Ghouls are monsters that have appeared in a wide variety of forms throughout roleplaying history; if you have a fantasy or a horror setting, then you're very likely to encounter something referred to as a "ghoul." Taking their name from "Ghul", an Arabic evil spirit or djinn that haunted graveyards and feasted on the corpses interred there, ghouls are typically undead creatures that are driven by an insatiable urge for flesh. Ardent necrovores, most forms of ghoul in /tg/ media also happily kill living beings to produce more corpses for them to feed on.
In the middle eastern mythology, the ghouls dwells in burial grounds and other uninhabited places. It is a fiendish type of jinn believed to be sired by Iblis (Arabic version of the devil). A ghoul is also a desert-dwelling, shapeshifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary people into the desert wastes or abandoned places to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, drinks blood, steals coins, eats the dead, then taking the form of the person most recently eaten.
The "iconic" ghoul in most minds, based on the Dungeons & Dragons version, which is in turn based on the H.P. Lovecraft version, is actually fairly close to the iconic "Romero Zombie"; an undead flesh-eater that ceaselessly hunts for prey and which carries debilitating diseases that can cause those it wounds or kills to eventually become ghouls themselves. This is actually quite fitting, as Romero himself referred to his original movie's monsters as "Ghouls", as at the time people only knew zombies from their role in Haitian mythology as undead automatons (which incidentally is the exact role that D&D zombies occupy).
All Flesh Must Be Eaten
In addition to the ability to reference Romero and call any zombies you create "ghouls", actual ghouls appear in the Atlas of the Walking Dead sourcebook. They are portrayed as intelligent, rational, unearthly beings with the ability to shapeshift between human-like and zombie-like forms, magical skills, and a need to feed on corpses.
Call of Cthulhu
As per their depiction in H.P. Lovecraft's books, Ghouls in the Cthulhuverse are a fairly benign race of alien creatures who look like someone mixed a humanoid with a dog and a carnivorous donkey and then allowed it to get slightly corpse-like. They feed exclusively on dead flesh and can transform willing humans into members of their own race, but have little malign intent towards humanity.
Probably. I mean, there are stories...
Dungeons & Dragons
The most iconic form of ghoul in many eyes, D&D ghouls are undead who can spread through an infectious disease they carry in their fangs/claws, be created by necromancers, or spontaneously arise from the bodies of cannibals or evil gluttons. They are faster, more agile and more intelligent than zombies, with at least a bestial level of intelligence, and a genuinely macabre and malevolent nature. They are perhaps most infamous for their paralyzing touch, which lets them freeze your PC immobile so they can then eat them alive; this notoriously cheap ability has frustrated many players, especially because, traditionally, elves are immune to its effects for no discernible non-fluff reason. Ghouls also have more powerful versions, such as the Ghast (which is basically a leveled-up ghoul with a permanent stinking cloud aura who can paralyze elves) and the Ghoul Lord, and aquatic versions called Lacedons.
In 5e, we are actually given a reason. You see, Ghouls came to being in the Abyss, where an Elf worshiper of Orcus named Doresain turned from his people and feasted on humanoid flesh to honor his god. The Demonic Prince of Undeath, pleased with this development, made the elf into the first ghoul, and he happily created ghouls from the other servants of Orcus, until Yeenghou robbed him of his domain. He turned to Orcus, who refused to help. Thus, he turned to the elven gods, who took pity on him and helped him escape. Ever since then, elves are immune to the ghouls paralyzing touch as thanks from Doresain for the Elf Gods saving him. Though he is not going to stop his servants form snacking on Elf meat as he never truly reformed.
Like most OGL monsters they are pretty close to their 3.5 incarnation except for system wide difference. One change outside of this is that since all of a ghoul's weapons are now primary attacks it has no need for the multiattack feat and gets weapon finesse instead. Mechanically this means it's 5% more likely to hit with its bite and 15% more likely with its claws, on what was already one of most likely monsters to TPK. More powerful related creatures exist: Genies cursed to undeath called Ghuls, and extraplanar Leng Ghouls.
