Ghostwalk Campaign


A FreshHell to Contend With
Was thinking I'd put this in the project workshop, but this empty forum called out to me. If all goes according to plan the first actual session outside of character generation will be in two days on Tuesday May 20th. If things don't go as planned, well there is a reason I picked the name I did.

When 5e came out I ran my players through Lost Mines of Phandelver, and the Flame Skull in the titular mine hit them with a fireball that killed half the party. They've been terrified of me as a DM ever since. Cut to discussing the next campaign and I mentioned the 3rd ed Ghostwalk campaign setting with the core concept that if you die, you come back a "solid" ghost and keep adventuring. They loved the idea of every character having a built in "extra life".

That resulted in running a campaign based on the Ghostwalk concept in 5e. Real life happened, and that game came to a close. Since then I got tired of 5e; mostly the massive monster stat blocks and having more pages of notes devoted to monster stats than actual content. I've switched gears to a house rule set based on The Black Hack and I've also reworked the unused elements of my original campaign into a point crawl based around the idea Graphite Prime had for running mazes, with three separate "mazes" linked together (

Below is a google drive link to the campaign PDF I've cooked up for my own use at the table, nine actual pages of content packed as densely as I could, with one blank page for formatting, and one handout. (link removed).

So when I wrote up my house rules, I decided to put in a bunch of feat like options instead of stating out various specific races. I expected this would address some of the complaints my players had in 5e regarding why elves couldn't do X, and dwarves couldn't do Y. Instead, when given the option to make their own character race, my three players chose to play as a Battle-Toad Fighter, a Kitsune Rogue, and a Pandaren Ranger respectively. So now I've got a Journey to the West thing going with a pilgrimage to the City of Manifest. Assuming the first session doesn't end in a dumpster fire, this should turn into a weekly game.
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A FreshHell to Contend With
Thanks squeen.
Printed out double sided in my binder, I've got the overview on the first page, followed by two pages spreads for each region. 1st page for each region has the encounter areas of the point crawl, and the 2nd page has the "appendix" for the region with the random encounter tables and the overflow from the encounter areas.
I figure in a few weeks I'll find some flaw with the presentation, but for now it feels like a scab I have to keep telling myself not to pick at.


Should be playing D&D instead
Ghostwalk always stuck me as a really cool idea that was just a little bit short of making you excited for it. Like it would need just a little bit more of something to make GMs and players want to jump into it.
It's a campaign I probably would eagerly have played, but as GM there were always other things higher on my list for games to run.


A FreshHell to Contend With
One thing from the original material that drove me nuts was that they had stats for the land of the dead. The book goes on at length about the Veil of Souls, the portal to the land of the dead, but then ruins the mystery by having the other side be just another adventure location.
A feature I really enjoyed though was the challenge of designing a campaign where I couldn't feature any tombs. In a world where there is a divine incentive to carry your corpse with you when you cross into the land of the dead, I couldn't think of any reason for someone to build one. At the same time, undead are a big feature of the setting, so I had to find ways to put undead into the setting without building tombs around them.


Should be playing D&D instead
Ghosts do often hang around for a good while. Maybe there are places where corpses were meant to be stored temporarily, but for some reason they became forgotten.
People who die may not always be completely aware about the finer details of being a ghost and the local customs that go along with it, so they start wandering off leaving their corpse where it fell. Such abandoned corpses could be collected and stored for safekeeping in case the owner comes back to reclaim it. I believe ghosts can potentially hang around for a very long time, so they would dispose of old corpses only very rarely. Or a ghost might be resurrected with the resurrection spell and the person forgets that there's still an old corpse lying around somewhere.
Or a ghost means to get its body to go to the Veil, but then suffers true death in a fight and goes straight to the afterlife.

There's a number of reasons why corpses get forgotten in some basement.


A FreshHell to Contend With
@Yora So I saw this yesterday, and at the time I thought it wouldn't work. There are three factions in the city; a guild of morticians who own a whole district built around their corpse storage and transport industry, an illegal guild of necromancers who are stealing corpses, and a colony of ghouls in the undercity eating corpses. Having slept on it, I'm finding the idea of having a tomb of mummies walled up in the undercity is speaking to me.
I already had a secret area in the spirit wood, a fresh water source that you needed a guide to lead you too (entry #21 on a d20 table). I'm thinking a walled off tomb of mummies as a secret area to spring on any characters that try to dig through the undercity. Now I just need a secret area for the underdark to complete the set.

