HARP Bestiary Preview Excerpt: The Ghoul

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell and Aurigas Aldebaron LLC © 2015

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"The shaman priest of a rival tribe called upon the gods to punish the corpse eaters and the gods cursed them with the Rot."

HARP Bestiary Preview Excerpt: The Ghoul

Description

The appearance of a Ghoul is that of a putresecent humanoid corpse of indeterminate species and gender. The reanimation process causes the teeth to lengthen into long sharp yellow fangs which protrude from the mouth while their fingernails become keen claws. Ghouls will normally be attired in the rotting remains of their funerary garments or armor, though some purloin and adorn themselves in the gear of their victims, still with the bloody rents where bite or claw penetrated armor and clothes. Insects, worms and more from the dirt and mud of its dank lair infest the clothes, hair and skin of the Ghoul, adding to the horror of an encounter with this undead.

Lifestyle

During the day, Ghouls retire to their lairs, which can vary from shallow graves in lonely cemeteries and forgotten dungeons in abandoned ruins to natural caves and fetid swamps, to escape natural sunlight. At night, Ghouls leave their lairs, scavenging for carrion and hunting for living prey in the region that they have decided is their territory. The preferred foodstuff of Ghouls is living humanoids, followed by fresh corpses, though they can subsist on animals if they must. Those who die of Ghoul Rot and reanimate as Undead will seek out the Ghoul who infected them and join its pack. In this way, Ghouls "reproduce" and the pack grows in numbers slowly but steadily.

A Ghoul pack will have a leader, usually the strongest in combat, though some packs give precedence to the most cunning. Ghouls are territorial claiming an area with a radius of half a night's walk from their lair and will fight Ghouls from other packs who invade this region.

Abilities and Combat

The process of becoming a Ghoul adds new abilities and weakneses, replaces some existing powers, and eliminates old capabilities. This is represented by applying the Ghoul Overlay to an existing creature or being.

Ghost Overlay

Stats

  • Reanimation as a Lesser Ghoul adds +2 to Strength, Agility and Constitution stat bonuses; reanimation as a Greater Ghoul adds +5 to Strength, Agility and Constitution stat bonuses
  • Base Endurance is unchanged, Base PP is unchanged
  • Racial RR modifiers become Stamina 15, Will 0, Magic 15

New Talents:

  • Enhanced Senses
  • Ghoul Rot: a living being who is bitten or clawed by a ghoul is at risk of becoming infected by Ghoul Rot, and must make a Stamina RR (120 for Class I Ghouls, 150 for Class II Ghouls) to avoid this fate. If the living being fails the RR, they will contract Ghoul Rot and their wound will refuse to heal, weeping blood and pus. The unfortunate victim will lose 3 concussion hits per day (if infected by a Class I Ghoul) and 5 concussion hits per day (if infected by a Class II Ghoul) until dead. This damage cannot be healed, unless the Ghoul Rot is cured first, which requires Cure Disease scaled for magical diseases or an equivalent effect. Any humanoid being who dies from Ghoul Rot will reanimate as a Ghoul within a day of their death.
  • Immunity to Stun
  • Limited Regeneration (Minor, holy);
  • Natural Weapon (bite, Small Puncture)
  • Natural Weapon (claw, Small Slash)
  • Poison Immunity
  • Undead Fear (by Undead class);
  • Undead Vision;

Forfeit Talents:

  • Neutral Odor

New Weakness:

  • Sunlight Intolerance (minor)

Additional Information

Ghouls are categorised into Class by level. Class I are 1st to 10th level and are known as Lesser Ghouls, Class II are 11th level and up and are known as Greater Ghouls.

Against weak or defenceless foes, Ghouls will delight in attacking with claw and fang. Ghouls with access to weapons and combat skills from their past life will wield them with ferocity. When scavenging or hunting, Ghouls employ stealth and cunning to remain concealed, carefully tracking and ambushing living targets. Fortunately for their victims, the environs are rarely conducive to the long-term durability of bowstrings, so Ghoulish archers are uncommon but Ghouls firing slingshots and throwing spears are more frequently encountered. Once their trap is sprung, a Ghoul pack will mob surprised foes, seeking to overwhelm them with numbers and savagery.

Background

According to some loremasters, millennia ago an ancient tribe had the unsavory practice of eating body parts from deceased members of their own people and those they had slain in combat. The shaman priest of a rival tribe called upon the gods to punish the corpse eaters and the gods cursed them with the Rot. The Rot claimed the tribesfolk and after death, reanimated as the first Ghouls. Other loremasters and physicians claim that the Rot was some disease latent within the bodies that the corpse eaters consumed and thus infected them; they point to the occasional spontaneous creation of Ghouls following incidence of cannibalism.

What is not disputed is that Ghouls are among the oldest forms of Undead, perhaps third to Vampires and Ghosts in terms of their antiquity. They are also one of the most widespread.

Adventure Notes

Unburied dead and corpses freshly interred in unconsecrated ground tempt Ghouls to emerge and scavenge the carrion. These activities and the nocturnal sweeps of their territory mean that lone travellers, small groups camped at night, and isolated farmsteads in the vicinity of caves and on the fringes of marshes and swamps are at risk of encounters with Ghouls. Delvers into the underground portions of some ruined castles have discovered that Ghoul packs have moved into residence. Stories are told that the sewer systems of the oldest and largest cities are home to Ghouls (among other dangerous denizens) and from time to time, Ghouls break up through the cellars of buildings to capture the occupants and drag them off to their eventual demise