Feed just about any living creature a little vampire blood and it becomes a Ghoul, at least temporarily. In VTM, ghouls are omnipresent servants, easily created, and heavily abused - although networks do exist to assist them in escaping their masters. A ghoul’s emotions run to extremes with the heady drug of vitae in his veins, not to mention the Blood Bond — such a creature often falls prey to great rages and disturbing cravings. The name “ghouls” was not chosen at random.
After a vampire feeds their Vitae to another creature, they become a ghoul, granting a few benefits: The aging process halts, sometimes even reverting slightly; limited access to disciplines and faster healing. However, Ghouls are dependent on the Blood, as they will revert to their true age when denied access, sometimes fatally. It's control is the primary way that ghouls are managed by their domitors, through the Blood Bond — in addition to more traditional techniques like Dominate. The nastiest part of being a ghoul, of course, is that one is a slave to an inhuman monster that treats humans as chesspieces or the occasional light snack.
Various clans have different needs (and consequently treatment) for ghouls. The Ventrue make extensive use of ghouls, many of whom are only marginally aware of this fact. The Tzimisce are also fond of ghouls, although they tend to use them as one might use modeling clay, and such ghouls are almost invariably deformed. Tzimisce ghouls used as bodyguards or shock troops are called szlachta; others are combined into the gigantic, gestalt war ghouls called vozhd. Some unlucky ghouls are even shaped into architecture for Tzimisce havens. Such techniques have been adapted by the modern Sabbat, to create fleshweld ghouls, individuals ghouls able to merge into a creature similar to a vozhd at a moment's notice.
Animals can also be made into ghouls, a tactic particularly favored by the Nosferatu, and other users of Animalism. Animal ghouls sometimes grow larger and mutate, the result being a somewhat horrifying parody of the original creature. In addition, animal ghouls may develop a taste for blood, regardless of their original diets.
Ghouls tend to fall into three major categories:
- Ghoul Vassals - who are the stereotypical blood-addicted servant of a vampire;
- Independent Ghouls - who live a dangerous existence in a constant struggle for vitae;
- Revenants - hereditary ghouls whose body produces their own vampiric vitae.
The ghoul vassals are pulverized throughout vampiric society, while Independent Ghouls are quite rare, considered dangerous enemies by Cainites. The Revenants are largely associated with the Tzimisce, but most of them are insane cannibalistic freaks, that have no place in regular mortal society.
In general, ghouls aren't notable. If they were, they'd be dead. However, a small number have acquired a degree of notoriety.
- Caiaphas Smith - the legendary monster hunter, is effectively an independent ghoul.
- Heather Poe - an ill-fated college fashion major that can be turned into a ghoul by the protagonist of the game VTM: Bloodlines.
- Jabal - Caine's personal ghoul in the First City of Enoch, considered equal in status to one of the 3rd generation because of his closeness to Caine;
- Ossian - A Fianna Garou and independent ghoul. He is on the Camarilla's Red List.
- Prias - the ancient ghoul of Helena, lived on a Methuselah's vitae for millennia, and is more than a match for any ancilla he encounters.
- Renfield - who was Dracula's favorite ghoul. Famous through Bram Stoker's 1897 gothic horror novel "Dracula".
- Samuel Haight - a Children of Gaia Kinfolk who later became a Garou and then also a Mage.
- Seth - the fourth man to walk the earth might have been the first ghoul created by Caine.
- Haqim - a ghoul who believes himself to be Haqim, the Assamite Antediluvian
- Pierre Gedou - Madame Guil's personal ghoul and servant.
A ghoul needs to be fed a rouse check of Vitae, afterwards gaining 1 dot in a discipline chosen by their domitor and healing twice as fast as a standard mortal.
The power in the domitor’s blood partly carries over to the ghoul: after a drink, they gain one dot of Potence. Mechanically, this vitae is treated as a single point - for one lunar month, the ghoul has a point of vampiric blood in his system and acquires all the benefits (and drawbacks) of ghouling. Ghouls can hold multiple blood points in their system, but if they try to hold more than a human capacity, it has unpleasant side effects until the vitae replaces their normal blood. As long as a ghoul has vitae in his system, he remains a ghoul: vitae is lost at the rate of one point per month, and when used to power Disciplines. While a ghoul has blood in his system, he will not age. Ghouls can also learn other Disciplines; Celerity, Fortitude, and Potence are always available, while other powers depend on what the domitor knows. Discipline levels above the first are only available to ghouls whose domitor’s Generation is lower than the Eighth. Look to the chart below for explanation:
|Domitor Generation||Maximum Discipline Level|
Ghouls are immune to Delirium and can soak bashing damage, but they can soak lethal damage unlike other mortals. Apart from fueling their Disciplines, they may also use the power of the vampiric blood stored in their bodies to increase Physical Attributes or regenerate a lost limb by spending a variable amount of that blood. They heal damage like a mortal, but can spend their blood to heal damage like a Cainite.
Ghouls are prone to frenzy, although not as strongly as a vampire, but do experience provocation for frenzy more often. In addition, they are addicted to vitae - apart from the deleterious effects of the blood bond, Ghouls are subject to horrible side effects when the supply dries up. Without vitae, a ghoul will rapidly age physically to his actual chronological age, and ghouls over a century will crumble to dust quickly.
In Fifth Edition, the addictive properties of Vitae are downplayed, and ghouls can not actively use their Vitae, its effects being generally passive.