Spectres are the ghostly remains of humans or demihumans who died a tragic death: either alone or under great stress and trauma. Unable to find rest, the souls create a new body for themselves shaped by their madness. (“Alone” is defined as not being in the company of a sapient creature; Spirits and Spectres do not count as sapient creatures.)
The appearance of Spectres is completely unpredictable, and Spectres tend to resemble no living thing ever seen before: combinations of animal traits, legendary traits, and insanity. To the untrained eye they appear to be monstrous animals, but mages and immortals will recognize them instantly. Spectres do not breathe, eat, drink, excrete, or engage in any of the other functions of biological life, though they are otherwise physical beings. They may range anywhere from dog-sized to horse-sized.
Spectres have no specific associated element and are particularly resistant to elemental attacks. The best way to take down a Spectre is though sheer physical punishment, though an Angel’s energy blast is also effective. Dead Spectres explode into particles of light, and it is considered bad luck to be touched by these.
Most Spectres arise in the wilderness, where lone travelers caught off guard are killed and transformed. The worst part is that being killed by a Spectre most definitely counts as “dying alone,” thus eventually leading to a plague of them. Sometimes, though, trauma-triggered Spectres can arise from murders or great injustices in the middle of a city, and battlefields in wartime are often abandoned to the things afterwards.
Because of the danger Spectres pose to civilized communities, watches are kept over the sick and injured so that no one will be alone if they take a sudden turn for the worse. Traveling alone by all but the safest routes is avoided except in dire circumstances. Special city or town officers called Hunters follow up on Spectre sightings to put them down.
Most areas have strong taboos against being completely isolated at any time. The rise of a Spectre in a civilized area is too dangerous to risk it. Civilized people stay within earshot of someone else at all times.
Most rulers, no matter how corrupt and callous, think twice about torturing or executing prisoners because of the risk of creating Spectres. The most corrupt and callous, of course, may create Spectres deliberately. The things are completely uncontrollable, but if they are created in areas only likely to be entered by intruders they can be an effective defense.
Two variant types of Spectres bear special mention. Both types are extremely rare.
- Amalgamated Spectre. These hideous creatures are the result of multiple traumatic deaths occurring simultaneously and in close proximity. Instead of producing individual monsters, these deaths create a single enormous Spectre even more vicious and twisted than usual. Worse still, amalgamated Spectres have no theoretical size limit; the normal size of a Spectre is multiplied by the number of victims.
- Sapient Spectre. The rarest kind of Spectre is of unknown origin, but is rumored to arise when a very strong-willed human or demihuman deliberately becomes a Spectre through a highly discordant Score that culminates in suicide. Sapient Spectres retain all of the intelligence and abilities they possessed in life, but still eventually succumb to some form of madness.
All Spectres possess the following powers:
- Partial Immortality. Spectres have no biology, and do not eat, drink, sleep, breathe, or age. A Spectre may use its jaws to worry or crush an opponent but has no capacity to swallow.
- Minor abilities. Spectres can vaguely sense objects around themselves in a 360-degree circle and can sense perfectly in total darkness.
Knowledge of Other Races
Spectres are barely aware of their own existence. The knowledge of sapient Spectres varies greatly by individual, though attaining that status does not accord them with any knowledge they didn’t possess before.