New Spirit Rules

Send comments and/or criticism to Simon E. Phipp
Created On 17 September 1997
Last Updated On 17 September 1997
Copyright (c) Simon E. Phipp 1997

The current rules on Shamans and the Spirit Plane are inadequate to say the least.

In the RQ2 game system, we were afraid of spirits, when a powerful spirit came around, we either ran away or tanked up on Spirit Block and hoped that we would not be destroyed. In RQ3, spirits do not pose such a threat, with unlimited Spirit Shield or Spirit Block, damage being done to Magic Points and the worst thing that can happen is possession after many rounds of spirit combat.

Shamans are woefully underpowered in RQ3. When a Shaman goes discorporate, his fetch stays behind to guard his body, while the Shaman wanders the spirit plane. Thus, there is no difference between a beginning Shaman with high POW and Blueface, who is 200 years old and the most powerful Shaman in Balazar. Both have the same chance of winning in Spirit Combat, both can navigate the Spirit Plane to the same extent. The only difference is that Blueface has more spirits bound to his fetch and has a better chance of resisting spells when corporate. This is clearly wrong.

The Spirit Plane is a number of separate planes, each with a similar encounter table, with no variation between areas and no character.

The following rules do several things to address this situation. Firstly, powerful spirits become dangerous again, secondly powerful Shamans are a force to be reckoned with, thirdly, the Spirit Plane is a varied place, with different spirits in different places.

Spirit Combat

Each person has a Spirit Combat skill. This is a magic skill and can be increased by training, research and experience. It describes how skilled the person is at fighting spirits.

The damage done in Spirit Combat depends on the POW or Magic Points of the combatants. Damage is always done in Magic Points (MP). For every 20 points of POW or MP, the combatant does 1D6 MP damage, unless the POW or MP is 1 - 10, in which case 1D3 damage is done. This means that very powerful Spirits can do extreme amounts of damage in any one round.

A person who is not discorporate may be attacked by any number of spirits in spirit combat in any one round. He may only attack one spirit back, unless his Spirit Combat skill is above 100%, in which case he may split amongst different spirits as normal.

A disembodied spirit may only attack one corporate or disembodied spirit in Spirit Combat, unless it is attacked by more than one discorporate spirit and can split its Spirit Combat.

Corporate beings may not engage in Spirit Combat, but disembodied Spirits can.

In Spirit Combat, the Spirit with the highest POW or MP attacks first. It rolls its Spirit Combat and does damage depending on the result. On a normal, it does rolled damage, on a special it does maximum rolled damage, on a critical it does rolled plus maximum damage, on a special critical it does double maximum damage and on anything better it does double maximum plus rolled damage, on a failure it does minimum damage, on a fumble it does no damage and its foe gets a free shot at it in addition to any other attacks.

The defender then rolls his Spirit Combat and blocks damage in the same way that damage is done. A fumble means that he blocks no damage and the attacker gets another free damage roll.

If a person is attacked by more than one spirit, he only rolls his Spirit Combat once for defence and that roll is used against all spirits.

So, a ghost (POW 25, Spirit Combat 90%) attacks Soltak Stormspear (POW 15, Spirit Combat 75%). In the first round, the ghost rolls 80 and does 2D6 damage, rolling 10, Soltak rolls 12, a special, and blocks 6 points, taking 4 damage. He attacks and rolls a 03, a critical, and does 1D6 + 6 damage, rolling 9, the ghost rolls 95 and only blocks 2 taking 7 damage. The second round, the ghost rolls 97, doing 2 damage which Soltak blocks, rolling 60 and blocking 3 on 1D6. He attacks with a 50 and rolls 3 on 1D6, but the ghost rolls 100 and fumbles, taking the full damage of 3 and another rolled damage of 2. Soltak has now taken 4 damage and the ghost has taken 12 damage. Even though the ghost has more MPs, it decides to avoid any further risks and departs.

