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RPG Adventure Hook: The Dis-Possessed

12 Minute Read
Dec 15 2016
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This week: a pair of exorcists, an ancient ghost-king, and a ruined empire. Bustin’ makes everyone feel good.

The room is dark and quiet. A chill hangs in the air like an empty noose. On the bed, the figure looks up with pleading eyes. There is fear in them for a moment, then, an ancient malevolence takes over, glaring out with disdain. “We trapped the spirit here…” the older of the pair explains. His companion busily chants and casts salt about. “It is unable to flee, but our meager magics are not enough to drive it off. We were hoping you could help…”

This adventure hook can be used for players at any level. Just follow the guidelines listed below for level-appropriate encounters.

An itinerant exorcist approaches the PCs while they’re in town. He and his partner have been on the trail of an ancient spirit and have cornered it… but, like the dog who finally catches the wagon, now that they’ve trapped it, they’re left wondering now what. That’s where the PCs come in. With their help, they might finally drive off an ancient spirit that has long plagued the world.



Thivar and his partner Lei are a ghost hunting duo who have finally managed to hit it big. Unfortunately, this is because they have bitten off entirely more than they can chew. Thivar has come out in search of aid–and the PCs look like they’ll be equipped to take on the ghost of Halkoth-Mar, the ghost of an ancient sorcerer-king who lived to see his empire fall, and now hangs on through hate alone.

Lei and Thivar assist the heroes in driving the ghost out of the body he is possessing, only to discover that they have not caught Halkoth-Mar, but rather his right-hand enforcer. If the party can defeat the ghost, a grateful, dis-possessed noble will inform them of a great gathering of monsters in ancient crypts which lie hidden beneath the city. Or under the undercity, if that layer is already explored.


The journey into the depths is a chance to show off the history of your world. Got some ruined monuments or forgotten kingdoms you want the party to get interested in? Take this chance to let them see some of the people who have come before. Want to make your world feel a little more lived in? Pepper in a few moments that convey what’s happened over time. Break out your favorite Underdark encounter–ropers, piercers, violet fungusgray ooze, whatever the flavor, this is the place for it.

The crypts are home not to the undead (which you might expect) but rather, a group of living minions who have been swayed into the service of Halkoth-Mar. It is here that the ancient ghost appears to challenge the party. Another combat ensues with Halkoth-Mar possessing the bodies of his minions and releasing them when he is driven out or they are no longer useful. The players will have to coordinate in order to finally lock down Halkoth-Mar in his spirit form and destroy him.

This is a great adventure for an episodic campaign, as it is fairly self-contained. You can also use it to add some texture to an existing city in your campaign world, or, as mentioned above to provide a little historical exposition without a big huge lecture. Either way, the fights here are meant to encourage coordination and teamwork, which is something every party can always use more of.

Read below for more details, or scroll down to the end for all the stats you’ll need!

Fresh Air and Exorcise

Thivar and Lei are a pair of exorcists who, up til now, had mostly been successful at driving off minor spirits, poltergeists, creepy shadows, and getting rid of weird feelings that settle in houses. They’re especially good at this last one. Then they encountered a powerful ghost they believe to be Halkoth-Mar, a long dead sorcerer-king, as he possessed the body of a noblewoman. They tracked her to her manor home and there managed to trap the ghost with a secret ritual. Lei, the more magically inclined of the pair, remained behind to ensure the ghost could not get away, sending Thivar out for help.


Thivar finds the players while they’re in town, preferably while they’re doing something active. Thivar might interrupt them while they’re out shopping, or going to a clandestine meet with the thieves’ guild, or maybe trying to gather information on whatever else they’re engaged in. Thivar tags along, trying to explain his situation while the PC’s go about their business: he’s a ghost hunter who has, with some difficulty, managed to trap a powerful spirit, and could they please help deal with it.


I don’t know why, but everyone keeps walking and talking in the west wing of the marketplace…

If the players agree to help, Thivar will take them back to the manor home of Aldria Valian, a local noblewoman. Her manor home appears to be normal, save for the room where she resides. Feel free to flavor it with whatever trappings of ‘this person is possessed’ you like. The room could be colder, the shadows darker, and of course, Lei is in one corner of the room chanting and tossing salt around to keep the ghost from escaping. At least that’s what she claims.

If the players have the ability to turn undead or cast dispel evil or one of the other spells that prevent/drive out possessions, then they’ll need to use them here in order to drive out the possessing ghost. If they do not, then Lei or Thivar is capable of driving out the ghost. (For stats, use the basic ghost entry from whichever edition you are using).

