Ghosts teaching the living

I was just reading through the Calebais adventure and got to thinking:

If ghosts can keep their art scores, and their ability to do magic then can they teach the Art? They can teach other things, and advise .. so it seems plausable.

Now, in an attempt to disprove the notion that they could I broke up 'teaching the art' into two stages.

  1. Intiation. This apprently requires 'rituals of intiaition' which may or may not be possible for a ghost. This I have drawn from bits of true lineages ... so if this first stage is impossible, then a ghost magus could likely not take on an apprentice. This two stage division assumes, of course, that a bright person with the gift can not learn from a book (without the need for others to intiate them), and is posited for the sake of making ghostly teaching harder to apply.

  2. Instruction ... this one I have more trouble falsifying. If a ghost is sane enough, has proper motivation (or is controlled), etc. the knowlege coming from a ghost should be as good as the knowledge coming from a book or a teacher. Given that ghostly warders can teach the things they know, could a ghostly Pater or Mater keep on teaching a valued filius? Could a necromantically inclined magus 'reatin' a ghoslty archmage as teacher? Does the Tremer stronghold, with all of it's magi ghosts, hold millenia of collective experience to be learned from? Could a ghost passionate about writing on the Art still be an author contributing to the order even in death?

So I put it to the community here - let's all develop good arguments for and against this.

(also - please note that I am still waiting for my 5th ed. core rules, and if the ghostly warder virtue already covers this ... then I will be only slightly embarassed :blush: )

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It's hard to get a ghost to teach you when they don't remember you from day to day. It would take a most peculiar spirit to break that limitation, such as Criamon Primi in Sanctuary of Ice.

I don't have the new Calebois book, but in the old ones ghosts run sort of like sterotypical ghosts. They have an obsession that keeps them bound to the earth. When this is satisfied they are free to move on.
With that in mind, even if a ghost remembers you they are narrowly focused creatures that may be able to offer some insight but lack the ability to teach because it's not their focus.

When we played through Calebois, Mormool stuck around for years advising us on the restoration of the covenant. When the covenant was restored, he found peace. We didn't need his advice, but it was there. No one could have learned from him, but he was an character in the background.

I suppose if a teacher died before they finished teaching a student they who's education they thought was inportant, then the teacher-ghost could exist. But it would be for one student and then gone.

This is touchy material mainly because there's room for great abuse. I'm not totally against it because in our game we essentially did it to some degree with Mormool. But I could imagine a Munchkin discovering the ghost of Bonsiagus and have access to a Magic Theory Score 98 that they can tape for the rest of their life.

This is something that should be explored with caution so it isn't abused by players.

What about creating a Ghost teacher thru CrIm(Me) Ritual

I think there is a level 35 formulaic spell to create a stupid ghost servant but what if we had a level 60 similar ritual spell to create an ingenuite one that would be an eternal teacher.


Well, in the magical college with which most of us are most familar, they've got a ghost teaching a history class.... :wink:


Yeah - Good point about the focused perspective thing - so I guess Ghostly warders as they stand can't normally teach (according to cannon)? (I don't know in 5th ed.... as I am still waiting for the main rules to come in :frowning: )

I note that the Tremere summon ghosts for combat and labour - and thus ghosts can be compelled into complex action. Finding remains seems to be the big trick for doing this. If the ArM4 point about the ghosts of Magi being able to go into twighlight still holds then controling a powerful ghost (all the example ghosts of magi have had big might scores) would require a powerful spell and good penetration. I suppose there is the chance that this magic would start warping the target.

I am looking to use the idea in my saga, but want to limit the potential for abuse...I guess I would be O.K. with it as an SG if it were incredibly hard to do.

Pretty much in any system I always like to have work = reward for PC and NPC alike.

Mechanically, I don't see a reason to prohibit a ghost teacher in principle. For both flavor and fear of abuse I would personally, as an SG, severly limit this in-game, however.
It is interesting to note that the ghosts in the Cave of Shifting Shadows do teach the Criamon magi, at least they did in 4e.

There is at least one demon that would be keen to teach magi in 5e core (IIRC), and one angel in The Divine (serf's parma). I see no reason why a magical spirit cannot be likewise employed (or a faerie for that matter) - but much like the demon or angel obtaining such teaching should not be an easy or necessarily even desirable task.


