Ghouls are the mortal servants of the Kindred. Their Kindred masters sometimes treat their ghouls as toys, tools, or pets; but they are still living, breathing people first and foremost.
Anyone who drinks the blood of a Vampire is subject to the Vinculum, an unnatural and alien emotional bond created by Vitae. Essentially, if someone drinks the blood of a kindred, they will begin to feel feelings of love, adoration, and obsession. Each subsequent drinking binds a ghoul to their master even closer, strengthening the vinculum.
The vinculum is expressed differently in different ghouls. Some feel a vassal-like loyalty, as Mercutio feels towards Julian Luna. Others feel filial loyalty and a skewed reflection of filial love, as Natalie feels towards Daedalus. Some ghouls who are mistreated are locked in sado-masochistic love / hate relationships with their masters.
The only true constant about the vinculum is that it ensures the loyalty of ghouls, so that ghouls never work against their master’s interests and never disobey direct order from their master.
The Ghoul Merit
The ghoul merit is a house-rule modification of the ‘Retainer’ Merit. Dots in this merit are bought like any other merit with experience.
0 Dot Ghoul: The first step to acquiring a ghoul is to transform a mortal into a ghoul, which requires a vampire to expend at least one point of vitae and a point of willpower. A ghoul created in this way is not completely bonded to the vampire yet, but will try to seek out the vampire nonetheless. With no points in the Ghoul merit, the ghoul will not, or is not capable of performing any services for the vampire, and presents a significant danger to the masquerade.
1 Dot Ghoul: This level of ghoul has progressed to a second level of vinculum, and is willing to provide simple duties for their vampire such as secretarial work or protecting the haven during the daytime. A ghoul of this level has a basic understanding of the masquerade and the rules that govern vampire society, but still represents a significant danger if it goes rogue, goes into withdrawal, or otherwise breaks away from it’s master.
2 Dot Ghoul: At this level, the vinculum with the ghoul is complete, and the ghoul is unwaveringly loyal to the master, willing to obey any order. At this level, a ghoul has only begun to acclimate themselves to their new life, and therefore can only perform basic mundane errands without somehow screwing them up. They pose a mild risk to the masquerade.
3 Dot Ghoul: Once a ghoul has reached three dots, they understand enough about their situation to no longer threaten the masquerade. They can perform some relatively advanced tasks and work autonomously, and have even begun to understand and utilize some of their own vampiric abilities. Natalie is at this level.
4 Dot Ghoul: At this stage, a ghoul has reached a full understanding of the masquerade, kindred, and kindred society. Their abilities are a better than those of a neonate vampire, such that an elder ghoul can often times defend against and even kill lesser kindred. They are the ‘middle management’ of kindred society, and can be trusted to oversee complex operations, other ghouls as well as some kindred. Mercutio is at this level.
5 Dot Ghoul: At the peak of ghoul-dom, a ghoul is no longer a ghoul but a full-fledged kindred. In order to progress to the fifth dot, the ghoul’s master must spend the requisite experience as well as embrace the ghoul into unlife. In this way, the vampire sires a new childe, yet still with all the advantages of the vinculum hold the Sire now retains over her Childe.