An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Ryan Howse

I love reading and I love table-top roleplaying games. They have a lot in common. Both books and TTRPGs rely on creativity and storytelling. Ryan Howse is a master of creative storytelling and he was kind enough to talk about his Lakhesian Ghost from his series A Concerto for the End of Days.

The Lakhesian Ghost

When I was first asked to do this, I admit I was puzzled by what my choice would be. The problem isn’t monsters; I love monsters. But my most recent book, Red in Tooth and Claw, is specifically designed to maintain ambiguity as to whether or not the monsters even exist. One character thinks he sees them and one does not, and both are unreliable narrators. That ambiguity was a big part of the tension of that novel, and to make stat blocks for Hukussu would undercut that.

So then I thought about gaming. My first series, A Concerto For the End of Days, takes place in a drastically adapted version of my old Pathfinder campaigns. The campaigns took some things straight out of Pathfinder books as well as from fiction I’d enjoyed. The campaigns had backgrounds for dwarves and elves and all the other fantasy races, all of which I excised for the books. Heck, the campaigns had clerics, and my setting was several centuries after the war that killed the gods. The way magic worked was also significantly changed, and all of those meant that the history of the setting was changed. So I adjusted that, pushed the setting forward a couple of hundred years, and used that as my starting place.

The magic in my setting (well, some parts of the setting—magic is cultural, and different places have different techniques) is done through summoning and binding creatures known as caitiffs, a catch-all term for spirits from another realm. Some of those spirits are your typical elemental powers (undines, water elementals, are placed with ignans, or fire elementals, to create steam power for trains, for example) but there are others that are a bit less commonplace—dream spirits, spirits of geometries, spirits of law, the sun, and more. But my personal favorite was the Lakhesian Ghost, a spirit of fate.

As a being of fate it could only ever be found in places where something of massive import had or would happen. It wouldn’t observe time in the linear fashion we do, so it could be a place that would have such ramifications in the present of the story, or in the future, or a distant past. When an arcanist properly bound one and could tap into its power, they’d be able to see their own futures depending on what choice they would make. They could observe everything and try it again with different choices to see what would unfold next. Given enough time, one could wage an entire war before the first soldiers fired a shot and know how to win the most efficiently.

The Lakhesian Ghost becomes the fulcrum for the novel, the maguffin everyone wants to capture and use for their own. And we see how different people react to this desire, and what they’re willing to do and give up for a chance at capturing it. 

The ultimate weapon, if it could be caught.

I opted to use the Cypher System by Monte Cook Games for the stat block for this, mostly because I think it fits well in with the sense of Weirdness that Numenera and the other Cypher System games have going for them. 

Lakhesian Ghost (8)

Health: 40
Combat: The Lakhesian Ghost does not need to attack you. It needs to get you to attack it in such a way that you or your allies will be harmed instead. A ricocheting bullet, tripping with your blade, stepping on a loose patch of rocks on a cliff’s edge…

If an attacker manages to lock in on it with a mental attack, it will provide all the information that person asks of it, while also draining their life force.

Damage inflicted: self-inflicted injuries, or 6 damage to your intellect pool if you fail an Intellect Defense task and cannot pull yourself away while attempting to use it. 

About the author:

Ryan Howse is the author of The Steel Discord, The Alchemy Dirge, and Red in Tooth and Claw. He can be found at twitter.com/RyanHowse

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