Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood and Bourbon
Those Who Serve
“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”
Kindred & Ghouls
The relationship between domitor and ghoul is an intensely personal one. For the ghoul, even if they avoid the worst symptoms of their addiction to vitae, their domitor becomes the center of their entire life, someone they care about more than anyone else in the world, of whom thoughts of consume their days and nights. For the domitor, a ghoul is not only an investment of their own precious vitae, but also a potential risk to the Masquerade if they fail to adapt or perform, and a new servant that they must manage forever (or at least potentially forever – many domitors take a more narrow view). While each covenant, clan, and even individual Kindred manages this relationship differently, the truth is that Kindred of any level that ignore their ghouls are seeking difficulty.
While a rare few particularly strong willed ghouls manage to resist addiction to vitae for an extended time, almost all eventually succumb to their cravings. Experienced or cunning domitors make use of this chemical addiction nearly as much as they do the bond itself, rewarding good behavior with extra vitae and punishing poor behavior by withholding it. There are dangers in both of these approaches, particularly as desperately addicted ghouls have been known to seek their fix from any source, but the benefits tend to outweigh the potential costs. Relying purely on the Blood Bond to control a ghoul can be a equally, if not more dangerous proposition.
Many ghouls intellectually understand the Blood bond and its power, but just as readily dismiss its effects on them. It’s often easier to believe that one’s own feelings for their domitor are real, despite knowing the nature of the bond. Poor ‘other’ ghouls might be hopelessly controlled by only the bond, but their own relationship is real and of substance. They convince themselves that they actually do love their domitors. Wise Kindred cultivate this belief with care, especially with ghouls they have little time for. Desperate ghouls acting out for attention have been known to undertake all manner of undesirable activities, from concocting plots against their fellow ghouls, to beginning their own (often poorly advised) enterprises, to (in extreme cases) attempting suicide – slitting ones wrists in a domitor’s haven is a classical choice that tends to earn the domitor’s attention in all the worst ways.
Types of Ghouls
The most influential ghouls in New Orleans are the one to several dozen (no one is certain of their exact members) who belong to the Krewe of Janus. These ghouls receive vitae from all the Krewe’s members, and are thus only tenuously bound to each of them. Nevertheless, they remain extremely loyal to the Krewe as a whole, and their dedication to maintaining the Masquerade borders on fanatical.
The ghouls in the Krewe of Janus hold a very distinct viewpoint on the purpose of the Masquerade: they feel that it exists to protect mortals from Kindred excesses. Since vampires are too powerful to destroy, and are by nature paranoid and power-hungry beasts, they will always seek to control human society. Only the self-imposed check of the Masquerade keeps them from waging open war to attain total domination over mankind. By protecting the Masquerade, the Krewe of Janus protects the entire human race.
The Krewe’s ghouls are divided into three basic groups: monitors, investigators and shock troops.
• Monitors are well-placed in human society and keep tabs on potential threats to the Masquerade. There is known to be a ghoul in NOPD’s homicide department, a ghoul in City Hall, and a ghoul in at least one major hospital. Numerous others are believed to exist. These spies dutifully report suspicious activity to their Kindred masters, who may then dispatch investigators (see below) or look into the situation themselves. The monitors also have contacts among New Orleans’ other Kindred and ghouls, and use these sources to solicit information about potentially problematic vampiric activities. In such situations, they keep their connections to the Krewe secret, often claiming to be the ghouls of some interested elder.
• Investigators follow the leads found by the monitors and Kindred members of the crew. They mostly work during the day, when the danger of discovery by Kindred is at a minimum. Many of them are experts at breaking and entering, sabotage and other extra-legal skills, since they never know where the trail may lead.
• Shock troops are the fighting arm of the Krewe. Many come from military or law enforcement backgrounds and have received extensive anti-Kindred combat training.
All of the ghouls cross-train, so they have some knowledge of each others’ specialties. Working for the Krewe of Janus is a full-time job.
There is a limit to the number of Toreador that New Orleans can support, and it is well below the number of artists attracted to the Big Easy. Rather than Embrace every talented individual they can find, many Toreador ghoul their artists instead. This serves to preserve great artists without overtaxing the city’s Kindred population (a minority of Toreador argue that the blood bond warps or dilutes the mortals’ artistic vision).
The Toreador show off their chosen pets’ talents in Elysium and encourage the thralls to produce further artwork in their names. So long as these ghouls do well, they can enjoy high status in Toreador circles indeed. Eventually, however, pressure wears on the artist and their work suffers. Their domitor starts to wonder if they “really were that good after all” and becomes less frequent in their attentions. Eventually, the artists burn out, and the Toreador discards them. Few of these unfortunates earn the Embrace.
The longer an artist has been a ghoul, the more likely they are to see this fate befall their comrades—and realize how easily it could befall them. Such elder ghouls, having lived past their alloted mortal lifespans, will die gruesome and agonizing deaths once they are deprived of vampiric vitae. This lends a certain element of desperation to their artwork.
The Toreador are not the only clan to ghoul artists, of course. Any Kindred who appreciates a mortal’s talents might opt to preserve them forever. Some of these Kindred maintain their ghouls out of genuine artistic appreciation, but others merely desire to impress influential members of the Rose Clan with the “amazing talent” they’ve discovered. The lot of such ghouls is simultaneously better and worse. Their domitor probably cares less for art and is not discerning enough to realize when it is losing its passion. However, these Kindred have less attachment to their ghouls and are more likely to cast them off for no reason at all.
Most Kindred elders and many ancillae have a single ghoul that they denote as their official “representative”. This ghoul is sent to deliver messages, speak to other Kindred, and sometimes even to conduct negotiations in their master’s name. Heralds have great deal of autonomy next to other ghouls, since a degree of flexibility is required to perform these tasks.
Despite their importance, most Kindred are leery of completely trusting their heralds. They spend too much time in the company of the enemy. It would be all-too easy for other Kindred to mentally control the ghoul, follow their comings and goings, or pick up useful tidbits with Auspex. There is also the fear that these independent and knowledgeable ghouls might go rogue. Most Kindred tell their heralds only what they need to know, and no more. They are especially careful about revealing information concerning their havens.
