One must pity the specter: a writhing miasma of bitterness, confusion, dismay and hate that so unjustly exists, but exist it does. To be severed from the mortal ties of one’s life while still in the midst of living does not bear thought, for dwelling upon such can drive even the most stalwart to madness. The myriad flavors of life, the common things relied upon day after day, create an unseen cocoon of comforting familiarity. But, should this snug refuge be rent asunder, the soul within unceremoniously set adrift, pity that soul, and any who chance to meet it.
Specters differ from ghosts in that the latter are true spirits of the dead, imprints of once-living souls and reflective, at least in part, of those individuals. A specter, by contrast, is formed when a being’s soul is ripped from them while they still live. Without a natural death, there is no chance for the soul to pass on as it should, leaving only a hateful and malignant creature. Stripped of all personhood and character, desperately hungry for the life it can never return to, specters are murderously envious of any who still cling to it. The sun itself, a symbol and giver of life, is hateful to a specter, enraging even as it weakens them.
Specters are formed of unstable soul essence, and that instability is reflected in their appearance. A specter is of roughly humanoid shape, made up of crackling, dancing energy, like a rioting thundercloud given form. The strands of energy which flare away from it react negatively with any living soul they come across, attempting to latch on and draw back any fragments they can seize upon, draining life from the victim in a vain attempt to possess it for themselves. Were they not so dangerous, specters would be pitiable creatures.
Almost universally, specters became so unwittingly and unwillingly. No redemption, rest, or hope for salvation awaits them, and no ambition or hope drives them. All a specter can do is bring down as many living creatures as it can before it is snuffed from existence. The most dire mistake one can make when encountering a specter is to assume that, like a ghost, it can be put to rest should its business be completed, for it has no business but to extinguish life, and no rest but oblivion.
Specters are created when powerful dark magic, or an evil entity, separates an unwilling living soul from their body. This act disrupts the natural order, warping the soul into an unstable and crude approximation of an undead spirit. Wraiths commonly create specters to serve them and demoralize their living enemies. Specters might also be created as byproducts of particularly foul rituals, such as one to summon an extraplanar entity into a living, but empty, ‘vessel’.
Specters are attracted to strong emotions, both positive and negative, though they swarm towards misery like flies to dead flesh. They gather together in areas suffused with these feelings, such as graveyards and old battlefields. Drinking in these emotions is only a reminder that such things are denied to them, and so increases their hatred. The superstition goes that catching even a glimpse of a specter is an omen of one’s imminent (and probably miserable) death. This is not true in and of itself, but can often prove a self-fulfilling prophecy; the presence of a specter is likely to warp emotions towards negativity, and begin a downward spiral into despair and apathy, which can prove deadly in its own right, to say nothing of the deadly attentions of the specter itself.
Specters are sentient and free-willed, but focused enough to be somewhat predictable in their behavior. Above all, they crave what is forever barred to them – life; specters will kill the living for no reason other than to jealously deprive others of what they cannot have. While they are devoid of their original personalities, specters as a whole tend to fall into two camps, dependent on how they choose to hunt their victims. Some thrive on the quantity of death they can accomplish, traveling far and wide and killing at will to rid as many beings of life as possible. Others seem to prefer the ‘quality’ of suffering they can inflict on the world, stalking an individual, or a small group, and taking their time to ensure their target spirals as far into despair as they can, before granting them the mercy of death.
Most specters prefer to engage in hit-and-run tactics, wearing down their foe over a series of attacks before utilizing their incorporeal nature to retreat to safety. In combat, a specter will remain mobile as much as possible, flitting from point to point and trusting that its very presence is as damaging to its victims’ souls as a direct attack.
Many specters, particularly those who prefer quality over quantity in the misery and death they bring about, will flee a fight if the odds turn against them. It is, however, common to see them fight until their own destruction, attacking mercilessly and fearlessly. Given the torment of their very existence, it is easy to interpret this not only as ferocity, but also a longing to end their own misery.