Each person has two Spirit Combat options, which can be attacks, defends or both. Normally, people opt to attack and defend, although they can all-out attack or all-out defend. An all-out attack means that any roll is treated as one level better, so a normal is treated as a special, a special as a critical and so on, doing more damage than normal combat. An all-out defence is treated similarly, blocking more damage than otherwise possible. Anyone all-out attacking cannot defend, and anyone all-out defending cannot attack in Spirit Combat.

These Spirit Combat options count as combat options, so being attacked in Spirit Combat will prevent one or more attacks, parries or dodges.

For ease of use, assume that damage done and blocked in Spirit Combat is based on POW rather than current MPs, otherwise you have to work out different damage each round.

Spells such as Spirit Block or Spirit Shield act by adding to the defending POW of the user, thus increasing the damage blocked each round. They also act as an automatic defence if the character is using all-out attacks or is incapable of defending - in this case, the damage blocked is determined solely by the Spell's adds to POW. So, Spirit Block 3 adds 30 POW and would block 2D6 damage if the recipient is not defending in Spirit Combat.

Some Shamans have spells which increase their Spirit Combat, but these are fairly rare. More common are Spirit Weapons which increase the damage done by a number of D6s, or block damage by a number of D6s.


Spirits may choose to attempt to possess an embodied character rather than to do damage to him. It must declare a possession attempt at the start of the round and must roll spirit combat as normal. If it succeeds and would have reduced its opponent to 0 MP in the round, it may possess the opponent, otherwise it remains in Spirit Combat.

Possession means that the spirit now inhabits the body. It can either take control of the body (overt possession) or can sit quietly and affect the body in special ways (covert possession).

Overt Possession

The possessing spirit can use the body as if it were his own. The original owner's spirit is trapped within the body and can be seen under Shaman's Second Sight or certain spells (Detect Spirit, Soul Sight, Second Sight). If the body is killed, the possessing spirit is freed as a normal spirit to roam the spirit plane as before. Some spirits take possession of bodies only to kill them through spite for the living.

Covert Possession

The original owner of the body has full control of the body and is usually unaware that a spirit has possessed him. However, when the spirit decides to act, it affects the body in ways unique to the type of spirit.

Spirits in covert possession of the body have different effects depending on the type of Spirit. Disease Spirits cause disease in the body which cannot be cured or healed while the spirit is in possession, Passion Spirits cause emotional effects ranging from intense pain to intense grief, anger or happiness, Fertility Spirits increase virility and/or personal fertility. The cult spirits from the Vikings Pack give special abilities to the possessed character, proving that not all possessions are malign.

A person may be possessed by more than one spirit at any one time. Remember the Biblical account of Legion. If possessed by more than one Passion Spirit, the character may be subject to conflicting emotions at any time, although there is no reason why one cannot be possessed by a Fear Spirit and a Pain Spirit at the same time.

Recovering From Possession

The only way to recover from being possessed is by persuading another spirit to attack the possessing spirit and to drive the spirit out. Healing Spirits will drive out Disease Spirits, certain types of passion Spirit will drive out their opposing Spirits, so Love Spirits will drive out Hate Spirits and Courage Spirits will drive out Fear Spirits. Shamans may be persuaded to discorporate and drive out the possessing spirit.

The possessing spirit must be attacked in spirit combat and must be reduced to 0 MP. If this happens, a simple POW vs POW roll must be made to remove the spirit. As the attacking spirit was not attacking the original owner's spirit, it cannot take possession of the body itself, but frees it for the original owner. If more than one spirit must be removed, the attacking spirit must fight each of them in turn in order to drive them out.

Of course, a possessing spirit may voluntarily leave the body if it feels threatened, bored or whatever, but this is fairly rare.

Spirit Types

Certain spirits have their description slightly changed.


These do physical damage in Spirit Combat to a random location. The amount of damage done is calculated as with normal Spirit Combat above. Wraiths always attack all-out. Defenders block damage using the characteristic which the wraith attacks. A powerful wraith may kill a character in a single round.


