The Camarilla

The Camarilla is the most widely influential organization Kindred history has ever known. Its stated purpose is to preserve the Masquerade, an elaborate veil of deception pulled over the eyes of the living to hide the existence of the Kindred. But the Camarilla is so much more. It is a conspiracy to preserve the power of the elders, an undead secret society influencing global business and politics, the closest thing the Kindred have to a system of government, and an international union of cities akin to the United Nations – complete with a central inner circle and a cadre of justicars and archons traveling the world to “keep the peace,” answering to nameless masters. The sect maintains a fierce moral stance on preserving humanity in the face of the impulses of the Blood, seeing themselves as the shepherds of the blind human throng – simultaneously morally superior and inferior to their short-lived subjects.

The sheer age, power, and wealth of many Camarilla members, and the recent exclusion of the Anarchs from their ranks, makes the sect distinctly upper class. These are the monsters that hide behind $5000 cocktail dresses, meticulously tended stock portfolios, and havens guarded by blood slaves in private security uniforms. They are the one percent of the one percent and they hunger for more. Their pawns are placed in banking and in Congress, making deals and passing bills. They are masters of disinformation, propaganda, and blackmail, never leaving a loose end untied for long. These nights, there is a lot of tying to do, but the Camarilla does not hesitate to lay ruin to human lives and Kindred unlives to protect the secrets of their influence. To most members of the Camarilla, Caine is just a myth, a metaphor for their curse, rather than a historical individual. That said, many still cling to their Christian, Jewish, or Muslim faiths like straws in a storm, trying to find meaning and purpose in their unlives. The Middle Eastern counterpart to the Camarilla – the Ashirra – is entirely based on using Islam to temper the murderous impulses of the Blood. Still, ancestor worship is a widespread and accepted practice in the Camarilla, with ancient methuselah like Mithras and the Dracon serving the function of saints. In some clans the Antediluvians have become objects of veneration – imagined as the embodied ideals of their bloodlines.

A Camarilla city is run in the fashion of a feudal court, even if their gatherings may look more like slick boardroom meetings or rough gatherings of criminal cartels. The hierarchy is absolute. At the top we find the Prince, a creature impressive or cunning enough to be acknowledged as the absolute leader of their domain. Below them are the members of the Primogen Council – representatives of the major Camarilla factions in the area. Whether they are clan elders or a gathering of those who hold the largest hunting grounds, they speak directly to the Prince, who will do best by listening to their advice. More than one lord has been ousted by their own council. Some princes choose a seneschal, who acts as personal advisor or replacement when the Prince is unavailable.

When needed, the court gather in secret sanctuaries known as Elysiums, often changing locations to maintain absolute privacy and using a myriad deceptions to hide Kindred affairs from mortal scrutiny. Elysiums accommodate feasts, ceremonies, negotiations, and heated debate, protected and directed by the Keeper and their heralds, also known as harpies. One may be hidden behind the dark rooms of an upscale fetish club, another in an otherwise unused nuclear bunker, a third in the Guggenheim’s Brancusi collection at night.

Order in the domain at large is maintained by a sheriff, gendarme, constable or whatever law enforcement term is used locally. They are usually more hitman than cop, and summary justice tends to be the norm as the Camarilla frown on modern ideas like due process. If you get dragged before the Council to plead for mercy instead of chained beneath a sunroof, you’ve been lucky.

The Six Traditions form the core framework for governance among the Kindred. While they are interpreted in wildly different ways and given various attention by individual princes and councils, they are ancient customs that no initiated Camarilla Kindred is unaware of. Even if they were, ignorance is no excuse for breaking them.

Thou shall not reveal thy true nature to those not of the Blood. Doing such shall renounce thy claims of Blood. The first tradition is the only one universally respected, but also the one that is broken most often. A sloppy feeding with witnesses, a vulgar display of undead might, a confession to a beloved mortal. These things happen, but Kindred are expected to clean up after themselves, or there will be hell to pay. The crime-world code “snitches get stitches” doesn’t even begin to describe how seriously both the Camarilla and the Anarchs take the Masquerade. In the age of YouTube dares, clickbait, and fake news, a Masquerade breach is easily overlooked by the masses, but any transgression can end with a black ops team kicking in a haven door. Only the craziest of Cainite superiority fanatics dream of an age where they can rule openly; the rest have faced reality – the undead fare better as parasitic powers behind the throne than as great predators or infernal lords of human dominions.

Thy domain is thine own concern. All others owe thee respect while in it. None may challenge thy word while in thy domain. A prince’s domain is the whole city, but they may grant rights to those who have served them, allowing others to rule over a district or a city block in their stead. This creates an elaborate hierarchy of liege lords and lieges, reminiscent of the feudalism of the late Middle Ages. Knowing the lay of the land and who has the claim to its use is vital to navigating the urban labyrinths of the night.

Thou shall only Sire another with the permission of thine elder. If thou createst another without thine Elder’s leave, both thou and thy Progeny shall be slain. Overpopulation can quickly become a serious threat to the Masquerade, and having to ask the Prince for permission to make a childe is the best way to avoid it anyone has come up with. A companion of one’s own Blood is one of the things most desired by Kindred, and a thing they cannot freely have. Thus, it is a coveted gift and a powerful tool in securing alliances. Vampire populations used to hover around one per 100,000 mortals, but tonight – who can say? Some cities, like London, are almost empty after Second Inquisition crackdowns and others are hives of thin-blood activity.

Those thou create are thine own children. Until thy Progeny shall be Released, thou shall command them in all things. Their sins are thine to endure. Tonight, release into the Camarilla is more a question of initiation than anything else. If a childe does not have what it takes to join the elite, they are thrown to the Anarchs, to be hunted and stepped on like the rest of the unbound, if not destroyed outright. Childer who are accepted, but escape from oppressive sires are still their responsibility, so the maker better find their wayward progeny fast. And punish them.

Honor one another’s domain. When thou comest to a foreign city, thou shall present thyself to the one who ruleth there. Without the word of acceptance, thou art nothing. In an age of spy games and isolated city domains this tradition is becoming polarized in its enforcement. Keeping track of who is in your city is a daunting task in the era of the refugee and the global citizen, and some princes are actively backing harsh immigration policies, building walls, or infiltrating border controls just to keep up. Princes usually either give up on enforcing this law or do it draconically with mortal assistance.

Thou art forbidden to destroy another of thy kind. The right of destruction belongeth only to thine Elder. Only the Eldest among thee shall call the Blood Hunt. The Blood Hunt is the ultimate punishment in Vampire society. Normally the destruction of another Kindred is seen as a cardinal sin, but anyone can hunt and kill those that are named the targets of lextalionis, the law of retaliation. Even the thin-blooded, the Anarchs, and the independents are invited to the murder party. Anything goes in the Blood Hunt, and if the one who kills the target drinks it dry and claims a part of their power – the terrible crime of diablerie – so be it. Helping a Blood Hunt is a good way into the Camarilla’s graces, so joining one is often frowned upon by Anarchs.