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A ghoul stalker.
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Ghouls are sentient, ravenous humanoid undead who haunt graveyards and devour corpses.12


Ghouls have a somewhat humanoid appearance, sharing the basic frame of the humanoid they were created from, although up close it is almost impossible to mistake a ghoul for a still-living person. All ghouls look emaciated and hungry, and despite their frequent feasting ghouls never gain weight and always look wiry. Their skin takes on the hue of bruised, pallid flesh.3[citation needed] A ghoul's facial features also subtly change to become more elongated, with teeth that increase in both size and sharpness and ears that grow longer and end in a pointed tip. Scholars have noted that these changes give ghouls a more elven appearance, and some suspect that this indicates some ancient shame perpetrated in the depths of elven history.412 (See Religion and mythology.)


A ghoul feasts on a rotting corpse.

Despite being undead, ghouls harbour many of the needs that drive the living, though these needs are normally perverted in some sinister way. Ghouls are primarily motivated by hunger despite being dead with stomachs that stopped working long ago. This hunger is constant, never rising or falling, and ceasing only while consuming flesh. Eating has no biological benefit for ghouls, which can survive for years without eating and suffer no negative physical consequences.4

While this hunger drives ghouls to always seek prey, they are also intelligent creatures with other needs that can be sated. The only product of a ghoul's flesh consumption seems to be that it is absorbed directly into the body to replace the ghoul's own decayed, necrotic flesh, and shed this necrotic waste only when there is enough food to resupply it. Though they prefer rotting bodies and often bury their victims for a while to improve their taste, ghouls will eat fresh kills if they are hungry enough.4


A ghoul created from a Kellid human.

The creation of a ghoul can happen in a number of ways, but only one of these involves the ghoul itself passing on its condition. The bite of a ghoul can inflict ghoul fever, as can consuming a ghoul's flesh (though few would willingly do this). Ghoul fever causes the victim to suffer from great hunger but also renders them unable to keep down any food. The hunger drives them to manic behaviour and eventually racks them with agonising spasms. Unless cured, the victim slowly starves to death and rises the next midnight as a ghoul, for only in the darkest hours can such a foul metamorphosis occur.5

While ghoul fever might be the most common method of creating ghouls, necromancers can also use the spell create undead to awaken a ravenous hunger within a corpse, turning it into a ghoul.6[citation needed] A rarer, less well-understood transformation sometimes occurs when a sentient human is forced to resort to cannibalism. Whether they starve to death or die sometime after matters little, for the foul deed often causes them to rise again as ghouls.5

Another strange method of creation occurs only in the Darklands. The unique magical ore lazurite gives off a necromantic radiation that can cause any corpses left nearby to spontaneously rise as ghouls or ghasts. This spontaneous creation accounts for many of the non-humanoid ghouls found roaming the darkened caves, and in some cases the newly created undead unusually retains the knowledge and skills it possessed in life.5

Finally, a victim killed by the gaze of a nabasu demon can also be transformed into a ghoul under the demon's control, though these ghouls gain free will if their demonic master is slain.7[citation needed]

Habitat and society

Ghouls are most often active on the outskirts of larger population centers, such as in and around graveyards and sewers that provide a steady supply of food. Wherever they dwell, ghouls gather in communities, as they possess the same needs of companionship, diversion, and entertainment as living humanoids. Ghoul warrens can encompass miles of tunnels and are limited near the surface only by the size of the graveyard they lie beneath, though some ghouls also dwell in the depths of the Darklands.812

A ghoul ambushes an adventurer.

Despite their ravenous, bestial nature, ghouls are as smart2 as humans, if not smarter, as they are able to devote centuries to their dark studies. This intelligence allows ghouls to form large and sometimes intricate social groups. At its most basic, ghoul society consists of a small pack, often led by a more powerful ghast,3[citation needed] while at its most advanced, ghoul society has carved for itself a metropolis in the Darklands realm of Sekamina that rivals the greatest of the human cities above.[citation needed]

Nemret Noktoria

Ghoul society seems to rise to its zenith in the depth of the Darklands, where they build towns and even the bone-white metropolis of Nemret Noktoria, which serves as the capital of ghoul civilisation. Ghoul society in Nemret Noktoria evolves from pack life to a sophisticated caste system.9 Above the normal ghouls rule a caste of animal-headed ghoul priests and powerful ghuls,10 the ghoul nobility. At the top of this hierarchy sits the ghoul lord Kortash Khain.9

The ghouls of the Darklands are more civilised than most of their surface-dwelling cousins and take a more active and intentional role in reproduction. (To most ghouls, the creation of new ghouls is simply an accidental result when a meal escapes.) A Darklands ghoul views most sentient creatures as either a potential ghoul or a potential meal, though the citizens of Nemret Noktoria are willing to trade with humans as long as they are not too hungry.9

Nemret Noktoria has such a hold over the other Darkland ghouls that they are all required to provide a tithe of rancid carrion to the city. To cope with this tithe, many ghouls now keep flesh farms of morlocks, goblins, grimlocks, or rarer dwarves or humans. These are kept as livestock in docile near-blind herds located in filthy, isolated caves, where they are fattened to ensure the ghouls never have to go without meat.9

