Ghoul

“The subsidence was evident in every grave. A sunken scar marked many of the town’s burial sites, each filled with a muddy puddle from the afternoon rain. Yet more disturbing were those graves without puddles—for these graves were scarred instead by gaping holes into the darkness. A terrible smell rose from those holes, a smell of death and decay far too pungent and strong to come from the relatively small number of bodies likely buried in the boneyard, and far too fresh to come from anything more than a week dead. Yet worst of all were the sounds coming from those graveyard holes, sounds of a sloppy, frantic feasting punctuated all too often by screams.”
—Officer Vade Andermen’s testimony recounting the aftermath of the Clover’s Crossing tragedy

Ghouls are undead that haunt graveyards and eat corpses. Legends hold that the first ghouls were either cannibalistic humans whose unnatural hunger dragged them back from death or humans who in life fed on the rotting remains of their kin and died (and were reborn) from the foul disease—the true source of these undead scavengers is unclear.

Ghouls lurk on the edges of civilization (in or near cemeteries or in city sewers) where they can find ample supplies of their favorite food. Though they prefer rotting bodies and often bury their victims for a while to improve their taste, they eat fresh kills if they are hungry enough.

Ghouls spread—sometimes purposefully—a virulent disease known as ghoul fever through their saliva. As creatures that die of ghoul fever often rise as ghouls themselves, a population explosion can easily result.

The typical ghoul is assumed to have come from a Medium humanoid like a human, half-elf, dwarf, or elf. Yet some humanoids have remarkably different characteristics that make these ghouls more or less powerful.

A humanoid who dies of ghoul fever rises as a ghoul at the next midnight. A humanoid who becomes a ghoul in this way retains none of the abilities it possessed in life. It is not under the control of any other ghouls, but it hungers for the flesh of the living and behaves like a normal ghoul in all respects.

Notable Events


Lencast, 1378

The Skinsaw Murders

Notes


  • Ghoul bats are mobats, (magical beasts) that became ghouls after being "specially raised on diets of fungus and humanoid flesh. Upon reaching maturity, urdefhans ritually slay the bats using necrotic poisons, then raise the corpses to serve as mounts and guardians."
  • Dire corbies (monstrous humanoids) "who feed solely on carrion have been known to succumb to ghoul fever and be reborn as undead ghoul corbies with a hunger for living flesh."

Essentially, some undead
can choose to eat if they desire, even if they have
no requirement to consume. They could eat even
ordinary food, if they desired to appear normal or
were interested in trying to tease out some hint of
fl avor; undead with tongues, such as ghouls and
skirrs (see page 120) actually retain their sense
of taste.

Diet Dependent: Some undead must feed on the living to
retain either their mobility or some of their other abilities. The
link to the Negative Energy Plane for undead of these sort grows
increasingly tenuous the longer they are denied the necessary
food. At some point, their mobility or one or more specific
abilities are suppressed until they can feed again. However,
no matter how enervated by lack of feeding, undead cannot be
starved to the point of permanent destruction. A fresh infusion
of their preferred food can always bring them back to their full
abilities. Most diet-dependent undead can go for 3d6 months
before losing all mobility.
If a player controls an undead with a diet-dependent existence,
use the Variant Rule: Handling Undead Hunger sidebar
on this page.

Taking a broader view, undead propagation might be regarded
as an infectious disease: It is nasty, it is easily spread, and it kills
its hosts. Of course, the plague of self-propagating undead is
far worse than any common disease (especially since normal
methods for preserving oneself against disease are useless in
this case), but the cure is little different—eliminate the source
of infection, and you eliminate the malady itself.

A wide range of undead creatures have paralyzing attacks, from
the ghoul to the lich. The simplest fi x is remove paralysis (which
works on up to four creatures). Freedom works as well, though
it’s a bit of an overkill. The best antiparalysis spell is freedom of
movement. Not only does it free a paralyzed creature, it provides
immunity to paralysis (as well as a wide range of other benefi ts)
for 10 minutes per caster level.

