BURNAWAY Dev Log: What is an Embergeist?


What are embergeists, exactly?

A dust-jacket scrutiny of BURNAWAY would likely see embergeists as the central antagonists of the narrative, the genesis of the fire that has called the player characters into action, and the largest threat to their lives while they\’re on a mission. But BURNAWAY isn\’t a trad fantasy RPG, where slaying the scary looking monster nets you experience points and loot. Through the game\’s narrative-focused mechanics, players and their Burnaway counterparts witness these spirits\’ expressions of anguish and forgotten purpose, and explore what means of communication between the living and the dead will provide a merciful resolution for both. 

Embergeists don\’t necessarily haunt the location where their former identity passed on, but rather the site that is connected to their regret or other lingering emotion that went unsatisfied. An embergeist is an incomplete puzzle, an avatar of unfinished business. However, its existence as a mere echo of emotions given fiery form provides it with no faculty of reason or waking thought. All it can do is mindlessly act upon the anger, sorrow or hatred that sustains it, which may end up being counterproductive to its posthumous desires.

No one knows for sure how or why the manifested essence of the Embergeist spontaneously combusts, or how that conflagration is sustained by spiritual energy alone. Reliable research on them is exceedingly scarce, to the point that fear of them can be tempered by a general disbelief in the paranormal. On the other hand, no victim has ever identified as a doubting Thomas post-contact. Even if one adamantly refuses to believe in the supernatural nature of Embergeists, there\’s no way to deny the presence of a house fire.

Since the physical manifestation of an embergeist is shaped according to the emotional essence that birthed it, they can take on both humanoid and monstrous appearances. The animating will of some geists conforms them to a spectral version of their former identity, though often with distorted or exaggerated features. char-skeleton figures, mantles of smoke and ash, or limbs made of burning coal are common manifestations. Other embergeists may appear more creature-like, based on animals the former identity had a strong connection to or one that was involved in their death. For some, \”monstrous\” is the only proper descriptor, a nightmare of pulsing flame and malice.

Though there are vanishingly few Embergeists whose appearance isn\’t frightening to the living in some way, a surprising number of them can be interacted with and put to rest without a fight. Even geists who were born from an intent of vengance or violent suffering can have these residual emotions satisfied by particularly savvy Burnaways who are dedicated to the path of placation. Some in this line of work hold to it as a calling, protecting both the living and the dead by helping these spiritual beings pass on under their own power. Others see it as a dangerous waste of time, when the tried-and-true method of exorcism gets quicker results, and with fewer victims or allies harmed while one person is trying to play therapist to an emotional spirit-puppet. The end result of either path sees the Embergeist permanently disestablished from the living world; there are no public reports of vanquished Embergeists reappearing at their haunts or anywhere else.

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