Given the problems with heralds, most Kindred would do without them were it not for their other important function as spies. Heralds regularly meet with other Kindred and ghouls. Given their lowly status, Kindred often forget themselves around these servants and let tidbits slip. The autonomy of heralds encourages other Kindred and ghouls to see them as free agents, and sometimes they approach the ghoul with offers of power. Who approaches them, and why, can teach a vampire a great deal. Of course, many Kindred are aware that heralds make excellent spies. As a result, the heralds of some of the oldest Kindred are nothing more than they seem to be.
The lives of heralds are far from sedate. They know more about Kindred society than any ghoul outside of the Krewe of Janus, and are independent enough to do something with that information. They are also aware that the smallest mistake can result in their deaths, either from other Kindred or their own domitors. Heralds have enough status in Kindred society that they are rarely killed out of hand, but they are all-too aware that punishment will be swift if they step beyond the bounds of their official functions. Despite this, many heralds engage in plots and intrigues of their own, typically with other ghouls but sometimes even the Kindred themselves.
The specifics of what a bodyguard does and doesn’t do often depends on a domitor’s preferred method and style of defense. For example, some domitors greatly distrust technology, while others feel natural defenses aren’t enough to dissuade intrudes.
Despite a vampire’s personal preferences, every domitor understands that are many ways a haven might come under attack, and a bodyguard will be able to see weaknesses she can’t. Often, this depends on the ghoul. After all, a big, burly bodyguard might be useful to intimidate enemies, while a more unobtrusive guard can focus solely on their master’s defense.
Bodyguards spend most of their time protecting their domitor or their haven. They are often expected to stay quiet and alert, and tend to be competent in matters of security, weapons, and technology. Because they are often seen and not heard, bodyguards are surprisingly well-informed since they often stand by the side of their domitors. Those bodyguards who pay attention during meetings might glean details of their master’s activities and the political underpinnings of the All-Night Society. Indeed, Kindred frequently take such ghouls out in public but always keep them near. This is both for protection and to make certain no other Kindred can tamper with them. No amount of precaution can be completely foolproof, however, and ghoul bodyguards will inevitably find opportunities to mingle with other members of the All-Night Society. As a result they enjoy more status and less trust than ghouls kept as domestic servants.
Bound protectors are trained to sacrifice themselves for their domitors, and many will not hesitate to give their lives in the line of duty. While it is rare for such a trusted servant to go rogue, those bodyguards who do are often among the best prepared to either pledge their services to a new domitor, or to protect themselves on the run.
While many bodyguards also double as drivers, this can be a unique role in its own right. Older vampires unfamiliar with the trappings of the modern era may require transportation to blend in with modern society. For them, cars, limousines, and planes are still new and risky to operate without help. A good driver will have quick reflexes, an excellent memory, and a working knowledge of many different types of vehicles. Some drivers double as mechanics, too, or couriers to safely transport goods and visitors from one destination to the other.
Despite how necessary they are, some domitors avoid using ghouls in such a fashion, because they believe it’s a waste of blood—especially since traveling out in the open can leave them vulnerable to attack. While it is unusual for vampires to attack one another while riding in their cars, younger vampires may use them out of habit. In such situations, a ghoul with advanced driving skills would leave her domitor’s hands free to fight or flee. Some vampires even go so far as to find look-alikes and buy duplicate vehicles to fool their attackers.
Heralds may double as spies, but many Kindred keep ghouls whose sole purview is to gather information on their rivals. These ghouls fall into two basic categories: plants and investigators. Plants are spies the Kindred places within a rival’s sphere of influence, possibly a servant they have managed to subvert. Plants can provide good information, but are limited by the need to avoid discovery. Investigators are charged with prying into the affairs of other Kindred. These ghouls study their targets from a distance, learning what they can through research and observation.
Not all spies are ghouls. Some Kindred control their spies through mental Disciplines like Dominate and Majesty, but those without such powers are forced to rely on the blood bond. Usually, Kindred will do their best to keep their spies in the dark about the All-Night Society at large. Most will also take pains to ensure that their spies know little about them as well. Those with mental Disciplines will cloud the minds of their spies so they no longer remember who they report to. Some Kindred go so far as to plant false evidence on their spies, leading to a third party as a further way of instilling unrest.
The lifespan of these ghouls is extremely short. They are almost always killed if they are discovered, though sometimes they are turned into double agents. Even if they perform their mission successfully, their masters usually find it too dangerous to let them live afterwards. Most spies do not outlive their usefulness.
New Orleans’ Kindred are particularly fascinated with magic. No fewer than three clans and three covenants actively pursue mystical power, and the Big Easy is home to a thriving occult community. Some of these occultists possess real power and are by no means charlatans or amateurs. Kindred are interested in subverting such mortals for their own purposes, but they rarely Embrace these servants; for reasons poorly understood, the Embrace often destroys a mortal’s magical aptitude. Sorcerers could be higher in status amongst ghouls, given their power, but they rarely have much freedom.
Generally speaking, truly powerful mages can avoid, drive off, or even destroy vampires interested in using them as pawns. For this reason, most Kindred choose to ghoul sorcerers who are only beginning to learn their craft. These magicians are easier to control and less likely to grow into threats. At the very least, there will be fewer surprises when they develop their trade under a Kindred master’s watchful eye.
Ghouled sorcerers are in a precarious position. They must be useful enough that their master wants to keep them alive. They cannot be too powerful, however, or their master could come to see them as a threat. Many of these sorcerers are taken early in their careers, and their dependence on vampiric blood can have unusual effects on their mystical development. They may find themselves unable to work magic without a steady supply of vitae. Finally, their change rarely goes unnoticed by others in the magical community. Other magicians will avoid them, teachers will turn them away, and they may even be accused of dabbling in the dark arts.
