Monday, August 10, 2020

D&D Nibble: Trailing Ghouls

The great Erol Otus' ghoul.
This is a little thing I’ve been toying with for a while, at least since my old Doom & Tea Parties campaign.  I’m writing it up now because someone on Facebook running 5e was looking for a mechanic to disrupt the PCs taking short and long rests.  That’s never been a big deal for me.  I enjoy this for the horror movie aspect of it.  Either way…

Ghouls are, of course, attracted to dead bodies.  The more dead bodies laying about, the more ghouls you get.

PCs generally leave a LOT of dead bodies in their wake.

The ghoul pack grows the more bodies the PCs leave behind.  Keep track of their kills and add ghouls as follows:

Every 4 Small corpses = 0-1 ghouls.

Every 2 Medium corpses = 0-1 ghouls.

Every Large corpse = 1-2 ghouls.

Every Huge corpse = 1d4 ghouls.

Every Gargantuan corpse = the pack abandons the PCs and just camps out inside the corpse.

 

For every 12 ghouls, add a ghast to the pack.


Whenever the PCs camp for an hour or more, they’ll notice the ghouls at the very edge of their vision, lurking and snuffling about.  Describe the furtive scuffling of their feet, the scrape of claws on stone.  As the pack grows, be sure to let the players know that there are more of them out there.  They grow louder as the pack grows as well.  If the pack comes to outnumber the PCs by at least 3 to 1, they dare to come closer.  They’ll howl at each other, get into fights with one another. 

But they won’t fight the PCs.  Not yet.  They’ll scatter as the PCs approach.  They flee if the PCs attack. 

Until the PCs take an 8 hour or longer rest.

The first time the PCs take a long rest AND the pack outnumbers them by at least 3 to 1, they hungry ghouls will attack about halfway through their rest.  The ghouls will flee when a third of their number have been slain.  And go back to shadowing the PCs. 

The PCs can prevent the pack from growing by disposing of the corpses.  Burying the dead only slows the growth of the pack, cutting additions to the pack in half (rounded down).  Poisoning the corpses does nothing; ghouls are immune to pretty much every poison known. 

Fully destroying the corpses with fire or acid is the only sure way to prevent the pack from growing.  Acid is quicker but both methods are time-consuming, especially if the PCs are trying to use cantrips alone to do the deed.   

4 comments:

Dick McGee said...

Two points: Why would the ghouls attack a group taking a long rest? By your own rules for how the pack gathers, they shouldn't be hungry at all, they should be practically glutted. Moreover, they aren't brainless and the party is feeding them and feeding them well, while also proving how deadly they are with every corpse they leave behind. Why kill the golden goose, especially when it's carrying two-handed swords and throwing around fireballs? You could say they're just vindictive undead who hate the living, but that feels feeble. Be more interesting to have the ghouls start leading (or chasing) the party to prey they aren't themselves tough enough to tackle to - and then maybe attack both sides when they're weakened.

Second, if you want to poison a ghoul, use holy water. If your DM insists it "goes bad" if you just pour it on or into a corpse, fill some "French letters" (or "English overcoats" if you prefer) with the stuff, tie them off, and stuff them into mouths, slash wounds, body cavities, etc. You'll know its working when you hear the howling as their throats melt.

And yeah, I do expect PCs to be carrying primitive condoms at all times. If they aren't at least some of them ought be making saves versus disease regularly if they're anything like any group I ever played with. Also trying to stay ahead of various tavernmaids with suspiciously familiar-looking young kids in tow.

Sean Robert Meaney said...

Yeah, I did a trailing ghoul pack following the Doom-wheel (a mile high steam powered wheel/mobile fortress) as it rolls over a bunch of villages and towns...
If the pack is larger than the wounded/dead food source they will likely attack the healthy populace in overwhelming numbers.

trollsmyth said...

Dick McGee: the ghouls attack a group taking a long rest because they're not making corpses. The point isn't to turn the PCs into corpses themselves; the ghouls stop long before everyone is dead. The point is to goad those lazy PCs into making more corpses.

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