We are dragged before the throne of another Midgard icon, the dreaded Ghoul Emperor! Get an overview of the 13 Midgard icons here along with storytelling mechanics you can use to connect PCs more powerfully to the setting.
Want to know more about the Ghoul Emperor and his Imperium? Check out Empire of the Ghouls for 5th Edition.)
The Ghoul Emperor
Nicoforus the Pale is the undisputed ruler of the Dread and Endless Imperium of the Darakhul, a civilization of ghouls deep within the Realms Subterranean. Through cunning and relentless cruelty, he’s led his legions to repeated victories over the other races in the underworld.
“I heard your beating hearts the moment you set foot in my realm. I can feel the heat from your living flesh on my skin, smell your racing blood in my nostrils, and taste your thoughts on my tongue.”
In the White City of Darakhan or in his pleasure palace at Vandekhul on the shore of the Sulphur Sea.
The Imperium is an undead civilization hidden beneath the earth, fueled by inhuman hunger and animal fury. The Imperium works tirelessly to extend its power, fighting an eternal war against all that lives and breathes in the realms below. Drow, dwarves, kobolds, gnomes: all are slaves or food for the darakhul. Only the ghouls’ aversion to the sun keeps them from invading the surface world.
Nicoforus the Pale is the emperor of this grim realm. The few living creatures who have seen him and survived describe him as a man of middle years, his hair black and his flesh as white as ivory, wearing purple and black clothes and a silvery crown set with emeralds. He never goes anywhere without a pair of elite bodyguards and four personal servants and is usually surrounded by a retinue of scribes, priests, powerful merchants, council members, and an honor guard of twenty Iron Ghouls. All ghouls revere their emperor as they would a god and will protect him fanatically.
Adventurers and the Icon
The study of necromancy prospers within the domain of the Ghoul Emperor, and necromancers are welcome at the fane of the necrophagi in Darakhan. Followers of the death god Anu-Akma, the hunger god Vardesain (known to humans as Mordiggian), the war god Mavros, and the Goddess of Night and Magic may seek out the Ghoul Emperor for aid or knowledge, as might demonologists who follow the Path of Corruption.
The Blood King is a staunch ally of the Ghoul Emperor and received valuable military aid from the Imperium in his recent campaigns of conquest.
Ultimately, all living, sane beings oppose the plans of the Ghoul Emperor. However, the interests of powerful magical beings tend to overlap, and diplomacy may allow them to pursue these interests without conflict. To this end, the Exarch has negotiated a safe-passage agreement between the Magocracy and the Imperium, and the Queen of Night and Magic maintains an embassy in Darakhan.
The darakhul—ghouls with intelligence, necromantic power, and the ambition to rule everything below the earth—first appeared centuries ago, but the true birth of darakhul power begins with the emperors. Four great emperors have ruled the ghouls, each paying homage to the death god Anu-Akma and the hunger god Vardesain. To honor these gods, the emperors expanded the empire below the earth through conquest.
Nicoforus the Pale has ruled for over 22 years with cunning and relentless cruelty. After taking terrible revenge on the drow for his predecessor’s death, he sent his legions marching through the Realms Subterranean, regaining territory lost in the interregnum and expanding the borders of the empire farther than ever before.
Having crushed almost all opposition below ground, the Ghoul Emperor turned his dread gaze to the surface world. The only thing that had prevented the ghouls from swarming the world above in the past was an aversion to sunlight. Nicoforus sent his legions abroad to search the Underworld for the Crown of Air and Darkness, a legendary artifact with the power to protect them from the horrible glare of the sun.
When they eventually returned to the White City empty‑handed, the emperor was forced to adopt a new strategy. Nicoforus re-forged an old alliance with Prince Lucan of Morgau. In return for ancient tomes of forbidden lore, the vampires would receive military aid from elite darakhul troops. After lengthy negotiations, the deal was done. The legions of the Ghoul Imperium set aside their fear of the sun and marched into Krakova as part of the undead armies that laid waste to the Electoral Kingdom, and Lucan became the icon known as the Blood King.
There has been only one significant threat to the Ghoul Emperor’s rule: an attempted coup led by a darakhul named Vilmos Marquering, also known as the Black Fang. When the coup failed, the Black Fang and his darkness-touched ghouls escaped via a shadow road into the Shadow Realm and established the Twilight Empire there. The Black Fang has vowed he will one day return to the White City and claim the throne.
The True Danger
Everything will be all right as long as the Ghoul Emperor never finds the Crown of Air and Darkness, giving his legions the power to move freely in the sunlit surface realm.