Many occultists in New Orleans are followers of Voudoun and other African-based religions. Numerous Kindred are interested in this particular group of mortals. Baron Cimitiere, of course, claims New Orleans’ entire Vodoun community as his domain, and has given his Kindred followers leave to carve out their own spheres of influence. Outside his purview, the Tremere and Lancea et Sanctum actively persecute Vodouisants, the latter out of religious hatred and the former out of desire to reduce Baron Cimitiere’s power base. The Setites, backed by Antoine Savoy, seek to replace the Baron and his followers with their own people. Even Kindred such as Miss Opal, who have less interest in the occult, recognize Vodouisants as an important part of New Orleans’ black community and keep tabs on them for that reason. There is so much Kindred attention on the Vodouisants of New Orleans that they cannot help but realize it. The more powerful Vodouisants attempt to fend the vampires off, but these efforts have met with limited success.
There are other magical groups in the Crescent City as well. There are a few circles of ceremonial magicians, at least several satanic cults and various New Age and neopagan groups. Kindred have plucked budding sorcerers from all of them. Unlike the Vodouisants, however, there is no regular communication between these groups and they are mostly unaware of Kindred activity. The Tremere and those few Acolytes who do not follow the Baron are thought to have established power bases among New Orleans’ non-Vodouisant alternative religions.
To date, no known Kindred has subjected an Awakened mage to the blood bond.
Most of the ghouls in New Orleans fall into this category. Every Kindred with a permanent haven needs to clean and maintain it, and few are willing to perform such a menial duty themselves. These ghouls also handle affairs during the day that their masters are obviously unable to attend to. Kindred tend to be paranoid about rivals influencing their servants and take pains to keep them cloistered away from the All-Night Society. Some of these ghouls have not left their domitors’ homes in years.
This is not to say that servants never interact with the All-Night Society. Most of them have the opportunity to meet other ghouls and compare notes at some point. These servants are simultaneously highly ignorant and profoundly knowledgeable about the world of the Kindred. While they usually know little about Kindred other than their domitor, servants spend a great deal of time in close proximity to their masters. They know the wants, habits, and private behaviors of their domitors, and can be some of their most trusted ghouls. On occasion, this companionship can even blossom into love—or at least what passes for it amongst the undead. This trust is occasionally misplaced and a beloved servant who turns rogue can be the final death of any Kindred.
The lowliest of all ghouls are pawns for their Kindred masters in mortal society. These ghouls usually know next to nothing about the world of the Kindred and may not even realize that their masters are vampires. They rarely interact with members of the All-Night Society besides their domitor (and occasionally, their domitor’s associates). Despite their lowly status among other ghouls, however, such pawns can wield a great deal of power within mortal society.
Kindred are creatures of passion and not all of them choose their thralls for pragmatic reasons. Kindred can ghoul mortals for all the same reasons they Embrace in fits of passion: whim, to prove some philosophical point, sexual attraction, or even the urgings of the Beast. Such ultimately purposeless ghouls do not fit well into the social structure of the All-Night Society. Other ghouls are never quite certain how to treat them. Sometimes these ghouls will eventually fall into one of the other of the more common roles and become a permanent servant to their domitor.
More often, however, a Kindred’s reason for ghouling the mortal will eventually cease to engage their interest. At that point, the Kindred simply stops feeding blood to the ghoul and the lucky soul (if they are able to overcome their addiction to vitae) drifts back into mortal society. Many have only a tenuous grasp of what happened to them and are unaware of how narrowly they escaped.
Rogue ghouls are grave threats to Kindred. Not only do they possess extensive knowledge about the All-Night Society’s workings, they have the power of their domitor’s vitae to back it up. Common hearsay holds that the blood bond turns every ghoul into a mindlessly devoted slave, but mistreatment can build up powerful conflicting emotions that are sometimes enough to overwhelm the bond. Even a well-treated ghoul can slowly grow to resent their master, for even a benevolent domitor is still that: the master of a slave.
Most Kindred viciously strike down their ghouls at even the slightest hint of rebellion. This is a negative reinforcing cycle, as fear of rebellion leads to mistreatment, which in turn encourages rebellion. When a ghoul finally goes rogue, they are hunted with just as much (if not more) fervor than a diablerist. Rogue ghouls are threats to all Kindred.
Many Kindred play such games with their enemies’ ghouls despite the danger. Few ghouls have sufficient strength of will to break free of their domitors, but with a little outside help (such as from the Dominate or Majesty Disciplines), they can be pushed. Kindred regard this as a heinous act, but the rebelling ghoul rarely survives long enough to be questioned.
Traitorous ghouls that survive their domitors’ initial wrath, however, are almost always driven to hunt the Kindred they once served. Such ghouls can be motivated by revenge, but others simply miss the taste of Kindred vitae and fear to start aging again. The strongest motivation of all for a rogue ghoul, however, may be the simple fact they have seen behind the Masquerade. They have witnessed the All-Night Society in all of its dark splendor and cannot go back to the complacent mortal lives they once led.
Ghouls by Kindred Demographics
For a neonate, a ghoul may serve in many roles: servant, confidant, advisor, lover, friend, and even protector. As even the youngest of neonates must hide their true nature from their mortal friends and family (assuming they don’t give up their mortal life entirely and fake their deaths or disappear), and many find relationships with other Kindred fraught with hardship, dishonestly, manipulation, and abuse (including from their own sires). A ghoul can serve as an easy outlet for a young Kindred. They’re loyal even in the face of all but the worse abuse, always have time for their domitor, and perhaps most importantly know the truth of their domitor’s condition. Of course they’re also needy, fragile, vulnerable, addicts. The combination often ends poorly for both parties.
As a whole neonates struggle with their ghouls, with many seeing a high ‘turnover’ (attrition is judged to be too close to the mark) among them. This is caused by many factors, including a lack of control among young Kindred (frenzies have been the death of many ‘beloved’ ghouls), punishment of those Kindred by third parties (forfeiture, read as execution, of ghouls is not an uncommon punishment, especially from a sire), and a simple failure of various ghouls to adjust to their changed condition and the lifestyle demanded by their domitors. In truth, many are not cut out to serve as blood-drinking servants to unliving monsters, and neonates have a notoriously difficult time identifying ‘ideal’ candidates or managing their own transition into the All Night Society.