Religion and mythology

Ghoul mythology is tied to their fiendish patron, the demon lord Kabriri. According to myth, Kabriri was the first ghoul, though he was not always a ghoul; he was once a man who was supposedly the first to feast upon the flesh of another man. What caused him to do this is not recorded, but as a result Kabriri was purportedly the first person stricken with ghoul fever. His stomach was wracked with pain and an intense hunger, and after days of suffering Kabriri finally succumbed to the disease and died. When he awoke in the Outer Rifts, he had become something far from human in an endless necropolis that would be come to be known as Everglut.5

Almost all ghouls believe this myth and most therefore worship Kabriri as their progenitor.11 Some point to the ghouls' resemblances to elves and Kabriri himself as an indicator that Kabriri may in fact have been an elf.4

On Golarion

Ghouls live in the outskirts of civilized areas across Golarion, and in the Darklands city of Nemret Noktoria. They are also amongst the lesser nobility of the undead-dominated nation of Geb in southeastern Garund.12

Ghouls have also settled a former Azlanti burial ground for Arodenites known as the Island of the Vibrant Dead. The island's main settlement is Deadhaven.13


Ghouls drag food toward a well.

Ghouls have several known variants that are directly tied to ghoul-kind.


Ghasts are more powerful and well-known variants of ghouls, strong enough to paralyze even elves who are normally immune to a ghoul's paralysis. Ghasts roam in packs of their own kind or lead groups of common ghouls. The stink of death and corruption surrounding these creatures is so overwhelming that it threatens to sicken any living creatures in close proximity.3[citation needed] Ghasts normally rise when a ghoul would be created from a creature more powerful than humans or elves, such as bugbears or xulgaths.4


Far from the darkness of caves and graves, the aquatic cousins of ghouls lurk near hidden reefs or other places where ships are likely to meet their ends. These lacedons, or aquatic ghouls, are generally as quick and agile in water as they are on land.3[citation needed]


Similar to ghouls, extraplanar undead ghuls are genies cursed to remain in the Universe, forever hungry for flesh.10


Skavelings are ghoulish mobats that serve the urdefhan of Orv as terrifying mounts.14 Smaller sootwing bats are created in a similar process and often used by ghoul spellcasters as familiars.15


Festrogs are often referred to as "ghoul-dogs", and while they possess a dark hunger for flesh they have none of the true abilities of a ghoul, instead possessing their own unique abilities.16

Wilkins, a Leng ghoul.

Leng ghouls and ghasts

Both ghouls and ghasts inhabit the nightmare demiplane of Leng, and both are more powerful and bestial in appearance than their counterparts on the Universe. Unlike common ghouls, Leng ghouls have a canine snout and hoofed feet, and are uncharacteristically charitable toward strangers, whom they might aid in exchange for gifts of food. Leng ghasts are much more feral and violent, and war with Leng ghouls, whom they consider to be a separate race.17

Gugs hate both the ghouls and ghasts of Leng. They slaughter and prey on Leng ghasts, who in turn try to overwhelm gugs with numbers. Even though Leng ghouls are weaker, gugs are irrationally afraid of and nearly always flee from them.17


Paizo published a major section about ghouls in Monster Codex.

For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Logan Bonner, et al. “Monsters A-Z” in Bestiary, 168–169. Paizo Inc., 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Logan Bonner, et al. Ghost” in Monster Core, 162–163. Paizo Inc., 2024
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Paizo Inc., et al. “Monsters A to Z” in Bestiary, 146. Paizo Inc., 2009
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 James Jacobs, et al. Classic Horrors Revisited, 30. Paizo Inc., 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 James Jacobs, et al. Classic Horrors Revisited, 29. Paizo Inc., 2010
  6. Jason Bulmahn, et al. “Spells” in Core Rulebook, 262. Paizo Inc., 2009
  7. Paizo Inc., et al. “Monsters A to Z” in Bestiary, 64. Paizo Inc., 2009
  8. James Jacobs, et al. Classic Horrors Revisited, 31. Paizo Inc., 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 James Jacobs & Greg A. Vaughan. Sekamina” in Into the Darklands, 33. Paizo Inc., 2008
  10. 10.0 10.1 Stephen S. Greer & Amber E. Scott. “Bestiary” in Dark Markets, A Guide to Katapesh, 63. Paizo Inc., 2009
  11. James Jacobs. Demon Lords of Golarion” in Descent into Midnight, 59. Paizo Inc., 2009
  12. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 77. Paizo Inc., 2011
  13. Shay Snow. (October 19, 2023). October 2023 Digital Adventure Previews, Paizo Blog.
  14. James Jacobs & Greg A. Vaughan. Orv” in Into the Darklands, 50. Paizo Inc., 2008
  15. Dennis Baker, et al. Ghouls” in Monster Codex, 88. Paizo Inc., 2014
  16. Tim Hitchcock. Hungry Are the Dead, 31. Paizo Inc., 2008
  17. 17.0 17.1 Greg A. Vaughan. Leng: The Terror Beyond Dreams” in Into the Nightmare Rift, 66. Paizo Inc., 2012

External links

  • Ghoul (Real-life mythical entity) on Wikipedia