I want to make a good-aligned shaman character that deals with ghosts on a friendly and pact-based relationship. However ghosts are described as always being CE undead meanwhile "spirits of the dead" or "spirits of ancestors" are described as helpful allies in the occult oracle mystery and speaker of the past archetype for shaman.

I thought that maybe these spirits do come from the afterlife, but generally it seems from the afterlife lore that souls become outsiders.

Am I missing something here about the lore of spirits, ghosts, undead etc?


Ghost are not evil by default

The ghost in the bestiary is a example of a ghost-templated creature. The template itself does ot change the original creature alignment. To better understand the nature of ghosts, you need to know how ghost are created.

A Ghost is created from the soul of a deceased being that is unable to start the journey to its final destination and become instead tethered to the mortal realm . This can happen due many, many reasons, being the following only a incomplete list:

  • He was killed and wants revenge.
  • He was greedy in extreme and will not allow his possessions being taken by others.
  • He left a task incomplete and cannot rest until it is finished.
  • He is unwilling to accept his own death.

Souls that end in this situation sometimes become ghosts in an attempt to maintain a tenuous hold in the physical world, in order to be able to finish something or satisfy a urge, as well as allowing them to delay his final journey until they are satisfied. As a shaman, you could be bonded to help those souls reach their final fate. This could include ending unfinished quests, bringing murders to justice, etc. Other times, the ghost must be convinced to relinquish his hold of the physical world, be it material possessions, loved ones, or the simple notion of being alive (for those that cannot accept the fact that they are dead).

However, existence as a ghost is alienating to the soul, and many souls become twisted and evil after a continued existence as ghosts, even good ones. Those that died in painful and/or violent ways may become so mentally and spiritually scarred that they can only ease their suffering by inflicting that same suffering on others. Those with unfinished business may end forgetting the very motive that tether their existence to the physical realm, and wander the world in a state of confusion and anger. Those who died with revenge in their hearts may forgot who wronged them and lash out at every living being they encounter. There is as many causes of a ghost becoming evil as there is causes for a soul to become a ghost. As a shaman, when you find one of those pitiful souls, your duties may include preventing them to harm others (as this behaviour only exacerbates the degradation of their existence) as well to trying to give them peace.


Spirits in general are not foes that the PCs will face. Ghosts, as described in the Bestiary, are talking about a subgroup of spirits that will be a foe or a villain against the party. And as with any monster or race described in the Bestiaries, the stats are general guidelines for when the party typically faces such a creature as a foe. They are not strict definitions that must be followed to the letter. It is entirely feasible for a party of adventurers to interact with ghosts, or any creature, that are not evil or not as described in their stat block.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If ghosts are considered undead, would consorting with them even willingly be considered "evil"? How about if my character entered a town full of goody-two-shoes paladins? \$\endgroup\$ – Sabotenderizer Aug 19 '14 at 21:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Sabotenderizer That should probably be a separate question. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Aug 20 '14 at 5:20

Ghost vs Spirit in DnD

Ghosts are usually Undead and can come in a variety of forms from a hamless spirit to the darkes shade.

Spirits can also be a wide variety of things from spirits of elements to fey spirit creatures, to spirits of the dead summon to commune with, but spirits are ususally a life escence and not undead like ghosts

There is not a clear line of demarcation between spirits and ghost, so you will find a lot of overlap. The biggest difference is a ghost is always something that is dead/undead. A ghost is usually trapped from moving on, by a task it must finish, a motivation that keeps it bound, being lost and not kowing to move on, or by necromantic summoning keeping it bound.

  • \$\begingroup\$ With the subject of discussion edited from 'Spirits' to 'sprits of the dead' the answer is simplified by narrowing the topic. A ghost is a trapped spirit of the dead as noted. All Ghosts would be spirits of the dead, but not all spirits of the dead would be ghosts \$\endgroup\$ – Honorlord Aug 20 '14 at 18:53

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