What is a Haint?

A Haint, in a nutshell, is a domestically minded entity that can for a time assume a physical form for the purpose of attempted murder.

1. The House Haint

The House Haint is functionally an Unseen Servant, as per the spell. When invisible, they carry out mundane household chores, such as cleaning, mending clothes, or even preparing food. This can only be done unseen, so clothes vanish and later reappear cleaned, and mended. A dirty room will remain dirty so long as it is occupied, but a few moments unobserved and it is spic and span clean. Under the correct conditions, such as moonlight in an unlit part of the house, on certain dates of the calendar, application of magic, or simply wanting to be seen, the haint can be seen. In their visible form, they are humanoid and covered almost completely with cowls and robes. Their faces cannot be seen beyond pinpricks of light in the shadow. They are mute, and while capable of understanding almost any language, they tend to ignore any instructions given without magical compulsion or the proper ritual observances.

Sometimes, a house haint will attempt to kill you. The common tool for this is a garrote of differing materials, but chains are popular among them. A prepared character can resist this attack because, to be honest, the Haint is going through the motions and not intensely motivated to kill. A grapple or strength check can be enough. Regular vigilance also works, because haints will be visible before attacking, and if they are seen, they will not attack. Folk charms and wards can be effective at warding haints out of an area, but this affects them regardless of intent, and a haint denied access to a part of their domestic domain will become increasingly hostile.

Ruling - as House Haints are not directly aggressive, they can ONLY make attacks of opportunity. A wary traveler can keep themselves safe from house haints by keeping them constantly in sight, and a comfortable zone of space around themselves. If the house haints can ONLY use their garrotes in a choking maneuver from behind.

2. Guardian Haints

as per house haint, but armed with chain-based weapons rather than just garrotes. Guardian haints, as per their names, are placed as guardians within the house or domain they claim. They do not engage in domestic tasks.

Ruling - Guardian Haints are armed with chains and chain-based weapons and while they prefer attacks of opportunity, they can engage in direct combat. They still prefer submission and strangulation over using their chain weapons to cut, gut, or smash their foes. Being neither alive nor dead, a defeated Haint simply fades into a rapidly decaying pile of cloth and reincarnates a short time later. Thus, they are often patient enough to allow a foe to 'kill' them two or three times before catching them unawares and overpowering them. 

3. Haint Skulk

House haints are not aggressive, and guardian haints prefer to be like shadows or stones for stillness. This can be problematic neither is good for scouting, searching, or similar activities. The Haint Skulk is bound by neither of these limitations. They can leave their home domain for prolonged periods and can move with incredible swiftness. They still eschew direct confrontations but can be instructed to find people or things, and deliver messages or assassinations. To this end, they still will deliberately limit themselves to using their chains and choking a foe to death, even when a shadow quick dagger could end a tasked murder in seconds.

Ruling - Haint Skulks can become incorporeal, travel without a trace, move as much as a hundred miles and return in an evening. They can unerringly find mundane targets within their range, and only very clever use of folk and hedge charms, or full-fledged magic can conceal a person or thing from their attention.

4. Haintling

The Haintling appears as a floating cowl, just the part that covers the head. These haints are curious, impulsive, and can be chatty. There are two theories, that the haintling is the larval form of the haint, or that they are a form of shadow familiar but unbound by a sorcerer.

Ruling - Haintlings are more summoned and created by magic-users when they interact with the domain and the haints in general. This is a sort of sympathetic budding and the resultant haintling acts like a familiar or house pet to the summoner. Those that are released, or their summoner perishes. After they are unbound, these haintlings will gestate and become a greater form of haint, depending on the nature of their creators.

5. Haint Nightshade

Haint Nightshades are incredibly rare, possibly the rarest incarnation of these elusive creatures. Despite looking identical to a house haint, they are incredibly feminine and have a seductive presence. This makes them more than dangerous because many people will let their guard down, captivated by the hooded seductress, and many find a dark bliss when the Nightshade's chain slips around their neck.

Ruling - a Haint Nightshade is a House Haint that can Charm Person to the extent that a shapeless nigh-incorporeal floating robe can be sexualized into a charming seductress. 

6. Elder Haints

Elder Haints are much like regular house haints except for being older, their robes faded and frayed. They also can summon, command, and banish house haints at will. Unlike a house haint, elder haints can speak. Their voice is a whisper that always seems to come from just behind the listener, even if they are staring at the elder haint in front of their person. They are intelligent, but have little concept of time outside of their home domain, and tend to be alien to mortals and humans.

Ruling - Elder Haints have extensive abilities and knowledge, though often very limited to their domain and the experiences of the people they've known. Most are hundreds of years old and have the according abilities. They can be negotiated with, and have influence over other haints within their domain.

7. Arch-Haint

It is believed that there is only one Arch-Haint ever, and it is the eldest of the Elder Haints. It speaks for all of the haints, and can summon and control any other haint in existence. Rumors describe it as two to three times the size of the Guardian Haint, bearing a dark crown above it's unseen cowled head, carrying a great black steel sword or a scythe.

Ruling - an Arch-Haint is an Elder Haint that has gained the ability to access magic abilities. They can use either sorcerer based magic systems (having consumed the essence of an innate magic user, or magic creature) or clerical spheres of darkness, shadows, etc, (having merged with a dark-aspected cleric as they died). They are rare because an Elder Haint must be attending a magic-using creature or mortal at the moment they die, and the mortal has to willingly give their powers over.

USAGE:

Haints are background color characters for shadow realms, hell houses, haunted realms, secret castles, and such, where they represent an ever-present if low key threat to the characters. Their lethality can be tempered by giving their appearances specific circumstances, or strong weaknesses, such as not being able to appear in the presence of a fire, or in rooms warded against them, such as bedrooms. They are specifically not undead, so clerics cannot turn or banish them as undead. Mages can control them, assuming they have spells that target and control spirit creatures. Even with these, the magic is difficult, as catching a haint is like grabbing smoke, or snatching oil from water with bare hands.

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