“Ghouls are usually described as doglike or canine in appearance, a description that has as much to do with their pack behavior and habit of digging as it does their specific skull shape.
To change up ghoul imagery, try other graveyard scavengers. Ghouls in your campaign might also resemble or at least evoke:
Flies (bristles on arms, segmented eyes, green-blue sheen on flesh)”— Kenneth Hite et al., “Hideous Creatures – A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos”
I decided to take Mr. Hite’s advice to heart, and write a retheme for one of my favorite monsters in Delta Green. The book lists several other aesthetic options, but I had the most ideas for flies and they were the most different from your ‘stereotypical ghoul.’ I also took the opportunity to elaborate on and rewrite some existing mechanics I felt were too vague or just didn’t like.
Ghouls are ageless creatures that dwell underground and emerge to feed on the dead. Any corpse will do, but for some reason, they have a taste for humanity. Despite their scavenger-like behavior, ghouls are as dangerous as any predator. They are big and tough, four arms bristling with hairs and tipped with claws, nearly every inch of their skin hardened into a green-blue shell. Their mouths appear human at first glance, but open to reveal gummy jaws with a few prehensile fangs and a long rasping tongue.
From this mouth comes a strange wet language, full of buzzing, squeaks, and clicks. Somehow, they are still able to express themselves in ordinary human speech, albeit not always very well. It is unclear if the twitching movements of a ghoul’s limbs and ‘hands’ are part of communication, though they move incessantly as they talk. Their eyes look like they’ve swollen and burst out of their sockets to drip and congeal around their head. Each one fragmented into hundreds of dark cloudy beads, blinking asynchronously.
Some stories say ghouls are demons or evil spirits, placed on earth as examples of how not to act. Others say they are murderers, thieves, liars, and hedonists who made a bargain with an ancient god to trade whatever fate awaited them after death for a cursed existence. Or maybe they’re cannibals and killers of their own tribe who sink deeper into depravity until they become something else. Ask a ghoul what it is, and you might get any one or all of these answers. Or maybe it’ll just laugh at you and say it doesn’t matter and never did.
GHOUL – Predatory Scavengers
STR 24, CON 24, DEX 15, INT 12, POW 13
HP 24, WP 13
ARMOR: iridescent chitin, see Resilient
SKILLS: Alertness 70%, Clumsy Flight 85%, Foreign Language (English) 30%, Stealth 90% (50% while flying), Track (by scent) 65%, Unnatural 40%
ATTACKS: Batter With Sharp-haired Arms (40%, 1D8, 3 AP)
Spray and Bite (40%, 1D10+2, see External Digestion)
BURROWER: Their distant smaller cousins may dig through rotten meat, but a ghoul can burrow through the earth at up to three meters per minute. The sensitive hairs covering their body can detect slight variations in airflow, all but eliminating their need for vision underground.
CONSUME LIKENESS: As a monster, a ghoul has no normal CHA stat. However, through use of the ritual Changeling Feast, a ghoul may accumulate human disguises to hide its split, bulging eyes and bristly limbs, gaining a CHA of 10 or 11, usually. A solid blow or attack can disrupt the illusion. Fire and electricity have also been known to cause it to flicker. ‘Donning’ a disguise or switching between them requires a moment of concentration, using the ghoul’s action.
EXTERNAL DIGESTION: The ghoul sprays liquid solvents on its victims, then scrapes the melted meal into its mouth with its teeth and tongue. So long as it doesn’t Bite anyone else, it can cling to a victim with its other two arms, drooling on them for an automatic 1D6 damage each round. If the original Bite attack overcame the victim’s Armor, this damage ignores Armor. The victim can attempt to wriggle free with an Escape roll as their action, opposed by the ghoul’s attack roll if it attacks them or its STR if it doesn’t attack anyone that round.
CLUMSY FLIGHT: Usually pressed to its back as misshapen flaps of skin, a ghoul may extend its wings with a shower of grave dirt and fly. They can also climb up vertical surfaces. With room to maneuver and a successful Flight roll, a ghoul can ‘jump’ 5 meters in any direction from a standing position or drop up to 15 meters without taking any damage. If they have time to get up to speed, ghouls can buzz along at nearly 60 kph.
