"And, after all, what is a lie? 'Tis but
The truth in masquerade."
-- George Gordon, Lord Byron, "Don Juan" (suggested by Craig Oxbrow)
In the midst of the terror of the Inquisition in the 15th century, there were many Kindred who wanted to keep vampire society from being blasted apart. In the interest of the survival of their kind, these vampires formed the sect known as the Camarilla. The Camarilla is centered around the Six Traditions, which are:
The Masquerade: This Tradition is the cornerstone of the Camarilla and its most inviolate law: no Cainite can tell mortals about vampires or otherwise show mortals that vampires really exist. Most Kindred who break the Masquerade are put to death and it is very difficult to get any other sentence.
The Domain: Once upon a time and for many centuries vampires lived as lords and ladies, with various holdings under their control. This Tradition comes from those older times when vampires were like kings while they were in their own domains. In the modern world the average vampire can't claim a domain because the prince has claimed the whole city as her domain. A few elders are able to stake their claims if they are powerful enough.
The Progeny: This Tradition states that a Cainite has to get permission from their "elder" before they can Embrace anyone. Until the last few hundred years, "elder" meant sire, so vampires had to ask their sires for permission; lately, princes have insisted that they are the elders that need to give such permission. If a vampire disobeys and creates progeny anyway they will likely face exile or death, and their childe will suffer the same punishment with them.
The Accounting: In short, this Tradition makes sires completely responsible for their childer. Until a childe is officially released and accepted in their city, they are pretty much treated like children - they are the property and the burden of their sires. If a childe messes up, the sire is considered to be the one at fault and is open to punishment. This tradition keeps a lot of vampires under their sire's thumbs and has probably led to a lot of mistreatment but it also helps to keep the elders in power.
Hospitality: Vampires are supposed to announce their presence when they go to a new city and princes can be quite irate if proper presentations are not made. While princes do not often turn Kindred away, they do insist on knowing who is in their city.
Destruction: The last Tradition used to give sires the right to destroy their childer and no one else but lately princes claim this right. This means that vampires in a city are not supposed to go around killing one another, at least not without the prince's permission. In practice, Kindred kill each other all the time under the prince's nose and take great pains to cover their activities. If they are caught, chances are the prince will have them destroyed, but if they are crafty enough they can be rid of their enemies.
Considering the bestial and fiery natures of the Kindred, following all of these rules is difficult (if not impossible) to do. Most Camarilla members try to obey in order to avoid punishment, if nothing else. No matter what they might think about the Traditions or the princes, however, most Camarilla vampires believe in the necessity of the Masquerade. The Burning Times left their mark on Cainite society - a deep, painful scar - and the elders who managed to survive the slaughter are still behind the scenes. The Traditions and the Camarilla structure support the elders entirely and almost assure their power in the nights to come...almost. But tremors always lie beneath the facade, threatening to ruin it entirely: younger Kindred join the Anarchs or Sabbat, some kill their sires, and the mortal world is always one newscast away from learning that vampires are real.
The Inner Circle: Made up of the eldest member of every clan that desires representation, the Inner Circle was not intended to be filled by player characters. They appoint justicars, the enforcers of the Traditions, and deal with other orders of major Kindred business.
Justicars & Archons: Justicars are powerful vampires who become the judges of kindred society, and the archons are the minions of the justicars. Justicars were not meant to be player characters, while archons could be played by advanced players without too much hassle.
Prince: A prince is a powerful vampire who is the authority of a given city. A prince grants the right for other vampires of the Camarilla to create progeny. A prince deals with disputes, handles the upkeep of the Traditions, and a whole mess of other stuff. While "prince" is a title that can refer to a man or a woman, a player should not be idly allowed to portray a prince. The position is a very powerful one and can be greatly abused.
Primogen: A council of elders that advises the prince of a city. Some primogen councils rule the prince, while others are just there for the hell of it. Because the primogen is a council of elders, beginning players shouldn't have characters on the council.
Regular Sect Members: Most Camarilla members deal with their own personal business from night to night, try to stay alive, and try not to screw up too much. A few of them dream of greater things and look for an opening in the ranks, however small, so they can get their foot in the door, but upward advancement in the Camarilla is truly diffiult to attain. Most player characters will start out at this level.
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