Upon being driven out, Thivar and Lei remark that this isn’t the ghost they thought it was–it’s one of his henchmen. And then a fight ensues. This fight is meant to be a good lesson in why fighting ghosts is dangerous, whatever your level. During the fight, the ghost will alternate between trying to possess Thivar, Lei, or the PCs (if unprotected) in order to keep itself safe from harm–all the while using its attacks against the PCs who (in theory) won’t want to kill their friend.



Time to De-Crypt

After the fight, Aldria Valian shakes off the last of her terror from the possession. She reveals to the party that she’d been used as a public face to help bring materials into the city to prepare for an uprising. There’s a gathering of monsters down in the forgotten catacombs beneath the city–she can take everyone there. After having been taken over and forced to help take actions that might destroy the city she loves, she’s eager to take vengeance any way she can.

The group heads down through the catacombs–as mentioned above, this is a good chance to show off any historical details you might have cooking on the backburner. Or maybe bring in a little from an appropriate backstory or break out an underdark encounter if you’re looking to keep your players on their toes.

At last, the party arrives at the crypt. Inside are a number of monsters which are level-dependent. I’ve included some for 5th, 10th, and 15th-ish level. Feel free to adjust as needed.

This fight is similar to the earlier possession fight–but the encounter is chock full of monsters that are deadly on their own. With Halkoth-Mar’s hiding and spellcasting, actually forcing him into a confrontation should be a difficult affair. When presented with the opportunity, Halkoth-Mar will possess a friendly creature. If the PC’s want to take him out, they’ll need to coordinate their attacks. As before, if they are unable to drive out the ghost, Thivar and Lei can help–though against this spirit they are much less effective. It may be that they are forced to defeat their foes, driving Halkoth out body by body until at last he stands before them.

Afterwards, the PCs are thanked profusely by Thivar and Lei (assuming they both survive the encounter). In addition to whatever Thivar promised in exchange for their help, the PCs can also find the lost treasure of Halkoth-Mar. When he died, he was entombed with some of his more powerful items, and now that he has been driven from the world for a second time, he almost certainly won’t have need of them anymore.

5th Edition Stats:

Halkoth-Mar, Sorcerer King of Uthak
Medium Undead, Lawful Evil


Armor Class 11 (14 with Mage Armor)
Hit Points: 45 (10d8)
Speed 0 ft., Fly 40 ft. (hover)

 STR     DEX      CON      INT         WIS       CHA
7(-2)   13(+1)  10(+0)  15(+2)    12(+1)   17(+3)

Damage Resistances acid, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities cold, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages Common, Draconic, Orc
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)

Ethereal Sight. The ghost can see 60 feet into the Ethereal Plane when it is on the Material Plane, and vice versa.

Incorporeal Movement. The ghost can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object.

Spellcasting. Halkoth-Mar is a 9th-level spellcaster. His spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 14, + to hit with spell attacks). Halkoth-Mar knows the following spells:
Cantrips (at will): mage hand, prestidigitation, ray of frost
1st level (4 slots): detect magic, magic missile, shield, thunderwave
2nd level (3 slots): acid arrow, detect thoughts, invisibility, mirror image
3rd level (3 slots): animate dead, counterspell, dispel magic, fireball
4th level (3 slots): blight, dimension door
5th level (1 slot): cloudkill, scrying


Withering Touch. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (4d6 + 3) necrotic damage.


Etherealness. Halkoth-Mar enters the Ethereal Plane from the Material Plane, or vice versa. He is visible on the Material Plane while in the Border Ethereal, and vice versa, yet he can’t affect or be affected by anything on the other plane.

Horrifying Visage. Each non-undead creature within 60 feet of Halkoth-Mar that can see him must succeed on a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. If the save fails by 5 or more, the target also ages 1d4 × 10 years. A frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the frightened condition on itself on a success. If a target’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the target is immune to Halkoth-Mar’s Horrifying Visage for the next 24 hours. The aging effect can be reversed with a greater restoration spell, but only within 24 hours of it occurring.

Possession (Recharge 6). One humanoid that the ghost can see within 5 feet of it must succeed on a DC 13 Charisma saving throw or be possessed by the ghost; the ghost then disappears, and the target is incapacitated and loses control of its body. 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. The possession lasts until the body drops to 0 hit points, the ghost ends it as a bonus action, or the ghost is turned or forced out by an effect like the dispel evil and good spell. When the possession ends, the ghost reappears in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of the body. The target is immune to this ghost’s Possession for 24 hours after succeeding on the saving throw or after the possession ends.


