Through either a chance encounter in the night or a curse handed down your family for generations, you have been forever touched by the curse of the ghoul. Without intervention, you will descend into no more than a ravenous, flesh devouring beast. But you have a plan. You have reached out to the origin of curse itself, the King of Ghouls, and he has responded.
In exchange for helping you to control your urges Doresain, the King of Ghouls, has given you power. Obviously, this power comes with a price. Being ‘blessed’ by him, you now find yourself being groomed to be one of his generals. Not only that, but the hunger, although lessened, is still there and as you accept more and more boons from your Patron, you become more and more convinced that the King may not be helping you as much as he is luring you to his side.
Do you allow yourself to give into it and become your master’s most powerful thrall? Or do you fight it and try and find a way out? Either way, you best decide quickly. Your King is an impatient sort and what started as the horrific curse is more and more becoming so natural. And you are always so very, VERY hungry.
Reading across the tomes of D&D past and digging up all the juicy tidbits (please pardon the unsavory pun) about the undead, I found this entry about the ghoul the most fascinating. I, BDC, am a DM who likes a rich bit of lore and these creatures have a colorful bit of info that just sends my imagination into a real maelstrom.
The ghoul, for those who might not know, are a type of undead who hunger and feast after the flesh of the recent dead. Not sure how recent they have to have been killed, but their diet consists of Carrion or the flesh of the departed. Unfortunately, if you read over the one page in the 5E Monster Manual, you would relegate them to no more than a low level threat. I mean, let’s be honest. They register a bit 1CR. Not terribly impressive. The best the book has to offer on these creatures are their upgraded stats with the GHAST. But they’re only a 2CR. So, a great many of us turn the page and move on to bigger threats.
But hold up. Let’s give these creeps a real once over; an honest ‘fleshing out’ (I know…sorry).
Being such a weak opponent, they run in packs like wolves or goblins. So, just up the numbers and you’ve got yourself a decent threat. Now, imagine what a vicious hoard of these things could do. Hmmm.
But that’s not why we’re here. You’re asking me, I’m sure, why in the world would I as a player want to play AS a ghoul. Because that is precisely why I’m here.
First of all, the whole Abyssal backstory is probably the most golden one of all the undead next to vampires and liches themselves. We can trace the origin of the ghoul all the way back to one specific elf: Doresain. It seems this elf was fond of feasting on his own and he did so to honor the Demon Prince of Undeath himself, Orcus. Apparently, he eats enough carrion and always said his prayer of thanks to Orcus before every meal enough that the demon gave him a powerful reward. He made him the first ghoul. He continued to serve Orcus from the Abyss until he was ousted from there by the Gnoll Lord, Yeenoghu (Another really fun guy).
Now, the story was that he tried crying to Orcus for help but got none. Instead, he turned his pleas to his Elven gods and they DID answer. Saving him from his enemy, Doresain paid them back by creating an immunity for them from the attack of the ghoul and against ghoul fever. I have read differing accounts as to whether he continued to worship Orcus from there, but for our purposes it really doesn’t matter.
HOW DO YOU BECOME A GHOUL?
Besides being blessed by Orcus or some other undead power, there are several ways of becoming a ghoul.
- After a run-in with some ravenous creatures who tried to kill and eat you, you found yourself bitten by one and contracted the fever that you either could not or choose not to cure.
- Before your death, you were a wicked cannibal who found every chance to kill and devour his own.
- You were a foul and debaucherous creature during your life.
- You have inherited a family curse from an ancestor who was either a ghoul, a direct servant of Doresain, extremely evil or was a ravenous cannibal.
- Someone dear to you became a ghoul and your service to the King is their only hope.
- You contracted Ghoul Fever while studying them. Now you are one.
Whatever way you became one, what matters to your story is how you deal with it. Maybe your story is one of redemption. You fight your nature much like a werewolf would battle his animalistic nature. Possibly getting close to the King is your way of finding a way out. Or maybe your character is just a sick son of a bitch who loves eating people. What follows is a player subclass option for Warlock. Doresain, the King of Ghouls, becomes your patron and you, no matter your motives, begin to serve him. To what ends you are not sure, but none of this can end well.
DORESAIN, KING OF GHOULS (Warlock Patron)
Now, this is a specific and focused Patron. There are no other options given here really as there are with the Archfey and the Fiend. You have petitioned Doresain directly and he has responded, for good or ill. Doresain promised power and control, but a good part of the power he gives feeds the monster you are becoming. It will also become obvious that he’s grooming you to become his general. And part of that is to raise an army.
This is not a Patron to take ‘just for fun’. The DM and the player will have to be as in sync as Matt Mercer is with Willingham (Fjord). It would be a great storyline and it will depend on the other players also. They don’t have to be in the planning process, but the DM and you will have to know them pretty well. In other words, everyone is involved and have to be taken into careful consideration.
As with the above-mentioned Fjord, there is a possibility of a change of heart. Part of the story may be a path to redemption and either ending your undead ‘life’ stopping the King’s plans or finding a way to end your curse and return to life. How is that possible? I’m not sure, but it would be a damned good game.
However, you approach the subclass and the subsequent story, it has the chance to be a pretty awesome story and I would love to hear your ideas and how you would play this option. The actual subclass will be published for our partners on our Patreon as will numbers for minions and an advanced ghoul creature who uses this option as an NPC. To find the link to our Patreon go to our homepage and scroll down.
NOTE: Everything we do at the Magic Tavern for D&D is aimed at bettering your 5E experience. We glean from the older editions, but all finished and nonfinished product is resource for 5E gameplay.