LOL - Yes, the Demon teacher would not be something to go out looking for.

But then again, there are those folks who feel they just have to know certain things :smiling_imp:

Yes I believ that some ghosts should be able to teach. After all, isn't ths one of the main purposes of the Criamon murdering their primi?


I suspect that's why they use elaborate rituals. Past Criamon Primi qualify more as magic spirits than as ghosts properly speaking: the inability of ghosts to learn anything new severely limit their capacity for long-term interaction.

I seem to recall hearing something about ghosts of old magi in Val'Negra in earlier editions of the game. Perhaps they might be of some use in this manner?

Curiously enough, I was writing up a new Covenant just a few days ago, and wrote up a short description for a spirit of the Earth living below the covenant. I wrote in that talking to it for a season was like studying from a Terram Authority (but they had to learn the creature's language, Speak Earth Spirit, at 5 or better, in order to do this).

Back on topic.

I wouldn't have a problem with ghost teachers as long as:

1: There were only a handful in the entire Order, and stayed that way.
2: They could only teach narrow areas.

Some materials do suggest that ghosts may learn - Calebais for example. Maybe not enough to gain xp, but then again - is learning even required? A book doesn't learn yet can still be useful for study. Plus Ghosts are certainly capable of social interaction.

Ahh - I never knew about the Crianomon Primi. Cool. Using preparatory rituals could be required for ghost teachers to be reliably produced. Having it involve murder is juicy for stories too. Reminds me of something neat in True Lineages - where Trianoma stregthened the magical aura of Durenmar by sacrificing herself. It would be funny if suicide rituals were the only real way for Magi to break the big limits of the Art.

Hmmm - now there is an idea. Limit them to very narrow areas. Like their favourite arts, topics that empassioned them in life. That could work well.

Traditionally sacrafices are often a key 'ingrediant' in order for magic/prayers to work. Often one is sacraficing an animal or someone else.

It would be interesting to write up magic that got an extra boost from sacrafices, but because one must make a sacrafice either someone else or themself, the magic is not often used.

This could be used to explain the general dislike of the Diende. That is, perhaps some of their druidic magic was powered by sacrafices and Houses with a Christian bent thought it was distasteful or immoral.

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Life-Linked Spontaneous Magic, linked to someone else's life, is one simple way to go for useful human sacrifice (or near-sacrifice) in the rules. Heck, I'm not sure you even need new virtues; aren't there spells for transferring fatigue and/or wound levels between people? Of course, this doesn't get you ritual-like effects like Trianoma's sacrifice. Self-sacrifice should be worth a lot in a Mystery Initiatiion Script, though. :slight_smile:

Not sure how you could get human sacrifice to have ritual benefit within existing Hermetic magic. Seems pre-Hermetic (secret Guernicus rituals) or diabolical. Or breakthrough.

There are rego mentem spells to summon ghost, and control them. Intelligo mentem to know what ever someone else does. These combinations make it likely that if you have a body/skelleton/place of death that you could summon and learn from a spirit. But how much?

If your threats/pleas/bargaining were insufficient to make them teach you could you use an intelligo mentem to gain information on the arts?
Could you siphon this knowledge off? maybe intellego/mentem with some rego or corpus requisites?

maybe something like this....

Knowledge of the dead:
Intellego/mentem with corpus/rego requisite
base 25 +4arc +2complex action: level 55
Summon a spirit and learn what it knows on a subject, requires pawns of intellego or mentem vis eqal to your current art/ability level
source quality = stress die+spirits ability-your ability
level=spirits ability

Similar to studying from Vis in quality and expense this allows new abilities to be learned

Vis cost added to prevent abuse.

I wonder if a necromancer might have a grog watch and observe information in a series of lessons ( book creation period ) and then slay the grog so the ghost retains the information. It might take some mentum magic to boost the grogs memory during the teaching time but if you can raise spirits then you likely have a high enough mentum score to do this sort of work.

Mind you the rest of the grogs are not going to look favourably on this sort of behaviour. :open_mouth:

Salvete Sodales!

