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  • Revised Ghoul rules

    Much as we all love VTM we've all run into the problem that the "rule books" aren't very rule-ey. They're more like graphic novels with a little bit of rules scattered throughout.

    Anyway, to my question. And I'll preface this by saying I have only played VTM a little bit, though I have GM'd other RPGs for many, many years. Still, I would love some advice from experienced VTM players.

    Last night in my game, the coterie had captured a hunter's hireling. They had beat him into submission (mostly with a really lucky shot) and I ruled that in his Incapacitated state he was fading in and out of consciousness. He's a former MMA fighter and reasonably tough or I would have just made him unconscious. One of the players ended up cutting open his arm and feeding the victim some vitae (one blood point) thus creating a ghoul.

    Revised core rules indicated the ghoul could use the vitae to heal himself, so I had him gradually gain consciousness and converse a little with them. But the rules seem SO vague! Examples:
    1. Humans have 10 blood points but don't really have a usable blood pool per say. Does becoming a ghoul give them a blood pool of one dot? Or however many dots they get initially fed?
    2. Does using the vitae to heal health levels burn through it and therefore mean that the ghoul needs blood much sooner than the usual once a month?
    3. In terms of how they regard their domitor, what is the difference between first time feeding when they are not yet blood bound, and when they become blood bound? Doesn't seem like much difference from what I have read, but it's somewhat vague and confusing about that.

    Rule 3 is pretty important because this guy is a hunter's hireling and thus knows he can profit off this newfound inside info about vampires in this city. Despite being told by the hunter who hired him that he might encounter vampires on this job, he was completely certain no such thing existed (he kept the stakes and mallet he was given just for the heck of it though!).

    Once he saw clear evidence that vampires are legit and real, he panicked and completely lost his tough guy demeanor, more or less begging to be spared and let go. They then did their best to convince him they were all just cosplayers due to the obvious masquerade concerns. They convinced him so much that he pulled his Glock and tried to break free, and that's when they managed to physically subdue him.

    So now I am faced with the ubiquitous "What the heck would he do next?" question. He's obviously still in shock at what he has seen and learned, torn between being terrified of the supernatural, especially vampires, and confused by his newfound appreciation for his domitor, but of course not so appreciative of the rest of his domitor's coterie, would he be likely to betray them for profit? Would he just freak out and try to leave this part of the country and never come back? Since they are actually treating him fairly well and seem concerned about his quality of life and well-being, maybe he would willingly fall into the role they have told him they need him for: a full-time bodyguard.

    Even after reading "Ghouls: Fatal Addiction" I feel like there are huge holes in the mechanics - a lot of questions unresolved. Yeah, I get it that this is how they intended to create this game, leaving a LOT of leeway for the GM to decide his own rules. But sometimes I feel like that was to some degree a cop out excuse for not doing the hard work of making rules clear and fairly comprehensive.

    What's your take?

  • #2
    The whole point of Blood Bonds and ghouls is to emulate what happens to Renfield and Mina in Dracula, plus all their imitators in so many subsequent vampire movies and books. So keep that in mind.

    Important to remember that while in most movies Renfield is shown to have already encountered Dracula and became a ghoul before being put into an asylum, in the book itself Renfield was already mentally ill before Dracula contacted him mentally. So it's not necessarily the case that being a ghoul creates crazy behavior like Renfield shows, though the nature of the "addiction" and compulsion it creates should obviously change the personality.

    Here are my answers. I'm sometimes wrong per the book rules, but I'm sure others will point that out.

    1) I would rule the ghoul only has as much vitae in their system that their domitor gives them, and that any such vitae purges within the month as normal blood replaces the vitae. So most ghouls likely only have 1 dot unless their domitor chooses to give them more in addition to their normal allowance. I don't see most vampires regularly giving their ghouls more than 1 dot of vitae needed per month or other cycle, likely only when they feel it is needed.

    2) Yes, using vitae in any manner "burns" it. It's like using fuel in a car.

    3) The stages of the blood bond is mainly a roleplay issue, so it's what you feel comfortable with given its description in the books. Exactly how it plays out depends on the nature of the thrall, the regnant, and circumstances around it. You can have lots of different experiences.

    In terms of your situation, this is how I would handle the hunter's hireling.

