In the monster entry for ghouls they have a paralysis ability. This is applied to both their claws, and their bite, which makes me believe this effect is applied on touch. Similarly the spell Ghoul's Touch seems to lead me to believe that it is in fact a touch effect. Is there anything that states one way or another? Could a ghoul forgo the claw (or bite as it does not seem to be tied to their claws) attack to try to paralyze as a touch attack?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related and possibly a more general duplicate. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 29, 2017 at 18:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related maybe, duplicate not really. My question is specifically about their paralysis ability and if that can be used separately from its claw/bite. I'm not asking whether or not they can make a touch attack, I'm asking if the paralysis is applied to that attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Nov 29, 2017 at 18:46

1 Answer 1



A ghoul's paralysis is based on their bite and claw attacks only. The Paralyze special ability requires a specific location for it to work:

This special attack renders the victim immobile. Paralyzed creatures cannot move, speak, or take any physical actions. The creature is rooted to the spot, frozen and helpless. (...)

Format: paralysis (1d4 rounds, DC 18); Location: Special Attacks and individual attacks.

Since it requires a specific local to work, some creatures may only paralyze with one of their attacks, but not with the others. The Mohrg is an example of a creature that has touch as the location for their paralyzing special attack.

Melee 2 slams +15 (2d8+5 plus grab), tongue +10 melee touch (paralysis)

Special Attacks create spawn, paralysis (1d4 minutes, DC 21)

Only a mohrg's tongue attack can paralyze creatures, but not their slam attacks.

Even the dumbest of ghouls would simply try to grapple their victim before they start chewing on them if a mere touch could paralyze. I mean, wouldn't you, if you were a ghoul?

Classic Horrors Revisited (page 30) goes further to clarify this:

Beyond its hunger and the virulent disease it can inf lict on the living, one other quality defines the dangers a ghoul presents: its paralytic touch. Mere touch is not enough to visit this doom on a foe, the ghoul must pierce f lesh with tooth or claw and actually inf lict damage before the paralysis can seize the victim’s body.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great call out on the Mohrg. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 29, 2017 at 20:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Out of sheer curiosity, are there any creatures that have similar attacks that specify they can be one OR the other? Most the ones I have looked at only say one or the other, and if the ability can be delivered as a touch and a natural attack, will only list it on the natural attack. d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/undead/fire-phantom for example has them listed with the attacks, but logically should be able to apply the damage to a touch attack as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Nov 29, 2017 at 21:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ It says melee hit, touch attacks are still melee attacks with exceptions on the rule. So, at first, I would say that abilities that work on "hit" should still work on touch attacks. Normally they are better used with the creature's natural attacks though. If you look up "melee hit", most are associated with fire/acid damage or ooze effects. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Nov 29, 2017 at 22:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ But reading more carefully, the wording on those abilities are like the wording on Burn, which works just like paralysis. So we need to make a distinction about melee hit and touch. Looking at the Veiled Master, we see another example just like the Mohrg. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Nov 29, 2017 at 22:09
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Found in "Classic Horrors Revisited" --- "Beyond their hunger and the virulent disease they can inflict on the living, one other quality defines the dangers a ghoul presents—its paralytic touch. Mere touch is not enough to visit this doom on a foe—the ghoul must pierce flesh with tooth or claw and actually inflict damage before the paralysis can seize the victim’s body." This seems to support your ruling, and some of the confusion (as some other lore sources I read call it a paralytic touch as well, without the explanation) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Nov 29, 2017 at 22:21

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