R2 5

Van Richten’s Guide to Ghosts (1992)

I was so psyched when I picked this up to get a book full of Stephen Fabian illustrated ghosts, so imagine my disappointment that all the new interior illustrations are by Bob Klasnich. They’re…fine. They’re just not Fabian. Robin Wood, whose stuff I usually find delightful, delivers a fairly underwhelming cover as well. Not the best art showing here in Van Richten’s Guide to Ghosts (1992).

Despite the fact that ghosts are about as classic a “monster” as you can come by in the real world, they kind of suck in vanilla D&D. Or, rather, there are a ton of different monsters that kind of exist under the umbrella of “ghost” (including, you know, ghosts) that it is kind of unclear how or why to use them as antagonists. Also, the idea of a generic ghost monster (like in Gauntlet) is kind of weird. Ghosts are singular entities, the remnants of specific people, usually stuck as undead for specific reasons.

That’s why this book is so good — it recognizes the problems with D&D ghosts and fixes them, giving you tools to create individual ghost that are full-fledged characters, with aspects and abilities that reflect their state and their fate. The guides to Vampires and Ancient Dead (and, to a lesser degree, Liches) have similar tools, but none of them feel quite so much of a game changer as the Ghosts. Those monsters have obvious character and utility without the guides, but the guide makes ghosts cool for D&D for, really, the first time.

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