If bound to a location, these are usually commanded to attack all-out. If they then possess a body, they may not leave the binding area, and the body is usually killed, mutilated, left to starve to death or used to break the binding enchantment. Usually, a ghost is ordered to kill anyone it possesses and is forbidden to break its binding enchantments.

The Spirit Plane

Normal people cannot perceive the Spirit Plane, even though it is around them all the time. If they use the Second Sight spell, they can perceive spirits nearby and can see their true forms, but still cannot see the Spirit Plane proper.

People who are discorporate can see the Spirit Plane, but unless they have the proper senses, cannot see its true form. All they can sense is a jumbled mess of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches in a grey mist around them. Spirits will be seen as a different jumble of senses, for instance a Pain Spirit would be sensed as Red which Hurts, a Healing Spirit as Green which Soothes.

To truly perceive the Spirit Plane in its real form, one must be a Shaman or must have undergone special rituals. Then the Spirit Plane will be seen properly and will differ depending on where it is.

Once a character can see the Spirit Plane, they can then try to move around. If they have undergone the necessary rituals, they can move as normal, walking or running as if the Spirit Plane were the Mundane Plane. Otherwise, they cannot move unless they are Shamans with a fetch. Discorporate Shamans may move around the Spirit Plane as if they were normal Spirits. Normal Spirits move with Move = POW, so a POW 20 spirit moves at Move 20, which is equivalent to 60km/h.



A Shaman is made distinct from other people because he has a fetch. This is his "Spirit Self", the part of his soul which lives on the Spirit Plane. Generally, the more powerful the fetch, the more powerful the Shaman.

A Shaman creates his fetch at the climax of his Spirit Quest. He must make a summoning roll and must donate POW to his new fetch. If the roll succeeds, he has a fetch and can use it to help defend against the Bad Man. If he succeeds against the Bad Man, the shaman may return with his fetch.

The Shaman's fetch allows the Shaman to see into the Spirit Plane and to perceive it in its true form. This Second Sight ability has a chance of the Fetch's POW x 3% and merely needs concentration to work. It can see Spirits up to the fetch's POW in metres in any direction. A Shaman can see bound spirits, embodied spirits (living creatures) and spirits possessing other creatures. Shamans can also determine whether a creature is normal or undead, as their souls look different. This Spirit Sense is not automatic, a Shaman must consciously use it in order to gain the benefits, although he can spot Spirits creeping up on him.

A Shaman's fetch adds its POW to the Shaman's POW in defence against spells which overcome POW, against other spirits in spirit combat and adds to the defending characteristic against spirits which attach characteristics. This does not work when the Shaman is discorporate.

A fetch has an INT of 3D6, awakened when the fetch is awakened. This INT is only used to memorise spells.

A Shaman may increase his fetch's POW by donating POW to it at any time. This takes 1 hour per point of POW transferred. He may also use the POW stored in his fetch, whether to sacrifice for Divine Magic, to create an enchantment or for Divine Intervention. A fetch cannot be reduced to 0 POW by these means.


A Shaman may discorporate and travel the Spirit Plane. He performs a ritual and either rolls a Ceremony roll or his fetch's POWx3% and expends 1 MP. The Shaman's fetch then leaves his body and begins to travel.

While the Shaman is discorporate, his spirit remains in his body controlling it as normal. The Shaman continues in his ritual, perhaps dancing, drumming, singing or chanting in order to maintain his travelling. Often, the Shaman gives a running commentary of who he has met, what is happening and any conversations he is having. After each hour discorporate, the Shaman must expend a further 1 MP, this must come from his personal MPs. If the MP is not expended, the fetch returns to his body and the travelling is over.

