6
\$\begingroup\$

As can be seen in this related question, a ghost does not gain access to PC spellcasting class features when using its Possession ability.

What if the ghost were to possess an NPC humanoid with spellcasting abilities, for example, a priest (monster manual p.348)? Would the ghost be able to cast the possessed humanoid's spells?

\$\endgroup\$
11
\$\begingroup\$

The rules on this matter are subject to some level of interpretation. Since ghosts and possessed monsters are usually both controlled by the DM it is perfectly reasonable to just make a ruling on what makes more sense for the group/setting (or simply what is more fun) rather than going with a RAW interpretation (except, perhaps, for the section on armor).

That said, let's check what the rules are on what the ghost does or does not get access to during a possession (all emphasis mine):

The ghost now controls the body but doesn’t deprive the target of awareness. The ghost can't be targeted by any attack, spell, or other effect, except ones that turn undead, and it retains its alignment, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and immunity to being charmed and frightened. It otherwise uses the possessed target's statistics, but doesn't gain access to the target's knowledge, class features, or proficiencies.

More relevant to this question are the monster statistics called "Special Traits", which in general the ghost has access to and include monster spellcasting. Both the section in the monster manual (p. 10) and the 5e SRD have detailed the following sub-sections on spellcasting:

Innate Spellcasting

Short answer: Yes, might depend on the DM (I would personally allow it) but see the section on armor below.

This is simply a special ability the monster is able to use that happens to involve the casting of a spell.

A monster with the innate ability to cast spells has the Innate Spellcasting special trait. (MM p.10)

An argument could certainly be made that the ghost might not "know" how to perform the specific components of a spell, and while a DM may rule so I would personally disagree. After all an "innate" ability suggests that it is naturally a part of the creature itself. The ghost similarly does not really "know" how to use any other ability or action that it does not already possess (see, for example, a werewolf's shapechange or the half-dragon's dragon's breath).

Spellcasting

Short answer: No

This is a matter that might be more problematic since the sections in the monster manual and SRD are slightly different (all emphasis mine):

A monster with the Spellcasting class feature has a spellcaster level and spell slots, which it uses to cast its spells of 1st level and higher (as explained in the Player's Handbook) (MM p.10)

A monster with the Spellcasting special trait has a spellcaster level and spell slots, which it uses to cast its spells of 1st level and higher (as explained in the Player’s Handbook). (5e SRD p.258)

This means that spellcasting for monsters is a "class feature" according to the monster manual (no word on this was found in the MM errata), automatically excluding it from the list of traits that a ghost would get access to. However, according to the SRD it is simply a "special trait" which should be further considered. Regardless, both entries point to the Player's Hanbook for the rules on known or prepared spellcasting which state, among other things

Before a spellcaster can use a spell, he or she must have the spell firmly fixed in mind, or must have access to the spell in a magic item. (PHB p. 201, emphasis mine)

The ghost is only controlling the possessed creature's body (see quote above) and not its mind so even if you want to go with the SRD entry and call it a special trait, casting known or prepared spells would not be possible for the ghost.

Do note that going by the SRD interpretation the ghost still gets access to the creature's spell slots, which it can use for other purposes (for example, the Priest's Divine Eminence ability.)

Psionics

Short answer: No

A monster that casts spells using only the power of its mind has the psionics tag added to its Spellcasting or Innate Spellcasting special trait. (MM p.10, emphasis mine)

Again, the ghost is only controlling the victim's body and not its mind so casting spells with the power of its mind would not make sense.

Armor

Regardless of the specific way of spellcasting, something that might be easy to overlook is the fact that a possessing ghost also gets the target's equipment (part of the statistics). With no default equipment of its own a ghost usually has no armor (or weapon) proficiences, though a DM might want to grant it. This causes a ghost possessing a creature wearing armor (such as the priest which has a chain shirt) to be subject to the rules on wearing armor without proficiency:

If you wear armor that you lack proficiency with, you have disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll that involves Strength or Dexterity, and you can't cast spells. (PHB p. 144, emphasis mine)

This stops the ghost from casting any kind of spell unless it gets rid of the armor (see the table on PHB p.246 for how long that would take).

\$\endgroup\$
3
  • \$\begingroup\$ What if a sorcerer's ghost possessed a sorcerer? Since the ghost would know how to use a sorcerer's body to cast spells, would they be able to cast in that case, whereas a commoner's ghost would not? \$\endgroup\$
    – Icyfire
    Jan 21 '18 at 7:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Icyfire The Sorcerer is the one that casts the spells, not the ghost. They still have spells known that the possessor does not, or atleast I imagine thats how it works. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jihelu
    Jan 21 '18 at 8:59
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Icyfire I'd say that falls under the part where I mentioned "the ghost still gets access to the creature's spell slots, which it can use for other purposes" if a DM rules that the sorcerer's ghost still remembers its own spells and only needs a body with access to spell slots to cast them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Jan 21 '18 at 10:28
3
\$\begingroup\$

I don't see why possession of an NPC would work any differently from possession of PC. In either case, I would expect the ghost "retains its alignment, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and immunity to being charmed and frightened. It otherwise uses the possessed target's statistics, but doesn't gain access to the target's knowledge, class features, or proficiencies".

Racial abilities of the possessed person would vary, depending on the source of the ability. Abilities that are physical in nature (e.g. aarakocra flight, triton waterbreathing, darkvision) would be accessible to the ghost by controlling the body. Abilities that are not physical in nature (e.g. halfling luck, racial spells, clockmaking) would not be.

Armor proficiency seems to me to be an edge case -- it's mostly physical muscle memory, but also a class feature. I could see that being argued either way.

\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.