Spirit Of The Woods
The spirit of the woods is a force of nature with sentience and great power, but no form. Despite its name, these spirits are not limited to woodlands. There are spirits of the deep, spirits of the plains, spirits of the mountains, and so on. Often patrons and friends of rangers and druids, these spirits embody the will of the land and all creatures in it.
These mutable creatures typically drift in the Ethereal Plane, hovering just beside the lands that spawned them. Although this prevents the spirits from manifesting most of their power, they can still be dangerous foes if provoked, for the creatures of the wilderness love these benevolent protectors and savagely attack all who anger them. Traveling through an area overseen by a hostile spirit of the woods means continual harassment from local creatures. This hostility is not limited to normal animals. A forest spirit might turn owlbears and dryads against enemies in addition to bears and wolves, while rodents might continually infest enemies' food supplies, and snakes spook their mounts. On rare occasions, a spirit of the woods needs to manifest in the Material Plane. In order to do this, it must possess an indigenous creature. The fusion of such power greatly enhances the host body. Although the spirit will try to preserve the life of the creature it inhabits, killing the host only forces the spirit to return to the Ethereal Plane; it is not harmed in any way.
Creating a Spirit of the Woods
The spirit of the woods is a template that can be applied to any animal (referred to hereafter as the "base creature"). The creature's type changes to "magical beast." It uses all of the base creature's statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
Hit Dice: Change to d10.
AC: The base creature's natural armor increases by +6.
Special Attacks: The spirit of the woods retains all special attacks of the base creature and gains those listed below.
Possess Animal (Su): When on the Ethereal Plane, the spirit of the woods can attempt to possess an animal it detects on the Material Plane (or any plane coexistent with the Ethereal Plane). The spirit of the woods may use this ability 3 times per day. The chosen animal must succeed at a Will save (DC 15) or the spirit of the woods possesses it. If the spirit of the woods succeeds, its essence leaves the Ethereal Plane and enters the animal. The animal gains the spirit of the woods template and is completely controlled by the spirit of the woods. The spirit of the woods can leave the animal as a standard action, whereupon it immediately appears in the same relative place on the Ethereal Plane in an animal form of its choice (often the most powerful animal form in the area it frequents). If the animal is killed, the spirit of the woods is forced into the Ethereal Plane and takes form in the same fashion as if it willfully left. Damage dealt and spell, supernatural, or spell-like effects that affect the spirit's possessed animal form do not affect its ethereal form, although they might affect its ability to return to the Ethereal Plane (such as if it is rendered unconscious or charmed). A spirit of the woods can be forced to the Ethereal Plane by entering an antimagic field, and it can be expelled to the Ethereal Plane by a banishment or dismissal spell (in both cases there is no chance it will be sent to another plane and it appears in the same relative place on the Ethereal Plane).
Special Qualities: The spirit of the woods retains all special qualities of the base creature and gains those listed below.
Animal Language (Ex): A spirit of the woods can speak with animals at will. In addition, it can speak Druidic and Sylvan.
Ethereal Form: On the Ethereal Plane, the spirit of the woods does not need to possess an animal, but it may assume any animal shape it wishes. Switching forms is a full-round action, and it may switch its ethereal form up to 3 times a day. If it was forced out of the Material Plane or voluntarily left, taking form on the Ethereal counts as a use of its ability to take a new ethereal form. When a spirit of the woods switches ethereal forms, damage dealt and spell, supernatural, or spell-like effects that affect the spirit's previous ethereal form do not affect its new ethereal form. Ethereal forms are created by picking any animal form as a base creature and applying the changes detailed in this template. If the ethereal form of the spirit of the woods is slain, it is destroyed.
Spells: A spirit of the woods casts spells as a 7th-level druid for purposes of determining spell potency, availability, and number of spells per day. This spellcasting ability is available to it in whatever form it takes, and it never requires material components. When switching from one form to another, whether an ethereal form or a possessed animal form, it does not regain spells it cast; spells cast in one form are no longer available to the spirit of the woods in another form.
Saves: Same as base creature.
Abilities: Increase from the base creature as follows: Str +6, Dex +6, Con +6. Int, Wis, and Cha all become 20, as the spirit's mind supplants the base creature's.
Skills: A spirit of the woods has a +10 racial bonus to Survival, Knowledge (nature), and Concentration. Otherwise, same as base creature.
Feats: Same as base creature.
Climate/Terrain: Same as base creature.
Challenge Rating: Same as base creature +3. Note that if the spirit of the woods flees to change form, that could be considered a situation where the party overcame the encounter.
Alignment: Always neutral.
Advancement: Same as base creature.