Although usually portrayed as bloodthirsty killers content to
dine on carrion, ghouls (and their tougher cousins, the ghasts)
were once living humanoids with true emotions. Sometimes
memories of that previous life comes back to haunt a ghoul, and
such qualities make for an excellent tragic character.
Because of the similarity between ghouls and ghasts, a single
undead monster class covers both creatures. In effect, a ghoul
“becomes” a ghast at 6th level.
Adventures: A ghoul might turn to adventuring out of a wish to
avenge its death, protect a loved one, or destroy an old enemy.
Characteristics: Ghouls are strong characters because of
their combat ability, particularly their resistance to many kinds
of damage. Most of a ghoul’s power comes from the fact that it
is undead. On top of the standard undead immunities, it has
favorable ability score modifi ers and (after 1st level) multiple
attacks per round. Although it is at risk of being destroyed or
controlled by a cleric’s use of positive or negative energy, even
the weakest ghoul has turn resistance.
Alignment: Ghouls are traditionally chaotic evil, though this
restriction can be relaxed in a campaign that features undead
player characters. Even so, most ghouls tend toward chaos and/or
evil. Lawful or good ghouls are extremely rare.
Religion: Ghouls, like most undead, rarely devote themselves
to any religion. As intelligent undead, ghouls are rightfully wary
of divine power. Those that seek out a divine power to follow
often gravitate to the worship of Orcus.
Background: Some ghouls are created upon the death of
a living individual who savored the taste of humanoid fl esh.
Others are transformed by the bite of a ghoul or ghast; these
ghouls are the most likely to deviate from the normal ghoul
alignment of chaotic evil.
Races: Most ghouls were formerly human or a member of one
of the savage humanoid races (orcs, gnolls, goblinoids, and the
like). Evil dwarves sometimes prove wicked enough to transform
into ghouls, but elves, gnomes, and halfl ings rarely descend to
such depths of depravity. Of course, any humanoid affl icted by
ghoul fever might become a ghoul, even without resorting to
such behavior.
Other Undead Classes: Ghouls get along reasonably well
with wights, though they sometimes look down on the wights’
lack of subtlety. They respect the power and “vision” of the mass-
murdering mohrgs, but vampire spawn are much too haughty
for a ghoul’s liking, and mummies are generally too lawful.
Role: Ghouls can serve as adequate front-line fi ghters, but
they are better at scouting and skirmishing. A ghoul’s natural
cunning and agility lends itself to a role of stealth over sheer
power.
Racial Traits
Starting Ability Score Adjustments: +2 Dex, +2 Wis, Con —.
Ghouls are more agile than humans and have a natural cunning
and insight. As an undead creature, a ghoul does not have a
Constitution score.
Speed: A ghoul’s base land speed is the same as that of the
base race.
Darkvision: Ghouls can see in the dark out to 60 feet.
Automatic Languages: Common. Once humanoids themselves,
ghouls remember the language of their own former
existence.
Favored Class: Ghoul. The best multiclass choices for a ghoul
are ranger, rogue, and fi ghter. Those who choose to pursue spellcasting
classes often take well to sorcery or even the role of a
cleric, typically of a deity of death or undeath.
Class Skills
The ghoul’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are
Balance (Dex), Climb (Str), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Move Silently
(Dex), and Spot (Wis).
Skill Points at 1st Level: (4 + Int modifi er) × 4.
Skill Points at Each Additional Hit Die: 4 + Int modifi er.
Class Features
All of the following are class features of the ghoul monster
class.
Weapon and Armor Profi ciency: Ghouls are profi cient
with all simple weapons, but not with armor or shields.
Bite: A ghoul has a bite attack that is a natural weapon dealing
the indicated damage plus its Strength bonus. The damage value
given is for Medium ghouls.
Claws: Beginning at 2nd level, a ghoul has two claw attacks
that are natural weapons dealing the indicated damage plus 1/2 its
Strength bonus. The damage value given is for Medium ghouls.
Paralysis (Ex): A creature hit by a bite or claw attack from a
ghoul of 2nd level or higher must succeed on a Fortitude save
(DC 10 + 1/2 ghoul’s HD from class levels + ghoul’s Cha modifi er)
or be paralyzed for the indicated duration. Elves are immune to
the paralysis of ghouls of 7th level or lower.
Ghoul Fever (Su): Disease—bite, Fortitude DC 10 + 1/2
ghoul’s HD from class levels + ghoul’s Cha modifi er, incubation
period 1 day, damage 1d3 Con and 1d3 Dex. The save DC
is Charisma-based.
An affl icted humanoid who dies of ghoul fever rises as a
ghoul at the next midnight. A humanoid who becomes a ghoul
in this way retains none of the abilities it possessed in life. It
is not under the control of any other ghouls, but it hungers for
the fl esh of the living and behaves like a normal ghoul in all
respects. A humanoid of 4 Hit Dice or higher rises as a ghast
(an 8th-level ghoul).
Stench (Ex): The stink of death and corruption surrounding
an 8th-level ghoul (also known as a ghast) is overwhelming.
Living creatures within 10 feet must succeed on a Fortitude
save (DC 10 + 1/2 ghoul’s HD from class levels + ghoul’s Cha
modifi er) or be sickened for 1d6+4 minutes. A creature that successfully
saves cannot be affected by the same ghoul’s stench
for 24 hours. A delay poison or neutralize poison spell removes the
effect from a sickened creature. Creatures with immunity to
poison are unaffected, and creatures resistant to poison receive
their normal bonus on their saving throws.

