Ghoul (Dungeons & Dragons)

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For the generic mythological creature, see Ghoul.
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Type Undead
Image image
Stats Open Game License stats
Publication history
Mythological origins Ghoul

In the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game, ghouls are monstrous, undead humans who reek of carrion[citation needed].

Publication history[edit]

The ghoul was one of the earliest creatures introduced in the D&D game.

Dungeons & Dragons (1974–1976)[edit]

The ghoul was one of the first monsters introduced in the earliest edition of the game, in the Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974), where they were described as being able to paralyze anyone they touch.[1]

The lacedon, or aquatic ghoul, is introduced in Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975).[2]

The Ghouls of Yanaidar appeared in Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976).

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977–1988)[edit]

The ghoul appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977),[3] where it is described as an undead creature, once human, who feeds on corpses. The ghast is also introduced in this book, and is said to be indistinguishable from a ghoul except for its carrion stench which causes retching and nausea.

Several creatures similar to ghouls appeared in Dragon #138 (October 1988), including the baka, the black annis, the callicantzari and great callicantzari, the gelloudes, the ghula, the spirit-ghoul, and the wendigo.

Dungeons & Dragons (1977–1999)[edit]

This edition of the D&D game included its own version of the ghoul, in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977, 1981, 1983).[4][5][6] The ghoul was also later featured in the Dungeons & Dragons Game set (1991), the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991),[7] the Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game set (1994), and the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game set (1999).[8]

The vapor ghoul appears in the module Thunderdelve Mountain (1985), and later in the Creature Catalogue (1986) as the "vapour ghoul".[9] The elder ghoul appears in the Creature Catalogue (1986) and the Creature Catalog (1993).[10]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989–1999)[edit]

The ghoul, ghast, and lacedon appear first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989),[11] and are reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[12]

The goop ghoul appears in Dragon #198 (October 1993). The ghoul undead dragon and ghast undead dragon appear in Dragon #234 (October 1996).

The true ghoul and the true ghoul noble are introduced in Dungeon #70 (September 1998), in the article "Kingdom of the Ghouls."[13] The ghoul was detailed in Dragon #252 (October 1998), in the "Ecology of the Ghoul".[14]

The elevated ghoul appears in Return to White Plume Mountain (1999).

Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000–2002)[edit]

The ghoul, ghast, and lacedon appear in the Monster Manual for this edition (2000).[15]

A variant ghoul (jikiniki) appeared in Oriental Adventures (2001).

The abyssal ghoul was introduced in the Forgotten Realms supplement City of the Spider Queen (2002),[16] and then appeared in the Fiend Folio (2003).[17]

Savage Species (2003) presented the ghoul as both a race and a playable class.[18]

The ghoul creature template appeared in Dragon #307 (May 2003), and included the ghoulish harpy as a sample creature.

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition (2003–2007)[edit]

The ghoul, ghast, and lacedon appear in the revised Monster Manual for this edition (2003).

The fleshvigor ghoul for the Ghostwalk campaign setting appears in Dragon #315 (January 2004). The nether hound ghoul for the Forgotten Realms setting appears in Dragon #322 (August 2004).

The ghoul and ghast were presented as player character classes in Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead (2004).[19]

The true ghoul reappears in Dungeon #129 (December 2005) in the adventure "A Gathering of Winds," as part of the "Age of Worms" Adventure Path.[20]

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008–)[edit]

The ghoul appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008), including the horde ghoul, the abyssal ghoul, the abyssal ghoul hungerer, and the abyssal ghoul myrmidon.[21]


A ghoul is said to be created on the death of a man or woman who savored the taste of flesh. They not only eat the dead, but also prey on the unwary living. Likewise, a ghast is supposedly made while someone dies during the act of cannibalism. Ghouls can paralyze their victims with a touch, though elves are immune. Aside from the standard variety, a number of other forms of ghoul exist.

Ghoul variants[edit]

Abyssal ghoul[edit]

These extraplanar versions of the standard ghoul have fiendish characteristics that make them far more formidable than their cousins.


