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As I was plotting out the vampires for my campaign city I realised that most of them would probably have a Ghoul or two (or three or even more) but that I had no idea what the typical retinue would be like. Is there any indication in the rules as to an 'average' number of Ghouls there are per Vampire in a city? Does it vary much by clan as well?

I've heard that in Camarilla cities there is generally an imposed limit of one Vampire per hundred thousand mortals but is there a similar limit on the number of Ghouls, and if so, does it differ for Anarch and Sabbat cities?

Thus in a city of a million humans there would be, on average, ten Vampires and ??? Ghouls.

I'm happy for an answer from any of the editions of Vampire the Masquerade, from other sourcebooks, or even a simple mention in some (official) fiction. No guesswork please, but a suitably mathematical extrapolation might be okay provided the numbers are reasonably justifiable.

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There is no complete, canon answer.

At least so far as I have found, no source provides an average number of ghouls per vampire or per city. It is not mentioned in Ghouls & Revenants, and if there were to be an official answer, I would expect it to be mentioned in that book. More than that, as Baskakov_Dmitriy mentioned in a comment, there are several variables that would affect it city to city. The most significant factor would be the Prince (at least in Camarilla controlled cities), as creating a ghoul is a technical violation of the masquerade and thus requires the Prince’s consent (so long as the Prince is powerful and respected enough to enforce it…). This means that there would be high variability from city to city and situation to situation. In statistical terms, this means that even if we had an exact mean, it would have a high standard deviation.

Furthermore, on a meta level, the needs of the plot and the type of game being played might affect the number of ghouls that actually appear in a meaningful way even if the storyteller declares that the world itself is officially sticking to whatever the average may be. In an “on-the-run from powerful enemies” type games where the main players move often, ghouls might appear very rarely. In a more stationary, politically focused games, ghouls will probably appear a fair bit, though mostly as background characters. But in a “Ghouls” game as laid out in “Ghouls and Revenants”, Ghouls are likely to be extremely common as most PCs and their peers will be Ghouls.

Slightly more than 1 per vampire is probably a good estimate

This essentially is a guess, but I think it is a fairly reasonable guess. Ghouls are so useful for handling business during the day, providing protection during the day, and providing cover for the masquerade that most vampires will want at least one. (Other non-ghoul retainers can also provide most of those benefits of course, but between the power of the blood bond, the enhancements to the ghouls’ abilities, and the lack of need to protect the masquerade from the ghouls, ghouls generally make better retainers). On the other hand, the law of diminishing returns hits rapidly for a resource such as ghouls. In other words, having one ghoul is a huge benefit, having two ghouls is only slightly better than one, having three ghouls is only very slightly better than having two, and with all the maintenance involved having four ghouls might be more trouble than it’s worth for most vampires.

If all of those assumptions are correct, then I would conclude that most vampires will have one ghoul. Not all will of course. Some will not have the clout to get the permission from the Prince. Some will not have a desire for a ghoul, especially among the Gangrel. But the sizable minority that do not have a ghoul are likely to be roughly balanced by the number of vampires that maintain more than one ghoul.

Altogether, I think that on average, a city will have just slightly more ghouls than it does vampires.

Just to emphasize though, that is both an educated guess and subject to wide variability even in settings where it is true in general. Sabbat held cities will hold fewer ghouls as Ghouls & Revenants states that the Sabbat make less use of the Ghouls. In times war, Ghouls may well be produced en mass to fight for their masters. Etc.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You don't really need permission to make a ghoul -- unless your Prince is really... outstanding. But if you catch his attention for having a small personal army, you might get into a trouble. There is even an appropriate 4-pt Flaw, "Overextended" on page 492 of V20 core. Quoting a part of it: "You have too many ghouls, too many retainers, or too much influence, which means that a lot of people have a vested interest in trimming back your operations." Moreover, you didn't explain why does a need to manage ghouls may impair their benefits that severely. \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy Jan 11 '17 at 14:05
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No

I haven't ever come across an average number in my years of reading and playing Vampire.

If I just look at the rules, then V20 gives more room to have several ghouls than Third Edition. In V20 a ghoul needs only a monthly dose of blood. Third Edition has a more variable system, which our group houseruled to be a weekly dose.

