomplish one last act, forces its way back to the Material Plane as a prana ghost. Formed entirely of vital life essence, or prana, this manifest spirit is not an undead creature, but rather something entirely different, though undead that gorge on life energy are drawn to the glut of prana that composes a prana ghost like scavengers to a fresh corpse. Though easily mistaken for the undead spirits they resemble, prana ghosts function very differently from normal ghosts, haunts, and other incorporeal undead.
Unlike the raging etheric ghost, a prana ghost tends to avoid worldly affairs when it can. It acts as mentor and guide to the living rather than acting overtly. These ghosts exude a supernatural calm and exhibit great control over their emotions and desires, wishing only to accomplish the task at hand, and to do so as quickly and as safely as possible. Even so, when victory (or failure) looms, a reckless prana ghost may attempt to take matters into its own hands.
Such an intervention can be a great surprise to those who had no idea a supernatural entity was pulling the strings of their agents and allies. Among virtuous creatures who were unaware of the aid they were receiving, the prana ghost’s appearance might lead to violence if the prana ghost can’t convince them it isn’t undead.
Once a prana ghost succeeds at its task, or its failure becomes clear, it dissipates from the world and reenters the Astral Plane. Many prana ghosts then resume their passage toward the Outer Planes, but a few dwell on the Astral Plane for centuries, if not millennia. Such prana ghosts often plot a reversal of personal fortunes, or the fortunes of their progeny or those of friends and allies.
Others linger because they are not yet ready to reach their final fate.
Usually, prana ghosts are more helpful and less malicious than their ethereal cousins, but not always. A creature doesn’t need to have led a virtuous or enlightened life to achieve the state—it needs only the necessary force of will to slip the chains of death, and a willingness to accept whatever consequences its soul might have to endure for refusing to face judgment at the appointed time. The souls of evil creatures seeking final vengeance can be just as willful as those with righteous goals, for selfishness can drive a soul to cling to mortal existence as strongly as more noble motivations.
“Prana ghost” is an acquired template that can be added to any living creature with Intelligence and Wisdom scores of at least 6 (referred to hereafter as the base creature). A prana ghost retains all of the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
Challenge Rating: Base creature’s CR + 1.
Armor Class: A prana ghost gains a deflection bonus to AC equal to its Wisdom modifier instead of the Charisma-based bonus the incorporeal ability normally provides. It loses the base creature’s armor bonus, as well as all armor and shield bonuses that don’t come from force effects or ghost touch items.
Defensive Abilities: A prana ghost retains all of the defensive abilities of the base creature save those that rely on a corporeal form to function. Prana ghosts gain darkvision to a range of 60 feet, the incorporeal ability, and the rejuvenation ability.
Prana ghosts are immune to dazing, disease, exhaustion, fatigue, paralysis, poison, sleep effects, and stunning, as well as all effects that require a corporeal body. They are not subject to nonlethal damage.
A prana ghost doesn’t risk death from damage, but instead immediately dissipates when its hit point total drops to a negative amount equal to its Constitution score.
In most cases, it is difficult to dissipate a prana ghost through simple combat; the prana ghost restores itself in 2d4 days. Generally, the only way to permanently dissipate a prana ghost is to help it complete its mission or to make the mission impossible to complete, after which the prana ghost continues its path to the afterlife.
Weaknesses: A prana ghost gains the following weakness.
A prana ghost is made entirely of life essence, so it is vulnerable to effects that snuff life essence out. A prana ghost takes half again as much damage (+50%) from negative energy effects and death effects that deal damage, half again as many negative levels from negative energy effects that inflict negative levels, and half again as much Constitution damage and drain from negative energy effects (such as a wraith’s touch). If a prana ghost dissipates from such an effect, it takes twice as long for it to restore itself via rejuvenation.
Speed: Prana ghosts lose their previous speeds and gain a fly speed of 30 feet (perfect) unless the base creature has a higher fly speed. They also gain the astral step ability.
Attacks: A prana ghost keeps the base creature’s natural and unarmed attacks. These attacks automatically count as if they had the ghost touch property and add the prana ghost’s Wisdom bonus to damage rolls (or 1/2 its Wisdom bonus for off-hand attacks and secondary weapons, but no additional damage for single primary natural attacks or the like). If the creature could wield weapons in life, it can wield ghost touch weapons as a prana ghost.
Special Attacks: A prana ghost gains the following melee attack.
With a touch, a prana ghost can deal 1d6 points of damage, and the creature touched must succeed at a Will saving throw (DC = 10 + 1/2 the prana ghost’s Hit Dice + the prana ghost’s Wisdom modifier) or be dazed for 1 round.
Skills: Prana ghosts have a +8 racial bonus on Perception, Sense Motive, and Stealth skill checks. A prana ghost always treats Acrobatics, Bluff, Craft, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge (planes), Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth, and Use Magic Device as class skills. Otherwise, class skills are the same as the base creature.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Occult Bestiary © 2015, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Josh Colon, John Compton, Paris Crenshaw, Adam Daigle, Eleanor Ferron, James Jacobs, Joe Homes, Mikko Kallio, Mike Kimmel, Ron Lundeen, Kate Marshall, Kalervo Oikarinen, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, and F. Wesley Schneider.