    At one draught of blood, he has especially strong emotions to the vampire. But being traumatized by the way it is handled and knowing explicitly they are monsters, I would rule he is not in any way loyal. Though he likely thinks a lot about that specific vampire. His conscious mind is still strong and in charge, but dealing with new emotions and such. If he can get free he will do so, and that initial obsession with that one vampire might turn into specific hate as the first stage of the bond erodes. However, it is always possible that the hireling might become very interested in vampirism in general and what it might offer him. In that case, his curiosity might lead him into sticking around - not out of loyalty but because of darker attraction it might mean for him. I don't think that would be a normal reaction, but some people might have it (say someone very interested in vampire horror literature or as a romance genre). Again, the individual nature of the victim and the circumstances around it matter. Someone who is romantically attracted to the vampire and ignorant to the vampire's nature would react far differently to the effects.

    At two draughts of blood on separate nights, his conscious mind is now being overwhelmed with certain desires and thoughts. Which one wins depends on the people around him, and what kind of people, things, events, etc. can anchor him. The person might be loyal to his new master, or he might escape because of his love for his wife, friends helping him recover and isolating him from the vampire, etc. Lots of things could conceivably overwhelm the bond still, though it would be much harder to get over his emotions towards the vampire.

    At three, you have the full blood bond.

    In this situation, I would likely rule the hireling bolts as soon as he can and tells the hunter all he knows. But he is feeling an odd emotional tie to that specific vampire, and likely realizes he is being influenced and needs help. Or depending on his personality, he might run away entirely hoping to end his involvement, abandoning everyone. Or running home to his family in the hope they can anchor him to reality. Unless he has a pre-existing reason to be interested in his new regnant, he should be able override this level of the bond and do what he would normally do because it's just an emotion right now, and different people have different ability to control their emotions. Maybe make a self-control or willpower check if you are unsure. However, given his past as an MMA fighter, I would expect him to have had a considerable amount of discipline and willpower to enter and succeed at some level at that profession. That kind of training takes drive and commitment.

    In contrast, let's say the person who drank was a naive young teen obsessed with romantic vampire fiction. Although initially frightened with the idea that vampires are actually real, her previous internal fantasies could manifest the bond into her thinking her new regnant was in love with her and was making her fantasies come true, and be very loyal even at this stage.

    I don't like the idea of "just blood bond the guy" as instant wins regardless of the situation. That should create lots of complications. It should only make sense in certain circumstances. Some players don't like that - they want it to be an instant win always. They generally don't like my ST style.

    What makes sense for the story given the individual pieces of it? Trust your judgment.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Black Fox View Post

      1) I would rule the ghoul only has as much vitae in their system that their domitor gives them, and that any such vitae purges within the month as normal blood replaces the vitae. So most ghouls likely only have 1 dot unless their domitor chooses to give them more in addition to their normal allowance. I don't see most vampires regularly giving their ghouls more than 1 dot of vitae needed per month or other cycle, likely only when they feel it is needed.

      2) Yes, using vitae in any manner "burns" it. It's like using fuel in a car.
      Ok so a one point blood pool*, it gets spent immediately because he used it to heal himself, and that means he is OUT of vitae. What are the consequences of that? He needs more blood much sooner, not in a month? He stops being affected by the "infatuation" 30 days later if he gets no more blood?

      You see where I am going with this. The rules really aren't clear at all.

      * Technically a vampire need not spend an entire blood point to make someone a ghoul. Just a few drops. But for sake of game system we'll say that gives him a one point blood pool.
      Last edited by jrichview; 03-28-2021, 12:08 AM. Reason: Added footnote

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      • #4
        Humans can generally only keep 2 points of vampire Blood in their system normally, but they can try to "pack" more in (up to their Stamina) by making a Stamina roll (the diff is in Ghouls: Fatal Addiction, I think it's 6, but it could be higher). Vampire blood replaces their normal blood, so a Ghoul with high Stamina could have a blood pool of 5 mortal and 5 vampiric (but still 10). However, I believe really old ghouls raise their blood pool by 1 after a century (unless that's for Revenants only, sorry, going from memory here). Blood bonds work as normal, so you have to be fed blood on three separate nights to become fully bound, but yes, the first point that makes you a ghoul, makes you 1 step bound.

        Ghouls can use their vampire blood to heal; it's up to you if they can figure out how to do this instinctively or need to be taught. They also get a dot of a Discipline (Potence is the norm, but I consider other Disciplines if the vampire lacks Potence- after all if every ghoul gets a dot of Potence, I've always felt that begs the question as to why ALL vampires don't have Potence (especially with Clans that typically ghoul prospective Embraces first, like the Banu Haqim. Ok, yeah, and the Giovanni, but...lol). Or why Revenants generally don't have Potence.

