- "Not as scary as they look, but you have to be careful of those poisoned claws. I could never work out whether they were really Undead or not either. Not that it's too important, you can kill them easily enough with cold steel, no need for magic weapons and spells."
- —Captain Schultz, Mercenary Commander.[1a]
Crypt Ghouls, also known simply as Ghouls, are the degenerated descendants of humans who were reduced to cannibalistic creatures due to the consumption of raw or decaying flesh.
Crypt Ghouls are ugly, stooping creatures with only a vestigial sense of their former life or personality. Their skin is sallow and filthy, their eyes are bestial and insane, and their snarling lips reveal sharp-pointed teeth in slavering mouths. Dressed only in the rags they pull from their victims, Crypt Ghouls carry weapons they have picked up or have crudely fashioned from the remains of their unwholesome meals.[2a]
Usually, these skulking fiends do not need such implements to kill, for they have long claws and powerful teeth sufficient enough for their needs. These claws are encrusted with grave-filth and decaying meat; those that take even the lightest scratch from their talons can die from unnaturally potent infections that spread through the victim's body. In addition, their constant diet of rot-fouled meat confers a sinewy and unwholesome resilience from most diseases.[2a]
Though not truly Undead, Crypt Ghouls unconsciously feel the Dark Magic that surrounds the most powerful Undead lords and are drawn inexorably towards it. Once their presence is betrayed, their newfound master quickly dominates their weak and willing minds. Though they will lope into battle at the behest of their master, Crypt Ghouls, and even their ghastly pack leaders, are cowardly creatures that will slink away from combat if their prey seems to be fighting back with any real determination. This innate cowardice can be overcome by a mental command from their vampiric masters, for those Ghouls who have fled can be coerced back to the front lines with the lure of Dark Magic.[2a]
The first Ghouls were the descendants of the insane and evil-hearted cannibals living within the jungles of the Southlands, men who ate the flesh of their dead in gory rituals. These primitive corpse-eaters lived upon the shores of the Sour Sea, drawn to dwell under the looming, freezing shadow of Nagashizzar. The tribes worshipped the Great Necromancer and frequently partook of the Dark Feast. They would gorge themselves on the flesh of their own and, generation by generation, they were driven mad by their own loathsome practices. Now, these devolved humanoids roam an area of landscape known simply as the Desolation of Nagash, preying on travellers in their search for fresh meat.[2a]
Even in the enlightened era of Emperor Karl Franz, there are tales of cannibalism within the borders of the Empire. During times of harsh pestilence and famine, the desperate and the depraved take to eating human flesh to stay alive. The stories tell that isolated farms, and sometimes even whole villages, have devolved into this vile state after consuming both raw and decaying flesh after a particularly long enough time. Some even claim the practice has become customary rather than necessary.[2a]
During the Ghoul Swarms of 2512, when the crops failed for the third year running, the Knightly Orders of Stirland were employed en masse to scour the borders of their barren realm. The full-scale battle between the brightly-clad soldiery of the Elector Count and the ravenous, blotch-skinned hordes of the afflicted villagers has not been easily forgotten. Their fields and shabby hamlets were burned to the ground, but the memory of their foulness lingers on. The priests of Morr do what they can to protect their holy gardens against the encroachments of Crypt Ghouls, but many of the Old World's graveyards and cemeteries date back a thousand years or more, and beneath them are labyrinths of subterranean chambers and tunnels. On occasion, the Brotherhood of Morr will employ a professional Witch Hunter to sweep the catacombs with sword and fire to reduce their numbers.[2a]
In battle, Ghouls often attack their enemies in large packs, where they use their speed and numbers to either ambush or encircle their enemies. Lacking any proper armour, weapons, or even discipline, these Ghouls would act much in the same way as wild wolves, where they would often pick the weakest amongst their numbers and slowly dragged the enemy down one by one. These Ghouls are especially effective against enemies that are either scattered or in a rout, for without their military formation, each enemy soldier becomes easy prey for any singular Ghoul to tackle alone.[2a]