Not all spirits are lucky enough to return to a body, or have the strength of will to become a ghost or spectre. Ectoplasmic creatures are near-mindless undead whose only form is the gooey ectoplasm that clings to them, a remnant of their souls’ time on the Ethereal Plane. That’s still plenty enough form to do some damage, though, especially to low-level parties. (And if you ever wanted Slimer to cause real havoc, this is your monster.)
After a lab accident burned down Findarren Olaf’s lodging house, he was haunted by the ectoplasmic forms of the other boarders who did not survive the blaze. Now he lives in an abandoned watchtower, where 20-foot-thick walls keep the angry ectoplasmic creatures at bay. When a particularly persistent shade phase-lurches past his defenses, he seeks adventurers to help him drive off the undead and set their souls to rest.
A vile cult occupies a desecrated temple. Among the surprises they've left for any would-be crusaders is a baptismal font apparently filled with oil. Anyone who investigates more closely finds that the oil is actually ectoplasm—causing a patrol of ectoplasmic beheaded (all that’s left of the cult’s many victims) to slurp out of the glistening goo and attack.
As an empire falls into disrepair, its wonders dwindle and decay. The Grand Menagerie, no longer a prize attraction, has a new head keeper: an alchemist obsessed with “improving” the animals. The results of his fleshwarping experiments fill many of the enclosures. But worse yet are the failures. So many animals have died in agony on his watch that their souls have merged into ectoplasmic creatures of suffering and hate. Manifesting as ectoplasmic chimeras, these conjoined undead creatures hate the living and seek to devour anyone who comes near their territory. Perhaps the worse is an oozy chimera sporting the heads of a lion, a giraffe, and a green dragon…and a tail tipped with the sobbing face of the zookeeper’s late daughter.
—Pathfinder Adventure Path #43 86–87 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 82–83
I hope you all like Bestiary 4 monsters…because you’re going to a get a lot of them from now on!
The title adventure from Pathfinder Adventure Path #43: The Haunting of Harrowstone and that issue’s “Bestiary” are also notable for the number of low-powered threats and haunts they serve up. If you’re stuck for 1st-level adventure ideas that don’t involve goblins or kobolds, it’s worth investigating.
A reader questioned me about the Jewishness (or lack thereof) of the dybbuk. Just so we’re clear, I never claimed they appeared in the Talmud or anything, just Jewish folklore. Aside from the Wikipedia entry, check out more info here and here.
(And that thing about adherers was a joke, obvs.)