We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide

Dungeons and Dragons' Ghoul 5e monsters are twisted, undead flesh-eaters created by Orcus - here are the key Ghoul 5e stats, DM tips, and lore.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a ghoul emerging from a grave, with an old timey lantern nearby

Looking to learn more about the DnD Ghoul 5e monster? This guide has everything you need. As with many of DnD’s creatures, there’s more to the 5e Ghoul than meets the eye. D&D is full of big, iconic monsters that make for grand, set-piece encounters (it’s called Dungeons and Dragons, remember), so you might assume the pallid, unglamorous DnD Ghoul to be a rather boring fiend. But looks can be deceiving – so we’ve created this guide to include everything you need to include Ghouls in your 5e campaign.

Though less infamous than other classic spooky foes – like the Vampire 5e monster or any of the various Demons 5e offers – the humble DnD Ghoul makes a great addition to any Dungeon Master‘s arsenal, and is an excellent DnD monster to throw at a party of low level Dungeons and Dragons characters. In addition to having more tricks up its sleeve than you might expect, the DnD Ghoul comes with surprisingly compelling lore which, if you play your cards right, can act as a tantalizing plot hook for DnD roleplay.

Read on to learn exactly what makes these monsters so interesting in a fight; some tips and tricks for using them in your campaigns; and a brief taste of the surprisingly deep lore for these, er, ghoulish creatures.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a ghoul running from a human mob

What are DnD 5e Ghouls?

DnD 5e ghouls are chaotic evil undead monsters with razor sharp teeth, jagged claws and a hunger for flesh. They generally roam in packs, though it’s not unheard of for a ghoul to strike off on its own if the situation warrants.

Despite its DnD stats packing a woeful Intelligence score of 7, Ghouls do speak Common (the universal basic DnD language) so can, potentially, be reasoned with, if you can convince them that there might be an easier way for them to satisfy their endless hunger than by fighting you.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a ghoul in front of a barn, covered in falling autumn leaves

Ghouls tend to come out at night and roam the land looking for humanoid flesh upon which to feast. Despite what you might expect, in contrast to Vampires, 5e Ghouls are not vulnerable to sunlight – so don’t expect them to be less dangerous just because you’ve stumbled upon them during the day. 5e Ghouls also have a nasty bite that can paralyze their victims.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a group of ghouls attacking a civilian

Using DnD ghouls in your campaign

Ghouls are an excellent choice for a DM looking to throw together an encounter for a low level party. At Challenge Rating 1, a single Ghoul makes for a great boss monster for a group of level one adventurers. Alternatively a small pack of three Ghouls makes for a well-balanced encounter for a group of third level adventurers.

It can often be quite difficult to find compelling or scary monsters for low level parties, but 5e Ghouls fit the bill nicely. With the DnD Ghoul’s paralyzing bite, players will be forced to stay on their toes. The paralysis has a save DC of 10, meaning that even low level characters have a decent chance of resisting its effect. However, the threat of paralysis on its own is often enough to keep players wary.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a Ghoul eating human remains in a crypt

From a roleplay perspective, Ghouls make great adversaries for parties with Cleric 5e or Paladin 5e characters in the mix. A Paladin’s Divine Smite is extra effective against undead, and taking advantage off that buff gives the Paladin player a nice little treat.

Clerics with the Turn Undead ability will also find a great opportunity to flex their spiritual muscles in a fight against Ghouls. In addition to Clerics and Paladins, there are plenty of subclasses out there which interact with undead in interesting ways.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a ghoul in dark rags rising from a crypt coffin

5e Ghouls also have Darkvision, which makes them great monsters to use if you’re planning a night-time attack against your players. Fighting a pack of ravenous undead monsters under cover of night makes for a wonderfully atmospheric encounter.

Since Ghouls are nomadic creatures and go out of their way to search for prey, they can be great monsters to use should your players be attempting to rest for the night on their travels. These sorts of encounters can be a great way to give travel a sense of danger and risk – just remember to let them rest at some point.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a ghoul in a cemetery being pursued by human hunters

How to fight a DnD ghoul

If you know that you’re going up against some DnD Ghouls, there are several precautions you can take to ensure success. First off: remember that Ghouls have Darkvision, so, if you plan on fighting at night, you’d be wise to bring torches, or someone with the Light Cantrip, to make sure that the grisly creatures don’t get the drop on you.

Being undead, 5e Ghouls are also immune to the Charmed condition – meaning workhorse DnD spells like Friends and Charm Person are a no-go in battles with ghouls. DnD Ghouls are also immune to poison damage, so you’d be best not to go in for the likes of Poison Spray when making your attacks.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a ghoul standing in a dark forest, being picked at by a raven, with more ravens approaching

Like many melee focused enemies, Ghouls can be rendered far less of a threat with the use of crowd-control spells like Entangle, Grease, or Hold Person. Simply keep the undead horrors at arm’s length with crowd control, then blast them with spells and arrows ‘til your heart’s content.

If they do manage to close to melee range, then try to position your party such that only those with a high Constitution Save are in the path of the ghoul’s claws and teeth. This will make its nasty paralyzing attack less likely to take effect.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a ghoul tragically staring at a flower, remembering its past life

DnD Ghoul 5e lore

The DnD Ghoul has a surprisingly tragic backstory. They thrive in places of decay and death, forever looking for corpses to devour, or living people to turn into corpses should no dead flesh be readily available. In a cruel twist of fate, Ghouls gain no satisfaction or nourishment from the flesh they consume, and there is no end to their maddening hunger.

DnD Ghoul 5e monster guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a ghoul in ruined, once ornate armour

The first Ghoul was an Elf 5e character by the name of Doresain, who took it upon himself to feast on humanoid flesh in honour of the Demon Prince of Undeath: Orcus. As a ‘reward’ Orcus turned Doresain into the first Ghoul, who, in turn, created more Ghouls, spreading his ravenous hunger.

Eventually, Doresain was forced from his domain in the Abyss. Displaced from his lands, the DnD gods of the elves took pity on him and helped him escape destruction at the hands of the other horrors of the abyss. Since this intervention, elves have been immune to the Ghouls’ paralyzing strikes.