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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jungle Ghouls and Ghoul Worms

These hideous creatures are found only in tropical environments, where they are commonly associated with primitive ritual necromancy and cannibalism. Jungle Ghouls appear as emaciated creatures, their curiously striated, bluish-gray skin covered with thick deposits of keratin and tiny sores that ooze a gooey black ichor. A foul stench reminiscent of burning sulfur and rotting flesh surrounds the creatures.

Despite the association, Jungle Ghouls are neither undead nor magical. The creatures are created by a parasitic Ghoul Worm with a life cycle that includes gestation and growth within a living host. The Ghoul Worm's sticky eggs are picked up from dead hosts, either by victims attacked by the creatures, or by scavengers feeding on the remains, particularly flies. These eggs eventually dry and fall free. Those that end up on food or in water are eventually consumed by host creatures, any large warm-blooded creature will do, whose body heat activates the hatching cycle. Once they hatch the Ghoul Worms burrow out of the digestive tract and infect the central nervous system, wreaking havoc upon the mind and body of the host.

Creatures afflicted with Ghoul Worms fall under their influence within a week of infection. During the initial week the Ghoul Worms can be removed via a Good test of healing or curing magic. Symptoms during this time include severe fever and chills and a bluish tinge to the skin. After the Worms have established control the victim becomes a Jungle Ghoul, taking on the characteristic appearance and stench as the victim's mind is destroyed by the infestation.

Jungle Ghouls wander at random, though they are drawn to noise. When they encounter living warm-blooded creatures, they attack with whatever natural weaponry they have available. In the case of humanoid Ghouls, this includes clawing with nails and biting. Victims of Ghoul attacks have a Good chance of being infected with eggs. Jungle Ghouls are attracted to each other by scent, and often move in vast packs, leaving a trail of terror and death in their wake.

Jungle Ghouls have the following characteristics:
  • Good toughness and Fair attack skill with natural weaponry. The creatures feel no pain and attack with a mindless ferocity. Ghoul Worms stimulate natural keratin growth, turning weak nails and claws into effective weapons.
  • Fair tracking. Jungle Ghouls will relentlessly follow any noise to its source. There are some indications that Ghoul Worms increase the sharpness of the infected creature's senses.
  • Sickening stench. Anyone within ten feet of a Jungle Ghoul has a Good chance of being afflicted by the reek, reduced to gagging and vomiting for 1-4 rounds.
  • Slain by healing. Ghoul Worms can be slain with a Great application of curing magic. Cured Jungle Ghouls are left as mindless husks, incapable of thought or action.
  • Infection. Anyone wounded by a Jungle Ghoul has a Good chance of being infected with eggs.
Assuming they are not slain, Jungle Ghouls survive two to four weeks. After this period the Ghoul Worms die off, leaving an egg laden corpse behind.
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