Neonates typically have an even more difficult time in managing their relationships with those ghouls they do retain. Everything about the relationship is fundamentally unequal, but many neonates, particularly those more humane and in touch with their mortal lives, mistakenly treat their ghouls as friends, or even outright lovers, especially given the intimacy of the act of sharing their vitae with the ghoul. The folly of such actions often becomes painfully apparent in only weeks or months. Only rarely is either party truly happy with such a relationship, especially as the Kindred grows older. For the ghoul their domitor will forever be the center of their life, by far the most important person in their life. For the domitor the ghoul may increasingly become an embarrassment among their actual peers, lovers, and superiors. Like a pet that is not house broken, a ghoul that does not see or understand the barriers to their relationship with their domitor will in time suffer, and all the more so if they allow their indiscretion to reveal such things in the presence of other Kindred. Worse, many ghouls to neonates poorly understand the transition from friend to servant if not initiated into that role from the beginning. Establishing boundaries where none have previously existed and a ghoul is even more emotionally vulnerable than normal is notoriously more difficult than doing so at the onset.
These factors combined with what often remains of a neonate’s conscience conspire to keep the number of ghouls most neonates maintain relatively low, especially for younger neonates. The most humane of them fret over the destruction of their ghoul’s lives amid the kine, the most selfish don’t want to deal with the headaches of ghouls competing for attention, and the most incapable are simply unable to maintain enough ghouls – often as a result of brutal attrition. Neonates that leave more bodies behind in the form of dead ghouls than dead kine are not unheard of.
The average neonate, independent of other factors, typically maintains 1-3 ghouls. Among these the most common archtypes are servants, random ghouls, and pawns (in that order). Many maintain only a single ghoul to take care of day to day operations they are unable or unwilling to see to, holding such a relationship to be easier to manage and less of a Masquerade risk. Others are limited by sires that desire to keep their childe’s influence more checked. Still, the rare, ambitious, neonate has been known to be far more aggressive (or, perhaps, reckless). A neonate that possesses their own domain, controls business interests, or simply finds themselves consumed in matters beyond the every night typically ghouls more kine than those who are simply trying to get by in this new existence, content to live as a tenant maintaining a life that more closely resembles their mortal one.
Some regents take it upon themselves to broaden a given neonate’s available ghouls and engaged in tenancy agreements with neonates that mandate the neonate maintain specific ghouls towards specific ends as a means of expanding their own reach. A particularly social Toreador regent might request that their tenant maintain a number of ghouled musicians to provide life entertainment for social functions, a Gangrel engaged in a turf war might require that those that serve him maintain some of the domain’s muscle that he may call upon, or a Ventrue might have a trusted tenant (often a childe) maintain the ghouldom of those in specific industries for their own ends. In some cases such requirements are used as a means of pushing a neonate into a role of greater responsibility – cultivating their growth – but just as often it is simply a regent tending to a part of his domain he does not have the time to see to himself. As discussed, ghouls left unattended typically come to bad ends. This is particularly true with older Kindred, who’s schemes and plots may occupy much of their time.
It is also relatively common for regents to demand, and tenants to provide, covee in the form of service provided by the ghouls of his tenant. Sometimes this is overt – a demand that the ghouls fulfill a specific task (often something unusual, such as assisting in setup and planning for a party or event such as a Fox Hunt), while other times a particularly hands off Regent might simply make a demand of their tenant that they are comfortable with the tenant delegating to a ghoul. This is particularly common with demeaning or trivial tasks, and can function as a sort of ‘gateway drug’ or incentive for a neonate to bring more ghouls in to his service. In either case, failure by the ghouls often means punishment from both the regent and the tenant, both for the loss of face, failure to complete the task, and the tenants simple wrath (they remain just as accountable for completion of the task as they would have if they had done it themselves). Many a ghoul has met an end this way, but more simply suffer horrific punishments as lessons about the importance of such tasking.
As a whole neonate ghouls tend to be relatively non-threatening, both to their domitors and others in the All Night Society. They are commonly relatively pathetic beings, not completely certain as to their own nature or that of their domitor. Many are drawn from relatively mundane stock, and frequently they are from among a given Kindred’s existing social circle. More than one best friend or lover has been swallowed by up the All Night Society. More tragically, so have many family members, ghouled by a Kindred selfishly seeking to give them ‘eternal’ life alongside them or to share the secrets of their nature. Such relationships almost without fail end poorly.
Amid these relatively mundane ghouls are a small but not insignificant number of ghouls ‘gifted’ to young neonates by their sires or mentors. Often more experienced, accustomed to their existence, and more deliberately chosen for their role, these ghouls stand out amid the sea of unremarkable ghouls for their competence. Of course, they are as vulnerable to their domitor’s excesses and frenzies as any other ghoul. This is made worse by the fact that many are given to a childe as much to keep tabs on them as anything else – something few independent neonates care for once they catch onto the nature of the game. Such practices are so common that it is not uncommon for even those not tasked with such duties to be suspected of them. Depending on the sire or mentor, this hand off to a younger Kindred could be a sign of trust in the ghoul, a demotion, or a death sentence.
It is also not uncommon among coteries of neonates (krewes in New Orleans parlance) that share a ghoul or group of ghouls, or gift them to each other. The latter is particularly true of more closely knit coteries drawn from multiple clans but shared covenants, in which the disciplines a given ghoul might access is heavily influenced by their domitor’s clan. A Nosferatu might ghoul a spy for their Toreador coterie mate, who in turn ghouls a public face for their Gangrel comrade, who in turn ghouls a bodyguard for their Malkavian member. Such specialized ghouls, especially those with access to Disciplines that their new domitor does not possess, can become especially prized over time. Beyond the obvious benefits, the shift in domitor and slow acclimatization to the bond towards a new master and the slow fading of the bond towards an old has been observed by some neonates to make for an easier transition into ghoul existence for some kine. Rather than outwardly pinning for their master from the moment of their service, they have time to more easily become accustomed to their new master’s expectations in a more detached and objective way before eventually falling completely under their thrall and having their actions more heavily influenced by emotion. For the ghoul in question the experience is often more fraught as their emotions are twisted and they long for something they cannot have, but rarely can all parties be made happy.
