Homebrew: Ghost race for 5e

Lately I seem to waffle between wanting to play really vanilla race/class combos (hello, human fighter!) and the most unconventional things I can imagine. I’m hung up on ideas about undead player characters right now, mostly inspired from too much vampire media (thanks, What We Do In The Shadows). But this is not a post about vampires! What if you want to play as a ghost?! Session One, you’re already dead!

This is my idea. It’s pretty straightforward, but it’s a little unconventional…

Introduction to being a Ghost

You’re dead! Maybe you remember your former life and it fills you with powerful emotions, or maybe you don’t recall a thing about it. Maybe you were resurrected by an evil necromancer (or a good one), or by a strange god with unknowable intent. Either way, you’re back, baby! And you want to go on adventures!

Ethereal Form

When you are in your misty, ethereal ghost form, you have no ability scores. You can see and hear the material plane, but you cannot interact with it. You cannot be seen or heard. You can pass through solid objects and see 60 feet into the ethereal plane. You cannot be “killed”, but you are vulnerable to forces that target Undead creatures (watch out for clerics and necromancers!).

This form may be useful for spying or sneaking, but if you want to actually do anything, you will need a body!

Physical Form

You can possess any Medium or smaller creature that is dead and physically intact. You can shift between corpses at will, moving between them in your ethereal form. You cannot possess or otherwise affect a living creature in your ethereal form.

Your corpse-suit moves as it did in life, with a few disadvantages:

  • You cannot fly (even as a bird or bat)
  • You cannot swim (you sink every time)
  • You cannot heal or be healed
  • You do not have any of the special senses or abilities that your host had in life

However, your corpse-suit does have several advantages over your mortal allies:

  • You do not need to breathe, eat, or drink (but you do need to sleep!)
  • You are immune to Poison and Necrotic damage
  • You are immune to the Poisoned, Blinded, Deafened, and Exhaustion conditions
  • Your own natural voice is projected from within the host skull

Ability Scores (Physical Forms)

Your Strength and Constitution are always 10 and they can never change by any means.

Roll for your other four attributes with your preferred method. These other four scores can be changed through standard level increases or other magical means.

When you possess a Medium size corpse, you have 9 HP. When you possess a Small corpse you have 6 HP, and when you possess a Tiny corpse you have 3 HP. When your HP is reduced to zero, the corpse-suit is destroyed. You revert to your ethereal form and you now need to find a new (intact) corpse to possess. Better do it fast before someone steals all your gear!


As a Ghost adventurer, you can pursue a career in any class. Your physical fragility may make you a less-than-impressive martial combatant, but your abilities to move through walls, survive without breathing, and shift into tiny creatures may serve you well in stealthier roles.

In addition, your mind and spirit are as strong as ever, leaving all the diverse schools and domains of magic wide open to you.

Character Example

Before, Leopold was an aristocratic wastrel. But he died young and immediately regretted his life. So he convinced a benevolent god to give him a second chance. If he can do enough good deeds as a Ghost, he may get a second chance at life!

Now, Leopold is wearing a dry but musty skeleton, carefully concealed by boots and gloves, a long leather coat, and a dapper arrangement of scarves under his hat. He carries a shortbow, as well as a satchel over his shoulder containing a variety of dead rats, frogs, lizards, and one slightly crushed cat.

Spotting a gold coin at the bottom of a deep pond, he casually walks down to retrieve it. When danger appears, he can loose an arrow or a cantrip to defend himself, and then hide in some dark corner, as silent as the dead.

For the third time today, his body is crushed by a single blow from a grumpy troll. Fortunately, this troll has left plenty of would-be heroes half-buried in the area, so finding a new ride shouldn’t take too long. That dead elven priestess over there seems to be in once piece…

After wading calmly through a cloud of deadly gas, he sits down and shifts his spirit into one of his satchel-rats and scurries about in search of the lever to deactivate the trap.

Finding a locked door in his path, he shifts into his ethereal form to investigate the room on the other side, where he briefly possesses the remains of a goblin to turn the key and allow his companions to proceed deeper into the unknown…

That’s it!

That’s all I’ve got. I think it would be neat to play, at least for a one-shot. It seems wildly unbalanced, letting you sneak around as a Ghost, shift into animals like a Druid, and still become a powerful Wizard or Warlock to boot. But it seems fun to me!

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