But yeah, pretty much every White Wolf game is designed to have the main characters, and then has secondary characters. These might be called ghouls, Bystanders, or just heroic mortals, but they never measure up to the original group.
There's also often people who want to play the secondary characters, but those characters aren't really balanced in order to be able to handle the stuff that primary characters deal with, on top of getting XP penalties to things and the like.
If I'm running a system game and someone doesn't know the system, I might let someone play a secondary character in order to let them play without knowing the rules. In Pathfinder, this would be like letting someone play the torchbearer. If they stand in the back, hold the torch steady and don't attack, they don't need stats. Monsters usually have more pressing issues than attacking the torchbearer, but any attacks on such can be handled through conventional freeform methods.
If you do this, then you want to make sure that you have some way for the torchbearer to get involved. Everyone playing wants to be the star to at least some degree, so if you never do anything of actual importance, the game can get boring pretty quickly. I like to handle this by letting the torchbearer have some talent that the others don't have but that I think would be useful. If nobody knows how to read Ancient Enochian, maybe the torchbearer just happens to have a scribe for a parent and can handle it for the group. It doesn't have to be much, but it gives some feeling that the torchbearer isn't completely useless.
I once moderated a chat game for a crossover White Wolf system, and threw together something for a pure human who was a university professor. The guy was pretty overjoyed because he'd been playing the character for years and nobody had ever tried to do anything for him. It's very easy to overlook the secondary characters, especially if their way of dealing with the situation is just to tell their powerful friends, but you want to remember to give them the option.
Of course, that leads to another of my tricks: I give everyone some piece of the puzzle and they have to put it all together IC. This gives RP time where they're talking to each other and figuring out what to do, and attempting to understand just what they're dealing with. However, that heavily depends on your players: I've seen quite a few who get simply bored with such an approach and would rather react to the situation than try to actively decide what to do.
I call that Active vs. Passive characters. Active would rather take charge and want a sandbox where they can set everything up. Passive want a story that they can follow or a dungeon where they don't need to come up with their own plans. I say character instead of player because I've been both plenty of times. In a good group, there will be a few Active characters who will bring the Passives along on their journeys, but too many Actives and the game will go everywhere all at once, and too many Passives and the GM will have to start designing things for the characters to do.
In a forum, a quick GM has an easier time with Active characters because s/he can see many many different posts going on all at once. That's significantly harder in tabletop, where speed is as fast as speech and you have to break everyone up into groups.
Of course, when I handle weekly tabletop style games, I deal with stuff over the course of the week through messengers and such in order to make sure that the weekly game is all stuff the whole group wants to deal with. If you only have a few hours a week to get the whole group together for a tabletop game, that's something I strongly recommend, in order to maximize your game time.