View Full Version : Ancestral Spirit Guides and Guardians

brian 333
2018-01-27, 10:03 PM
A barbarian tribe's hereditary kings have ruled their people for generations, each coronation occurring at a rock formation in the exact center of their domain.

The members of a noble family have for generations interred their dead in the same mausoleum.

A minor lord of a castle has a chapel in his keep bearing the death masks of three generations of ancestors.

Each family has a deeply rooted history in a place, and to them this is holy ground. It is a place for those who have crossed over to gather and observe the antics of their still living children. But it is also a place these children can go for wise counsel and on occasion the ancestors come back to help insure the continuity of their lineage.

The Spirit Guide

A direct descendant who prays at his ancestral shrine may obtain a spirit guide who offers consolation and vague, cryptic advice. More specific advice can be gained by asking for it. The guide will be allowed to answer it to the best of its ability, (they don't know everything,) limited to one word per level of the petitioner.

Incense, wine, or other expensive consumables must be offered, and vague advice can be had as if in a dream. If specific advice is wanted the guide will give it within limits, but thereafter be unable to reappear for a number of months equal to the number of words spoken.

The Spirit Guardian

Wizards and sorcerors call these familiars. Non wizards who obtain a Spirit Guardian only do so as a result of a serious threat to the family shrine. The spirit will inhabit a nearby animal, (never beast or magical beast, etc.) Dogs are favored, as are other pets. (An emperor was once known to hold a canary as his guardian.)

These creatures can fight, but seldom do. Instead they typically advise their descendants and watch over them during sleep periods, Although they are called from their ancestral shrine, they are otherwise treated as familiars with a telepathic link which allows them to understand each other's speech. The other benefits of a familiar are not granted to a Spirit Guardian.

The creature begins play as a familiar of the appropriate level for the character, but it cannot earn exp or level up with its master. A petitioner may only summon a guardian spirit when in dire need, and then only once per lifetime. When the need is no longer urgent or the guardian dies, the guardian returns to its place in the shrine.

A wizard or sorceror who summons a familiar while in a family shrine will obtain an ancestral spirit to animate the familiar, regardless of the situation.

Guardians Identify Descendants automatically, and Identify Family Members which are not direct descendants upon a successful Will save.

Guardians can see into the Etheral Plane at will, and magical concealment relying on Etheral properties have no effect on Spirit Guardians.

A guardian may take a lethal blow for its master, dying automatically in the process. The blow must be a hit which would kill the descendant. If the descendant would have positive HP after an attack is calculated it does not qualify for this ability.

Only one guardian may be summoned in a lifetime. Otherwise, the rules for familiars apply on the Spirit Guardian's death.

Peach if you like. Or if you don't!

2018-01-28, 05:05 PM
Interesting; a mix of a plot-based item (perhaps making use of the Trait system as a cost to be part of a family with strong spirits) and a plot hook.

I'm not a fan of the "months" limitation. While it makes some sense, I think there are better ways to put a limit on this while still being balanced. It seems to invite gaming the system and frustration- maybe the DM uses different wording than you'd prefer, so you end up losing time? Giving some wiggle room feels a bit better.

A few possible changes:
-The cooldown isn't just per-person, it's per-shrine or per-family- maybe 1/week? I'd like to avoid having people line up so as to have a complete conversation. Also, it makes sense to have a finite number of spirits per family.
-Add some wiggle room. Perhaps 1-5 words is a 3 month cooldown, 6-10 is 6 months, etc. I cut the scaling a bit to make it reusable more than once per campaign, and for a bit of a thematic link to the seasons.
-Idea: Add Wisdom bonus to the number of words, or perhaps base the number off the result of a Knowledge(Religion) or similar check. In combination with a feat to reduce the cooldown, I can see the development of a dedicated role in the family to speak with the spirits. This is more of a change at lower levels, giving players more information than just 1-2 words.

A Spirit Guardian is a pretty big downgrade. Not being able to have it upgrade with time is a really big drawback (especially with the 1/lifetime limit), and I would cut it. In exchange, I'd drop the ability to "speak with similar creatures" from familiar abilities, and instead have it gain the See Ethereal ability at that level.

brian 333
2018-01-28, 06:29 PM
Excellent input.

I didn't intend the Familiar version to not scale as a normal familiar does. Such guardians should be treated as normal familiars with the guardian traits.

The guardians which do not scale would be those who protect a non-wizard or sorcerer. Since such beings only remain on the material plane while their family shrine or heir is in danger, they should only remain in play for one story arc.

In the case of a longer plot, the guardian may consider itself a trainer who teaches a young family member how to be a hero. When the PC exceeds the guardian's CR by enough that the guardian becomes ineffective it should go back to its rest.

But you are correct that the intended purpose of the concept is to help advance the plot. If the time gate of the power is too long shorten it. The severe limit on answers to direct questions is intended to stop players from simply asking the DM what they should do. Knowing they'll only get a very short answer every so often is intended to induce them to only ask concise questions related to the plot, and prevent their hanging around waiting for a better answer.

An example from a long time ago occurred when my players returned to civilization after quitting in the middle of the dungeon so they could come back loaded up with exactly what they needed. After two months of preparation they returned far too high level for the level 2 goblin cave, and they were mad at me when they got there to find it abandoned.

From my PoV, the goblins fled because their numbers had been decimated and their hiding place had been discovered. From their PoV I was just ruining all their carefully laid plans.

The world moves on when PCs camp waiting until next week for the rest of the answer, and by extending the time between questions the player will realize that waiting to ask a second question might result in defeat before tbey even begin. This is effectively a Commune spell, so severely limiting the answer at low levels limits player abuse.