Communal ghouls can take many forms, and may be an intentional choice or a simple byproduct, especially of coteries that make a communal haven. In some cases such ghouls are kept partially bound to each member of a coterie, but more often through intent or accident (ghouls being addicts always happy to take the blood) they are bound to individual members and simply answerable to others. Security and servants are perhaps the most common such ghouls, but others more specialized ghouls have been known to exist in this role. The lot of these ghouls can be both better and worse than those that serve an individual domitor. On the one hand multiple masters can mean for more freely flowing vitae, larger groups of ghouls to share duties with, and other ghoul companions. On the other, being beholden to the whims of multiple masters, fighting for attention with other ghouls, and sometimes facing competing interests from different masters can make for a troublesome existence, and this before the ‘custody’ battles that can arise when coteries almost inevitably drift apart or explode.
Neonates of course span a vast group of Kindred, from the newly Embraced, only a few weeks or months into the blood, to decades old Kindred not quite regarded as ancilla. As a rule, the older, more experienced, and more influential a Kindred becomes the more ghouls he is able to (and inclined to) manage, and as neonates give way into their second and third decades of unlife (i.e. survive their first ten – often the most tumultuous time for a new Kindred) it is common for them to become more proficient in their handling of, and choices of potential ghouls.
Sample Neonate Ghouls
Jocelyn Baker (Ambitionless Neonate)
Jocelyn is a relatively young neonate that maintains her ghoul (Meg) to accomplish tasks she doesn’t want, essentially treating the hapless bulimic as nothing but a servant that cooks, cleans, does laundry, helps style her hair, and otherwise accomplishes those tasks she doesn’t wish to. She maintains no security ghouls or pawns, and is largely content to play out her nightly Requiem advancing her art, her faith, and her connection to her Krewe. When she really needs something she asks them – or her paramour.
Peter Lebeaux (Powerful Neonate)
By the time a neonate has grown into an ancilla, the roles and relationships with one’s ghouls have typically shifted and solidified. Where a neonate may seek a friend, confidant, adviser, or (in perverse cases) lover in a ghoul, most ancillae have grown well beyond such things among creatures only slightly elevated from the kine. Their friends and confidants are their clan and covenant members, their advisers are elders, and their lovers, if any, are found among their peers. They tend to regard ghouls as servants and slaves, and little more. Useful servants, and sometimes even beloved ones, but servants nonetheless. Rare exceptions exist – an ancilla may have affection for an elder ghoul they’ve had since they were a neonate – but on the whole a ghoul for an ancilla is more likely to be seen as property, an investment of vitae, and a resource to be called upon and used. Still, unlike the elders each ancilla hopes to replace, most successful ancillae retain some vestige of their humanity and have goals that are readily understood by ghoul servants. They retain some semblance of life, which in turn makes their relationships with ghouls far more stable than those that exist with most elders. For these reasons, and because they are also in far better control of their emotions, thy are far more predictable for their ghouls, something most appreciate. A cruel but consistent master is superior to a kind but capricious one.
With more than a lifetime of experience such Kindred have also grown far more proficient and discerning in their selection of, management of, and use of their ghouls. Most of their task oriented ghouls are chosen from among those skilled and experienced in their field – and often from among those that the ancilla has identified as a ‘good’ potential candidate for extended time as a ghoul. Such ‘candidates’ are typically those with personal issues, relatively few connections to their mortal life (orphans are ideal), and/or in search of both meaning and a sense of belonging that service to a powerful master (and the blood bond) can provide.
In the service of ancillae are also where one may begin to find ‘elder’ ghouls: those that have outlived their mortal lifespan. In the service of an ancilla an elder ghoul is often the eldest ghoul of that Kindred, a holdover from their years as a neonate. These relationships tend to be quite complex and nuanced. A rare few ancillae continue to treat their elder ghouls as friends or confidants – the ghoul in question has often stood by them for a century, or at least most of their lifetime and may have a better understanding of the Kindred’s interests, desires, and methods than many other. More however treat such ghouls as akin to favorite pets or nearly priceless property: they value them far more than their contemporaries, and can be roused to terrible wroth when they are harmed, but do not truly regard them as anything approaching an equal. For an ancilla the loss of an elder ghoul is typically a colossal setback, but one that hurts them more for the loss of that ghoul’s capability rather than emotionally.
Not every ancilla is fortunate enough to have a ghoul that can be counted among these, but those that do find them to be powerful servants indeed, with access to powers that a neonate’s ghouls might only dream of, which can rival and exceed those of many neonates themselves. While ghouls struggle more with the learning of disciplines than do their Kindred masters, it is not uncommon for an elder ghoul to possess three or even four different disciplines
The average ancilla maintains between 4-8 ghouls. The most common archtypes among them are spies, servants, and pawns, though it is not uncommon for many ancillae (particularly within a city so versed in the occult as New Orleans) to have at least one sorcerous or psychic ghoul in their pocket as well. It is also not uncommon for more powerful and politically active Kindred to maintain a herald to aid in those pursuits. A powerful regent or major player in city politics may maintain significantly more than the average, while a largely unknown or reclusive ancilla might maintain only a couple. Of the two, the latter is less common: even reclusive ancillae usually recognize the value in grooming ghouls for long term service, even if they don’t have a particular need now.
Sample Ancilla’s Ghouls
Pierpoint McGinn (Powerful Regent)
-Butler / Majordomo
-Two Household Servants
Hound Agenllo (Potent Role Player)
Among Kindred, many elders struggle with their ghouls almost as mightily as do neonates. Centuries of unlife and mountains of corpses left behind typically leave them callow and cold, unmindful of the demands of ‘life’ and unaccepting of failure or weakness. It makes them brutal domitors and in these horrific excesses it is not uncommon to find fertile fields for treachery. Even as the bond compels love to the level of obsession, and the ghoul’s need for more of that oh so potent blood burns worse than any need for a fix, ghouls retain at least a shadow of what it is to be a human being, and few desire overt abuse and brutality or to love a being that is all but alien to them.
Of course, it is also true that many ghouls to elders have spent decades, or even centuries, alongside their ancient domitors, and these older ghouls become very accustomed to their domitor’s highly demanding standards. These more experienced ghouls (and often elder ghouls) often function in the way that a traditional domitor would with younger and newer ghouls, serving as the primary points of contact and even as disciplinarians to allow their masters to focus on their own plots.