The discorporate Shaman moves at a rate equal to the fetch's POW, so Blueface with a fetch of POW 250 moves at 250, that is 750 km/h. If the Shaman wishes to interact with the Mundane Plane, he must become Visible using the Spirit Magic Visibility spell. If Visible, the Shaman can see the Mundane Plane using his normal perception skills. When combined with his speed, this makes the Shaman an excellent scout, whether looking for game, enemies or whatever.

The fetch has all the powers and abilities of the Shaman, and may cast any spell which the Shaman has access to. It can use any matrix or bound spirit on the Shaman's body, no matter how far away the fetch is.

At any time the fetch is not engaged in spirit combat or has not been bound, it can return to the Shaman's body, ending the Travelling. This ability is often used when faced with a superior foe.


Using his Second Sight, a Shaman can see possessing spirits and can attempt to remove them. He can either send other spirits to engage the possessing spirit in spirit combat or he can discorporate and engage the spirit with his fetch. If he defeats the spirit, it will be driven out.

Captured Spirits

If a Shaman defeats a spirit in spirit combat and reduces its MPs to 0, he can bind the spirit to the fetch. The Shaman can use the powers of any spirit bound to the fetch, so he can access the MPs of POW Spirits, can order Magic Spirits to cast spells and can learn spells from Spell Spirits. He can release the controlled spirits at any time, giving them an order which they must obey.

A fetch must maintain a certain level of MPs in order to hold controlled spirits. It must keep 1 MP for every point of POW of the spirit stored. So, to store POW 10,12 and 14 spirits, a fetch would have to keep 36 MPs. If the Magic Points are reduced to below this level, the controlled spirits will leave, beginning with the most powerful spirits.

Allying Spirits

Sometimes a Shaman will want to befriend a spirit, rather than capturing it. To do this, the Shaman must persuade the spirit to ally with him. This can be abstracted to a die roll of POW vs POW + INT, with the Shaman including his fetch's POW, but is best roleplayed. If the spirit has been successfully allied, the Shaman must donate POW to the spirit of 1 POW per 10 POW or part thereof of the spirit, so allying a POW 45 spirit costs 5 POW. The POW is added to the spirit's POW.

Such spirits are called Spirit Friends, and will assist the Shaman to various degrees. Some may be summoned easily, others may accompany the Shaman when he is discorporate, others may stay to guard his body, still others may be asked to attack enemies of the Shaman.

Gaining Divine Magic

A Shaman may gain Divine Magic in one of three ways.

Joining a Cult

A Shaman may join certain cults, he may even already be a Priest of such a cult. As a priest or Shaman, he may sacrifice for cult spells reusably. For instance, a Priestess of Kyger Litor or Waha may sacrifice for cult spells as per the normal rules.

Beginning a Spirit Cult

A Shaman may contact a local spirit and set up a cult with a group of followers. This uses the normal RuneQuest rules for creating Spirit Cults. The advantage of this is that the situation is standardised, making the gaining and repraying of Divine Magic fairly straightforward. The disadvantage is that a number of worshipers are needed to keep the worship going, and the link may fail if the worshippers dwindle.

Contacting A Spirit

Shamans may discorporate and attempt to contact a Spirit or Deity in order to gain spells or abilities. This ritual is slightly different to normal discorporation, in that it is a HeroQuest. Such a HeroQuest may be simple or dangerous, depending on the Spirit to be contacted, and may involve fighting guardian spirits in order to meet the Spirit. Once the Shaman has gained entry to the Spirit's presence, he must persuade the Spirit to deal with him. This is normally not difficult - most Spirits crave worship. However, they are often troublesome and may well ask the Shaman to do strange things in return. So the Shaman may leave with a spell and a geas, or must return to the Spirit in order to regain the spell, or must perform a deed in return.

Incarnating Spirits

Some Shamans may incarnate spirits. This means that the spirit possesses the Shaman, bestowing a power or ability on the Shaman. Thus, in times of war, a tribal Shaman may incarnate a powerful War Spirit to lead the tribe to war. This is not overt possession, the Shaman is in full control at all times. He is also protected against possession, unless he fumbled his ceremony roll.

