Monster of the Week: The Ghoul

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Also Known As: Sometimes spelled “ghul,” the Arabic word for “demon.”

Description: Ghouls who are well-fed on human flesh are indistinguishable from normal humans. The longer a ghoul goes without feeding, the less human it looks. A ghoul in the later stages of starvation will be extremely thin and pale, with veins clearly visible through the skin, and will have long, claw-like nails.

BMA Classification: The Bureau of Monster Affairs has yet to determine the exact nature of ghouls. Since they may in fact be cursed human (much like werewolves), they are not listed on the Official Monster List and are subject to the same guidelines regarding use of deadly force as humans. Furthermore, since it is all but impossible to prove that a person is a ghoul until starvation sets in, suspected ghouls must be afforded the same rights as any other American citizen. If an M-Force agent has evidence that the suspected ghoul has been involved in a crime (typically grave robbing, kidnapping, identity theft, or murder), he should turn the evidence over to police so that they can conduct a criminal investigation. Without some evidence of wrong-doing on the part of the suspected ghoul, there is very little M-Force or the authorities can do without potentially violating an innocent citizen’s constitutional rights. The only exception to these guidelines is for ghouls who have reached the point of total starvation. At this point, the creature is easily identifiable, beyond any chance of redemption, and a threat to human life and may be dealt with accordingly.

Powers: Ghouls have the ability to take on the abilities and appearance any person whose body they have eaten. Some ancient stories claim that ghouls can also turn into jackals, hyenas, or other animals, but so far the ghoul’s ability to take on animal form remains unverified. Ghouls also tend to be slightly stronger than humans.

Vulnerabilities: Ghouls must eat human flesh on a regular basis in order to survive. A ghoul who denies his hunger for flesh for too long will begin to suffer the physical effects of starvation (even if he eats other food) and will suffer mental deterioration. As the condition grows worse, the ghoul loses all semblance of humanity.

Biology and Habitat: There are several theories regarding the origin of ghouls. The three most common are that ghouls are a type of demon, the result of demon and human cross-breeding, or normal humans who suffer from an ancestral curse. The fact that ghouls are genetically indistinguishable from humans seems to suggest the latter, but the existence of shapeshifters who can mimic humans down to the cellular level means that it’s impossible to rule out a demonic origin.

Because ghouls are able to take on the form of any human whose flesh they have eaten, those who are careful to conceal their eating habits can operate in human society. Even if they are caught, ghouls are often initially mistaken for human cannibals, with their true nature only revealed when they are deprived of human flesh. Some civil rights activists have suggested that allowing an imprisoned ghoul to become ravening beast due to hunger constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. However, the small number of cases, mental deterioration of the affected prisoners, and disturbing nature of the alternative have prevented any real legal exploration of the question to date.

In order to avoid starvation, a ghoul needs consume an enormous amount of human flesh (10-15 pounds per day). Those who do not begin to suffer the effects of starvation, eventually becoming inhuman predators. While most ghoul children are raised on human flesh, they do not seem to suffer the effects of deprivation until they reach puberty.

Although ghouls reproduce normally, some ghoul families believe that it is necessary to breed with humans in order to prevent their bloodlines from becoming inbred to the point of weakness. Families who follow this tradition typically believe that offspring between a human and a ghoul will only be produced if the human has first been buried alive or imprisoned in a crypt for at least 24 hours prior to mating. It is not known whether or not there is any truth to this superstition, or if all children who result from such unions become ghouls. Human women impregnated by male ghouls are typically held captive until the child is born, then killed and eaten. Human men who mate with female ghouls have a considerably shorter expected lifespan.

Sightings: Ghouls have been reported throughout history in every part of the world. Although several ghouls have been captured in recent history, the two most widely-publicized American ghoul case involved the Sawyer family, who are believed to have killed over 200 people in Texas during the 1970s and 80s. Most members of the clan were killed by a group of victims and police in 1986, but at least one is believed to have escaped. In 2003, two survivors described their encounter with (and self-defense slaying of) a similar family, also believed to be ghouls, in rural West Virginia. Most of M-Force’s information about ghouls is derived from interviews with a captured ghoul conducted by Mike Mulligan in the late 1960s.

Additional Information: Although ghouls only gain nourishment from human flesh, they can and do eat normal food. They prefer their meat very rare. Most ghouls don’t like the taste of or gain as much nourishment from embalmed bodies, but embalming chemicals do not harm them in any way.

Body: Varies (6-16)
Brain: Varies (6-16)
Nerve: Varies (6-16)
Job: Cannibal (14); Most ghouls also have a normal Job of some sort.
Gimmick: Shape Shifting (15) — A ghoul can take on the form of any person he has eaten by making a successful Gimmick roll. Anyone who knew the victim in life and has reason to suspect that something is amiss can roll Brain with a DN equal to the ghoul’s Gimmick roll, with success indicating that the character notices a flaw in the ghoul’s disguise. A shape-shifted ghoul retains his normal Words and Numbers and does not gain the memories or abilities of the person being impersonated, but they do assume the victim’s voice, posture, and other physical mannerisms.
Weakness: Must Eat Human Flesh (20) — A ghoul must eat a number of pounds of newly-dead human flesh per day equal to his Body Number or make a Weakness roll. If the ghoul has eaten some human flesh, but less than the required amount, his Weakness Number is reduced by the number of pounds eaten. If the ghoul fails his Weakness roll, he loses 1 point of Brain and begins to suffer the effects of starvation, which are determined by the ghoul’s current Brain Number:

  • 12 or higher: The character acts normally, but if he finds himself in close proximity to a human corpse, he must make a Nerve roll every 15 minutes. On a failed roll, the ghoul attempts to eat the corpse.
  • 9-11: As above, but the ghoul must make a Nerve roll each round when there’s a corpse nearby.
  • 6-8:  At this stage, the ghoul will no longer be able to function in mainstream human society. He will seemed dazed or drugged and have trouble communicating in any meaningful way. The ghoul will also begin to suffer physically from the starvation, losing 1 Body point each time he fails a Weakness roll. The ghoul will no longer be able to groom himself, his nails will grow into claws (Damage Bonus +1), and he will become so pale that his veins show through his skin. A ghoul in this phase of starvation can easily be mistaken for an especially far-gone drug addict. Ghouls who have reached this level of starvation lose their ability to shape shift.
  • 5 or less: At this stage, the ghoul takes on a wholly inhuman appearance. The veins beneath its skin take on a dark black color, it’s nails become long, sharp claws (Damage Bonus +2), and its face become increasingly feral. In addition to immediately feasting on any human corpse it encounters, the ghoul will begin to hunt for fresh meat. Because they are not used to fighting, a ghoul will only attack a human if the two are alone. If the ghoul is injured before it kills its prey, the ghoul must make a successful Nerve check or attempt to flee.

Ghouls who suffer from starvation may regain lost Body points at the rate of 1 per week by resuming their normal diet. Lost Brain points may not be regained through any means. Only fresh meat (less than 1 week old) fully satisfies the ghoul’s hunger. If the ghoul eats flesh that is more than a week old, he must consume twice the usual quantity. Meat from a corpse that has been dead for over a month is useless to the ghoul. The amount of edible body parts for a typical corpse is equal to roughly half the person’s body weight in life.

Skills: Enhanced Strength +3; Grave Robbing +2; Some ghouls also have additional skills.
Armor Rating: 0
Damage Bonus: Normally 0. Ghouls in later stages of starvation have claws with either a +1 or +2 DB, as detailed above.
HP: Equal to Body.
Yum Yums: Varies (typically 3 or less)

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