This can lead to a destructive spiral in which older ghouls become the domitor’s only means of meaningful contact with newer, more expendable ghouls. In turn, when these ghouls inevitably find their numbers winnowed by time and violence some elders find themselves all but completely detached from the world, beset by servants that at every turn appear incapable. More than one elder’s empire has been unmade by the destruction of prized (elder) ghouls and their inability to recover from the loss.
The average elder maintains between 12-18 ghouls, though these numbers can vary greatly, and typically reflect only a small portion of the ghouls under their influence. More often many roles that for a neonate or ancilla would be filled by their ghouls are instead filled by the ghouls of a servant – after all, what good is it to be a master of others if there are no benefits to it in quality of Requiem? In fact, many elders actively maintain for themselves a surprisingly small number relative to the total number of ghouls they influence and command on a regular basis. The rare few that see fit to share their powerful blood with large numbers of ghouls can produce terrifying armies of ghouls indeed.
Ghouls by Covenant
The Anarch Movement by its nature defies convention, filled as it is with rebels and those that delight in defying expectations. Nonetheless its nature as an ‘organization’ that appeals to the lowest rungs of Kindred society (or at least in defiance of it) places certain intrinsic conventions on it. Most Anarch ghouls are drawn from the same lower class as their domitors. Most are relatively poor, and many are from the street level where they live and work with their domitors. Many are chosen with purpose, working to help manage the Anarch’s complex street-side operations and territories, but many more are taken on whims rather than with specific purpose. These ghouls are typically less well informed about Kindred society, but more comfortable with their individual domitors.
Circle of the Crone
The Invictus demand the very best in everything. The most professional, the most distinguished, the most skilled. In their selection of ghouls they are little different. Invictus tend to prefer ghouls from professional fields that work well within rigid structures. Military members are common, but so too are those from other fields requiring rigorous study. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, and professional butlers are fall under their sway in an array of possible roles depending on their temperament.
Given their typical control over industry – or at least vast sums of wealth – its also very common to find ghouls in the role of pawns for Invictus, far more so than among other Covenants. Consequentially, it’s also common to find more ghouls among Invictus Kindred than among other covenants.
Lancea et Sanctum
Among the sanctified ghouls are, as with most things, a matter of faith. Most covenant members hold to the idea that giving the blood to a kine brings at least some level of damnation upon them, and that they should be both given some choice in the matter (just as a prospective Kindred should be) and be drawn from among the ranks of those deserving of such things – i.e. sinners. In the modern era this has proven to be little impediment to even the most devout and discerning member of the Sanctified.
Ghouls by Clan
Divided between street rabble and stoic scholars, Brujah can be the best of domitors and the worst. At their greatest they are passionate, humane, leaders instead of masters. At their worst they are cruel brutes prone to savage bouts of violence and shortsighted desires that are intolerant of those that will not bend to their will. So it is for a fallen clan and those enslaved by it.
In the modern era most Brujah ghouls are the product of impulse rather than deliberation. They are frequently drawn from amid a Brujah’s existing contacts, or simply from among those that they encounter and find attractive or interesting enough to keep around. Rather than exercise overt control over these souls they tend towards control by simple power of personality, drawing their hopelessly enraptured ghouls into their orbit. Of course, between a Brujah’s powerful Presence, the overwhelming power of the blood bond, and vitae addiction that almost certainly follows, these ghouls are slaves all the same. Some chains are more obvious than others.
Most Brujah ghouls in the modern era fit neatly into the stereotypes of the clan. Drug dealers, street toughs, pimps, whores, corrupt police, and others of ill repute are all commonly drawn into the sphere of noteworthy Brujah either to expand the influence of the given Brujah, or simply as associates thereof. Exceptions exist for more noble members of the clan, but the curse of frenzy bestowed upon the ghouls of even the most high minded Brujah’s vitae commonly results in violent episodes that are particularly destructive to professional careers and positions of influence. This is not to say that such episodes do not cause problems aplenty for even less distinguished ghouls.
As a whole Brujah ghouls tend to be relatively short lived. Between the clan’s most common place close to the streets and often involved in street level violence, their domitor’s natural inclination towards brutal frenzies, and Brujah ghouls’ own lesser curse of violent frenzy, few Brujah ghouls make it ten years on the blood, and the average is far lower. Elder ghouls of the clan are almost unheard of, but can be especially potent, especially physically.
The Clanless, much like the Anarch Movement, are defined more by limitations than inclinations. While Caitiff can be drawn from nearly any background, their lot in most Kindred domains is one of disrespect, scorn, abuse, and often outright hostility. Regarded as lesser than those of ‘true’ clans, and in the modern era often of thin blood, many Caitiff take the ghouls they can in the roles they are allowed. Many fall in with the Anarch Movement and the street level activities that are most common among them, but even there thin and clanless blood can be a limitation or impediment to real power and authority.
Many Caitiff take ghouls from among the lower class, the outcasts, and the homeless, but even among these poor souls they find ample competition for ‘choice’ ghouls from the Nosferatu, whom they habitually struggle with for the title of lowest and most despicable ‘clan’ in a given Camarilla domain. Nosferatu, with their greater organization and clan unity almost always overcome any troublesome Caitiff in these struggles, and wise clanless take care to not engage in them for long.
Those Caitiff that do manage to, against all odds, make something of themselves and pursue the ghouls they wish rather than those they are ‘allowed’ tend to be over achievers, highly capable, and ambitious enough that setbacks faced along the way have not deterred them, or those that hide their true nature from their Camarilla fellows at large. These Kindred can take ghouls of nearly any stripe, though they commonly mirror a clan of similar interests to their own in their approaches: a Caitiff seeking power in the business world may ghoul similarly to a Ventrue, while one building a street empire may resemble a Brujah.
Clan Gangrel as a whole tends to shy away from the urban environments that are both kine and Kindred’s typical domain. As a result, many of their ghouls are not from among the ranks of the kine, but instead are drawn from animals. Depending on their environment these animal companions can vary greatly, but there is a tendency towards predatory creatures, and apex predators at that. Those that do serve these outlanders tend to be drawn from among the ranks of forest rangers, outdoorsmen, and the like that exist primarily to their occasional more civilized needs.
