Why does a ghoul’s touch cause paralysis and why are elves immune?
The devil is in the details. It’s a legacy of esoteric rules language from Chainmail (the war game that preceded Dungeons & Dragons) whence “touch” meant engaged in hand-to-hand (mêlée) combat. Two miniatures (figures) on the game map on the table were right next to each other. In the conversion to D&D, the language was retained, but the meaning became obscured and ultimately lost when a successful attack roll was later required for paralysis to endanger its victim. There are no literary or mythic models as far as I know. Hence, my confusion. Where was this coming from?
Now, for the solution. What I just learned is that the Draugr doesn’t paralyze with its touch. It does it through its terrifying, soul-draining glowing eyes! And the Elves of Middle-Earth do not fear the ghosts of men.
Makes for some spooky Halloween reading if you’re so inclined. The Saga of Grettir the Strong contains the primary literary incident. Here, then, is the real answer to the question. As a writer, it’s imperative to understand why things work. Now that I really do, I’m finally free to write! I feel a marathon brewing!
(The illustration above is fair use. If I am mistaken, please let me know and I will remove it without hesitation.)
Come back soon to discover the real inspirations behind Hook Horror and the Kobold!