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Ghosts were the souls of a deceased sentient creature that had been bound to haunt a specific area, object, or creature that held significance to them when they were alive.[1]

Often this state of existence was because of a soul having been horrendously evil in life,[5][6][7] their deaths being tremendously emotional, being denied a proper burial,[5][6] or because they had unfinished business.[1]


These spirits typically resembled how they had in life. However, some ghosts had an altered appearance due to the nature of their demise. Others were known to be capable of changing their appearance to suit their current disposition.[3][2] Often this altered appearance was due to the alignment they had in life.[3]


A ghost's behavior was typically similar to the personality they had in life.[3] But in some cases, their personalities were altered by the process of death.[2]

The "unfinished business" that drove ghosts varied widely. Some might seek to fulfill an oath, others to relay a message to a loved one, while some might simply desire to have their death avenged.[1] They also tended to get enraged whenever items their bodies were buried with were stolen and would stop at nothing to get them back.[3]

Evil-aligned ghosts were said to hate goodness and all forms of life,[3][5][6][7] being driven by a sense of wickedness and spite.[1] As well as a desire to end the lives of other creatures,[3][5][6][7] in particular those responsible for or connected to its death.[1]

Sometimes ghosts were unaware that they had died and thus would continually act out the daily routine they had in life.[1] Sometimes ghosts only had fragmented memories of their life.[2]



Being a form of undead, ghosts had no need for the air, food, drink, or sleep that they formerly required in life. They moved about by flying. Having incorporeal bodies, they could pass through solid objects.[1] Some were known to use this phasing ability to surprise enemies.[2] When moving they made no noise.[8]

Benign Powers[]

  • Ethereal: Ghosts were capable of phasing between the Ethereal Plane and the Prime Material plane.[1][7] They could also see 60 feet (18 meters) into one plane whilst standing in the other.[1] Even when manifested on the Prime Material, a ghost was still partially within the Ethereal plane.[3]
  • Incorporeal (Spells): Ghosts were resistant to all spells based around acid, fire, lightning, and thunder. They were also immune to spells based around cold, necrotic energy, or poison.[1] Prior to the Spellplague, it was impossible to harm them with spells of any kind unless one was in an ethereal state.[5][6][7]
  • Incorporeal (Weapons): When it came to weapons, ghosts could only be harmed by those that were enchanted,[1] made of silver,[5][6][7] or had the ghost touch property.[9] They could also be harmed by holy water while in their semi-material form.[5][6] Many also had some form of weakness tied to their former life — the ghost of a tortured person could be harmed by the implements that had been used to torture them.[1]
  • Putting to Rest: However, some ghosts were so strongly tied to the Prime Material that they would always reform a few days following being destroyed by any of the aforementioned means.[2][3] Thus, the only surefire way to permanently rid an area of a ghost was by resolving the spirit's unfinished business.[1][2]

Prior to the Spellplague, humans and demihumans killed by a ghost typically remained dead permanently,[7] due to having had all their life-essence drained out of them.[5][6]

Occasionally ghosts in the Realms were capable of causing all magical items within 60 feet (18 meters) of them to glow with a cold, white radiance.[10]

Offensive Powers[]

  • Horrifying Visage: These undead spirits exuded a supernatural sense of fear in all non-undead creatures within 60 feet (18 meters) of them. This sense of fear caused creatures to flee and sometimes the fear would be so great that their bodies would age by ten to forty years.[3][1][5][6][7][11] As this fear was supernaturally provoked, even the most courageous of creatures could be affected.[5][6] This aging effect could be reversed with greater restoration, but only if done within twenty-four hours.[1]
  • Possession: Ghosts were capable of possessing the body of any humanoid that they could see within 5 feet (1.5 meters) of them. Doing so made the creature incapacitated and fully under the control of the spirit. Besides killing the possessed, a ghost could be expelled from their body by means of the spells turn undead or dispel evil and good. Once free, it was impossible for a creature to be possessed by a ghost for the following twenty-four hours.[1]
  • Magic Jar: Prior to the Spellplague, ghosts were more well known to use an ability similar to the spell magic jar on victims within 60 yards (55 meters) of them rather than possession.[3][5][6][7][11]
  • Moan of Fear: Prior to the Spellplague, many ghosts were capable of emitting a moan that provoked a fear effect in living creatures.[3]
  • Telekinesis: Prior to the Spellplague, some ghosts were known to be capable of a form of telekinesis.[3]
  • Touch: Their most direct offensive ability was a sort of withering touch that imparted necrotic energy onto a target.[1][2][11] Alternatively, some ghosts possessed a touch that would drain creatures of their life energy, much like a wraith.[10]


Anything they possessed when they manifested was ethereal, possessing the ghost touch property. These were often things they were buried with.[3][8] If someone were to take the original material item that a ghost's copy was based on, then the ethereal copy would fade away.[3]


A ghost dragon and a doomsphere.



