What are Ghost Keys?

I was wondering about Ghost Keys, and how people have used them in their games.

Do you have to Attune to a ghost key before you can use it? Does it open lots of doors in the ghost field, or just one? How does it open those doors?

I have this idea for a campaign I’m hoping to start: ghost keys are just ordinary keys, but very old ones - so old that the doors they once unlocked have perished from the real world, but may still exist in the ghost field. So that each key can only open one particular door. Attuning to the key can help you to track down which door it opens: maybe the key pulls you towards the door, or glows brighter as you get closer.

Somewhere in Charterhall, is a shop. The front part is dedicated to all manner of “antiques” - or at least second-hand furniture scavenged from wherever the owner can find it. But if you know the password, you can access the back room, where keys of all shapes, sizes and materials can be found - velvet lined drawers full of them. A few are sold with directions to the locations of the doors they unlock. Many others are just sold as is - maybe you’ll find a useful one, and if not, the proprietor will often buy back a key if you’ve found what it opens. Some say that there is another room in the shop, where keys are sold that open doors in the most secret of locations.

You can attempt to acquire an asset here, with the roll determining how useful a doorway you can use - a broom cupboard in a target location would be a low Tier item, good for hiding in for a few moments but not much more. The front door might be higher Tier, giving you a secret way to access the scene from outside, and a very high Tier result could be the key to a study or a safe. Or maybe you could get a set of skeleton keys (pun not intended!) that open every door in the house.

The shopkeeper counts as a vice purveyor for the Weird. Indulging your vice here can involve spending a few hours Attuning to keys to try to track down their locations in the ghost field. Overindulging could mean that you get stuck somewhere in the ghost field, or you attract the attention of something there. Or perhaps that key lets you into a place where you really shouldn’t have gone… and the powerful owner is going to be very upset if they find out about it.

It feels as though there are a lot of potential story hooks there - what do you think?


That’s a rad elaboration of an idea that gets pretty cursory treatment in the text. I like the idea of the keys corresponding to decommissioned doors, with characters having to track down the location the door previously occupied. It gives you a little more to play with. I could see Whispers and Hounds working together, Attuning and Hunting to find a ghostly keyhole floating in midair. I would definitely run with that if I were you.

My players used a ghost key to breach the lightning wall on an excursion out to the Lost District a few sessions ago, but they kinda sprung the idea on me, so I didn’t really have the wherewithal to spin it into something cool. I basically had their Whisper attune for success, with a risk of drawing the attention of Spirit Wardens or ghosts as a potential consequence. Passable, but not as interesting as what you’ve cooked up.

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Our table treats ghost keys as ‘skeleton keys’ for doors found within the ghost field. However, I love your idea and in a future campaign, want to combine this with the Poor Beginnings set-up described in the rulebook (p. 231).

Love it!

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I love your framing of the keys as an element of the possible weird because it feels like it meshes so perfectly with the Duskvoll aesthetic very well. I think the concept can be used to either highlight both a tinker and a whisper possibly being able to reach a similar result from their own respective fields of knowledge or make the same object from a wildly different process. I hope you don’t mind but i plan on using your purveyor of weird in the game i am planning. :slight_smile:

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I wouldn’t have posted it here if I wasn’t happy for other people to use it!

I’ve had some more thoughts, but I’ll write them up later when I’ve got a bit more time.

Very nice concept indeed!
I have developed a different view, based on the fact that spectral field is not a homogenous space-time but has “contractions”, areas where it flows in a denser way. If such contraction-area is even further condensed (by intervention of high-power entities, by attuning, by etc. etc.), a sort of wormhole is created, which can be used to connect different places or different time-areas within or without the field. Byproducts of such condensations are ghost-keys, so they can be used to “access” or to “summon” such wormholes.
But I do love the very idea that ghost-keys are actually basic keys linked to the past, and have to be attuned with in order for the corresponding lock to be located, as they are a part of the very ghost-field itself.

Thx for inspiration, would probably include something like this in the game - maybe keys that need to be attuned to be activated.

I’ve been thinking about my original idea for the shop, and I was wondering who the shopkeeper would be, and how they came to run such a business. Here’s what I’ve come up with. First the entry as it might appear in various places in the main book, then in the next post, some deeper ideas.

Character Contact/ Rival
Varin, a shopkeeper. Perhaps someone able to get you what you need, when you want it - for a price. Or else a fence who refused to tell you how he came by your most precious item?

Vice Purveyor - Weird
Varin Dewar. Aged proprietor of Dewar’s Curiosities, a shop in Charterhall.

Charterhall - Landmarks
Dewar’s Curiosities. A shop located below street level on Baritone Way, where all sorts of goods can be found, from second- (or twentieth-) hand furniture, to rare artworks, to the latest (and rather salacious) novels, purportedly smuggled in from Iruvia. Sometimes customers drop offhand comments about what they’re looking for, and then on a return visit a week later find the exact items desired - often at a price almost exactly as high as they can afford. There are also rumours that Dewar can supply other items, of arcane value, but only to those who know the password.

Charterhall - Notables
Varin Dewar. No-one can remember a time when Varin Dewar wasn’t the owner of Dewar’s Curiosities. He has contacts at every level of society, though few of the upper tiers will admit to knowing him. Still, they send their servants to him when they have a need for a particular item and no other way to obtain it. (Aged, shrewd, patient)

Here are my further thoughts and ideas - as always, if something inspires you, please feel free to use it in your own adventures.

The first thing I wondered was where Varin got a stock of ghost keys originally. I decided that he was very old, and had obtained a great many keys himself long ago - back in the days when they were just keys, and not ghost keys. That lent itself to the idea that he was a vampire, who had been a thief in his youth. He thus had ties to the underworld, which he could have maintained after he retired from scoundrelry, no longer stealing things himself but fencing them for other people.

Throughout his life of crime, he kept the keys he stole as trophies, though he couldn’t remember what locks half of them opened. Eventually he discovered that they could have other uses long after they were thought to be worthless. And so he began to sell them on to rogues wanting access to the ghost field, and to employ others to track down the locations where the keys had come from.

As to how and why he became a vampire… I like the idea that he didn’t really want to live forever, but he had some goal that he couldn’t achieve in life. When he realised that he didn’t have enough time left, he took the step of severing his spirit from body, and then possessing it again (he didn’t want anyone else to have to die to leave him a vacant corpse to fill). Since then, he has used his old thieving skills, in association with his stock of ghost keys, to gain access to people’s homes to feed on them in the night. He doesn’t like doing it, but it’s necessary until he succeeds in his quest.

As to what that quest is, I think that he has a bitter - and completely one-sided - rivalry with Lord Scurlock, who is almost completely unaware of Varin’s existence. Varin himself has almost forgotten the cause, but the thirst for vengeance remains all-consuming.

His Traumas would be Cold, Soft, Obsessed and probably Paranoid. His Strictures are Slumber and Bound.

Ghost buildings make me think of The Foundation.

What’s the Foundation? I can only think of the Asimov series, definitely no ghosts in that (except for holograms of Hari Seldon).

There’s a Masons-like faction of builders and architects. If they don’t like you, you end up buried under a cornerstone.

Oh right, I’d forgotten about them - they’re one of the factions that doesn’t get a write-up in the Factions section, just a mention in the table and the list.

Yes, they could be interesting to involve in this kind of thing…

Everyone forgets about the Foundation.

Isn’t that interesting?