Jalan: Mysteries of the Haunted World
Jalan is a haunted world. Where the natural life of the world exists, spirits exist in parallel, usually unseen and separate in the Spirit Layer, but often felt. Spirits feed on the magical emanations of natural life the way plants feed on the light of the sun, though each kind of spirit consumes a different sort of magic, and some are more aggressive in their feeding than others. Many spirits simply absorb the most basic vibrations and thrive in vibrant forests, rich coral reefs, and anywhere else that natural life abounds. Other spirits require the stronger, richer sustenance of emotions and reactions, the passions of animals or intelligent beings in their hunt or their play. The most powerful spirits feed on the most powerful emotions: fear, hate, desperation, death, lust, love, grief, ecstasy. These spirits are ever-hungry and are often tempted to manipulate the world to bring about great feasts for themselves. Some rare spirits feed, instead, on the use of magic itself, and they bind themselves to willing hosts as guides, teachers, and instruments, helping them to harness and nurture their powers in exchange for an ever-improving meal.
In Jalan, spirits are not a myth or a superstition, but a reality that all beings must cope with or turn to their advantage. Many animals and plants have adapted to sense the ripples of the Spirit Layer, to warn themselves of the presence of spirits that might help or doom them. More intelligent beings have learned simple spells and runic charms to keep harmful spirits at bay and invite the helpful ones to dine. Most common folk have access to only the most rudimentary of defenses; short incantations, trained mental states, or special runes etched into charms or painted or tattooed onto the skin, to be chanted or traced at least once a day, and again when spirits are suspected to be acting. Only some of these work, either because they were made by charlatans or because the user simply does not have the magical will to invest in them. Too often the only defense against hungry spirits is to let them feed unhindered.
Though there are many who only pretend to be able to commune with the spirits, true spirit talkers exist in some form in every culture. Some of these do little more than act as a translator between the spirits and the community, ensuring that the spirits are sated without causing mischief to enrich their diet, and seeking their protection in exchange for cooperation. Others, known as spirit hunters, deal with less-reasonable spirits who feed off of misery and chaos, hunting them down to banish or destroy them or to use them to further other goals.
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