        A larger concern for your player is that his new ghoul is affiliated with a vampire hunter, and that could bring hunters down on the city and result in a violation of the Masquerade, two things the local Prince will burn you for. Progeny technically applies to ghouls, even if, most of the time, nobody really cares how many ghouls you have as long as they don't cause problems.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by jrichview View Post

          Ok so a one point blood pool*, it gets spent immediately because he used it to heal himself, and that means he is OUT of vitae. What are the consequences of that? He needs more blood much sooner, not in a month? He stops being affected by the "infatuation" 30 days later if he gets no more blood?
          I would say that he is still blood bonded. The blood bond and ghouldom are two different statuses, though obviously related. One can be bonded, but not be a ghoul. Handle any of those effects and fading of the bond as normal. In terms of ghoul powers, I would say 1) can't use any Disciplines as vitae is required for them, 2) resumption of aging normally which could be bad if he's much older than he looks, and 3) can't do anything else that normally requires vitae. Essentially, he is back to being human again.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Lynceus View Post
            Ghouls can use their vampire blood to heal; it's up to you if they can figure out how to do this instinctively or need to be taught. They also get a dot of a Discipline (Potence is the norm, but I consider other Disciplines if the vampire lacks Potence- after all if every ghoul gets a dot of Potence, I've always felt that begs the question as to why ALL vampires don't have Potence (especially with Clans that typically ghoul prospective Embraces first, like the Banu Haqim. Ok, yeah, and the Giovanni, but...lol). Or why Revenants generally don't have Potence.
            That's why I never liked the idea that ghouls actually have Disciplines. Ghouls don't have Disciplines any more than do the Lupines, Mages, and Ghosts that are also listed as having "Disciplines." They're just using the mechanics of VtM in order to simulate their true powers because most people just want to run the game, and not pick up some other game whose rules aren't completely compatible. That's obviously not RAW, but I always rule that "Potence" that ghoul's have actually isn't the Discipline, but the effects of having vitae in living tissue. I allow Ghouls to develop other physical "Disciplines" (primarily Fortitude as Celerity requires blood), but not anything else. I've never had any of my players complain about it.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by jrichview View Post

              Ok so a one point blood pool*, it gets spent immediately because he used it to heal himself, and that means he is OUT of vitae. What are the consequences of that? He needs more blood much sooner, not in a month? He stops being affected by the "infatuation" 30 days later if he gets no more blood?

              You see where I am going with this. The rules really aren't clear at all.

              * Technically a vampire need not spend an entire blood point to make someone a ghoul. Just a few drops. But for sake of game system we'll say that gives him a one point blood pool.
              If he has no blood in his system, he's no longer a ghoul. He will still be Blood Bound, though.

              See p.29 of G:FA: 'Once vitae is spent, it is gone until replaced... Without any vitae in their systems, ghouls heal as do mortals.'

              This implies to me they revert to human physiology, which is the commonsense interpretation (the vitae makes them a ghoul; no vitae means no ghoul). P.31 states they lose access to Disciplines if they have no vitae in their systems, so this backs that up.

              Ordinarily, a human can have 10 blood points, of which only two are vitae. If you feed a ghoul daily for a month, they will begin to replace the other human blood points with vitae as well, at a rate of one per night. They can end up with 10 points of vitae in their bodies this way, but they start to convert this back to human blood after three days without drinking vitae (though won't lose their last point of vitae till after the month is over). So in most cases, ghouls shouldn't spend blood to heal unless they have it to spare. (They can cram extra vitae into their bodies, but this is dangerous.)

              Addiction to vitae is also a thing, on top of the Blood Bond itself. It requires (12 - Willpower) months to drop a step on the Blood Bond, and the ghoul may be required to spend Willpower to resist drinking again (p.30).

              There are also withdrawal rules on p.33. It's certainly not going to be pleasant for your ghoul, now he's spent his only point of vitae (you mentioned a few drops, but that counts as a point regardless of quantity; blood points are a metaphysical value rather than a measurable volume).

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              • #8
                Shouldn't he remain a ghoul for at least a month, when he needs to have more blood?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Lynceus View Post
                  Humans can generally only keep 2 points of vampire Blood in their system normally, but they can try to "pack" more in (up to their Stamina) by making a Stamina roll (the diff is in Ghouls: Fatal Addiction, I think it's 6, but it could be higher). Vampire blood replaces their normal blood, so a Ghoul with high Stamina could have a blood pool of 5 mortal and 5 vampiric (but still 10). However, I believe really old ghouls raise their blood pool by 1 after a century (unless that's for Revenants only, sorry, going from memory here). Blood bonds work as normal, so you have to be fed blood on three separate nights to become fully bound, but yes, the first point that makes you a ghoul, makes you 1 step bound.
                  In Ghouls: Fatal Addiction CH1 under "Hard-and-Fast Rules", they first mention the blood pool in "Aging and Elder Ghouls" subsection:
                  For each century of life, an elder revenant gains one extra point in his Blood Pool, while an elder ghoul can comfortably drink one extra Blood Point (i.e., a 150-year-old ghoul can hold three Blood Points in the stomach, a 210-year-old ghoul can hold four, etc.)."
                  They don't say what sized blood pool the ghoul should have started with.

