Monday, February 14, 2011

Ghouls of the Seventh Moon (New Race) - Part I

Since reading The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath I’ve been a fan of Lovecraftian Ghouls, especially in this whimsical and friendly version of them. The following new player character race of Ghouls draws inspiration mainly from that excellent novella, diverging from Pathfinder chiefly by removing the ghouls* as undead monsters. Think of Isaldarian Ghouls as half-dead creatures, like the Dhampir from the Pathfinder Bestiary 2. Other sources of inspiration are Fritz Leiber’s barbaric ghouls and Brian McNaughton’s awesome and darkly disturbing The Throne of Bones.

*Conveniently, the word “ghoul” have been translated to Portuguese as “carniçal” (from “carniça” or carrion). I think that the closer word in English would be carrion-eaters. That make it easy for me to keep both the Ghoul race and the traditional “carniçais” (the normal ghoul from the Pathfinder Bestiary) in my campaigns without any fuss.

On the Ghouls of Isaldar
The Ghouls of the Seventh Moon (Isaldar) are not undead creatures, but a strange and macabre race of humanoids whose main underworld** lies under the Wildlands of Western Aldar, beyond the Crimson Savannah and northeast of the fabulous amazon nation of Cimeris.

Viewed as cannibal barbarians and undead servants of the Red King’s Spawn, the Ghouls are actually both older and independent from other unliving folk. They resemble humanoid races like Humans and Yakshas, albeit with bestial canine faces, slumping forms and a rubbery skin which becomes greenish with age. Their language consist in great parts of snarls and gibbering, but it can be learned by other races. They’re dirty and rotten beings, carrying the smell of mold and buried corpses.

Ghouls are not actually cannibals but carrion eaters. Indeed it is speculated that they’re not a true race, but the result of some ancient curse. These legends and old taboos whisper that any humanoid creature can in fact become a Ghoul by eating the dead flesh of its own kind – the main temptation being the Ghoul’s strength and extremely long life.

Ghouls love the umbral deeps and are natural tomb raiders and grave robbers – hungry not only for dead flesh but also forgotten treasures and knowledge. They have a disturbing sense of humor and a taste for the macabre. Humanoid villages close to their underworlds have legends about Ghouls been incapable of holding their own hyena-like laughs – telling a joke to a mysterious cloaked wanderer in night is seen as a sure way of uncovering a Ghouls, for he’d always laugh uncontrollably.

Ironically, while dangerous, Ghouls are not necessarily evil. They have been known to treat well those that known their language and ways. They have a deep respect for sages and wizards, love bards and songs (especially rowdy ones), and have an almost childish curiosity for those “crazy people of Above” that freely venture into the Darkness.

**Isaldarian underdark is a truly gloomy and nightmarish realm that deserves further explanations in a future post. For now, it is enough to describe the term ‘underworl’ as a stabilized and relatively safe domain or region in middle of the these uncharted and chaotic seas of Darkness.

Isaldarian Ghoul Racial Traits
+2 to Str, +2 to Con, -2 to Int, -2 to Wis: Isaldarian Ghouls are strong and tough, albeit crude and self-centered creatures, rarely paying attention to anything beyond their unlit underworlds.
Medium: Isaldarian Ghouls are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Normal Speed: Isaldarian Ghouls have a base speed of 30 feet.
Darkvision: Isaldarian Ghouls can see in the dark up to 60 feet.
Bouncy Gait: Isaldarian Ghouls are quick runners, despite their loping gait . They have a +4 racial bonus to Acrobatics checks involving jumping and gain Run as a racial bonus feat.
Resiliency of the Grave: Isaldarian Ghouls have a +1 natural armor bonus and gain Endurance as a racial bonus feat. They also don’t suffer the negative effects of aging, ignoring any penalties to physical ability scores (Ghouls use the Human’s entry at the Random Starting Ages table and the Elf’s entry of the Aging Effects, both at page 169 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook).
Hunger: Isaldarian Ghouls can only eat carrion. Other kinds of food are ignored for nourishment purposes. Ghouls can bite as a natural attack, dealing 1d6 points of damage. Finally, Ghouls can buy the Scent universal monster ability as a feat.
Stench of the Dead: Living humanoid races’ initial attitude before Isaldarian Ghouls are automatically worsened by one step. However, they gain a +2 racial bonus to Intimidate checks against such races.
Transparent Flesh: Isaldarian Ghouls’ flesh becomes transparent under sunlight (or spells like daylight). While under this condition they gain a +8 bonus in Disguise checks to pass as undead skeletons and the equivalent of the light fortification (25%) special ability, as it becomes harder to hit their vital spots.
Light Sensitivity, Negative Energy Affinity: Isaldarian Ghouls are healed by negative energy and suffer damage by positive energy effects (however, they’re still living creatures and are vulnerable to energy drain). See the universal monster rules of the Pathfinder Bestiary 2.
Languages: Isaldarian Ghouls begin play speaking Common and Ghoul. Isaldarian Ghouls with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Abyssal, Aklo, Giant, Goblin, and Undercommon.
Some Extra Design Notes: If you want a true Dreamland Ghoul, I believe you can accomplish that with the stats above. Simply remove the Transparent Flesh racial trait.