A ghoul is a living creature who contracts the darkspawn taint and manages to survive. Humanoid creatures develop a blotchy look and a sickly tone to their skin, while the effects on animals are somewhat more drastic.
The term "ghoul" is actually derived from the behavior and mannerisms associated with people who have become corrupted. Once infected, a ghoul will seek out the darkspawn, who often use them as as craftsmen or sometimes eat them, although not for dietary reasons, as the darkspawn do not require sustenance. The constant, slow exposure to the taint drives these souls to turn on their fellow captives, cannibalizing them whilst in the grips of maddening pain and the will of the Archdemon, whose call they start to hear.
Humanoids develop symptoms such as fever and itchiness. Eventually, the disease progresses to the point where the body becomes degraded and misshapen by the corruption. For example, ghouls start to lose clumps of hair, flesh, and develop purulent sores. Given enough time, a ghoul's deterioration will eventually lead to death.
Female ghouls are usually made broodmothers by the darkspawn. They are force-fed darkspawn tissue, and the darkspawn forcefully "spew" into the prisoners' mouths. At this point, Hespith describes the women who survive as being "violated", presumably raped by numerous darkspawn. As this happens they gradually develop cannibalistic urges and mutate heavily, eventually becoming full-fledged broodmothers after devouring massive quantities of flesh. Despite their eventual transformation, broodmothers are still categorized as ghouls.
Animals which turn into ghouls grow bigger and become exceptionally aggressive, with some of them growing spikes and other strange mutations. It is not rare to find ghouls fighting alongside darkspawn.
These are the known tainted animal species:
- Bereskarn were originally bears.
- Blight owls were originally owls.
- Blight wolves were originally wolves.
- Blighted werewolves were originally werewolves.
- Bloodcrows were originally crows.
- Corrupted spiders were originally spiders.
- Dragon thralls were originally dragons.
- Infected giants are a group of giants that have been infected by red lyrium.
- The Red lyrium dragon is a high dragon that Corypheus has personally corrupted using red lyrium.
- Felix Alexius (conditional)
- The Mother
- Sophia Dryden