The culture of ghols – overview of a nearly extinct species



Native to the Badlands, the ghols first came into contact with humans during the Great wars. Then, they were best known as the savage, bestial servants of the Fallen Lords. Most of the data available originated from the dwarven allies and considering the mutual hatred between these two non-human races, as old as the world itself, the bloody victory over the armies of Soulblighter during the Second war was followed by purposive massacre over the remaining ghol groups. It was not until recently that human scholars started to dig into the biological features, societal structure and cultural peculiarity of the ghols. Unexpectedly, they appeared to have much more sophisticated cultural development than expected.

Biology of ghols

Ghols are clearly very far from what a human would consider a sentient, humanoid society. Their bestial appearance – large, predatory jaws, muscular front limbs and grunting noises denied them for a long period the status of a sentient race and in many chronicles, they were mentioned simply as “dogs” or “apes”. They are, however, no less sentient and a civilized species than humans and dwarves and much more humanly than Myrkridians.

The average male ghol varies between 70 and 90 cm height and 60 to 120 kg weight depending on the tribe with females slightly small-sized. The front limbs, or arms, has opposable thumb and much better-developed muscularity than the human one. The back limbs end with paws. Although ghols can stand and move bipedal, their preferred mode of moving and running is either on three or all four limbs. The muscular system is characterized by a high proportion of myoglobin, serving as both oxygen storage and later as energy storage, as well as carbohydrate storage reserves in the form of glycogen. It is a unique adaptation that makes ghols’ muscles energetically autonomous for long periods, using only the degradation of their own carbohydrate and proteins, oxidized by the oxygen, released by their own myoglobin. Thus, a ghol can run at a relatively high speed for days, at a very low respiration rate, thus preventing dehydration and without overtaxing the heart muscle and overheating.

The eyes are frontally oriented and comparatively small, and the sight is poor, which is highly associated with the original cave lifestyle. The initial cave ghol culture probably explains their feud with dwarves, but currently, most of the ghol tribal societies are steppe dwelling. Unlike sight, olfaction is highly developed and comparable to those in hunting hounds or bears. Although the jaws are disproportionally large and strong to the size of the head, ghols are not typical predators but rather omnivores. A combination of well-developed incisors, canine and molar teeth allows both meat laceration and the crushing of plant tubers. The long neck, small head and long jaws all facilitate digging for plant tubers and roots, as well as finding and catching rabbits, rats and other small rodents.

Figure 1. Preserved ghol skulls, collected as dwarven war trophies. A – cave ghol; B – step ghol (lower jaw missing). During the early wars between these two nations the hatred was so intense that dwarven warriors collected ghols’ heads as trophies and some kings had owned piles of hundreds and even thousands of skulls.

Communication and level of intelligence

Early reports suggested that ghols do not have a sentient form of communication, but recently several scholars succeeded to identify at least seventy different grunts with a different meanings. Important words with defined meaning in the ghol culture are such as food, hunt, friend and enemy, prey, run, obey etc. Sometimes a combination of two or three grunts may have a new meaning like food + run and prey + run mean rat and rabbit respectively. Additional grunting is employed to specify qualities like “large”, “small”, “many” etc. The word “dwarf” is of special importance, reflecting the centuries-long feud with them.

In addition to the primitive form of verbal communication, ghols also do communicate through a variety of pheromones, released by several glands below the jaws and behind the ears. A different pheromone combination settles hierarchical position, temporary family couples, express anger, fear or irritation, etc. Although the above does not seem sufficient for a great civilization, ghols are actually quite capable of organizing themselves into highly structured, well-defined tribal societies.

Societal structure

As mentioned above, ghols are divided primarily into tribes. Unlike other tribal nations, however, ghols were not involved in extensive wars between each other, mainly because they gather frequently to worship their most sacred Godhead stone and because the dwarven attacks kept them united. The tribes also tend to frequently mix or divide, thus keeping the inbreeding to a minimum. Once in several years, all tribes gather together into a horde for mass worship of the Godhead and rapacious raids.

The tribes are divided into two major groups that rarely encounter each other. The cave ghols are comparatively smaller, with shorter jaws and live in smaller clans of 20-25 individuals, dominated by a ghol brute. The much more sophisticated steppe tribes consist of over 200 individuals, ruled by a ghol priest, who serves both as religious and wartime leader of the tribe. Family couples in both cave and steppe ghols form on a temporal basis, from pregnancy to the first three months of the baby. Later on, all babies and sub-adults are raised by female ghols, not currently engaged in a family couple and males and females do not interact with each other.


Little is known or has survived of the handcrafts, that ghols developed. Probably the most popular among scholars belief is that ghols are skillful blacksmiths. It all came from their weapon of choice, the cleavers. Ghols are not miners and are not able to acquire metals from ore on their own. They do, however, process metal objects from spoils and reshape them in their preferred weapons, as well as primitive armors and ornaments. It is a fairly primitive craft, metal molten into a carved stone to the characteristic shape then sharpened with stones. The handle is often made of fur, wrapped around the crude metal. As cleavers are usually not properly hardened, they often break during fights.

Figure 2. Archaeological artifacts of the ghol culture. A – different cleavers’ blades; B – a piece of shoulder armour; C – well-preserved leather bag; D – a human bone, probably used as a cleaver’s handle or for ceremonial purposes; E – small stone reproductions of the Godhead stone; F – primitive metal cup; G – a stone, shaped to cast cleavers.

Another characteristic feature of ghols at war is the bag, carried around the neck. It is made of sun-dried leather and although numerous depictions showed a human head inside, actually it is used to carry everything a ghol might possess. They put inside roots and tubers, freshly killed animals, metal objects and other garbage they have collected and also their babies, when on hunt or migration. They also carry inside small stones, reminding the shape of the Godhead stone, which is of specific religious significance, especially after the destruction of the original object.

Although it is not uncommon for a ghol to eat raw meat, actually these beasts use to cook in a way. Usually, freshly killed animals are skinned, gutted and sliced into pieces, which are further wrapped in leaves of a plant, resembling tobacco along with smashed larvae and grated tubers of horseradish.

The larval digestive enzymes make the meat lean, while horseradish serves as an antibacterial agent. The resulting meal, eaten after days or months has a very strong taste and is considered a delicacy. Another beloved food is a broth of chopped bones, brain and liver, all boiled in blood, which they prepare in cauldrons, stolen from human settlements. Unlike popular beliefs, ghols do not eat neither carcasses nor human or dwarven flesh, because they considered them “dirty”.


  1. Jason Jones. 1997. Myth: The Fallen Lords. Bungie.
  2. Tuncer Deniz. 1998. Myth II: Soulblighter. Bungie.
  3. Scott Campbell. 2001. Myth III: The Wolf Age. MumboJumbo.

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