                  Then in the subsection "Blood" they mention how they can burn vitae, but then they say, "If a ghoul loses more than five Blood Points (whether vitae or his own blood) [SNIP!] each additional Blood Point lost is treated as a Health Level of damage." So they have implied a ghoul might have multiple vitae blood points. Side note there is nothing in the sheet design to capture what "type" of blood point each blood point in your pool represents, but obviously do your own thing.

                  THEN: "If fed nightly for longer than a month a ghoul will begin to assimilate vitae into her bloodstream. After the first month of such feeding, assume that one Blood Point of human blood transforms into vitae per additional night of continuous feeding. [SNIP!] This conversion process continues at the rate of one Blood Point per night, until the ghoul holds a full 10 points of vitae.

                  Again I point out they have not said what the starting vitae blood points should have been. Let's assume one?"

                  THEN: "No matter what, though, the body always retains one Blood Point (the minimum required to power the ghoul). This last Blood Point is lost only after a full month."

                  Here they seem to imply that the ghoul started with one blood point. But since you and they both indicate a ghoul can "burn" that blood point to heal, then clearly the body does NOT always retain one Blood Point? Maybe I should read that instead as "The ghoul always has a one-point vitae blood pool." ????

                  Then in the "Overdosing" section they clearly indicate that a ghoul can "cram" an extra Blood point into themselves with a stamina check. Failing that check means "she suffers a Health Level of damage per Blood Point above her maximum." Okayy.....where did they ever say what the maximum was???

                  Then they go into the Revenants section and clearly state that a revenant begins with a blood pool of 10. Noice! Really could have used an analogous statement about regular ghouls, if you ask me!

                  Then in the "Withdrawal" section they describe how ghouls going through "withdrawal" behave and some mechanics around that but NOT the mechanic of "What defines the beginning of withdrawal????" They really should have hired me as a playtester/editor.

                  Ghouls can use their vampire blood to heal; it's up to you if they can figure out how to do this instinctively or need to be taught. They also get a dot of a Discipline (Potence is the norm, but I consider other Disciplines if the vampire lacks Potence- after all if every ghoul gets a dot of Potence, I've always felt that begs the question as to why ALL vampires don't have Potence (especially with Clans that typically ghoul prospective Embraces first, like the Banu Haqim. Ok, yeah, and the Giovanni, but...lol). Or why Revenants generally don't have Potence.
                  This makes sense to me.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Lynceus View Post
                    Shouldn't he remain a ghoul for at least a month, when he needs to have more blood?
                    That's what I am getting from the text, yes. But what exactly are the game-related effects of "remain a ghoul" when you have no vitae in you? Just the ongoing fascination with the domitor?

                    As I mentioned, I ruled that while he was beaten and barely conscious he went ahead and consumed the blood he was given. Seems to me that a human fed blood from someone's arm might very well resist, spit it out, whatever. But a human thrashed to within an inch of his life, barely sustaining consciousness for brief moments, probably senses liquid in their mouth and licks/swallows. After all, it's what we tend to do with our own blood (say, when bashed in the mouth).

                    Also based on reading that ghouls often instinctively learn how to heal and boost stats with vitae, I ruled that pretty early on he healed himself. Not immediately, but I thought he would subconsciously just do it, whether or not he later consciously realized he did it or remembers how to do it on purpose when he wants to.

                    But what is the impact of having immediately burned his one point of Vitae on the same night he received it? Does that trigger immediate withdrawal? That would seem odd to me. He hasn't had much time to experience it. He is clearly "ghouled" and will remain so for 30 days even if not fed. But I doubt he would immediately start trying to get more vitae like a junky without a fix?

                    His head is spinning. The idea of actual vampires terrifies this guy (he's superstitious), and he was certain there was no such thing. Now he's being shown otherwise, but not by vicious monsters but people treating him pretty kindly, trying to help him understand, feeding him (regular human food), telling him they need his help, etc. He's not blood bound (yet!) but he's strangely fascinated by this exotic young man (ex-Ravnos) and his compatriots. Vampires or no they could have killed him or done very bad things to him, but instead this strange situation.

