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In this world, ghouls are real: undead, zombie-esque creatures that consume dead flesh to survive. Unlike typical zombies, these ghouls are as intelligent as humans; they tend to build lairs near old cemeteries and battlefields, where food is plentiful, but when all else fails they have no trouble making more corpses to consume.

Biologically, a ghoul is an inhuman entity that's taken up residence in a human corpse and uses it as a sort of puppet. Nobody knows where the first ghoul came from, but it's rumored that they have some method of "reproduction": either one ghoul can create another, or new ghouls can arise spontaneously, or maybe both.

The question is: what is this method? It's definitely known that ghoul-ness isn't "contagious" (unlike with some types of vampires and zombies, someone killed by a ghoul doesn't necessarily turn into one). And not everyone who dies comes back as a ghoul. So what is the determining factor?

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't the determining factor going to be entirely dependent on what you want? In my world, Ghouls are evolved Zombies, and zombies are either raised by a necromancer, or have enough emotional energy at the time of death to retain their consciousness (usually only a part of it). Otherwise, whats wrong with it just being random people who return as ghouls? how is one answer more valid than the other? $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Jun 6 '19 at 0:40
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    $\begingroup$ They reproduce in whatever way you want them to. It's your world. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 6 '19 at 2:17
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    $\begingroup$ I'm VTCing as POB until you have provided more information about how your Ghouls work. Magical ghouls will work different compared to the more realistic ghouls ( created by viruses or parasites) seen in todays media. Until you can decide on a mechanism which your ghouls are created by, this is just going to end up being a discussion where we discuss the many valid reasons the dead can be reanimated. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Jun 6 '19 at 5:36
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I'm going to just roll with what you've written.

If we take the word 'reproduce' at face value, it would mean that the entity behind the state of 'ghoulism' is a biological one. It can be a parasite. In the most simplest case I imagine it as some sort of parasitic larvae that grows inside the corpse and then starts animating it (there are creatures that behave similarly, mostly among insects). Incidentally it would mean there is some sort of post-larval state the ghouls can reach, if they don't damage their borrowed body too much before that.

Hopefully, we don't need to observe the fertilization process too closely, most important part here is that either a ghoul, or a post-larval entity puts a small larva in a human corpse (or a living human). If that larva survives long enough and grows big enough, it is able to animate the body, so it starts feeding to reach the next stage.

If the entity behind 'ghoulism' is not biological one, it's much harder to guess how it happens without knowing the metaphysics and magic system of your world. It can be a result of a curse, or improper burial that leaves the corpse open for possession. Ghouls can be themselves actively necromantic, and will gather enough resources to summon another from their number from beyond the world.

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