I won't comment on the ethic aspect of this, but even without scruples nobody can recommend this strategy: The ghost of that slain grog would still have his free will, and he probably would not be happy about the things that happened. So he would have to be forced somehow. Probably that is possible, but you never can be sure. He might have a stronger Magic Might than suspected or even get a supernatural power you are not prepared for. And of course death can do strange things to a mind (cf. the 'Ghostly Warder'-virtue in the core rules).

But basically there is no reason against ghosts to be able to teach stuff. Mosts ghost won't know more than they did in life, so they are not better than mundane teachers, perhaps a bit more twisted but more easygoing with the Gift. And the few impressive ghosts (let's take old Bonisagus himself as example) who might still be around either have an agenda of their own, which doesn't allow for spending time as teacher for hermetic pups, or there is somebody (e.g. inner Criamon Circles) who controls the access.

Generally I would assume that every ghost gets twisted by his own death. There must be a reason for their continued earthly existence, and basically they will only retain abilities connected to this. E.g. there might have been a bard who spend his whole adult live searching for the one perfect song. Over various decades he also acquired the skills of a passable swordsman. Passable was not good enough, he was run through by a real warrior before he could find his tune, and now his desire holds him back from the realms of peace. He probably retains all of his bardical skills, but now (being free of other human needs like food, drink, sleep, sexual desires ...) he is a real maniac in his search for the music. He might be convinced to teach a young extremly talented bard enchanting music for free - just for the hope that this young man will turn out to be the one who plays the perfect melody, but he will not even think about his skills as a swordsman, even though in life he might have been able to teach beginners. This restriction by a ghost's goal is a good explanation why a Ghostly warder only has 300 xp to spend on his skills. But as the warder's job is to protect and help his charge, I don't see a reason why he should not be willing to teach him (and only him). He might be mad of course, complicating the lessons.

If the mages are lucky they find a ghost like Harry Potter's ghost teacher whose driving goal is to teach whoever he can get - unfortunately that particular ghost has horrible Com and Pre stats.:laughing:

Ah, of course the practice of using human sacrifices might well lead to the attention of other supernatural entities, who show an interest in recruiting or punishing the magus (depending on who reaches him first). As SG I would be glad if a player voluntarily offered such a great story hook, but I would advise him, not to get too attached to that character.

Alexios ex Miscelanea (aka Lars Gerlach)

P.S.: mentem not mentum!

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I'm wondering if this spell would fit within this discussion for moderation:

Teaching by the Restless Philosopher (ReMe 30)
''R:'' Voice, ''D:'' Season^^1^^, ''Targ:'' Individual, Ritual

This ritual spell compels a previously summoned ghost to teach you an Ability of your choice in which it has some expertise for a single season per year. During this time, the tutoring ghost cannot harm the caster but is not obligated to defend or assist him in any other way. This spell can similarly be used to force ghostly magi to train a character in a single Art chosen by the caster.

Two non-Illusion variants of this spell exist. The first is a non-ritual spell called Lesson from Beyond the Veil has a Duration: Ring and Target: Circle but requires the magus to remain uninterrupted within the prescribed ring with the ghost (usually within a specially prepared circle inside their sanctum) for a whole season. The second is a Level 35 ritual spell that uses Duration: Year, allowing the magus to force the ghost to tuor him for a full four seasons if desired.

(Base 5, +2 Voice, +3 Season (as Moon), ritual)

^^1^^ ''Season'' is a Duration available only if the caster possesses the ''Spell Timing'' Minor Illusion Mystery (see [[HoH:MC]], pages 100-101).



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I'd be inclined to agree with Alexios' suggestions. Ghostly sages are an atmospheric idea, and quite in keeping with some of the mythic background. I'd prefer for the players to bargain with spirits by offering to lay them to rest, or to complete whatever business they left unfinished in life, rather than compelling them with mentem magics. In any saga I ran, doing so would just be asking for a plague of ghosts to descend upon your character sooner or later.

There would be some strong story possibilities for the magus, however, in locating the appropriate spirit and bargaining with it. Ghosts should certainly retain their own agendas, ideally opaque and twisted ones, if they're to be any fun to use at all, rather than just a cheap way for the players to get more experience for their characters more quickly.

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