Some notes from my play experience:

  1. They require vitae (which is a precious recourse) on a regular basis. And our GM was very hard on how and where you got your blood (since that's such a wonderful source of intrigue and backstabbing). So, if I had a ghoul, he had a very specific skillset (CEO, Lawyer, Morgue worker, ...) that gave my character a benefit.
  2. You could have 5 ghouls, but then they also required quite a lot of attention to keep them happy. So if you wanted to play Babysitter the Pandering, then go right ahead.
  3. For some clans: the older a vampire is, the more ghouls they tend to have. But this is not a golden rule and depends very hard upon how the ST sees the world.

References used:

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No

There is not enough information across the published material to venture a guess (even if you were open to accepting one). I don't have a photographic memory or anything, but I've read nearly every VtM product published up to the V20 core rulebook (so, not the V20 supplements yet) and I haven't seen any hints of such a number, let alone an actual figure. Even the "one Kindred per 100,000 mortals" figure is unreliable (page 14 of the Vampire Storyteller's Handbook published in 2000 only maintains that ratio by explicitly including Kuei-jin).

The variables that might help estimate a range of possible numbers are hinted at but not given with anywhere near enough precision to satisfy your question. The lower possible bound would be 0 (which is definitely false, as several named ghouls are described in books) and the upper bound should be the total human population divided by the number of vampires (which is an unlikely number even if ignoring the Masquerade altogether). More specificity within that range is possible only with some assumptions in place, which might be too much guessing for your purposes.

If you would like to talk about the factors that influence what this number might be if we had enough information, as a comment under the question suggests, that's definitely possible. There is a wealth of references on relevant factors from which we could build plausible models to estimate ranges of answers. But I do not believe that there is a canonical number of average ghouls per vampire (or total ghouls overall) published anywhere, ever, in any form.

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There isn't an average anywhere as far as I'm aware but it is possible to work out a maximum number of ghouls that a vampire could support although it does require some assumptions.

Firstly we can assume that a vampire can go hunting once a night without a problem. The hunting rules allow an Attribute plus Ability check against a varying difficulty depending on where the vampire hunts. Let's assume an average three dot attribute and a three dot ability against a target number of six. That's two or three successes most nights but we should round it down to make sure that our ghoul master always has enough blood on hand.

That's at least two blood per day but our vampire needs to spend one each day to rise, leaving only one blood per day left over to feed to a ghoul.

As each ghoul needs one blood per month to maintain their ghoul status that's a limit of about thirty ghouls for a vampire that devotes about half their waking time to maintaining their little army.

Theoretically a vampire could support more ghouls by hunting more and/or using the Herd background but they would rapidly run into difficulties in any reasonable campaign.

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As many as your character would actually need

So now the frame of the question is "How many retainers is your character going to need?".

Vampires are mainly social characters, and not all of them are like computer game protagonists who do everything by themselves. If they can't or don't want to do things they need, they are likely to use someone they may command to do it. For neonates, it's most likely their ghoul.

First, think of the needs that your character can't fullfill by himself

  1. Can your character drive? If not, he will very likely need a driver ghoul. Moving in the modern world during the night requires a car.
  2. Does your character need some illegal supplies, like weapons or drugs? Remember Mercurio from Vampire: The Masquerade -- Bloodlines. Even one with the best appropriate skills/abilities may get into a trouble once upon a time. If it's your ghoul who failed, you may help him, or simply find a new one. If it's you, you yourself need to be helped, which may make you owe someone... Not good, especially if you are in Camarilla! And if you are imprisoned, you are likely to die from sunlight at the morning.
  3. Does your character use some other specific service on a regular basis? For example, he may need someone to translate your papers into French if you don't speak it.

Etc!

Second, think of the needs your character doesnt' want to do by himself

  1. Again, does your character need to travel by car a lot? Even if you have a car and can drive, you are likely to need someone who will drive for you during the day if you are on a long move.
  2. Does he need to buy something on a regular basis? For example, a Toreador artist would likely have his ghoul(s) buy art supplies for him, or he would have to do waste so much time...
  3. Does your character has some rough interactions with mortals? Fighting them using vampire powers may endanger the Masquerade, plus your character may actually get killed. Even if you are Sabbat, you don't really want that much of unneeded attention.
  4. Does your character build an army of ghouls? Tzimisce are known for their huge armies made of monstrous fleshcrafted Szlachta, and Anarchs used ghouls during Anarch revolt, as ghouls require less bloodpoints to maintain than Kindred.

Etc. I didn't even try to give a complete list, just a rough way of thinking.

Also keep in mind that if you have many ghouls, you may allow them to have a job and pay them no money. Unless they are Szlachta.. Ghouls also need to eat, sleep etc. -- even if Szlachta.

Noone can reliably guess for you, but you may guess yourself.

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