A rare few of the Survivors defy this convention and choose more active participation in urban environments. These Kindred tend to be exceedingly practical in their choices of ghoul servants, though given that they themselves are outliers it is difficult to speak to them specifically.
Identifying a single unifying thread that runs through all ghouls taken by Madmen is a fools errand. Their varied madnesses give them seemingly endless reasons to claim ghouls of all background and all purposes. Among them, more than any other clan, virtually any possible ghoul may exist, and likely does exist.
What can be said is that among Malkavian ghouls one is particularly likely to find highly specialized ghouls indicative of a given Malkavian domitor’s particular insanity: one might be served a following of submissive ghouls in S&M gear, while another is attended to by living dolls dressed identically, and a third still enjoys the company of horrifically mutilated ‘victims’ of his interests. While not all Malkavian ghouls tend towards such extremes, many do. Further, many such ghouls are not simply charms or affections kept around for their tendencies. Instead many serve varied and active roles despite their oddities.
The curse of Malkavian blood for a ghoul can be either a blessing – shared psychosis that give them better insight into their domitor’s often fractured mind – or simply another curse to endure alongside the horrors of vitae addiction and anguish of the blood bond. Most Malkavian ghouls, once they are on the blood, hardly notice the effect, however apparent it might be to an onlooker.
Woeful is the lot the slaves of the Nosferatu. The Hidden Clan’s ghouls can be selected for nearly as many reasons as the Embraces of the clan, but the result is almost always misery to one extent or another. Between the warping of their appearance towards the grotesque, the constant interactions with their monstrous domitors that they feel horrifically perverse attraction to, and their ridicule by their fellow ghouls for both, many Nosferatu ghouls find little joy in their domitor’s ‘gift’ of vitae. While only rarely do these ghouls do outwardly express hatred and loathing for their masters, it is fair to say that many are horribly torn between the power of the blood bond, their craving for vitae, and the what both their masters and the blood both have done to them. Disloyalty, particularly from among those that were beautiful or successful prior to receiving the blood is not unheard of. Paradoxically, for many, this outsider status and their own suffering often makes Nosferatu ghouls uncommonly devoted to their domitors, united as they are in shared ostracization. This is especially true of those chosen from already downtrodden and despised, and it is for this reason that many wise and intelligent Sewer Rats profess to their fellows the advantages of choosing their servants from these groups and that many of the most ‘successful’ Nosferatu ghouls were taken from them.
Drugs addicts, homeless, loners, the deformed and grotesque (or at least those drawn from among them) often make up the bulk of Nosferatu ghouls in a given domain. Still, many sewer rats cannot resist the appeal of the more successful and beautiful for ghouling for the same reasons that many cannot resist the urge to Embrace them: either due to their outright attraction to such beings and desire to have them close, or due to their loathing for them and desire to punish, corrupt, and ruin them. Let it never be said that the Sewer Rats cannot be petty and cruel.
The clan’s curse typically forces them to make more use of ghouls in even more roles than that of most Kindred, especially among the clan’s neonates who have not yet mastered the more advanced Discipline uses of Obfuscate. Almost all significant Nosferatu influence is cultivated through ghouls in positions of power. Such ghouls must be carefully chosen, for unlike the those of many other clans whose’ blood grants potent gifts of influence and command, those serving a Nosferatu domitor often must make due with little more than their own cunning and wits as even their looks decay. The ghoul of a Nosferatu domitor that serves as a CEO or board member on a corporation, or as a business owner, or in any public capacity with success tends to be cunning indeed.
The most common Nosferatu ghouls are, by far, spies. While the Hidden Clan makes use of many methods to uncover the secrets they sell, from sulking about with obfuscate, to mysticism, to buying information, to the use of their often overlooked animalism discipline, the most common, reliable, and productive means are typically ghouls that others never look at twice. Janitors, maids, garbage men, and even the homeless on the street see far more than most ever realize. Even before the application of Disciplines such as Obfuscate such kine can be nearly invisible, and with it they are difficult to see indeed. Once more, these desperate souls can often be bought by Nosferatu both cheaply, easily, and with relatively low maintenance by leaving them in their positions and only interacting to provide semi-regular access to vitae (and commonly additional vitae for valuable information). In this way large and sprawling networks can exist across multiple domains without many other Kindred ever the wiser.
Other common ghouls are the ubiquitous servant ghouls of all Kindred casts. Though many Nosferatu live in sewer havens, such locals are often well appointed and can be particularly sprawling. Those that live in conventional havens of course have just as much use for servants as any other among the Damned. More martially inclined ghouls can also be relatively common, as the clan’s gifts lend themselves well towards that purpose, though this is comparatively less common in the modern era that it was in ages past.
Members of the Rose Clan favor ghouls that either relieve them of their nightly tasks (to give them more time to focus on their passions) or are themselves exceptionally talented artistically. Those of the former camp can take many forms, from menial servants to managers of nightly duties, but are almost always chosen from among physically attractive stock – the clan is known for their vanity after all. Artists vary to a greater extent, and typically become either points of obsession, trophies to display to their fellows, or bartering chips among Toreador circles: more than one neonate has traded in a talented artist for a boon from their elder. In fact, the selling of ghouls among the Toreador is more common than among any other Camarilla Clan for exactly this reason.
In the long term, the fates of most ghouls from either circle tend to be bleak. Toreador are notorious for their fleeting interest, and artists that fail to maintain their attention through greater and greater works tend to be abandoned swiftly by their domitors – cast aside like refuse on the street. Still enthralled by the blood bond, these artists rarely recover as they tumble down a hole of substance abuse and depression trying to fill the void left by their domitor.