For examples of Spirit Incarnation, see the "Gods Without Godar" section in the Vikings pack.

Channelling Spirits

Some Shamans can Channel spirits. This means that the spirit can partially possess the Shaman, being able to talk through the Shaman. This is often used for oracular purposes, or when an ancestor is summoned to offer advice or commands to his family. The spirit so summoned will usually be unable to possess the Shaman, unless he has fumbled his ceremony roll.

Banishing Spirits

Spirits may be banished by powerful Shamans. The Shaman partially discorporate and must overcome the spirit in a POW vs POW combat. If successful, the spirit must leave. Very few Shamans have the power to Banish spirits, most must discorporate and drive them off. Those who do have the power may only Banish certain types of spirit.


A Shaman may curse his enemies. In fact, most Shamans have stories told of the curses they have placed on their enemies - this is mostly propaganda, but most people believe it. A Shaman's curse is often through spirits which possess their enemy, or items which attract spirits to them. It may even be a ghost, wraith or demon sent against the character.

However, some Shamans can also perform sympathetic magic to curse an enemy. This is where he performs a ritual to imitate an effect, for instance sticking pins into a likeness of his enemy. This magic usually needs some part of the enemy to work, either hair, skin, or a special item belonging to the enemy. Such magic is normally unique to the Shaman, gained by HeroQuesting and is outside the normal RuneQuest rules.

Shamans may also use Spirit Darts to curse their enemies. These are highly effective when used against those with no access to other Shamans.

Spirit Pools

These are areas where the Mundane Plane and Spirit Plane overlap and co-exist. They often happen where a magical event has happened, or where the fabric of reality has been torn, for instance in Chaos Nests, or where places of Magic exist, such as Dragon's Eye, Cragspider's Castle, the Crater or the City of Wonders. Some Spirit Pools are found in Temples, where cult spirit congregate, or where the Axis Mundi spell is cast.

Since both planes exist at once, this causes certain effects.

A Spirit Pool is covered in grey mist, with visibility restricted to the character's POW in metres. Spirits are seen as they would appear on both the Mundane and Spirit Planes, so a Pain Spirit would be seen as a howling ghost and as Red which Hurts. A Shaman would instantly determine the POW of a spirit in a Spirit Pool without using his Second Sight.

All Spirits within a Spirit Pool are Visible, whether or not they wish to be.

Any spirit in a Spirit Pool is able to initiate Spirit Combat, even if they normally cannot. This also applies to corporate beings.

Shamans may immediately discorporate in a Spirit pool, rather than taking one hour.

People in a Spirit Pool may bind spirits into objects without needing Command/Control/Dominate Spirit spells.

Those within a Spirit Pool will have POWx5% chance of an Encounter every 5 minutes, using any Spirit Plane Encounter Tables.

Spirits may leave Spirit Pools on the Mundane Plane, if they do so they are Visible until banished. This may be the cause of many a cursing of villages.

Physical creatures leaving a Spirit Pool on the Spirit Plane may not move unless a Shaman is with them, or unless they have performed the appropriate rituals.

A Magic Road may be opened up between two Spirit Pools by people with the correct HeroQuest spells. This enables them to travel between two Spirit Pools.

People in a Spirit Pool may interact with the denizens of that place, whether they be normal spirits, rulers of the area or demigods. This is often a way to perform a minor HeroQuest.

The denizens of a Spirit Pool depend on where the pool is. In a Temple, the denizens will be cult spirits, perhaps the souls of dead worshippers, spell spirits or elementals. In a magical place, the denizens will be the local spirit and his followers. In a chaos nest, you may well find the original denizens and the invading chaos forces.

If you wish to create Encounter Tables for Spirit Pools, use the normal table but adapt it for local spirits, you would not find wraiths in a Humakt Temple or Healing Spirits in a Mallia Temple, for instance. Most spirits found will be low power, but a Spirit Lord may be of high power and may even be a deity.