Fluff wise however, Pathfinder has one major difference: It remembers ghouls are actually intelligent. For this reason they often form actual cities, albeit in places like the Underdar... "Darklands" or necromancer ruled nation of Geb.
They're also a bloodline. It was primarily intended for ghoul Sorcerers, but can be used by players. Likely uses the "magical event" explanation, possibly as simple as "your mom had ghoul fever when pregnant, but survive". You never know though.
In the Warhammer Fantasy world and the later Age of Sigmar setting, Crypt Ghouls are corrupted humans and their descendants reduced to cannibalism, something that irrevocably tainted them to the point they are not undead, but close enough thanks to Death Magic flowing through them that they instinctively obey the Vampire Counts. Most are drawn to Strigoi who are the Vampiric equivalent of themselves and make any Strigoi into their "alpha male/female", which is why Strigoi Vampires are called "Strigoi Ghoul Kings". In Age of Sigmar, Ghouls are not as rare thanks to Ushoran wandering the setting and spreading an infectious madness everywhere he goes, making members of all races and allegiances turn into packs of feral cannibals while in their mind they are lords and ladies that fight monsters and share in the spoils before attending elaborate feasts in grand halls.
A small number serve the Lahmian Bloodline, specifically a handful of tribes that worship Queen Neferata as a goddess.
Sometimes Ghouls will drink Vampire blood, usually as a gift from their master. This shortens their lifespan drastically but gives them great power, turning them into gigantic hulks called Crypt Horrors. Horrors regenerate wounds, are far stronger than any mortal being, and are immune to the magic warding of the servants of Morr and Sigmar which enables them to invade and desecrate cemeteries so their lesser kin and masters can enter and feast without fear or pain.
There is another creature similar to a Ghoul, called a Mourngul, although its much closer to undead than a Ghoul is.
As of Age of Sigmar Ghoulism is contagious, as Ushoran turns out to have survived the destruction of the old setting and apparently is delusional to the degree that not only does he believe he's in a rebuilt Mourkain and meeting nobles while in actuality he's at the center of a roaming horde of cannibals and savage vampires, but that delusion is contagious; anywhere he goes in the Realms (and apparently he goes everywhere, unpredictably) members of any race from any society or faith can be drawn into the same delusion. Mortals become Ghouls as they see themselves wearing finery and politely eating morsels among friends and their lord while in reality they are degenerated monsters shoving fistfuls of manflesh into their mouths and snarling at each other.
World of Darkness
Ghouls in the World of Darkness have no real resemblance to any of their cousins mentioned here, and are mostly named as such because "Renfields" was a stupid name for a minor template. In essence, in Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem, vampires who feed a mortal regularly with their blood can give that mortal ever-lasting youth, a vampire-like healing factor, and technically minor access to vampire powers. Why would they do this? Because it also puts a mind-whammy on the ghoul compelling them to love, honor & obey the vampire with all their hearts, and with the added stick that missing a regular feeding will strip the ghoul of all its powers and cause age to rapidly catch up with them, vampires find ghouls essential as the closest things they can know to loyal, trustworthy servants capable of operating during the day.
That said, Vampire: the Requiem also introduces another kind of ghoul in its 1e sourcebook "Night Horrors: The Wicked Dead". This is a depraved occultist who has used dark magical rituals to gain a form of immortality fueled by the consumption of raw meat. These ghouls - or "ghuls", to distinguish them from the vampiric blood-vassals - have all of the benefits of being a living human, but is unaging and cannot be killed except with great difficulty; they are only inconvenienced by Aggravated damage, and when their health bar fills with that damage type, they dissolve into a bloody mist that then reforms itself at the site of their last meal. They remain in torpor at that sight for 10-Morality days, during which time they can be killed by burning them. They suffer a compulsion to feast on raw meat from midnight until dawn, can learn the vampiric disciplines of Celerity, Majesty and Vigor, can project a glamor that allows them to better seduce their victims, and can cause delusions of being an animal in anyone whose eyes they meet. They may also be skilled alchemists, have the ability to see aura, or be capable of altering luck in their favor.