The fate of more servile ghouls is almost more tragic. No Toreador feels passionately about the cleaning of their haven or the balancing of checkbooks. They tend to expect ghouls retained in these tasks to simply do their duties and be grateful for the presence of their masters without demanding any attention from them. Pulled by the wants of the blood bond, few ghouls are able to do so without seeking the praise and attention of their masters – attention they rarely receive unless something goes wrong. It is with reason that many Toreador ghouls of both categories have been known to make spectacles of themselves before their domitors and others. Suicides and suicide attempts framed in particularly artistic ways among Toreador ghouls and ex-ghouls are quite common as they seek their domitor’s attention one last time. Between frequent abandonment and common deaths its thought that Toreador probably create more ghouls than any other Camarilla clan, though Ventrue maintain far more.
The most common ghouls archetypes among Toreador are servants, artists, pawns, and bodyguards. The clan’s artists themselves favor servants and pawns so far as they relieve them of distractions from their art. Its poseurs, especially those inclined towards empire building, in contrast favor pawns, servants, and artists that enhance their power, prestige, and reach.
Clan Tremere tends towards ghouls that are either exceedingly utilitarian or magically gifted. The long initiation period that each new member of the clan enjoys tends to produce neonates that are relatively accustomed to completing their own trivial tasks, and the use of the chantries as havens leaves them without many of the night to night concerns of their fellows. Combined with a predilection towards denying their youngest Kindred their own ghouls and their ability to readily create other (more reliable) servants, this tends to create neonates that bring in ghouls towards specific purposes, ancillae that favor ghouls as short term means to an end, and elders that prefer to rely on childer or conjured servants rather than living ones. Ghouls are, after all, relatively unreliable and needy compared to other servants that they may make use of between their need for vitae, their emotional states, and the need for things such as sleep and food.
This is not to say that Clan Tremere universally does not make use of ghouls. Indeed, they frequently field significant numbers of professional security forces and occasional experts in various fields (exceeded perhaps only by the Ventrue), but the service life of these servants tends to be short. They are a resource, to be used (and used up) in their conflicts with other occult powers. More likely to survive an extended period are those rare mortals with their own occult skills that the Tremere provide the blood to. Fascinated by new abilities and new knowledge that these ghouls may unlock, and it is not uncommon for a chantry to field a number of capable sorcerous ghouls that may have been slaves to the Tremere for decades. It is not uncommon for these slaves to have passed from one Kindred to another within the chantry, rather than having served as the dedicated servant of only one.
As a whole the clan looks down on its members that develop personal attachments to ghouls. While the protection of one’s property is acceptable, ultimately they are only slightly above the kine, and a Tremere’s loyalty must always be to the pyramid, nor should they forget that true power rests in the realm of the occult, rather than in more transitory temporal beings. Their birthright is their blood’s sorcerous power, rather than its power to bewitch the kine. Elder ghouls among them are relatively rare as a result, and there is something of a cycle to the Tremere view on ghouls as a result: without exposure to the potency of such beings many tend to underestimate the value of them, and because they underestimate them they are not willing to put forth the effort to create them.
Rare Kindred among the Tremere that do cultivate extensive retinues of ghouls are typically outliers in more ways than one. Most often they serve in specialized roles that keep them on the move frequently and away from the safety, security, and stability of the chantry and its’ routine. The ghouls that such Kindred (especially the elders among them) do maintain can be quite fearsome, particularly if they are initiated into the secrets of Blood Sorcery.
Among the Tremere the most common archtypes for ghouls are sorcery, security, and spies.
The seemingly single-minded climb and call to power among the Ventrue inclines them towards the use of all available resources. As a result the Ventrue are among the most prolific (and consistent) in creating and maintain ghouls of all Camarilla Clans. Even neonate Ventrue often maintain stables of specialized ghouls in pursuit of their many interests, and elders commonly have large numbers at their beck and call both administrating their sprawling empires and seeing to the many tasks that they view as beneath them. Ventrue exposure to levels of high society aids them here in selecting choice kine for ghouling from among those already accustomed to serving more powerful masters, and their tradition of extensive education and mentoring by their fellows often allows members of the clan to avoid common pitfalls that befall more independently minded clans.
While most Kindred grow into political ambitions as decades of unlife wear on – and subsequently begin to develop more ghouls to further their ends and extend their reach (rare is the ancilla content to remain another’s tenant) – among the Ventrue such ambition typically begins far earlier, almost as soon as they are released. Forced to carve out their own sphere of influence by their elders in Clan Ventrue as part of their acceptance, they are inculcated into developing ghouls at a much accelerated rate relative to their peers. Such accelerated growth is not without pitfalls – young Ventrues are often far less personally potent than older Kindred in the same position, and more than one Ventrue neonate has been undone poorly handled ghouls driven to madness by either the demands of, or lack of attention form, their domitor. It is with reason that elders often advise their childer to maintain ample security for themselves.
Ventrue ghouls are most commonly servants, pawns, and security. As members of the Structure are expected to maintain a public haven in which to receive guests, and such locations must be kept in good repair, ghouled servants are a near necessity. This before the inclination of most Ventrue even before their Embrace to treat housework and other activities as chores to be given to lesser beings. Pawns in business, government, public utilities, and other fields serve to broaden a Ventrue’s influence, and thus dignitas, and are likewise very common, though exactly how they are managed varies significantly. Security often takes a distant third to the other two, but given the Ventrue predilection toward relatively high profiles in any given domain are a near necessity for many of their number. For neonates they are protection against the predation of their fellows and (sometimes) their superiors: a Kindred of any clan that cannot protect their domain or interests in industry is unlikely to retain it very long. For an ancilla such servants serve the same purpose, but are often more necessary given the enemies a given Kindred may have accumulated. Of elders, little more need be said.
Heralds are more common among Ventrue than among most other clans, and are typically acquired and presented earlier in a Ventrue’s Requiem than amid other clans. Some other clans scoff at this inclination, chiding a ‘presumptuous’ ancilla or near ancilla for believing themselves to be in need of such an asset, but there is a method to the tendency: given their often diversified interests and influence competition for their attention and time can be significant indeed, especially if a Ventrue controls a vital institution to the city.
Ventrue are, amid all clans, among the most likely to cultivate long term ghoul servants, and it is not uncommon for older Ventrue to enjoy the service of one or more elder ghouls. Among Camarilla clans only the Nosferatu are their equal in the long-term cultivation of and preservation of such ‘resources’.