Ghoul Shell: A suit of ghoul shell armor consists of shaped
and fi tted sections of ghoul hide sewn and interlocked to cover
the entire body, save for head, hands, and feet. Necromantic
residue remaining in the ghoul shell keeps the armor pliant
and responsive. This suit of +3 leather armor allows its wearer to
make up to three ghoul touch attacks per day, Fortitude DC 15.
Strong necromancy; CL 12th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor,
Knowledge (religion) 5 ranks, create undead; Price 35,230 gp;
Weight 15 lb.

From the lowly ghoul to the mighty nightshade, most intelligent
undead favor ambushes. They rely on their ability to hide and
move quietly to take adventurers by surprise. Since most undead
also have the ability to weaken or neutralize foes with even a
single hit, the advantage of a fi rst strike can prove substantial.

The ghoul (and its deadlier cousin, the ghast) is likely to be the
fi rst intelligent undead creature that low-level PCs encounter.
For those used to fi ghting mindless skeletons and zombies,
ghouls’ cunning may come as a surprise, which makes the
encounter all the more dangerous. Ghouls attempt to paralyze
as many targets as they can, reducing the number of mobile
foes they face. A ghoul typically ignores a foe once paralyzed,
though if it can’t get to another enemy, it may deliver a coup de
grace instead. Ghasts (and ghouls accompanying ghasts) prefer to
fi ght sickened opponents. Ghouls and ghasts are smart enough
to fl ee a losing fi ght, knowing that foes injured by their bites
may join them soon enough anyway.
Round 1: Spring from hiding to deliver paralyzing bite.
Round 2: Full attack if possible. Flank if the opportunity
presents itself.
Rounds 3 and Later: Focus on sickened or otherwise weakened
targets. Flee if outmatched.

Since roughly the beginning of time – as counted by editions of D&D – ghoul paralysis doesn’t work on elves. Ghast paralysis – which has been poison in past editions – worked on elves just fine, however. According to him, elves were immune to the effect because ghouls used negative energy to paralyze creatures and elves had a boatload of positive energy, thus making them immune.

  1. Doresain was an elf worshipper of Orcus who ate a bunch of dudes in order to honor his lord. Orcus was all, “yeah bro, good shit,” and turned Doresain into the first ghoul. Doresain became a lieutenant of Orcus and went around turning other Orcus-worshippers into ghouls, but then got beat up by Yeenoghu – the Demon Lord of Gnolls – losing his position as Ghoul Lord. Orcus didn’t care, which made Doresain even more depressed. Doresain cried to the elven gods for help. The elven gods said, “ugh, fine,” and allowed Doresain to come hang out with them as a no-longer-Ghoul-Lord. Oh, and elves became immune to ghoul paralysis as a result of the gods’ compassion.
  2. an elven necromancer was experimenting with creating new types of undead. If the wizard was ultimately benevolent and just made some bad choices, the ghouls exist to defend the wizard’s people or nation from a vicious threat. Ghouls eat the flesh of the dead in order to stave off the diseases and complications that arise from having too many corpses rotting in your land for too long a time period. It also allows the ghouls to work as stealth forces, both destroying any evidence of a combat and feeding the troops. The wizard used her own blood in the creation of the first ghoul, ensuring the potent necrotic energy wouldn’t affect the other ghouls or their elven masters.
    1. Subsequent ghouls arise from wizards attempting to reproduce the success of the elven ghouls. As a result, all ghouls carry this same flaw with them – regardless of the race of the corpses or wizard animating them. It’s possible wizards could rediscover the original process used to create ghouls, but the elven wizard’s notes no longer exist. Ghasts are a result of experimentation by other races, and most consider them to be dangerous failures. Elves were no longer safe from their touch, but ghasts are not as malleable as ghouls and are a much bigger threat to those creating them. Not an ideal combination, to say the least.
  3. wizard creates the ghouls as an invading army that would never need to sleep or eat. Ghouls cannot effectively turn against the conquering elves, as the wizard ensured the touch of the ghouls would never work against the elves leading them into battle – nor against other ghouls, should one of them become controlled by the opposition. Only elven wizards knew the secrets to creating ghouls, and scads of them were creating during the expansion of their empire (or during whatever war they were waging that resulting in them conquering someone.) When the elves fell – or the wizards died – many ghouls escaped the bonds of their masters, and escaped into the wild. In doing some, some of the ghouls regained a sense of self, no longer being mindless undead slaves of the elves.
    1. These ghouls became known as ghasts. As they regained their sentience, ghasts found the magic that limited their efficacy against elves faded. Ghasts possess a measure of control over ghouls they encounter, the elves consider them a palpable threat.