So, I started my campaign last night. Started the players in a village 2 weeks away from the city of Manifest, and they decided to try and hitch a ride with a wagon to finish the last leg. Had a sleazy mortician offer them payment on delivery to take a wagon to manifest saying he was short on drivers. They sign on, and 2 days into the trip find out their load of corpses are all plague victims covered in seeping boils. The debate burning the whole wagon and writing if off, but decided to cover the corpses in a layer of dirt to contain them and just drag a heavier wagon at a slower pace.
Once they get to the city they arrive at the tomb yards and straight up tell the guards the wagon is full of plague corpses. For their good behavior I had them sent to get hosed down and scrubbed, and all of their cloth and leather items were burned. The guild paid them for the delivery, which would have been at a loss except they managed to haggle and keep the donkeys that pulled the wagon and get some additional compensation for the wagon. Game ended with them heading to the docks to re-supply, and chasing at the low lantern tavern.

Lessons learned:
1) I had hunting and foraging tables already included, and I was glad to have them with a ranger in the party. However, I changed my original design and had them make WIS checks for success instead of their being a flat chance of not finding anything. I couldn't justify having a player who built their character around the idea of being a hunter not have some advantage in actually hunting.
2) I had some ideas written down for what kind of food you can get in the city, but it was generic to the city itself. When they actually got to the low lantern inn & tavern, I realized that the menu was another way to add character to the place. I'm gonna try and make some short menus for each establishment.


This is interesting to read.

Your city of Manifest write-up is extremely well done.

Ghostwalk was one of my favorite 3.5 source-books. I haven't looked at the book in years. However, one of my regular players actually brought up Ghostwalk recently so it is spooky seeing this thread.

I have a two questions on how you are running this, though.

I remember that there were two classes that seemed pretty much integral to the setting, Eidolon and Eidoloncer. I could be mistaken on exactly how it worked, but I think you would gain a level of these special classes when you died. The effect seemed to be that it really gamified death, giving your character all kinds of interesting abilities and drawbacks if they were a ghost (and therefore, one of these classes.) Did you translate this mechanic to The Black Hack? If so, I am curious how you are doing it in such a rules-light system.

The book also had a set of adventures in it. As I recall, many of them involved some zany plot by the Yuan-Ti to ruin everything for everybody. Are you going to run them? Are they any good?


A FreshHell to Contend With
I did not translate the Eidolon or Eidoloncer material. Since I went with such a rules light system I abstracted it by making ghosts the same as living people, but only in and around manifest (which is where my campaign is limited to anyway). My intent was less to enable special characters options for play as a ghost, but rather to give my players the security blanket that they "could" play as a ghost. All of my players have been treating character death as a "game over", and have been paranoid to the point that play slows to a crawl. Giving them an "extra life" has made them more willing to actually adventure, and has made things more fun.

I did use Yuan-Ti in the previous Ghostwalk campaign I did in 5e. Specifically I had a quest line where a ghost kid had popped up looking for his teddy bear (original idea stolen straight from Baldur's Gate 2). The Yuan-ti were killing kids in the slums, and using their corpses and toys as "symbols of innocence" to cast the illusions they were using to infiltrate the city. The group found the quest to get the kid's teddy bear back, but they put it on their back burner while they sorted out another matter. Said other quest ended with them each getting an obvious monkey paw wish from the avatar of a evil goddess, and one of the characters straight up wished for the teddy bear. So I gave the character the suit of magic leather armor (disguise self on wearer) the yuan-ti made out of the kid and his teddy bear and told them where it came from, with the monkey's paw being the yuan-ti also knew the players had it. The next quest would have been tracking down the yuan-ti in the city, but that campaign ended when one of my player's moved away.

Other than the teddy bear quest, I also had the idea that Yuan-Ti charmed the cook for the city watch so he'd buy their "secret herbs and spices", actual a 5e magic poison from the DMG that dealt damage only at midnight. The hook was the city watch finding guard corpses dead in their beds with no idea what happened to them. Probably would have been sprung after the party started hunting the yuan-ti to step up the threat level. Heck, maybe the poisoned ingredients were just in the market, and you'd get a scenario like the one from the Tim Burton Batman film where people were randomly dying because the Joker poisoned make-up ingredients.

I dropped Yuan-Ti from this campaign as a result of character creation. I had removed races from my house rules and let the players pick two "feats" instead and just declare whatever they were playing. They decided they were all going to be beast people (a battletoad, pandaren, and kitsune respectively). That retroactively introduced the idea that beast people, and their ghosts were normal, and running around in manifest. If I kept the yuan-ti in the setting, did that mean people would harass the toad person PC as a yuan-ti servant? Why was this whole race of snake people inherently villainous when my PCs have established beast people as "normal". Rather than try to figure that out I just took all the evil or persecuted monster races out of the setting (Yuan-ti, troglodytes, mongrelfolk, etc.) and worked around it.