Halkoth-Mar was buried with a number of items that he treasured, including: a circlet of blasting (looks more like a crown), a cloak of displacement, and the jewel of Uthak–an emerald worth 2,100gp

3rd Edition Stats:

Halkoth-Mar, Sorcerer King of Uthak
Medium Undead, Lawful Evil

Armor Class 11 (15 with Mage Armor)
Hit Points: 45
Speed: Fly 30 ft. (Perfect)

 STR     DEX      CON      INT         WIS       CHA
7(-2)   13(+1)  10(+0)  15(+2)    12(+1)   17(+3)

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages Common, Draconic, Orc

Corrupting Gaze (Su) A ghost can blast living beings with a glance, at a range of up to 30 feet. Creatures that meet the ghost’s gaze must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 15) or take 2d10 points of damage and 1d4 points of Charisma damage.

Corrupting Touch (Su) A ghost that hits a living target with its incorporeal touch attack deals 1d6 points of damage. Against ethereal opponents, it adds its Strength modifier to attack and damage rolls. Against nonethereal opponents, it adds its Dexterity modifier to attack rolls only. +4 to hit, 1d6 damage.

Draining Touch (Su) A ghost that hits a living target with its incorporeal touch attack drains 1d4 points from any one ability score it selects. On each such successful attack, the ghost heals 5 points of damage to itself. Against ethereal opponents, it adds its Strength modifier to attack rolls only. Against nonethereal opponents, it adds its Dexterity modifier to attack rolls only. +4 to hit.

Frightful Moan (Su) A ghost can emit afrightful moan as a standard action. All living creatures within a 30-foot spread must succeed on a Will save (DC 15) or become panicked for 2d4 rounds. This is a sonic necromantic mind-affecting fear effect. A creature that successfully saves against the moan cannot be affected by the same ghost’s moan for 24 hours.

Horrific Appearance (Su) Any living creature within 60 feet that views a ghost must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 15) or immediately take 1d4 points of Strength damage, 1d4 points of Dexterity damage, and 1d4 points of Constitution damage. A creature that successfully saves against this effect cannot be affected by the same ghost’s horrific appearance for 24 hours.

Malevolence (Su) Once per round, an ethereal ghost can merge its body with a creature on the Material Plane. This ability is similar to a magic jar spell (caster level 10th or the ghost’s Hit Dice, whichever is higher), except that it does not require a receptacle. To use this ability, the ghost must be manifested and it must try move into the target’s space; moving into the target’s space to use the malevolence ability does not provoke attacks of opportunity. The target can resist the attack with a successful Will save (DC 19). A creature that successfully saves is immune to that same ghost’s malevolence for 24 hours, and the ghost cannot enter the target’s space. If the save fails, the ghost vanishes into the target’s body.

Manifestation (Su) Every ghost has this ability. A ghost dwells on the Ethereal Plane and, as an ethereal creature, it cannot affect or be affected by anything in the material world. When a ghost manifests, it partly enters the Material Plane and becomes visible but incorporeal on the Material Plane. A manifested ghost can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons, or spells, with a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source. A manifested ghost can pass through solid objects at will, and its own attacks pass through armor. A manifested ghost always moves silently. A manifested ghost can strike with its touch attack or with a ghost touch weapon (see Ghostly Equipment, below). A manifested ghost remains partially on the Ethereal Plane, where is it not incorporeal. A manifested ghost can be attacked by opponents on either the Material Plane or the Ethereal Plane. The ghost’s incorporeality helps protect it from foes on the Material Plane, but not from foes on the Ethereal Plane.

When a spellcasting ghost is not manifested and is on the Ethereal Plane, its spells cannot affect targets on the Material Plane, but they work normally against ethereal targets. When a spellcasting ghost manifests, its spells continue to affect ethereal targets and can affect targets on the Material Plane normally unless the spells rely on touch. A manifested ghost’s touch spells don’t work on nonethereal targets.

A ghost has two home planes, the Material Plane and the Ethereal Plane. It is not considered extraplanar when on either of these planes.


1st level (4/day): detect magic, magic missile, shield
2nd level (3/day): acid arrow, detect thoughts, invisibility, mirror image
3rd level (3/day): animate dead, counterspell, dispel magic, fireball
4th level (3/day): blight, dimension door
5th level (1/day): cloudkill, scrying

Turn Resistance (Ex) A ghost has +4 turn resistance.

Treasure: See above.

Halkoth’s Minions

Feel free to pick an encounter that is suited to your PC’s general level. I’ve provided ones for levels 5, 10, or 15ish.

Level 5

4 Orcs (3.5e/5e)

Level 10

3 Ogres and an Oni (5e)/3 Ogres and an Ogre Barbarian (3.5e)

Level 15

4 Frost Giants (3.5e)/(5e)

During the fights, keep Halkoth jumping around from minion to minion as much as he can. If possible, he’ll cast a spell before he’s driven out. You may need to beef up your party’s ability to drive him out, this can be done with scrolls or wands of protection from good/evil.

Want to see more adventure hooks like this? Got other suggestions? Leave ’em below.

Author: J.R. Zambrano
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