Friday, 20 December 2019


Part 2 continued: Spirits in a Semi-Material World
series of posts about primeval spirits

I'm still looking to strike the right tone with all this animal spirits stuff, and I don't think I've cracked it yet, so brace yourself for some very rough around the edges stuff. As ever, your feedback is most welcome.

This is a follow up to my recent post about animal spirits. I thought I'd focus on a few individual animal spirits that PCs might encounter, corresponding with the kind of animals they will encounter in the fertile plains of the river valley.

There are just two entries, the Hyena Queen and Cat, with more to come. I've included stats and "dynamic" abilities to make them suitable boss monster encounters, if that's the kind of campaign you are running, but they might make better allies than foes for most parties.


This is a Magic the Gathering card designed by Winona Nelson

Of course, the spirit of the hyenas is female, though she is often worshipped as an androgyne  (owing to humans' poor understanding of biology, they often mistake the female hyenas terrifying clitoris for a penis). The hyena queen is aware of humans' clumsy categorisation and is indifferent: what she wants is for her pack to feed.
The Hyena Queen also has to keep her subjects in line: if permitted to let their appetites rule their actions, the ecosystem, would collapse. Instead, she keeps them in check for the benefit of their long term survival, and consequently each hyena suffers a maddening hunger. This madness is attested by their laughter, which is unceasing.

She does not laugh. She does smile however, whether in victory or defeat, for she knows she is part of a grander narrative. A goddess of scavengers, she treads the line between life and death, and is thus capable of commanding the spirits of the dead. This is her great boon and value as an ally: the key to the secrets of necromancy.

In general, the Hyena Queen would prefer to avoid humans unless absolutely necessary or she is certain there will be no further repercussions. She would rather strike a deal than lose a single one of her pack, but if any come to harm, all bets are off...

HD: 5d12 HP: 32 DEFENCE: As leather+shield, but immune to non enchanted weapons, 
ATT: 1 Bite (+5 to hit)/ 2 claw OR special (see below) DMG: Best 1 of 2d12/ 1d12/1d12 OR special
Move: 50' (150') Intelligence: 14 Morale:12

The hyena queen likes to take down and disarm people with ranged weapons or spellcasters before moving on to the next strongest adversary, leaving her pack to finish them off. However, instead of making her bite/claw/claw attack, the hyena queen may raise any corpse within 50' as a zombie under her control. Alternatively, she may cast finger of death  at any creature she can see.
Like all animal spirits, the Hyena Queen may assume a humanoid form. This is done instead of making an attack, though she is loathe to do so in front of humans due to the risks involved.
In addition to her attacks, at they end of each round, she perform any of the following actions, depending on how many hit points she has:
  • Half-to-full health - Pack attack: She can instruct any hyenas currently in melee to break  off and mob a target of her choice without incurring attacks of opportunity or having to make tactical withdrawals.
  • Half health or less - Wounded Laughter: The hyena queen issues a chilling half whoop, half- growl, ensuring 2d4 hyenas will be along in 1d2 rounds.
  • 5 HP or fewer - Final Fight: At the end of each turn, she may raise animate two corpses within 50' as a zombie under her control.
All corpses animated by the hyena queen return to their natural, inanimate state if she is slain.
If she is slain, the Hyena Queen disincorporates and spends a few days in the spirit realm, before returning with an elaborate plan of revenge.
As a boon, the Queen of Hyenas can teach the correct invocation of Finger of Death and Animate Dead. However, this will come at a cost: roll for an unnatural mutation

If a PC obtains the Queen of Hyenas' true name they will be able to summon and dismiss her at will. She will obey any instructions that do not bring immediate or obvious future harm to any hyenas. Additionally, the PC will be able to speak with hyenas as per the speak with animals spell.


Lurking in the City of Ghosts are several thousand feral cats, a relic of the vanished civilisation of the Others. Humans have not yet begun their (ultimately doomed) attempts to domesticate them, so view the creatures with suspicion that sometimes manifests as fear. This fear is entirely justified.

Though these cats are mundane, there are among them two powerful spirits that epitomise their capricious natures: brother and sister spirits, Bast and Bastet. It is said that one is playful and affectionate, while the other is aloof and spiteful, yet is uncertain which is which, or indeed if they are actually two separate entities at all.

For now, the cats have no real interest in humans: they are doubtful that the humans will be able to tame the wild spirits of the City of Ghosts, and thus perceive their incursions to be curious. However, there is a chance that Bast (or Bastet) will take an unnatural interest in one member of an adventuring party, and start out by following them. If the party is travelling through the City of Ghosts it may become very difficult for them to notice this, due to Bast(et)'s ability to teleport from cat body to the next.

