Like yesterday’s ghosts, ghouls don’t exactly need any introduction. (And if you do, James Jacobs has you covered in Classic Horrors Revisited.) At low levels, ghouls are a party’s first intelligent, special-abilitied (I made a word!) truly scary undead. And class levels, Hit Dice advancement, feats, and simple strength in numbers can terrify even high-level groups. (And that’s not even counting the rumors of whole ghoul cities under the earth…)
Elves are immune to the touch of ghouls. Which makes the high elf nation of Telureth’s use of them against their human and dwarven neighbors all the more abhorrent. To most Telurethans, the need to maintain secure borders justifies the means; the few holdouts are introduced to Telureth’s ghasts.
Not all ghouls reek of the charnel house, or succumb involuntarily. The aristocrats of Blackford hold games of strength and skill once a month on market day. If the winner is not a local, he is invited to the Rathaus for a celebratory meal. (The tolling of the clock tower bells is usually enough to block out the screams.) And now Blackford is opening up the competitions to teams…
On Powlau, fishers who return after more than a week at sea are stopped at spearpoint in the harbor and offered papayas. This custom is meant to reveal the presence of lacedons, who folklore claims will attack or flee rather than consume flesh that is not meat.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 146
If you are even the slightest bit interested in ghouls, your first source should be Tom Moldvay’s “The Ungrateful Dead” way back in Dragon 138. Trust me on this. Find an issue/download a legit PDF and see how a little folklore can make your ghouls even scarier. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
(I hear Wolfgang Baur’s work on ghouls is also worth exploring, but my Dungeon collection from those years is spotty.)
Also, enjoy some St. Patrick’s Day music, SXSW spotlights, and new Springsteen here. (Music starts about one minute into the file. The feed can skip, so for best results, open in Firefox or Chrome, Save As an mp3, enjoy in iTunes. Link good till Friday, 3/23, at midnight.)