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Ghostwalk (3e)

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The city of Manifest rests atop ruins from ancient times and far above the entrance to the land of the dead. Here, the world of the living is shared equally with the deceased, who linger in physical form before finally passing through the Veil. Whether currently living or dead, residents and visitors are assured of an eternity of action and intrigue.

Ghostwalk contains everything needed to run a stand-alone campaign in and around the city of Manifest, or to integrate it into an existing world, including rules for playing ghost characters and advancing in the new eidolon and eidoloncer classes, several new prestige classes, over 70 new feats and 65 new spells, three complete adventures, four highly detailed encounter sites, and fourteen new monsters and templates.

Product History

Ghostwalk Campaign Option (2003), by Monte Cook & Sean K Reynolds, is a ghostly setting for D&D 3e. It was published in June 2003.

About the Cover. The cover by Brom rather delightfully shows a ghost facing off against more corporeal undead. But it doesn't show quite what Reynolds originally conceived: a ghost fighting against his own reanimated zombie body!

Origins. In summer 1999, the Wizards R&D department was offered the opportunity to design a new campaign setting on their own, the first since Wizards' acquisition of D&D. While brainstorming, Cook and Reynolds started thinking about how it was a bummer to die in D&D, because you didn't get to play for a while. This led them to envision a setting where death wasn't the end. That's what they presented in their one-sentence summary to head of RPGs Bill Slavicsek and D&D Brand Manager Keith Strohm: "If your character dies, you can continue playing immediately as the ghost of your PC."

Though it was an original setting, Cook and Reynolds acknowledged a few influences such as Neil Gaiman, Steven Brust, and Greek and Norse Mythos — including the story of Orpheus and his trip to an Underworld beneath the ground.

Continuing the 3e Line. Ghostwalk's origins help to explain why it was so different from the rest of the D&D 3e Line. And, it really did stand out. As a standalone "Campaign Option" that presented a one-off setting for D&D, Ghostwalk followed in the footsteps of Council of Wyrms (1994, 1999), but it was largely unprecedented in the D&D 3e era (2000-2008). Though Greyhawk had been presented as an organized-play setting, Wizards was putting all of its campaign attention on Forgotten Realms, with the only major digressions being for licensed settings like Diablo (2000-2001), The Wheel of Time (2001-2002), and Warcraft (2003). Oriental Adventures (2001), with a mixture of rules and setting, was the only thing at all like Ghostwalk during the 3e years.

Ghostwalk's unusualness may be why it ran into problems. Reynolds reports that Wizards' brand team put it on hold after its completion because "Hasbro felt they couldn't make a TV show about ghosts and dead people in a city". So, it was pulled from the schedule. Cook left the company in 2001, then Reynolds followed in 2002. Wizards finally put Ghostwalk back on the schedule in 2003 — perhaps because they had a gap in the schedule, perhaps because they needed to get the 3e book to press before it became obsolete.

However, Ghostwalk was slightly repackaged before it was allowed to make its debut: the poster maps originally planned for the book were cut (though Wizards remembered to move one of them into the text) and the page count was increased (which meant more illustrations). The delayed book finally appeared in June. It was followed just a month later by D&D 3.5e (2003) — which probably ensured that Cook & Reynolds' innovative setting didn't receive much attention (leaving it a largely forgotten realm today).

Ironically, by the time that Ghostwalk was put back on the schedule, Wizards was actively pursuing new settings, thanks to their 2002 setting search, which would eventually result in the publication of Eberron (2004).


Expanding D&D. Though Ghostwalk is a setting book, it also contains lots of new rules for ghosts. However, they're not traditional ghosts: they're outsiders instead of undead, and they're even able to become corporeal in the city of Manifest, which lies at the heart of the campaign. Besides general rules for ghosts, Ghostwalk also includes two ghostly classes with plenty of ghostly abilities: the eidolon and the eidolancer. There are also rules for a variety of other classes that interact with ghosts — from bone collectors to ghost slayers.

This wasn't the first time that D&D had focused on ghosts. RR5: "Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts" (1992) included extensive rules for ghosts while Requiem: The Grim Harvest (1996) detailed a variety of undead PC classes — including traditional ghosts.

Exploring Manifest. Most of the background of Ghostwalk centers on the city of Manifest, the entrance to the below-ground land of the dead and a place with its own Undercities and delves.

However, Ghostwalk also describes nearby countries to create a larger campaign world. Many of these countries were specifically built to give attention to the various D&D classes. Thus, Bazareene includes sorcerer queens and monk body guards, while Tereppek focuses on scholary wizards and Salkiria and Thurkasia showcase different sorts of fighters. The setting also generally spotlights bards with its focus on art and singing.

Monsters of Note. Obviously, Ghostwalk highlights ghosts. There are also plenty of necromancers and true undead, many of them serving Orcus. However, the most unusual monsters of the book are the yuan-ti. The designers wanted a living foe, and the yuan-ti were a nice, little-used option.

Future History. Ghostwalk was always planned to be a one-off setting. Nonetheless, Wizards published two web enhancements. The "Ghostwalk Web Enhancement" (2003) featured new feats, new magic items, new spells, and new monster templates. The "Ghostwalk Update for v3.5" (2003) then updated the book's 3e rules; it was a necessity given the product's release in the waning days of D&D 3e. The later web enhancement also included a map of the countries of Ghostwalk that had gone missing when the poster maps were removed from the release.

Reynolds later returned to Ghostwalk one more time with "The Bloody Swords", a faction for Manifest that appeared in Dragon #315 (January 2004)

About the Creators. Cook and Reynolds came up with the core ideas for the setting together. Cook then wrote about the city and the deities and crafted the two big adventures, while Reynolds authored the sections on rules, monsters, the wider world, and beyond the veil and also created the encounter sites. By the time that Ghostwalk was finally published, both authors were writing for Monte Cook's new company, Malhavoc Press.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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File Last Updated:
January 13, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on December 29, 2015.