In Seach of Sanity
A haunt is a hazardous region created by unquiet spirits that react violently to the presence of the living. The exact conditions that cause a haunt to manifest vary from case to case— but haunts always arise from a source of terrific mental or physical anguish endured by living, tormented creatures. A single, source of suffering can create multiple haunts, or multiple sources could consolidate into a single haunt. The relative power of the source has little bearing on the strength of the resulting haunt— it’s the magnitude of the suffering or despair that created the haunt that decides its power. Often, undead inhabit regions infested with haunts— it’s even possible for a person who dies to rise as a ghost (or other undead) and trigger the creation of numerous haunts. A haunt infuses a specific area, and often multiple haunted areas exist within a single structure. The classic haunted house isn’t a single haunt, but usually a dozen or more haunted areas spread throughout the structure.
Although haunts function like traps, they are difficult to detect since they cannot be easily observed until the round in which they manifest. Detect undead or detect alignment spells of the appropriate type allow an observer a chance to notice a haunt even before it manifests (allowing that character the appropriate check to notice the haunt, but at a –4 penalty). A haunt can infuse a maximum area with a 5-foot radius per point of CR possessed by the haunt, but the actual area is usually limited by the size of the room in which the haunt is located.
When a haunt is triggered, its effects manifest at initiative rank 10 in a surprise round. All characters in the haunt’s proximity can attempt to notice the haunt at the start of this surprise round by making a notice check). All haunts detect life sources and trigger as a result of the approach of or contact with living creatures, but some haunts can be tricked by effects like hide from undead or invisibility.
On the surprise round in which a haunt manifests, positive energy applied to the haunt (via channeled energy, cure spells, and the like) or holy water can damage the haunt’s hit points (a haunt never gains a Will save to lessen the damage done by such effects, and attacks that require a successful attack roll to work must strike AC 10 in order to affect the haunt and not merely the physical structure it inhabits). Unless the haunt has an unusual weakness, no other form of attack can reduce its hit points. If the haunt is reduced to 0 hit points by positive energy, it is neutralized— if this occurs before the haunt takes its action at initiative rank 10, its effect does not occur.
A haunt can have virtually any effect identical to an existing spell effect, but often with different— and distinctly more frightening or unnerving— sensory or physical features than that spell effect normally has. (A haunt that has an effect not identical to an existing spell is certainly possible, but this requires designing a new spell effect.) A haunt might cause a room to explode into flames (duplicating fireball or fire storm), infuse a chamber with fear (duplicating cause fear, scare, or fear), or try to frighten a target to death (duplicating phantasmal killer or slay living). How the haunt’s effects manifest are left for the DM to determine.
A neutralized haunt is not destroyed, and can manifest again after a period of time— to destroy a haunt, a specific action must be taken in the region to end the effect forever (such as burning a haunted house to the ground or burying the bones of the slaves who died on the site to create the haunt). This specific act is different for every haunt (although a number of nearby haunts often share the same destruction act).
Some haunts are persistent, and their immediate effects continue beyond the surprise round into actual full rounds. Persistent haunts continue to trigger their haunt effects once per round on their initiative rank until destroyed or they no longer have a target.
All primary effects created by a haunt are mind-affecting fear effects, even those that actually produce physical effects. Immunity to fear grants immunity to a haunt’s direct effects, but not to secondary effects that arise as a result of the haunt’s attack.
The most common haunts are rapping spirits: unquiet dead with just enough substance to produce disembodied knocking and bumps in the night. Characters can sometimes attempt communication with these intelligent spirits (once they have been neutralized, but not yet destroyed) by working out codes the spirits can use to convey cryptic messages, or by using tools like spirit planchettes to increase the efficiency of communication with the spirit.RAPPING SPIRITS (CR 1)
Alignment varies persistent haunt (5-ft. radius)
Caster Level 1st
Notice Perception DC 10 (to hear faint knocking on the walls, floor, and furniture)
hp 4; Weakness tricked by hide from undead; Trigger proximity; Reset 1 day
Effect A chorus of agitated raps and blows rings out from nearby hard surfaces (limited to those capable of being physically manipulated by mage hand) as unquiet spirits convey their unrest to the living. All who hear the supernatural knocks are affected by a cause fear effect (Will DC 11 negates).
Destruction Depending on its alignment, a rapping spirit typically asks for its mortal remains to be laid to rest or for the PCs to seek revenge for its death. Fulfilling the request dismisses the haunt.