In the Fallout universe, some humans who are irradiated don't die horribly, but mutate; their skin sloughs off and their nails turn into claws, but they become seemingly immortal, in the "immune to aging" sense, and immune to radiation - they can even learn to "feed" on radiation to replace the need for physical sustenance. These zombie-like bastards are known in-universe as "ghouls". Many retain their human minds and now have to put up with prejudice from their former neighbors; this is not only because they look like burnt walking corpses, but because the trauma caused others to lose their minds and become zombie-like roving cannibalistic horrors, known as feral ghouls, the widespread assumption being that this is the eventual fate of all ghouls.
All "undead" (the term is used loosely here, for all are actually still alive) in the Sixth World are infectees of HMHVV. 'Human (and) Meta-Human Vampiric Virus' is a magical disease that magically reshapes the host's DNA and aura to turn them into a monster straight out of a Hammer horror movies, save for the fact they don't really die. The first variant creates a whole rainbow of race-based vampire variants, the second a mess of lycanthrope-like poor sods, but the HMHVV III strain, also called the Krieger strain, always creates ghouls. It is both the most virulent of the three strains as it is transmissible via bodily fluids contact instead of draining the victim's life force almost to zero before willingly trying to infect them, and one of the suckiest.
Ghouls in shadowrun are normal people who look like walking corpses, with ugly cuts and freakishly pale skin. They can go out in sunlight, though it causes them discomfort. All ghouls are rendered blind by tissue necrosis, though their senses of smell and hearing sharpen to compensate and they can 'see' magic to track prey. Like all HMHVV infectees however, they need to eat live or recently dead (meta-)human tissues to survive, in their case raw flesh. Some are driven insane and turned feral by the infection, some aren't; but all need to feed on metahuman meat or starve and eventually go feral anyway. Those who aren't animalistic monsters tend to get jobs that offer ready access to human flesh, like medical waste disposal workers. Their bodies don't accept implants well, but they're stronger than normal, so some do work as Shadowrunners. If having to be a cannibal to survive wasn't bad enough, most places in the Sixth World have an open bounty on (dead) ghouls (due to Strain III being so highly contagious). Just drag the body to your nearest police station and cash in.
|This article or section is about Monstergirls (or a monster that is frequently depicted as a Monstergirl), something that /tg/ widely considers to be the purest form of awesome. Expect PROMOTIONS! and /d/elight in equal measure, often with drawfaggotry or writefaggotry to match.|
Now, we know what you're thinking: "Surely, being flesh-eating undead monsters, ghouls are one of the monsters that nobody has ever tried to sexy up, right?" Well, naive young soul, I'm afraid that you're wrong, and it has happened.
Worst part is that it's not without precedence. There are actual mythical tales in which human men unwittingly marry female ghouls, completely ignorant of their brides' necrophagic tastes until inevitably they suspect her of cheating and learn the horrifying truth. Death or divorce tends to follow swiftly after. Likewise, because ghouls are often portrayed as inherently more "alive" than zombies, it's relatively easy to envision families with a dark secret that involves successful necrophilia in horror games; there's a reason why Dungeons & Dragons has a Half-Ghoul racial template, and why Pathfinder has its Ghoul Bloodline for sorcerers.
Still, ghoul monstergirls are a rarity and considered to be pretty deep down the rabbithole of MG fetishism - after all, necrophilia is considerably more deviant (and unhealthy) than xenophilia. They are often mischievous, with a macabre sense of humor ("ghoulish", in other words) and an aggressive personality. Long tongues and a dominant attitude during sex are also a common thing. Other interpretations go back to the original myths and exploit the whole necrophagic genie thing, making them more mystical in nature.
In the Monster Girl Encyclopedia, ghouls are a smarter (in the way that a feral dog is smarter than a bimbo) version of the zombie whose intense hunger for flesh has been converted into a huge craving for semen (...yes, really). They are oral fetishists to an incredible degree, with mouths so sensitive they can even orgasm from the pleasure they experience in blowing a man. If it weren't for the fact their genitalia are even more sensitive than their mouths, they'd probably never do anything but give oral sex. Even when they aren't blowing the men they catch, a mystical compound in their saliva means that the hickeys and lovebites they love giving are incredibly arousing, sending a surge of sexual pleasure through their lover's body whenever their lips contact his body.