IMMORTAL: Ghouls never grow old, die of sickness (normal ones, at least), or starve. Lengthy stretches of hunger can weaken them and without air, they fall into an indefinite state of torpor.
CONSUME MEMORIES: Some ghouls can recall the memories of the brains they have eaten. In young ghouls, or old ones trying to remember a specific detail, this may require an INTx5 test.
NECROPHAGE: Once every 24 hours, a ghoul can regain 1D8 HP by reducing dead flesh into a digestible slurry before sucking it down their throat.
RESILIENT: A successful Lethality roll does not reduce a ghoul to 0 HP. Instead, it only deals damage equal to the Lethality rating.
RITUALS: Lots of ghouls know a few rituals. Changeling Feast and Charnel Meditation are the most common, used to blend in and contact others of their kind, respectively.
SAN Loss: 0/1D6
In addition to providing inspiration to cosmetically alter old familiar foes and breathe new life into them, Hideous Creatures also offers some new abilities and options for mythos creatures. A lot of them only really work in the gumshoe system, but some of them translate into Delta Green with a bit of tweaking. I don’t recommend giving your ghouls more than one or two of these.
DAZE: Some legends associate ghouls with dreams and the hidden world of sleep. By locking eyes and spending 3 WP, ghouls can send any victim who fails a POWx5 test into a deep sleep. Victims also lose 0/1D4 SAN, haunted by nightmares of death, cold, darkness, and unending hunger. These ghouls also know the ritual Fascination, allowing them to whisper an alien lullaby to paralyze their prey when eye contact is not an option.
DREAM-CHASE: By spending 6 WP, some ghouls can enter the dreams of their prey. This lets them discern their location. Being hunted in your dreams like this costs 0/1 SAN. If the SAN test fails, the victim cannot rest and regain WP as if they suffered from Sleep Disorder. By spending another 6 WP, the ghoul can travel to the dreamer’s physical location if it’s near a graveyard, cave, basement, or abattoir. This automatically wakes the sleeper.
ENORMOUS: In Pickman’s Model, the titular painter took a photo of a ghoul so big it was able to gnaw away at a human corpse like a candy bar. For a larger ghoul, increase its STR, CON, and HP to 33. Its attacks are deadlier too, 2D6 damage for claws and 10% Lethality for its bite.
FESTERING: Anyone injured by a ghoul whose wounds are not promptly treated with First Aid falls prey to the countless plagues that clog the ghoul’s teeth and claws. This disease has a Speed of 1D6 days and a Damage of 1D6. Antibiotics and excision are suitable cures, but the medic must succeed on a Medicine or Surgery roll to effectively counteract all the different infections, even if treatment begins before the disease takes effect. A failed roll still halves the damage.
FREEZING GRIP: After making a successful attack, a ghoul can spend 3 WP to Stun their target. Their victim can still roll CONx5 to recover as normal, shaking off the unearthly chill.
HEAD-SHOT: Some legends say a ghul can only truly be killed by severing and destroying its head. Maybe the legends are true. This type of ghoul takes no damage from any attack except hypergeometry and called shots to the head. However, attacks that would’ve otherwise inflicted half of the ghoul’s HP in damage or reduced it to 0 HP still stun it. At the Handler’s discretion, attacks affecting the ghoul’s entire body (eg: fire, explosions), still deal 1 point of damage.
INHUMAN REFLEXES: Some ghouls are impossibly quick. They have 18 DEX and may use it to Dodge attacks, even firearms attacks outside of cover and Lethality attacks from machine guns. The DEX test must successfully oppose the attack roll. It is useless against explosions if there is no cover to duck behind and provides no protection from hypergeometry.
PACK ATTACK: A ghoul gains a +20% bonus to any attack roll against a target that another ghoul has already attacked that round.
PHOTOSENSITIVE: Ghouls must make a POWx5 test to move into bright, direct sunlight. Spotlights and high-powered flashlights can dazzle them and give them pause. (This one isn’t so much a power as it is a way to make your ghouls mechanically different)