If after an hour or so they decide they want to learn more, they will assume human form (an attractive individual of the same ancestry as the PC, and of whatever gender to which they are attracted) and join the party until they grow bored (which they will, eventually) before leaving to do more cat stuff.

If the PC exhibits some special quality which they admire, they will reward them with a small boon (roll on the table below). This special quality could be sensitivity, wisdom, indifference, or even something completely unidentifiable. It's really a crapshoot, hence the roll.

HD: 1d2 HP: DEFENCE: As chain owing to agility, but immune to non-enchanted weapons, 
ATT: 1 Bite (+2 to hit)/ 2 claw OR special (see below) DMG: Best 1d4/ 1d2/1d2 OR special
Move: 50' (150') Intelligence: 16 Morale:12

Bast(et) will avoid combat if at all possible, but if cornered will pounce on the face of the nearest foe, scratching and biting before teleporting their spirit away, leaving a hapless mundane cat to take the fall for their actions.
In addition to their attacks Bast/Bastet can perform one of the following actions at the end of each round:
  • Cat-a-port: Bast/Bastet can enter the body of any cat within the boundaries of City of Ghosts at will. This is ineffective outside of the City of Ghosts
  • Minor illusion: Bast/Bastet can create one minor illusion at will.
  • Assume human form: Bast(et) can transform into the form of a beautiful human whenever they want, though they prefer to do so without being seen.
  • Summon cats: by issuing a horrendous miaow, Bast(et) can summon 3d4 cats to do their bidding, which will manifest in one round. Though mundane they can be instructed by Bast/Bastetto behave as though they have human level intelligence. 
Bast(et) is walks utterly silently, and always surprises opponents of which they are aware. if caught off guard, Bast(et) is only surprised on a roll of one.
Bast(et) may cast featherfall as a reaction/ immediate action, even when it is not their turn.
Bast(et) loved you, what do they leave you?
If Bastet takes a shine to a PC, they will remain with the party in human form for 1d6 days, after which roll 1d12 and consult this table on behalf of their love interest:


They’ve gone! All that’s left of them is… a dead bird? What can it mean?
They’ve left you with nothing but… a newfound confidence with climbing! Increase your climbing ability by two ranks/dice/ whatever your system uses!
They’ve left you with nothing but… a newfound confidence with climbing! Increase your climbing ability by two ranks/dice/ whatever your system uses!

Crucially, you also are inhabited by the spirit of the spell featherfall, and one gain spell slot.
In addition to all of the above, you have become unerringly stealthy. Increase your stealth ability by two ranks/dice/ whatever your system uses!
You feel sad, but… different. This is going to sound weird but have you ever tried speaking to a cat? Just try it, you might be surprised.
They decide to hang around for 1d4 days, so long as there’s still food.


  1. Several things, many of them interrelated, came to mind while reading these excellent posts on animal spirits:

    1. The animistic Shinto religion and its Kami spirits;

    2. Studio Ghibli movies that seem to honour these spirits;

    3. The psychedelic nature of Studio Ghibli movies;

    4. Studio Ghibli's perpetuation of the idea that only children can see spirits - as a byproduct or as a feature of their innocence (think of Satsuki and Mei being the only ones who can see the 'soot spreaders', and their nanny, who once could see them, when she was young; think of their father explaining that Totoro will reveal himself only when ready, implying that this happened to him when he was a boy);

    5. The psychedelic nature of childhood itself and, through a pleasing inversion, the often childlike nature of psychedelic experiences;

    6. Alan Moore's Promethea series;

    7. Words as magick, grimoire/grammar, spells/spelling;

    8. Magick manipulating consciousness;

    9. Consciousness being more protean, heteregenous, expansive and abundant than many people believe, and not merely local to human brains;

    10. The imagination as a realm of language separate from but inextricably connected to nature; the mycelium to the mushroom.

    11. Stranger Things; D&D; creatures (demogorgons) from other realms breaking through to this one, possibly because of the activation of the imagination...

    Not sure what all this means. Just observations at the moment.

    Anyway, would love to play one of these games one day.

    Oh, and hello.

    1. Hello indeed! I'm absolutely delighted that you stumbled upon this blog and twitter its associated twitter account! Speaking of which, I always seem to be replying to you when I'm about to do something else so I'm leaving this here to remind me that I want to respond to all of your points above, not in turn but simultaneously, though the gist of the response will be:

      1-11: Yes, exactly

      So good to be re-acquainted (and keep your eyes peeled for a new Psychocartography post v. soon)

  2. Addendum to 5, elaborating on what I meant by the childlike nature of psychedelic experiences:

    You reconnect with your inner child, revert to a more innocent, atavistic state, and are then able to see things that weren't there before you ate that mushroom cap...

    ...which may or may not be reified Jungian archetypes, or actual entities, or something else, but at this point the distinction and subsequent attempts at Linnaean categorisation seem pointless.