Ghosts were known to occur in any type of region,[5][6] but they were most often found haunting areas at night.[5][6][7] Ghosts typically were tied to and haunted the area in which they died, though there were a few mobile forces of them.[17] Sailors who died out at sea alongside their vessel could potentially manifest upon an incorporeal reflection of it.[18]

Places haunted by ghosts tended to emanate sensations of profound sadness, loneliness, and unfulfilled desires. Haunted locations often had certain areas where there were strange noises, an unnatural silence, an unnatural feeling of cold, or inanimate objects moving around. Though such manifestations would be due to the ghost's presence, the spirit did not intentionally manifest them and it had no control over them.[1]

In Cormanthyr, the ghosts of many elves and dwarves haunted the ruins of the Old Elven Court.[19]

Unusually for a non-abandoned city, ghosts were a somewhat common sight in Velen.[20]

Besides the Prime Material plane, ghosts were often known to be found in the Shadowfell,[21] including the Domains of Dread, such as Barovia.[22]


Like many types of undead, ghosts knew all languages that they had known in life.[1]


A ghost could be controlled by wizards, sorcerers, liches, etc. In this case, the ghost was finally put to rest when destroyed on the material plane or the master of the ghost died. This was usually uncommon though, because to raise a ghost used a lot more magic than raising a regular undead.[citation needed]

Some ghosts were willing to work with or for other creatures if they believed that doing so could help them achieve their desires. They were often seen in the company of flameskulls, larva mages, rot harbingers, and spectres.[2]

Besides mere creatures, some ghosts acted as servants of deities, such as Kiaransalee.[23] The ghosts of diligent priests of Moradin were said to haunt certain trails, old abandoned delves, and mountain passes — in these places they would appear before lost dwarves or the allies of dwarves, especially during harsh weather, and guide them along a safe route to either their destination or some form of refuge.[24]

Notable Ghosts[]


  • The Church of Myrkul believed that annually, unseen ghosts rose from the essences of all dead bodies on the Day of the Dead and then sought out their ancestors. They believed that these ghosts would then deliver a message or warning through some non-verbal means, or just simply observe.[28]


See Also[]


Nightmare KeepDungeon #29, "'Til Death Do Us Part"Dungeon #30, "Elminster's Back Door"Undermountain: Maddgoth's CastleDungeon #67, "Witches' Brew"Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth DrannorIcewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden
Murder in CormyrThe Ring of WinterThe PaladinsThe Glass PrisonSentinelspireThe Haunted Lands (Unclean, Undead)
Referenced only
An Opportunity for Profit
Comic Books
Referenced only
The Forbidden Sands of Anauroch (#2)
Video Games
Icewind DaleIcewind Dale: Trials of the LuremasterPool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth DrannorBaldur's Gate: Dark AllianceBaldur's Gate: Dark Alliance II
Card Games
AD&D Trading CardsDragonfire (Sword Mountains Crypt)
Board Games
Mertwig's MazeFaerûn Under SiegeTyrants of the Underdark: Aberrations and UndeadDungeons & Dragons Adventure Begins
Organized Play & Licensed Adventures
Mystery of Deepwater HarborConfrontation at CandlekeepUnusual OppositionA Fool's Errand


Further Reading[]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins (2014-09-30). Monster Manual 5th edition. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 147. ISBN 978-0786965614.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Mike Mearls, Stephen Schubert, James Wyatt (June 2008). Monster Manual 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 116–117. ISBN 978-0-7869-4852-9.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 116–118. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
  4. James Wyatt (October 2001). Oriental Adventures (3rd edition). (Wizards of the Coast), p. 145. ISBN 0-7869-2015-7.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 David "Zeb" Cook et al. (1989). Monstrous Compendium Volume One. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-8803-8738-6.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), p. 130. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 Gary Gygax (December 1977). Monster Manual, 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 43. ISBN 0-935696-00-8.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Andy Collins, Bruce R. Cordell (October 2004). Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 144. ISBN 0-7869-3433-6.
  9. Andy Collins, Bruce R. Cordell (October 2004). Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 20. ISBN 0-7869-3433-6.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 James Wyatt and Rob Heinsoo (February 2001). Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 88. ISBN 0-7869-1832-2.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Andy Collins, Bruce R. Cordell (October 2004). Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 146. ISBN 0-7869-3433-6.
  12. Andy Collins, Bruce R. Cordell (October 2004). Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 101–103. ISBN 0-7869-3433-6.
  13. Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, David Eckelberry, Rich Redman (February 2003). Savage Species. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 118. ISBN 0-7869-2648-1.
  14. Wolfgang Baur, Steve Kurtz (1992). Monstrous Compendium Al-Qadim Appendix. (TSR, Inc). ISBN l-56076-370-1.
  15. James Wyatt (September 2002). City of the Spider Queen. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 126–127. ISBN 0-7869-1212-X.
  16. John Nephew and Jonathan Tweet (April 1992). City of Gold. (TSR, Inc), p. 80. ISBN 978-1560763222.
  17. Ed Greenwood, The Hooded One (2011-07-11). Questions for Ed Greenwood (2011). Candlekeep Forum. Retrieved on 2021-08-09.
  18. Mike Mearls, Kate Welch (May 2019). Ghosts of Saltmarsh. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 210. ISBN 978-0-7869-6686-8.
  19. Steven E. Schend and Kevin Melka (1998). Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves. (TSR, Inc), p. 107. ISBN 0-7069-0761-4.
  20. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 191. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  21. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 65, 69. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  22. Christopher Perkins, Tracy Hickman, Laura Hickman (March 2016). Curse of Strahd. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 5, 30. ISBN 978-0-7869-6598-4.
  23. Eric L. Boyd (November 1998). Demihuman Deities. Edited by Julia Martin. (TSR, Inc.), p. 24. ISBN 0-7869-1239-1.
  24. Eric L. Boyd (November 1998). Demihuman Deities. Edited by Julia Martin. (TSR, Inc.), p. 78. ISBN 0-7869-1239-1.
  25. Chet Williamson (July 1998). Murder in Cormyr. (TSR, Inc.), chaps. 1, 32, pp. 2–4, 213–214. ISBN 0-7869-0486-0.
  26. Stormfront Studios (2001). Designed by Mark Buchignani, Ken Eklund, Sarah W. Stocker. Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor. Ubisoft Entertainment.
  27. Christopher Perkins (September 2020). Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 70. ISBN 978-0786966981.
  28. Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc.), p. 126. ISBN 978-0786903849.