                    Also, he was hired by a hunter to observe/report without much explanation as to why. Just a contractor, and he doesn't like the guy who hired him in the first place. Considers him a serious whack job, but hey - money is money. He doesn't really understand about "hunters" per say, but he was forewarned that he might encounter vampires on this job. Handed some stakes and a mallet, he scoffed about it but kept them stowed inside his trench coat just for the hell of it. Okay now I am digressing into the RP considerations when I mainly wanted to understand rule mechanics, but sometimes it helps to know the whole picture.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Black Fox View Post

                      I would say that he is still blood bonded. The blood bond and ghouldom are two different statuses, though obviously related. One can be bonded, but not be a ghoul. Handle any of those effects and fading of the bond as normal. In terms of ghoul powers, I would say 1) can't use any Disciplines as vitae is required for them, 2) resumption of aging normally which could be bad if he's much older than he looks, and 3) can't do anything else that normally requires vitae. Essentially, he is back to being human again.

                      Well he hasn't been blood-bound yet. Only had one taste. So I would say he is "ghouled" (for lack of a better term) but not blood bound. I think you and I are probably saying the same thing but with different terminology. You don't consider him a ghoul if he has no vitae left, but based on "This last blood point is lost only after a full month." it seems to indicate they are still technically ghouls, just with empty tanks. However, it is never clearly stated that I can find.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by adambeyoncelowe View Post
                        Ordinarily, a human can have 10 blood points, of which only two are vitae.
                        Where are you getting the "two" from?

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                        • #13
                          If you are going to go with the last blood point is lost only after a full month, then it means a ghoul with only one blood point can't burn it for any reason. It is "locked" until the passage of time expires. Only if he has two or points of vitae can he use it to do anything which requires expenditure (like healing).

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                          • #14
                            For whatever it's worth, the V20 rules for Ghoul character creation [from Ghouls and Revenants supplement] have more specifics than the revised rules. Of course, that's meant for player characters, but I can probably use the same rules for NPC Ghouls:

                            Ghoul Blood Pools
                            Your beginning blood pool is calculating by rolling a die to
                            determine how many blood points you possess. Storytellers
                            may allow you to reroll a result of a “1,” as your character
                            should typically begin play with a decent supply of blood.
                            Independent ghouls, on the other hand, must halve the
                            result. They will begin play with one to five blood points.
                            Most ghouls have limited capability of storing vampiric
                            blood within their bodies. Because they require their own
                            blood to survive, there just isn’t enough room for more
                            than two points of vitae. As they age and their bodies
                            grow used to the extra blood in their systems, they gain
                            a greater capacity for storage. Unfortunately, this process
                            is slow. For every two hundred years a ghoul has been
                            regularly accepting vitae, their blood pool expands by
                            one point. Thus, a starting ghoul only has a blood pool
                            of 2, but a ghoul in service for 400 years has a potential
                            blood pool of 4 points.
                            Last edited by jrichview; 03-29-2021, 06:06 PM. Reason: Added source reference

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
                              If you are going to go with the last blood point is lost only after a full month, then it means a ghoul with only one blood point can't burn it for any reason. It is "locked" until the passage of time expires. Only if he has two or points of vitae can he use it to do anything which requires expenditure (like healing).
                              Well, you're illustrating nicely one of the key points of confusion: Blood Pool vs Blood Points. What makes it even more complicated is that blood points in a blood pool may represent either human blood or vitae. I think they should have made some sort of separate way to keep track of those.

                              The way I interpreted the text, The ghoul starts with one (or is it two? Any rule quotes here or is it a house rule?) Vitae point in their blood pool. They have a blood pool of 10, but only the vitae blood points count for purposes of ghoul abilities. The rest is just human blood, So, example to illustrate:

                              Ghouley Joe has a blood pool of 10 with one Vitae blood point. Thus, one of his human blood points has been converted.

                              He later uses/burns his one vitae blood point, and his body regens the human blood points back up to 10 before long, but in terms of ghoul features, he is like a vampire who has spent a point out of their blood pool. If he has no more vitae, he doesn't die, but he starts down the slippery slope of withdrawals. He ages normally, he cannot perform any ghoul abilities, and for all intents and purposes is a normal human, EXCEPT that he still has a special feeling for his domitor. If he is not fed more vitae (from ANY vampire) within a month he is no longer a ghoul, just a normal human again, though psychologically he may be changed. All of that assumes no blood bond.

                              What do you think of that?

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