Alignment Chaotic Evil
Type Undead
Image image
Stats Open Game License stats

The ghast is similar to the ghoul, but is distinguished by its monstrously foul and supernaturally nauseating stench. It is also more powerful than a standard ghoul; even elves can fall victim to a ghast's paralytic touch. It very closely resembles its undead cousins, but is far more deadly and cunning. Like ghouls, ghasts speak whatever language they did in life (usually Common). They are chaotic evil in alignment.

Ghoulish and ghastly creatures[edit]

These are creatures which possess the ghoulish or ghastly template, which in effect makes them non-human versions of ghouls and ghasts.

Gravetouched ghoul[edit]

These ghouls are said to have been blessed by the King of Ghouls upon their return from the dead, and are thus more powerful than common ghouls. While standard ghouls lose all of their abilities from their previous life, gravetouched ghouls retain most of their former selves, albeit enhanced by the transformation into an undead creature.


A lacedon is the aquatic version of the standard ghoul. Save for the fact that they are powerful swimmers, Lacedons are identical to standard ghouls. They are said to lurk near reefs, waiting to prey on stranded vessels.


A thoul is a sorcerous crossbreed between a hobgoblin, a troll, and a ghoul. It appears to be a hobgoblin, but paralyzes with a touch and regenerates.

True ghoul[edit]

A civilized form of ghoul, these creatures lack the savage nature of their standard counterparts, and often live together in underground cities which approximate human civilization. An example of such a society can be found in the World of Greyhawk's version of the White Kingdom.

Critical reception[edit]

The ghoul was ranked fifth among the ten best low-level monsters by the authors of Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies. The authors described the ghoul as "terrifying to low-level heroes because one scratch of a ghoul's filthy claws may cause even the most resolute heroes to freeze up in complete (but thankfully short-lived) paralysis".[22]

Other publishers[edit]

The ghoul is fully detailed in Paizo Publishing's book Classic Horrors Revisited (2009), on pages 28–33.[23]


  1. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons (3-Volume Set) (TSR, 1974)
  2. ^ Arneson, Dave. Blackmoor (TSR, 1975)
  3. ^ Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual (TSR, 1977)
  4. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson [1974], edited by J. Eric Holmes. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (TSR, 1977)
  5. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson [1974], edited by Tom Moldvay. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (TSR, 1981)
  6. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson [1974], edited by Frank Mentzer. Dungeons & Dragons Set 1: Basic Rules (TSR, 1983)
  7. ^ Allston, Aaron, Steven E. Schend, Jon Pickens, and Dori Watry. Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (TSR, 1991)
  8. ^ Slavicsek, Bill. Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game (TSR, 1999)
  9. ^ Morris, Graeme, Phil Gallagher and Jim Bambra. Creature Catalogue (TSR, 1986)
  10. ^ Nephew, John. Creature Catalog (TSR, 1993)
  11. ^ Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One (TSR, 1989)
  12. ^ Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual (TSR, 1993)
  13. ^ Baur, Wolfgang. "Kingdom of the Ghouls." Dungeon #70 (TSR, 1998)
  14. ^ Baur, Wolfgang. "Ecology of the Ghoul." Dragon #252 (TSR, 1998)
  15. ^ Cook, Monte, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2000)
  16. ^ Wyatt, James. City of the Spider Queen (TSR, 2002)
  17. ^ Cagle, Eric, Jesse Decker, James Jacobs, Erik Mona, Matt Sernett, Chris Thomasson, and James Wyatt. Fiend Folio (Wizards of the Coast, 2003)
  18. ^ Eckelberry, David, Rich Redman, and Jennifer Clarke Wilkes. Savage Species (Wizards of the Coast, 2003)
  19. ^ Collins, Andy and Bruce R Cordell. Libris Mortis (Wizards of the Coast, 2004)
  20. ^ Baur, Wolfgang. "A Gathering of Winds." Dungeon #129 (Paizo Publishing, 2005)
  21. ^ Mearls, Mike, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
  22. ^ Slavicsek, Bill; Baker, Rich; Grubb, Jeff (2006). Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies. For Dummies. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-7645-8459-6. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  23. ^ Jacobs, James, Rob McCreary, and F. Wesley Schneider. Classic Horrors Revisited (Paizo, 2009)