Stories abound as well of
spontaneous transformations when a man or woman, driven
by bleakest desperation or blackest madness, resorts to
cannibalism as a means of survival. Whether the expiration
that follows rises from further starvation or the death of the
will to carry on in light of such atrocity matters not, for when
death occurs after such a choice, a hideous rebirth as a ghoul
may occur.

In the Darklands, yet another route to ghoulishness
exists—lazurite. This strange, magical ore, thought to be the
remnant of a dead god who staggered through the Darklands
and left behind black bloodstains upon the caverns of the
Cold Hell, appears as a thin black crust where it is exposed.
The white veins of rock in which it often forms are known as
marrowstone. Lazurite itself exudes a magical radiation that
gives off a strong aura of necromancy. Any intact corpse left
within a few paces of a significant lazurite deposit for a day is
likely to rise as a ghoul or ghast, often retaining any abilities
it had in life. The vast majority of non-humanoid “ghouls” in
the Darklands rise from such conditions. Ghouls often build
lairs near lazurite deposits, for its radiation bolsters them
against holy energy.

Called by a wide variety of
regional names (such as gnaw pangs, belly blight, or Kabriri’s
curse), this contagion is known in most circles simply as
“ghoul fever.”

Transmitted by a ghoul’s bite (or, more rarely,
through the consumption of ghoulish f lesh), ghoul fever
causes the victim to grow increasingly hungry and manic,
yet makes it impossible to keep down any food or water. The
horrific hunger pangs caused by the sickness rob the victim
of coordination and cause increasingly painful spasms,
and eventually the victim starves to death, only to rise soon
thereafter as a ghoul. That those who perish from ghoul fever
invariably animate as undead at midnight has long intrigued
scholars of necromancy—the general thought is that only at
the dead of night can such a hideous transformation complete
its course. Fortunately, ghoul fever can only be transmitted
from ghoul to victim, not between the infected and the rest of
their community—for if the ailment could be so spread, the
ghoul apocalypse could be but one bite away.

Only during the
actual act of consuming humanoid f lesh does the hunger abate,
and it returns immediately upon the end of the grisly meal,
typically forcing the ghoul to seek out new prey immediately. A
ghoul forced to go without food does not suffer for its fasting—
its hunger remains as constant as ever, but does not grow in
power.

fortunately for the living, the ghoul is also an intelligent
creature and not a feral beast or mindless automaton. As a
creature of intellect, a ghoul has other needs than satisfying
its hunger. It does not constantly seek to satiate itself, for
hunger is such an abiding reality that, to a ghoul, it is the
norm. Ghouls spend long hours decorating their underground
lairs, tormenting prisoners, reading ancient texts, or simply
exploring the remote corners of their territories. As a general
rule, a ghoul seeks to satiate its hunger once per day, often
emerging from its warren at nightfall to seek out prey. Even
then, each ghoul’s tastes can vary widely, and these preferences
can further limit violent interactions with the living.

once "digested" the meat a ghoul consumes turns into ghoul jelly and is vomited up as a whitish liquid. this jelly also is the source the the ghoul's paralyzation.

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